A/N: Not ME3 compliant.
On My Way
Andie Shepard stared at her gauntleted hand flat on the floor beside her. Around her, words and sounds were muffled to her ears: that last explosion had rocked the Normandy pretty good. That explained why she was on the floor of the CIC right now. It was important that she get up for some reason, but she was too tired to follow that thought any deeper into the rabbit hole.
Shepard felt her arm being grabbed by a sharp, familiar hand—
"Up you go, Commander," said Kaidan, gripping her hand and pulling her to her feet. Around them lay wreckage of the Luna Training Facility's drones.
Shepard tapped the side of her helmet with a grimace. "That one packed a hell of a punch—"
Kaidan. Her eyes flashed open.
"On your feet, Shepard!" Garrus' blue and silver helmet gleamed in the emergency lighting as he hefted her from the floor.
Shepard shook her head in an effort to clear the fog from her mind. Various emergency lights flashed in the corner of her helmet's HUD, but she ignored them for the moment, concentrating on the last small dose of medi-gel. The suit's automatic dispenser pricked her skin, sending medi-gel through her system, bringing awareness and clarity of what had just happened.
"...hull breach in the engineering deck..." said EDI's calm voice somewhere in the distance. Shepard was glad she'd ordered everyone into exo-suits before the final push. Hopefully Ken and Gabby would have been smart enough to anchor themselves before—
"I'm fine!" Shepard yelled over the ringing in her ears as Garrus shouted her name again. "Status report!"
"It worked, Shepard! They're self-destructing! EDI, bring it up!"
The wavering galaxy map blinked off, replaced by a tactical map of the battle. Blue lights—too few left, was her sudden, gut-clenching thought—represented allies, allies that had been unlooked for but entirely welcome: geth, rachni, krogan, quarian. A moment would come later where she would wish for the rachni's ability to sing her thanks across the vast reaches of space, but for now she leaned on the bent rails to either side of the map. The enemy, in typical red, had once made the tactical map unbearable to look at, for there seemed to be no end to the monstrous sentient ships called the Reapers. But Shepard's gambit had paid off. Even as she watched, red ship after red ship blinked off—
Red strobe lights played over the lithe asari dancers, turning blue skin purple. Shepard spotted the target—Harkin—across the room—
"Hey, L-T, put your tongue back inside your head before you trip on it," Chief Williams' voice held a mixture of teasing and disgust. Not that Shepard could blame her. Didn't people ever get tired of asari dancers? Apparently not. This place—Chora's Den—was as crowded as a bar on the first night of shore leave.
Kaidan made some smart remark in reply, carefully not looking at—
"Shepard?" Garrus' voice sounded worried.
"You have the deck, Garrus," she said in a voice that wasn't steady.
"What—where are you going?" the turian stepped forward as she staggered from the map.
"To find a head before I puke inside my helmet."
"But your head's on your shoulders," Garrus said, sounding confused.
Shepard didn't bother to stop and explain the term. She made her way to the elevator, which was still working, amazingly enough. As the door opened to her room, she scrabbled at the release on her helmet and threw it aside as she emptied the scant contents of her stomach into the toilet. When her stomach had stopped convulsing, she took off her armor, the process taking longer than it should because of her trembling fingers. She caught a glimpse of the shower head as she sat on the floor. How long had it been since she had a shower? She couldn't remember. Stripped down to the thin body suit that she wore beneath her armor, she crawled to the grate under the showerhead.
"Shower on," she rasped, leaning against the wall. Steaming hot water rained down on her face—
Rain pattered against her helmet's visor on Illos. Shepard peered over the edge of one of the eerily familiar Prothean statues. Liara and Garrus were firing at the geth armature from their cover. It should have been Ashley and Kaidan beside her. But Ashley was atomic dust on the ruined surface of Virmire. And Kaidan... Shepard gritted her teeth. She wanted him beside her, but that blatant disrespect for her rank in front of the crew after just one night... it may have been a mistake to let whatever it was between them go so far.
She'd been too focused on the armature. A geth trooper moved up to flank her, but before she could bring her shotgun to bear, the robot froze as Garrus emptied a clip of ice-modded rounds into its chest. Shepard felt the cold from the rounds as they encased the geth in a thin sheet of ice—
Shepard gasped awake as cold water soaked her skin, raising goose bumps. How long had she been out?
"Shower off," she said, struggling to her feet. She had to get back into her armor.
