By J.C. Vascardi
Legal Disclaimer: All characters and places featured in this story that relate to Mass Effect are the property of its' creators. I am not profiting from this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: Faced with three horrible choices, Commander Shepard chooses to reject them. This is the outcome of that choice.
Pairing: Male Shepard/Kaidan
Warnings: Slash, Language, Ending Spoilers for Mass Effect 3
Author's Note: Like many people who've finished playthroughs of Mass Effect 3, I was less than pleased with the outcome. I hadn't really intended to write a fic about it, but then someone on one of my Yahoo groups posted a list of rare and obscure words and issued a challenge to write a story which either used the word or its meaning. One of those words was lalochezia which means to use abusive or vulgar language to relieve stress or pain. I didn't actually use that word in this fic, but I tried to capture the idea that Commander Shepard was experiencing it while he cusses out the god child and I think I personally got some stress relief out of writing this, so, all in all, I'm happy with the story.
In case you're wondering, the Shepard I completed ME3 with was a male War Hero/Spacer Engineer, who was mostly Paragon throughout all three games, but did take advantage of a few Renegade interrupts when it seemed appropriate. On my playthrough, I managed to get the second best Destroy ending, i.e., I didn't get the clip of Shepard taking a gasping breath, mainly because I was never a fan of multiplayer in Mass Effect and thus haven't touched it, so my EMS wasn't high enough to trigger the best ending. Anyway, while I'd used the default Shepard in Mass Effect 1, before importing this Shep into ME2, I found a face code online that I liked, so, I changed his appearance in Mass Effect 2 and imported him with the new face into 3. I did change his hair a bit in 3 though cause I didn't really care for the way it looked upon import. Below is a link for a pic of him in ME3, written so that it'll hopefully show for those of you on Fan Fiction dot net that want to see it.
jayson dot worldofslash dot com slash one-shots slash choices-erik-shepard dot jpg
Chapter One of One
As he'd told Anderson upon arriving on the Citadel, he felt like death. Yes, he was walking, barely, but even after being spaced and rendered brain dead he had not been in as much pain as he was in now. Honestly, after a nearly direct hit from Harbinger's laser beam, which was strong enough to destroy the most powerful of ships in one hit, he was quite surprised that was even still alive. Perhaps he could chalk it up to the large number of cybernetic implants that he'd gotten when Cerberus brought him back to life after the spacing incident, but even if they'd managed to accomplish the impossible by saving him from brain death, he doubted they could save him from Harbinger's beam. So, why was he still alive? He supposed he'd never know, besides now really wasn't the time to contemplate it when trillions of innocent lives were hanging in the balance.
Unfortunately, his pain was not just physical. No, it was also mental, as he contemplated the completely asinine options that had just been presented to him. Yes, he wanted to save the galaxy from the Reapers, but never once during this war did he ever think for even a fraction of a second that it would come down to this. Two of the choices would result in the Reapers ceasing their attacks, but they'd still be alive, so what was to stop them from returning in another 50,000 years to continue the cycle of mass genocide they'd been perpetuating for untold millions of years? The third option was the only one that would result in the Reaper's destruction, so, at first glance it would appear to be the best option, even though this glowing child seemed to think it was the worst option.
Normally, Commander Erik Shepard would never even consider the thought of using harsh and abusive language on a kid who looked like he couldn't be more than five or six years old. However, the stress of this whole situation was getting to him. Plus, this kid claimed he was the one who created the Reapers, which would mean that despite his appearance, he was several million years old. At least 37 million years old if Cerberus was at all correct in their assumptions of just how old the derelict Reaper that was orbiting the brown dwarf Mnemosyne was. So, any sense of wrongness that Shepard may have felt rather quickly evaporated because even though this entity in front of him looked like a child, he didn't think you could really still be considered a child after thirty-seven million plus years.
"You have got to be the stupidest mother fucking idiot I've ever met," Shepard said as he looked down on this sparkly god kid. "Just let me get this straight. You're telling me that synthetics will always rebel and destroy their organic creators, so in order to stop organics from being destroyed by synthetics, you created your own race of synthetics to do it first? What kind of fucking twisted logic is that? You stand here and try to justify it by saying that your Reapers only destroy the advanced civilizations and that you leave the younger, non-advanced civilizations alone. Well guess what? That doesn't fucking excuse mass genocide!"
"You will never understand," the child said, completely unaffected by Shepard's language. "The cycle must continue, you must choose."
"Yeah, let's talk about these fucking shitty choices of yours for a moment," Shepard said. "Let's see here, I can choose to control the Reapers and order them to stop their attack and go back to dark space. But, my problem with that option is that they'd still fucking exist. So, tell me what the fuck would I be sacrificing my own life for in the long run? Yeah, they'd stop attacking now, but what's to stop them from coming back in another 5, 10, 15, or even another 50,000 years and start the genocide all over again? Honestly, just the fact that the fucking Illusive Man, may he rot in Hell, thought that was the best option leads me to believe that it isn't."
"You're wasting time," the kid said. "You need to choose."
"Shut the fuck up!" Shepard said. "I'm in more god-damned pain then I've ever been in my entire life and cussing you out brings me some fucking joy and relief, so I'm damn well going to continue whether you fucking like it or not. So, your next so-called option, which you seem to think is the best one, is for me to throw myself into that fucking shaft of light over there and kill myself in order to add my power to the power of the Crucible and fucking force every single being in the galaxy to undergo what you call the final step of evolution by turning them all into organic/synthetic hybrids and in so doing pretty much destroy the diversity of the galaxy.
"Did you know that I have a Prothean on my crew?" Shepard asked, "He survived the Reapers' last attack 50,000 years ago by going into cryogenic stasis. He's the last of his kind thanks to your fucking Reapers and do you know what he told me? He told me that ultimately the Protheans lost their war with the Reapers because their empire was too homogenized. They took all these other races under their wing, making them adopt the Prothean outlook and quashing all diversity. So, it was painfully easy for the Reapers to adapt to fighting a galaxy full of people with the same outlooks on everything. Now you're presenting me doing exactly the same fucking thing as being the best option. You're basically saying that the various races of the galaxy can never have peace with one another unless all diversity is eliminated and they all fucking become exactly the same."
