Warning: Game spoilers. Rated for Language. Shepard likes to swear.

For those of you returning to this fiction: I have not added any more chapters. I've simply edited and broken the existing fiction into a short work to make it easier to read. The final two chapters have been re-written.

Last Edit: 26/02/11


Chapter 6

Until Forever


Three fucking days. She had been wallowing in her own guilt for three fucking days. Wasted. They were three days that could have been spent mining resources, or getting the IFF.

Or going through the Relay.

Natalya quietly banged her head against the wall of the shower, trying to dismiss Thane's quietly amused smile as he had calmly informed her that, despite 'Miss Lawson's' best attempts, the crew had simply refused to budge without her.

Damn if she didn't love them all in that moment.

He had also smoothly redirected her from her run to the door, insisting she needed a shower before she left her room, if only for presentation's sake. He had also insisted that, despite her protests that it was a waste of water, her shower should be no less than an hour. So she had spent thirty-nine point three two minutes scrubbing herself until she was red and painful, and the last twenty minutes standing and waiting for the hour to be up. Natalya didn't know why she felt the need to make sure that she actually stayed in the shower for the whole hour, but Thane's quiet, 'I'll know' had somewhat creeped her out.

Which let her know that she was slowly coming back to life. Not from the depression, either. Ever since her resurrection she had been floating in a state of suspended animation. Ever since her death, she had never truly been alive.

Now… now she could allow herself to be so.

When she looked in the mirror, she saw the fissures in her face were gone, only smooth skin and no red light from within. Oh, good. So if they ever came back, she could just cry her eyes out and spend a few days angsting and be good as new. Smiling slightly, she picked up a towel and examined her body as she dried her hair. No scars. No wounds. But she didn't mind, now. She remembered the men and women that had died on Akuze. More important than their deaths, she remembered them alive, as well. She remembered joking and playing cards and complaining that Akuze had nothing special about it when their shore leave was delayed for another month. She remembered when she first joined the squad. She remembered Toombs laughing and hazing her gently with a few others. Nothing major. Just some missing bras that turned up hanging from a flag pole somewhere.

She remembered the things that made her smile.

Pulling on a clean shirt and pants, she brushed her hands over the cloth. Thane was right. She had been disgusting. And he had hugged her. She blushed, remembering his hand in hers. His arms around her. Icky. The man had more resolve than she originally thought.

Natalya folded her towel and dropped it down the chute for dirty laundry – standing for a moment to realize how stupid it had been to fold it first– before stepping out of the bathroom. She stopped when she saw Thane standing at the steps leading down to her bed.

She blinked, startled, as he stepped towards her and held out his hand.

"This evening is still for you."

Natalya hesitated, narrowing her eyes with suspicion. Slowly she put her hand into his. He bowed over it, kissing her knuckles, and led her towards the steps. She gaped when she saw two wine glasses, two plates of food and candles flickering on the low table near the couches. Actual candles. She didn't even know they had candles. Shouldn't she know if they had candles?

"What… where… what… What?" She blinked, shook her head and then touched her hair. Absurd. Her hair was the least of her concerns.

"You have not eaten properly," noted Thane, bowing his head slightly. "Not for the past few days. And I wanted to make sure that you ate something." He smiled with his eyes, although his face remained perfectly serious. "And I felt you would feel uncomfortable if I watched you eat, so I prepared food for myself, as well."

"You… what?" Shepard blinked at him.

"It is… It was hard to duplicate with the supplies aboard. They are very different to what is found on Kahje. But it is as close to a traditional drell dish that I could manage."

Shepard blinked, stunned, before staring at the food. "You cooked me a meal?" Her voice was flatly incredulous rather than stunned.

"I am afraid that Rupert had already cooked dinner, and Jack and Grunt proceeded to consume every single scrap of left over that they could. I was unable to secure a plate for you."

"So you cooked me a meal?"

"I cooked us a meal, siha." He gestured with one hand. The perfect gentleman. Damn him.

Shepard edged around the food like it was something alive and liable to attack her as she sat down on the couch. Thane sat only after she had, smiling at her properly, with his mouth and everything.

"Don't laugh at me," she lowered a brow at him. "No one's cooked me a meal before. I've never even been out to dinner before. And this is 'out to dinner'. It has wine. And candles." She eyed them suspiciously. "Why didn't I know we had candles?"

"I doubted the wisdom of imbibing in more alcohol after you have undoubtedly consumed the entire ship's supply," demurred Thane. "But I am aware that… wine, along with candles, is the prerequisite to a romantic evening."

"Roma-what?" Natalya did a double take.

