Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Shepard, etc, are all copyright Bioware and their respective creators. I'm just playing with their toys because I can't help it. :P

While this isn't any specific Shepard, there are a few specific things that did happen in this storyverse - namely this is a Female Shepard who romanced Kaidan and let Ash die on Virmire, who's also completed Lair of the Shadow Broker. It's intended as standalone but might blossom into further visits if I feel the hankering.

Begin Recording:

Patient Number *CC1100N7#?2


Session Number: 002 Patient Code Name: JANE

Ident Code: REDACTED: Security Level Ultraviolet EYES ONLY


"Why don't you sit down, Jane?"

The soldier stood at the window, arms resting easily folded behind her, the distant blue glow of a sea-flecked planet lighting her skin with an almost Asari hue. "Call me Shepard."

"Of course, Shepard. Do you find it simpler when people address you by your rank and surname?"

The woman, Shepard, turned and walked to a couch, sitting down. Even so her body belied her tension; she leaned forward, forearms resting on her knees, energy coiled in her muscles. Despite her anonymous combat fatigues and lack of any insignia, she could not have looked more like a soldier if she'd tried. "It's what I'm used to."

"I see. Do your friends and loved ones call you Shepard as well?"

A shift, there, in the tension in her muscles, the tightness in her face and eyes. When Shepard spoke next, though, her voice was light, one corner of her mouth hinting at a smile, "I thought the old saw about shrinks never speaking in less than a question was a human thing, doc."

"There is much to be learned in the way a person answers a question, Shepard. Or in the way one avoids answering it." The counselor in question reclined gracefully on her chair, watching the soldier with calm, luminous eyes. "I find it interesting that you chose me to work with, yes, but I am no less honored at the choice. But then, I imagine that the Savior of the Citadel may have some difficulty finding someone to speak plainly with."

"Speaking plainly is not usually my problem," the soldier quipped. Still. Tight around the eyes, the counselor noted.

The asari inclined her head, acknowledging the point. "Perhaps I should rephrase. The Savior of the Citadel does not speak deeply, nor of things regarding the heart, to simply anyone."

"No, I suppose not." Shepard flexed her hands, tightening them again. They were strong hands, flecked with tiny burn scars from ejecting thermal clips too hot; calloused from many years of gripping a weapon. Nails trim and clean, though, and burnished with care. Unneglected. "A friend recommended you. Someone I trust."

"I believe I know of whom you speak, and why she suggested me. I have not long to live, but I have had a good life. A long one. My union with what is to come is one I accept with peace - and I may offer you the benefit of a neutral position, as such. The politics of the galaxy are not long to be of concern to me." The counselor spoke gently, "As for the Savior of the Citadel's worries - I suppose I am simply a counselor, and of little use to her. But Jane may speak about whatever troubles her. Perhaps I may assist with that."

The soldier released a long breath, and for a moment the counselor perceived what others had spoken of when they described her patient. The power. The charisma. The universe was woven tightly within this one, threads of destiny pulling her forward so strongly that not even death could defeat it.

It seemed to her, with the wisdom that only came with a mortal end well-accepted, to be a very exhausting thing.

"I don't know where to start." The soldier finally said. The admission came slowly, tugged from a deep place.

"That is often the most difficult thing to decide, yes. But let us begin simply. When you awoke this morning, what was the first emotion that rose with you? Try not to think about the answer. Simply respond. You awoke, and you felt -?"

"Alone." The soldier sat up a little after the word slipped out, frowning.

"Alone is less an emotion than a state of being, I think. Would you say you felt lonely? As if something were missing?"

The soldier's skin was pale, as those humans who lived among the stars so often was, but now a delicate flush of pink colored her cheeks. She glanced away, just a flicker, before saying quietly, "Yes. I suppose so."

"Do you have a lover?"

Shepard tensed again, lips pursing. "No."

The asari spoke gently, "I see. Did you lose someone? This person you miss, between the dreaming and the waking."

"I-" Shepard closed her eyes, just for a moment, and when she opened them again she spoke quietly but without hesitation. "We aren't together, right now. It was always complicated between us - everything seemed so perfect and so forbidden at the same time - and then I died." She snorted, just a little, the sound a little bitter and a little like laughter at the same time. So like a human, to laugh when the pain was extraordinary. "He...was hurt. When I returned all I could think about - aside from my mission, oh, there's always a mission - all I could think about was finding him. And when I did, it was like ripping a scar off a wound. I hurt him. He hurt me. It wasn't pretty."

"The deepest emotions often bring great hurt and great pain both. You said it was forbidden, in the beginning - why? Was he in some way unsuitable?"

"He was my subordinate. One of my crew. The Alliance - we, humans - have rules about that sort of thing. It gets in the way, compromises people. It can get good soldiers killed." Shepard took a breath. "It did. A good soldier, and a good friend, died because I chose him over her. I had to choose. And I couldn't let him go."

"It is my understanding that soldiers are often prepared to die for a great many things. Would this friend of yours have died for you?"

"Without question. And the same applies to me," There was no hesitation in Shepard's answer. "If I could've saved her, and saved the mission, I would have. But I just couldn't let K- I couldn't let him die."

There was a silence, then; a gentle pause in the flow of words, and the counselor let it rest a while, the breath between storms. "You live in a world of choices that would shatter a lesser soul, Shepard. It feels to me as if either choice would have been the same - a blow to the heart so great that only much time could heal it. Your friend loved you, and you loved her. But it sounds as though she had the death she would have chosen - to die for a loved one, in service to a cause she believed in. There is only small comfort in that. But small comforts grow to larger peace, with time."

"I think about her. Often." The soldier stood at that, pacing back to the window. "But every time I turn around, it seems, it feels like there's something new. Another mission. Another loss." She put her hands on the frame of the window, looking out across the surface of the planet so far away.

"There is. Life is but an unending series of loss - and joy. There is a poet from your world who said it well - I have only so recently discovered many of your human poets, and I am saddened that I have so little time to explore them further. But this was well-said. 'Your joy is your sorrow unmasked -'

The soldier interrupted, softly, "- The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy." She did not look away from the window, "Gibran. My mother was fond of him."

"I believe you will hold a great amount of joy, Shepard. Someday. It is something small to remember, on the eve of battle, when you are alone in the darkness."

Shepard touched the window lightly with one fingertip, testing it's smooth surface, the faint hum of the mass effect fields that shielded the portal. "Thank you. I think this...helped."

"It is my honor, and my pleasure, to speak with you - Jane." The counselor added, softly, "I hope you will come and see me again. I have heard only a small portion of that which you have done, but even that which I have heard would cause strong souls pain. Healing is not only a function of the body."

The soldier turned back again, away from the window, and nodded just once. "I will. I should go."

Inclining her head, the counselor murmured, "Be well, Shepard."