The OSD rested on her palm. Tali sighed in sadness. It was one of the few gifts she had left to remember her time on the Normandy. It was such a small thing, but it held what is possibly the greatest pilgrimage gift in the history of her people. It was her biggest request she made to Shepard.
2 months ago...
The geth incursion was halted. It made her feel good that they destroyed some many of those synthetic bosh'tets. When they arrived at the final base, she was surprised to see a recording of a Quarian singing. Seeing that footage was the first time Shepard or Garrus have seen an unsuited Quarian. They glanced at Tali. Why were the geth examining this footage? Why was it sent to the Perseus Veil?
The nodes connected to a terminal inside a small room. There was an open console. Shepard tapped away at a few keys and found a mountain of data about the geth. Shepard smiled as he downloaded the terabytes of data. Tali's eyes widen at the sight of it. It would make the perfect Pilgrimage gift.
Back on the Normandy, Tali's thoughts kept wondering back to that geth data. She had to ask for it, but what if he said no? It was classified Alliance data. Emotions ran through her. This man treated her better than anyone outside the Fleet has treated her. In some cases, more than most people back on the Fleet. She heard footsteps behind her and knew it was him coming for their frequent chats. She twirled on her heel.
"Shepard, I need to talk to you. It's important." Her voice betrayed the emotions that were coursing through her. She didn't want him to say no.
"Is something wrong?"
"You know the data you took from those geth control nodes? The information you uploaded to Alliance control? I want a copy of it."
"You want to bring this data back to the Migrant Fleet," he stated.
"Those files have information that could prove vital to our efforts to understand the geth. It could be the key to helping us reclaim our homeworld!"
"You think this data will allow you to do so?"
"Not right away, but it can give us an understanding to how the Geth have developed in the past 300 years."
Tali was tense. This was it. It was either yes or no. If he said no, she would have to leave right after their mission against Saren. And she didn't want to. Not right away.
"Go ahead. Make a copy."
All of the emotions that made her tense dissipated. She was relaxed and overjoyed. He's going to give her the data. Her people will have a chance against the geth. Most of all, he trusted her.
"My people-I owe you a great debt. One we could never repay. The only thing I can give you is what you already have. My promise to help you in your mission in stopping Saren." Tali said this all earnestly. Helping him with the mission was all she could do to repay him. She was willing to give it her all for this man before her. A man she harbored feelings for.
10 years ago...
Tali was excited and proud. She just graduated from Tier 1 schooling at the top of her class. She head straight to her family's cubicle. It was slightly larger than the average family living space, since her father was an Admiral. It was just a ten by ten space with three beds and a desk. She walked inside and saw her father working away at his terminal. Her mother was down at engineering.
Rael glanced over his shoulder. "Tali. Congratulations on your graduation." There was little emotion in his voice. It was more like he was tired.
"Thank you, father. I even made it to the top of my class." There was joy in her voice. She just knows this would make her father proud.
"Yes. But I've noticed your marks slipped in your eezo physics class."
"Only by a couple percentage points," she said defending herself. It hurt her that even after excelling farther than anyone else in her class, it wasn't enough.
"A couple percent could mean the difference between a stable drive core and an explosion, Tali. Remember, people expect great things from you, as do I. Now there are some repairs needed down the hall." He nodded his head in the direction.
"Y-Yes, father," she said in a sadden voice. She walked out of the room, sobering to herself in silence.
Never good enough.
2 months ago...
"I never wanted anything more." He smiled and walked out of engineering.
Tali fought back her tears. Those were the words she always wanted to hear from her own father. Ironic that it comes from an alien. Of course she was good enough for him.
Tali looked up at the Asari before her.
"We're approaching the Flotilla and we're going to need you to speak with them."
"R-Right." Tali walked to the front of the ship. "This is Tali'Zorah nar Rayya requesting to dock with the Rayya."
"We have your ship flag as a C-Sec transport vessel. Please verify."
"After time adrift among open stars, along tides of light and shoals of dust, I will return where I began."
"Verified. Please go to exterior dock 17."
Garrus was able to get Tali transportation after calling a favor from this Asari agent. It was the least C-Sec and the Citadel owed her after her services.