"When I told you of my wife, you told me that you cared for me, and offered to be there for me. You truly think your pain would mean anything different for me?"


Thane folded his hands in his lap and looked at her. "Forgive me for being presumptuous, siha. You trust Garrus with your back in battle. I am an outsider to such. He is your second in command. He is your… your military support. But there is something else you need. Something that Garrus cannot provide. Please… let me provide this for you." He lifted her hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles again. "I think on why it is I came to join you. At first I thought it was because you offered me the chance to die nobly. Because I could do something worthy in the time I had left. Saving your race, protecting them from a threat. But now I realize that this was not it at all. Perhaps Arashu herself guided me to you. To save my son. To save myself." He lifted his black eyes to hers, the barely-discernable outline of his irises and pupils gazing into her own violet ones. "To save you, perhaps."

Shepard's lips parted as Thane drew away, a smile on his face. "But I am not so arrogant as to think I can do that. You are someone so venerable and untouchable. And I… I am a mere mortal in the presence of a siha." He lowered his eyes to his meal, appearing… humble. "But if my siha would allow me… allow herself to need me, it would please me very much if she would lean on me when she needed to. If she would rest her head on my shoulder and sleep. And weep. It would not make her any less of a siha, but it would make… it would make me feel far more than a mere man."

Natalya's gaze went flat. "Stop that. I am just a woman, Thane. I don't want to be anything more.

"I do not think you anything more than a human woman," he said. "A mortal. But who you are, your spirit, your tenacity, would be better suited to a siha. I do not hold you in any higher esteem than you deserve, I promise you. You are more than human not because of what you have done, but because of who you are, which defies mortality itself." He lifted his hand and brushed the back of his fingers over her cheek, pulling her closer. Shepard was a little shaken that he knew exactly what to say to her. What she needed to hear the most.

"But there is more than that, siha. More than this warrior that you are. It is the woman. The woman I have seen in battle and here, grieving for something she could not change. For those she lost. The woman in my arms is more than any other in the galaxy could know. You are so strong. So very strong. But you are also weak. Inside, where it counts, you are weak and frail. Let me be your strength, siha. Let me be there for you. Lean on me, Natalya…" He cupped her face in his hand and brushed his thumb over her lips. "I will provide everything you need. I swear it."

Tears hovered on her lashes and she swallowed, staring up at him. "Why…?"

"Why?" He tilted his head. "Because my heart sings when I am with you. It weeps when you weep. It cries out in anguish when you are hurt. From the moment I met you, I was drawn to you. I could not resist and now I do not want to. I cannot protect you in battle. You are the stronger fighter. I cannot help you there. But here, in the quiet, where the galaxy is not permitted, where there is no violence and where there is only us, I want to protect you. From everything. From yourself."

"And because… because when I am with you, siha, I believe anything is possible. Forgiveness. A second chance." He wrapped his arm around her waist, lowering the lids of his eyes to look at her lips. "Eternal love…"

With candlelight flickering over the both of them, Thane lowered his head and pressed his lips to hers, a gentle, lingering kiss that spoke of love and admiration and protection and promises of forever that he wanted more than anything to keep.


Garrus couldn't concentrate. He knew that Shepard was feeling better, Thane had come down to prepare food for her, stating to the stunned turian that she was aware of her body again. Bathing and eating meant she was seeing to her own needs once more. She no longer wanted to die. But still… it had been a whole day since that had happened. Though Thane had not come back down, which could only bode well, he still needed to know

The door behind him opened, ripping him from his firing algorithms with a turian growl of irritation. Garrus turned, and then stopped, his mandibles falling lax with shock. Shepard took two steps towards him and wrapped him tightly in a hug, burying her face against his chest. Garrus reflexively wrapped his arms around her tightly. To turians, hugging was not a natural thing, but he was well aware of the human need for embracing, something that asari shared.

"It's not your fault," he said in a rush. "You're not Sidonis. You're not the same. It's not the same. It isn't!"

"I know."

Garrus was about to continue his spiel, expecting her to have objected, but cut himself off when he realised that she had agreed with him. So, instead, he said, "I just wanted you to be okay." His arms tightened around her. "The galaxy could burn for all I cared. The Collectors, the Reapers, the Council, I didn't care. I just wanted you to be okay."

"I am," she whispered. "I am. Now, I am." She stepped back and sucked in a breath. "I just wanted to let you know I'm okay, and I'm sorry for being… I'm sorry." Natalya stepped back and looked up at him. "I have one more thing to do, and then we can get back to the mission."

He nodded and smiled at her. "Good to have you back, Commander."

