A/N: Tali/MShep

When the humans show up and gun down the assassins, Tali is surprised and grateful, but it is only later, when she hears about the Sovereign and Saren and the geth, that she decides to join them; "Our Pilgrimage proves we are willing to give of ourselves for the greater good," Tali tells the human commander, when he looks at her askance. "What does it say about me if I turn my back on this?"

"Well," Shepard says, looking surprised. "Great. Thanks, we could use your help."

And everyone makes her feel welcome, even Ashley who dislikes aliens, even Shepard who is now a Spectre for the Citadel Council.

She falls in love with the Normandy the moment she steps onboard—it is fast and sleek and breathtakingly beautiful, utterly silent when it moves and full of dangerous weaponry. Somehow Tali manages to talk the Chief Engineer into giving her a tour of the engine room, and he is busy explaining to her the Tantalus drive core when Shepard comes up behind them.

"Adams," Shepard says, looking between them. "Tali."

The Engineer jumps to attention and snaps out a salute. "Commander."

"What's going on?"

"I was just giving Tali a tour, sir."

"Is that so?"

"Yes, sir," Adams says, staring straight ahead.

Shepard grins, suddenly. "Relax, Adams," he says. "I'm not here to grill you about showing the quarians the secrets to our cutting-edge technology. How do you like the Normandy, Tali?"

"It's wonderful," she tells him, sincerely. "Commander, I would like to help out in engineering, if you do not mind—"

"Why would I mind?" he asks. "Anyway, up to you, Adams."

"Yes, sir," Adams says, looking much relieved.

And that is when Tali learns that the Normandy is an unusual ship, even for humans, and Shepard is an unusual commander.

He comes to talk to her later, when she is examining the ship alone. "So I hear from Adams that you're a technological genius," Shepard says. "Is it just you, or are all quarians like that?"

"All quarians, I'm afraid," Tali admits. "On the Flotilla, everyone must help in maintaining the ships, or else we would never have survived as long as we have."

"And here I was, thinking you were special," Shepard says.

Tali peers at him curiously. "Was that a joke, Shepard?" she asks.

"Yeah." He smiles ruefully. "I'm not very funny, am I?"

"Oh, no," she assures him. "I'm sure it was just the translation protocol."

Shepard laughs. "Thanks, Tali."

When they go to Noveria, she is surprised at how cold it is; ice and wind and sleet everywhere, and snow, whirling white, all across her vision—she has never seen snow before. She is enchanted for all of half a minute, before she realizes that she is freezing even through her enviro-suit. Tali shivers all the way from the docking bay to the customs office, and even their cool reception from Noveria's security forces is nothing compared to the weather.

But she is pleased when Shepard asks her to accompany him as he tracks down Benezia; "You're the best hacker on the Normandy," he tells her, "and I get the feeling these corporations aren't going to be willing to talk. Want to come along?"

"Yes, certainly," Tali says, giddy with adventure, and Shepard grins at her enthusiasm.

It is all terribly exciting; she breaks into corporate secrets and classified records, and there is so much the corporations are doing that is dangerous and wrong. But Shepard has a light in his eyes that makes her think these corporations will not be doing these things for much longer—if he had been a quarian, she thinks, he would have made a good captain.

He is a good captain anyway. Shepard is incorruptible.

The adventure wears off after a while. Tali thinks it is somewhere between taking down her hundredth geth trooper and wiping rachni blood off her armor; she is tired, too, of the cold, and she is glad when Benezia is dead and everyone is safely back on the Normandy.

Shepard comes to talk to her afterward. "Hey," he says, coming up behind her so suddenly that she jumps. And, "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you."

"It's all right," she says. "How is Liara?"

"Upset." Shepard rubs that back of his neck, absently. "But she'll be all right, I think. She's tougher than she looks."

All asari are. "That's good."

Something in her tone must have given her away, because Shepard gives her an odd look and says, "You all right?"

And Tali considers telling him about the engine, and how it is so quiet that sometimes when she is just on the edge of sleep she will jerk awake, alone and terrified that she is back on the Flotilla and something has malfunctioned; she considers telling him about how empty the ship is, as though half the crew has moved elsewhere; she considers telling him that she is tired, tired, tired of eating dull nutrient paste. But instead all that comes out is: "I think I'm homesick, Shepard."

For some reason, he doesn't look surprised. "That happens," he says. "When I signed up with the Alliance, I called my mother every day for two weeks."

