My first Mass Effect Fanfic. Hope y'all like it.

Note: Some things may be out of context. I can't really remember every Characters personality. Sorry.

A harmless question

Life on the Normandy was, for the first time in a long while, peaceful. With Saren and his Geth followers defeated, the threat of the Reapers gone, the crew of the Normandy could finally kick their legs up and relax. So to speak.

Commander Shepard laid on his bed, still recovering from his injuries, courtesy of Saren on their recent encounter. He thought back to the battle.

Saren evading their attacks, while hitting them with his own. They were at a disadvantage. While on his hovercraft like pad, he could zip in and out of cover, to recharge his shields or to hide from their attacks. Then, Shepard shouted to Tali,"Shotgun round through his head, on my mark!". She nodded, but Shepard had already shifted his attention to Saren. He hit him with a Overload, effectively emptying his shields. He shouted to Tali, "Now!". Without hesitation, she shot a round through Saren's head, just as Garrus shot him in the chest with a sniper round. Saren fell through the glass and hit the ground below. If he did not die then, the falling piece of glass fell and impaled him in the chest would have made sure. To be safe, Shepard signalled to Garrus. "Make sure he's dead."

Garrus and Tali jumped down to the ground below. Garrus drew his pistol and shot one round through Saren's head. Tali turned away and radioed to Shepard, "He's dead, commander." After Shepard gave his commands to Joker, the body of Saren started twitching, flexing, as if the corpse tried to get away from the ground. Then, a grotesque version of Saren took it's place...

"Commander Shepard!" A voice shouted from the other side of the door.

Shepard got up from his bed. He still felt the pain in his fractured arm, again, thanks to Saren and his grenades. And rockets. "What is it?" He asked. The gruffness in his voice was gone, replaced with a lethargic feel. He opened the door and found Garrus standing outside. "Yes?"

"We heard you talking in your sleep." He replied and winced as his felt his broken ribs. "Memories like those just refuses to go away, huh?"

"You're telling me." Shepard said. "So, what's new? Or did anything at all happen while I was out?" He asked flatly.

"Oh, nothing much. Just that most of the crew has gone ashore to the Citadel. Except Joker and a few others, to look after the ship." Garrus replied. He finally realised he was blocking the doorway. "Sorry, were you about to get out?" He stepped aside.

Shepard stepped out. "Why'd they go to the Citadel? There's nothing there but rubble and bodies. And of course, the smouldering wreckage of the Sovereign." He said matter-of-factly.

"What happened to the sharp, smart Shepard we knew?" Garrus asked. "There's bound to be a few survivors in the wards. We're going to help."

"What about your injuries?" Shepard asked and gestured with his intact arm at Garrus' ribs.

"A few broken ribs won't stop me." Garrus said and smiled. "Not sure about you though, broken arm and all. Maybe you should stay on the ship and take a break. That last battle must've been tough on you. And a piece of the Sovereign crashing into you might not have helped either, eh?"

Shepard looked at his arm. He moved it a bit. "It stings a bit, I admit." He then tried to swing it. He winced. "Ok, you're right. I should stay on the ship. Though, I wish I could come with you."

"Nah, don't feel bad about it." Garrus said and left. Shepard leaned against the frame of his door. The last battle really took a lot out of him. He laid on his bed, and closed his eyes once more. Hopefully, he would be able to get a few hours of rest before they departed the Citadel.

The skeletal, robotic form of Saren jumped across the room, easily evading fire and shooting rockets at them. One rocket detonated quite close to Shepard. Close enough to drain his shields. He activated Shield Boost and watched as the shields indicator lit up bar by bar until it reached the Maximum. He activated the Overkill ability of his assault rifle and shot a coup de grace at Saren. Saren took a few direct hits, but his shields were already weakened by Tali's shotgun blasts and Garrus' assault rifle shots. The shields faltered and the team saw their chance. They opened fire on Saren at the same time.

He never stood a chance. He fell to the ground and his body disintegrated. At exactly the same time, the Sovereign's shields fell, and the Alliance fleet saw their chance. They fired everything the had at the Reaper ship. It exploded, and a piece of it smashed into the tower, where Shepard and his team were...

"Commander?" A different voice asked from behind the door.