The world spun alarmingly under her feet as she grabbed hold of the sink to catch her balance. She hadn't wobbled this much since drinking ryncol on a dare at the Citadel. Hysterical laughter bubbled up in her chest. No, she couldn't lose it now. The crew needed her. Her people were waiting on her, they trusted her, they were with her to the end—
"You sure you want to throw in with the Sole Survivor?" she had meant for her voice to sound amused, but it came out plaintive and sad. A voice from a child forced to grow up too quickly. She swallowed. "Everyone dies around me, Kaidan. My family, my squad, Jenkins, Ash—"
His answer had been his arms wrapping around her, not offering protection—because he knew he couldn't—but the warmth of his companionship, his presence at her side through the good and the bad times. Perhaps it was reading too much into a simple hug, but Shepard felt her fingers clinging to him as if to a lifeline—
Shepard blinked, the bathroom coming back into focus. Her fingers were still holding onto the sink. Focus. She had to... Her feet stumbled out of the bathroom, toward her closet by the bed. Water dripped puddles at her feet. She needed dry clothes. Dizziness made her sit on the edge of the bed for a moment. If only her head would stop spinning. That little bit of medi-gel left in her armor obviously wasn't enough.
"Feeling better?" Her mother sat on the edge of her bed, smoothing sweat-dampened strands of hair away from her forehead. Andie felt too rotten to exult in the day off school, but having her mother's attention away from her labs and her other siblings was… nice.
Shepard opened her eyes. "Mom?"
The haze in front of her eyes cleared and she looked into the face of Dr. Chakwas, who smiled. "Must have hit your head harder than you thought. You have a mild concussion, Shepard."
Shepard sat up in bed, wincing. "I have to get down to the CIC—"
"Not at the moment you don't," Chakwas said, laying a hand on her shoulder. "Garrus is coordinating things admirably. All hull breaches have been patched, we have atmosphere again, and the wounded are resting comfortably in the med bay. Miranda is watching over them."
Shepard opened her mouth to ask about Mordin and then remembered. Dr. Solus had died earlier because Shepard hadn't been fast enough or smart enough. She closed her eyes. Self-recrimination had to come later; there was still work to be done. She shoved the guilt and blame back into an increasingly crowded part of her mind where she'd learned to compartmentalize such things.
"I need to get down there, Helen," Shepard said again and the older woman nodded, hearing the edge of command creep back into her voice.
"I dosed you up with painkiller and medi-gel while you were out, so you should be fine for now, but you must rest if you want to recover. Brain injury is nothing to sneeze at."
"I'll be careful."
She retrieved her armor from the bathroom, though left the helmet secured to its clip at her waist, and exited the room with the doctor.
Garrus nodded at her as she entered the CIC. "EDI has Alliance Command, the Admirals of the Turian Fleet, Admiral Tali'Zorah, and the Citadel Council on standby."
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "Didn't Wrex want to join the party?"
Garrus' mandibles flared in amusement. "He did, but only to say, 'we're even now, Shepard.' I told him I'd pass along the message."
Shepard shook her head and smiled. "Okay. EDI, prioritize the incoming calls—"
"Already done, Commander," Garrus interrupted. "The few ships that are completely intact are already sweeping the debris field to pick up any survivors or escape pods. The Alliance dreadnought SSV McKinley has volunteered to take on the injured and transport them all to whatever hub world with facilities to receive this many incoming wounded. The turian frigate the Indomitable will assist and escort."
Shepard nodded, impressed. "Good work. And the rest?"
"Alliance Command and the Council did not wish to speak to me—only to you." He snorted. "The turians will wait, politely, but I wouldn't put them off too long. Tali, of course, said she could wait." Garrus paused. "We could 'lose' the connection, Commander. The Normandy is damaged—no one would suspect…"
"Thanks, old friend. But I'd better do this while I'm still conscious." Shepard turned. "I'll take the calls in the briefing room, EDI."
"Understood," the AI replied.
Shepard turned. Garrus' mandibles flexed nervously. "I just wanted you to know… it's been an honor."
She appreciated it, she really did, but at the moment, all she wanted to do was go back to bed. Bite it down, Shepard. You still have to play this game a little while longer. She managed a heartfelt "thank you" and continued to through the armory to get to the briefing room.
As she waited for EDI to bring up the first call, she couldn't help but wonder, What will you do when you do have nothing left begging for your attention?