Warm. She was warm. It was an odd thought, one like a skittish animal darting to and fro in the fog that was her mind. Not unpleasant, though, for such a typically unfamiliar sensation. The last time she remembered feeling warm was with John. She tried to think back but shied away suddenly, pulling back from a pain that roared loudly in the murkiness of her thoughts. Shepard. Memories began to push forward now. Pleasant sensations... and then chaos. The Shadow Broker's vessel. John's hoarse cry as the world exploded into fire and pain.

Tali struggled to claw her way through the haze, feeling a tear on her cheek. Her hand moved, slowly, but under her control. And then a small gasp left her mouth when she felt her own fingertips touch her cheek rather than the visor that usually concealed her features, the moisture of the tear and feeling of her own skin almost foreign. No mask. No suit. Another tear trickled down her cheek as she tried to focus. She remembered the pain. The burning in her lungs, Liara cradling her across her lap, and then nothing.

The quarian's eyes opened slowly, blinking rapidly against the bright light. She gently felt around her, soft fabric under her hands and her own skin. What was this? Was this... what came after? Where the ancestors went after the final journey beyond life? Oddly all she could think of was that she was somehow surprised at the lack of a suit. It had become a part of her psyche. Maybe it was one of the small mercy of death that she would finally be free of the thing that had done so much to restrain her in life.

A sound, odd and rough, interrupted her musings. She tried to shift and let out another gasp, this one was different. It was pain, her side radiating a dull ache that forced her to cease her attempt to lift herself. The physical pain, at least, did a great deal to break through the veil that seemed to muddle her thoughts. If she was dead why did it still hurt? Wasn't death supposed to make you finally free of such concerns? Then there was that sound again, an irregular rumble.

A voice whispered. "Tali?"

"What?" Her own word was a dry rasp, barely audible itself. She looked around in confusion.


She turned her head and finally got her eyes to focus. Next to her was a small table, on it a portable medical station. Able to think clearly now she noticed the wires that were coming from it, draping down the table and the back up to attach to her arm where her implants usually interfaced with the suit. On the holographic display was a familiar face with silver-hair and kind eyes.

"Doctor... Chakwas?" she mumbled.

The image smiled. "Welcome back, dear."

"I don't understand. Where am I... where... my suit," Tali said, touching her face once more, realizing that she was exposed to the outside world. She was speaking to someone and didn't have the familiar protection of the visor over her face, an odd concern part of her thought considering that a moment ago she was certain that she was dead.

Apparently Chakwas wasn't unprepared, speaking slowly, tone soothing. "It's okay, Tali. You're safe. And the image feed is blurred, no one on this end would be able to make out your features unless I put in a medical override."

"T-Thank you. But I-" she began, then stopped, swallowing to try and remove the dryness in her mouth before continuing. "But I still don't understand. How am I..."


Tali nodded, the oddity of the question making the entire conversation seem surreal. Then realizing that the doctor might not be able to see her clearly she spoke. "Yes."

"Through a considerable combination of factors, chief among them a not unimpressive amount of luck," Chakwas said, smiling. "We almost lost you. Actually we did for nearly half a minute before we were able to revive you and get enough anti-biotics and immuno-suppressors into you to stop your reaction to the extensive exposure you suffered."

"I... died?"

The image nodded. "You did. Thankfully I've never been one to let that stop me. Your heart stopped almost as soon as Legion got you to the medbay but I was able to restart it."

Tali blinked, the confusion returning. "Legion?"

"Indeed. It was quite a sight. But that's something I think Shepard should explain. Where is he?" Chakwas' brow furrowed as she asked the question. "He can't have gone far, I thought he would have been..."

As the doctor trailed off Tali began to look around, realizing that she was still hearing that odd sound. Which suddenly registered in her memory. The quarian moved carefully and looked over the side of the bed that she was in and found the source.