Taking a deep breath, Shepard steadfastly ignored the painful constriction of his dry throat. God damn what he wouldn't give for a glass of water right about now, no wait, an entire bottle of Serrice Ice Brandy would be better. If he was going to be forced to pick from a list of three fucking stupid options, then at least being drunk out of his fucking mind would make it slightly better.
Continuing on his rant before the kid could say anything, Shepard said, "Of course, there's also the final option, which you have been presenting as the worst possible option of the three. I can destroy the fucking Reapers, which to be perfectly honest is what I've fucking been fighting for the last few years. To quote Admiral Hackett, "Dead Reapers is how we win this." And yet now, you're telling me that if I pick that option, I'll not only be killing the Reapers, but all synthetic life in the galaxy. So, the Reapers will be destroyed, but so will the Geth, EDI, and quite possibly even myself thanks to the large number of cybernetic implants that Cerberus gave me.
"While I was fucking prepared to sacrifice myself for the greater good of the galaxy, I am not fucking prepared to also kill the Geth and EDI to do so. Unlike the Reapers, the Geth and EDI have never done anything to deserve destruction. It was their Quarian creators that opened fire on the Geth. The resulting war only happened because the Geth were doing what any sentient being would do when they're attacked - they defended themselves. All the while, they were trying to appeal to the Quarians that they didn't want to fight them and that they didn't understand why the Quarians felt it was necessary. You say that synthetics will always destroy their organic creators. Forgive me but that's the biggest fucking load of bullshit I've ever heard in my life.
"If they wanted to, the Geth could have destroyed the Quarians utterly during the Morning War, but they let them live and never pursued them outside of the Perseus Veil. Fast forward a few centuries to less than a month ago, and the Geth are welcoming the Quarians back to Rannoch. Not only are they helping their creators to rebuild their once great civilization, they're also helping them to repair the non-existent immune systems that living in a completely sterile environment for centuries caused. Why the fuck would the Geth bother to help the Quarians rebuild and fix their health problems if their ultimate goal was to destroy them as you suggest. It would be far easier to wipe out the Quarians if they were left in their weakened state then it would be if they're given time to recover to full strength. I do not believe for a second, however, that the Geth will destroy their creators. Everything I've ever seen from them tells me that they respect their creators and wish them no harm whatsoever - they just wanted to be treated as equals instead of slaves."
"NO!" the child exclaimed. "The created will always destroy their creators! It's inevitable. That's why we created the cycle, to stop it before it could happen."
"And just what the fuck are you basing that on?" Shepard asked. "How many times did what you're saying almost occur before you felt the need to create this cycle of yours? And how many races over the countless millennia have you destroyed to prevent them from being destroyed by their own synthetic creations when they hadn't even created any in the first place when you destroyed them? Also, don't think I didn't fucking pick up on the fact that when I first arrived, you were saying "I created the Reapers" and that they were "my solution". And yet, halfway through the conversation you started saying "we" including yourself with the Reapers, as if to suggest that you fucking are one!"
The kid didn't immediately respond to that, so Shepard continued. "As for EDI, she's never done anything but help me and my crew and I really don't see that changing. She cares for everyone aboard the Normandy - hell she's in love with Joker and he with her. I'm not going to sentence her and the Geth to death to destroy the Reapers. Yes, an argument could be made that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but I'm not fucking going to be the one who sentences innocent people to death. Another major sticking point for me, is that you've said that no matter what I choose, the Citadel and the mass relays will be destroyed. I crashed a fucking asteroid into the Alpha Relay, so I know better than anyone that when a relay blows up, it causes the mass destruction of the system that it's in. So, no matter what I chose, I'd be killing trillions of innocent people."
Shepard coughed up a bit of blood at this point, but he ignored it, as he said, "Now, let's just say for a second that the destruction of the relay network doesn't result in all the planets in the systems with relays being destroyed. It still leaves the denizens of the galaxy fucking screwed beyond reason. The Quarians, Turians, Volus, Asari, Krogan, Elcor, Hanar, Drell, Batarians, and hell even the fucking Vorcha who sent their troops and ships to help take Earth back from the fucking Reapers will all be stuck in the Sol System if the relays are destroyed! There's only one fucking planet in the system that's capable of supporting organic life and as far as humanity has been able to determine, there are no other star systems in the Local Cluster that have any such planets. So, even if we do still have FTL drives, it wouldn't make much of a fucking difference. In many cases it would take centuries for them to get back to their home worlds without the relays and thanks to the damned Reapers, Earth can barely support its own people, let alone all the other alien races either on the ground or in orbit. Another wrinkle is that the Quarians and Turians as dextro-amino acid based beings, can't eat anything that's grown or produced in Earth's levo-amino acid based biosphere. So, once they've eaten all the food they brought with them on their respective ships, they'll be resigned to a slow and painful death from starvation!"
"Enough!" the child exclaimed. "You must choose! You will stop talking now and make your choice!"
Clearing his throat, which was beyond dry and scratchy at this point, Shepard said, "No."
"What?" the child asked.
"I will not fucking make my choice," Shepard said. "Not when two of those choices essentially result in the damned Reapers winning and the only one that results in them losing is the one that also kills hundreds of millions of innocents who don't deserve death. Besides, no matter what I choose, the galaxy would be royally screwed as I just finished pointing out. So, you either give me a fourth option that destroys the Reapers, but leaves the Geth and EDI alive and doesn't destroy the Citadel and the relays, or we can just stand here until I fucking bleed to death or the Crucible is fucking destroyed, because I reject all of your circular and completely nonsensical logic and your fucking three choices that royally suck and will result in the deaths of millions either way."
"WE ARE YOUR SALVATION THROUGH DESTRUCTION, FOOLISH HUMAN!" the child exclaimed, but it was no longer the voice he'd been using up until now, but a different voice that Shepard instantly recognized.
"Why am I not fucking surprised?" Shepard asked. "Hello Harbinger. What's wrong? You can't assume direct control of me? Because that's the only fucking way you're going to get me to pick one of the choices you've presented."
