Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you my latest story, "A Reason to Fight." The story predominately focuses on Tali and Shepard's relationship throughout Mass Effect 2, although it will probably lead to ME3 speculation revolving around in scenes I deem important to their relationship (the retaking of Rannoch etc.) However, each and every scene will be re-imagined to create a new experience. Now before you start reading I would recommend that you go read my one-shot "One Last Goodbye," as this story is heavily based off that scene, and some events will not make sense if you haven't read it. The link is just below. Anyway, enjoy!

Oh, and just a note to all you action lovers. There will be fight scenes. Don't worry.

Link to "One Last Goodbye:" .net/s/7274885/1/Mass_Effect_One_Last_Goodbye (Make sure you use the link guys, for some reason it doesn't show up when you search it)

Commander John Shepard, Lion of Elysium, hero of the citadel, and saviour of the council. He was the galaxy's hero. With a reputation for surviving everything the galaxy through at him it was no surprise that many regarded him as almost immortal. So when he was killed in action during a surprise attack on his ship the Normandy, it was a tragic, and for many unbelievable, event. Rumors, aided by the Alliance's inability to recover a body, spread throughout the galaxy. Even now, after two years, people still wondered exactly what had happened to their hero. As it turned out, his body was sitting in a Kodiak transport shuttle, very much alive, and flying off to investigate a remote human colony in the terminus systems.

"We're just a few minutes out from Freedom's progress," Jacob announced.

"Great, I just want to get down there, see what happened, and get off."

"Is something wrong commander?" the young operative asked him.

"Jacob, I've been gone two years. I have no idea what state the galaxy is in; I don't even know where my old team is. It just feels wrong, going on a mission without them."

Before Jacob could answer, Miranda Lawson cut in, her voice sharp. "Most people don't get the luxury of being resurrected Commander. Don't blame us for you being gone two years. You could've been gone a lot longer."

Shepard let out a long sigh. The Cerberus officer could be a real pain sometimes. "Look Miranda, I'm not blaming you or Cerberus. I'm very grateful for what you did and I'm going to do the best I can here, I just wish I knew where my old team is. We went through a lot together and they deserve to know that I'm alive. There's someone in particular I need to talk to."

The woman's expression softened; obviously satisfied that he appreciated her efforts in bringing him back. "When we get back to the station I'll look for info on your old team. The Illusive man probably has some information on them as well. I'm sure he'd be willing to help you out."

"I'm sure he would," Shepard replied, his smile concealing his dislike of Cerberus' 'Illusive' leader. The man was trying to help humanity and was one of the few people who understood the threat of the Reapers, but he always tried to achieve his goals at the expense of the other races. Something Shepard had no tolerance for. Unfortunately, the man was the only person with both the resources and the will necessary to do what was needed, so Shepard was forced, begrudgingly, to work with him. He looked back at Jacob, who was piloting the shuttle. "Status?"

"We've just arrived at the colony, Commander. I'm taking the shuttle down now."

"Good. Everyone check their weapons, we don't know what we're going to find down there. For all we know, the people responsible for the disappearing colonies could still be around.

Miranda spoke up again. "I doubt that commander. We've had ships on to the scene sooner than this, and we still didn't find anything."

"Still, it's always best to be wary." He felt the shuttle lurch as it reached the planets surface. "Everyone ready?"

"We're all good commander."

"Excellent. Remember, we're looking for anything that can give us a clue to what happened here. Helping survivors is our first priority, although I doubt we'll find anyone." He hopped out of the shuttle and scanned the area. "Landing zone's clear. Let's go."

Commander, I'm detecting faint heat signatures coming from that building." Miranda told him. "It looks like there might be people inside." Shepard and his squad had gotten more than they'd bargained for when they landed on the colony. Whoever had abducted the colony was long gone, but someone had reprogrammed the security drones and mechs to attack them. Fortunately, LOKI mechs were no match for trained soldiers, and it hadn't taken his team long to blast through the resistance.

