AN:I know! I know! So much longer than I said it would be since I last updated the adventures of Tali and John. But here is the final installment of this story. But since all you loyal readers have enjoyed this story so much I'm going to do something special next. I won't spoil it but stay tuned!
Tali opened her eyes and blinked slowly. The cabin was still dim and the only light source was from the fish tank near the door. Above her the light of the stars glimmered brightly. She turned her head and looked upon the face of John Shepard, and had to suppress a giggle. There lay John Shepard, Savior of the Galaxy, sleeping with his mouth hanging slightly open and every breath he took ended in a faint snore. He had one arm wrapped around Tali's waist and the other hanging limping off the edge of the bed. His legs were sticking out from under the sheets and he looked so peaceful and very cute at the moment. Tali did not dare wake him up just yet. She glanced over at the clock display on the night stand, and it had only been a few hours since they fell asleep in each others arms. Seeing that Shepard had turned the alarm to go off in a few hours she reached over quietly and as delicately as she could and turned it off and resettled herself near Shepard and just watched him sleep. It amazed her that here lying next to her was one of the most deadly soldiers ever to walk this universe. Having defeated so many dangerous enemies with deadly precision, and to be lying so peacefully next to her just astounded her that he could be so fierce when he wanted to, and now was very peaceful.
Tali moved her head in closer to Shepard's face and took in every detail that she could see. Being only a few inches away she could feel his breath brush past her cheek. Her nose twitched and she blinked rapidly. It has been two hours since I have been out of the suit and consumed that fruit, yet my nose isn't as stuffy and I only feel mildly warm. So I still react to Shepard but it does seem to be less. Tali stored that thought to tell Mordin once she felt ready to climb back into her suit. But she had no inclination to do so now. She raised her free arm and with a light touch of her long thick finger she traced the lines of his jaw lightly. Shepard continued to sleep seemingly unaffected by Tali's exploring touch. She continued up to his ear and around the light fuzz of hair he kept short on his head. She half closed her eyes enjoying the sensation of touch she felt now as her finger traveled up the back of his head and stopped at the bridge of his nose. She smiled as she watched his nose twitch slightly and brought her finger over one eyebrow then across the other. She then leaned closer and lightly kissed his eyes with her soft lips. One kiss for each and Shepard reacted to that. He blinked and yawned then did a double take at how close Tali's beautiful face was to his.
"Good morning sweetheart." John smiled up to Tali who flashed a grin showing off her white sharp canines.
"Sweetheart? I like the sound of that. I didn't mean to wake you up John. You looked so peaceful asleep like that." Tali murmured purring softly.
John reached up and cradled the side of her face in one hand and smiled warmly. "It's probably time to get up anyways, Tali. I'm actually glad you look good after being out of your suit for what? Two hours?" He glanced over at the clock and nodded. "I see you turned off the alarm. Well, how do you feel Miss Vas Normandy?"
Tali tilted her head to one side and smiled brightly. "I still have that stuffy mucus or something similar in my nose. But it isn't as bad as the first time. I'm getting a slight fever reaction as well. Also seems to be not as bad. A bit of an itchy feeling in my mouth and...um..." Tali blushes fiercely as she quickly glances down and looks back up at Shepard who slowly nods.
"How is that area feeling?" he asked with concern in his voice.
"It also feels a bit inflamed and itchy. The itchy part is new. Usually it becomes very sensitive and swollen. Perhaps a side effect from the fruit?" Tali sat up on the bed now and looked down between her legs and blushed again.
"Do you want me to get you something to take the itching or swelling down?" Shepard had sat up as well and had moved over to the night stand to look for any ointments Mordin had given him for any such reactions.
Tali raised a hand and shook her head. "No, I'll be fine. Plus I think Mordin would..um..want to do a bio-scan on me before I apply any kind of ointment so he can get a good comparison from before and after I ate the fruit."
Shepard nodded and stepped out of bed and went over to his personal locker and began getting dressed in clean civies.
Tali watched him dress for a moment and sighed and softly padded over to were she stowed her suit and began the long process of putting it back on.
After fifteen minutes all was left was securing the visor on her helmet and Shepard noticed she was hesitating on sealing herself back up. He walked over and took the visor from her hands and gave her a very passionate kiss.
"You afraid of locking yourself back up aren't you?" he whispered softly. Tali nodded.
"Every time I get out of this damned suit, I feel like I am sealing myself away from the real world." Tali sighed and she looked up into Shepard's bright blue eyes and smiled faintly.
