Misc: Oh GOD! I have to ask everyone for their forgiveness and extend amazing praise to each and everyone of you that love this story and have come back to it. I'm so SORRY for how long it's taken to get this chapter out to you. I've had most of it sitting around for... months? A year? I'm not sure. I'm not sure if I'm pleased with the ending, but I figured I'd try to at least end the chapter and get to you guys the only chapter I know I can get to you.

The problem is school and my own dreams. I'm finally starting my senior year in college (taking breaks, running from one country to another, and the like has made this a welcomed coming) and I've got a good idea what I'll be doing for my senior project (I'm an art student if I haven't mentioned it in here or on my profile...). And then to add to that, I'm hard at work to finish a story I've spent the last 6 years of my life working on. But more on that later... and you BETTER read the endnote...

For now... go read the next chapter you've been waiting for. I hope it's not too much of a disappointment...

Chapter Ten

When their business was done with the Migrant Fleet, even life on the Normandy seemed to drop to a standstill.

Everyone knew why there had been such a hasty rush to the Fleet and everyone knew that Tali wasn't exiled from her people, but the news also got around that Tali's father was dead. No one spoke a word of it, no one attempted to console the quarian. But it was the look in everyone's eyes, especially as their gazes rested on Tali, that conveyed their silent condolences.

And it didn't take much for Janelle to see that – despite having known all along that this was a suicide mission – now everyone was starting to revaluate their lives. Mostly because… it was the same for her.

Writing this report of the mission was amongst the hardest report she had ever done… right after the oral dictation she had given on Akuze. Even with the perfect knowledge that they could be heading to their doom with this mission, there was still the determination to not fail that had kept the infiltrator from considering the 'what if' scenario in the event of her – second – death. And with all the thoughts running through her head… it just made it impossible to concentrate on a bunch of written words.

She had to say she was glad when she turned the datapad over to Miranda.

"Can't say it's the best of reports, but it's not going to turn out any better any time soon," she said with a voice that conveyed the heavy, dejected feeling that wafted throughout the ship. "And don't get on Tali's case about this report. I told her to finish it on her own time… if she even can."

"Understood, Commander." Miranda gave her own sullen nod, taking the datapad and placing it on her desk before adding, "And Shepard… I wasn't going to harass her over this sort of thing. Not given the circumstances…"

"Thanks," was all Janelle could say with relief.

"You're welcome, Shepard, but to be honest, it wouldn't be right to harass her. Not when I'm at least lucky enough that Oriana is still alive and I can actually talk to her now.

"I wanted to thank you for that. You helped me make sure my sister would be fine and also pushed me to say something to her. If it wasn't for you, none of that would have happened."

"I've gone through enough suicide missions to know you don't let life pass you by, Miranda," Janelle said, taking the initiative to sit down in the chair before the desk. "I don't care to live a life of regrets and 'what if's.' And you shouldn't either."

A heavy silence settled over the room, heavier than it already had been. Miranda's eyes broke away from the blonde's, turning away with an almost lost look on her face. The silence continued to linger and Janelle was just about to contemplate leaving the room when the stillness was once again broken.

"So you don't think that whatever goes on between you and Vakarian will be something you regret?" Miranda asked with disbelief, giving a scoff and shaking her head. "The fact is, he's your subordinate and we are dealing with a critical mission."

"Which is all the more reason I'm not about to sit back and not tell Garrus anything about how I feel. We could die tomorrow, Miranda," Janelle said, her voice stern as he fingers began to drum on her knee. "And we both know I've come too close to death far too many times. I'm not about to risk losing this chance with him.

"And I've worked with Garrus before and, for the most part, he operates just as I expect him to. He knows warfare, knows how to get things done. Sometimes he might let his feelings take precedence… but he'll do what needs to be done. And I think he's taken his squad's deaths too deeply to allow another life to be lost on his part…"

"But I can imagine that he would for your sake…"

To that, Janelle just raised an eyebrow. "And you think it's just because things aren't platonic between the two of us anymore? Tell me, Miranda, anyone that believes that the Reapers are a threat and that someone has to do something about them… tell me who of those people would willingly let my life slide by?

"I don't really think I'm as special as everyone says I am, but I'll admit that symbols are effective devices. Especially ones that keep morale up during a battle."

Defected, Miranda sighed as she leaned back. "You don't care to let others have the last word, do you Shepard?"