Commander John Shepard, first human spectre, Saviour of the Citadel, was laying face down on the floor snoring and half-curled in an awkward position. The fatigues and black shirt he was wearing were rumpled and a thick layer of stubble was visible on the half of his face that wasn't pressed into the carpet. One hand seem to occasionally twitch and she could see his eyes moving behind closed lids, dreaming. A sound of exasperation came from the communications link. Apparently the video link was at least clear enough for Chakwas to see where she was looking.

"He's on the floor isn't he?"


"That man. I told him to lay down somewhere sensible, like in the bed that's two feet away but he was apparently worried about hurting you. As if you were made of porcelain," the doctor said wryly. "Though I suppose he might not have made it that far, I did dose the water rather heavily."

She looked back to the monitor, easing back down onto the bed. "You drugged him?"

"For his own good. He refused to sleep," Chakwas explained, her tone becoming softer. "I think he was afraid that if he did, you'd be gone when he awoke. He'd never say as much, but I could see it in his eyes."

Tali couldn't help but feel a faint smile on her lips. It faded quickly when she began to process recent events, realizing the full extent of what had happened. What she'd done. She had betrayed his trust, doubted him when any rational person would have see through the Broker's treachery. But he was still here, wasn't he? But what about everyone else? If they knew...

"Doctor... the others? Liara and... everyone..."

"Fine. The usual assortment of scrapes, bruises, and the occasional gunshot wound," she assured the quarian. "Garrus tried very hard to collect some matching scars but he still hasn't quite managed. A better question would be how are you feeling? Your vitals look fine on the monitor, but I consider that a pale second to a patient's impressions."

"Sore. My side aches and my throat is dry, but..." she paused and took a deep breath, looking around the room, taking it in for the first time. It was adorned in elegant furnishings, all in soft tans and cream colors. She could see sunlight coming from somewhere outside the room. And most important of all, she was breathing clearly. No coughing or fever, no thick feeling in her lungs and nose. "I'm not sick. Where are we, doctor? How long..."

"Over a week since we arrived. But I think it's time to wake up John so he can give you the details. I'll continue to monitor your vitals, if anything happens, you feel faint or have any kind of reaction, call me immediately," Chakwas said.

"O-Of course."

And then the video feed cut off. She was left in the quiet room, laying there, the only sounds her own breathing and Shepard's snores. Twice she edged herself towards the side of the bed only to stop, fear catching her words in her throat and holding them captive. Every inch of her wanted to see that warm look in his eyes... but the same feeling of trepidation that those eyes would hold anger, betrayal, sadness kept her immobile for some time. Finally the quarian worked up the courage, raising her voice above the almost whisper that she'd been using when conversing with Chakwas.


There was no response, only a faint mumbling sound. Tali looked down at him.

"John... wake up."

The spectre's body shifted, but still he didn't wake, hand reaching out to touch something that wasn't there.

"Johnathan Shepard!" she said more loudly.

His eyes snapped open and she saw his muscles tense, immediately jerking his face from the floor and looking around the room, gaze quickly coming to rest on her. At first his eyes were unfocused but that changed a second later. Shepard's mouth seemed to work without sound as one second stretched into many, fixated on her as she tried desperately to divine what was running through his mind. That was when she saw the faint glint at the corner of his eye. He was...

The quarian didn't get to finish the thought as Shepard snapped out of his haze, closing the distance between them in a single movement and pressing his lips to hers. Her surprise gave way to a flood of warmth, the feeling amazingly like that desperate rush she had experienced in the seconds after Shepard had removed her mask that first time. But this time it was he who seemed to have the desperate need. After a few seconds he pulled away, wiping his eyes with one hand, the other lingering on the side of her face.

"I was afraid that I'd never get to do that again," he said, voice thick.

Tali felt her face flush, both from the kiss and from the way he looked at her with such intensity. "John... I don't... that is..."

The sheets balled tightly in her frustrated grip as words tumbled over each other in her mouth, a jumble of thoughts and feelings all trying to escape at once. He silenced her with a shake of his head, pushing himself to his feet and taking a seat on the edge of the bed, careful to avoid the wires and IV tubes that led to small medical station.

