I was none too pleased with the fact that no matter how hard I worked to unite and save everyone in Mass Effect 3, everything would still wind up terrible, so of course I am writing a fic to change that. :) Hope you enjoy.

The setting sun was dark and hazy through the smoke, the fallen Reapers and wreckage of the Citadel casting long shadows over everything that still survived.

The few remaining ground forces were gathering their wounded before allowing themselves time to celebrate and drink the memory of Reapers away, while their leaders tried to figure out the next steps after a battle they all expected to be their last. The other races' fleets headed for the Sol relay, eager to return home to their families and spread the news that the Reaper threat had ended.

The galaxy had finally won its freedom, and Shepard woke up.

She didn't see the sunset, the shadows, the dead Reapers, the people she'd worked so hard to save. She didn't hear the victorious cheers, the speeches, the sobs of everyone who lost someone. Her world was just... empty.

I'm dead, she thought, but her thoughts were sluggish, her mind disoriented by her injuries and the darkness. It was always going to end like this.

But the moment she tried to move, she realized her error – every inch of her screamed in anguish, and she whimpered, in so much pain that she couldn't stop herself.

So much for dead, she thought, though at this point she almost wished that was the case. So where was she?

A moment of contemplation face down on some sort of cold metal surface, but what it was or where it was from, she had no idea. Based on this, she could tell that her armor wasn't much intact, but the feeling of cold took a distant second place to the screaming fire at the end of every nerve. She was twisted oddly and covered in dust. The last thing she remembered was Anderson's head sinking onto his chest, the Crucible firing into the stars-

Then nothing.

Why couldn't she remember?

At least wherever she was, it wasn't totally dark. Though she couldn't see any light sources, her eyes were adjusting, enough for her to see her hands in front of her face at least.

First things first.

A grunt of pain as she turned from the awkward position she'd wound up in and sit up slightly, but despite her attempt to be careful, a shooting pain from her left thigh made her gasp and clutch at her leg. A rough section of nearly-destroyed armor and a sudden gushing of blood made her head spin.

The wound was still bleeding, and badly. How long had she been out? How bad was the wound that it was still gushing blood? She probed at it tenderly, wincing, and discovered the problem quickly – a bullet had ripped through her burned and broken armor and was buried deep in the muscle.

Getting shot was nothing new, she thought. Shot she could deal with, as long as it wasn't as bad as she thought it was. Now to make sure...

Okay, yeah, that's pretty bad, she thought, touching the wound gingerly.

Okay. So. I've been shot. What else?

She tried to keep it matter-of-fact so that fear didn't overwhelm her, removing her now-ruined armor and laying it in a neat pile to her side. In addition to the standard cuts, scrapes, and bruises, she'd been burned on her face and neck, though most of her exposed skin was red and raw underneath the dirt and blood. But where-

-a flash of red in front of her, an explosion threw her backwards, a scream ripped from her lungs-

She gasped at the vision, her hands scrabbling for purchase on the smooth metal and finding none. Her heart pounded loud in her chest, eyes wide in the darkness. What the hell had happened to her?

Focus, she told herself, and as always, she pushed aside the panic that threatened to overwhelm her, even as her nerves screamed at her and her mind rebelled, trying to force her into unconsciousness so her body could begin to repair itself. She pushed back, but she was tired, more than she'd ever been before. She tried to remember the last time she had more than a few hours' sleep, and her mind went back to her house arrest on the Citadel.

Had it really been that long?

Shepard tried to sit up more without moving her leg too much, and fumbling around in the darkness, she found a piece of metal at an angle where she could lie on it comfortably. That and her slowly returning vision also showed her that the space she was in couldn't be more than ten or fifteen feet long, and just a few feet high. Lack of significant air flow meant a mostly-enclosed space, possibly underground. It looked as if something had collapsed, burying her in this little chamber. Things seemed sturdy enough; perhaps that was why she hadn't taken more damage. She considered herself lucky, for once, that she hadn't been crushed to death.

Unfortunately, she was stuck somewhere dark, with ruined armor and no backup, as far as she could tell. Things could get real interesting.

"Kai-" she tried, but her throat was dry and her voice came out as little more than a whisper. She wished for water, but knew that wish would only get more desperate as she continued to be trapped here. "Kaidan?" she called, a little louder this time. "Garrus?"

No response. No echoes, no sounds of any kind. Nothing.

She was alone.

Never stopped her before.

This leg, on the other hand...

She narrowed her eyes and bent over the wound to examine it more closely. Now she was sure – the bullet had gone too deep in her leg for her to get it out. She knew leaving it in place would cause serious problems, but...

Better than bleeding to death, she thought, setting her jaw in determination and digging at the charred remains of her armor. The first two medigel capsules she pried out had broken when she – fell? She still wasn't sure. The little that remained of the precious contents were smeared onto the burns on her face, and while it certainly wasn't as effective without the built-in delivery system in her armor, she felt the relief immediately.

The third capsule was the last one she had, and she pulled it out to see a hole where nearly half the gel had been lost. But even this was more than the others had, and thankfully, it was enough to at least stop the bleeding on her leg.

She reached down to apply the healing gel, but paused a moment. Even as her leg screamed in agony and her brain knew that she had to do this or she would die of blood loss, she could tell how bad the wound was, and that this wasn't enough to heal it fully, especially with the bullet so deeply imbedded in her leg.

No choice, Shepard, she reminded herself. Have to live long enough to get back to the doctors.

The medigel covered the surface of the wound, shaking fingers spreading the gel as best she could, the relief instantaneous and so powerful she almost wept.

Shepard collapsed back against the metal, gasping for air and her head swimming. As the last rays of sunlight disappeared over the horizon, blackness crept up on Shepard, too, and she slipped into an uneasy rest.