A/N: Surprise! Sorry it's slightly short, but I figured you guys probably wouldn't mind.

Bright green eyes focused on the thin lengths of metal draped in the asari's hands. Thug rubbed his fingers over his lips, and snorted.

"This little thing sucks away your biotics?" he asked.

"I have to sleep in it," Eír agreed. "Otherwise the nightmares might cause me to hurt Shrive."

"Shrive's tough. She grew up with krogan," he dismissed. "She can take a biotic hit or two."

"This is not just a biotic 'hit or two'," she told him. "I could kill her, Thug."

He scowled, then shook his head. "Maybe. You said this doctor would be able to help you?"

"Yes," Eír agreed, gathering the thin cinch and sliding it back into her pouch. "He contacted me yesterday. He is finally done with his mission and on his way home to Sur'Kesh. He wants to make arrangements for Shrive and I to go there in the next day or two, to begin treatment."

"Good," Thug agreed, ducking his head a little as they passed through the small airlock into Shrive's tiny ship. "A warrior should kill by their own choice, not mindless compulsion."

"Your new brothers taught you this?" she asked with a faint smile, an expression which only grew a little when he straightened indignantly.

"It is what every krogan knows."

"Yes, well. We should be back home within a day. Shrive was looking forward to seeing you again. I think she misses Tuchanka."

"I'm surprised she didn't come with you."

"She has work she could not beg out of," Eír replied, moving into the helm and slipping into the pilot's seat. "We thought a small trip to Omega to pick you up might help me clear my mind."

Dropping his duffle in a corner, Thug loomed in the door of the helm…a big, gruff, comfortable shadow that she just now realized she had missed more than she thought.

"Well, let's get going then," he urged. "Let's see this soft little world you picked for yourself."

"Not every world that is not Tuchanka is soft," she protested, even as she accessed her comm. "Omega dock, this is PV Ariesti mark 23.4, requesting departure from slip C-14."

{Acknowledged, Ariesti. Please state destination.}

Eír blinked, her lavender eyes confused. "Destination? They have not asked that before…why would they care our destination?"

Thug only shrugged. Eír depressed the control again. "Omega dock, I do not understand why you need our destination?"

{There has been a major event that compromised the Alpha relay and wiped out a system. If your destination takes you through or links to this relay you will be unable to access it. We are warning all ships that intend to link-}

A distant voice seemed to speak through her own lips, a black hole starting in her stomach. "Did…did you say the Alpha relay?"

{Affirmative. It and the entire Bahak system have been obliterated.}

Eír gripped the back of the pilot's chair, even as she got to her feet. She nearly stumbled stepping out from behind the helm, activating her omni-tool and selecting a number. Thug, grim-faced, stepped aside as she moved into the small crew compartment.

She pinged a number, paused, then pinged it again. Tears, unnoticed, began to shimmer in her eyes.

"Answer," she urged softly, frantically. "Shrive…Shrive, answer!"

Her omni-tool remained silent.

Thug went to one wall, linking a terminal into the extra-net feeds. In a heartbeat, the monitor was displaying six different news bursts…all of which seemed to be reporting on the destruction of the relay. Selecting TNN, he drew it forward to dominate the feed.

"…military has just confirmed, Commander Delilah Shepard has been arrested and is being escorted to a classified location. Neither the Batarian Hegemony nor the Alliance has yet to release an official statement but it is clear…the Alpha relay in the batarian system of Bahak has been destroyed. The explosion has wiped out the entire system, including the batarian colony of Aratoht, home to over three hundred thousand souls. Most of the information we have at this time has not been verified and we have no confirmation on how such destruction happened, however it seems the event or events that occurred to cause the relay's overload were, in fact, set in motion by Commander Shepard. The news of the first human Spectre's involvement only comes as a secondary shock in the wake of the news that rumors of the last six months are true: Shepard is still alive, and may have been undercover in the Terminus systems for the last two years."

The reporter droned on, but the krogan was distracted by his sister. Still attempting to contact Shrive, she was all but screaming into her omni-tool, demanding Shrive pick up. As Thug neared, reaching his hand out and touching her shoulder, she suddenly flared with biotics, sending the boy crashing across the room.