"One thing at a time. I have plenty of questions of my own," he said quietly. "I thought after what happened on the Collector base nothing could frighten me more, but apparently the universe decided to prove me wrong. I've never been a praying man, but I owe a whole lot of deities and religions a lot of favors right now. And Chakwas all the ice brandy she could ever want."

"You're not... angry?" she asked.

"Furious." The word struck her like a slap, but he continued before she could say anything.

"With myself. That I missed the signs that something was wrong. That I didn't ask the moment I noticed it, that I never thought of the Broker being able to hurt you through me, manipulating the 'truth' to make you believe something that wasn't."

"It's not your fault, it's mine," Tali protested. "I was stupid... and impulsive. I..."

"Was a normal, emotional being," he concluded. "But I still don't understand exactly what happened. If you're up to telling me... please, help me understand, Tali. I came so very close to losing you. I never want that to happen again. Why did you do it? Why didn't you just confront me? Yell at me? Tell me that you hated me?"

The quarian bit her lip and sighed. "Because I didn't hate you... I l-loved... love you. All I could think of was you and Liara together, like it would have been if the Normandy hadn't been destroyed. Then the Broker contacted me."

"The deal?"

She nodded. "When he contacted me I realized that he knew that we were coming. He told me that you had betrayed me, used me to curry favor with the Migrant Fleet, for my technical skills... other... things. And then he offered to throw his full support behind the Flotilla. All he wanted from me was... some information."

"My shield identifier codes," Shepard said, frowning. "Why didn't you say anything? And why give him your own, for that matter? God, Tali, if you'd been a foot closer to that blast..."

The spectre trailed off, looking away, one hand on the blanket over her leg slowly stroking as if to reassure himself that she was still there. Feeling a similar need she reached out and took his hand in her own, bringing him closer as she continued.

"I knew that if he didn't think he had an advantage he would disappear before we could ever get there. So I agreed. When he asked for the shield code I gave him mine. The shield generators in both of our armors are actually from the same manufacturer, I knew that he wouldn't be able to tell the difference."

"But why?"

"I had to give him a valid code so that he would see the shields were active and within range. If I'd given him anyone else's they would have been left vulnerable. And because I thought..." She paused, swallowing the lump in her throat before trying again. "Because I thought that if I was gone then you wouldn't have to pretend anymore. You could be with Liara, be happy. What's the life of one quarian compared to taking down the Shadow Broker?"

Shepard's hand squeezed hers tightly. "Everything. You're not 'one quarian'. You're Tali'Zorah vas Normandy nar Raaya. The woman that fought at the battle of the Citadel. That helped stop the Collectors. You're my crew, my friend, and my lover. And you're what helps keep me together. Never forget that."

She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. Instead Tali just pulled the human to her, wrapping her arms around him and letting her tears soak into his shirt while she took in every sensation she could, ignoring the pain in her side in favor of the feeling of warmth and fabric beneath her fingertips, the faint movement of air as he buried his face in her hair and breathed in. After a few long minutes she managed to speak.

"I guess the truth was I didn't know if I could go back to being... just another girl. To being alone."

"You're never alone, not as long as I'm still alive," he reassured her. "Just promise me, if there's ever any doubt in your mind, no matter what it is... you'll tell me. I almost lost it when you fell, I don't want to ever risk losing you over something so stupid again."

Tali smiled. "I promise."

"Thank you."

"There... is one thing," she said.

He looked so concerned she almost felt bad for the teasing, but continued anyways. "You kind of smell."

Shepard laughed, reaching down to sniff his own shirt, wrinkling his nose. "I guess you're right. I might have been, ah, neglecting some things. Why don't a grab a shower and we can get you caught up on everything, hm?"

"That would be good," the quarian agreed. "I still don't understand where we are."