Shepard awoke and looked at his clock. 2 pm. That's just an hour of sleep. Damn it. These interruptions are becoming a habit. Who next? Wrex? He spoke into the speaker, "Who's there?"

"Tali. Thought I could come in and have a chat." The voice replied.

Shepard opened the door and saw the Quarian standing outside. He stepped aside to allow her to enter the room. "What do you want to talk about?" He asked.

"Anything, I guess." She said. With the mask hiding her face, it was hard to see the minute facial expressions which might have given a hint or two. "I just wanted to talk to someone, instead of looking at the engine all day, as much as I like it."

"Where's Adams?" Shepard asked.

"He went ashore. He thought his tech skills would help with the rescuing. The rest of the engineering crew followed him. I stayed behind to study the engine." Tali replied and sat on a chair.

"That explains why it's so quiet..." Shepard said. Then, a look of shock crossed his face. "Then who's looking after the engines? What if-"

Tali laughed and cut him off. "Don't worry. We're not flying, remember? We don't need the engines."

Shepard relaxed. He had been traversing Citadel Space so many times the past few weeks that it was hard for him to believe that they were docked somewhere for more than a day. "So, what do you want to talk about?" He asked again.

"Well, if it's ok with you, I'd like to know a bit about you, Shepard." She said. "I mean, if it's ok with you, since you know quite a lot about me, like my full name-"

"Tali'Zorah Nar Rayya." Shepard said with a grin.

"Not a lot of people can remember a name like that." Tali said.

"Well, let's just say, in the alliance, names like those aren't exactly common" Shepard said and smiled. "Ok, so you want to know about me. But be warned, this could get long, if I delve into the details." Shepard dug up his memories. He shut his eyes.

"Commander? Are you ok?" Tali leaned closer and asked.

"I'm fine." Shepard replied. "I find it easier to remember that way." He took a deep breathe and said, "I guess you'll want to know my full name first, since that was the first thing you told me. My full name is Dexter L. Shepard. Born and bred in the alliance fleet."

"What's the 'L' stand for?" Tali asked.

"Leonald. My father wanted me to be named Leonald, but my Mother wanted me to be named Dexter, so they combined both. Not exactly what I'd call a smart move, but at least it sounds good." Shepard remembered his first days as a child, running around the ships his parents worked on. "My Mother was a crew on a freighter, my Father was a Marine, serving on a frigate like this. Quite a weird combo, I think." He paused and drank a bit of water from a cup on the table. He continued, "Well, to make a long story short, they met when my Mother's freighter was boarded by pirates. My Father was part of the Marine squad sent in to neutralise the pirates and rescue the crew. My Mother told me he single-handedly took down twelve pirates while dragging her to safety. And the rest, should be straight forward. Fall in love, go on dates, get married."

"Wow, you must have looked up to your Father quite a lot, him being a fighter like that." Tali said in awe.

Shepard shook his head. "Not exactly. I never really did get to know him personally. He was constantly on missions, and every time, my Mother and I would never know if he would come back alive. First it would be pirates, then rebels or whatever. At first, I thought that maybe when he had enough of his 'fun' we would settle down on a colony, or Earth and lead a happy life."

"I take it that did not happen." Tali guessed.

Shepard nodded. "Every other kid I saw on the planet surface had such a great life. Parents who never moved constantly, and a Father with a job that guarantees his safety." He paused. "Not me. My parents were constantly on the move, be it moving to another ship, or moving to another area. I never really knew what a planet was until I was twelve, and I set foot on Mindoir, and even then, for a day or so. We were waiting for the ship to be repaired."

"At least you were welcome to set foot on the planet, Commander." Tali said. "We Quarians have never set foot on another planet since our exile. We only leave the flotilla when we go on our Pilgrimage. And even then, no one trusts us."

Shepard considered her words. "You're right. I should be happy that I was accepted somewhere. There are others whose lives are worst than mine." He looked at Tali and smiled. It was not a rare occurrence to see the Commander smile, it was just his smile meant...What? Kindness? Happiness? It was hard to tell. "And, not everyone doesn't trust you. We, as in everyone on the Normandy, trust you. We've seen you in combat, and I have to admit, you're one hell of a soldier."

Beneath the visor, Tali blushed. "Thank you commander, no one outside of the flotilla have ever complimented me."