Somehow she cannot imagine it. "Really?"

Shepard grins. "Yeah," he says. "Hey, the Normandy has a comm room, do you want—"

But Tali is already shaking her head. "I am supposed to prove that I can be independent," she says. "My father will disapprove if I call."

"Your father?"

Somehow she finds herself telling Shepard about her father and her mother and her ship, all the silly things she is sure he wouldn't be interested in, but Shepard listens anyway; "Maybe that's the point of this Pilgrimage," he says, when she is through. "To teach you about appreciating the things you have."

"Maybe." She fiddles with her omni-tool, feeling a little foolish now. "Thanks for listening, Shepard."

"Hey, no problem," he says. "It was interesting. I'm here if you want to talk, all right? Anytime."

He looks as though he means it.

She finds herself wondering, afterwards, what he would look like if he were a quarian.

She likes Shepard, Tali decides. He is a good captain and he does not treat her differently simply because she is young, and not a human—and she enjoys his company when he comes to talk to her.

"Thanks, I think," Shepard says, and looks slightly puzzled when she tells him this. "Were you not expecting that?"

Tali shrugs. "Many species treat my people like second-class citizens. They think of us as beggars and thieves—and people still blame the quarians for creating the geth."

"You know," Shepard says thoughtfully, "a wise man once told me that aliens were saints and jerks, just like humans. I think he was right."

"Who said that?" she asks, curious.

"Lieutenant Alenko," Shepard admits. "But it sounds better if I say 'a wise man.'"

"And which am I, Shepard?"

He grins. "Oh, definitely a saint."

So perhaps he enjoys her company, too. "And what are you?" she asks.

"Hey, I'm the alien to you," he says. "So you tell me."

She considers.

"And don't say a little bit of both, either," Shepard adds, and there is a devilish edge to his smile. "That's cheating."

"Was that a joke, Shepard?"

"Yeah," he admits.

Tali finds herself smiling. "You are a tease, then," she says.

Shepard looks startled at that, but she doesn't find out why until much later, when Ashley Williams, gasping with laughter, explains to her what exactly that means to a human.

They are hunting down missing soldiers on a hot, dusty planet—grunt work for the Alliance, Shepard calls it—when suddenly the signal from the beacon she is tracking disappears, and a thresher maw bursts out of the ground before them. Shepard swears. They leap free of the wrecked Make just before it goes up in flames—there really should be more safety precautions against that sort of thing, Tali thinks muzzily, scrambling behind a rock as the thresher maw roars with enough force to make the ground rumble. Shepard is shouting orders. She can't hear him.

To her left, Garrus pulls out a grenade and tosses it into the thresher maw's jaw. Bits of acid and thresher maw go flying past them. "Get down!" he shouts, and she hears that, and drops onto her stomach.

Which turns out to be a bad idea; the ground opens up below her, and Tali is scrambling out of a crevasse as the thresher's death throes make the earth crack and split in interesting and deadly ways.

"Commander!" That is Garrus again. She looks up in time to see Shepard tumble past her, dust and blood and metal everywhere; she barely manages to grab him by the wrist, and there are a few moments of confusion before they come to a stop in an ungainly tangle of limbs and weaponry, centimeters away from the edge of what is now a deep pit filled with acid. They both stare at it.

"I—thanks," Shepard says, into the sudden silence.

"You're welcome, Shepard."

He scrambles up and helps her to her feet. "The Mako's wrecked," he says, picking up his gun. "I'm going to call the Normandy for pickup. You ok?"


Shepard nods. Tali wanders over to Garrus, who is bent over the Mako and scowling. "Damned thresher maw," the turian mutters. "Look at this, ripped right through our shields—"

"We can fix it," Tali says, considering. It has stopped burning, at least. "It needs a new fuel tank."

"Yeah, and new tires, and new plating—"

She leaves Garrus off to his grumbling, and goes to investigate the beacon. A lure, she thinks, examining it. Nearby, there is a piece of metal sticking out from the dust. She tugs it out.

It is a section of armor with the Alliance insignia on it. Shepard is grim when he sees it.

"A lure," he says, echoing her thoughts. And, "God damn it, those heartless bastards."

But justice will be done, Tali thinks, watching him carefully.

"Cerberus," he growls to her, hours later on the Normandy. Shepard has stripped off his armor and weapons, but looks no less fierce for that fact; he runs a hand across his forehead and scowls off into the distance. "They're doing experiments. I can't believe the Alliance left them alone for so long."