Rolling to his feet, the young krogan returned to her side without hesitation, gripping hold of her again. This time, she seemed to deflate, sagging to her knees as Thug caught her, grabbing hold of him desperately even as the first wail tore from her throat.

Were he any other race, her hold on him would have been painful, her fingers digging into the thick folds of his neck as she sobbed and raged. In a heartbeat grief turned to anger again, and she slammed her fists over and over into his shoulders, making incoherent sounds of raw emotion.

Sitting back on the floor as she slumped again in exhaustion, he hauled her into his lap and let her cling, a big arm wrapped around her shoulders.

"She did this," were the first real words to escape her lips in several minutes, her voice so strained with grief and hatred she did not even sound like herself any more. "Mother was right, Thug…Mother was right…"

Her words turned into a low moan of pure pain as she gasped. "Shrive…oh, Goddess…please no…please…"

There were no news crews, of course. Being as this was a secure, government facility the hounds were unable to get within a thousand feet of it. As the airlock opened, Shepard could smell the fresh, crisp salt air…feel the warmth of Sol in the bright blue sky above.

They had not taken her back to New York. Ashley had seemed distant, disinclined to speak to the Commander, and for the most part, Shepard was left alone with her thoughts in the brig, her only company a silent guard that had not been part of her crew.

Williams had stirred herself enough once, however, to go down and speak to her, albeit briefly. She had informed Del they were not taking her back to New York, but rather to the base in Vancouver, Washington.

Shepard thought idly that she had never before been to Washington state.

Her boots landed on tarmac, her hands cuffed behind her. Ashley was holding her right arm, an armed private standing close to her left. Shepard ignored them, looking at the distant mountains and fir trees through the clean white buildings of the city.

Del was no longer in her civvies. On Ash's lone visit, she had brought the commander a uniform. It felt strange to put the Alliance blues on again, just as strange as it felt to set foot on Earth once again.

The approach of boot-steps drew her attention and she drew up to her full height as her eyes moved from landscape to the group of soldiers approaching.

She was transferred into their custody, brought inside. The halls within were just as clean and white as the buildings without. Her mind was distant as she was processed, searched, cleared and taken into a small room with a low desk and a pair of chairs. Her bind-cuffs were loosened and then fastened to the desk, and she was left to sit for several minutes before the door opened again.

Two men entered. One wore the uniform of an Alliance Admiral and seemed at least a decade younger than Anderson. He had a set, but open face. She had never met him but she knew who he was: Rear-Admiral Perri, in command of the facility.

The second man was dressed in civvies. Heavily balding, wearing actual spectacles, he and his family had clearly not opted for gene therapy to correct the issues. In this day and age, on Earth rather than in a colony, that was almost like waving a sign that he was Liberationalist. The group, a quasi-religious sect, didn't hold to unnecessary therapies or genetic alterations.

He wore a neatly trimmed goatee and had the type of face that seemed to always be on the verge of smiling.

"Commander Shepard, I am Rear-Admiral Ekkin Perri, and this is our Chief Psychiatrist Hadar Wyatt. He will be conducting your psychological evaluation. I trust your journey to Bonneville was pleasant enough."

"Yes, sir, all things considering," she replied.

"We have an advocate on the way-"

As if on cue, the door opened again and another soldier strode through, saluting sharply. "Sir."

"Ah, here she is now. Commander Shepard, this is JAG officer Caroline Ferrel. She will be your legal counsel."

"Good to meet you, Commander," the woman replied with a polite nod. "Shall we begin?"

This round of questioning was only preliminary…she would face far more grueling, in depth scrutiny of every aspect of her activities since the original Normandy exploded until the moment she set foot in Vancouver, but that would wait until later. Alliance law dictated that she get at least twenty-four hours, any needed medical attention, and her full evaluation by a qualified psychologist before being submitted to any hard debrief.

Ferrel, at least, seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, and Perri seemed to be of a somewhat sympathetic mind, if slightly more reserved than Anderson. As for Wyatt, he only stood in the corner and listened. They were in that room an hour, and Del didn't hear a single word come out of the man's mouth the entire time.