The vessel approached the dock and the external dock clamped on the ship. Tali thank the Asari agent and went into the airlock. The decontamination cycle began. As the cycle proceeded, Tali looked at the OSD in her hands. Will this be enough for him?
"Decontamination cycle finished. Interior pressure syncing with exterior atmosphere." The VI hummed.
The doors opened up where Tali was greeted by a couple of Quarian Marines and Captain Kar'Danna.
"It's good to have you back, Tali," he said. "The Fleet heard of what you did during the Battle of the Citadel. You really did make us all proud."
"Thank you, Captain."
"I'm sorry about what to your Pilgrimage Captain. He was a good man."
"Yes, he was."
There was a brief silence between them. "I shouldn't keep the Admiralty Board waiting. Everyone has been wondering what you brought back."
The captain led Tali into the courtyard where the Admiralty Board stood waiting for Tali. She was nervous, though she didn't know why. Her gift was more than good enough.
"This conclave has been brought to order. Blessed are the ancestors who kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. Keelah se'lai."
"Keelah se'lai," the crowd echoed back.
"Welcome back, Tali'Zorah," Gerrel greeted. "It is good to see you back safe especially what happened on the Normandy."
"Have you decided which ship you wish to serve on?" Shala asked.
"I have," she replied. "I wish to serve on the Neema."
The Neema was one of the Fleet's most respected ships. Only the best were able to serve on that noble vessel. There was small chatter in the crowd. Admiral Gerrel stood straighter. There was pride in his stance.
"Do you have your Pilgrimage gift with you that you wish to present to Admiral Gerrel?" Shala asked.
"I do." Tali walked up to Admiral Gerrel. She held the OSD in front of him. "Admiral, I, Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, request to join your ship. This is my offering to you to prove my value to your ship."
"An OSD?" Rael said with a hint of disapproval.
"What is on it?" Gerrel added.
"During my mission with Captain Shepard to stop Saren and the geth, we came upon a geth incursion in the Armstrong Cluster. We took out four outposts in the system which led us to their main base of operations in a fifth system. There was a geth node that contained terabytes of data. The data on that OSD has data of the geth's evolution since the rebellion. It would allow us to understand how they have developed and work. This data may help us fight back against the geth."
The room was filled with chatter. No one could have imagined that Tali would bring back a gift of this magnitude. There was positive energy in the room. The Admirals stood there in shock.
"As Admiral and Captain of the Neema, I accept your gift. Welcome to my ship, Tali'Zorah vas Neema. This is indeed a very worthy gift."
"We should start analyzing this data immediately," Rael said.
"Agreed." Gerrel handed the data to Rael.
The Admirals left the stand and went their separate ways. She followed Gerrel to get on her new ship.
Tali changed her suit since her Pilgrimage suit was really worn out since her mission against Saren. It was her mother's suit. She sat on her bed and reflected on the day's events. Despite finishing her Pilgrimage successfully, the day still stung. No, "I love you, my daughter." No, "You've made me proud." Not even a, "Good job with your Pilgrimage and your mission." She should have expected as much from her father.
It was short time ago she was told of what Cerberus did to the Fleet. It angered her that this group attacked her people. She was able to tell her people of the missions Shepard and her went on to destroy Cerberus bases around the galaxy.
The door to her small room opened revealing Admiral Raan.
"Hey, Auntie Raan," she said with sadness. "I thought you went back to the Tonbay."
"I will soon, I just wanted to check up on you." Shala sat down next to Tali on her bed. "I know it's traumatizing for any of our people to watch their ship get destroyed. And losing their Captain." She added emphasis to her last sentence.
Tali stared at her before finally breaking down into tears. Shala held onto her. "They're burying everything he did, Shala! Joker messaged me. They're covering up the Reaper threat and are calling it an isolated incident. He gave everything to the Council and the Alliance! Even his own life! And this is how they're repaying him! They're calling him unstable and stressed. He deserved better than this." She choked at those words.
Shala rubbed her back. "There, there, child. You'll get through this. You brought back that OSD which will allow us to go back to our homeworld. You should be proud of that."
"I would've traded it to have Shepard back," she whispered under her breath.
