A/N: I really enjoyed writing this story, a bit sad to see it end. I appreciate the positive feedback, I am glad see that people did enjoy this story, if you have not reviewed, feel free to comment, criticize, compliment, just stay respectful, you can also pm me. I hope you enjoy the final chapter.
A New Direction
Miranda's fingers clenched into a fist at her side, an involuntary instinct that she culminated when she was getting angry and ready to call up on her biotics. Her finger rubbed up against the trigger, as she pulled her pistol up in the face of her only friend growing up. "Then I guess you are the only loose end Niket" Miranda's voice was dark and menacing.
"No wait Miranda," Shepard said suddenly grabbing Miranda's arm and forcing her to pull down her pistol.
Miranda fought off his grip, she didn't want to hear Shepard, she just wanted to finish this. "Let go of me Shepard."
"You don't want to do this Miranda," Shepard said his eyes staring into hers.
For a moment Miranda looked from him to Niket, her mind racing with emotions, and frustrations, as the perfect human specimen with the most sophisticated training, education, genetics that money could buy, and now she found herself unable to make a decision, let alone speak. But something in Shepard's eyes and in his calm words, brought warmth to her body and heart, which allowed Miranda to keep her pistol lowered, he was right, she couldn't kill her friend.
"Look, there she is. Look how happy she is with her family" Miranda said stepping out of the elevator seeing her sister. Miranda was trying her best to fight back tears "we should go."
"Don't you want to speak to her?" asked Shepard sincerely.
Miranda shook her head, "No that would only complicate things for her. Oriana has a chance to live a normal life, I cant ruin that because of my own selfish desires," dismissed Miranda, she could feel his touch on her elbow, it caused her arm to quiver.
"Would it really hurt her, to know that she has a sister out there who loves her?" Shepard asked softly into her ear.
"Well, yea but," Miranda stuttered.
"Go speak to her. We will wait for you here," Shepard encouraged.
Miranda hesitated only for a moment, but looking back at Shepard's encouraging smile, which was more then enough for Miranda to convince her that she had to speak to her sister.
"Miss. Lawson, Miss. Lawson."
Miranda groaned, a groggy Miranda rose her head from her bed to see, Edi's avatar. It took Miranda a few seconds to remember what had happened with Shepard and the collector ship which caused Miranda to instantly jump up from her bed, shaking any grogginess. "How is Shepard?"
"Stable," answered Edi. "The surgery was successful and Commander Shepard should be back at command in a few hours."
Miranda breathed a heavy sigh of relief, "that is good, how long was I out?"
Six hours? Thought a surprised Miranda. "Where is Shepard now, can I see him?"
"Negative, Dr. Chakwas has refused all visitors for the commander, not wanting to upset the stitches or the painkillers that are in Shepard's system."
Miranda sighed, disappointed that she couldn't see Shepard yet, but still very relieved to hear that he was going to make it.
"Yes Edi?" asked Miranda dragging a comb through her hair, trying her best to make herself presentable after a lackluster block of sleep.
"The Illusive man has been trying to set up a link with the Normandy for the last hour."
"I understand, patch him through. I will be up in the Briefing room in ten minutes."
"Understood, logging you out Miss. Lawson."
Miranda had more then a few words to say to the man who she had admired for years, how could he deliberately trick Shepard into going into that ship. It had been a trap from the beginning and he didn't seem to care at all, as long as got the results he wanted. Miranda groaned, she was doing it again, she was coming into conflict with her former Cerberus operative who worshiped the Illusive man, and the amiable, new perspective XO of the Normandy.
Miranda walked into the briefing room, entering the scanner, as her image was broken down and digitalized to the Illusive Man's base.
Sitting behind his desk, dragging a cigarette was the head of Cerberus. "I was suspecting Shepard."
"Shepard is unavailable," answered Miranda because you led him into a trap she thought.
"Is that so?" asked the illusive man, his face stayed in the shadows.
"Yes he should be back up in a few hours," said Miranda through gritted teeth.
"I hope his injuries are nothing to severe, there is still much that needs to be accomplished if he wants to beat the collectors," commented the Illusive man only taking a break to drag his cigarette. There was no remorse in his tone, he spoke purely casually as if he had not hand in Shepard's injury.
Miranda was about to speak but the illusive man waved his hand, silencing her before he spoke. "Why is that I got my report from Edi, and not my head Cerberus operative? I don't need you to start getting sloppy now when so much is clearly at stake, Miranda."
Miranda clenched her fists at her side, but she kept her face composed and her stare directed at the illusive man.