"Hardly any fun if I do," the blonde had to smirk.

Another scoff and shake of the head was given by the Cerberus officer, but now, there was a bit of a smile on her face. But just as the smile appeared, it fell away as Miranda's stormy blue gaze turned back to Janelle's. "As much as I'd be stupid to say I didn't see this coming, what with how the two of you reminisce of 'the old times,' your battlefield flirting… I still really can't believe that you think this is a wise move? Particularly given that he's a turian.

"As you said, you're a symbol to humanity. How do you think it will look that you have a… a relationship with a turian?"

"Like humanity's not the ass that too many others either paint us as or believes," the infiltrator said simply. "Maybe both humans and turians won't like it given the strain between our species. But maybe if humanity's hero that gained fame by defeating a turian wants to be with a turian… maybe we'll all realize that neither species is as unreasonable or as bad as most think."

"You really think that you're not going to get any backlash from this?"

"I might, but I already seen what his loss of me had done to him. He means too much to me to make him go through that existence again. Especially if it's going to be at the expense of my reputation." Janelle took a moment to breathe as she stood from the chair, but made no movement to actually leave. "Besides… I doubt he would mind returning to the vigilante lifestyle if that's what it comes to get out of the limelight."

"You'll never leave the attention of people, Shepard… but I can imagine that that life would suit the both of you. And… I'm sorry," Miranda confessed morosely as her gaze dropped. "About the other day. I should know better than to question your moves, but like I said, this is a critical mission and I just don't want to watch it fail. I have difficulty believing that a relationship with a teammate is really something ignorable on a mission like this."

"Be glad you weren't on my last mission then," Janelle herself gave a scoff, crossing her arms as her thoughts wandered by to the small amount of time she had spent with Kaidan. But she shook his memory from her head and turned back to Miranda, still having a few more words to say. "But you really shouldn't let your job be an excuse, Miranda. If there's someone you care about and you're more concerned about your job than him… that's a lonely life to lead.

"And it's lonelier even more so for the one you left…"

The black-haired woman's eyes turned back to Janelle, but the infiltrator wasn't going to say more on the issue. Instead, she was ready to head back to her room. "I need to make a call, Miranda, so I'll talk to you later."

She was swift to turn around and leave after that, quickly making her way to the elevator. She did have a call to make and now that her mission report was out of her hands, she wasn't going to stall any longer in making the call. Not that she wanted to stall. She wanted to make this call.

She was almost elated to return to her room and sit down at her terminal. If one could call it elation. It hardly was though as she set up a real-time connection. She was nervous on whether or not the call went through. It was a little ridiculous given that she was Commander Shepard and she wanted to establish a connection with someone on the cruiser SSV Rotterdam. But she was also being held in suspicion for working with Cerberus and this was a personal call she was making.

But it was a call she needed to make.

And she was glad to see her call go through, to see a familiar face on the screen.

"Hey, Dad. Long time no see…"

In the hours after the return from the Migrant Fleet, Garrus could only feel worry as he spent his time in the armory, tending to his rifles. He didn't really care to be here, bothering with something that seemed pointless at the moment given that there were others here that could examine the weapons. And he wasn't even worried about his rifles. The turian was more worried about the commander, ever since the dazed look in her eyes when Rael'Zorah's fate was discovered and as he listened to her enraged voice as she admonished those on the Admiralty Board. Janelle was a very emotional person, thinking more often with her heart than her head and when something hit her hard… it hit her hard.

He didn't like spending his time away from her at this time.

But she had been adamant with the vigilante that he let her be alone, or she probably wouldn't have her report done. He wondered if she did yet; when Garrus had submitted his, the infiltrator had not handed hers in to Miranda. He imagined it would take longer, but when he tried to comm her some time later, she never answered. That worried him. Although given how EDI would inform him not to disturb Janelle, he figured that meant she was just busy and not in any sort of situation he should worry about.

Logically that's what he should think. But… he also had the tendency to let his feelings get the better of him.

"I've got to say, Vakarian, I'm surprised to see you still here."

The turian looked up from his work to see Jacob stroll back into the armory, returning to his usual work on the weapons. Only this time, the human was taking up his position in a rather unusual spot – right across from Garrus. No one – aside from Miranda and Jack – had really bothered to give him any trouble, but they also didn't bother to make much small talk with him. And Garrus had never exactly been the most outgoing, more focused on his work than anything else; he was only fairly social with Tali and, of course, Janelle because of their prior work together.

