By Jackie Almasy
How long had Shepard been down here? It remained a mystery even to her now but she couldn't say she was surprised by where she had ended up in her drunken stupor.
The exhausted woman raised her sapphire blue eyes to look around the dimly lit room. Two drastic colors opposite of each other illuminated the metal linings of the Life Support room. At first, Shepard had never really paid attention to the orange hue to her immediate left whenever she walked into the room in the past. However, now left with nothing but her thoughts and regrets haunting her every step, Shepard was slightly amazed at how the tiniest of details set her off.
Or it could have been the now completely empty bottle of Serrice Ice Brandy laying on its side in front of her that could have contributed to this new line of thinking. The other bright white light illuminating the weapons case cast itself along the floor and onto the single table.
Shepard slowly realized that in her drunken stupor, she had barely made it to her seat. Or what had been her seat while he was still alive. Taking in a deep shaky breath, the Commander ran a hand through her short black hair. The rough skin of her scar making its way from her left eye up into her scalp seemed more detailed than usual. Her mind and body felt like it was swimming and for the first time in months, it felt lighter.
Lighter than the last few weeks. It had all happened so quickly. The events leading up to this moment made her feel like she was drowning in posture and responsibility, pompous and circumstance. The whole galaxy was riding on her shoulders and despite her best intentions to remain as strong as she could, the loss of the data on Thessia had been the domino piece to send her cascading over the edge.
Tightening her hands into fists on the table, Shepard fought hard to control her raging emotions. Standing up from the chair, the woman began pacing back and forth in front of the window Thane had always stared out of. During the Collector mission, it would never fail to see him meditating in silence whenever she would come to visit. She would always wonder in silence how someone with so much talent in the art of killing could attain such a peace.
Maybe it was what made her fall in love with him.
And now, despite knowing their time together was going to be limited, he was gone. Ripped away from the little precious times they had left. By Cerberus and Kai Leng.
Stopping in front of the gun case in her awkward pacing, Shepard's breathing became ragged and harsh as she desperately struggled to contain her emotions. She bit her lip so hard to fight the oncoming tears that she began tasting her own blood. But it was no use.
Her shoulders began shaking heavily as the Commander shook her head. The tears felt like they would never stop as would the images that haunted her day and night. She never slept. She only dreamed. Images of the little boy from Earth constantly filled her dreams as did the whispers of all her fallen comrades. The voices always varied from Kaiden's last words on Virmire, the last plea of Matriarch Benezia, and what seemed even more horrifying was now Thane's voice had joined the chorus of accusing whispers.
No, what happened to Thessia is not what had set her off.
It was the fact that her lover's killer had walked away free. Once again and without Shepard giving her to her one desire of revenge. She wanted to torture him and drown him in the mere shallows of the ocean of pain that he had caused her.
Her anger had reached the precipice and she didn't care how it came crashing down now.
Without evening realizing it, Shepard had reached over and grabbed the empty alcohol bottle. Letting out a bitter scream of anger and inscrutable pain, the Marine used all her strength to send the bottle flying. It missed Tali's face by mere inches as the Quarian engineer walked into the barely lit room.
Screaming in shock, Tali looked to the side to see the pieces of the glass shatter and go flying.
"Shepard! What is going on?"
Walking foreword, the Quarian stopped dead in her tracks as Shepard's emotional state of mind became apparent in front of her. It had only been a few hours since the team barely made it out of Thessia. Tali felt her heart begin to break at the sight of her dear friend.
"G-Get out! Just leave me alone! Please!" Shepard stated as she turned away from Tali. Going to the window, Shepard leaned heavily against the glass to stabilize her body. She was surprised she was even standing with how badly her body was trembling.
"No! Shepard, you need help! You're at a breaking point!"
"I said get out!"
Tali could feel her own eyes watering at the sight of her best friend before her. This woman now held the concerns and hopes of an entire galaxy on her and Tali had never seen her get emotional these entire weeks.
While it may seem selfish, a part of the Quarian had hoped never to see the pinnacle of the Alliance crack and stumble.
"No… I refuse to leave." Tali's soft voice spoke. Standing her ground, she watched the woman tighten her right hand. "Not until you let me help you."
"You dare disobey a direct order from your commanding officer Tali?"
"Yes I do! Shepard, what happened on Thessia was not your fault!"
Turning around sharply, the world around her spun as Shepard barely managed to grab the chair in front of her before falling. The cruel grin spreading across her lips reflected the bitterness in her words.
"It's not my fault huh? And what makes you think that Tali?"
"There was no way we could have stopped all those Reapers! There were thousands attacking that planet!"
"They were my responsibility! The Asari Counselor entrusted me with the safety of her home world!" Shepard's voice grew in volume and even in her severely altered state, she could hear the growing crowd outside the Life Support doors.
How dare they.
"Don't do this to yourself!" Tali began as her voice quivered. "We will find the data! Cerberus will pay!"