She outlined her whole story, from waking up at the Cerberus base to the occurrences at the Bahak system. Perri seemed to want to continue, but Ferrel reminded him he had to wait until after her examinations before true questioning could begin, and the Rear-Admiral conceded. Shepard was escorted to a detention room. Ferrel remained with her for yet another hour, covering their options and reassuring her as best as she was able, before she departed.

Well, it's better than a goddamn cell, Del thought wearily. The room, incredibly secure and lousy with surveillance, was still rather larger and more comfortable than she'd been expecting. No console, of course. Her omni-tool had been confiscated. She did, however, have a window.

Moving over to the reinforced glass, she looked out onto the beautiful afternoon. The view overlooked the sprawling complex…only part of which was the detention center. Just past the lines of the complex she could see the harbor, the blue ocean waters shimmering with hints of gold from the sun. Seagulls danced and called, and the snowy mountains were wreathed in mist.

Vaguely, she could see her own reflection in the glass. Her hair had started to grow back in over the scar on the side of her head…not white but silver gray. She fingered the small locks idly.

How did it come to this? Alliance marine, first human Spectre…now a prisoner, a war criminal, a murderer?

She leaned her forehead on the cool glass a moment, her eyes closing. Weariness left the door open for grief, and she could feel the tears pricking at the back of her eyelids. Nan was gone. Liara was on the run. Her friends were all scattered to the winds, thousands of light-years away. She had sowed nothing but pain and grief over the last six months, ever since opening her eyes at that damn project.

Opening her eyes as she straightened, she suddenly froze. For a moment, her eyes fixed to the reflection of the asari standing just behind her, a slim blue hand resting lightly on Del's shoulder.

Just as fast as it seemed to appear, however, it was gone again…nothing but her own imagination and a trick of the light reflection through the glass.

Lowering her head, she stepped away from the window and moved over to the bed, sitting down and covering her face with her hands.

"We have Cerberus ships in solar orbit," Wilcher warned as he strode across the docking bay. The last of the equipment and provisions were being loaded onto the final shuttle, Liara directing their movements. The poor asari woman looked like she hadn't slept in days. "Liara, we have to go now."

"Get the last people aboard the shuttle," she urged. "How many ships are we picking up?"

"Twelve," he said. "Most small frigates but one's a monster. The Styx can't outgun it but if we go now we can make a run and hit the relay before they can react."

"I just have one more thing to do," she told him, already striding toward the control room.

"Hey, we have no time!" he protested.

"I know! Get these people on the shuttle! I will be there momentarily!"

She vanished from view, and he cursed before helping to load the final shuttle and hurrying the last of Thanatos aboard. Just as the engines were powering up, Liara reappeared, running toward them. She darted onto the shuttle, panting, and Wilcher hauled the door shut.

"Move it!" he shouted to the pilot, who immediately lifted off. Looking at Liara, the gentle giant asked, "What was that about?"

"A surprise for that big ship," she said. "I reprogrammed the guidance system on the base to use it as a homing point. If that ship comes anywhere near it-"

"It will kick up the engines and try and rendezvous…spectacularly," Wilcher blinked, then grinned. "I knew I liked you, Blue."

"Thank you. Now we just have to get out of here. Hopefully it will be enough of a distraction for the Styx to make a clean getaway."

They docked a few minutes later, Wilcher rushing up to the helm with Liara on his heels, already barking orders. The pilot was already turning the ship but they could see the Cerberus frigates closing in, the heavy cruiser sinking toward Hagalaz.

Then like a whale surfacing from the deep, the Broker ship appeared through the storm. The frigates, clearly thinking the bulky ship was trying to make a run for it, refocused on it, diverting away from the smaller Styx. A few lashed shots at it while it lumbered inexorably toward their heavy.

The cruiser tried to compensate but it was too late…the two enormous vehicles collided with horrible force, the twisted wreck falling back into the planet below.

Wilcher let out a whoop, hugging the asari tightly and hauling her off her feet a moment, before setting her down again and pointing at his pilot. "Get us through that goddamn relay before the frigates can regroup, and get us the fuck out of here!"

Dr. Wyatt looked up as the escort entered, Shepard between them. Rising, he strode over and accepted the data pad from one, signing it before passing it back. "Thank you, gentlemen. I can take it from here."