He chuckled at the reaction he saw from Miranda, "If I didn't know any better Miranda, I would have to believe that your time with the commander has changed you."
More then you know Miranda thought. "I thought you would sound more pleased, admitting yourself that Shepard was the best humanity had to offer, as a leader and soldier but yet you sound disappointed."
"His skills in battle are worthy to be honored by all races, but his motives often get clouded in politics, saving the council, allowing to be reinstated by them after they tried so hard to dismiss his claims, it was embarrassing to read the reports." Ranted the illusive man dipping his cigarette butt into the ashtray on his seat.
Miranda stayed silent, allowing her years of being a Cerberus operative to take over, and not the newly emotional Miranda that has just revealed herself in the last few weeks. "Is that why you let him and his squad walk into a trap, to teach him a lesson about being naive? I must say none of us saw it coming, especially after all the money you invested in him, this ship, this crew to lead him into a deliberate trap," the words left Miranda before she could stop herself, she was clearly angry at him from withholding information and they got lucky that Shepard wasn't worse off, or the squad.
"Shepard knows the risks before entering every mission miss. Lawson this one was no different."
"Just tell me was it worth it?" asked Miranda.
"As a matter of fact it was, the mission was quite successful. Miranda you need to stay focused on the big picture, and less focused on Shepard," commented the Illusive man.
Her years of training in negotiations helped her pick up on people's tones and hidden meanings, and she was sure the illusive man was clearly hinting at something between her and the commander. "I thought my job was to watch and monitor him."
"It is, not to sleep with him," the illusive man said bluntly.
Miranda's fingernails dug into her palms, as her fists tightened, but she was to consumed by her own anger at the Illusive man's accusations and bluntness, he spoke it as if it were a fact.
"Miranda Lawson is the XO on my ship, and I wont tolerate her being spoken to in such a disrespectful way." Shepard said appearing beside Miranda so suddenly that Miranda jumped as if she just saw a ghost.
"Shepard, you shouldn't be-" began Miranda ready to protest.
"Officer Lawson please assemble the squad, I need to speak with your boss privately," instructed Shepard calmly, his eyes on the Illusive man who hid behind the shadows.
"Of course sir," Miranda found herself saying after remaining silent for a few seconds, still trying to get over the fact that Shepard had awaken and was moving hours before he was suppose to.
"Shepard, I didn't think you would be up so soon," the illusive man spoke casually, he didn't look surprised at all to see the commander before him, it was as if he was expecting him to show up.
Shepard didn't reply, looking back to see that Miranda was staring at him open mouthed, she seemed lost for words and glued in place, "the squad Miranda."
Miranda nodded, shaking herself from her stupor and walked out of the illusive man's room, past the scanners, reappearing in the briefing room. Still remembering his words as he defended her from her boss, it was just like Shepard to defend his crew but remembering his orders, she left the briefing room, to rally up the squad wondering how he slipped past the doctor, and how mad Chakwas was discovering that the Normandy's commander had broken his bed rest and was back in charge of the ship.
Fifteen minutes later, the squad shuffled into the briefing room all of them surprised to see Shepard waiting for them even though Miranda had told them that it was the commander's orders, none of them had been expecting to see him back on his feet so soon from his injuries.
"Your one tough son of a bitch, sir." Jacob said.
"I hope you whipped the Illusive man good Shepard." Jack said clearly supporting the option.
"Some things never change Shepard, like following Chakwas's orders." Tali said with a giggle remembering their old fights against Saren.
"Battle master I am most pleased to see you up and ready for action."
"I must have miscalculated the painkillers that I prescribed to you Shepard, I thought I gave you enough of them which would have stopped a charging krogan," ranted Mordin.
"It is good to see that my prayers to the goddess of healing were answered," noted Thane.
"Shepard you look no worse then usual," observed Garrus, his mandibles twitched into a smirk.
"The room is yours commander," said Miranda, inwardly smiling yearning to return command of the ship back over to the only man who was up to the task.
Shepard stayed silent for a moment, smiling from the wave of jokes, support, and taunts that he got from his squad but after all were finished. Shepard cleared his throat, "first things first, I wish to offer my thanks to my squad, who were able to not only carry my dead weight out of the ship, they were able to fight off the collectors while their commander lay unconscious and still protect me. I appreciate it guys."
"It wouldn't be right Shepard, leaving you there," Jacob said with a smirk referring to their earlier conversation on the ship.
"I would never leave you behind battle master."
"I never turn my back on an ally."
"It's the least I can do Shepard, you've saved my turian ass on several occasions, now I only owe you what ten more."
