The doors to the shuttle opened slowly. There was a soft thump as the ramp hit the snow covered ground. Dr. Chakwas stepped forward, slowly wheeling Joker down the ramp, followed by Commander Shepard.
For a few moments, all they could do was stand in shock and awe. The endless snow fell quietly around them, covering the wreckage in a blanket of cold white. Parts and pieces of the Normandy were scattered everywhere, varying in size and damage. Nobody spoke. Shepard glanced over at the former Alliance doctor before turning and heading away from them.
She approached the largest piece of wreckage—the hull of the ship that still read "Normandy" in large, proud black letters. She climbed the snow bank carefully and placed a hand against the cold metal. She could still see the Normandy in her former glory, resting in her berth at the Citadel's docking bay, or slicing through the atmosphere of a planet after dropping the mako. She pressed her forehead against the hull, swallowing a lump in her throat.
The commander turned away and jumped from the top of the snow bank back to the ground. This would be a good place to set up the monument to the SSV Normandy, right in front of her namesake.
Dr. Chakwas carefully navigated the uneven terrain with Joker's wheelchair while still being able to look around at the wreckage and debris of what she had considered to be her home for so long. Joker remained quiet, and she didn't try to press him to speak. She knew of all of them, the former helmsman was the most devastated about losing the ship.
She pushed him up to a large piece of debris and left his side then, going to investigate before endangering him. It looked like part of the hall that led up to the cockpit, somewhere she knew Joker would want to see, but she didn't want to risk any of the wreckage falling and hurting the already handicapped pilot.
"C'mon, doc," Joker complained, though he didn't put as much heart into it as he normally would have. "Just push me up there. I want to see her."
Satisfied that the debris was still very intact, she returned to the wheelchair and pushed him to the cockpit. Fallen wires and beams kept them from getting very close to the pilot's chair, but Joker could still see all the controls and the area he had practically lived in.
After a moment, Joker said, "Hey, doc?"
"Yes, Jeff?" Dr. Chakwas leaned forward to look at him.
"Can you leave me here…just for a little bit?"
Dr. Chakwas smiled sadly. "Of course, Jeff." She turned away and slowly descended out of the cockpit's wreckage. Before she continued any further, she turned to look at Joker.
Her heart constricted with pain when she saw his face buried in his hands, his hat removed as if in respect to a fallen friend. And, she guessed, the Normandy had been more than a home to him. To him, the ship had been something alive, something he could care for and push to be the greatest she could be. A child, almost.
She forced herself to turn away, to give him space, and began to slowly walk away. She watched as Commander Shepard observed the mako, still pretty much intact. She leaned down and picked something up from the snow, brushing it off. The doctor assumed it was dog tags of one of the fallen crew members. Admiral Hackett had asked that they find something to send to the families. She had to admit, she was fearful of coming. What if they came across Pressly's body? Or a body of any of the other crew that didn't make it to the escape shuttles? It would be too much for her to bear. But they hadn't…It was too short a time for the bodies to have decayed, but the thought that some creatures had dragged them off was so much worse.
She stopped as she came to what she knew to be the med bay. Two gurneys were broken and stuck in the snow nearby, and hanging from one of the wheels was a soldier's dog tags. She approached and gingerly removed them. She held them up so she could read the name, recognizing them to belong to an engineer girl who had often visited her for minor scuffs she had gotten while working. She had been a very sweet girl, and always had a smile on her face, even if one of her fingers was in threat of coming off. She'd just laugh and say she should have been watching what she was doing.
Dr. Chakwas hugged the dog tags to her chest, closing her eyes against the memories. No, the Normandy was not just a military vessel. After all they had been through; there was nowhere she could have called home, no other family she could have claimed.
Joker stared down at the floor of what used to be his cockpit, turning his hat around in his hands. It didn't seem like two years ago that he was sitting there, easily maneuvering her through space. It felt like so much longer. He felt so detached from it all.
How could he have let this happen? The Normandy had been built for speed and stealth. They should have been able to outrun that Collector ship with ease! There must have been more than he could have done…He should have gone down with her.
He looked up at the dead, broken monitors as if he were facing an angry parent. He ignored the sting in his eyes and the lump in his throat. "I'm sorry," he whispered into the chill air.
He turned to look behind him, spotting Commander Shepard standing with Dr. Chakwas.
He swallowed hard and wiped at his face quickly. He pulled his hat on and forced a grin. "Yeah?"
"The commander has put up the monument. Do you want to go see it before we leave?"
Joker nodded as the doctor moved forward, taking control of his wheelchair once again. The three moved towards the monument in silence, feeling a new kind of camaraderie between them. They were family, they had found the Normandy as home, and they had all lost that home. Together, they were homeless.
As they stood in front of the monument, the large "Normandy" hull as the backdrop, they knew that they would never truly be home again. Cerberus could give them a better replica of the ship, they could even bring back some of the old crew, but they could never replace home.
Author's Note: I got the idea for this after the first time I played the Normandy Crash Site mission in Mass Effect 2. It would have been so much more dramatic if Dr. Chakwas and Joker had gone along as well. The mission was very heart wrenching to me, but I tend to get very attached to fictional characters and worlds anyway!