As the two guards departed, he lightly touched Del's arm, directing her to sit at a nearby desk. The chair was bolted to the floor, and he attached a fasten from the chair to the bind-cuffs she still wore. "I am sorry about the restraints. After the results of my evaluation there should be no more need of them…you will simply be required to have an armed escort around the secure areas of the facility."

"Better safe than sorry I guess, right Doc?"

"As you say," he replied affably.

Making sure she was secure, he straightened. "You have been through many of these evaluations before, I see," he told her, gesturing to the records lying on his desk. "You have…some borderline concerns but nothing that would keep you out of service. It is my understanding however that your PTSD has displayed new symptoms and you are now on…to use the vernacular…little greens?"

"That is correct," Shepard told him. His pale blue eyes smiled as he sat on the edge of his desk, regarding her.

"Nothing to be concerned about. Every other soldier out there is on little greens, Perri included. You are a smart, capable woman, Commander. You understand the need for these evaluations…for the steps the Alliance is taking regarding you and what happened in batarian space?"

"I am aware."

His smile reached his lips and he nodded. "Good. I do have to say, I have been following your career quite closely the last few years. You are…well. You are an amazing example, not only of an Alliance soldier but also of a human being. To endure such traumas in both your past and in service and yet maintain your sanity…not an easy feat."

Her dark eyes watched him warily, but she said nothing in response. Almost eagerly he clasped his hands. "Oh, did you hear the news? Councilor Anderson is resigning his post. I understand he is a good friend of yours."

This surprised her. She blinked. "Anderson is stepping down from the Council?"

"Yes. He and Fleet Master Barrett are taking the concerns of this Reaper fleet now in batarian space very seriously. He feels he can be more use helping to secure our defenses here. In fact, he should be on base sometime in the next day or two. Ambassador Udina will be stepping up to take his place on the Council."

"Of course he will be," she grumped, unable to hide the bitterness in her voice.

"You…dislike Ambassador Udina?"

"We don't always see eye-to-eye."

"Ah, I understand." He rose, walking around his desk. "Donnell Udina and I have worked together before. He can be a bit…hard to take sometimes, hmm?"

He sat behind the desk, clasping his hands in front of her, his expression warm and happy. "Now then…shall we get started?"

"Council…forgive me, Admiral Anderson," Perri greeted, saluting the higher ranking man as he strode into the facility. As Anderson returned the salute, Perri smiled at his companion. "I see your little side-trip was fruitful."

"Indeed," Anderson replied.

"It is nice to meet you, Admiral Perri," the woman greeted.

"Rear-Admiral, please. I'm not yet quite as important as Anderson," he laughed, taking a soft hand and squeezing it lightly. Anderson snorted, continuing forward as Perri fell into step beside him.

"How is she?" he asked.

"She's only had a preliminary debrief, but she seems very cooperative so far. I believe she's in for her psychological evaluation right at the moment. It shouldn't be too long."

"As you can imagine, we're a bit eager to see her," Anderson said.

"I certainly can. The moment she's out we can-"

"Sir!" An out of breath private suddenly ran up, tossing off a shaky salute. "Sir, we have a Code Four situation in Dr. Wyatt's offices!"

"What?" Both Perri and Anderson blurted the word at the same time, before they broke into a run, leaving the civilian to follow. She jogged after them, alarm filling her eyes.

Four armed guards stood gathered outside the door to Wyatt's office, the lieutenant in charge saluting the two admirals as they ran up. Against the far wall, a dazed and bleeding Wyatt was sitting. He struggled to his feet.

"Status?" Anderson barked.

"She's gone loco, sir!" the lieutenant told him.

"She's had a complete psychotic break," Wyatt stammered. "Turned violent. She could have killed me."

"That's not possible!" Anderson gaped.

"She's holed up inside," the lieutenant informed him.

"Armed?" Perri demanded.

"Not conventionally-"

"Shepard doesn't need to be conventionally armed to take out a whole platoon," Anderson growled. "She could do it with a stapler and an office chair if she were pressed hard enough."

"Permission to go in firing, sir?"

"Permission denied!" Anderson roared before Perri could even speak. "Take cover. I want that door opened. I'm going to try and talk to her."

The men cleared to either side of the portal before the lieutenant reached out and tapped the release. The moment the doors slid open, a data pad whipped out of them like a missile, all but shattering on the far wall.