But it wasn't like he would dismiss an amiable approach.

"The cannons don't need any calibrations for awhile now," the former C-Sec agent said with a shrug, returning focus to his work. "I figured I might as well spend my time on some other weapon maintenance."

"No, I meant, given what happened today… I'm surprised you're not with Tali'Zorah or Shepard."

Garrus remained silent for a moment as he turned a cautious gaze onto Jacob before his gaze fell away again. "Tali wouldn't bother to want to speak with me over this sort of thing. She'd prefer to speak with Janelle over these matters. And right now, she just wants some time away from everyone. Can't blame her.

"As for Janelle… I'm sure you've noticed by now that she has a tendency to take burdens on herself. She doesn't care to put her problems on anyone else. If there's something she feels she needs to square off with herself, that's exactly how she plans to handle it."

"Even with how things are going between you two?"

The turian felt his shoulders jerk, but there was no shock in his words. "Relationships for her are about helping others, not getting help. Isn't it obvious with how she'll risk her life for a galaxy without a second thought?"

"I get what you're saying, but even if what you're saying is she's more in this relationship for your sake than hers, I can tell that she's also in this for herself," Jacob countered as he scanned the heavy weapons. "The first time I saw her delighted was when we ran into you on Omega. And since, her mood is lightest around you. You make her as happy as she wants to make you, that's plainly evident. So that's why I'm confused…

"If she's depressed after what went on with Tali… I'd think she'd want you around."

"Maybe. Probably later. She did have the mission report to write…"

"Miranda says she's already handed that in some time ago."

Now Garrus had confusion added to his worry. Not because he expected that she'd call him up to her cabin because she needed his company, but because he had commed her. She didn't care to let others end up worrying about her… so why wouldn't she have at least let him know she was fine?

Maybe she wasn't…

He didn't bother to say anything to Jacob. Simply took his weapons, stored them away, and hastily headed out of the armory. His pace was brisk as he made his way to the elevator. He noticed Kelly give him a weird look as most others still seemed to move rather sluggishly… and then her brows quirked up and he caught a glance of a smirk. He was really starting to see why Janelle could be so annoyed by Kelly, barring from the marine's frustration from dealing with psychologists in her past.

It really didn't make him feel elated, figuring that Kelly was making inferences of what he might be up to.

He gave a sigh of relief when he signaled Janelle's door open and was met with no hindrance. Although, he felt a bit like a fool as he walked in and noticed the commander's puffy, red, and tearing eyes staring at him, somehow able to convey her surprise in his intrusion. It was then that he noticed the terminal screen and realized that she was making a call to someone. Who, he wasn't sure. But he looked military.

"I'll just come back later," he said, feeling rather awkward in just barging in as he did.

"No, you can stay. Just let me finish this call," Janelle countered, waving a hand towards the refrigeration unit by her feet. He gave a polite nod and proceeded to grab one of his drinks, attempting to do so quickly and head over to the couches, not wanting to feel like he was continuously interfering with Janelle's call. But he wasn't quick enough to put some space between him and the other sniper before the conversation between the humans continued.

"Is it appropriate for a captain to have a turian in her quarters?"

While Garrus felt his body go rigid at the wary question, Janelle's reaction with surprising lighthearted. A simple laugh. Not one that was as overly delighted as hers usually were, this one more or less subdued. But the amusement was hardly dimmed and that itself was rather relieving.

"Dad, are you ever going to remember that I'm in my thirties now? I'm not that teenager you that you need to always keep an eye on."

"No, not a teenager… but you're still the same kid that gets herself into a situation that's going to give me a heart attack. Hell, Janie… I'm surprised I haven't had one yet! Especially with whatever classified mission you're on and the rumors that you're working with Cerberus?" A long sigh followed, prompting Garrus to look over at the commander as he stood idly by the coffee table. A sad, regretful look crossed the woman's face and remained, even as the man – apparently her father – continued to speak. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart. I'm not trying to be mistrusting of you, but… you do end up worrying your mother and I both. I'm proud of you, Janie… I just don't like how I end up being just as worried."

"I know, Dad. I wish things didn't have to be so hard on you and Mom. But… can you expect me to be anyone other than who I am? I don't want to make things worse for you and everyone, but… I can't just sit this job out. You know me."