She slapped his arm and turned from the Main Battery, heading out to the mess, drying the rest of the tears from her eyes. Rupert offered her a small wave and she smiled and waved back, and then looked toward the closed doors of Miranda's office. On the previous Normandy, it was where her own quarters would have been. The significance of placing Miranda's room there was not lost on her.

She opened the door to Miranda's office with a gesture of her fingers through the panel.

"Shepard." Miranda's tone was clipped as she folded her hands over one another, watching the other woman from over her monitor. "How can I help you?" She did not seem surprised to see Natalya, despite her three day sabbatical. Natalya wasn't surprised at that.

Shepard stepped inside, feeling the doors close behind her. "We need to talk."

"Yes," said Miranda. "We do. First of all, I want to make this very clear. The Illusive Man-"

"Has no authority on my ship." Shepard drew strength from deep inside of her, from the Commander Shepard she needed to be, not the one she felt like she was. It allowed her to meet Miranda's cold, hard gaze levelly, giving her absolutely nothing to work off.

Miranda's mouth opened, anger visibly suffusing her body.

Natalya's hand went up to stop her from speaking and she continued. "Don't get me wrong, Miranda. I get that this ship was funded and built by him. And yeah, maybe it's on loan or whatever. But there are a few factors that the ingenious Illusive Man didn't consider and neither did you." Shepard folded her arms over her chest. "First, let me say I respect you. You are a strong, tenacious, spirited person who does what she wants and is… unrepentant for that. Something that a lot of people lack. But you're selective in what you take responsibility for."

"If this is about Akuze-"

Shepard held up her hand again, turning her head away. "I'm not done. I'm not blaming you for Akuze, Miranda. You had nothing to do with it. Whether or not the Illusive Man did… I can't say for sure. And even if you tell me he didn't, I won't be able to believe you. Not completely. I just can't. But the fact remains that Cerberus was responsible for Akuze. Cerberus. My squad died because of Cerberus. My friend, Toombs, was tortured by of Cerberus."

Shepard walked over to the window in Miranda's room, staring out to space. "You might not have had anything to do with them, but your devout support and… and your total lack of regret for the things that Cerberus has done – and they have done some horrific things, Miranda – means that where blame should and should not fall blurs. Maybe people could… maybe I could look past the fact that you're a Cerberus operative, but you keep thrusting it into everyone's faces. Into my face. It's hard to look around it when that's all you're giving people to look at."

"You can't blame me for what happened to you, Shepard. You can't blame me for the things Cerberus did. The Flotilla. Akuze. Even the experiments-"

"It was all wrong, Miranda," snapped Shepard, looking over her shoulder. "It was sick, twisted and wrong. The ends may justify the means for you, but not for me. You didn't see what I saw. You didn't watch your people scream as they died. You didn't have to talk Toombs down from shooting someone when you wanted to shoot him, too. You… You didn't get an email from your squad mate, your friend, saying that he's going to kill you if he finds you. It wasn't your fault, I know that. But you work for the group that did it. So when you sing their praises and claim that they are doing right… when you try and brush off the blame… You don't realize what you're doing. You can't just push aside what has happened. You can't wash your hands of the dirty deeds, declaring that it was a renegade arm, and thereby absolving yourself of guilt. It doesn't work that way. And you can't make Cerberus look any better to me. You just can't. I hate Cerberus and I always will."

Shepard clenched her fists as her jaw worked in silence, fighting for control. She walked away from the window, towards the door, but before she reached it she spun back to Miranda's desk. "I learned a long, long time ago that when you have so many different people together, with different views and different backgrounds, not everyone is going to agree. And you can't please everyone. But what you can do is accept that people are different, and try not to make yourself seem right, and that they are wrong."

Shepard braced her hands on Miranda's desk and leant over, speaking to her quietly. "So I've accepted that Grunt is a gun that just needs to be pointed at something. And I accept that Mordin thinks that the genophage was the right idea. I've accepted that Thane's responsibility for what he has done differs to mine. I've accepted that Jack's a fucking psycho and hates everyone she's ever encountered to some degree. I've accepted Samara's Code means that she'd probably kill half the people on this crew, including me. I've accepted that Tali thinks that the quarians were wholly justified in attempting to butcher the geth to make up for their mistake. I've accepted that Joker's an ass and that if his skull wouldn't threaten to splinter if I did it, I'd cuff him over the back of the head half the times I spoke to him. I accepted that Garrus needed to save the universe. I accept this, because that's how people are. Because when you befriend them, you take the good and the bad and you don't change them."