"Okay, I'm going to bypass the door. Keep your weapons ready, but don't fire unless I give the word. They could be survivors. They might know what happened here." He brought up his omni-tool, and attempted to hack his way in. It was immediately apparent to him that this wasn't a standard house lock. It had been put in place very recently, and was much more complex than the previous locks he had bypassed. He breathed a sigh of relief as he connected the last two circuits. If only Tali were here... She could've broken that in seconds. He moved up to the door, and motioned for Miranda and Jacob to fall in place behind him. He pulled out his shotgun, and opened the door.

Shepard had entered the pre-made building expecting a lot of things. He had not expected a quarian strike team.

"Cerberus!" one of the quarians exclaimed, disgust evident in his voice. "Stop right there!"

Why the hell is there a team of quarians down here? He was about to speak up when a familiar voice cut him off.

"Prazza, you said you'd let me handle this!"

No, it can't be! Why would she be down here? But... no. I could never forget that voice. "Tali?"

"Shepard? How? What... What did Cerberus do to you?"

"Tali, it's really me. Cerberus, they... they brought me back."

"No! That's... That's not possible! I... I was at your funeral and everything!" She was sobbing now.

"Tali, did you get that message I sent you? The one I sent when the Normandy was destroyed? Did the information help you with completing your pilgrimage?"

"I- Keelah! It really is you! You're... You're back!" Before Shepard could respond, she wrapped her arms around him in a deep hug. She glanced back at the team of quarians behind her. "Put your weapons down. This... This is definitely Commander Shepard."

"You know, you didn't answer my question," Shepard pointed out, attempting to lighten the mood.

"It did. Those credits were a huge help to the fleet. And that data... it might be the key to taking back our homeworld. My father's probably studying it as we speak."

Shepard noticed a hint of sadness in her voice as she mentioned her father, but before he could ask her about its origins he was interrupted by Prazza, his rifle still trained on Shepard's head.

"I don't think it's wise to be showing affection to a human, let alone a member of Cerberus," the quarian remarked, not bothering to conceal his disdain.

"Prazza, I told you to stand down. Now put away that rifle before I overload it and make it explode in your hands! The 'human,' is Commander Shepard, one of the only friends I've ever had in this galaxy. After working with you, I think I've earned the right to give an old friend a hug. As for why he's working with Cerberus... well maybe he could explain that?"

Shepard let out a small sigh. He didn't like thinking about the events leading to his affiliation with Cerberus. "After the destruction of the Normandy I was... well... let's just say that I didn't come out in great shape. Cerberus spent billions of credits rebuilding me so I could investigate the disappearances of human colonies. Apparently nobody else was doing anything about it." Before he could continue, Prazza interrupted.

"Impossible, nobody would spend that many credits to bring back one person." Before he could reply, Tali came to his defense.

"You haven't seen Shepard in action, Prazza. I'd tell you how insignificant you are compared to him, but I wouldn't want to hurt your pride. Needless to say, it was money well spent."

Before Prazza could speak up again, Shepard changed the subject. He was tired of listening to the arrogant quarian. "Well, we better get down to business, what's a quarian strike team doing on a remote human colony?"

"We're looking for a young quarian named Veetor," Tali replied. "He came here on his pilgrimage."

"What was he doing on a remote human colony?" Shepard inquired. "Isn't that a strange place to go for your pilgrimage?"

"Veetor was always... nervous... in crowds," Tali explained. "Quarians can choose where they go on pilgrimage, and he like the idea of helping out a small settlement."

"She means that he's unstable," Prazza added. "Combine that with open air exposure and damage to his suits CO2 scrubbers and he's probably delirious."

"Do you know where he is now?" Shepard asked her.

"When he saw our shuttle land, he hid in a warehouse on the far side of the down. I think he also reprogrammed the mechs to attack anything that moves."

Shepard grinned. "Well it seems like we better work together then. Veetor's the only one who can help us figure out what happened here."