"What did you say?"
"I would've traded it to have Shepard back," she said in a louder tone.
"What?" Shala said in shock. She nearly released her hold on Tali. "How could you say such a thing?"
"You don't get it, Shala! Shepard was the last hope this galaxy had against the Reapers. W-With him gone..." she choked. "We're living on borrowed time. It was because of Shepard I even have that OSD. He gave it to me."
"He gave you the data?"
"Yes. Despite it being classified as Alliance Intel, he gave it to me because he knew of its importance to our people. He gave it to me without hesitation. It was because of him that I was able to finish my Pilgrimage."
Raan didn't know what to say. So she kept her mouth shut. The room was filled with silence.
"The Neema wasn't the ship I wanted to serve on," Tali said, breaking the silence.
Shala looked at her.
"I was going to request to serve on the Normandy."
"You would abandon the Fleet?" Raan asked in disbelief.
"It wouldn't have been abandonment! I would have been able to serve the fleet on a grander scale. That OSD proved that. But now I can't join it. That damn cruiser came out of nowhere and destroyed her. Destroyed Shepard. And the Council won't even lift a finger to find out who destroyed his ship." Fresh tears came from her eyes. "In fact they seemed relieved that he died. Now they don't have to do anything about the Reapers. Shepard deserved better than this."
Her thoughts kept drifting back to Shepard. It made the Admiral suspicious. "Tali... Just what was Shepard to you?"
Tali gasped at Shala's question. She lowered in head, almost ashamed. "I-I loved him."
Shala was speechless.
"He-He was going to say he felt the same way about me, but that ship attacked," she choked.
Finally she understood. This wasn't just about losing the Normandy or even just her captain. It brought some tears to her eyes. This was pain over the loss of a loved one. "Tali... You know it wouldn't have worked out between you two."
Tali shivered. "I-I know." She admitted knowing that as much as she wanted it to happen, it just wouldn't work out. Tali looked up at Raan and said, "P-Please don't tell father. He would be angry at me."
"I promise you, I won't child. Might I ask why you loved?"
Thoughts of Shepard made her smiled. "He's brave, kind and compassionate. For an alien he's handsome." There was a slight chuckled at that line. "And he treated me better than anyone outside of the Fleet. I was an equal on his ship. But most of all: I was good enough for him."
Shala cocked her head. "I-I don't understand."
"When it came to anything I did on his ship, from engineering to the battlefield, I was always good enough. Not to say he was over-praising. I mean when I did a good job, he acknowledged it. When he gave me that geth OSD, I told him that the only thing I can offer him is what he already has: My solemn promise to help him with his mission to stop Saren. And he said that's all he wanted. When was the last time my father said I did a good job? Even when I brought back that OSD he didn't even say he was proud of me. It was 'we need to analyze this data.'"
"Tali he does love you. He is trying to give you and the Fleet a better future. The data may very well do that."
Rael was working away at his terminal looking over the OSD data. It could very well take years to decrypt it all, but if what his daughter says is true, it could help them regain the homeworld. The door to his office opened. He glanced over his should and saw Admiral Raan walk in.
"What the hell was that?" she demanded.
"What do you mean?"
"Tali comes back from her Pilgrimage, after being gone for half a year, with the greatest gift in our people's history and was part of the Battle of the Citadel, and you didn't even say so much of a 'you've made me proud.' Did you even talk to her?"
"I sent her a message after she left for the Neema," he dismissed.
"You could have talked to her! When was the last time you talked to her face-to-face?"
"Before she left for her Pilgrimage. I told her what was expected of her."
"And wasn't what she did during Shepard's mission good enough for you?"
"What happens outside of the Fleet doesn't matter. What matters is our people's survival."
"Have you even at least talked to her about her mission? About the Reapers?"
Rael got up from his desk and opened up his omni-tool. A file came up showing data about the Reapers. "I heard about them, but the investigation into them showed no evidence to prove their existence."
"Keelah..." she sighed. "You do realize if she wasn't part of Shepard's team the last shred of any respect we had would have been completely destroyed. And yet you haven't told her you were proud of her."
"I'm an Admiral Raan. I can't come off showing favoritism."