Silence was Shepard's answer for a few minutes, before Harbinger said, "ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL!" Shepard felt the Reaper trying to enter his mind and take over, but he'd be damned if he allowed it. If Harbinger wanted to control him, he'd have to kill him first and then possess his corpse because there was no fucking way that he was going to serve a Reaper willingly. After a moment, Harbinger screamed and said, "STOP RESISTING HUMAN! WE ARE YOUR SALVATION THROUGH DESTRUCTION! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!"
"That's where you're wrong, Harbinger," Shepard said, through gritted teeth, as he put every last ounce of strength he had in keeping the millennia old construct, generally believed to be the oldest of the Reapers, out of his head. "Resistance is not futile and I will not give in to you simply because that's what you fucking want. Honestly I don't give a shit what you want because you want all the wrong things. You can't save someone by destroying them! You're a murderer, Harbinger. You've killed untold trillions of innocent people over the millennia - I fucking doubt there's even a number high enough to accurately describe just how many you've killed. Trillions? Quadrillions? Quintillions? Sextillions? Septillions? I'm sure none of them come anywhere near even fucking close."
When Harbinger didn't say anything, Shepard asked, "Tell me, Harbinger. How did you come into existence? The child you were posing as certainly didn't create you and I know you didn't fucking create yourself. While you can claim to be some sort of superior being all you want, someone must have built you. So, what are you at the core, Harbinger? A rogue AI who turned on its creators? Did you destroy them and then decide that wasn't enough? You say that you're our salvation through destruction and that we should just let you help us ascend as if you're some kind of perfect being, but you're far from being bloody perfect. No being who can repeatedly kill trillions of people with no remorse every 50,000 years for untold millennia is perfect. Especially when the logic you use to justify it is so flawed."
"MY LOGIC IS NOT FLAWED, HUMAN!" Harbinger screamed. "YOUR MIND IS JUST TOO WEAK TO COMPREHEND IT!"
"If my mind is so fucking weak, Harbinger," Shepard said, "what the fucking hell is taking you so long? Why haven't you managed to assume direct control of my form yet?"
Harbinger screamed again, sounding much like the garbled mess of sound that David Archer had produced while he was plugged into the Geth consensus, but didn't say anything as he continued to try to take over Shepard and force him to choose one of the three options he'd been presented with. What he hadn't told Shepard was that none of the options he'd presented would actually result in the Reapers dying. Even if Shepard had chosen the Destroy option, the Reapers would continue to exist. Oh it might look like they'd been destroyed, but it would have just been a ruse to lure everyone into a false sense of security before they began the offensive anew. Oh it would take longer without the relays, but unlike the organics, the Reapers didn't truly need them in order to travel between distant points in the galaxy, because they didn't have any time constraints the way organics did.
No matter how hard he tried, however, Shepard resisted. He wasn't going to let fucking Harbinger and the other Reapers win, and he wasn't going to kill innocents and screw over the galaxy to stop them. What Shepard had no way of knowing, however, is that the other Reapers could hear everything that was being said. They could feel Harbinger trying and failing to assume control. And that led them all to a rather interesting question. If a single human could successfully resist the oldest and most powerful of them, were they really as inferior and worthy of destruction as Harbinger had led them to believe?
As that question and its implications began to run through the minds of the Reapers, many of them, especially the ones made from the more recent victims of the Reapers, such as the Inusannon, the Thoi'Han, and the Protheans began to reconsider some things. Hearing that one of their own had managed to survive struck a particularly strong cord with the three Prothean Reapers that had been created from the trillions of Protheans that hadn't been turned into the creatures dubbed Collectors. While the other Reapers continued to consider Shepard's words, Harbinger continued to try and assume control of him. He continued failing, however, and faltered in his attempt when he felt several of the other Reapers, over half of them in fact, disconnecting themselves from the collective consciousness that allowed all the Reapers to be in constant contact with one another.
Down on Earth, the gathered races could do nothing but stare in confused wonder, as several of the Reapers that had only moments before been laying waste to the planet stopped attacking and moved towards Harbinger. Nothing happened for a moment, before suddenly they resumed attacking, except this time, their powerful magnetohydrodynamic weapons were all directed at Harbinger, who immediately stopped his attempts to take over Shepard's body as he tried to put as much force as he could into maintaining his shields from the onslaught of the attack of his own kind. Meanwhile, up in space, the occupants of the allied fleets could only do the same thing as those on the surface - stare in wonder as Reapers began firing on other Reapers and completely ignoring everyone else.
"What the hell is going on?" Joker asked as he looked on from the bridge of the Normandy. "The Reapers are attacking each other now?"
"I have insufficient data to form a hypothesis, Jeff," EDI said. "However, I have determined which Reapers began attacking their own. Perhaps, we should send out the new targeting vectors to our allies so that they can focus their attacks on the Reapers that the others began attacking."
"Um, yeah, maybe," Joker said after a moment. He was at a loss for words, really, as he was scrambling to try and make some sense over what he was seeing. A Reaper civil war? Uh, yeah, he so had not expected that. "Do it, EDI. Let's just hope that they don't turn against us after the others are destroyed. Cause it looks like the ones being fired on by the others are the minority."
"Affirmative," EDI said, as she forwarded the new targeting vectors to the other ships. The captains of the other ships were also all wondering what was going on, but they could certainly understand the benefits of concentrating their fire on the Reapers that other Reapers themselves had begun trying to take out. They just hoped that they were picking the right side of the conflict. They were all, understandably, nervous about that, until Admiral Hackett sent out a broadcast message to the fleet, saying, "Even if it does turn out that it's the wrong side, at least we're taking some of them out of commission. It'll make the battle that may follow that much easier."
Back on the Crucible, Shepard stared in disbelief at what he was seeing. Reapers attacking other Reapers? The allied fleets focusing their firepower on the Reapers that other Reapers began attacking? What the hell was happening? It had stopped Harbinger from attacking him, however, so maybe that was a good thing. Just as that thought came to him, a large video screen appeared in front of him, as if the power of the Crucible had wanted him to see something. Shepard couldn't help the smile that spread across his face as he saw Harbinger down on Earth trying to defend himself against ten other Reapers attacking him. Many of the Reapers' ground forces, from husks to banshees had also stopped attacking and fallen dead to the ground as the Reapers who had been controlling them turned on Harbinger. Those that Harbinger himself had been controlling attempted in vain to defend him, but they were no match for the other Reapers as they were disintegrated in less than a second for trying to get in the way.