"Shortly. Call Chakwas while I'm cleaning up, see if she thinks you're strong enough to be moving around."

In a slow, purposeful movement he stood, giving her a long look over his shoulder as if to confirm that he wasn't imagining things, and left the room. A few minutes later she heard a door open and the sound of running water. There were a great many questions left unanswered, but the important one already had been. The rest were just details. Tali smiled and pressed the button on the medical station.

The shower had felt like he was washing away a years worth of worry and regret. Shepard considered it was probably one of the best five minute showers in his life, with the added benefit of being the perfect temperature. There was something to be said for the quality of their accommodations and that something was luxurious. He had long ago given up feeling guilty about it.

Now he sat at a small round table with the fetching quarian lass that a few hours ago he had despaired ever waking again. Shepard hadn't bothered to mention Chakwas' repeated warnings to him, that her body had suffered massive stress from the reaction, that their knowledge of quarian reaction to such trauma was limited at best. That it had been a very real possibility that she'd slip into a permanent coma. It didn't matter, because she hadn't, she was awake and alive. He smiled, setting a glass down in front of her that was immediately snatched up and gulped greedily.

He watched her as she drank. As soon as he'd emerged from his shower she had asked about her injuries and he'd provided the rundown. A cracked rib from when she'd struck the ground, bruises that had mostly faded, numerous small cuts from the shrapnel. More scratches on her face from her visor cracking. They were healing well, but the small marks still yanked his mind back to the gut wrenching image of her face framed by the shattered visor, bleeding and unconscious. Taking a drink of his own the spectre forced the memory away.

"Wait, how long?" Tali asked after polishing off most of the glass of water.

"We've been here over a week."

"On Illium of all places?"

Shepard shrugged. "Once Chakwas had you stabilized as best she could, she said you needed somewhere that you could recuperate. Liara was able to use the Broker's information and influence to find that this particular hotel often catered to very specific needs of its clientele. A suite set up as a clean room apparently wasn't even a first time request."

"Mmhmm... and you ended up as my nurse?"

"Well, your immune system was already compromised. The doc didn't want to you to be restricted to the suit while your body tried to heal. I'm the only one you've been... exposed to so..." he explained, rubbing the back of his neck.

"But how much did all of this cost? I thought we were low on funds since the Cerberus wasn't backing us," Tali asked.

Leaning back in his chair, Shepard grinned. "As it turns out, the Shadow Broker apparently never planned on anyone gaining access to his inner sanctuary. There were no security protocols or safeguards, not even a password. We had his entire network at our, well Liara's, fingertips. Including his extensive contacts and bank accounts. Paying for one very nice hotel suite shouldn't raise too many red flags."

"But the rest of the crew..."

"Is enjoying a well deserved leave on a planet where they should be able to mostly stay out of trouble. Chakwas actually has the suite next door so that she could be close enough to help if there was an emergency," he said.

There were a few long moments of silence, both of them looking out at the breathtaking view of Illium's gleaming spires, glinting with golden hues in the fading sunlight of the late afternoon. It was strangely idyllic, considering what they'd been through he felt a moment of worry. At any moment a geth dropship should appear or he'd hear the buzzing of Collectors, the deep bass sound Harbinger's voice. But nothing happened, the sun just inched ever downward. Apparently Tali felt something similar.

"After what I did it just feels wrong sitting here. As if there is something else waiting to happen to make it all go wrong," the quarian sighed. "I almost want you to yell at me. Tell me that I was stupid."

Shepard shifted until he could reach her, pulling her slim form carefully against his side. "I'm not going to yell at you."

"Maybe Garrus then... I'm sure he must have been mad."

"Not really. The only ones that actually know what happened in the Broker's chambers are Liara and I. Garrus suspects but never said anything out loud," he told her. "And Legion is the only other one that made it there before you were taken back to the ship. As far as everyone else knows you were just badly hurt in the fight."