"Yea… I know you. As idealistic as your mother… and as pigheaded as myself." A soft chuckle sounded and oddly enough… it seemed to resonant much like Janelle's would. "Still… you didn't answer my question. About the turian."

"Dad…" Janelle groaned, leaning back in her chair and Garrus could make out the movement of her eyes rolling. "There's nothing wrong with me discussing with my tactician. Even in my quarters. Besides…

"They're not all evil, you know…"

"I wasn't saying… oh all right, Kid. Well, I think it's high time you get back to work then. Myself as well. But make a call soon. And I know you're stalling, but don't keep that up too long with your mother. I shouldn't be the only one dealing with her anxious calls. Or when we actually have some leave together…"

"All right, Dad. All right. Good talking to you."

"Likewise, Janie. But better if these were in person. So get done whatever you need to do so that we can have that get-together your mother's impatient for."

"Yeah. That would be nice, to see everyone. Well… later, Dad."

There was a slight pause before the beep that signaled the closed connection, but Janelle didn't move from her seat too quickly. She continued to stare at the idle screen for sometime before giving a sigh and standing.

"Sounds like the two of you are close," the vigilante said, not sure how else to break the sullen silence that lingered in the room. Even then, he wasn't sure if he was taking the right approach.

But at least Janelle didn't seem to mind.

"Yeah, he's the one that taught me to use all my resources to accomplish a task," she said, sitting down and waving to Garrus to take a seat. "He taught me most of my tech skills and how to use them in a fight. He did some fighting of his own, but prefers spending his time as an engineer on ships. He's always had an easier time dealing with mechanical problems than social ones."

"Hardly sounds like you," Garrus had to chuckle, sitting down next to the human. "You curse up a storm when you're helping out with the engineers, though I know you do enjoy helping out nonetheless. And you never seem to have a problem with dealing with people. Always finds the perfect solution it seems."

"They're hardly perfect and it's not like I don't feel a lot or pressure when trying to figure things out. And you know I've failed sometimes too," she said before giving a sigh and leaning into the turian, resting her head on his shoulder and wrapping her arms around his waist. Garrus had barely gotten his arm around her shoulders before the faint sound of sobbing escaped her. "Sorry… it's still tough thinking about things after what happened to Tali's father. I wish we got there sooner, Garrus. I feel horrible that we were too late. Especially after seeing Tali. It's not right. She loved her father and he loved her, but… she couldn't really realize it until the end. It's not right.

"And I just feel horrible that I'm spared that kind of pain…"

"You shouldn't, Janelle," the turian whispered, both arms holding onto her tightly. "We all have our share of pain and you're no exception. Akuze, Virmire, and… Horizon even. And you worry so much of the outcome of this mission.

"And I hate to imagine how painful it is for you to think about what your death did to your parents…"

Janelle nodded against his chest. "Yeah… I know." A weak chuckle was forced from her throat before she continued. "First thing Mom did was scream at me when I finally made a call to her. Going on about how I put her through Azuke and now this, demanding that I never do anything so asinine again. She just about lost it when I told her that I was on another suicide mission."

"Can't imagine that was the best time to tell her."

"Not exactly, but it's better to tell her than to stall. She'll just be worse then." The commander gave a sigh as she shifted in the turian's arms, relaxing and finding a more comfortable position, her one hand moving to rest on his. "She's always been like that. She's easy going and supportive enough… except when she feels like she's been kept out of the loop. And the longer she has before she hears, the worse it gets.

"And since Azuke, she has gotten more and more protective of me. More than before I enlisted."

"I can't imagine that she'd be any more… easy going now."

"No, she isn't. I'll be leaving one hell and running into another once this mission is over." Janelle gave a sigh before moving out of his arms and gazing into the turians' eyes with curiosity. "So… what about you? You'll be visiting your family once we've dealt with the Collectors, won't you?"

"Perhaps," Garrus said, trying his best to hide his reluctance in the notion. He hadn't mentioned the current situation of his family to her. He was glad she knew when to - and when not to - pry. He hadn't wished to talk to her about this before. But that wasn't now. "I know both Sol and Mom want me to come by sometime and I should..."

"But you're not so sure that's a good idea," she finished, returning to relaxing against him. "Are things that bad between you and your dad? After our first mission? I bet leaving C-Sec again didn't go over well with him either. Or your vigilante gig on Omega."

