T=20, A=1, L=12, I=9.

20+1+12+9=42

TALI=THE MEANING OF LIFE.

xxx

Quick on the Draw.

xxx

It happened in the blink of an eye.

They had been heading over to the vehicle the Scout Commander had provided them. The varren had growled and snapped at them as they passed and she had jumped when the thing had gotten near her leg before being yanked back by its owner. Shepard in turn glanced back at her before directing a stern look to the arrogant krogan who sneered, "One wrong move, Shepard."

This time however, as they passed after speaking with the mechanic the varren got loose from its master and leaped for her, jaws open. She had barely even shrieked before it was engulfed in blue biotic power and tossed back it its master with enough force to send them both skidding to the ground. She turned and saw Shepard moving, the afterglow of his biotics still visible as he planted his boot on the throat of the downed krogan and aimed the M-5 Phalanx pistol in his hand. Urz wasn't far behind and placed the rogue varren's neck between his powerful jaws.

"Now that I have your undivided attention, let me make myself perfectly clear to you." His eye flashed to Urz who tightened its jaws around the shaking varren. "The next time that mongrel so much as growls at one of my crew I will put a bullet in its head." The krogan grunted and glared up at the human who pinned him down.

Shepard, in turn, lifted his boot and slammed it down again eliciting a shout of pain from his victim. "And the next time I catch you releasing your mongrel to attack one of my crew I'll rip off your brow plate, put a few tungsten rounds in your skull, and let Urz here dine on what's left." He twisted his boot, and she could see the crimson glow from just behind his hazel eyes as he asked. "Do I make myself clear to you?"

The krogan growled in what she saw was weak defiance and in response Shepard fired off a round not an inch away from the handler's head. The krogan flinched and snarled a bit. "Okay! Okay! You win human."

"Good boy." He smirked, revealing for an instant the sadist that was always resting just beneath the surface of his normally gentle nature. He nodded to Urz who whined pitifully before doing as he was told. Shepard stepped off the krogan, allowing him to rub his neck before delivering a harsh punt to his skull making him shout and grunt and swear in pain.

He glanced to his left, noting the Urdnot warriors who had gathered to observe the situation. "There a problem here?" He growled, daring any of them to challenge him. She noted Grunt casually reaching back for his shotgun but to her relief the warriors shook their heads in the negative as they dispersed.

Shepard sighed and cracked his neck as he holstered his pistol and glanced back at them. There was an uncanny grin on his face and all of the anger from a few seconds ago seemed to have vanished. He nodded his head for them to follow and headed off for the leaving her to stare and Grunt to chuckle to himself.

"You chose well Quarian." He grunted lumbering past her. "Not every human who'd be that quick on the draw for his mate."

xxx

Weak.

xxx

"Why do you keep her around Shepard?" Grunt rumbled as the two of them went about modifying their weapons. Jacob was on a sleep cycle at the moment leaving the two alone in silence to apply the new upgrades Mordin had invested in.

Shepard raised a questioning eyebrow at his krogan protégé as he re-sighted the sniper rifle in his hands. "Keep who around?" he questioned looking through the sight and recalibrating it.

"The quarian." Grunt grunted locking in the new shotgun barrel into place. "She's soft. Weak. One shot gets through that suit and she's dead weight." He snorted as his battlemaster frowned and directed a sideways glance to the young krogan. "Why do you want her on your team?"

Shepard furrowed his brow. He knew his personal reason well enough. He cared deeply for Tali as a friend and more, and even if he didn't she was an absolutely brilliant technician. Give her some scrap metal, a wrench, and a bit of Element Zero and she could make it do the twist and a triple spin. However Grunt, being a young krogan wouldn't be interested in that. He was interested in fighting abilities and truthfully quarians would not be his first pick to be teamed with in a fire fight.

A thought breached his mind and he smiled, reaching over to pick up an old Carnifex hand cannon and tossing it to Grunt. "You've got an excellent point there Grunt. In a straight fight, a quarian probably wouldn't last near as long as a turian, krogan or even a salarian. Their immune systems are a big risk in any combat situation, and one bad shot can down them easily enough." He wiped down the barrel of his rifle and checked the balance in his hands.

"But let me ask you something; can you hack a door so that it'll come down and crush any enemy that walks through it? Can you, with a few taps of an omnitool, refuel your shields by stealing the energy of your enemy?" Grunt furrowed his brow, looking down at his weapon as Shepard folded his gun. "With her on the team, our enemies not only has to fight us physically but mentally as well."

Grunt was quiet for a moment then snorted. "So by having her on the team, you're making your enemy fight two wars?"

