Legion's word sent a shiver down Tali's spine. Shepard stared blankly at the Geth's eye. "We have reached consensus that returning the Creator's homeworld is necessary for future cohesion with Creators and other races in the future war against the Old Machines. We also concluded that Creator forces would fight with greater efficiency with a physical location for non-combatant population. Shepard-Commander made us realize that this is beneficial to both the Geth and Creator race."
"Y-You're giving our world back?" asked Tali trying to confirm the words she wanted to hear her whole life.
"Yes, Creator Tali'Zorah."
"How soon can the Quarian people return to their homeworld?" Shepard asked.
"There are still several locations that require repair, but the planet is suitable for habitation."
"I want to go there," Tali stated.
"Then we go. Legion, could you let your people know we are coming."
"Legion..." Tali whispered. "Thank you."
"This platform does not require thanks."
"EDI, tell Joker to set a course for Rannoch."
"Right away, Commander. ETA: ten hours."
Tali and Shepard were quiet while walking to the elevator. They were in shock. The elevator rose to the captain's cabin. Shepard took Tali's hand and led her to bed. She didn't sleep in her pod anymore. They sat down on the bed's edge.
"Tali..." Shepard finally said, quietly, to get Tali's attention.
Tali lunged into his arms and embraced him. She started to cry. Shepard held her in his arms and let her release all of her emotions. She was finally going to go home. Not some ship, but her homeworld. The joy of that feeling, of that knowledge was overwhelming. And with her was the person she has loved for
several years. He treated her as an equal. A friend and a lover. Shepard allowed her on his crew. Showed her the galaxy and offered an adventure like no other. When she asked for the Geth data, he gave it to her without hesitation. With that data she was welcomed home as a hero. Even with that welcome she
spent the next couple of years in pain because she was separated from the man she loved. The thing she regretted most was not telling him how much he meant to her.
Shepard managed to overcome death itself. It felt like a gift from Keelah. But when she saw him with Cerberus, she expressed doubt for the first time. Cerberus brought him back. Is he even the same Shepard from before? Her doubts disappeared when Shepard refused a Cerberus order to protect one of her people. He came again to save her on Haestrom. Shepard was always there for her. He
stood by her when she was charged with treason. She was ready to collapse when she found her father's body, but Shepard was there. He held onto her, letting her know that she wasn't alone. Upon seeing the evidence of what happened. Her father was one of the greatest war criminal in her people's history.
She begged him not to reveal the evidence to the board. At least if she was exiled, she had a ship she could still call home. A ship she would always call home. Shepard only say that they should head back. The shuttle ride back was brutal. Shepard did not say a thing. Tali wonder if he was considering
revealing the evidence. When asked if they had any evidence, he walked up to the podium. She made a last ditch attempt to stop him from revealing the evidence. It was there Shepard made a speech that completely threw the Board off its feet. He called them out on using the trial to further their own agendas. No one has ever called them out in such a way. Listening to him gave her goosebumps. When the Board voted, it was to exonerate her. He did it. Shepard protected her and her father's reputation. It was there she knew she would follow him anywhere. She could not have loved him anymore than she did at that moment.
Regardless of how she felt, Tali did not believe Shepard felt that way about her. Not until they stumbled upon the topic. Her heart jumped with joy upon hearing his words. "I feel the same way about you." Even with his assurance, she didn't think that she was worth the effort. He was a war hero and an icon to the galaxy. Shepard could have anyone. There were literally millions of options better suited for
him. He didn't back down. Shepard just wanted her. She was the only one who made him happy. Before they went through the Omega-4 relay, they became truly honest with each other and became one. After their moment of passion, Shepard held her in his arms, skin touching skin. Tali will always remember his words: "I love you, Tali'Zorah. In life or death, I will never leave you again."
Now she's back in his arms again, crying. Shepard sat there quietly and patiently. She thought she could not have loved him more than after what happen at the trial. She was wrong. It was because of him that her people can go home. He has done more her people than anyone in history. Keelah, she loved him.
Tali's tears started to stop. "Thank you," was all she could muster.
Shepard smiled. His warm smile made her want to cry again in joy. "No problem," was all he could respond with.
"No problem?" Tali almost laughed. She looked into his blue eyes. "Shepard... 'No problem' is usually reserved for if someone asks you to move some boxes across the room or cook up a meal. What you've done here... With your actions with Legion... My people finally have a home to go to. You saved my
people. You... Saved my people." She was almost ready to cry again. Tali reached up and held her mask. A small click sound was made followed by a hiss. She placed the mask on the table next to the bed.
Shepard was in awe looking at her beautiful face. It was slightly more slender than the average human woman face. Her eyes were slightly angled. Her iris were silver, but did not glow has her mask suggested. The HUD on her helmet reflected light more easily off of her silver eyes (similar to when lights reflect from cat eyes) giving the impression that they glowed. Her skin was a light brown color with purple stripes on her cheeks. She did not have any hair, but that did not detract from her beauty.