Shepard shoved away from Miranda's desk and stood silently, staring at the wall. She also accepted that Ashley had a deep distrust of aliens. That Kaiden was emotionally undeveloped and naïve. That Liara was too young to know what she wanted. She was good at accepting people for their faults. It's what made them… unique. Different. Not the good things about them, but the bad things.

"And the people I… I love…" Thane and Garrus… "Have accepted that my temper is short and I'm more likely to shoot someone than to speak to them. That I push people out of windows and punch people in the face. They accept that I'm not the best person alive. They accept that I am uncompromising when it comes to my values and sense of justice, even if it differs from theirs. They accept that I… I blame myself when I shouldn't, and that I carry… more guilt on my shoulders than any person should be able to cope with. And they don't change that…"

She looked at Miranda again, eyes sad but hard. "I've accepted the fact that you're loyal to Cerberus. That you believe what Cerberus is doing is right. I have. I really have. But you refuse to accept that what I think Cerberus is doing is wrong. You are so hell bent on justifying Cerberus that you just can't seem to get that some people don't see what they did as ever being justifiable. I don't. I really don't. I will always hate Cerberus for what they did to me. But I don't hate you, Miranda. I like you. I'd like to consider you a friend. But… but you have to separate yourself from Cerberus. Be Miranda Lawson. Not Operative Lawson."

Miranda stared up at Shepard, face an emotionless mask, giving nothing away.

Shepard grasped one of the chairs, digging her fingers in. "As for this ship? And my second life? I owe the Illusive Man nothing. Nothing. I am not indebted to him. I am not under his command. I am not. I am working with you because we are fighting for the same thing. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. For now. But if anything, I have yet to collect what Cerberus owes me."

Shepard turned and walked to the door of Miranda's office. Her hand hovered over the indicator panel and she hesitated, before looking over her shoulder. She didn't look far enough to see Miranda. She didn't want to. Instead, she just spoke to the wall to her right.

"As much as you don't want to admit it, Miranda, I have every reason to hate Cerberus. You might be loyal to them for saving you, but… but they didn't save me." Shepard turned her head and lowered it, closing her eyes. "No one asked me if I wanted to be brought back from the dead."

Then she opened the door to Miranda's office and walked out without looking back.


Thane had his hands behind his back when the door to Shepard's quarters opened, permitting him entrance.

"You wanted to see me, siha?"

Though he had spent the night with Shepard, all they had done was hold each other and sleep, with bellies full of food and alcohol. They had woken together and she had permitted his use of her shower, or rather ordered him to use it and stop being so much of a gentleman. It wasn't like they were showering together. Then they had gone their separate ways as Natalya resumed control over the Normandy, relieving Garrus, unofficially, and putting Miranda in her place, again unofficially.

Apparently she had given the woman food for thought.

Now Natalya was standing in front of the fish tank, one hand resting on the glass as she stared at the water like it held the answers to ancient Prothean secrets. She wore her Cerberus uniform, not the shirt and shorts but the crisp grey uniform with the Cerberus logo on the shoulder. She had acquiesced early on that her budget did not allow for personal shopping trips for clothes to wear. At that time she had loathed the clothing. Now she acknowledged that it was just clothing.

Wearing it changed nothing.


"I bought some fish on Illium."

Thane blinked.

"Do you remember? When we came back from recruiting Samara and I was running around for Liara? And there was that krogan reciting… horrible poetry to the asari?"

"I remember."

Shepard clenched her fist and bumped it against the glass. "I thought… why the hell not? I'd never owned a fish before. So I bought a fish. And then I got so caught up in the mission… so caught up in everything… in Miranda's needs and the Collector's and recruiting Tali… By the time I remembered I even had fish… they were dead. And as I cleaned out their bodies I realized that because of my neglect, because of my inability to think of anything other than… than my duty," her voice quickened as she spoke, becoming more distressed, "these fish had died. At the time they were unimportant to me, but I bet the fish thought differently. I bet their lives were very important in the fishy scheme of things… They relied on me, and I… I failed to care for them. And for that, they died. They were actually my responsibility and they died."

Her shoulders slumped and she rested her head on the glass. "Not everything thinks about death the same. Not really. You… you're preparing for yours and I… I go into every battle expecting mine and… But it's so final, you know. It's over. Once death comes for you, it's just… you're done." She closed her eyes. "You know what I felt when I realized I was going to die, Thane? Relief. It was over. It was over and I didn't have to do anything anymore. No more Reapers. No more Council. No more guilt. I could… I could sleep." She pushed herself up from the tank and stared at it, palm flat against it. "And then Cerberus brought me back. They brought me back and I was left with the Reapers again. With the Collectors. With the impossible. With a galaxy to save that didn't really give a shit about me or what I did… But because I came back… because I had to ally with Cerberus and do my duty and do what's right… the fish died." She ran her fingers down the glass. "They died because I didn't… take care of them. Because I forgot about them. Because I bought them."