"Secondly I wish to speak my gratitude to our XO Miranda Lawson who was able to lead this crew through the crisis, and was able to handle the hellish situation with true vigor," Shepard said.
Miranda lowered her head, forcing herself not to blush, and to simply give a modest smile and shake of her head, but when her eyes met Shepard's seeing that he spoke sincerely, and gratefully, a warm sensation spread through her body.
"Again I must give my thanks to the best helmsman that the galaxy knows. Joker you pulled my ass out of the fire again."
"Yea just make sure the medal is gold and the plaque is big, when you recommend me of course," Joker brazenly said over the loudspeaker.
"And lastly to Edi, who was able to download all the information we needed, while also saving us from certain capture," Shepard said.
Edi's avatar appeared, "I was only following my programming."
Shepard nodded, "Alright enough of the pleasantries lets get down to the mission, Edi."
"The Omega 4 relay works on a friend, foe system, friends are allowed passage through while foes are utterly obliterated en route."
"We could have expected as much," commented Tali.
"Yes, if we were to install the Iff relay into the Normandy, theoretically we would be able to safely pass through the relay," Edi finished.
"And take out the collectors," Jacob said with a serious head nod.
"Where are we going to get this iff relay, I doubt that Omega or the citadel markets sell them?" asked Garrus dryly.
"A derelict reaper was found orbiting a brown dwarf, a Cerberus team went in to investigate, it has been confirmed that we can install this reaper's Iff into our systems. It would take time but not to long," added Edi.
"What's the catch?" asked a suspicious Jack.
"They lost contact with the Cerberus team," answered Shepard.
"Figures." Jack said with a roll of her eyes.
"So is that where we are going Shepard?" asked Grunt.
Shepard shook his head, "no not yet, there is still much to do, we need upgrades installed and I don't want to enter this reaper blind, I want our squad at full strength. Joker?"
"Plot a course for Ilium, we have a justicar to pick up."
"Plotting course now commander."
"Squad dismissed, when we are closer to Ilium I will inform you who will be going planet-side with me," instructed Shepard.
Jack, and Mordin were the first ones out of the briefing room, Mordin heading back to his lab while Jack went back down below deck.
Grunt patted Shepard on the back firmly, he seemed very pleased that Shepard was back on his feet. "Battle master."
"Hey Thane, I didn't get to say it earlier, but good shooting on the ship," Jacob complimented. The former alliance soldier and the retired assassin were following Grunt out of the briefing room.
"No need to mention it Mr. Taylor I was only doing what I was brought on board to do."
"Yes I suppose but that doesn't mean, that I should have gave you the bullshit about your prior history."
"What is in the past stays in the past," comforted Thane.
Miranda wanted to speak with Shepard but seeing him talking with Garrus and Tali, she decided that she could wait as she silently stepped out of the briefing room, unable to help but feel slightly jealous about the close kinship that Shepard had with Tali and Garrus.
Miranda discreetly waited outside the briefing room for fifteen minutes before Shepard,Tali and Garrus finally stepped out laughing from a joke or a story, Miranda wasn't sure which.
Tali and Garrus headed towards the armory not even noticing Miranda who had been standing on the other corridor which led to the tech lab.
"Miranda," said a startled Shepard who nearly bumped into her.
"Sorry commander, I didn't mean to scare you," Miranda said trying her best to hide an amused smile.
"No I just wasn't expecting your audience in the corridor," Shepard replied.
"How are you?" asked Miranda sincerely.
"I am fine, Dr. Chakwas is displeased that I am back on deck, but well there are some perks to being commander," Shepard joked.
Miranda smiled, "I just… I just wanted to say it is good to see you back on your feet especially after seeing the attack and the injury looked so severe." Miranda was inwardly screaming at herself unable to believe how she was ranting, how she sounded like an idiot but to her relief Shepard only smiled.
"I appreciate your concern Lawson, you did good on deck, I am satisfied if the occasion called for it, you would be than able to take control of this ship," complimented an honest Shepard.
"I am sure I would have to secure Jack first," Miranda joked.
Shepard chuckled, "humanely."
"Of course." Miranda said chuckling, before she could stop herself Miranda pushed up on her toes, allowing her lips to graze against his cheeks. "Commander" she said before walking off Oh Miranda what are you doing? She thought entering the tech lab.
Shepard stood in the corridor, his fingers gently touching where his XO had kissed him, making sure that he didn't just imagine it. She is not really an Ice Queen after all Shepard thought, and remembering of the business that he needed to attend to he walked into the command deck where he received warm smiles and hearty salutes from his crew who were more then happy seeing their commander back on his feet, and ready to lead them forward on their mission.