Love, Blood & Tears
Chapter 50:

Shepard sighed heavily as every step she took felt harder to make. She trudged through the base; intent on saying her goodbyes to her beloved crew. She walked around in a daze, looking at the destruction of the base area alone, until her eyes fell upon a familiar face.

"Hey Commander," Vega solemnly said as Shepard approached him.

"What? No Lola?" she teased with the biggest smile she could muster.

"Huh?…Yeah, sorry," he replied as he looked down at the ground.

"Are you okay?"

"I don't know what I thought I'd feel coming back to Earth," Vega said, "I was ready to fight - ready to die if I had to. But seeing everything like this…"

Shepard swallowed down her own concerns and fears as she braced Vega's arm; knowing that his resolve needed to be strengthened in that moment.

"I know it's hard, but this is only temporary," she said as she locked eyes with him. "We will win this. So stay focused and don't let them shake your resolve."

"I know, I know," Vega replied as he stared into the eyes of his determined Commander. "You're right. So…I guess this is it? One more push…one last fight."

"One last fight," she repeated in barely a whisper as her hand fell away from Vega's arm.

"It's been an honor serving with you," he said as he got a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face.

"Vega…what are you…ooff!" she grunted as he pulled her into a bear hug. She laughed as she wrapped her arms around him and patted his back. "You're a good man and a terrific solider - don't let anyone tell you different. Whatever happens out there today, I know you'll make me proud."

"Thanks, Lola," Vega said as he gave her one last squeeze before setting her down and stepping back. "Good luck out there."

"You too," she said with a smile as she walked away.

She made her way to the communication room next and contacted Jack. Shepard smiled as she saw the hologram of her dear friend.

"Shepard, is that you?" Jack said.

"Jack! How are you guys holding up?" Shepard inquired.

"Good so far. We're way south of your position but we're bringing the firepower your way."

"Jack, I'm so proud of you and everything you've become. You're an amazing kick ass woman."

"Don't get mushy on me now, Shepard. I'll see you on the other side of this and we'll have a drink. Go kick some ass!"

"You too."

As Jack's image disappeared, Jane blinked away the tears that threatened to spill over and swallowed hard. Turning to the Comm officer, she asked him to try connecting with Mordin's location. It took a couple of minutes and the connection was shaky at best since Mordin's image kept phasing in and out.

"Shepard!" Mordin crackled.

"Mordin! How are things where you are?"

"Problematic. Reinforcements holding. Lab still holding together. Attending to wounded," he reported, his voice hissing in and out with his image, "Need something Shepard?"

"I wanted to say thank you for everything, Mordin and yes, do you have the test – "

"Had to be me. Someone else would've gotten it wrong," he said cutting her off, "Test complete, Shepard. Can't discuss now. Too busy. Talk later?"

"Yes, of course!" she nodded, "we'll talk after this is over. Thank you so much Mordin."

"Good luck Shepard," he said with the briefest smile and with that, his image disappeared.

Shepard stepped out of the communication room and saw Kaidan approaching her.

"Jane," he softly said as he came to a stop in front of her.

"Hey there, you ready?" she asked him.

"Absolutely, for anything…bring it on," he replied.

"Is there more behind those words?" she replied as she felt an instant sick feeling in her stomach for even asking.

"Let's not pretend we're young soldiers here, Jane. We know the score…we know this is the end," said Kaidan grimly.

"This isn't the end for you, Kaidan. We will win this," she said resolutely.

"I'm going to fight like hell," he replied as he stepped closer to her, " But if this is it…there's a few things I want to say and I don't have many regrets but the ones I do have…are with you."

"It's water under the bridge, let's not go there, okay?" she said as she went to take a step back. She wasn't fast enough though and couldn't have been prepared for what Kaidan did next. He quickly closed the distance between their bodies and pulled her into him; quickly capturing her lips with his own.

Shepard didn't have time to push him off. The kiss was quick and in seconds, Kaidan suddenly backed away from her. She looked at him stunned; unsure of what to do next.

"I know you're with Garrus, I know," he quickly offered filling in the silence between them, "I just…I had to do that - I don't regret it."

Shepard stared hard at him; not knowing what to say. Instead of saying anything, she responded by slapping him across the face.