"This isn't about favoritism!" Raan roared. "It's about acting like a father for once in your life! When was the last time you told Tali that your love her?"
"She knows I love her."
"Does she?" she asked with skepticism. "Have you shown it?"
"I have shown her every day since she was born!" he bellowed. "I made sure she got the best education. The best military training. All so she could have a future in this damn galaxy! Someday she's going to lead our people, and I am making sure she ready and that the Fleet will be strong for her. I promised to build her a home on the homeworld, and I intend to keep it. That is how I've shown her that I love her. Now please leave. I have to look into this data."
Shala relented. "Don't become obsessed, Rael," she warned. "After Kila left this world, all you have left is Tali. And with her captain dead, you're all she has left. Don't forget that." With that final thought, Shala left the room leaving Rael alone.
Rael briefly stopped typing at his terminal. He reached for his omni-tool and activated a button. A holographic image came up showing him, Kila and Tali. He sighed sadly. "I have to keep my promise."
2 years later...
Tali stood in front of Shepard. His smile sent chills down her spine. He slid his arms around her and sensually rubbed her back. Tali rested her head on his shoulder and enjoyed the feeling of Shepard's hands. He pulled away slightly and his hands gripped the side of her helmet. Her vision contorted as the visor came lose. It was moved out of the way and there she stood looking into Shepard's eyes without anything in the way.
Shepard looked at the face before him and smiled. Her heart skipped a beat. With little warning she jumped forward and locked lips with him. The force of the pounce made Shepard fall backwards with Tali on top. Their lips didn't break during the fall. Shepard slowly sat up as they hungrily kissed. His hands went all around her. Up and down her back, softly grabbing her bottom, and running along her sides.
Tali felt blissful feeling his hands move all over her. She reached for the clamp that held her hood up and undid it. The hood fell down her back. Shepard kissed around her collarbone. Despite there being the suit in the way, she could still feel his kisses. Tali rushed to remove her helmet eager to feel his warm lips on hers again. The helmet halves landed to each side of her.
Shepard kissed her sweet lips again. She closed her eyes in bliss. Tali could feel Shepard's lips leave hers and kiss her on the cheek. The sensation made her want to cry. She reached for the back of her neck brace and released it. Immediately upon its removal Shepard shifted his focus to her elegant neck. Tali gasped as she felt Shepard's kisses on her sensitive neck. She moaned in pleasure.
"Ooooh..." she moaned. "Shepard... Oh, Shepard."
Shepard moved upwards from her neck and whispered into her ear, "I love you, Tali."
She couldn't hold back her tears. "I love you too, Shepard."
Tali gasped loudly as she sat up in bed. Her breathing was still heavy from the vivid dream. The sensations felt so real. She ran her hand over the mouth light on her helmet. The reality set in. It was just a dream...
Tali leaned forward and rested her face into her hands. It was just a dream, she thought. The tears of joy from her dream were now tears of sadness. She quietly cried into her hands. Even after two years since the attack, her feelings for Shepard were as strong as ever. "Why can't I get over him?" she asked herself. "He's dead and that's never going to change. Never."
Her omni-tool beeped as a message came to her. Tali opened it up. More orders. The message explained that a Quarian sent a message to the Fleet explain that the colony he was on was under attack. Tali's mission was to lead a small task force to the colony and find the lost Quarian. The colony belonged to the Alliance and was called Freedom's Progress.
Damn Prazza and his condescending attitude, Tali thought. The marine has been questioning her orders at every turn. He made lead the squad, but she led the mission.
"We need to think of a plan of action soon, Zorah," he said. "This building is surrounded by mechs and a Cerberus shuttle is landing nearby."
"I know," she said. "Lia get up a map of this colony."
The other marine pulled out a small device that showed a map of the colony.
"What about Cerberus?" Prazza asked.
"You let me deal with them. The last thing we need is to be fighting both mechs and Cerberus agents. Got it?"
"Yes," he said reluctantly.
"There's a way to reach Veetor," Lia said. "Problem is the plan would require two squads to go down two separate routes."
"Meaning we would have to split ourselves up," Tali finished.
"That's crazy," Prazza spat out. "We're a small enough group as it is."
