One week since the destruction of the Collector base...

Ashley Williams walked towards the Embassy lounge. The knowledge of Shepard's victory lingered in her head. Just a few days ago Councilor Anderson notified her of Shepard's victory over the Collector's and his betrayal of Cerberus. She felt like an idiot. Even more so when she learned that Garrus, Tali, Joker and Chakwas joined him in his mission. Why did she say those things on Horizon?

Of course she probably screwed up any chance to be with him. She grew fond of him during their mission to take down Saren, but he didn't seem to express the same interest. She always assumed he had a thing with Liara. Or so the rumors went. Maybe she now has the opportunity to find out. Though there was a whole new rumor about who he was with, but it was too crazy to be true.

Ash entered the lounge. It was pretty empty. It only took a quick scan to see Shepard's table. With him were Tali and Garrus. Ash cringed. It was almost like fate was rubbing her abandonment in her face. It looked like they were in the middle of a discussion. Shepard was laughing. Tali and Garrus looked away and saw her. They immediately tensed up and sat straight in their chairs.

"I'm glad you got my message," she said weakly with a forced smile. "It's good to see you again, Commander."

"Captain," Shepard corrected in a slightly joking manner.

"Right, Captain, sorry. Force of habit." She got around to pulling up a chair. Her head lowered. "I-I wanted to apologize for my actions on Horizon. I was out of line. I was hoping you could forgive me and allow me to rejoin your crew again."

Shepard smiled and said, "Ash we're friends and I could always use more people on my ship."

Ashley immediately perked up. "Thank you, Skipper."

Shepard's omni-tool beeped. He glanced down and his eyes briefly widen. "Well, I have to go. I have a meeting with the Council in five. Can you three make it to the Normandy by yourselves?"

"We're all adults, Shepard," Garrus replied in jest. "We don't need you to hold our hands back to the ship."

"Right, right. See you three later."

Garrus turned his look back to her. Tali and he were silent while Shepard walked out of the lounge. It was hard to read Turians for Ash. Was... Was he agitated?

Shepard left the lounge which prompted Garrus to say, "You're an ass you know that?"

"W-What?" she jumped back in her seat from surprise. There was no humor is Garrus' tone. Just anger.

"You think just because you're back on Shepard's crew after he destroyed the Collector's, that everything will be back to normal? You, for all intents and purposes, abandoned Shepard," Garrus growled. "You were so damn focused on Cerberus that you refused to see the facts. Despite the damn Collector ship landing on Horizon to kidnap the colonists, you suspected that Cerberus was behind it."

"You called Shepard a traitor," Tali added. Her voice was equally upset. "You have no idea how much that hurt Shepard. He needed his friends, Williams."

"And I feel terrible. I said I was sorry."

"'Sorry' wasn't there when we faced down Collectors at their base. 'Sorry' wasn't there to provide me with cover fire when I opened the doors for fire team. 'Sorry' wasn't there when Shepard-" Tali choked. "When Shepard nearly died again when we were escaping. He was in a coma for two years. To him it was like he fell asleep. One day everyone sees him as a hero. The next, everyone hates him. You have any idea what effect that has on him. He tries so hard to conceal his pain, but we are able to see it in his eyes. The abandonment. Shepard was abandoned by so many people while trying to do what's right. Anderson kept him at arm's length. The Council still wouldn't listen to him even after he saved them."

"And Liara," Garrus continued. "She was so focused on her quest for revenge that she didn't care that tens of thousands of humans were being killed. Oh, and that joke she made! Remember it, Tali? When Shepard tried to warn Liara not to become the evil she's hunting down. She's says, 'so says the dead Spectre working for Cerberus.'"

"I wanted to pull out my shotgun right then and there," Tali said in a disgusted tone.

"See things from my perspective!" Ashley interjected. She was now getting angry at being made the villain. "I thought Shepard was dead for two years and then I start to hear rumors that he's alive and working for Cerberus. What was I supposed to think?"

"Oh, Keelah," Tali sighed while placing her face in her palm.

"That was our perspective too," Garrus mumbled. "We both thought Shepard was dead, but we still trusted him. Tali and I trusted him because we know who he is. After everything he's done for us, he's more than earn our trust. Shepard may have forgiven you, but we haven't. You'll have to earn our trust, Ash. Come on, Tali."

"We'll catch up later, Garrus," Tali said. "I wish to speak to Williams in private."

"Alright. See you two back at the ship."

Garrus left the lounge. Ash felt defeated. Her hands were clenched after what they said.

"Y-You wanted to talk, Tali?"

"Yes." She paused. "I've seen the way you looked at Shepard. Back on the original Normandy, and even now. I want you to know this. Stay away from him." Her tone was demanding.

"Who are you to say who he sees or not?"

"I'm his girlfriend," she stated plainly.

Ash did a double take at Tali. "W-What?" Never could she imagine that rumor being true.

"We both had feelings for each other since the first Normandy. We both didn't act upon those feelings due to many reasons, such as my pilgrimage. But we were final honest with ourselves over a month ago." She smiled. "He tells me that he loves me every day."

He loved her back on the first Normandy? Never did it come to her mind or anyone else on the Normandy that he would have a thing for the Quarian. "And how does even work between you two? You can't leave your suit. Do you rub up against each other?" Ash added a hateful tone to that last sentence.

Tali leaned forward and slapped Ash across the face. "Bosh'tet! I can leave my suit under certain conditions!" She wrapped her arms around her chest. "I-I've already shared myself with him."

Ashley's jaw dropped. She wasn't sure whether to be surprised, hurt or disgusted.

"He's been very patient with me. Someday I'll adapt to him and we can be together anytime we want. Until then he treats me well." Tali got up from her chair and started making her way to the door. "So don't you dare try to take him. Shepard is mine." Tali left the lounge leaving Ash alone.

Mine... Words she has never heard from Tali. She was always the most selfless person on the ship, but now her tone was... possessive. Any chance Ash had before was gone now. All she was is just another soldier on Shepard's crew.