She turned towards Thane, her eyes hidden and dark, her emotions veiled. "I don't deliberately forget to take care of myself, I don't. I just forget. It's easier to… it's easier to be a soldier than it is to be a person. I used to have the scars to remind me what I… what I survived. But now they're gone. They're gone and I… it's like Cerberus robbed me of something else. Like it's something else I have to feel guilty for. So I throw myself into this suicide mission. I throw myself into my duty. So I can forget. I can forget my guilt. I can forget… I can forget me."

Shepard paced from one side of her room to the other, and then again, before she turned back to Thane, speaking to him without looking at him. "I don't want to worry anyone. It's just… hard. Hard for me to think of myself as a person. As… as someone. Not something. You say that… the soul and body are separate. That the body is a tool, an object, and the soul is… not a part of that. But that's not how it is for me. My soul is… rocked. Shattered. Broken. And my body… what my body does, is the only thing that keeps it together. Without my body… my duty, my soul would just come apart. If I remember me, if I remember my own needs and desires…"

She stepped towards Thane, he atop the steps and she at the bottom. "I… I want to get another fish. I'm going to the Citadel and I'm going to get more fish. And I'm gonna buy that space hampster. It was so cute. But I know… I know I won't be able to take care of them. I'll forget. I'll… I'll lose myself in the mission. And then I'll lose myself to guilt and I… I'll forget the in-between."

She lifted her head and looked up at Thane, blinking back tears. "Can… can you feed my fish for me? Can you remember to… to take care of my fish?"

Thane blinked at her slowly. He knew what she was asking. He knew what she was asking without asking. Because she didn't want to make herself vulnerable. Because she had spent her last few years being strong, hiding the cracks in her armour with new armour. Because she had spent three days indulging in her own guilt and grief and she didn't want to keep doing it. But she needed to know. She needed to hear him say it. And he was more than happy to, because he needed to say it himself. He wanted her to know.

He took one step down, then the other. Reaching out, he picked up her hand carefully, holding it in his. Reaching out to touch her face with his other hand, he smiled at her gently. "I will take care of the fish, siha," he said. "I will take care of your fish for you."

"You will… remember for me?"

Thane carefully gathered her into his arms, holding her tightly. Such a strong woman. A violent storm. And he was the calm sea beneath her. Everyone thought she was wholly unshakeable, but now he knew better. He also knew Garrus knew better, and Tali. But Shepard had not opened up to them.

She had opened up to him, and he would not let her down.

"I will remember, Natalya. I will remember for you." He stroked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I was jealous, you know?"

"What?" The total change of subject threw her and she blinked.

"Of your closeness with Vakarian. I thought you were enamoured with him. I did not want to get between that, but I was jealous of it."

"What?" she repeated, scowling.

"I'm glad to see I was so wrong. I would hate to have to kill the turian. I do like him."


Thane cut her off with a kiss, feeling her lips curve into a smile under his. After a moment, the kiss grew heated and Thane turned, pressing her against the fish tank. He pinned her hands beside her head and deepened the kiss. Relief and desire warred for supremacy in his mind and he allowed them all to wash over in the kiss. She echoed his thoughts with a sound that embodied both and pressed closer to him, her tongue teasing his lips, easing them apart. As he allowed her entrance, he burned this moment into his already perfect memory.

A memory laced with the bitter, metallic taste of raw terror and abject anguish because with that kiss ten years of hard work came undone. Or, perhaps it was simply confirming it, for Thane now knew that he was no longer at peace with his fate. No longer was he prepared to go to the sea. No longer was he ready to die. It was not that he regretted that his time was finite, it was that he simply did not want to die anymore. He wanted to live, and he wanted to live with Natalya Shepard.

And, for the first time in his entire recollection, Thane Krios found himself wanting to live forever, because to die was to be without Natalya. Even the thought of rejoining Irikah did not comfort him. The simple fact that when his body ceased to breathe, he would forever be apart from her did not simply sadden Thane.

It terrified him.


Shepard stepped out of the elevator, her fingers sliding away from Thane's. She glanced over her shoulder at him and he flashed her a smile, lift his hand and placed it over his heart, before bowing. When his head came back up, there was colour on Shepard's cheeks and she dropped her eyes. Then, just before the elevator doors closed, she lifted her hand and touched her heart, widening Thane's smile.

