Hey everyone! This is my first fan-fiction that I've written, so we'll see how it goes. I love the characters in this universe, and I wanted to try my hand at putting my own spin on the story. It'll follow pretty closely to the normal plot in the beginning, but I expect that will change as it progresses. I'm uploading the first two chapters at the same time, as they are a little shorter than the others I've written. The main focus will be a romance between Tali and Shepard. I would love your feedback to help improve my writing going forward! Hope you enjoy!

Tali was having a bad day.

The past few weeks had been nightmarish. What had started out as an exciting adventure quickly turned into a battle for her life. Hunted by a ruthless mercenary, persecuted by the very people she was trying to protect, and subjected to more firefights than she had expected to see in her lifetime, Tali was running on fumes. Despite the medical treatment she had received from the nice human doctor, her gunshot wound still throbbed painfully. She was just glad she had turned the perpetrator into ashes before he could finish the job. Not before he had killed her friend, unfortunately.

She sighed heavily, leaning against a stack of boxes for support. Dreaming of daring escapes and stowing away on a ship to barely escape a murderer sounds fun and all, but the reality was far harsher than she imagined. She just wanted this ordeal to be over and get on with her normal, boring pilgrimage. Her contact was more than a little late; maybe he had run into trouble. Maybe no one was coming. Where is that bosh'tet?

Suddenly, the door opened at the far end of the corridor. A turian, flanked by two armed salarians, sauntered into the room. He looked Tali up and down for a moment before strolling over to meet her. The two salarians remained at a distance, each with their weapons drawn, though not pointed directly at Tali.

She instantly felt that something was wrong. Why wasn't Fist a part of this exchange? She didn't feel like this cocky turian was the infamous Shadow Broker, so how was he connected? Another contact? Too many people were getting involved.

Before she could continue this train of thought, the turian broke the silence with a silky, two-toned voice. "Did you bring it?"

Tali didn't trust this guy nearly enough to give away her only bargaining chip. She might have just started her life outside of the Fleet, but she wasn't stupid. She subtly started to prepare one of her mines while coming up with something to stall for time. "Where's the Shadow Broker? Where's Fist?"

He stroked her arm in what she assumed he thought was reassurance, but really just made her skin crawl. "They'll be here. Where's the evidence?" he cooed.

Both of them would be here? After the deal was made? Wrong answer. Tali smacked his hand off her, certain that, whoever he was, this turian intended to betray her. She saw the bodyguards stiffen and start to approach them. She needed to act quickly.

"No way. The deal's off."

Tali saw the agent reach for his pistol and threw her explosive halfway between him and his goons. While it didn't do any real damage, it gave her enough time to scramble around a container and pull her shotgun off her back. She had been forced to kill around half a dozen people on this crazy quest, but never three at once by herself. She gritted her teeth and set up a kill zone, ready to blast the first thing to poke its head around the corner to smithereens.

What happened next took her completely by surprise. When she heard gunfire originating from behind her, she automatically assumed backup had arrived and swiveled her gun in its direction. To her amazement, it seemed the newcomers were shooting at the would-be assassins instead. The man at the front, a human, was shouting "Alliance Navy! We're here to help!" while riddling an assailant with dozens of bullets. Not here to help him, I guess, Tali couldn't help think to herself.

After a few seconds, everything went quiet. A giant, red krogan stomped to the end of the hall, making sure reinforcements wouldn't arrive, while another turian and a human male crouched over the bodies. The other human, the one who had led the charge, knelt down and offered her a hand up. "Ma'am, are you okay?"

If she didn't have her mask on, she could have kissed this stranger. A few moments ago, she was sure she was going to die, but thanks to him, she was still breathing. Then, her anger over the whole debacle flared up, and she forgot his question. Taking his hand, she got up and marched to the dead assassin, glaring at what used to be his face.

"Fist set me up! I knew I couldn't trust him!"

Realizing that she actually had no idea who these people were, she whipped back around and kept as many of her rescuers in her line of sight as possible, her eyes darting between them. She didn't know why they had saved her. Maybe they were after the data as well, and were simply keeping her alive until she revealed its location. As she studied the apparent leader of the group, though, he didn't seem to give off the same vibe as the scum she had just been dealing with.

He held up his hands in an attempt to placate her. "I just want to make sure you're alright. Were you hurt in the fighting?"

She was taken aback. He seemed genuinely concerned about her. First that doctor in the wards, now him. Tali was starting to take a liking to humanity.

"I'm fine. I know how to look after myself." That sounded a little harsh. "Not that I don't appreciate the help." There, that's a little better. They did just save your life.

The weirdness of this whole situation finally caught up to her, and Tali just stared at the man who fearlessly jumped in to help someone he had never met. "Who ARE you?"

"My name is Shepard. We heard you might have evidence that Saren's a traitor. That's something I need."