"You never know Tali. Being free of the enviro-suit on Rannoch, at least, could become a reality, with the assistance of that fruit." He raised the visor and clipped it into place. He heard the seals engage and the suit began to filter the air inside the suit.
Tali sighed and nodded. "Keelah I hope so John. I really do." She wrapped her arms around Shepard and he gave her a firm hug and released her.
Tali played with her fingers and blinked down at her hands and stopped abruptly. Keelah! I thought I dropped that habit already. "If you have time John I would love it for you to come with me to visit Mordin."
John smiled and nodded. "Sure Tali. Let me grab my data pad on the way out. Miranda no doubt has a list of things that need my urgent attention and I can get some of that out the way. I still wonder why the damn elevators run so slowly."
Shepard picked up his data pad as they made their way to the door. "Mordin should already be in his lab. The guy hardly sleeps. Then again salarians only need like an hour of sleep to get through a day." He extends his arm and Tali loops her arm around his as they head out of the cabin and into the elevator. Pressing the button to bring them down to the CIC were the tech lab was located.
Mordin was busily working on his various projects. His mind raced over the various results and data he had collected so far and was delighted to see the door open to his lab and in walked Commander Shepard with Tali hanging onto his arm. Ah, bond between the Commander and Tali has grown strong. For being of different species they are remarkably compatible. Interesting. Would like to study further if they are willing for me to monitor their daily routines. However unlikely. Tali would most likely resist study. Hmm, will have to look at different options to placate her. Mordin only took a few seconds to think of this as Shepard and Tali approached his desk.
"Shepard, Tali. A pleasure to see you here. I take it you are here to report findings of our experiment?" Mordin eyes crinkled in a wide grin.
"Mordin, you always enjoy your work. Sometimes I wonder if a bit too much. Perhaps you would like a hobby or a vacation?" Shepard grinned and chuckled.
Mordin waved a hand dismissively. "Hobby? Vacation? Bah! Waste of precious time in which I could be studying cure for Joker's condition. I believe I'm on the cusp of breakthrough!" Mordin sniffed deeply and grinned.
Tali and Shepard laughed jovially. "You do love your work Mordin. I grant you that." Shepard nodded to Tali who stepped forward and presented a data pad to Mordin.
"We both wrote in any physical effects and reactions we both saw during our time together." Tali coughed and rubbed the side of her visor with her other hand as Mordin took the data pad and began to skim through the data.
"Impressive! Remarkable! Data indicates some change has taken effect. Now to see if effect was caused by fruit or other function of quarian immune system adaptability." Mordin motioned Tali to stand in front of him as he brought up his omnitool and activated his bio-scanner. He did a very thorough scan of Tali and entered the data to his terminal. The areogel screen came to life as readings began to fly across the screen. Mordin was busy absorbing the data and muttering quietly and cheerfully to himself. Tali and Shepard walked over and watched as the data was compiled and a comparison chart appeared now. Mordin hit a few buttons and the areogel screen magnified and enlarged itself to three times its normal size. Mordin stood to one side of the screen and indicated with a long finger to one side of the chart.
"This is Tali before consumption of fruit. Data shows weak immune system, typical of quarian biology. Yours is actually slightly stronger than most. Suspect your timed periods out of your suit prior to scanning resulted in increase of adaptability. Unsure." Mordin next pointed to a different chart next to it which had clearly different results. "Scans indicate significant change to immune system of quarian biology. Stronger and quicker to adapt. More than I expected. Promising results. If results hold true for other quarians, this fruit could stabilize adaptability in a matter of a few years possible. Requires more data. More testing!" Mordin turned to his guests and smiled broadly.
Shepard blinked at this data and glanced over at Tali who he noticed had said a word and hadn't moved a muscle in during Mordin's presentation of the results. "Tali?" he prompted and watched as Tali visibly shook herself out of whatever trance she had been.
"Does this mean that it might be possible for my people can be without suits on Rannonch in a few years? Keelah!" She exhaled with astonishment.
Mordin nodded. "Yes. Possible. Will require more tests. Depends on age and any medical aliments quarian posses before eating fruit. Healthy quarians like you Tali should be able to walk free of suits on Rannoch in a few years time. Will be fascinating to see how fruit effects others. Suggestions on who else I should offer fruit too?"
Tali's first thought was Admiral Daro'Xen in close proximity to Admiral Zaal'Koris, but brushed that tempting notion aside. "I think you can present your findings to the Admiralty board. They will be very interested in the fruit and its...effects on quarians. Might even be able to find you more quarians willing to test the fruit out some more." she chuckled.
Mordin visibly became excited at the idea for doing a presentation of his data to the Admirals he quickly started gathering his terminal and the cryo-unit that contained the rest of the fruit and exited the lab without sparing a moment for Shepard to thank him.