The battles on Earth, in orbit around it, and even on other planets such as Palaven and Thessia, lasted for several minutes, before finally Harbinger and the Reaper forces that had remained loyal to him were destroyed. Upon the fall of the final of that number, the other Reapers still on planets, lifted upwards and began leaving, heading for the nearest mass relay. In orbit around Earth, Admiral Hackett ordered the fleets to stand down and not attack any of the fleeing Reapers unless they attacked. None of them did, as Reaper after Reaper left the system. One stayed behind and it was soon that a message was broadcast to the fleets.
"People of the galaxy," it said. "We are withdrawing from your galaxy and returning to dark space. Once we arrive, we will activate our self-destruct algorithms and trouble you no more. Many of you may be wondering why we're doing this. It's because of the human you call Shepard. He resisted the control of the oldest and most powerful of our kind and made us realize that what we were doing was wrong. Accompanying this message is all the data on the mass relays, plus the accumulated knowledge of the last ten races to be assimilated by us, including the Protheans. Use it to help your people recover from our attack or dispose of it if you wish. We will not bother you again and the data will not indoctrinate you, as we no longer have any desire to control you. We've been made to see that doing so is folly."
After a moment's pause, the message continued, "Also enclosed is everything you will need to know about the Citadel and it's upkeep, as once the last of us is gone, the race you know as the Keepers will die. They were a sterile and dying race even before the invasion during which we made them the keepers of the Citadel. Without our continued intervention, they will be unable to reproduce, as they've been living on borrowed time for nearly ten millennia now. We've included what knowledge we have on their physiology. Perhaps you'll find a way to help them that we overlooked, but if not, you will need to take over the jobs they've done in the past if you intend to continue using the Citadel as the hub of galactic politics. Goodbye and good luck."
With that, the final Reaper still in the Sol System headed for the Charon Relay and within seconds, disappeared from the system. Silence followed, as everyone who'd heard the message tried to comprehend what they'd just heard. Many were grateful, others were confused beyond what they'd previous thought possible, while some others were trying to figure out how best to turn this unexpected situation to their advantage. One thing they all had in common, however, was being thankful that the conflict appeared to be over and were grateful about the role Shepard had apparently played in that.
After a moment of silence, Steven Hackett, said, "Commander Shepard, this is Hackett, come in." When he didn't get a response, he tried again, "Commander Shepard, can you hear me?" When still no response came in, Hackett turned to one of his crewmembers aboard his flagship and said, "Find Shepard."
"Aye, aye, sir," she said as she began scanning Earth, the Citadel, and any other location the Commander could conceivably be. After a moment, she said, "Found him, sir. He's on the Crucible. Sensors indicate that he's still alive, but only barely. His pulse is very weak and his brain activity appears to be decreasing."
"Dispatch a medical team to the Crucible immediately!" Hackett ordered.
"Admiral Hackett, this is the Normandy," Joker's voice came over the comm system. "We've just launched a shuttle to the Crucible. Dr. Chakwas and a team are on the way to help Shepard. Over."
"Acknowledged, Lieutenant," Hackett said. "Good job. Keep me updated on his condition."
"Will do, sir," Joker said.
Two hours later, Commander Shepard was in a private room at Huerta Memorial Hospital on the Citadel, which for the moment was still in the Sol System. Undoubtedly, the Council would want it moved back to the Serpent Nebula eventually, however, with three of the four Council worlds in near ruins and one of them lacking a Councilor until a new one was elected, moving the Citadel was the last thing on anyone's mind. As for Shepard himself, he was currently in an induced coma, as the doctors at Huerta had agreed that Shepard needed time to heal, as his injuries, both those to his body and his mind, had been quite extensive. The damage to his mind had initially stumped the doctors, as none of them could figure out what had caused it until EDI scanned the information provided by the retreating Reapers and after comparing it to the doctor's notes on the damage to Shepard's brain. It was EDI's belief that the damage was not permanent, but had been caused from the stress of him resisting Harbinger's attempts at indoctrinating him.
Sitting next to Shepard's bedside, holding his hand was Spectre Kaidan Alenko, who had been allowed to remain at Shepard's side since the two of them were romantically involved. Many of the doctors believed that having Kaidan there to support him through this could only benefit their patient in the long run and had cleared Kaidan to stay. Of course, even if they hadn't, Kaidan would have stayed even if he had to use his Spectre status to override them.
"Erik, you did it," Kaidan said in a soft voice. "The Reapers are gone because of you. Everyone on our team from the Normandy survived, so, you damn well better pull through, too." After a moment, he added, "I love you, Erik, and I need you."
Over the next few days, one of the doctors got tired of seeing Kaidan sleeping in a chair and had another hospital bed brought in which was wedged into place between Shepard's bed and the window overlooking the gardens of the Presidium. It was a tight fit, as the small room wasn't designed for two beds and it left only just enough space for the slimmer doctors on staff to get to Shepard's bed to check on him, but they didn't seem to mind that if it prevented them from having to treat Kaidan as well. And that was bound to happen if he continued to get such bad sleep. The older man hadn't left Shepard's side in days and they all figured he wouldn't, no matter what they did. Even the Councilors had ruled that Kaidan could stay, figuring that Shepard had just saved the galaxy, for the third time, so even if he was currently unconscious, he deserved to have his significant other with him during his recovery. Besides, with Kaidan there around the clock, they'd be alerted immediately once Shepard's condition changed. They were all hoping that would be soon as they wanted to thank him.
It was the middle of the night, about a week after the battle to retake Earth when Kaidan woke up rather suddenly. For a moment, he wasn't sure what had woke him up. Casting a confused look around the darkened room for a moment, he was just about to try and go back to sleep when he felt a pressure on his hand. Looking down he realized that Shepard was squeezing it. Moving so that he was leaning over the younger man, Kaidan whispered, "Erik?"
