I wasn't actually too disappointed with ME3's ending as a whole. The only thing that really bothered me was the Normandy crash landing on some random planet, where Garrus and Tali will probably die due to the lack of dextro food and poor Liara will be alone long after everyone else is dead. So, headcanon mode activated. This is the result...
"Earth…I wish you could see it how I do, Shepard. It's…perfect…." The Illusive Man sighed, before his eyes shut one final time.
Despite all that had happened, Commander Shepard couldn't help but feel a slight pang of pity. Not regret, not sorrow, just pity for a man who had died under the Reaper's influence. Nobody deserved that, not even the leader of Cerberus himself. Stepping over his body, Shepard staggered away from the control panel, groaning in pain as he settled down next to Anderson. He couldn't help but grin at all that had happened. Three years ago this had started with him and his old mentor, teacher and student, father and son. Fitting it would end with the two of them as well.
For a moment, they just gazed out at the impressive vista of Earth. Simply watched as an area would light up every now and again, almost like watching a glorified fireworks display. It didn't feel right to either of them, settling down on the sidelines while there was a war going on. But…it felt good.
"Commander…" Anderson coughed, clutching the bullet wound from the Illusive Man.
"We did it." Shepard replied weakly.
"Yes…we did. We both did." Anderson went into a fit of coughs, before choking. "It's…quite a view."
"Best seats in the house." Shepard replied, with what would have been a grin.
"God…feels like years since I just…sat down."
"I think you've earned a rest, sir."
"You ever wonder…how things would be different…how our lives would be…different, if this never happened?" Anderson coughed again, staring dreamily at the blue planet. "I never had a family Shepard. Never had children."
"There'll be time for that, sir."
Anderson laughed, although it soon became a wheeze. "I think that boat has sailed…what about you, ever think of settling down?"
Marriage, old age, a lot of little blue children…he was joking around when he said that to Liara months ago. It wasn't until recently he'd put it into serious consideration, and eventually decided if this ended how he'd hoped it would end, then he would live out the rest of his life with that Prothean researcher he'd met on Therum. Although, the chances of getting out of this alive seemed slim now, the way he was bleeding out…
"I've put some thought into it. Don't think I'd be much good at it though…" Shepard muttered, almost absent mindedly.
"I don't know Shepard. I think you'd make a great dad." Anderson choked, his words becoming audibly weaker with every sentence. "Think how proud your kids would be, telling everyone, their dad, is Commander Shepard!" Another fit of coughing, before an image of Liara, a delicate blue child held in her arms, with her mother's perfect, blue eyes, crossed Shepard's mind.
"Yeah…I like the sound of that." He almost grinned as he said it.
"But whatever you do…" Anderson chuckled through clenched teeth. "Don't name it after me. For the love of…"
Shepard really did smile this time. "An Asari named David? Liara would love that, I'm sure."
Shepard wasn't sure if Anderson had heard him through his desperate gasps for breath, until he saw his attempt at a smile.
"Name it something good. Name her after yourself."
"Me? That would be even worse. There's a reason no one uses my first name." Shepard said, through another attempt at a smile. "Definitely wouldn't work for a girl."
There was another break of silence, where the two of them just stared out as the Crucible docked. In a few minutes, this would be over. Whether or not either of them would be around for it remained to be seen, but at least it was finally finished. For everyone. Garrus, Tali, James, Ash, Liara…they'd all get to see tomorrow.
I guess people like us don't get that privilege…He thought to himself. All this talk of children, and here he was…bleeding out right above where it all began. Earth. They'd been here right before they answered the distress call from Eden Prime. He had vivid memories of gazing out a viewing window on the SR1, as Anderson answered the message. Just another routine mission. Look where that took them. Nihlus, The Geth, Saren, The Collectors…
"Been a hell of a trip, hasn't it?" Shepard thought out loud, with no response from Anderson. "Sir?"
Anderson's head was lulling to the side. "You did good son. You did good. I'm…proud of you."
"Thank you sir…Anderson?" Shepard breathed. Only when Anderson's breathing had stopped, and his eyes shut, did Shepard realize he was gone. Despite himself, he felt a rogue tear cascade down his cheek. He'd held back his emotions most of the time, but now, he felt no need.
It's been an honor, sir. Shepard thought to himself. I don't think you'll be alone long…
Shepard sighed, not just for the moment, but for the last three years, as if all the worries he'd been holding since Eden Prime had been lifted off of him. He smiled, leaning his head back as his mind drifted to a certain set of blue eyes he loved so much.
I'll be waiting, Liara. It might take a thousand years, but I'll be waiting.
Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.
A familiar scene rose up before him. Grey mist. Ghostly figures of smoke. Almost like a forest, the occasional park bench breaking up the nothingness. Echoing whispers bounced off every black pillar, as he bounded through the forest, breathing hard.
It's the right choice, and you know it Ash!
A figure stands in the distance. It is tall, slender limbs seeming to bound it forward like stilts. With a wail, it vanishes in a cloud of smoke. Confused, he continues on, a child in the fog, a seemingly angelic glow all that makes him visible.
Does this unit have a soul?
When he seems to be within arm's reach, the child disappears. Bewildered, he turns, to find the slender figure, it's face obscured by smoky blackness. It strikes, knocking him down. Leaning against the tree, he calls. No one answers.
Kalahira, mistress of inscrutable depths…may this one be a companion to you, as he was to me.
With a cry of pain, he rises. The slender figure is gone, replaced by a herd of sheep. There is a man, a shepherd, guiding them along. His face obscured, he turns. The shepherd nods, and continues on, vanishing in the fog, moving someplace very far away.
It would be easy for a single ship to get lost out there, wouldn't it? To find someplace very far away…
He continues on, his cries for help becoming more desperate. Never before has he felt so distressed. So lost.
Where you could live the rest of your life in peace, and happiness…
Never before has he felt so alone. Never before has he felt so unsupported.
I backed you when I was just a kid on her Pilgrimage. What kind of friend would I be if I didn't back you now?
He collapses, curling into a fetal position and shouting for help. He feels himself begin to slip away…
May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead…
He opens his eyes. The same child is in the distance. He stares blankly. His eyes are hollow.
Goodbye, Shepard. And thank you.
The child is gone. A pillar of smoke is now in his place. He runs towards it, hoping this is merely a trick.
You did good, son, you did good…
The pillar is the slender figure. It strikes again. He falls, shouting for help. No one listens.
And then your old friend picks you up, dusts you off and tells you you're the best damn soldier he's ever met.
He doesn't want to get up. He wants to sleep. He wants to sleep and never wake up.
Die on me and I will kick your ass!
He rises. The slender figure is gone. He wonders who he is. Why he is alone here.
Commander Shepard. Savior of the Citadel. The first human Spectre. You're in the presence of a god, Delan.
The name 'Shepard' repeats. Some sound desperate. Some sound like whispers. The shepherd and his sheep approach.
There is no one I would rather see leading us in our final hours…
The shepherd's face clears. Blue eyes. Beautifully blue eyes.
I love you, Shepard.
The other voices were whispers. Distant. That one is recent. Familiar. The child approaches. He reaches out his arm. He takes it. The child nods. A white light approaches.
I need you to promise. Promise me you're always coming back.
To be continued...