When the elevator was gone, Shepard turned to Kelly. The yeoman was staring at Shepard uneasily, clearly unsure of how to proceed. Natalya cleared her throat, feeling uncomfortable. "Thank you for talking to Thane. And Garrus. When I wouldn't." She knew now, thanks to Thane and Garrus both, that Kelly had recognized the warning signs of… well she had described it as an onset of Post Traumatic Stress. A psychological break waiting to happen. Natalya preferred to call it 'weepy time'.

Shepard had been crumbling, and Kelly had known that she needed help, even if Shepard herself had been unwilling to admit it, let alone ask for it. Shepard of a week ago might have been pissed that Kelly went behind her back like that. But she was no longer Shepard of a week ago.

Kelly, clearly, didn't know that, and was prepared for some sort of reprisal for what she had done, "That's alright…"

Natalya tilted her head, closed her eyes, and said quietly, "And... maybe I suppose... maybe we could talk some time."

Kelly's eyes lit up, before she carefully hid her joy. "Shepard, you don't have to appease me..."

Shepard rubbed the back of her neck and stared off to one side, "Yeah. I know. But... not as a professional okay, Kelly? Not as a therapist. I..." She smiled. "I got one of those." She had two, really.

Garrus and Thane, both, would listen to her, help her. She had never realized it before. Kelly could help a crew that didn't know trust, but Shepard... Shepard had everything she needed.

"Sure," said Kelly, nodding with a gentle and understanding smile. For once, Shepard was glad she understood. "Maybe we can talk later."


Stepping away, Shepard climbed the steps to the CIC, her head high, her eyes determined.

"Joker. Let's go get that IFF."


Tl;dnr is at the bottom in bold. For convenience, I have split this into several sections.

My dearest readers and reviewers,

Never let it said that I don't cherish each and every one of you (yes, even you flamers. Here. Have a cookie). However, there has something that has been brought to my attention that I feel I can't ignore. And, yes, I am blatantly exploiting you, right now, but don't worry. This will be put on every single one of my fanfictions, so you're not the only ones.

As some of you may be aware, there have been a mass deletion of fanfictions and account suspensions and even bannings on this site. People are losing their stories and their accounts. Talented writers. Beginner writers. Hobbyists. This is due to their fictions being reported for infractions on this site's rules, all because of an elitist stranglehold and monopoly of membership and participation on this site.

'Critics United'/ 'Literate Union'

Aka, an attempt to validate vicious cyberbullying

Now, let it never be said that I think that the rules should be violated, or that violations should be allowed. They are there for many reasons, most primarily legal. has been careful to ensure that we are all able to post fanfictions on this site, an act in and of itself that can be considered legally questionable. After all, we are appropriating intellectual property that belongs to those that are not ourselves, aren't we (although let me remark on the hilarity of having potentially plagiarised images on our plagiarised stories). Those who run have done incredible work, voluntarily, and are amazing people for doing so. However, whether or not these fictions violate the rules, or the validation of the removal of their works is not what I am bringing to light here. You are able to formulate your own opinion on the matter, and you are responsible for your own works.

As well as your own behaviour.

And it is behaviour that I wish to address here. The horrendous and reprehensible behaviour of members of this site who have joined together in a hateful mission of cyber bullying. Because that is exactly what this is; the most deplorable example of victimisation and antagonism I have ever seen on this site. These people specifically target stories that violate this site, and persistently hover over it like vultures, pecking away at the victim until they get what they want; which is ultimately a deletion of all stories that violate the rules of this site.

These are not people who report stories and move on. They have made it their mission to see deleted each and every single fiction that exhibits an infraction of the rules, however major or minor, and in the process humiliate and persecute the authors who – as I have seen many of them state – are apparently deserving of the ridicule that this group inflicts upon them.

And they have a forum dedicated to this end. On this site. There, they collate fictions that they have seen deleted, either directly or indirectly, in a hall of shame. They also bring forth fictions for judgement by their fellows for the sole purpose of deciding whether or not it violates the rules and, if it can be proven that it does violate the rules, they proceed to head to the fiction en-mass to spam the story's review feed and report the fiction if they don't comply to the site's rules.

They collate deleted fictions in a 'hall of shame' topic that allows them to display all the fictions that have been deleted because of their actions. They congratulate each other on a job well done. They laugh at poor writing, drag people through the dirt, and for what? So that they can feel good about their 'hard work'? So that they can feel as though they have some great power holding life or death over these fictions, passing judgement on these authors?

Now, for their credit, they seem to think they are doing the right thing. They ensure to discuss questionable fics, ensure that they are breaking rules, and then go and report. And some of them are courteous and polite about their warnings. On the forum, one person this:

"1. None of the people on this site are god, but the admins on this sitedodecide what stories get to be on here based on the guidelinesyouagreed to.