Half of Lower Engineering is staring at them. "Shepard?"

"Huh?" He glances around and lowers his voice. "Oh. Sorry."

"Maybe we should go somewhere else?" Tali suggests.

"Right. Yeah."

They leave Engineering. In the corner, Garrus is working on the mangled Mako. Shepard shoves his hands into his pockets and lets out a deep breath. "Sorry," he says again. "Kahoku wasn't happy. I don't blame him."

"He was their captain," Tali says. "It must be hard to lose his crew, all at once."

"Yeah," Shepard says, leaning against the wall. He casts her a glance. "Hey, you ever take that mask off?"

"I can't," she reminds him.

"It's just—you look a little like a geth."

Tali shrugs. It is true. "We made them," she says. "Their basic design principle was patterned on quarian biology. And it was easier to give them helmets than to design faces. They didn't care."

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them—" Shepard is quoting from something. "The Bible," he adds, when she tilts her head at him curiously. "Genesis something-or-other, I don't remember the exact quote."

"One of your human religions?" The translation protocol is tossing references at her. A creator God; how interesting.

"Yeah. Well, not mine. But it's pretty popular." Shepard is frowning again. "Can I ask you for a favor?"

"Certainly." Anything.

"It's not entirely legal—but if you could find anything on Cerberus—"

"I'll look into it," she assures him. Encryption is not her strong point, but she is sure she can ask Garrus for help, and together they should turn up some sort of lead. "We'll get them, Shepard."

"First Saren, then the Reapers, now this," Shepard says ruefully. "Sometimes I wonder if we're ever going to run out of conspiracies to uncover."

"I'm starting to think they follow you around," Tali tells him, and Shepard laughs at that.

"Like ducklings," he says, chuckling. "Now that's a thought. Evil ducklings that disappear when I turn around to look." He slants her a glance, grinning. "Hey, you know, all the boys down on Engineering want to know what you look like."



"Two eyes," she tells him. "Front-facing, with eyelids and tear ducts. And an endoskeleton with a similar bone structure for the skull. A nose. Very similar to humans, actually."

"Yeah," Shepard says, "but they want to know what you look like."

Tali is curious. "Why?"

"Oh, come on," Shepard says, rolling his eyes. "You're a mechanical genius. Of course they want to know what you look like. You'd be their dream girl if you were pretty on top of, you know, smart and enigmatic. Not that you should encourage them."

Humans are very strange. "And you?" Tali asks. "Are you curious?"

Shepard grins again. "Nah," he says. "I'm sure you're gorgeous."

She does not want to disappoint him. Shepard is her captain, but even more than that, she likes him—if he had been a quarian, she thinks, and she had finished her Pilgrimage and joined his ship—

No, that is silly. He is her captain; she should have stopped there.

But in any case, she does not want to disappoint him, and she does anyway. Even with Garrus's help, the information on Cerberus comes several days too late for Kahoku; Shepard swears bloody vengeance, and she believes him, but the Rear Admiral is still dead when they return to the Normandy to hunt down Cerberus's headquarters.

But: "Don't apologize," Shepard says tersely. "It wasn't your fault."

He slumps down next to her on a deserted deck in the engineering bay. They make an odd pair, the two of them—the human and the quarian, the captain and the mechanic. Tali fiddles with her omni-tool and plays out Kahoku's message again. Perhaps there are coordinates encoded in it.

"I can't believe the Alliance wouldn't send reinforcements for him," Shepard says, staring out into the distance. "I mean, he had plenty of proof."

"What does Lieutenant Alenko say?"

"Dunno. Haven't talked to him yet."

That is strange enough for Tali to peer up from her decryption attempts. "Why not, Shepard?"

He gives her a tired smile. "I wanted to see you," he says.

"Oh." She is glad.

"Yeah," Shepard says. They are both quiet for a very long while—forty-two minutes, notes Tali, who is keeping track on her omni-tool—until finally Shepard sighs and says, "I better go."

But he does not look so brooding as he leaves.

Tali isn't there when Cerberus goes down. Shepard takes Wrex and Ashley with him, heavy combat soldiers both, and when they return triumphant she nearly misses it because Adams has her replacing some circuitry on the lower hull. But she hears Joker's announcement well enough.

And in any case, there is no missing the celebration going on in the mess hall. Shepard finds her. He is grinning and lighthearted after a successful mission.

