A/N: This is a little one-shot I worked on between classes (you know, that little break during which everybody else leaves to go smoke or drink coffee... well, don't smoke, it's bad for you, and I don't drink coffee, so I write!). Set in Mass Effect, it takes place after Commander Shepard and the crew "steal" the Normandy with Captain Anderson's help. This is an angsty piece in which my Spacer/War Hero/Paragon/Sentinel FemShep agonizes about what she could/should have done to change history, right up 'til a certain someone decides to seek her out in her quarters.

I'm not entirely satisfied with how it turned out, but I've tweaking it, and rearranging sentences, and crossing stuff out for a week now, so I thought I should put it up before I destroy it completely. Anyways, here it is! Please R & R.

Commander Alexandra Shepard sighed as she reread, for the millionth time, the reports that had been sent to the Council. As always, she was trying to find the one flaw, the single mistake, the lone blunder that would have explained the Council's lack of support. As always, she found none.

Ever since the Normandy had left the Citadel, she sat at her desk in her quarters, trying to uncover what could have been done differently. No matter how many times she retraced her steps in her mind, the Commander remained slightly in awe of the chain of events which had led her here. Not so long ago, she had been pleasantly surprised to learn that she had been assigned to the Normandy, the Alliance Fleet's most advanced vessel, the product of Turian and Human cooperation. A true symbol. Alexandra hadn't been given command of her own ship, but she didn't mind. Most people expected her to rise swiftly through the ranks after the Skyllian Blitz, but she firmly believed in earning each and every promotion. Besides, Captain Anderson was something of a legend, and serving with him was sure to be a fulfilling experience.

But life doesn't always unfold the way you expect it to, as Alexandra learned time after time. What should have been a simple shakedown run became much more complicated. After that distress call and the mission on Eden Prime, everything changed. Corporal Jenkins fell in combat; the Commander realized with a jump and the heat of shame, that she couldn't even remember his first name. She retrieved his file... Richard L. Jenkins: KIA. Alexandra sighed. And of course, as Williams had put it, you never got used to seeing civilians perish. The destruction that had been wrought on the once pristine colony had been truly horrifying. After wading through hordes of geth, after finding Nihlus dead, the squad had finally stumbled upon the Prothean beacon, at last. Alexandra remembered the feel of yet another burst of adrenaline coursing through her veins as she had leaped in to push Alenko out of the way, only to be sucked in herself. It was then that she had had her first vision. The shrill shrieks of the dying still haunted her nightmares.

The Commander had thought things would be easier after becoming a Spectre. She was wrong. No matter how fast she ran, she was always a step behind Saren. All they had found on Feros was the horror of the Thorian creepers. She thanked the stars once more for Juliana Baynham's anti-thorian gas grenades: without them, the casualties would have been even more horrendous. At least they had obtained the Cipher from that Asari biotic they had freed from the Thorian's influence. That had to count for something.

Her spirits had sunk once they had arrived on Noveria. Quickly caught in the corporations' web, the Commander had had to kill Benezia, and that didn't sit well with her. Although she barely knew Liara, she hated to have to cause her pain thus.

And then, there had been Virmire. Once more, the Commander cursed herself for allowing Williams to leave with the Salarians, banging a clenched fist on her desk. Ashley had had quite the mouth on her, but she had been a good soldier and deserved better. Alexandra tried to convince herself to protect the nuke from the onslaught of the geth, but... she failed. She could not delude herself in denying that she had let her personal feelings for Alenko interfere with her duty. Moisture formed in her blue eyes, making them sparkle all the more. Alexandra could feel the weight of her guilt pressing down on her; she would have to bear the burden, and remember the fallen. Especially now that they were renegades and mutineers. The Commander bowed her head, red strands framing her face, and mouthed a silent prayer for the lost.

She didn't know how long she stayed thus, but the silence was abruptly broken by the swooshing sound of the door to her quarters opening. Alexandra Shepard looked up.