"You see?" the lieutenant gasped. "Loco!"

"Commander Shepard!" Anderson barked from beside the door. "Stand down!"

All that answered him was an incomprehensible scream, an almost primal sound of both terror and fury that rang right up his spine. The office chair whipped through the air, crashing to the ground.

"Jesus," he murmured, then barked again. "Commander Shepard! This is Admiral Anderson! You will stand down! That's an order, soldier!"

"Leave me alone!" came the reply, almost painful in its desperation. "LEAVE ME ALONE! Go away and leave me alone!"

"What the fuck happened?" he demanded, looking at Wyatt.

"We were just talking!" he insisted. "She seemed fine, stable, and then she just…"

He gestured with a frantic, shaking hand at the door, as if in demonstration.

"What did you ask her? Right before this happened, what did you ask her?"

"I asked her if she was still smoking, that's it!" Wyatt gaped back. "It's in her records, I just asked if she was still smoking and the next thing I know she's out of her cuffs and slamming a paperweight into my head!"

Within the room, they could hear ragged sobs and gasps, a sound he never in a million years would have associated with Del Shepard. He looked back toward the door, only to feel his arm taken.

"Let me try and speak to her."

"No, it's too dangerous-"

"She trusts me, Admiral. Please…before something happens that everyone regrets. Let me go and speak to her. I am not afraid of her."

Jaw clenching, he looked at her, then the door, then finally nodded. "All right, we'll give it a shot. Men, hold your positions. No one make a move until I give the order."

"Shepard?" she called, Anderson shifting so she could take his place beside the door. "Shepard, can you hear me?"

Sobs and faint moans were the response.

"Shepard, I am coming in."

The office was large, and not all warm and homey. Some medical equipment lined the far wall, most of which had been torn away and scattered across the floor. The desk, old-fashioned wood, was tipped to its side. Data pads and papers were spilled everywhere.

A couch, a pair of overstuffed chairs, various knickknacks, were tossed madly around the room, like a whirlwind had torn through.

Jammed in the corner, secure behind the desk, sat Commander Delilah Shepard. She could not be seen, not just yet…but the grit-toothed sobs made her location obvious.

She reached the middle of the floor, moving slowly. So far, nothing had been flung her way. As far as she could tell, Shepard had not moved.

"Shepard," she tried again, keeping her voice soft and gentle. "Shepard, I am here. What has happened? What is wrong?"

The moans actually grew louder a moment. "No…no you're not," came the weak reply.

"I am here," she insisted. "Shepard, talk to me…"

A sniffle, a shuddering breath. Slowly, Shepard peered around the edge of the desk.

Her face was flushed, her eyes reddened. Her hair hung in limp, sweat-damp tendrils over her cheeks. Her dark brown eyes were wild misery. As they landed on the figure in the center of the room, her lower lip trembled and her head gave a faint shake. "No…"

"Yes," she insisted.

Del's face seemed to collapse. With a shove, the desk slid aside a little and the human woman all but surged out from behind it. A curtain rod fell from her fingers and she stumbled into the other woman's arms as if she'd been shot, almost immediately collapsing to her knees.

The other dropped to her knees as well, hugging her back tightly, possessively, shaking a little herself.

"Shh….shh, it's all right," she murmured. "It's all right now, my sweet baby. I'm here. I'm here…"

"God….Nan…" Shepard sobbed, as Anderson and Perri loomed in the open doorway, faces grim. "Nan…"


A/N: Yes! And that, my friends, is the end of DE2!

Yes, I know, kind of a cliffhanger, you hate me but…well, I can't help it. I hope the ending was somewhat decent and not entirely expected.

So, tomorrow will be the start of DE3, so if you don't have me set to your author alerts please make sure to look for it so you don't miss anything. DE3 is going to be the longest episode of Dark Energy yet, and a lot of harsh things are going to happen. Some will be Bioware's fault…some will most definitely be mine. As always, it will be left-of-canon.

It will be called Dark Energy: End of Days.

If you are prone to crying at ALL while reading stuff I highly suggest stocking up on a good amount of tissue for this next journey.

So…until tomorrow…adios, mah friends…and bring me that horizon.