"Thank you," Shepard says. "We'd never have found their base without your help."

She cannot help smiling back. "Is Cerberus gone?"

"Not by a long shot," Shepard says. "But it's going to take them a while to recover from this."


"You going to have a drink with the rest of us?"

Tali shakes her head. "I can't," she reminds him.

"Oh, yeah." Shepard regards her for a moment. "Tell you what, I'll buy you a drink when we get back to the Citadel. From one of those turian places. How about that?"

If he had been a quarian, she would have taken that as an invitation—

She wants to take it as an invitation anyway. Which is silly. But: "I would like that," Tali says.

On Feros, Liara runs a little too far ahead of them in the Thorian's lair.

"Liara!" Shepard shouts.

But she is too far away. Tali pulls out her pistol and fires a warning shot; the asari turns just a second too late, and a creeper picks her up and slams her against the wall with enough force that Tali sees her entire body go limp. "Oh no," she says.

"Shit," Shepard says grimly, and takes careful aim with his sniper rifle. The creeper crumbles, Liara still in his grip. "Tali, cover my back, I'm going in."

She is not very good at cover fire, and her hacking is useless against these mindless organic things, but she tries her best anyway; only two creepers come up to them from behind, and she shoots one down, but the other is nearly upon her before she manages to smash it into submission with the butt of her pistol. By the time they reach Liara, her armor is covered with viscous green goo.

"She's not responding." Shepard is checking Liara's vitals. "Tali, you have any medi-gel left? She's got a pretty nasty bump on the back of her head—"

She has two packs left. Tali pulls one out and tosses it over. "The Thorian," she says, looking up at the enormous plant-thing growing all around them. "It's making more of those creepers, Shepard."

"We have to keep moving without Liara." Shepard stands and looks at her, his jaw set. "You ready? We have to kill that thing, and fast."

Liara's biotics had been the only thing that made the creeper hordes manageable. Tali nods anyway. "Ready, Shepard."

For a moment his eyes soften. "You're very brave," he tells her, pulling out his assault rifle. "Stay behind me. We'll get through this."

There are more green-skinned asari clones, and Tali wonders at how they can look so much like Liara and yet so not; Liara has always been kind, but these clones snarl and bare their teeth and try to kill her.

"I think they are getting angrier," Tali says, after the third one.

"It's the Thorian," Shepard says. He is favoring his left leg, but Tali pretends not to notice because he is trying to hide it. "It's getting desperate. Do you see the next node?"

"There." She points. Shepard fires.

Another clone bursts out from behind a nearby wall and hurls herself toward them; Tali scrambles backwards, firing wildly from her pistol, and the asari stretches out her arms and shoves—

She flies backward against a pillar.

When she opens her eyes again, it is several seconds later, and Shepard is desperately calling her name. "Shepard," she says. "I'm all right." Even if her head feels as though it is splitting in two.

He lets out a long breath and presses his hand to his eyes. "Christ, Tali, don't scare me like that."

"Another one of your human religions?" Because she cannot stand just yet.

"Same one as before."

But Christ is translated differently than God; humans are very strange, Tali thinks dizzily, as Shepard pulls her to her feet. There is a bloody gash across his cheek, but he waves her away impatiently when she offers him the medi-gel. "Save it," he says. "We might need it later. You sure you're all right?"

"Yes," she says, wobbling a little on her legs. Shepard catches her arm. "Did I get her?"

"The clone? Yeah. Nice shot."

She steps carefully over the crumpled green body. "We must be getting near the top," she says. "I think I see another node—"


She glances over. He has his assault rifle out again. "Bad news," he says, grim and bloody and determined. "Whole bunch of creepers coming up from below. I don't think we can outrun them."

"I'm behind you, Shepard."

He looks at her. There is the tiniest quirk to his lips. "I love you," he says.


"Fire!" Shepard snaps, and that is an order, so she raises her pistol and fires as the creepers burst toward them; Shepard tosses their last grenade, and she closes her eyes against the momentary bright flash. There is a wet splattering sound. She manages to hit the one creeper who wasn't caught in the blast. It stumbles to its knees, howling; Shepard finishes if off with a quick shot from his own gun.

"Did you mean that?" Tali asks, staring at the green ooze dripping from the ceiling.

"Of course I did." He holsters his weapon. "Come on."

She follows him. After a moment, she manages: "But—why?"