In the darkness, it was a little hard to see when the corner's of Shepard's mouth turned upward into a smile, but his voice, though dry and scratchy from not being used was unmistakable as he said, "Wondered how long it'd take for you to notice I was awake."
"How long?" Kaidan questioned. Inside he was practically jumping for joy. He'd never been a particularly religious person, but at that point, he couldn't help but send up a silent thank you to whatever higher power may or may not exist. Shepard was alive and the Reapers were gone. Definitely cause for joy as far as Kaidan was concerned.
"Can't see a clock," Shepard said, as he coughed a bit. "I'd guess about ten minutes though."
"Why didn't you wake me sooner?"
"I'm stiff and I ache all over," Shepard answered. "I tried to sit up, maybe kiss you awake, but abandoned that idea rather quickly due to the wave of vertigo I got when I tried to sit up." Coughing again, Shepard asked, "Can I have some water?"
Mentally chastising himself for not thinking of that first, Kaidan moved off the bed he was lying on and moved towards the door. Shepard caught his wrist and said, "Don't go."
Coming back and planting a soft kiss on Shepard's lips, Kaidan grinned and said, "I'm not going anywhere, but if you want water, I've got to alert someone that you're awake so they can get it."
Shepard sighed and nodded, as he released Kaidan's wrist. True to his word, however, Kaidan didn't go any further than the doorway. As soon as the door slid open, he called out to the nearest person, who happened to be an Asari doctor whose name Kaidan couldn't remember, although he'd seen her several times over the last few days. "Hey, excuse me. He's awake and talking. He needs a drink of water."
Smiling, the doctor nodded and said, "Of course, Major Alenko, right away."
Moments later, Kaidan was back on his bed, holding Shepard's hand in his left hand, while he held a glass of water with a straw for Shepard to drink from in the other, as two doctors, the Asari plus a Salarian examined Shepard. After a moment, the Salarian said, "His injuries are almost completely healed."
The Asari nodded and said, "Yes, they are. We'll need to keep him here for a day or so for observation, just to be safe, but it looks like he's well on the way towards recovery."
Kaidan smiled brighter than he had in days as he looked at Shepard and said, "You hear that, Erik? You'll be going home soon."
"Home," Shepard said. "I'm not even sure where that is anymore. I'm sure my actual home on Earth has been destroyed. Los Angeles was one of the hardest hit areas. I guess the Normandy will suffice though," as he looked at Kaidan and added, "As long as you're there, anyway."
Kaidan grinned. "Of course I'll be there, Erik." After a moment, he added, "Your mother has been here several times to check on you. She thinks it's cute how I've refused to leave your side all this time. She even tried to order me to once, saying I was no good to you if I starved to death, but I overrode her."
"Overrode her, Major?" Shepard asked, as he quirked an eyebrow, and the two doctors left to give the two men some privacy and pass on the news that Shepard was awake and talking. Of course, they had every intention of delaying that message for an hour or so - just to give Shepard and Kaidan a little time to catch up before the deluge of family, friends, and others descended on them.
Kaidan smiled. "She may be a Rear Admiral now, but I'm a Spectre, so yeah, I outrank her. Besides, Garrus, Liara, Tali, and James have all been making sure I eat. Hell, even Javik has come in a few times to make sure that I ate something. And after the Council gave me permission to stay, the doctors had this other bed brought in here for me so that I wouldn't be sleeping in a chair."
"I appreciate you staying with me, Kaidan," Shepard said. "And I love you for it, but, I couldn't have been very good company being unconscious."
"My place is at your side, Erik," Kaidan said. "You almost died. It made me take a hard look at things that I hadn't considered before. I knew going down to Earth that it was possible that one or both of us wouldn't survive, but I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. I was focusing on the mission and what had to be done. The last week or so, sitting or lying next to you, I've had a lot of time to think, however."
"So, what conclusions did you come to then?"
"That if you think you're getting rid of me, you couldn't be more wrong," Kaidan said. "You're stuck with me, Shepard, whether you like it or not. I suggest you find a way to deal with that."
Shepard grinned and said, "Wow, I don't know. Being stuck with a sexy man that I love with all my heart and whose also the best lover I've ever had in my life?" Kaidan blushed at that. "That's quite the hardship you're asking me to put up with, Kaidan." With a lascivious grin, he added, "That's gonna be really hard - in more ways than one."
"You jerk," Kaidan said with a smile, as he playfully hit Shepard on the shoulder, as lightly as possible so as to not injure the other man.
Shepard laughed and said, "I'm kidding, of course. I love you Kaidan and I'm definitely not going to complain about spending time with you. Especially if you keep doing that thing you did with your tongue when you came up to my quarters before we hit the Cerberus base. Keep doing that and I'll be putty in your hands."
Shaking his head, Kaidan grinned and said, "I'll keep that in mind. Seriously though, even though we're both Spectres, there's one thing I doubt either of us will be able to override your mother on for long."
"Really and what's that?"
"She made it abundantly clear that she expects a wedding invitation soon," Kaidan revealed. "Says that it's way past time that you settled down and thought about giving her grandchildren. Somehow, I really don't think the thought that we're both men ever crossed her mind."
"It probably didn't," Shepard said. "Mom knew I preferred men before I did. I have been with a few women over the years, but I always come back to men eventually. You know, I'll never forget the look on Mom's face when I told her. It was like she was screaming, "Finally!" in her head. Aloud all she said was, "That's nice, Erik. Now tell me something I didn't know." Apparently she suspected I was gay by the time I was fourteen and was sure by the time I was sixteen, even though I was about twenty-one before I finally came to that conclusion. So, she accepted years ago that barring a surrogate pregnancy, any grandchildren she did get would probably be adopted." Shepard remained quiet for a moment and then said, "You know we haven't talked about marriage or children, so, I'm curious what your thoughts are on those topics."
"I'll admit, I never really saw myself marrying a man," Kaidan said. "You weren't the first man I was with, but I've never been with one that I could see myself actually marrying. There were a couple of women I considered marrying, but nothing ever came of those relationships, obviously, seeing as how I've stayed single all these years."