He could see the lines of tears on her face. "I don't think my people or I could ever repay you."
"Tali... I would do anything for you."
Tali was ready to cry again, but held it back so she could kiss him. One night of passion, before they reached her homeworld.
* * * * *
A nice chime was made by EDI to wake up Tali and Shepard. "Good morning, Commander Shepard and Miss Zorah."
Tali blushed a little. "Morning EDI."
"We are currently over Rannoch."
"Thank you EDI."
Tali looked to Shepard who rest on his right hand and smiling. "Ready to see your world?"
She nodded, "yes."
The two started prepping. Tali slid her suit back on. It sadden her that she would have to wear this suit on her own homeworld. She cursed in her mind. Tali held her mask in her right hand and sighed. Shepard placed his hand on her shoulder and smiled. The only thing he had to wear over his head was the Sentry Interface Cerberus provided him. "H-Have..." he stammered. "Do you know what Rannoch looks like?"
Tali lowered her head and sighed. "That information was lost to us for over a couple hundred years. We could only learn about our planet through hearsay. Even then there were different descriptions. All I know is that it is more arid than Earth which doesn't help since I've never been there."
"If it helps, neither have I."
She fell back a step upon hearing that. "You've never been to Earth? Your homeworld! You're kidding." Shepard shook his head. "I just never got around to it. I joined the Alliance right when I was old enough, so I never had enough time for personal travel. I've only been back to my own colony twice in the last decade."
"Even your own colony? Why?"
Shepard's smile disappeared and was replaced with a sadness that made Tali regret asking. "Bad memories."
"What happened on Mindoir?" They sat down on the couch. Again she felt stupid for asking such questions.
"Batarian slavers came to the colony and destroyed everything. I remember that day. My family and I were having dinner when the sirens went off. The slavers broke into our home... They got a hold of my sister and me. I watched as they shot my father to death and cut out my mother's throat. They tried to put some device in my sister's skull, but ended up killing her instead. I was to be the next to receive the device, but I managed to escape. I spent he next couple of days trying to survive with slavers all over the place." For the first time, Tali saw Shepard cry. He didn't collapse or choke. Just tears ran from his eyes down his cheek.
"Why didn't the Alliance help?"
"They tried, but the slavers were too well defended. The alliance could only watch. All of my friends, neighbors and family died. I was one of fifty survivors of that colony. The original population was two thousand."
Tali regretted asking him about those events. She regretted the things she said to him on the Alarei. "You don't know what it's like! You have a world to go to!" Truth be told, he didn't. The world he knew was destroyed by the slavers. The horrors he faced.
"Who took care of you from there on?"
"A turian couple."
"What?" Tali said with a little too much surprise in her voice. "H-How... W-Why?"
"It was part of a cultural outreach program. Very hush-hush. It was to show cooperation between our races. Of course the program was ended shortly after I entered the Alliance. I was forbidden to even speak of the program to the public under threat of court martial."
"Humanity has changed a lot, but there is still bigotry, even in the Alliance. Threats of being court martial grew larger and louder after the Elysium Blitz, because in their own words, 'No one wants to know humanity's hero was raised by Turians.' The couple were also under threats by the Alliance and the Hierarchy to keep quiet. I still keep in contact with them though."
"Why did you join the Alliance? For revenge?" Again her damn mouth won't shut up.
Shepard smiled. "I'm not one for revenge. As one man once said, 'on a quest of revenge, dig two graves.' I was not going to allow anger to change who I am. I joined to make sure no one else had to face what I did on Mindoir."
"Why did they cancel the cultural experiment?"
"The Alliance and Hierarchy consider it too expensive for little benefits. It costs a lot to get food shipped in for the kids and they consider any benefits from interactions with other races to be minimal, at best."
"I guess you proved them wrong. Come on, let's go."
She looked back.
"Thanks for listening. It's not easy to talk about what happen, but it makes me feel better."
"It's the least I could do."
* * * * *
Shepard and Tali approached the cockpit where Legion was already waiting. Joker turned his chair around and said with a loud sigh, "About time. What were you two doing... Know what never mind." Tali and Shepard couldn't help but laugh. "Thought you would like to see the planet before landing."
They all looked out through the glass. Down below they could see Rannoch. The planet had little cloud coverage. Unlike earth, the planet was a majority of land with two-thirds of the planet's surface covered by land and only a third covered by water. Tali gasped at the wonder and beauty of this planet. Around the planet were several Geth stations similar to the one Tali and Shepard went on to help Legion. "Is Creator Tali'Zorah ready?"
"Yes, Legion, I am."
For the entire time through re-entry, Tali stared out the window. When the flames of re-entry dissipated she was left a bright blue sky. Below she could see large forests and in the center of it all were the remains of a Quarian city. "The city you see below was a Creator capital city. It was called Alavult. Geth platforms focused on conservation and restoration of the forest around the homeworld, but we still had some platforms work on restoration and preservation of Creator capital cities. Remaining buildings still remain intact."