The young engineer tilted her head up at him, silvery hair cascading down his shoulder where she rested her head like a sea of liquid metal. She looked mildly confused, not to mention embarassed. "I don't understand... on a quarian ship everyone would have known. I-I still can't believe how many people have seen my face now."

"Again, that's pretty much just Liara, Garrus, and Legion now. And Chakwas, of course. Everyone else was told to clear out because we didn't want to risk exposing you to any more contaminants." Shepard planted a kiss on her forehead, smiling. "I can't horde your pretty face all to myself anymore, but I think your secret is safe among friends. Even Legion. I know how you feel about him-"

To his surprise, she shook her head. "I... still get nervous around it. But Legion talked to me right after I got the first message from the Broker. For a geth it was surprisingly... kind. And apparently he's the reason I'm still alive so now I owe my life to it even."

"I guess you do," the spectre confirmed. Tali's change in opinion was a little surprising, but certainly not unwelcome.

"Are you going to tell me what happened after I... ah... lost consciousness? I still don't know exactly what happened to Miranda and the others either."

He chuckled. "One thing at a time. Legion saved you because he's the one I ordered to carry you back to the ship. As the only synthetic I assumed he'd be the safest person be around you in your exposed state, plus he could carry you faster than anyone else and keep his upper body stabilized. Garrus and I made sure the way was clear and he ran for everything that metal body of his was worth. He got you to Chakwas in time. Even if you still hated him, I'd have given that robot a medal if I could."

Apparently noticing the change in his tone, Tali shifted, placing one hand on his chest and looking into his eyes. "I'm sorry, John... I know, you said you weren't angry. But less than a week ago I was angry that you were pushing yourself because I was so frightened that I'd lose you. Now I went and put you through the same thing."

"I have you back... that's all that matters," Shepard said.

Silence descended once more when the quarian pushed herself up and kissed him. Seconds turned into minutes until she finally pulled away, a small smile replacing the previously pained expression she had worn before.

"Why don't you tell me what happened to Miranda's team before my heart rate goes up too high and Chakwas bursts in thinking there's an emergency..."

"It was glorious. A dozen warriors all roaring in unison and the bright flash, the panicked cries of our enemies," Urdnot Torsk stated proudly.

Sitting at the table across from him, listening in rapt attention, was Grunt, along with a few of the Normandy's regular crew. Illium held no particular draw for the krogan. Stories from another member of his clan seemed to be more than enough to entertain the young warrior. Garrus cleared his throat.

"How, exactly, did a dozen Urdnot warriors end up on a random backwater human colony?" he asked.

Torsk turned to look at him, grinning broadly. "Urdnot Grunt's battlemaster contacted the clan leader. He believed that members of Grunt's krantt would come under attack and that the only true allies he had to call on were Clan Urdnot."

"So Wrex just sent his best warriors to another planet to wage a miniature war because Shepard asked?"

"Of course," Grunt said, as if the turian had just asked 'is Noveria cold?'.

"Urdnot Wrex seems to consider your Shepard a true battle brother. There are no questions when a brother asks for aid in battle. Originally there were thirteen warriors on my team. One of them objected. Said that true krogans wouldn't be running off because an alien said so," Torsk explained.

Garrus arched a brow. "What happened to him?"

The krogan's grin couldn't have been wider if someone had just told him they had invented a man portable thanix cannon. "The clan leader told him that Shepard had a bigger quad than he ever would. Then he beat him to death with his bare hands when the warrior challenged him."


"Yes. It was an excellent, if brief, fight," the other krogan said. "There were no other challenges."

"I can imagine," Garrus said dryly.

"Tell me more of what happened. We fought many of these Broker soldiers aboard his ship," Grunt demanded.

Leaving the krogan to weave his tale of carnage and gunfire in peace, Garrus walked over to the mess counter. Rummaging through the storage area he cursed Gardner's completely incomprehensible organization system. He was certain that the man had said that there was a six pack of turian ale in there somewhere, and it wasn't as if Tali was going to drink it. He smiled at the thought, finally able to think of her name without the pang of worry that had accompanied it over the past few days. Chakwas' message had said that she was finally awake and apparently doing just fine.