"We'll figure something out."
The doors next to them hissed as they opened. Prazza and two of his marines stood up and aimed their weapons at the three intruders. "Stop right there!"
"Prazza, you said you would let me handle this!" Tali moved herself between Prazza and the Cerberus agents. She glanced at the intruders. Her eyes widen. The person in the middle was Shepard. "Wait! Shepard?"
"I'm not taking any chances with Cerberus agents!" he bellowed.
Shepard immediately recognized who the Quarian before him was. It was the woman he loved. Tali. He signaled Jacob and Miranda to lower their weapons. Miranda was less enthused to do so, but did. Shepard could help but admire Tali's new suit. It was beautiful. The urge to finish the conversation they had on the Normandy was strong, but he realizes that it has been two years. He would wait until they had some privacy.
"Put those weapons down!" she ordered. Tali looked back at Shepard in disbelief. It looked just like him, but it can't be... H-He died. Why would he be with Cerberus? "Shepard... Is that- You're alive?"
Shepard gave a slightly sad smile and took a small step forward. It was enough to make the Quarian marines to tense up and slightly raise their weapons. "Remember that geth data I gave you? Did it help you finish your Pilgrimage?"
Tali fought hard to hold back her tears. It was really him. Only she, Shala and him knew of the data's true origin. "Yes... It did. Prazza put away your weapons. This is definitely Commander Shepard."
Prazza place his assault rifle back on his back. "What is your old Commander doing with Cerberus?"
"I-I don't know," she said. "Maybe we should ask." Tali looked to the Commander begging for a good excuse in her mind. The Commander would never willing join them.
"I nearly died, Tali. Cerberus spent the last two years rebuilding me. In return they want me to look into these colony disappearances."
"Maybe we can work together. We are looking for a young Quarian named Veetor."
"Isn't it odd for a Quarian to come to a remote human colony?"
"Quarians can go to where they want for their Pilgrimage. Veetor liked the idea of helping a small colony. He was always nervous around crowds."
"She means he was unstable," Prazza interrupted. "Combine that with a damaged CO2 scrubber and he's likely delirious."
"We should work together," Shepard agreed.
"Right," Tali replied. "We need two teams to make it to Veetor anyways."
"Now we're working for Cerberus?" Prazza stated in disbelief.
"No, Prazza, you're working for me," Tali chided. "You can either follow my orders or you can wait on the ship."
"Your people really hate Cerberus," Shepard observed. "What'd I miss?"
"They killed our people, infiltrated our Flotilla and tried to blow up one of our ships," Prazza answered.
"That's not how I would explain it," Miranda interjected. "It was nothing personal."
Shepard glared at her which immediately shut her up. Tali say the hatred and resentment in his eyes. This really wasn't by his choice to play nice with them. "We'll work together then. Keep in radio contact."
Shepard and his team started to leave the building.
"Oh, and Shepard..."
Shepard looked back.
"It's good to have you back."
"It's good to be back."
Tali and her squad raced through the pre-fab units. With Shepard's squad plowing through their path, all of the mechs deemed them the bigger threat. A whirling sound came over the heads of Tali's squad. She saw half a dozen drones heading towards Shepard's position. She opened her radio comm. "Shepard we just spotted several drones heading to your position."
"Thanks for the heads up," the other male human said.
Prazza stopped moving making the group come to a stop.
"What are you doing Prazza?" Tali demanded.
"I'm taking over this mission," he stated. "It's obvious that you're not in the right state of mind."
"You're letting your feelings for Shepard cloud your judgment."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about. The way you were talking to him. The way he looked at you. It's obvious you have a less than profession relationship with him."
Prazza looked back to his squad. "You're all thinking what I'm thinking. Shepard is working for Cerberus. It's just typical. All humans are the exact same."
"That's a lie!"
"Then why would he work for them? Typical humans. They act so noble, but in the end they are all for themselves. I'm taking the squad ahead, and we're going to grab Veetor. I'll see that you get tried for treason after this." He nodded to his squad. They went ahead.
Only Lia was left with Tali. "M'am, I don't believe him. If you believe Shepard has noble goals here, I believe you."