"Good idea. You take your team through the center of the village and to the warehouse; I'll take my squad around the outskirts of the colony. We'll draw off the drones and clear you a path."

Before Shepard could acknowledge her, Prazza cut him off. The young quarian was becoming very annoying. "We're working with Cerberus now?" It was obvious that the man harboured a deep hatred for the pro-human organization. Knowing Cerberus, it's probably for a good reason. I better find out exactly what happened before someone starts shooting.

"Okay, I've been gone for two years. What the hell did Cerberus do this time?"

"They infiltrated our fleet, killed our people, and blew up one of our ships."

Before Shepard could say anything, Miranda spoke up. "That's not how I would describe it. Either way, it was nothing personal."

"Yes," Shepard replied sarcastically. "I'm sure there was a perfectly good reason for blowing up what was probably a civilian vessel. You realize that committing acts of terrorism isn't a great way to earn my trust, right?"

"It was necessary," the woman replied, glaring at him.

"Either way, we'll argue about who killed who later. Right now, we need to go find Veetor. Keep in radio contact, a few mechs shouldn't be that hard to take down." He glanced back at the two Cerberus operatives behind him. "Let's move."

Just as they were about to exit the building, he heard Tali speak up again. "Shepard."


"It's good to have you back."

"It's good to be back," he replied with a grin.

Using the minimap provided by his helmets HUD, Shepard led his three-man strike team through the center of the village. Every so often a group of mechs or drones would engage them, but the skirmishes only lasted for seconds, the machines being no match for a team as skilled as his. He checked his map again; looking to see how far away they were from the warehouse Veetor had decided to hole up in. Only a kilometer or so left to go... this almost seems too easy. As if on cue, he heard Tali's frantic voice on the radio.

"Shepard! Prazza betrayed me! He's taken the rest of the squad with him, and they're determined to find Veetor and take him away before you find him!"

Why can't anything ever be easy? he asked himself, letting out a long sigh."Are you okay? He didn't hurt you did he?"

"No. The spineless bosh'tet didn't want to hurt an Admiral's daughter. They locked me in one of the buildings, but it only took me a few seconds to hack the door open."

Shepard breathed a sigh of relief. If that bastard had hurt Tali...

"Commander?" Miranda's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Prazza," he began, spitting the name out, "locked Tali in one of the buildings and took control of her squad. They're going to try and get Veetor off world before we can talk to him. If that happens, we may never find out what happened here. Fortunately, the warehouse is only a kilometer or so away. If we get there first, the mission will still be successful. Now let's move!"

Fate must have been in a good mood for the moment, because there weren't any mechs between his team and the warehouse, and they were able to reach the warehouse entrance with no delays. But as they approached the warehouse door, Tali's frantic voice appeared on the radio again.

"Shepard! Prazza got to the warehouse, but Veetor reprogrammed a heavy mech! It's tearing my squad apart!"

"We're at the warehouse now. Can you open the door from your side?"

"Yes," Tali replied. "Just give me a moment." A few seconds passed before a loud groaning sound announced that the door was opening. He stormed into the warehouse, arriving just in time to see three quarians sprint out of a large hallway. Right behind them was the towering YMIR heavy assault mech. It raised the large machine gun attached to its right arm, and one of the quarians convulsed as his body was riddled with bullets. Satisfied that the quarian was dead, the mech searched for a new target. The two quarians still running caught its attention. It raised its left arm, aiming the attached missile launcher at the fleeing soldiers. The lead quarian noticed the threat first. He quickly dived behind a large crate, safe from the deadly weapons equipped on the machine. The second quarian wasn't as lucky. The mech fired, and the rocket detonated a small distance behind her, throwing her to the ground, injured but alive... for now. The heavy mech had armed another rocket, determined to finish the job.