"Looking for these?"

Garrus let out a loud curse as he banged his fringe on the top of the counter. His mandibles curled in annoyance he moved back and stood up fully to see Miranda standing there, holding a package of six bottles. Exactly what he was looking for, of course.

"Where the hell were they?" he asked.

"Refrigerator. Gardner is something of an 'all alcohol should be cold' type," the biotic said, holding out the chilled bottles.

"Thanks," Garrus grudgingly thanked her. "And don't tell anyone I said this, but I'm glad to see you back in once piece. Don't go spreading it around, though. Might ruin my reputation as a hardened killer."

He actually got a smile out of the usually unresponsive operative. After the suicide mission things had definitely become even more tightly knit among the ground team, but he was still a little surprised.

"I'm glad we made it back. There was a time when I didn't think we would."

"That bad, huh?"

Miranda nodded. "Worse. If Torsk and his squad hadn't shown up when they did... well, I think you'd be Shepard's new XO. Though in a way you already are."

"Oh no, you're not getting out of that easily," the turian said, holding up one hand in protest, using his talon to pop the cap off the bottle of ale with his other. "I might have thought you were an arrogant bitch when I came on board, but I never denied that you were an arrogant bitch that had her shit together. Shepard wouldn't have a damn clue how to run this ship without you around."

"Well aside from being called a bitch, I think that was a compliment."

The operative opened the cooler once more, pulling out a drink of her own, removing the top and tossing it in the waste unit beneath the counter. Garrus merely shrugged.

"Just being honest. And I did qualify it with 'when I came on board'."

One dark eyebrow cocked at him. "So what am I now?"

His mandibles curled into a smirk. "Pretty sure you're still a bitch sometimes, but you're part of the team now. There are two kinds of people in this universe as I see it. People on Shepard's team, and everyone else. One of those he'll do everything he can to help whether they want it or not, but even he knows when to quit. The other he'll go to hell and back for no matter how much of a lost cause it is."

"Interesting way of looking at the universe."

"It's one you get used to after awhile," Garrus said. "Keeps things simple."

"I think I can learn to live with it," she agreed.

"Hope so, because there is the one catch."

"What's that?"

The turian shrugged and took a swig of his drink. "Road goes both ways, you gotta follow Shepard's crazy ass no matter what stupid thing he's doing now. You get used to that too, though."

"Something tells me we all have that one down already," Miranda said, tipping her bottle to him.

Garrus grinned and returned the salute. "That's the truth."

The sun had completely disappeared sometime ago. It could have been hours, but Shepard didn't really care. After spending so long asleep Tali apparently had no interest in returning to that state just yet, peppering him with questions about what had happened while leaning against his side. Now they were both looking out at the glimmering lights, sometimes speaking, sometimes not. The feeling of just being at rest was new enough, especially when they weren't separated by Tali's environment suit.

"I'm impressed you were able to trick the Broker," she said after a few minutes. "I was just thinking that that's quite a feat."

"Well, even with all that data, he wasn't infallible. I knew Wrex would never be compromised. And once Bailey knew that the Broker had him under observation it was easy enough to make sure that all the information he was getting was the wrong information," Shepard explained. "I'm just glad it worked."

"You'd think people would learn not to mess with Commander Shepard anymore," Tali said, playfully squeezing his knee.

He laughed ruefully. "If only. At least now we'll have more warning the next time someone tries something."

"Liara the Shadow Broker... it's a strange thought. Aren't you worried? She's changed since the Normandy."

"Not really. Her need for revenge ended when I... ended the Broker. And she has Feron there to take care of, I get the feeling he'll help level her out."

Tali nodded. "I hope so."

She shifted, moving to stand, only to stumble and fall back into his arms. Shepard chuckled and stood, carrying her with him. "Careful. Chakwas said you're still going to be weak for a few days while you finish healing."