The landing site was surrounded by the forest that the Geth planted. With no development for three hundred years, the plant life flourished. The plant life was completely different than anything on earth. The trees were similar in size of the Redwood forest of Earth, but with the texture of the Amazonian trees. The leaves of the trees were at least two meters across. Vines criss-crossed the forests. Tali and Shepard both looked up at these large trees.
Shepard found the air of the planet a bit dry. It was definitely a warm planet, luckily there was a large amount of wind. The thing that caught Shepard's attention the most was the brightness of the sun. It was orange and made him squint just to see. With a few adjustments to his visor he was able to darken it and see more clearly. "Tali..."
"Do you want to visit the city?"
"I would like that."
The city itself was just a short walk from the forest, but with the tall growth it was impossible to see it. The city was no where near as expansive and advance as Nos Astra, it was still imposing. The area all around was mountainous in nature. The buildings have appeared to have been carved out of the mountain rock with certain sections made from steel. Some buildings were no bigger than small factories whereas others were hundreds of meters high. "Tali, why did your people create buildings from the mountain rock?"
"I-I don't know Shepard. I'm wondering that myself."
"Mountain rock consists of special compounds. It is heavily resistant to weathering, is better at insulation than most manufactured material, and required less resources to shape. Creators saw this as a way to save resources. It was a method they used even for their colonies, as you saw on Haestrom, Creator Tali'Zorah. A hybrid of stone and steel."
"And they still stand."
All around the streets were dozens of Geth platforms. Each of them were carting away rubble. Occasionally one would look up at Shepard and Tali. It was weird for Tali to see so many Geth in one place and not have them shoot at you. It made her feel uneasy. She felt Shepard hold her hand. The uneasy feeling dissipated. "It really is quite a sight," said Shepard.
Legion walked up to one of the Geth workers and made a stuttering sound. They nodded and went their separate ways. "Creator Tali'Zorah. I have just confirmed that restoration of Rannoch is on schedule and that it will be fully restored in a month."
"Thank you Legion."
They came across a building covered with painted banners. They looked like flags, but it was hard to truly tell from the damaged colors. "Creator's City Hall." Inside the building were some artifacts from her people's past. In a still intact case was a model of a labship. Dirt and dust covered the smooth stone floors. On the other side of the room they were in was a globe of Rannoch. Tali went up to it and spun the globe. "You want to take it back?" Shepard asked.
"Yes... I would."
Shepard carefully lifted the globe to make sure he didn't break the three hundred year old relic. "Creator Tali'Zorah!" Geez! Shepard scream in his head. He nearly dropped the globe.
"We have came to a consensus. Concerning the planet's environment and your health. We have reviewed Creator's health before and after copulation with Shepard-Commander-" Tali blushed with embarrassment. It was one thing to have Garrus tease her about Shepard, to have a Geth mention made her lose her breath. "Your immune system has shown signs of rapid recovery. While not strong enough for casual exposure. We have deemed that the environment and your improved immune system are compatible."
"Wh-What are you saying?"
"You may remove your helmet on the planet for a brief period of time."
"One standard hour."
Tali was shocked. She could remove her helmet on her own planet. Shepard placed the globe onto the ground and walked up to her. "You did want to see the sunrise without your helmet."
Tali started to tear up. "Yes, yes I did."
"I'll tell Joker we're staying the night here. We can watch the sunrise tomorrow and then we can head to the Flotilla and inform them."
They took some cots from the shuttle which they slept upon inside the Alavult's City Hall. This was everything she could have possibly dream of. Her homeworld back and sleeping next to the person she loved. Shepard has done more for her people than anyone in history. She smiled at the thought that she will have a bright future for her people and herself.
Shepard was the first up. It was still dark out. He looked into Tali's face. He slid his hand across her arm. She moaned. "Tali," he whispered. She moaned again in slight annoyance. "Tali." She opened her eyes and almost jumped in shock.
"Has the sun risen yet?"
Shepard laughed a little. "No, not yet." She calmed down.
"Come on. There's a cliff next to the sea that would be the best place to watch the sunrise."
Shepard still wore his Sentry Interface to protect his eyes from the brightness of the sun. Over the horizon of the sea, they could see the bright orange glowing sliver of light that slowly grew. Shepard and Tali turned to each other. Shepard's hands traced around Tali's helmet then pressed the button to open it. He carefully laid the glass mask next to them. They kissed one more time before they watched the sun rise up. Tali couldn't hold back her tears of happiness. This was a moment she always dreamed of.
"I want to keep your father's promise of a home here. When the Reaper threat is dealt with, I will fulfill his promise. I want to spend the rest of my life with you Tali. Will you marry me?"
She stared into his eyes. "Yes!"
They embraced in a kiss that they only broke to see Rannoch's sun hang proudly over the sea. How did I get so lucky? they both thought.