"Thank you, Lia." Tali opened her omni-tool. "Shepard! Prazza betrayed me. He took the squad ahead. They're going to take away Veetor before you have a chance to talk to him."
"Are you okay?" he asked very earnestly.
"I'm okay, but hurry."
Tali and Lia ran to try and catch up to Prazza. "None of what he said was true, was it?"
"But do you care for him in that way?"
"I don't blame you. He is handsome for an alien." She giggled.
That engendered a laugh from Tali. They made their way to the courtyard. There they saw an YMIR mech rise up and targeting Prazza's squad. "Shepard! Veetor activated an YMIR mech! It's tearing Prazza's squad apart. I'll open the bay doors when you get to cover."
Tali watched as his squad took cover. She tapped her omni-tool and override the bay's door. The shutter opened and his squad ran in and took cover behind some boxes. Tali saw Prazza's squad run from the mech. The mech took aim and riddled Prazza's body with bullets.
Shepard couldn't wait. He charged forward around the boxes. Miranda tried to voice protest, but was too late before Shepard moved forward. He fired several grenade rounds at the hulky monstrosity gaining its attention from Prazza's squad. The machine swiveled to face Shepard. Tali watched as he faced down the one-ton mech. Fear gripped her. Not for her own safety, but Shepard's. She had already lost him once before, she would not be able to bare see him die again.
Shepard roared as he charged the mech, firing pistol rounds around its head. The mech took aim and fired a missile.
"Oh, no!" she gasped.
The missile flew through the air towards Shepard. He rolled forward, barely dodging the missile. His right hand charged up with energy as he threw a warp at the YMIR's head. The head melted from the dark energy ball. The mech beeped rapidly as it warned of its imminent self-destruct. Shepard ran and rolled to get out of the mech's blast radius.
It was over. Shepard managed to save Prazza's squad from his stupid mistake. She breathed a sigh of relief. Tali went to check on the rest of the squad, before heading to the building in the back of the courtyard.
Shepard, Jacob and Miranda entered the room where Veetor was typing away babbling about monsters. Shepard was able to get his attention without scaring him. He went on to describe the attackers, who Miranda noted were Collectors. Finally he was done retelling of the events.
"Thank you," Shepard said. "You were very helpful."
"I have recordings," Veetor bragged. "Electromagnetic, dark-energy readings."
"We should grab the Quarian and go," Miranda stated.
Before Shepard could react to her, Tali walked in through the doors. "What?" she yelled. "He needs medical treatment, not an interrogation!"
"We won't hurt him," Jacob said calmly. "We're just going to ask him a few questions and then we'll return him, unharmed."
Shepard subtly rolled his eyes. Either Jacob is a dirty liar or is naïve. After their conversation on the Cerberus station, naïve. Also a liar, but not a dirty liar.
"If he goes with you, we may never get that omni-tool data," Miranda scoffed.
"You're welcome to Veetor's omni-tool data, but please," she begged Shepard. "Just let me take him." Please don't let him be change.
"Veetor will go with Tali. She will make sure we get that data."
"You can't be serious, Shepard!" Miranda yelled. "We'll never get that data!"
"Lawson, stand down!" Shepard roared.
She backed down.
"You and Jacob had back to the shuttle, I'll meet you there."
Jacob nodded and left with Miranda.
"I was wondering if we could talk. In private."
"Y-Yes," she replied. "Let me just get someone from my squad to take Veetor back to the ship." Tali took her omni-tool and called for Lia who promptly took Veetor to their ship.
"How did Cerberus bring you back?" she asked. "And what is with those scars? They... glow."
"They used cybernetics and some drugs to revitalize my body's cells," he answered. "I hacked into their computers and got their files from the Lazarus project. They were very adamant in bringing me back the way I was before the Collector attack on the Normandy. I know the glow is... eerie and it worries me too, but from what I've gathered, it'll heal. Tali, I'm still me. Mind, body and soul."
"I'm glad Cerberus did at least one thing right. But Shepard, you do still remember what Cerberus did right?" Tali was worried that Cerberus might have deleted memories of their past encounters with Cerberus... or anything else.