Shit! Shepard thought to himself, as he watched the mech take aim at the helpless quarian. Without thinking, he focused his energy, and released a glowing ball of biotic energy. It struck the quarian and pulled her towards him, just out of the blast radius of the exploding rocket. As her floating body passed over him, he pulled her down into cover beside him, quickly checking her for any wounds. She was unconscious, and it looked like her suit might have a few ruptures, but he didn't see any blood. As he finished his scan, he heard Jacob speak up from behind him.

"She gonna make it, Commander?" The young operative actually seemed worried for her health.

Well he didn't seem like a typical Cerberus member. And he said he only joined Cerberus because the Alliance wasn't doing anything about the colonies. Maybe they're not all bad... "Her suit's ruptured in a few places, but none of the shrapnel actually pierced her skin. As long as she's not left out here too long she should be fine.

"Good to hear Commander. You know, we're not all as pro-human as some would like to believe."

"From what I've seen, I believe that you're not. As for the rest of Cerberus..." He shook his head. "Never mind that. It won't matter if we don't take down this mech. Jacob, I want you to keep a constant stream of fire on that thing. Miranda, I want you to have an overload ready. When I give the order, take that things shields down."

"And what will you be doing?" Miranda asked him.

"What I always do," he cryptically replied.

Tali watched as the last remnant of her team was hunted down by the heavy mech. She saw Prazza convulse as the heavy bullets from the mechs machine gun lacerated his body. Another one gone... she thought to herself, looking away from the carnage. She had never lost this many troops before. She knew it wasn't her fault. Prazza had taken the troops, and rushed headfirst into a YMIR heavy mech, something her team was not equipped to fight. It wasn't her fault, but it still felt like it.

The sound of an explosion brought her back to the battle. One of her troops was safely behind cover. The other was lying on the ground, unconscious, with a rocket launcher aimed at her. She cringed as the rocket streaked towards the limp soldier, and looked away as the missile exploded. After a few seconds, she convinced her body to look back, expecting to see the bloody remains of one of her troops. Instead, the quarian soldier was floating through the air, unharmed and covered in a glowing blue veil, towards a large pile of shipping crates. Shepard! she realized. Even after they had turned their backs on him, he still saved them. Suddenly, the rapid firing of a shotgun interrupted her thoughts. She activated her omni-tool, and activated the combat drone program, watching as the glowing ball of pink and purple sparked into existence. "Well Chiktikka, I think they might need our help."

Shepard grinned as he silently crept along the wall of the warehouse. The mechs rudimentary combat intelligence system caused it to target whomever was firing at it. In this case, it was Jacob. As long as Jacob kept up a steady stream of fire, the mech wouldn't even notice the spectre creeping down the side of the warehouse. Once he was a suitable distance behind the machine, he dashed towards it, sneaking up behind the heavy mech. When he was right behind it, he would give the order for Miranda to overload its shields. When the shields were down, he would hop on its back, and empty a clip of his shotgun into the unsuspecting machines head. He was about to signal Miranda when he heard something horrifying. Silence. Jacob was no longer firing.

"Out of clips!" The young operatives voice echoed across the warehouse.

No longer under attack, the giant mechs motion sensors activated, and it turned to face the human behind it. Shepard dived to the right, knowing it wouldn't be enough to avoid the rocket that was surely coming. He hit the ground, and waited for the inevitable explosion. After a few seconds of waiting, Shepard realized that the rocket wasn't coming. He rolled onto his back, expecting to see a heavy chain gun pointed his way. Instead, a strange sight greeted him. A glowing purple orb was circling the YMIR, occasionally zapping it with a bolt of electricity. The lumbering mech was too slow to catch it, and had resorted to slowly spinning in around in circles in an attempt to crush the pest. Shepard didn't miss his chance.

"Miranda! He shouted. "Overload, now!"