"Exactly. And as I'm sure the tank imprinted to you, you can't fight a war on two fronts." He checked the sight on one of his assault rifles and nodded his head absentmindedly. "Tali is an absolute genius Grunt. I've seen her do things with an omnitool that would blow your mind. Don't discount her just because she can't take as many bullets as you can."

Grunt nodded his head, satisfied. "Wise, Shepard."

xxx

I say insane.

xxx

"I just don't understand it Shepard." Tali frowned watching him wince as Dr. Chakwas went about sewing up a fresh cut on his back. "Why won't you let her numb it first?"

"It helps me remem-Ah!" He yelped but somehow kept from jerking away. "Helps me remember my mistakes." He winced again as the aging doctor pulled the thread taught.

"Then one would believe you would be quite knowledgeable." The doctor grumbled, cutting the thread and stepping back to stare at his back. Most of it was covered in scars, fresh and old. She was beginning to think it wasn't carelessness on his part. He seemed to walk away from every fight with a new scar, several if he was enjoying himself half as much as he seemed to. "Do try to be more careful Dante. You'll be falling apart at the seams if you keep this up."

Shepard waved her off as he laid down on his side. He put his head on his hand regarding Tali and smirked. "Besides, I thought you liked my scars."

"I don't like seeing you hurt though." She frowned behind her mask as he laughed again. "You're so reckless sometimes."

"You say reckless, I say adventurous."

"I say insane." She retorted crossing her arms in disapproval.

He laughed. "Good thing too or we'd never get anything done."

xxx

It's called…

xxx

The door opened and she was greeted with the sound of very powerful and very loud music the likes of which she had never heard before. She was actually forced to stop and listen to it, incapable of breaking her attention from the sound. It was hard and heavy like the hull of a dreadnought. It had the power of a charging krogan, the fire of a sun going supernova, the speed of the Normandy when it made a jump to FTL speeds, and the mighty roar of a thresher maw.

But at the same time as she listened to it, the chaos of the sound had a strange beauty to it and was almost…sad in its own way. The words of the song told the story of a fierce and noble age of humanity, long before they had even begun entering space. It seemed like a collision of artistic passion, invention, and sonic overlord.

She wondered how it was that she had never heard music like this before.

She heard Shepard say something, but she couldn't understand it over the music. He was sitting at his desk reading over some files and stood waving his omnitool to lower the volume. "Sorry. I didn't hear you come in."

"I-" She blinked several times trying to remember the reason she'd come up here in the first place. "What kind of music is this?"

Dante flashed her a most wicked grin as he guided her to his couch and sat them both down. "You like it?"

"It's…Interesting." She admitted as he turned it up a few notches. The song had changed, becoming slower and with a greater touch of mourning. "I've never heard anything like it."

"I'm not surprised." He wrapped his arms around her waist as she leaned back into him, listening to the music as it filled her ears. "This music is old Tali. Old old; It's been about two hundred years since this music has been mainstreamed." He sighed. "A lot of people have forgotten about it."

She closed her eyes listening to the words of this new song. They told the tale of two lovers separated by a distance and yet loving one another through it all. She drew the obvious parallel with her own relationship with Shepard and felt a comforting smile cross her face. "What is this kind of music called?"

His eyes lit up as his smirk widened. "It's called…"

"Heavy Metal."

xxx

Heaven and Hell.

xxx

Heaven is supposed to be a place of bliss while Hell in unending torment. They are two completely opposite concepts that couldn't possibly be in the same place at the exact same time. And yet as Dante Shepard sat on his sofa with his girlfriend Tali on his arm he discovered that he was indeed trapped in both heaven and hell.

It was heaven in that Tali had fallen asleep with her head resting on his shoulder. Through her mask he could hear her snoring, a sound that to his ear sounded absolutely adorable much like the woman herself and it always brought a smile to his face as he watched her resting.

However, as nice as having her resting and making such an adorable sound was, about the same time she fell asleep so his right arm. It was tingling and numb as though he had hit his funny bone and under any other circumstances he would have moved and flicked it about to get the feeling back into it. But were he to do so now it would invariably wake Tali who was exhausted after going with him to clear out some Blood Pack mercenaries.

This left him in a dilemma. Either he could endure the torment as the tingling in his arm got worse and worse, or he could wake her up and deprive her of her dreams. He chewed his lip as he looked from his hand, which he was flexing rapidly to try and ward off the sensation from entering his fingers, to Tali who seemed both completely oblivious to the hell he was in a she unconsciously snuggled closer to him.

And then she sighed contently in her sleep and muttered something his translator failed to pick up. He placed his face in his free hand and sighed, knowing exactly what he would have to choose to do because he just didn't have the heart to wake her now when she looked so peaceful.

It was going to be a long night…

xxx

Yes, I am aware this is late in coming. But my computer crashed and I lost almost everything.

From now on though I'll make no more promises on updates for anything.

GN