Tali struggled to focus and keep her guard up, but she was just so tired. Tired of running, tired of being shot at, and tired of being tired. She decided to trust these people; if they wanted to kill her or interrogate her, they could have done so easily by now. Plus, she owed them. "Then I have a chance to repay you for saving my life. But not here. We need to go somewhere safe."

The other human stepped forward. "We could go to the ambassador's office. It's safe there, and he'll want to see this anyway." His voice was softer than Shepard's, carrying a thin rasp through the air.

Tali nodded in agreement and stepped aside to let the others walk past, falling in beside Shepard. He looked over at her and gave a small smile. "You know, I don't actually know what to call you Miss…?"

"Oh, I'm, um, Tali. Tali'Zorah nar Rayya" she fumbled out. Very smooth, Tali.

"Pleased to meet you miss Rayya."

"That's not actually…" She trailed off, unsure how to continue without making him seem stupid. "You can just call me Tali."

"Okay Tali." One side of his mouth rose higher than the other, making her blush a little. Humans didn't seem to be all that different from quarians from what she could tell, though of course their straight legs were downright bizarre. She assumed he was considered attractive; she certainly found him to be. And Keelah, those eyes…

Shepard interrupted her thoughts, gesturing to each of his companions. "This is Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, Garrus Vakarian, and Wrex." Each of them gave her a brief nod, which she returned.

She definitely needed a rest if she was finding a human…pleasing…to look at. But she could make it another hour or so to see this through. She wanted to help them, and she also wanted to show that quarians weren't simply liars and thieves.

Shepard strode to the door, clearly excited by possible proof of Saren's guilt. "Let's go show Udina what we found."

Tali stood in the docking bay, gazing at the magnificent ship she now belonged to. She didn't think a single craft in all the Fleet had as shiny a coat as the Normandy. Everything looked brand new…probably because they were. She couldn't wait to see what the drive core looked like, especially since the one she maintained on the Rayya was a decades old amalgamation from dozens of other vessels.

"Having second thoughts?" She looked over to see Shepard standing next to her, staring at what was now his ship. She could tell the way the Normandy had been stripped from Anderson bothered him, but a gleam of pride still found its way onto his face as he examined the sleek hull.

"I wasn't exactly planning on hunting a rogue Spectre for my pilgrimage, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I can't pass it up."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Shepard leaned forward, resting his elbows on the railing. He seemed lost in thought, and Tali didn't know how to continue the conversation. Her heart started to beat a little faster as she wracked her brain for possible topics. Why are you nervous, just talk to him.

"So…congratulations. On being a Spectre, I mean. And the ship." She saw him grimace slightly at that and immediately found her feet to be absolutely riveting. Her hands started to wring as she tried to recover. "I didn't…I'm sorry. I heard what happened. I just meant…"

"It's okay, Tali," Shepard interrupted her, giving an encouraging smile to show that he hadn't taken offence. She blushed furiously, thankful the mask hid most of her expressions. "I know what you meant, and I appreciate it."

"Yes. Good. I mean, you're welcome." She cleared her throat. This was a disaster; she needed to get out of this conversation before she made any more of a fool out of herself.

Shepard looked at her side, and a frown appeared on his face. "Are you feeling okay? Bullet injuries can take a while to heal, even with medigel. Believe me, I know."

"Who me?" Who else, dummy. "Oh, I'm good. I'm feeling much better, just needed some sleep. The suit breach was minimal, so thankfully no infections manifested." He gave her a weird look, and she realized he probably didn't know why she needed to be completely sealed off from any contact outside of a clean room. She didn't think she could coherently explain it right now, not with her scattered thoughts and his eyes looking into hers and why was it so hot…

"Well, I better go. I need to put stuff down. On the ship. My stuff." And with that, she scampered away before she said something else mortifyingly embarrassing, toting her meagre bag of belongings with her.

Shepard watched her practically flee into the airlock, chuckling to himself. The confidence he had seen in her earlier with the assassins and the politicians had vanished when confronted with this little chat; he found it absolutely adorable. He just hoped he hadn't signed her death warrant by allowing her to take part in this mission.

Letting his thoughts wander for a bit, he eventually made his way on to the Normandy. This vessel represented the finest feat of engineering the humans and turians could produce, and it was his to command. He still couldn't believe it.

The airlock let out a sharp hiss as he waited for the doors to open. He certainly had an eclectic bunch joining him on his hunt. A quarian, a turian, even a krogan…he never thought he would have one of those muscly dinosaurs serving under him.

As he stepped onto the bridge, he felt contentment rising up in his heart. The busy atmosphere of a crew about to take flight never ceased to give him a small thrill as he thought about blasting off into that infinitely dark ocean. One thought settled in his mind as he made his way to the galaxy map: Welcome home, Shepard.