"No need to thank me. It's just who I am." Shepard replied. "Anyway, I take it you've heard of Akuze?"

"Yes, I've heard pieces of the story. It was a Thresher Maw, wasn't it?" Tali asked and listened attentively. She felt that it was going to be a good story.

"Yes, that part's correct." Shepard looked at the ceiling, deep in thought. "Actually, that's the story. We were attacked by a Thresher Maw. Most of the team panicked and tried to escape. Poor bastards the Maw simply cut them off and swallowed them whole." Tali shivered at the thought. "Sorry, if you feel uncomfortable listening-"

"No, never mind." Tali said. "Please, carry on."

Not for the first time, Shepard wished he could see beyond the visor of Tali's helmet, just to know what emotion she was displaying. Interested? Disgusted? He cleared his head of such thoughts and continued with his story. "Ok, by the time the Maw was done with the recruits, we figured that it was done. We tried to make a break for the Makos."

"Didn't the scene bother you all at all?" Tali asked.

"When your life depends on your cool, you have to stuff all those emotions at the back of your head. Only when you were safely back at the ship could you let them out." Shepard replied. He felt tears pool at the corners of his eyes. He wiped them away. Without waiting for Tali to say anything, he continued. "We were only a few meters away from the Makos when the Maw struck them from below, destroying our only means of transport. We tried to radio for evac, but it was hopeless. I tried to keep my team calm, but they were only eighteen or so. I was only two years older than them, and that must have meant something, because they fell into line and we trekked to the mountainous areas. We thought we were safe." Shepard took a deep breathe to calm himself. He had to keep his cool. "It wasn't. The Maw followed us, and suddenly, it struck. It took out my entire rear guard in one bite. It was a horrendous sight. I tried to get the survivors to the caves, but they finally lost it. They dropped their packs and ran for the rendezvous point. The Maw took them all out, one by one. I hid behind some large boulders to avoid detection, and it must have worked. I survived." Shepard closed his eyes, and felt the coolness of his tears, flowing down his cheek. "It was a h-horrendous sight. All those m-men dying, and i-it was because I f-f-failed to lead them." He shut his eyes to drive away the tears.

"If you don't want to continue, it's-" Tali started, but was cut off by the commander. A simple conversation could really, suddenly become a confession. It was subtle process.

"No, no. I have to continue. Not a lot of people the dead men on Akuze." Shepard wiped his eyes and breathed several deep breathes. "Ok. After the Maw retreated, I gathered supplies from my fallen team mates backpacks. Or those who dropped theirs. I hid in the caves and sent a distress signal. Hours passed, then days, then weeks. Only my desire of living up to my father kept me alive." Shepard smiled weakly. "So, in a way, he saved my life."

Tali returned the smile. "And in a way, you saved our lives."

"You mean your encounter with Saren's men in the back alleys?" Shepard asked, remembering the first time they met.

"Yes, that's a good example." Tali said. "And also Liara, if you remember that time."

"Yes..." Shepard said. He shook his head. "Ok, anyway, after about a month, a passing Alliance Dreadnought picked up my distress signal and sent me a message. I warned them of the Thresher Maw. I thought they would've buggered out, but then, only a few minutes later, I saw a squad of Makos heading my way. They made short work of the Maw, and they picked me up. By then, I was already at deaths door. The ships medics saved me, and now here I am, Commander of the SSV Normandy."

"I'm really glad you survived." Tali said. "I wouldn't be here if you hadn't. And I wouldn't be on this ship."

Shepard gave a sly smile, usually a sign that one of his jibes were coming your way. "I know you just like the drive core." He said playfully.

Tali took no offence. It was Shepard's nature, and besides, it helps to lighten the mood. Then, almost instinctively, she quickly replied, "Not true, I like you too," An awkward silence covered the room. "Keelah...Tell me I didn't say that aloud."

"I'm afraid you did." Shepard said nonchalantly. Even with the visor, Shepard could tell she was blushing from embarrassment. Of course, that was from a human's point of view.

"So..." Tali started, but could not complete the sentence.

Shepard winked at her. "Relax. This can be our little secret." Then, trying to act as if what he asked did not matter, he asked, "By the way, on an unrelated note, what's Quarian for 'I love you'?"


Why do I get the feeling a lot of people has used this idea before?