"What do you mean, why?" Shepard demands. "You're brave and smart and damned good with an omni-tool. Watch your step, there's some loose rubble here." And, "Please tell me this isn't one-sided, I feel like enough of an idiot as it is."

"It—it isn't," she says, carefully picking her way behind him. "But I never expected—"

"Yeah," Shepard says. "Me neither. I think that's the last node."

"Wait," Tali says, before he can fire. "Shepard—why now?"

He smiles grimly. "Should've mentioned it earlier, huh? But humans like making dramatic confessions in the face of danger."

She stares at him, appalled.

"I'm mostly joking," Shepard adds ruefully. "You ready?"

"Ready," Tali says, raising her pistol.

He fires. The Thorian howls in fury.

Shepard detains her after the debriefing.

"Tali," he says, looking unusually grim, for such a successful mission with the Thorian dead and no civilian casualties. The rest of their squad is filing out the door, and she turns to face him rather reluctantly. "Can we talk?"

"What about?" she asks, even though she knows.

"Look, things got pretty heated back on Feros—"

She backs away.

"I know," Tali says. "I understand, Shepard. We both said things that we didn't mean, so it would probably be best if we just agree to forget—"

She breaks off. Shepard is staring at her as though she has grown a second head.

"Yeah," he says. "Maybe you did. I meant every word I said."

So had she. But it changes nothing. "We're different species, Shepard."

"Yeah," Shepard says, "I know. Dextro-protein based life form with an atrophied immune system and enhanced cybernetics—I looked it up." He looks very tired. "Tali, I know the facts. Did you think this was just—physical?"

None of this is physical; none of this will ever be physical, whatever this is, and for one long moment she looks at him and wishes that she were human. He loves her, and she wants him more than she can remember wanting anything in her life.

But. "Being fond of each other will not change anything."

"Fond?" Shepard is looking at her, incredulous. "Is that what you call it? And next you're going to be giving me the 'let's just be friends' speech?"

Some things translate perfectly fine across species. "What do you want, then?" she asks, because it is easier than asking herself what she wants; or, she knows what she wants, but it is impossible.

"To hear that you're a bit more than fond would be a nice start."

"It wouldn't change anything, Shepard." But she is.

"Gather ye roses while ye may," Shepard murmurs.


"It means," Shepard says, "that we might die."

"Even if we do not, I am going back to the Migrant Fleet when my Pilgrimage is done," Tali reminds him. "And you will still be the first human Spectre with your pick of mates from your own species."

"You sound almost jealous," Shepard says, wry.

"Perhaps I am," she admits.


She shakes her head. "Shepard, it is not going to happen."

"Yeah," he says. "I was afraid you would say that."

"You were right, you know," Shepard tells her later, as they face down some petty warlord's hirelings on some forsaken planet. Tali glances up from her omni-tool.

"About what?" she asks, curious.

"Nothing's changed," he says. "Not a single damned thing."

"It won't go well, Shepard."

"This isn't going very well, either," Shepard says, and picks off a sentry with his sniper rifle.

He wasn't talking about the warlord, but neither was she.

When Kaiden dies on Virmire Tali does not know what to think. Shepard is so unlike himself all the way back to the Citadel; he seeks her out in engineering, grim and weary, and she wonders when she had last seen him smile.

"Tali," he says.

She straightens up. "Shepard?"

He merely looks at her for a moment, as though he wants to say something but won't.

"I'm sorry," she offers. "About Kaiden, I mean. I liked him. I'm sorry you had to choose—but I think you did the right thing, Shepard."

"Yeah?" He doesn't look as though he believes her reassurance.

"Yes," she tells him. "If the bomb had not gone off, then it would all have been for nothing."

"Tali," Shepard says. "You're not Alliance."

"But I understand—"

"No." He is looking past her now, some distant point beyond her shoulder, and in the wavering light of the Tantalus core his eyes are dark and strange. "No, you don't. It if had been you up there on that AA tower I couldn't have made any sort of choice at all."

And Shepard turns on his heel and goes stalking out.

They steal the Normandy.

It is all very exciting, Tali thinks; well, except for the part where they might all be caught and executed, but besides that it is quite an adventure, on a trip that has already been so full of adventures. She hums a nursery song to herself, quietly, as she does some routine maintenance on the drive core—a sun and a star and a ship and a fleet, an engine humming beneath our feet—

"How's the Normandy doing?"

That is Shepard, over by the observation deck. Tali glances up. Chief Engineer Adams is drawing up the diagnostics for him; "She's doing great," Adams says. "Nothing to worry about, commander."