2. The people here don't report stories because they're bad, we report stories because they break guidelines. (This includes horrific spelling, grammar, and chat-speak.) Given, if it is a bad story, we might tear it to pieces with our criticism, but we don't report it."

This statement is of merit, and would be acceptable, if it were not for the fact that, four posts down, the same person posted this:

"Reviewed and reported. Really, do all stupid fangirls really think they're going to get away with absolute crap like this? Just as well, why must all of them put it in eye-blinding bold and italics?"

The hypocrisy of them trying to claim some noble cause while passing these personal judgements sickens me. After all, I don't know about you, but I am a fangirl of many things, and saying such disparagingly judgemental terms makes me feel like this person puts themselves at a level far above my own. I don't want to seem arrogant or egotistical when I say this, but I would dearly love to see this person use the term 'fangirl' as an insult to my face.

One group of people call themselves 'Critics United', but I can safely say that their self-titling is pathetic. These people are not critics. They are bullies hiding under a guise of justification because they are only targeting those that break the rules of this site. A cause like that does not explain or validate their actions in any way. It is not less bullying, it is not less a ridiculous display of egotism, and it is no less an act of victimisation. This is not critiquing, this isn't even constructive criticism, as they like to claim it. I am a critic. I am a literature student. And I would never, ever equate these people with holding the role of critique, unless they are referring to the meaning of being negative naysayers.

Moreover, you do not justify your actions as constructive criticism when you force it down someone's throat. Not everyone can handle constructive criticism, and you don't get to stamp your words and self-stylise in order to validate such criticism when someone doesn't want it. That is still bullying.

The fact that these people try to veil their victimisation behind courteous and polite words doesn't make it any less bullying. Doesn't make it any less than a vindictive desire to hold some elitist hold over writing over this site, and proclaim themselves judge, jury and executioner of people's fictions. They have been screenshotted in reviews saying things like 'piece of **' 'toxic crap' and directly insulting people's writing skill. I don't know about you, but this kind of juvenile behaviour cannot be considered 'critiquing'. That behaviour is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. How dare they hold some holier-than-thou attitude over other writers and maintain some sort of integrity because they are 'enforcing the rules'.

As I have said, I do not condone rule breaking in any way, shape or form on this site, and I have been careful to ensure that my own fics do not break the rules. But that does not mean that I feel I have a right to hunt down all the fics that do break the rules. It is the responsibility of each and every member to ensure their works don't break the rules, and to report those that flaunt the rules.

And then move on.

Making a group for the sole purpose of some self-imposed duty of policing disgusts me. The idea that someone has read my fictions, nodded their head and said 'You pass', decreeing that I would be allowed to post not merely because I have followed the rules, but because they gave me permission to disgusts me. These people have taken a power that belongs to everyone, and decided to turn it toward their own means, believing that they are safe and okay because they are merely upholding the rules of the site. When, in actuality, that is not at all merely what they are doing.

And what is worse, is condoning their behaviour. I do not believe that the administrators of this site are reading the stories they have deleted, validating that they violate the rules, and then deleted them based on their own judgement. Instead, they are going after people based on the report count listed by their name, a count that this group, Critics United, is largely responsible for.

For those members of this group who feel that they have some form of duty to patrol this site for this purpose, but are careful and courteous in their reviews and warnings, I'm sorry. But you willingly associate with this ego-trip and I am afraid you are not completely free of blame.

For those of you that use this as an excuse to flaunt your superiority over others, and then claim no responsibility for your actions because you are 'upholding the rules'… There is no excuse, justification, or validation for your behaviour. None.

Nor is there an excuse, justification, or validation for 's condoning of it.

A worse group, however, is the Literate Union, which is almost identical to Critics United except for the fact that they are fully aware of the fact that all they do is flame, degrade and viciously bully those who they believe is worthy. They are everything I have stated above, without an attempt to justify their cruel behaviour. These people are slightly more self-aware, but even less mature in their actions. They have a forum dedicated to asking one another to specifically go and flame people and their stories, and I am at a loss as to the reason why.

Critics United have embarked on a witch hunt because they want to destroy the witches and purge their town.

Literate Union just wants to watch people squeal and burn in the flames.

This is cyber bullying, without any explanation or excuse. 'Upholding the rules' is not something I will accept. It does not require this level of hunt-and-kill execution that these people are exhibiting. It isn't their right to take it upon themselves to tear apart each author, post it on their hateful forum and giggle behind their hands with one another.

I do not want to be associated with a site that condones this blatant display of bullying.