"Well I hope he remembers his doctor-patient confidentiality and not let anyone know who he used as his first test subjects." Shepard grumbled.
Mordin's presentation of his findings in regards to the fruit he brought back from Rannoch was received very well. In fact there was intense interest from many couples in the flotilla once the Admrials sent out a call for willing couples to undergo more tests Mordin had lined up.
The next few months went by quickly as the massive quarian fleet navigated the mass relay network to the Veil. The geth were true to their word and safely escorted every ship to Rannoch. It was an impressive sight to see the massive fleet in orbit around their long lost home world. Morale across the fleet was running high as spirits soared. Shepard had never shaken so many hands in such a short amount of time he felt after a week his arm would fall off from being vigorously shaken.
Tali was just as infected by the excitement as every other quarian in the fleet was feeling. Now it was just a matter of selecting which area of Rannoch to colonize first. Some suggested they pick areas close to one another. Others suggested that would make them an easy target for any invading forces and opted to be more spread out. Shepard was again called into the meetings between the Conclave and the Admiralty board. This time Shepard decided to have Tali accompany him to such meetings. She was of course very honored to be there and at Shepards side during the talks. Legion was not needed for these meetings but the quarians had made sure to send a formal thank you to all the geth for their help and to allow the quarians to return home peacefully.
After hours of debate it was still not decided how they were going to repopulate Rannoch. A break was called and agreed upon and everyone was allowed to return to their ships for some rest. Tali and Shepard returned to the Normandy and settled in the mess hall as Gardner had cooked up dinner for everyone.
Shepard had grabbed his plate of food and found a seat in which Tali quickly joined him with her tubes of nutrient paste. Garrus had emerged from the main battery and joined the couple at the table.
"Just like old times eh Shepard?" Garrus grinned flexing his mandibles open. He tore open his turian MRE and began to devour its contents.
Shepard chuckled and glanced at what Garrus was eating. "What do they put in your MRE's anyways? It looks...purple?"
Garrus glanced down at his plate which had the purple substance, fluffy looking. "Its an oolorae omelet with blood sausage actually. It ain't so bad when warmed up instead of eating it cold out of the pack." He then stabbed the omelet with his fork and resumed eating.
Shepard grinned. "So, its from an egg then? Our eggs are yellow though when scrambled like that. How does it taste like?"
Garrus shrugged. "Hard to describe what a dextro meal taste for you Shepard. I would offer it but that might be a bad idea." He picked up a piece of blood sausage now and waggled it before Shepard. He took a careful sniff of it and grimaced.
"Ugh, that doesn't smell good at all. Has a coppery scent to it." Shepard actually had paled for a moment after sniffing the sausage.
Joker at that moment happened to hobble by and glanced at it and started to chuckle. "You are sniffing Garrus's sausage Shepard." he chortled. Which earned another wide grin from Garrus. Shepard actually started to blush now.
"Joker, do you want to have a taste of his sausage next?" Shepard reached over and grabbed the sausage in question and waggled it in front of Joker who attempted to bat it way.
"Ugh! Get that piece of meat out of my face, Shepard!" Joker replied while deftly avoiding getting hit by the sausage.
"Hey! Don't drop my sausage!" Garrus reached over to pluck it from Shepard's fingers and instead knocked it out of his hand. As if in slow motion all three watched the sausage arc out of Shepard's hand and sail end over end up and over Joker's head. They watched in horror as the purple meat missile found its target. It impacted Jack's face with a resounding splat, as she was sitting down at a nearby table.
You could hear a pin drop in the following silence. Garrus gulped and held himself very still as did Shepard and Tali. Joker felt the blood drain from his face and Jack stood up slowly and seemed to focus her dark eyes on him. The juices of the blood sausage were still dripping from were it impacted on her forehead and she absentmindedly wiped some if it away with the back of her hand. She reached down and picked up the sausage and walked toward Joker, who was now whimpering were he stood.
Everyone in the room had stopped what they were doing to watch this spectacle unfold and that gave Shepard, Garrus and Tali the necessary distraction to sneak off quietly, leaving poor Joker to fend for himself. Shepard was still close enough to hear Jack growl, "Okay, asshole you think this is fucking funny? I'll fucking show you what's funny. You...me...in my quarters...now!"
Joker whimpered. "Please...don't break me! It wasn't my fault..." he babbled as Jack swung the sausage in his face menacingly.