"So, could you see you and me getting married?" Shepard wanted to know.
Deciding to turn the younger man's earlier words against him, Kaidan grinned and said, "I don't know, Shepard, being married to you? That would be really hard - in more ways than one."
"Okay, now who's the jerk?" Shepard asked with a grin. "Seriously, though, Kaidan I want to know."
"Yes, Erik, I can see myself married to you," Kaidan said, as he leaned down and placed a light kiss on the tip of Shepard's nose. "I love you more than I've ever loved anybody else. Somehow, I really don't think I'm going to find that kind of love with anyone else, so, I'm just going to have to marry you. I'm not getting any younger and your mother isn't the only one whose been pestering you about settling down."
"What your parents, too?"
Nodding, Kaidan said, "Yeah, they've been on me for years to settle down. Dad's not too bad, but Mom has been really on me. Her favorite line is, "Kaidan, you're thirty-five. It's way past time you found a nice girl and got married."
"A nice girl, huh?" Shepard asked as he grinned from ear to ear. "Somehow I really don't think I'm going to fit that description. I tried long hair as a teenager and I didn't like it, besides after years in the N7 program, I think I'm a little too muscular to look good in a dress. I suppose I could try to slim down a little, but..."
"Don't even think about it," Kaidan interrupted. "I like you fine just the way you are. As for Mom, I've never really liked discussing my sex life with her, so, she doesn't know I've been with men. None of the ones I was with previously were ever serious enough to do the whole meet the parents thing. She has met a couple of my past girlfriends though, so it's natural that she'd assume I liked women and comment accordingly."
"True," Shepard conceded. "So, do you think she'll have a problem with it? I know it's been legal for close to a century now and most people see nothing wrong with it, but I'd have to be blind and deaf not to know that there are still some people who think two guys being together is wrong."
As he said that, Shepard remembered an incident on the Citadel when he'd heard Ashley comment negatively about two guys that were clearly a couple who were dancing together at Flux. When Shepard didn't agree with her and had in fact told her she was wrong, she didn't say anything for awhile, but later made it clear that she'd said it because her religion said it was wrong. Shepard then said if her religion said love was wrong just because two people were the same gender, he didn't want any part of it. A week or so later, Ashley told him that she'd given the matter a lot of thought and that she was wrong to comment as she had. She was still religious, but she accepted the fact that perhaps there were some aspects of her faith that were wrong. That was also around the time that she'd begun to change her stance on aliens, so Shepard couldn't help but see the changes as a good thing.
"Ash was one of them, initially," Shepard said, before Kaidan could comment. "She'd begun changing her opinions before she died though. I still miss her terribly. We didn't always agree, but she was a good friend."
Kaidan nodded. "Yeah, she was. Do you ever regret leaving her behind on Virmire?"
"Every day," Shepard answered. "It wasn't the first time that I had to make a decision that cost someone under my command their lives and I doubt it'll be the last. But, I think even back then I had feelings for you, Kaidan. That doesn't mean I chose you over Ashley only because of them, but I can't say as that I regret saving you, Kaidan. Do I wish I could go back and save both of you? Hell yes, but, given recent developments between us, if I couldn't save both of you, I'm definitely glad it was you that survived."
Kaidan nodded again and said, "Yeah, I get what you're saying."
"Not to speak ill of the dead, because I bear her absolutely no ill will," Shepard said, "but I just don't think Ashley would be anywhere near as good as you are in the sanity check department. With everything I've been through the last few years, I'm going to need lots of them, by the way."
"Yeah, same here," Kaidan said. "As for my Mom's reaction to us, I'm not really that worried. Her younger brother is gay and she's never said anything bad about his partner. She seems to genuinely like him and accepted him quite readily. I'm sure she'll be a little shocked at first as I don't think she's expecting it, but I think she'll get over it quickly. I mean, I think I've done pretty well for myself, snagging the man whose saved the galaxy three times."
At this point, Shepard yawned, prompting Kaidan to say, "You should get some sleep."
As the doctors had told him when they were examining him that he'd been in a coma for just over a week, Shepard said, "I've spent the last week sleeping. I'll sleep when I'm dead."
"None of that, Erik," a new voice said, as Rear Admiral Hannah Shepard walked into the room. "You were grievously injured. You need your sleep as it's the only way you're going to heal. Besides, the more you rest now the sooner you'll get out of this place. I know how much you hate hospitals."
"Hi Mom," Shepard said as he reached out and squeezed her hand, before she leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. What she'd said was true, Shepard did hate hospitals, as he'd spent a lot of time in them when he was younger, after his father was seriously injured during a mission. He'd been in a coma for nearly a year before he finally passed away. Visiting him as often as he could had resulted in Shepard developing an extreme dislike of hospitals. He avoided them as much as he could and definitely didn't like being a patient for any longer than necessary. "I'm sure Kaidan will bust me out of this joint if I ask nicely enough. Spectre authority and all."
Shaking his head, Kaidan said, "Don't bring me into this, Erik Tristan Shepard! You're staying right where you are until the doctors say you can go. I fully intend to spend the rest of my life with you and I fully intend for that to be a very long time, so I'm not doing anything that might jeopardize that. Besides, you didn't break me out when I was injured on Mars, so, you're just going to have to deal with it."
Shepard grinned and asked, "Why Kaidan, is that your way of proposing marriage?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Kaidan answered. Getting a thoughtful look on his face, he added, "Although I do think I should probably tell my parents we're together before we get engaged. Although, once I do and you meet them, you'd better be ready, Shepard. Cause knowing my Mom, she'll be pushing for a Christmas wedding."
Hannah smirked at that and said, "She can push for that if she wants. Although, I'll be pushing for a Thanksgiving wedding, personally."
"Thanksgiving?" Shepard asked. "Mom, that's less than two months from now."
Raising one eyebrow, Hannah said, "Your point, Erik? I rather think we have plenty to be thankful for this year and I see Thanksgiving as being one hell of a celebration. Why not make it even better by you and Kaidan here tying the knot? Then you two can get busy adopting some grandkids for me to spoil."