"I remember anything. I promise you, Tali. I will never buy into their methods or ideas. I'm still the same man two years ago. I play nice for now, but only to help these colonies, but after this is through, I will turn on them."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"I'll still head to the Citadel, try to report in with the Council, let them know I'm alive."
"They covered up everything you did, Shepard. They are blaming the attack on Saren and the geth."
"M-Maybe that's only the public version. I mean when I talked to them after the attack they were adamant that the Reapers posed a threat to the galaxy."
"I-I don't know, maybe. I hope so."
There was a brief silence between the two.
"I promised you that when we got out of that wreck I would tell you what I was about to say in my cabin."
Tali's heart leaped. She remembers that day well.
"I just... I don't know what's happened to you in the last two years. It felt like that day was yesterday for me." He bit his lip as he pushed himself to say how he felt. "When I died... It was with regret. Tali, on that day, I was trying to tell you that I'm in love with you. I still am."
Tali just gasped. Two years. For two years she dreamed of this moment. She wanted to lunge at him and tell him everything. Her love for him. But she couldn't her upbringing denied her that. 'You know it wouldn't have worked out between you two.' As much as it pained her, she couldn't accept his feelings, no matter how much she wanted this to work.
"Sh-Shepard, I-" she tried to say but stopped herself.
Panic gripped him. Great, just great, he thought. She doesn't feel the same way about you. The one good thing in your life and now you've made it awkward to even be friends with her. He hated himself. Even if she did have feelings for you back on the Normandy, she most likely moved on. It's been two years. A space of time that nearly put him into shock when he first heard it. Tali is one hell of a woman, she must have every guy back at the Fleet after her.
"You deserve to be happy with someone," she said. "I-I can't do that. No matter how much I-"
Wait a minute, Shepard thought. She didn't say, "I don't feel that way about you," or "I'm in love with someone else." Her first words were about his happiness. Tali did feel the same way.
This thought gave him a slight smile.
"I could get sick." Tears came from her eyes. This was cruel. To have Shepard come back and even admit his feelings for her, only to allow her upbringing to take over and deny her this. She cursed it, cursed her values. "And there are so many women out there you can have. A physical relationship with another human woman or even an asari would be easier, and you would be happy."
Shepard stepped forward and grabbed her hands and held them up. He had a firm, but gentle hold on them. He stared her in the eyes and said, "Yes, a physical relationship with a human or an asari would be easy." Tali lowered her head. "But that doesn't mean I would be happy." Her head came up again. "You have no idea how much I cherished the time we had together. The talks we had."
"Sh-Shepard, you're a galactic hero. And I'm just a Quarian. So many would look down on you for being with me."
"I won't apologize for being in love. I don't care what others would think. I love you."
"I don't deserve you."
"Tali, I just want to know what you want."
"What I want? I watched you risk your life to save those colonists on Feros two years ago. No one could have saved them. I watched your face as Staff Lieutenant Alenko died on Virmire. I watched you stand strong against everything the galaxy thrown at you. I've watched you for so long. Never could I imagine you'd ever see past this." She pointed to her helmet.
"Tali, if you're scared, I don't blame you. But I don't want anyone else, I want you, and I do whatever I have to, to make this work."
"I wouldn't blame you if-" Tali realized that he didn't relent. If anything he fought even harder to keep her. He truly loved her. "Oh...Thank you. You have no idea how much what you said means to me." She rested her head on his chest and choked a little. No longer were the tears from her eyes that of sadness, but were of joy. "I love you," she whispered.
Shepard wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. "I know you don't like Cerberus, but it would mean a lot to me to have you back on my team."
"I have a mission coming up, Shepard. But once it's over with, I'll put forward a transfer request."
"I'm glad to hear it." He looked into her glowing eyes and leaned forward. Shepard planted a kiss on the mouth piece of her helmet. "I know that's not as good as the real thing, but I wanted to make my feelings clear."
"You have." She chuckled. "I shouldn't keep my people waiting. But I'll see you soon. I promise."
Tali walked towards the door.
"You'll see Tali. When we started adventuring again, it'll just be like old times."
"No it won't," she stated.
Shepard was scared to hear her say that. She turned and lunged at him for one last hug before she left.
"It'll be even better."