Jack grinned impishly just then and replied as smoothly as anyone has ever heard her. "Oh, I have more in mind than breaking you asshole. Get moving Joker or I'll let my biotics do it for you." Blue wisps of energy flickered to life over her body and Joker found himself in a strange place as his eyes widened. I don't know whether to be turned on, terrified, or both.
Garrus, Shepard and Tali managed to make it to the elevator before Joker and Jack. Garrus insisted on hiding from Jack in Shepard's cabin.
"There isn't much in this universe that frightens me, but that woman? Spirits! She scares the shit out me Shepard." Garrus shuddered as he leaned up against the elevator wall. Tali was leaning against Shepard's shoulder and was shaking with laughter.
"I do feel sorry about leaving Joker behind. Should we intervene?" she asked after she had caught her breath.
Shepard shrugged. "Nah, I doubt EDI would let Jack actually break Joker. She would do something to prevent it."
Garrus poked Shepard in the shoulder. "You owe me lunch, Shepard. I never did get to finish mine. As much fun as it was seeing Joker get into trouble for a change." He grinned, flexing his mandibles open.
Shepard raised his hands in defeat. "Alright, I'll take you to a nice restaurant sometime. You pick the place."
"I want it to be classy, it ain't worth it if it isn't." Garrus replied tapping his chin with a finger.
"Why classy?" Tali asked curiously.
"Because those are the only ones worth being in, they make the effort to make the place look good then you know the food will be just as good, and expensive. And in the off chance a fight breaks out, it's the best place to have a gun fight." Garrus replied cheerfully.
Tali chuckled and leaned up against Shepard's shoulder again getting comfortable.
"So, you going to hang out with us Garrus?" Shepard looked up at his friend as the doors finally opened to his cabin.
Garrus shrugged. "Can't go back to the main battery for the moment. Caused too much of a scene back in the mess hall and I would like to wait a bit for everyone to head back to their stations." he replied dryly.
Shepard nodded. "Fair enough. I think I have some dextro drinks in my personal cryo-unit. Since Tali has made herself comfortable in the cabin it only seemed fitting." He glanced down at Tali and asked, "You okay with Garrus hiding from Jack in our cabin?"
Garrus murmured then, "Ah, so it's our cabin now, is it? I wondered why I haven't seen you in crew quarters lately, Tali." which earned him a kick from Tali which didn't actually hurt Garrus but he pretended to hobble in mock injury.
Tali smiled to herself and replied warmly. "Of course Shepard. He's an old friend and is always welcome to visit...er, besides my personal time that is." She blushed and was glad Garrus couldn't tell.
Garrus walked behind them as they entered the cabin and sniffed. "Well, I have heard about your...forays to the captain's cabin, Tali. I'm not a xenophobe at all but I am curious to know how you quarians look like under the suits. Since we do share the same dextro-DNA composition I wondered if your people are covered in scales or feathers." he chuckled
Tali grunted. "This conversation is over," before turning her back to Garrus as she made her way to the sofa.
Garrus followed and continued carefully. "Awww. Don't be like that, Tali. Just a quick peek I won't tell. And I promise no pictures will end up on the extra-net or sent to Fornax." His eyes glinted mischievously and Shepard gave Garrus a dark look.
Tali reached into the nearby cryo-unit and pulled out a dextro drink and tossed it at Garrus who deftly caught it. "You are so very lucky that you are my friend Garrus and that I don't have my shotgun." She huffed.
"Which is why I know I'm going to get it later, aren't I?" Garrus chortled as he found a seat and stretched his legs to prevent his spurs from digging into the seat. He unscrewed the cap of the drink in hand and brought it to his lip plates and guzzled it.
"Maybe. If you behave yourself." Tali picked up her own drink and attached it to a special seal under her helmet visor. A tube-like straw inserted itself into the canister and she started to drink it in.
Garrus chuckled and raised his drink in a toast to Tali. "I'll watch my back then."
Shepard went over to the cryo-unit and pulled out his own drink and sat down next to Tali, stretching out his legs as he did so. He played with the bottle in his hand and looked over to Garrus who had his eyes half closed now.
"Hey Garrus?" He asked suddenly.
"Yes Shepard?" Garrus didn't open his eyes but Shepard had the impression he was watching him.
"What do you think our chances are with the Reapers? Or getting the Council of its collective ass to help us?"
Garrus blinked and let out a long sigh. "It isn't going to be pretty anyway you look at it Shepard. You saw how Sovereign easily destroyed most of the turian fleet around the citadel when it attacked over two years ago. A fleet of those bastards coming to wipe us out? Spirits of air and darkness take them to the abyss! I really don't want to think about it." He said darkly.