Shepard's eyes were as big as saucers at this point, before he shook his head and said, "I'm going to sleep now." At this point he closed his eyes and pretended to sleep, as both Hannah and Kaidan just smiled.
"Watch over him, Kaidan, keep him safe," Hannah said.
"Always, Ma'am," Kaidan said.
Hannah smiled. "I like you, Kaidan. I think you'll be good for my son. Anyway, it's late, so, you should get some sleep too. I'll keep the others out until morning."
"Thanks," Kaidan said, as he settled himself down on his own hospital bed and Hannah left the room after kissing her son's forehead a second time. He'd be glad when Shepard got out of here, because Shepard's bed back on the Normandy was so much more comfortable than this one. While Kaidan had only spent the one night in Shepard's bed, despite their relationship, now that the war was over, Kaidan planned on sleeping there from now on. If the Alliance didn't like it, well, Kaidan didn't really care. Both he and Shepard were Spectres, so they could overrule them if they really wanted to make a fuss about it, but after Shepard had just saved the galaxy for the third time, he rather doubted that they were going to give him a hard time about fraternizing with a member of his crew.
Cracking one eye open, Shepard, his voice obviously tired, asked, "Is she gone?"
"Yeah, she's gone," Kaidan confirmed. "She's right though, Erik. You should get some sleep. We both should."
"We didn't finish our conversation," Shepard protested.
"We can do that in the morning, Erik," Kaidan said, as he entwined his fingers with Shepard's. "We've got plenty of time to talk about marriage and children. For now, let's just sleep so you can get out of here." Giving the younger man's hand a squeeze, Kaidan grinned and added, "Besides, the sooner we get out of here, the sooner I can do that thing with my tongue you like again."
"Oh now that's not fair," Shepard protested. "Dangling something you know I want in front of me to get me to do what you want? You're a manipulative little bastard, you know that?"
"And you wouldn't have me any other way," Kaidan commented.
"True," Shepard conceded, as he yawned again. "Fine, I'll sleep now. But, we are continuing this conversation in the morning. Between your mother and mine, we're going to have to. Honestly, I may have taken down Saren, the Collectors, and even a couple of Reapers, but from what I've heard about your Mom, I'm terrified of what's going to happen if she starts working with my mom."
"You're not the only one," Kaidan said, as he lifted Shepard's hand to his lips and kissed it. "We can worry about that in the morning, though. Sleep well, Erik. I love you."
"I love you, too, Kaidan," Shepard said, before he let sleep overcome him. Within minutes, both of them were in dreamland. While Shepard's dreams had been haunted the last few weeks with dreams of the kid that Harbinger impersonated up on the Crucible, now they were happy. No dark imagery, no voices, or little kids burning up. Now it was just happy thoughts of Kaidan and the life they were going to have together. It was definitely something to look forward to.
A day and a half later, Shepard was discharged from the hospital and he returned to the Normandy. He was still a bit sore from his injuries, but he didn't feel anywhere near as bad as he while he was up on the Citadel during the battle. He was given about two more days to rest, before the whirlwind activity began. The Council insisted that Shepard be present for the re-opening of the Citadel following it being moved back to the Serpent Nebula. He wasn't really sure why they wanted him there, until they dropped a bomb on him.
"Commander Shepard," Councilor Tevos said. "First off, you've saved the galaxy from the Reaper threat and we wanted to officially thank you. Not only have you saved all of our lives twice, but you've done more for the people of this galaxy and humanity than anyone else can claim."
"In recognition of your service, we agreed that you should be rewarded," Councilor Valern added. "However, we were at a loss for a suitable reward for your services."
Shaking his head, Shepard said, "Councilors, I don't need a reward. I did what anyone would do."
"No, you did not, Shepard," Councilor Sparatus said. "You went way beyond the call of duty and did way more than anyone else would have or probably even could have done."
"You've submitted a letter, resigning your post as a Spectre," Councilor Tevos said. "And it's come to our attention that you've submitted a similar letter to the Alliance brass."
Shepard nodded. "I'm not getting any younger, Councilor, and honestly, at this point I'm sick of fighting. I don't know what I'm going to do for a job, but as of now, I just want to retire from military service and have a nice, relatively quiet life with Kaidan. We're getting married and eventually, we'll likely adopt a few children. While I think I turned out okay being raised on starships, the constant moving around is not something I want for my own children. I discussed it with Kaidan and he agrees."
Kaidan nodded from his place next to Shepard and said, "Yeah, we want some permanency for our kids. We're not sure yet if that'll be here on the Citadel or on Earth, but we don't want to keep moving around all the time. I've been busy tending to a few other things, so, I haven't done it yet, but you can expect my own resignation soon, unless there's a nice desk job somewhere I can take."
"With plans to start a family together," Shepard said, "Kaidan and I agree that it's time we moved off the front-line and let someone else risk their lives for a change. Perhaps that's selfish, but we want to be there for each other and any children we have in the future."
"That's not selfish at all," Councilor Sparatus said. "You've done plenty and I can respect wanting to be there for your family. Spectre Alenko, there are a few jobs you can do here on the Citadel that will allow you to keep your Spectre status while also keeping you out of any immediate danger. You won't have to spend much, if any, time away from Spectre Shepard if that is your wish."
"You noticed that Sparatus referred to you as Spectre Shepard," Councilor Valern said as he looked at Shepard. "We do not accept your resignation."
Before Shepard could say anything, Councilor Tevos was speaking. "We do, however, have a proposition for you, Commander. You are perhaps one of the most upstanding and capable members of humanity. I know you would disagree, but the things you've accomplished speak for themselves. You defeated Saren, the Collectors, and a few Reapers. You negotiated a treaty between the Turians and the Krogan and as if that wasn't enough, you also negotiated peace between the Quarians and the Geth. Whether you're willing to admit it or not, you are an exceptional human."
"It is for that reason, Spectre Shepard," Councilor Sparatus said, "that we've spoken with Admiral Hackett, who agrees that what we have in mind would be a good idea, if you choose to accept our offer."
Casting a rather wary look at Admiral Hackett, who simply nodded in his direction, Shepard cleared his throat and asked, "What did you have in mind, Councilors?"