"I guess so... I don't like the feeling very much," the quarian muttered. "Makes me feel useless."

"If there's one thing you'll never be, it's useless."

More steady on her feet now, she took a few more careful steps, clearly testing her endurance after sitting for so long. He watched her walk slowly around the main room of the hotel suite and then stop, looking down at the chemise was wearing as if noticing the article of clothing for the first time. The once piece garment looked quite fetching on if anyone had bothered to ask to spectre, though the pink color made for an odd contrast to the smooth gray of her skin. Tali reached down, grabbing the fabric in her hands and rubbing it between her fingers before looking back to him.

"This seems a little silly but it just now struck me... where did this... whatever it is come from?" she asked. "It's not as if I own any clothes."

"Pretty sure it's called a chemise, at least that's what Kelly said. Which is where it came from. Hence the pink. She thought you might want be wearing something when you woke up," Shepard replied with a grin.

"I think I like it, so smooth... it feels strange being outside of my suit and... ah... wearing clothing." The quarian's cheeks flushed as realized what she was saying, clearly remembering how little she was thinking about clothing the last time she removed her suit.

He closed the distance between them, bringing his hands to slide up her arms. "I think we can arrange to acquire a few for you. I know I certainly like seeing you this way."

Another flush, the sudden darkening of her skin was definitely something he was never going to stop enjoying. Turning to him Tali reached up to touch her own face, fingers lightly brushing the small bandages that were still covering the cuts from her shattered visor.

"I just wish it could have been before I ended up collecting new cuts and scars."

Shepard shook his head. "We all have our scars, Tali. But scars mean we survived whatever tried to kill us, that we didn't give up. What matters to me is that you're still here."

"I always want to be," she responded quietly. "No matter what happens."

"Then you will be."

"You can't really make that promise, John. This war isn't over, you know that..."

"I've given everything I have to give... I'll be damned if I don't at least try," Shepard replied. "I don't know what's going to happen. No one does, but I you need to know that I'm not fighting because I don't have anything left to lose anymore. I've got a future to fight for. One that includes you."

Vibrant eyes locked with his and time seemed to crawl by again as lips met and breathing quickened. Silk slid beneath his hands, followed by equally smooth skin, and three fingered hands tightened on his shoulders. He enjoyed the small gasp that he elicited from her, disappointed when she pulled away, but keeping it in check with a quick self chastisement. Tali needed time to heal and here he was getting caught up in the moment. But then her words when she saw the look in his eyes completely derailed that train of thought.

"I'm not feeling that weak, John... and there's something I want a lot more than rest..."

"I... oh," he said. "What's wrong then?"

Tali bit her lip. "Well, um. The suit usually cleans my hair and skin, after lying there for a week I just don't feel that clean. But I have no idea how to operate the cleaning facilities here..."

"Well, I'm certainly not putting you back in that suit. But I think you might be able to figure out how to operate the shower."

When she looked up there was a mischievous smile on her face, tone warm and alluring. "I was thinking maybe you could... show me."

Shepard grinned. "Then why don't you step through that door there, Miss Vas Normandy, and I'll introduce you to the wonderful human custom of a long, hot shower..."

As the quarian stepped back towards the doorway after a quick look behind her the chemise slipped from her shoulders and to the floor. The small puddle of silk was completely forgotten a second later, along with everything else.

Shepard had been walking the edge for most of his life, worrying about falling into the dark for far too long. But he'd found the thing that kept him hanging on and he intended to keep her at all costs. Tomorrow they would worry again, think of the future and conflicts to come. But for a little while at least there was no one watching. No politics. No Reapers. No war. And that was all he could ask for.

And that would be that. Thanks to all my readers and reviewers. Should Razor's Edge continue, it likely won't be until after the release of the already amazing looking Mass Effect 3. I've appreciated all the feedback, kind words, and critiques. As always feel free to drop me a line. I hope you've enjoyed the tale.