Shepard took a long swig from his drink and set it on the table across from him. "I hear you buddy. I have been thinking about it just about every day since we came back from the collector base. There has to be a weakness, something. They can't be invincible. But, I feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle and totally lost on what to do next."
Tali placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, "I know you will find a way. Me and my people will help in any way we can John. Everyone will be needed for this fight."
Garrus nodded. "And you know I'll follow you into hell if I must Shepard. As for convincing the Council to back us? Well...short of dropping a Reaper on their heads? I don't know. They are big on having solid evidence." Garrus spat out in distaste.
Shepard grimaced. "Yeah, fucking tell me about it. They believed Saren over me at first. They still don't trust me because I was associated with Cerberus. I figured they would come around since I severed all ties with them. God they can be a stubborn lot." Shepard ran a hand over his head in frustration.
EDI's avatar appeared at the holoplate near the door, "Shepard, I have an important call incoming. On the private channel. Flagged as coming from the Alliance."
Shepard stood up and stepped over to his desk. "I'll take it here at my personal terminal EDI. Thanks."
"Logging you out, Shepard." EDI vanished from the holoplate and everyone's attention turned to Shepard's terminal as the areogel screen magnified. Two faces were visible on a split screen. One side showed Admiral Hackett and the other was Counciler Anderson. Hackett spoke first.
"Shepard, I have just been informed that the trial of the Alpha Relay incident is ready. We need your presence on earth to undergo questioning in regards to your involvement with the mission." Hackett paused and glanced at Tali and Garrus who were standing behind Shepard. "Are your friends trustworthy for this call, Commander?"
Shepard nodded, his expression resolute. "Tali, and Garrus are trusted crew members. Anything that is spoken during this call will not leave this cabin sir."
Counciler Anderson added, "I have personally met both Tali'Zorah and Garrus Vakarian. They are upstanding crew members and honorable. You can trust them."
Hackett's eyes narrowed and nodded. "Very well. We need you to report to earth commander. The sooner you can make it the better. How long before you arrive?"
Shepard replied quickly, "I can be there in a day's time Admiral. I want this trial over with as much as you do."
Hackett nodded, "See you in a day's time at the trial commander. Counciler Anderson will be there as well to oversee the proceedings. There will be other matters to discuss when you get here as well. Fifth Fleet out." Hacketts side of the screen faded to black and Anderson remained.
"Well sir? Are we going to be ready for this? And what about the Reapers? Any word on them?" Shepard asked.
"We will be ready as we can Shepard. As for the Reapers." Anderson sighed, "I have nothing for you. If there is anything out there about them it's being withheld from me. Which isn't good. It could be Cerberus masking them and you already know the Council has refused to even consider their existence." Anderson rubbed his nose wearily.
Shepard scowled, "Yeah sounds like them. I'll bet it's Cerberus hiding it from us. We will be ready for them. Look forward to seeing you on earth sir."
Anderson nodded and cut the signal.
Tali and Garrus stood silently by Shepard. He then felt Tali's hand on his shoulder. "Keelah! It's really happening isn't it John. This trial and waiting for the Reapers to make their move. I'll be at your side through it all, you know this."
Garrus then places his hand on Shepard's other shoulder. "I'll be here as well Shepard. It's going to be a hell of fight and you know I'll have your back."
Shepard stood up and looked at his two friends. They both have been there for him since the beginning and he couldn't think of more worthy people to be at his side when the shit hits the fan. Which it will.
"I'm glad you are here with me, you both have been there for me since the beginning with Saren. Now, it's getting close to when we will end this cycle of destruction." He clapped both Garrus and Tali on the shoulders and gripped them tight.
Garrus nodded. "I'll head back down to check over our weapons systems, Shepard. Been plenty of time since the lunch incident. Thanks for the drink." Garrus then turned and left.
Tali looked into those deep blue eyes she loved so much and glanced down at her hands. "Keelah, I knew this day would come John. I just never expected it would be here already."
Shepard walked over to Tali and pulled her into a warm embrace. Just holding each other for a moment. "Well, we will have some unfinished business to attend to after we defeat the reapers."
Tali wrapped her arms tightly around Shepard. "The wedding?" she whispered.
He nodded and tilted her visor up to meet his gaze. "It will take more than a bunch of sentient warships to prevent me from marrying you, Tali."
"I look forward to that day, John."
That ends this story for now. Since this is were ME3 will pick up. Thanks again for following my story and I do promise some extra fun chapters following this. This isn't the end, not just yet. So stay tuned! I'll be adding at least two bonus chapters to this story before I call it complete. Keelah Se'lai!