A loud crack reverberated through the building, informing him of Miranda's success. Without pausing, He leaped onto the back of the overloaded mech, and pulled out his shotgun. Holding the weapon in one hand, he fired three shots into the back of the machines head. His thermal clip spent, Shepard leaped off the mech, and sprinted away from the metallic corpse. The subsequent explosion informed him that the mech was down for the count. The only thing left to do was find Veetor. He looked around the warehouse, noticing the single pre-made building sitting near the end of the warehouse. Entering the building, he first noticed the many TV monitors lining the walls. Then he saw Veetor. The quarian was talking to himself frantically, as if he was trying to assure himself that he was still there.

"Monsters," he muttered. "They'll find me. Can't let them find me. Can't let them take me away like the others."

"Veetor?" Shepard asked, trying to get the young quarians attention, to no effect. The young quarians attention was focused on the TV screens lining the walls.

Without thinking, he waved his omni-tool, disabling the monitors. As the screens went dark, the quarian stood up, turning towards him. "You're human," the quarian exclaimed, surprise evident in his voice. "How did you hide?"

"I didn't hide."

"Then… how did you survive?"

"Listen Veetor, I'm not a survivor. I just got here. I'm trying to find out what happened here. Can you help me?"

"The monsters, they took everyone. But I saw, I saw them all." He reactivated the television screens, and a recording played. It showed a group of strange creatures carrying away a frozen human.

"Collectors!" he heard someone gasp behind him. Miranda and Jacob must have come in when he was talking to Veetor.

"Collectors?" he asked the Cerberus officer.

"A race from beyond the Omega-4 relay. They're so rarely seen that most believe they're a myth. The usually act through intermediaries, so the fact that they're out her in force means that something huge must be happening."

"They took everyone," Veetor moaned. "I hid, but they'll be back. No one escapes!"

"We've got what we need," Miranda said. "Grab the Quarian and we'll get out of here."

Before he could say anything someone else spoke up. "You can't just take him!" It was Tali. "He's hurt, and needs medical attention, not interrogation!"

"We can assure you that Veetor will be returned unharmed," Jacob told her.

I wonder if he's just saying that, or if he's actually naive enough to believe it.

"Shepard, I trusted you! You can't just let them take him!" The fire had left Tali's voice, replaced with a quiet pleading tone

He glanced over at Tali, staring into her opaque visor. Even if I take Veetor, she won't try and stop me, Shepard realized with a start. Does she really trust me that much? Shepard wasn't sure if she did or not, but he wouldn't do anything to jeopardize it. Not that I would've given Veetor to Cerberus anyway… Before any more arguments could be made, he spoke up, announcing his decision. "Veetor goes with Tali. He's injured, and he needs medical help from the fleet."

"But Shepard!" Miranda began to protest.

"Miranda, I know about the experiments Cerberus has performed. I met Corporal Toombs, I saw that colony you turned into husks, and I remember your work with the Thorian Creepers. I'm sure there are many more I don't remember or know nothing about, but I'll be damned if I give you a sick and distraught quarian to test torture techniques on. We'll take his omni-tool, and I think I can trust Tali to give us any info that comes up during his debriefing." Now, I'd appreciate it if you two could wait for me over at the shuttle. Tali and I have some catching up to do."

"Yes sir." Jacob replied, seemingly fine with the way things had turned out. Miranda however, seemed less than happy. She followed his orders without question though, something Shepard was grateful for. When the Cerberus operatives were gone, he turned to Tali.

"How about we go take Veetor to your shuttle. We can talk a bit on the way there."

"I'd like that. Also, thanks for saving my troops. They're both in the shuttle right now. After they tried to take Veetor like that, I'm surprise you were willing to help them at all."

"It's not their fault, not really. I did appear to be affiliated with Cerberus. Just consider it thanks for saving me from that mech. That drone's new isn't it?"

"Yes it is," she answered, pausing for a moment before continuing. "Shepard, I know that my combat drone wasn't the first thing on your mind when you said you wanted to catch up."

"You're right. I just… I wanted to let you know what happened on the Normandy, to tell you exactly why I've been gone for two years." As he finished speaking, Tali broke into tears, losing all restraint.

