Author's Note: A lot of ME fanfic tackles the relationships between Shepard and Liara or Shepard and Kaidan. Since I'm terrible at writing that sort of thing, I leave it to the experts. Instead I wanted to try something different.

If I'm to fall
Would you be there to applaud?
Or would you hide behind them all?
'Cause if I have to go,
In my heart you'll grow
And that's where you belong

Oasis, I'm Outta Time

1. What She's Done Now

Captain Alison Shepard (Retired) looked up at the clear blue skies of Eden Prime with a frown. Though the local meteorology service had predicted good weather, Shepard had discovered in recent times that her own joints, particularly the knees, were a much better indicator of coming rain. She snorted to herself as she went back to the flower bed she was weeding. Last year, her gardening skills had garnered third prize in the local gardening competition. This year, Shepard was gunning for first. Eden Prime's rich soils, good rainfall and temperate climate were a boon for farmers and agriculture. The azaleas were coming along beautifully. Gardening, and the nurturing of new life, appealed to the Captain on a deep level. Some days, she could almost feel the weight of those who'd died by her hand, justly or otherwise pulling at her, dragging her down. On days like that, she'd spend time in the garden, not actually doing anything, just drawing what comfort she could from the life she'd brought forth using the same hands that had ended so many lives.

The Captain's early retirement from the Systems Alliance Military and her relinquishing her Spectre status had come as a shock to many. But those closest to her had realised her actions had been motivated by the imminent arrival of her daughter into this often harsh and cruel galaxy.

Shepard had known she wouldn't be able to carry on risking her own life in service to a higher calling, not if it meant leaving her only child an orphan. After growing up on Earth without ever knowing her own parents, she'd be damned if she was going to condemn Lauren to the same fate. Especially not after her father, with whom Shepard had carried out a drunken one-night stand during shore leave had gotten himself killed in an ambush two weeks after they'd parted ways.

"I always thought I'd meet a nice man, maybe a doctor and settle down like normal people," Shepard muttered as she yanked out a particularly stubborn clump of crab-grass. Still, once she'd gotten over the initial shock after being informed she was actually pregnant - it was typical that she'd belong to the two percent who suffered a failure of the contraceptive implant - she'd found she was actually looking forward to motherhood.

And if Shepard had been surprised to learn of the pregnancy, she had been even more surprised by the unexpected waves of protective maternal instincts that had washed over her as the doctor calmly listed her options. "Termination," the doctor had said, as though discussing the results of a ball game. Shepard's arms had wrapped protectively around her stomach and she'd shaken her head vigorously, "No, no and no," she'd snapped, causing the doctor to look up in surprise at her tone.

"Adoption, then," the doctor had continued. Then he'd blinked as his patient laughed harshly.

"After what I went through on Earth? Do you realise that those egg and sperm donors that were my parents just dumped me on the doorstep of some church?"

"Adoption is hardly the same-" the doctor broke off as Shepard abruptly stood.

"No. No termination, no adoptions. I'm having this child and I'm going to raise her. Or him. Or them, if it comes to that."

That same afternoon, five years after what she still referred to, tongue in cheek, as The Sovereign Incident, Captain Alison Shepard informed the top brass, and the Council of her decision to retire.

Now, as she finished up the gardening and rose to her feet, her personal communicator chirped. Working on autopilot, Alison unclipped it from her belt and answered.

"Shepard." Even after fifteen years of retirement and civilian life, some habits just wouldn't die.

"Ms Shepard? This is Charles Walters from-"

"What has she done now?" Alison asked with a sigh as she straightened up, her spine crackling. She pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers and closed her eyes. Like a typical teenage girl, fifteen year old Lauren was constantly pushing the boundaries of authority in one way or another. And usually in ways that resulted in the headmaster of the elite private school Shepard had decided was the best place to school her daughter calling her up in the middle of the day to tell her Lauren had been suspended. Again.

"Ms Shepard, Lauren was involved in an...altercation with another student. I believe certain harsh words were exchanged. Also punches."

Alison felt a smirk tugging the corners of her mouth; she had no doubt that it was Lauren who'd thrown the first punch. She'd had taught her girl everything about unarmed combat that she herself had been taught. And quite a few dirty tricks that weren't part of standard Alliance combat training. No child of hers was going to be the victim of gang-related violence as she herself had been. Not that there was much of a gang element on Eden Prime. Never hurt to be prepared, though.

Opening her eyes and heading towards the house, Shepard replied, "I see. And what of the other student involved? I know Lauren can be a handful at times but she wouldn't lash out unless she'd been provoked. And even then, strongly provoked."

"Ms Shepard," and the headmaster always seemed to infuse the Ms with an air of disapproval as though Shepard's choice to remain single whilst raising her child was somehow a corrupting influence on the girl. Alison rolled her eyes at the man's tone.

"Provoked or not, the school has a zero-tolerance policy to violence. I'm afraid we have no choice but to suspend Lauren. You'll have to come down to the school and collect her." With that, the headmaster disconnected.

"Jerk," Alison said as she clipped the comm unit back on her belt. She looked down at herself - her gardening outfit of faded jeans and old Alliance-issue black T-shirt was marked with old grass stains and her hands still had dirt grimed into them. Alison decided it wouldn't do to roll up to the school looking the way she did. Lauren would already be mortified at the thought of being picked up by her mother in front of the whole school without said mother looking like somebody's groundskeeper.

Shepard laughed to herself as she entered the house. In the distant horizon, rain clouds were forming.