"No, none of those things met his approval. Not that I blame him. Him, being an ideal turian citizen and myself… I was disappointment to say the least." He paused as Janelle's embrace tightened around his torso. He glanced down at her sympathetic face, before giving a sigh and looking away. "But I don't have to worry about facing him, if you think that's why I'm reluctant to visit my family. Facing him… isn't something I need to worry about. Necessarily.

"He died barely a year after I left for Omega."

"What?" the human said with a breathless gasp, jerking away slightly. "He…oh, Garrus… I'm so sorry…"

"Don't be. You didn't know," he interrupted before giving a forced laugh. "At least this way it's not your fault he's dead…"

"My fault? How would it…"

"The ideal turian having a son that not only is continues traversing the galaxy with a human Spectre but also resigned from C-Sec, had a stint on Omega as a vigilante, and now… is having an interspecies affair with said Spectre. Come on, Janelle… that last part would have definitely killed him."

"Sure… just blame me," she groaned, crossing her arms and glaring up at him with a pout… before her face softened with concern. "But I am sorry, especially if you never really had the chance to patch things up with your father. That… that has to hurt…"

"I've come to terms with the way things were between us," he murmured softly, but avoided her gaze. "I was never going to measure up to his standards and we both knew it. He knew I was too different and… he did accept that while I differed in the method, I had the same morals as he did. Didn't truly make it easier between the two of us and he wasn't happy with where my life went when I came to Omega… but we came to term.

"I just don't really care to face my family because… well, things aren't exactly the easiest. Not after Dad's death and… how the biggest problem was how he worried about me up to the end. And then… my mom's sick and my sister's not having an easy time taking care of her and after I left C-Sec… she hasn't been happy about things…"

"Oh, Garrus… I'm sorry…"

"Look Janelle, don't be," he tried to assure her, not exactly enjoying the outpouring of all his troubles on the Spectre. Not while he knew she would mostly likely get it in her head to want to fix things up now. Especially regarding their mission. "Things are a little rough, but… they'll smooth over eventually. Mom's still dealing with Dad's death and now Sol's left to take care of her. As much as I'd like to help out… I couldn't handle it. Sol's there for her.

"I'd rather be doing exactly what I'm doing right now…"

"Lounging in a certain Spectre's quarters…"

He had to laugh at her tease, especially at the smile she held. "Oh, that's an added bonus, definitely. But seriously…" he said as his laughter died away and solemnity returned to his voice, "I want to be here, with you, as you do what you can for the galaxy. Mom has someone… you need all the help you can get… and so does the rest of the galaxy.

"Don't worry… I'm fine with things as they are."

"You sure?" Janelle asked, relaxing her head on his shoulder, her one hand taking hold of his and her other gripping onto his back. "You're sure you're fine with things?"

"Are you sure about avoiding your mother yourself?"

"Hey! I'm doing this for the good of the mission!" he remarked rather indignantly. "She'd never let me continue if I showed up for a visit…"

"And you can bet it would be the same for me."

She pondered his words for a moment before giving a conceding nod. "Okay… you win. But… we're both paying visits to our families when this is all said and done, agreed?"

"Oh good… then this means I do need to go out with style…"

That made her slap a hand against his chest. "Garrus!"

Again he chuckled before holding his hands up in his own defeat. "All right… we're pay visits to our family as soon as we get things handled with the Collectors…"

"Good. I'm wondering which of our folks will handle the relationship better, mine or yours…"


Endnote: So here's the chapter for you, after your long wait and I apologize. And I have to apologize again because I can not guarantee that I will finish the story. :(

The fact is, I want to be a writer of my own stuff. And for more that 6 years I've been working on one. Hopefully I will finish it soon. It's more in the sword and sorcery genre however. Still if you like my writing style at all, check it out. I have a facebook page for it, with the prologue, a couple short stories, and some pictures I've drawn and digitally painted. So look up...

Alyssa Dalen

On facebook if you want to still have my writing to read, because that's the only thing I can promise I will be sticking to. That's the world that exists in my head after all, the one that I really want to get out...

So this is goodbye for now as an ME fanfic writer. Hopefully I can come back, but I can't guarantee that. I hope it's not goodbye for good though and that I'll see you over in the world that exists in my own head...