"Keelah, Shepard! I don't care why you were gone! I want to know why you didn't let me know! You could've came to see me, or at least sent some sort of message! Something to tell me that you were still alive! I… I thought you were dead!"

"Tali... I was dead."

"That's not a good enough reas- what? What do you mean dead? You... You're standing right here!"

"Tali, when the Normandy exploded... I died. I was thrown into space, with a few minutes of air left. After I sent you that message, I... ran out. Ran out of air... and died."

This time Tali didn't shout. "Then... Then how are you here now?" she asked him, anger no longer apparent in her voice.

"Cerberus. They spent billions bringing me back exactly as I was before. It took two years and twelve days, and when they finished... I was alive again. I've got a lot of cybernetics in me, but I'm the same Shepard I always was."

"How do you know that? They could be controlling you or something."

"If they were doing that, then Veetor wouldn't be here with us right now, would he? Trust me, I'm the same me I was before." He paused for a second, before continuing, his voice quieter. "The same me who sent that message to you in his last moments. The same me who meant every word he spoke in that message."

It didn't take Tali long to realize what Shepard was trying to say her. Even after two years, he still had feelings for… for her. She wanted to say something, anything, but instead she just let Shepard continue speaking.

"The same me who would've given anything to hear a response to that message," Shepard finished, his voice so low it was barely audible.

"I... when you sent me that message, I wanted so badly to tell you I felt the same way. To tell you that I loved you. But it's been two years. There's never been anyone else, and I'm not sure if there ever will be, but I just... I need time to sort things out. I thought you were dead for two years, and then you just… appeared, no more dead than the first time I met you. There's nothing more I want then to just be able to say that I want to be with you forever, but it's not that easy. It's been a long time and I need to think things through." She waited for a response. Getting none, she tried to lighten the mood. "I guess after all those years fighting beside you, I should've figured out that you were pretty much immortal."

"Tali, I... I understand, but I want you to know, my feelings for you haven't diminished. The two years I was gone, I feel like they never happened. I feel like I sent you that message yesterday. If you need time to sort things out, I understand. I... I guess it is hard to believe." They were both silent for a while. Eventually, the quarian shuttle came into view.

"Thanks for everything Shepard. I... I'll think about everything we talked about. Just give me some time."

"Tali, I have one last thing I need to ask you."


"I'm on a new mission, and it's not going to be easy. Jacob and Miranda are both skilled, but they work for Cerberus, and I need people I can trust. Would you be willing to come with us? It'd be just like old times," he added with a smile.

"Shepard, there's nothing more I'd rather do, but I can't, not now. I've got a mission with the fleet, one that can't be trusted with anyone else."

"I... I see." As he turned to walk away, Tali spoke up one last time.

"After the mission, I'm putting in a transfer request. After all I've done, I think they'll allow me to serve on the ship of my former captain. What kind of ship is it going to be, anyway?"

Shepard smiled, noticing her excitement at the idea of his new ship. "To be honest with you, I haven't seen it yet. Cerberus was putting the finishing touches on it when I came down here, but from what I've heard from Jacob, they've built an upgraded version of the Normandy."

"An improvement? But the Normandy was so advanced!"

"Excited are we?" Shepard asked her with a smile. "Tell you what, I promise that as soon as I see the ship, I'll send you a detailed message telling you everything you need to know about it. Think that will tide you over until they approve your transfer request?"

"Definitely," she said, her voice finally upbeat again. After everything she'd been through today, Shepard was just glad to see her happy.

"Goodbye Tali. I look forward to hearing about the approval of you transfer request."

"I'll see you later Shepard, and remember to send that message when you see your ship!"

Shepard watched as Tali and Veetor entered the shuttle. He watched as the shuttle took off, and for the first time in over two years, Commander John Shepard was happy.

R&R! Every bit of (constructive) criticism helps me get better!