The rating system/the bannings and deletions

AKA I think you missed one

As many readers may be aware, this time of year slows down for me because of my university. I have also been unable to post new chapters on my fanfiction because I am writing a thesis, and it is draining most of my energy. I have to work toward a Ph.D scholarship, which can range anywhere from thirty-five to sixty-five thousand taxpayer dollars, which makes me want to make sure I am deserving of it. However, I was in the process of re-writing several of my fics, and prepared to post them en-mass when I next had time.

However, I would like to draw attention to this section of the front page;

June 4th 2012 - Notices:

Please note we would like to clarify the content policy we have in place since 2002. follows the Fiction Rating system ranging from Fiction K to Fiction M. Although Fiction Ratings goes up to Fiction MA, since 2002 has not allowed Fiction MA rated content which can contain adult/explicit content on the site. only accepts content in the Fiction K through Fiction M range. Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA and has not been allowed on the site since 2002.

I would state here, briefly, that the idea of not having a mature rating for mature readers has always perplexed me. I feel making them unavailable to unregistered readers, and having a function in a profile that allows for a 'I am over the age of 18' box to be checked would cover the ethical issues in regards to this. Ethical considerations on the internet require only a disclosure of age and consent of content that is about to be read. Once a person checks a 'I am over the age of 18' box, the people who are exposing them to the information are no longer liable for any legal action. They have fulfilled their requirement of responsibility. As such, not having a mature section for this site has never really made sense for me. However, that is not what I wish to address here.

As such, I regret to inform my readers that, though the content of my stories are not exclusively of this nature, many of my fictions feature such violence in their content, from detailed description of sexual interaction (Gestalt, and the intent in Paradise Lost), and violence (pretty much every single one of my fictions). What you would consider 'detailed' and rule violating, however, is subject to opinion, but from what I have addressed, opinion is enough to get your story deleted, or your account suspended or banned. I had thought that if the story had the content, but did not feature it as the main issue – for example a romance that went into sex, but did not have sex in every chapter – would be allowed as a mature example of professional writing.

I was, apparently, wrong.

I am fortunate that all of my stories exist on my laptop and not exclusively on , but it would devastate me to lose the wonderful reviews I have gotten from you, the painstaking time that you have all put in to telling me your thoughts and feelings on my work, helping me improve, giving me invaluable feedback and encouragement. I have been dragged from the depths of writer's block and depression because of the things you have said, and I cannot even imagine how some people feel with their stories deleted, not only losing their work, but the amazing reviews that people have left for them, to show them that their work is appreciated.

And let me say that the idea that is deleting fanfictions that depict graphic sex or violence, but are allowing people like Critics United and

I also do not feel like waiting for the Critics United group to turn their attention to the Mass Effect category and rifle through it, finding my fictions and passing their judgements on my work. It isn't their right.

The result

As such – and I know many of you are going to hate me for this, and I'm sorry –henceforth, in protest of the actions being taken on this site;

I will no longer be updating any of my fanfictions.

I will not be posting the rewrites of Paradise Lost, In the Shadow of Gods and A Cage of Butterflies that I have been working on.

I will not be posting new stories or one-shots on this site, nor any planned sequels.

Whether or not I repost my fictions elsewhere, and whether or not I post new fictions elsewhere has yet to be decided.

This is me being responsible for my own actions, my own opinions, and my own image, in that I will not be associated in any way with these people, nor will I allow their actions to go unaddressed.

This is not a message to . This is a message to you, my readers, my reviewers. Critics United are a group of vicious cyberbullies who defend their actions with the guise of 'upholding the rules'. Literate Union are simply cyberbullies who do not even try to defend their actions, and their actions are blatantly antagonistic and cruel. This does not make it any less bullying. It does not make their actions any less cruel. While I advocate that the rules be upheld, and I know that some fictions are in blatant violation of them, this group should not be allowed to continue conducting themselves as they have. These people purposefully seek out and victimising members of this site, and this is not behaviour I want to endorse, condone, forgive, be associated with, or turn a blind eye to.

I am not sure if I will post my works elsewhere for people to read. If I do, I will let you know.

I have created a tumblr for mass communication in case my account on is deleted. annewhynnfanfiction(youknoetherest) Please add me. I will keep everyone updated.

This needs to stop.

I love you all sincerely and dearly. You are my valued readers and reviewers, and you make me so happy whenever I hear anything from any of you. But this is unacceptable.

I am sorry.

For the forseable future, this is me signing out.



P.S – Feel free to send me reviews filled with rage and hate, condemnations for my actions and… well. Anger. I have marshmellows ready.