The first thing Calla Shepard noticed when she regained consciousness was that she was alone. Or she felt alone. She couldn't see anyone standing by her, waiting to check on her condition. This was followed by a stream of realizations. The Medical Bay was too brightly lit for her eyes. The examination table was uncomfortable. The only sound she heard was a faint whirring and a quiet tap, tap, tap. And she felt naked.

Her hand fumbled clumsily over her chest. Skin, skin, bandage, skin, pants. She was naked, at least from the waist up.

When Chakwas heard her patient fumbling to sit up, she stood from her chair and made her way over to the examination table. She clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, a gentle, yet firm hand going to Shepard's shoulder. "You'll hurt yourself," she said quietly, and as if on cue, the commander winced, hand going to her side. "See? You were wounded rather gravely, I'm afraid. Garrus wasn't entirely sure you were going to make it."

"And let the Collector's kill me again? I think not," she replied, punctuating her comment with a small laugh despite the pain that shot around her ribcage. She remembered the particle beam. She also remembered bullets. Garrus wasn't the only one shocked that she made it.

For a long moment, Chakwas believed that Shepard would lie back down and get the rest she required. She shouldn't have been surprised when Calla began looking around the Medical Bay, sliding her legs carefully over the side of the examination table. "Crutches," she murmured, half to herself, "You have to have crutches."

"Where do you think you're going?" the doctor asked, a single gray brow arched high on her forehead. "You need to lie down, Shepard. Don't -" Her hands went to steady Calla's shoulders, but the soldier moved away from her. "- get up. I can bring him in here."

Shepard shook her head, sliding off of the examination table. Her bare feet hit the ground, jarring the wound on her back. She hissed in pain, but refused to let that stop her. Instead, her hands grabbed for the crutches Chakwas produced out of nowhere, pulling them under her arms and making her way, slowly, out of the Med Bay.

The doctor kept a level eye on her through the window that opened up into the Mess. Immense pride warmed her to the very core as she watched the commander move towards the main battery. The three crewmembers seated at the table stood when they saw her approach, giving her a solemn, thankful salute. Even Gardner snapped into position, a hint of a smirk at his lips betraying any ceremony he might've been trying to preserve. Shaking her head, Chakwas took her seat, wiping at her eyes as she turned them towards her terminal.

Shepard bit back each annoyed curse that tried to fight its way out of her with every slugging step she took. The door seemed so far away, and it was only getting farther at this pace. Her heart was drumming against her chest, skipping and racing and threatening to stop altogether. She didn't know how long she'd been out or what had happened since. There was probably a ton of fallout waiting for her, but she didn't want to deal with any of it. Not yet.

Her fingers arched from where she was holding on to the crutches, straining to reach the panel. She couldn't reach it. Muttering to herself, she moved forward, trying to wave a hand in front of the access pad in order to open the door. It didn't work. "EDI," she called out, "I need you to open the door."

"Of course, Shepard," the ship's AI replied. The door hissed open not a second later.

As she expected, Garrus was standing there at his terminal. Calibrating something, no doubt. The door opening alerted him, and he turned around, mouth opening to tell whoever was there that he was busy. Words stuck in his throat at the sight of her.

Three days. Three days of worrying. Three days of distancing himself from the crew. Three days of silence from the Med Bay. He thought he'd lost her. But no, she was standing there, her expression somewhere between discomfort and relief. "Shepard," he breathed, not able to will himself from that very spot. No matter how much he wanted to hug her, to feel her in his arms, he knew that she was hurting. He didn't want to make it worse.

"You look surprised," she chuckled. Her expression distorted as her wound gave a pang to remind her it was still there. "Everyone seems surprised. Like I haven't come back from the dead before or something."

Garrus' chest heaved in a thankful bubble of laughter. "We should've learned our lesson by now."

They both shared a smile. The room was quiet save for the steady hum that often filled the space. There was so much she wanted to say, but the medication was blurring things before they reached her lips. He didn't want to say anything only to have her forget that he'd said it. What he wanted to tell her, he wanted her to remember.

"This is the part where you're supposed to kiss me," Shepard said matter-of-factly. Hung upon her full lips was a smirk - a smirk that told him that he wasn't going to break her if he tried. With that worry cast aside, Garrus took a few short steps forward, bridging the gap between them. He was careful not to touch her waist, though he wanted nothing more than to hug her, to clutch her tightly against his chest to make sure this really was her.

Instead, he leaned forward, his cheek nuzzling against hers. She could feel his breath against her skin, the tickle of his mandible on the tender skin beneath her ear. "Oh," Calla murmured, letting herself drift forward until her chest was pressed against his. "Or you could do that." He was so warm. Her mind reeled as the feeling brought her back to her last vivid memory. His strong arms lifting her up. The warmth emanating from the rough skin of his neck. His whispered pleas.

The realization of his own mortality brought him to her before the Omega 4 relay. Her mortality allowed him to forgive her for any stupid decision she'd ever made. He couldn't lose her again, and he couldn't harbor that anger for her if any night could be their last.



A/N: So that's it, folks!

I have a confession to make. This story was only supposed to be a oneshot, but I'm so glad you guys persuaded me to keep going with it. Calla's a major pain in the ass sometimes, but I enjoy writing her. This won't be the last time you see her, though, so keep an eye out in the future. :)

Thank you all for your encouraging reviews over the weeks!