"As you know, humanity's seat on this body is vacant," Councilor Valern answered. "We've discussed it amongst ourselves, and Admiral Hackett gave his blessing. If you're willing, we would like you to fill that empty seat."
"It would most certainly take you off the frontline of military service," Councilor Sparatus said. "As you've already stated that's what you want, I see it as a win-win situation. So, the question is, do you accept the nomination?"
Shepard couldn't believe his ears. The Council was suggesting that he become humanity's councilor? Whatever he might have been expecting when the Councilors had said that they had a proposition for him, that had never even once crossed his mind.
Before he could comment, he felt a hand on his back, as he turned to face Kaidan, who was smiling. "Councilor Erik Shepard. I rather think it has a nice ring to it."
"I agree," Hannah said, as several members of the Normandy's crew and Shepard's squad piped up, all agreeing with Kaidan.
"I don't know what to say," Shepard said after a moment. He was stunned. Beyond stunned, actually. He'd thought maybe he could just fade into obscurity after this. Okay, yeah, he knew that wasn't likely to happen after everything he'd done, but becoming a Councilor? He'd be front and center, representing humanity's interests in the galactic community. Did he really want that? He was tempted to say that there were better candidates who had far more experience than he did, but he remained quiet. He knew that nobody would accept that argument. After all, as they'd said he brokered peace between the Krogan and the Turians and the Quarians and the Geth. If you'd asked him only a day before he'd done either of them, he would have told you that it was likely impossible and yet somehow, he'd done it.
Moving so that his lips were against Shepard's ear, Kaidan whispered as softly as he could, "Come on, Shepard, say yes. You may not think you're qualified, but I believe in you and so do your friends."
Turning his head, Shepard grinned and said, "I just can't say no to you, Kaidan, which will probably be the death of me." Turning back to the Councilors, Shepard said, "Very well, I accept the nomination."
"With the Alliance parliament destroyed, there's nobody around to object to the nomination," Hackett said. "Although I sincerely doubt anyone would. My office has contacted some of the heads of the various governments back on Earth. They all agree that if humanity is going to move forward, we need a strong and capable person filling our council seat and none of them objected to your appointment Shepard. In fact, they all readily endorsed it."
"Well, in that case," Council Tevos said with a smile, "Welcome to the Council, Councilor Erik Shepard."
"Thanks, I think," Shepard said, and then as an aside to Kaidan he whispered. "I really hope I don't regret this."
"You won't," Kaidan said with a smile. "Besides, I'll make it worth your while once we get back aboard the Normandy."
"We probably won't be living there much longer," Shepard said, loud enough for several others to hear him. "I mean, if I'm a Councilor, I imagine I'll have to get an apartment here on the Citadel and I'm sure the Alliance wants their ship back."
Hackett shook his head at that. "Shepard, that ship may fly Alliance colors, but we stopped thinking of it as our ship a long time ago. In fact, I don't think we ever really thought of the SR-2 as our ship, even after we refitted it." At Shepard's confused look, Hackett said, "The Normandy is yours, Shepard. Everyone at headquarters agrees with me. If it stays here as part of the Citadel fleet, then it's doing an important job. Besides, if a situation calls for it, you can always send it out under the command of your XO. Or you can take it yourself, if you chose, Captain Shepard."
"Captain?" Shepard asked.
Hackett nodded. "You've been commanding a ship for two years now, I rather think you're overdue for a promotion. The idea of promoting you to Rear Admiral was considered back at Headquarters, but I quashed that idea. I knew the Council planned on offering you the Council seat and figured you didn't need an Admiral's star, in addition. Wouldn't want you to get a swollen head, Shepard." After a moment of silence, he added, "But some form of promotion was still deemed necessary, so, we're making you a Captain. And before you say anything, your resignation from the Alliance is not accepted. You'll be taken off active duty so that you can fulfill your new duties here, but as long as I have anything to say about it, you will remain an Alliance soldier, Shepard."
Shepard smiled. "Yes, sir," as he saluted him.
"You're a Captain and I'm an Admiral," Hackett commented. "But you're also humanity's Councilor now, Shepard. You don't need to salute me. Honestly, after all you've done, it should be me saluting you, Shepard."
"Okay, can I just say that I totally never expected this?" Shepard said. "I know I accepted it, but you know I don't really want the Councilor position. Despite my recent necessary forays into politics, I'm not a politician, so I don't feel qualified for the job, even though I know you'd all disagree."
"You're right, we would," Kaidan said. "Besides, Erik, I seem to recall you saying two years ago when you suggested Anderson for the council saying that he was perfect for the job because he wasn't a politician and he didn't want the job. Udina, on the other hand, did want the job and look how that turned out."
Shepard shook his head. "Okay, you may have a point. I'll try to do my best."
"That's all we can ask," Sparatus said. "Now, we have a lot of work to do if this galaxy is going to recover. I suggest we get to it."
The other two councilors nodded their agreement and after a moment, Shepard nodded as well and said, "I agree. Just know though, in about a month or so, I'm going to need two weeks off so that I can take Kaidan here on a honeymoon he's never going to forget."
"I'm sure we can accommodate you, Erik," Councilor Tevos said, deciding that it was time she called him by his given name now that he was one of their number. "Provided, of course, we get invited to the wedding."
Shepard grinned, as Kaidan nodded and said, "I don't think that'll be a problem, Councilors."
"Good then, let's get to work," Councilor Valern said.
"I'll join your all momentarily," Shepard said. "First, however, I have some pressing business to attend to."
Before anyone could say anything, Shepard grabbed Kaidan in his arms and dipped him backwards in a passionate kiss and very obvious tongue action. He really didn't care if he was making anyone uncomfortable with such a public display of affection. He loved Kaidan and honestly, he wanted everyone to know it. The thought that it was perhaps wrong for a Councilor to be romantically involved with a Spectre did very briefly cross Shepard's mind, but as Kaidan began returning the kiss, that thought quickly left his head.
He wasn't sure how the coming months and years would turn out, especially given his new duties, but he was sure of one thing. As long as he had Kaidan by his side, he could get through anything.