"Don't you fucking dare talk about Cerberus to me!" Shepard snapped and could still feel the tears fall from her eyes. "What would you know about what I am going through?"
"We're so worried about you Shepard! You look so pale compared to how you were when I met you back on the Citadel! Your eyes are so heavy with a lack of sleep!" Tali pointed to the door behind her. "Your entire crew wants to help share the burden of saving this galaxy! But we've failed!"
Remaining silent in shock, Shepard watched as Tali continued pacing and speaking with a raised voice.
"Garrus and I worry so much about you! We keep hoping that whenever you come to check on us, it's to unload so that we can get the chance to help you rather than us needing you! It's not fair to you!"
"I don't need your help!" Shepard felt her anger and frustrations boiling over. Common sense would dictate she needed help but now, in her lowest moment, she didn't want anyone to see her. She just wanted to be left alone.
Alone with her grief and sadness.
"Yes you do!" Stepping foreword, Tali brought her masked face inches from Shepard's. "You're drowning! Drowning in all this responsibility and demand!"
"Get away from me…" Shepard warned slowly. She could feel the prickling in her mind of her biotic implants coming to life.
"And what's even worse, you didn't let anyone help you in dealing with Thane's passing!"
The light blue flickering of the marine's biotic powers grew stronger and stronger as Tali continued to push. The Admiral had no idea how this was going to end but the situation was long past the boiling point.
"You don't know anything about that!"
"I wasn't there but Garrus was! He told me of the horror in your eyes as Thane was stabbed! He heard your scream of his name!" Tali saw the N7 hoodie on Shepard's arms bunched up around the elbows of her friend. She didn't know if she was going to be hit but if it meant relieving her friend of some of her worries, she didn't care if her suit ruptured.
"Shepard, we know you loved him dearly!"
The commander now felt cornered and very much afraid. She didn't like feeling this open and vulnerable. In fact, she hated it.
"I said get away from me!"
"You never shed a tear for him! How can you not cry for losing the man you loved?"
Those words send Shepard careening over the edge. Letting out a gut wrenching scream of pain and agony, Shepard felt her biotics release in full power. Lifting her hand up, Shepard barely managed to direct her hand away in time from Tali's mask to the glass window next to her.
In her adrenaline, Shepard didn't feel the layers of glass beginning to crack and shatter under the power of her biotics. She didn't feel the thousands of tiny shards flying out towards the table and chairs. It wasn't until she looked down to see dozens of glass shards embedded in her hand, wrist, and arm. Blood quickly started falling down her arm and dripping down onto the floor.
It was in the oncoming wave of pain that she finally felt the air to breathe her true feelings.
"I JUST LOST THE MAN I LOVED!"
Falling to her knees amongst the glass shards, Shepard barely noticed Tali's sudden scream for assistance to those outside the door. The tears fell down her face in what seemed like rivulets. She couldn't hold back her cries of sorrow anymore as the images of Thane's smiles came rushing back through her mind. The lingering memories of his warm embrace during the nights they slept together felt like whispers of ghosts long past. Even worse, in her moments of agony, she could still hear his whispers of love and promises of protection along her ear.
Opening her eyes, Shepard found herself lying on the floor against Tali's body. Propped up in Tali's arms, she slowly registered the tender stroking of her friend's hand along her black hair strands. She felt her injured arm tenderly being pulled out and in the background, she could hear Dr. Michel's orders of what to do.
The cold invasion of the medi-gel filled her senses and in the brief moment of clarity amidst the pain and sorrow, Shepard could hear Tali's trembling voice.
"It's okay Shepard… It's okay." Tali sniffled through her mask. "I'm here. You can cry all you want. I'm not going anywhere my friend."
Shepard felt her free hand being lifted up as Lieutenant Cortez came into view. His own face was wet with tears. However, the sad smile on his face said everything.
She was allowed a moment of sorrow in this war. She, the only hope for this galaxy to survive the onslaught of the Reapers, was allowed time to mourn.
Feeling Cortez pick up her form in his arms, Shepard never once felt Tali's hand leave her own as she was quickly rushed to the medical office down the hallway.
It was then that Shepard truly felt a weight being lifted off of her shoulders. Possibly even her heart a little bit too.
It was a blessing she never thought she would be allowed.
Where do I begin with this?
First off, I cried like a baby during the aftermath of Thane's fight with Kai Leng. Then I cried even more at this death scene. While we can expect Thane's departure from the game, I never thought BioWare would do such a good job at it.
I was left wondering when did Shepard have time to grieve for her lost loved one? This was the love child of that idea. I would love comments to be left but please be discreet in the comments as not everyone has beaten Mass Effect 3 yet.
Song Inspiration: "I Was Lost Without You" by Sam Hulick.
Till next time,
Mass Effect 3 is copyrighted by BioWare and Electronic Arts. I own nothing.