But the commander still looks worried, even as he nods and says, "Carry on, Adams."

"Yes, sir."

Shepard leaves without speaking to her, and Tali straightens up, frowning. That is unusual. "Is he all right?" she asks the Chief Engineer.

Adams shrugs, turning back to his diagnostics. "He had to leave a marine behind back on Virmire," he says. "Then our Ambassador tried to put him in lockdown, so he led the entire crew in mutiny and stole an Alliance spacecraft to take us on a mission facing certain death. I think the commander's taking it pretty hard."

Tali considers this.

"I am going on a break," she says finally. "I will see you later, Adams."

"Sure thing," Adams says.

She wanders out. Humans, she muses; they are so strange. Shepard is always more worried about his crew than his ship—without a ship, after all, a crew is nothing. But she supposes that humans are in no shortage of ships. Perhaps they are in a shortage of crew?

Shepard is hard to find. He is not in the mess hall, or up on the bridge with Joker, or even in the medical bay; finally she thinks to check the captain's quarters, and the door slides open at her knock, and she is rather surprised because Shepard is never in his quarters.

"Tali," Shepard says, sounding just as surprised as she is. "What are you doing here?"

He is sitting on his bed, reading something on his computer. "Can I come in?" she asks. "If you're not busy—"

Shepard grimaces and puts the computer aside. "No, go ahead," he says, "This is just—I don't know. I don't know why I'm reading a report on grain prices in Mindor."

She comes and perches next to him, carefully. "Are you all right?"

"I'm not very happy about this," he admits, looking down at his hands. "I could get everyone on the Normandy killed, you know. Or at least court-martialed."

"But we are stopping Saren," Tali reminds him. "That is important."

"Yeah," Shepard says. "But pretty dangerous, don't you think?"

She is quiet for a moment. Then she says, finally: "I looked up that poem."


"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," she quotes, the words strange and unfamiliar even through the translation program, "Old Time is still a-flying; and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying."

"The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, the higher he's a-getting—the sooner will his race be run, and nearer he's to setting," Shepard finishes for her, and casts her a rueful glance. "I don't suppose this means you've changed your mind?"

She looks down. "I didn't want you to be unhappy," Tali says. "And I thought, if we encourage—this—then it will be worse when we leave, so it would be better not to start at all—"

"This isn't something that I can turn on or off."


"It isn't," Shepard says, sounding aggrieved. "Believe me, Tali, I've tried, and it won't go away, all right? This isn't something I can change."

And she understands.

"I love you," Tali says, very softly—but it isn't as though there is a lot of noise in Shepard's quarters, so he hears her loud and clear. It is a little embarrassing. But. Only a little.

Shepard does not touch her. In all likelihood, he will never touch her; but for the moment it hardly matters; he looks at her, instead, and merely waits. Tali supposes that he has waited long enough to deserve an explanation.

"I've been thinking," she says. "If we face Saren and come out alive—well, this still will not be possible. But if we die, then I will be sorry not to have spent this time with you. So perhaps we can be impossible later. Afterward, when there is time."

He is smiling, and that is worth any amount of impossible confessions. "Very philosophical."

She is learning wisdom. Even her father would be proud. "Your human poetry is very interesting, Shepard."

"Want to see more?" Shepard is already reaching for his computer. "I should show you Petrarch—"

He reads to her.

Around them, the Normandy hums quietly as it goes leaping between the stars.

They both make it through, in the end—she on the ship, and Shepard pulled from the wreckage of the Citadel Tower, and they meet again in the medbay, battered and bruised but still alive.

"Shepard," Tali says, and she is glad to see his smile, no matter how wry.

"Still not happening, huh?" he asks.

Some things are immutable, like the patterns of the stars and the basics of biology. "No."

He sighs, pained. "Didn't think so."

"But I am glad that you are alive," Tali adds, and moves to sit a little closer to him on the medbay bench; some things are immutable, after all.

A/N: So I was thinking this would actually be a collection of short stories about various odd, non-canon pairings. If anyone wants to see anything in particular, let me know; otherwise I'll post things as I think of them. The primary ship will always be displayed at the top, so you can skip that particular story if you find it too squicky-but I will try to handle everything with as much grace and delicacy as possible, in keeping with the spirit of romance, and not, you know, freaking people out. This is a challenge to myself to see if I can make the stranger pairings work.