"I know we're all going through a lot right now," she said with stern eyes, "But stealing a kiss? That crosses the fucking line. You're lucky that a slap to the face is all you're getting. Is that understood, soldier?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied as he rubbed his sore cheek.

"Do your job well and we'll make it through this alive," she said as she walked away from him.

She looked around to see who might have seen what just happened. No one appeared to have taken notice...except one person who was staring right at her as he was making his way across the base to go upstairs.

"Shit," she muttered as she locked eyes with Artus who nodded at her as he continued on his way. Without a second thought, she ran to catch up with him. She walked silently next to him as they made their way upstairs. Minutes seemed like hours as she walked by her bond-father.

"Well, Jane," he finally spoke, "What will Garrus say?"

"He won't say anything," she replied, "What he will do is charge down there and beat the crap out of Kaidan."

"Strong possibility," agreed Artus, "That depends on how you approach the situation."

"Approach?" Shepard asked, "As in tell Garrus what happened?"

"Was your plan to keep this information from your bondmate when he has the right to know?" Artus asked gravely, turning to looking at her.

"No," she quickly replied, "I just don't think right now is the appropriate time to bring it up. Our minds need to be focused on the battle ahead. No distractions."

"I agree but at some point, you will tell him," he pushed.

"Yes, I will - when the time is right."

"By the way, I liked your style of response to his advance," Artus smirked.

"Thanks," she smiled.

Artus patted her on the back as they walked into the room where Garrus, Victus, and the rest of his squad were. She could tell Victus was happy to be reunited with his men and Garrus seemed…well, focused as he always was.

She walked over to him as Artus joined Victus and his men in conversation. Garrus looked over at Shepard as she approached. He turned to her and took a few steps to meet her.

"Jane. So, I guess this is…" he stumbled as he put an arm over her and walked them over to a more private part of the room.

"Just like old times?" she offered as they came to a stop and she turned to face him.

"Might be the last chance we get to say that," he replied with a half-hearted chuckle.

"You think we're going to lose?" she asked as her heart sunk.

"No, I think we're about to kick the Reapers back into whatever black hole they crawled out of. Then we're going to retire somewhere warm and tropical and live off the royalties from the vids," he said confidently.

"Oh really?" she replied, smiling at the thought; wanting to believe in it as much as he was trying to convince her.

"Yes," he softly responded as he slid his hand around her waist and pulled her close. He leaned into her and nuzzled her forehead.

"Maybe even find out what a turian-human baby looks like," he added as his other hand weaved itself into her hair.

She felt a surge of joy grow within her core at his words but was quickly followed by the gut wrenching sadness that overcame her knowing he was talking about a future he would never get the chance to have with her.

"Sounds wonderful," she choked out as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "We just have to beat the Reapers first."

Garrus could feel Jane trembling in his arms and for once he had a moment of fear…of panic. What if they didn't win this war? What if this was the last time he saw Jane? What if…Spirits forbid…they died? He had been so confident of their odds that he never thought about the worst thing that could happen…losing Jane. He held onto her tighter as he spoke.

"James told me there's an old saying here on Earth: May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead," he said as he nuzzled his face into her neck. "I'm not sure if turian heaven is the same as yours, but if this thing goes sideways and we both end up me at the bar. I'm buying."

Shepard clung to him tighter as the tears started to openly flow down her cheeks.

"We're a team, Garrus," she whispered into his neck, "There's no Shepard without Vakarian."

He could feel her tears falling upon his neck and he held onto her tighter than he ever had before. He felt her body shake as she began to weep in his arms. Seeing how serious this goodbye had become, Artus signaled for Victus and the rest to quietly file out of the room. He watched the young couple; sorely reminded of his own mate that he left behind. He silently prayed to the Spirits that they would all make it out of this war alive. Artus was the last to exit the room; leaving the great Commander Shepard and her turian to have a moment of peace before throwing themselves into the final battle.

Garrus gently pulled on Jane's hair to get her to draw her away from his neck and look up at him. When he saw the glossy brown eyes of his bondmate, he felt so many emotions. He pressed his mouth against hers; urgently seeking more of her. The thought of losing her pierced his very soul and his body ached like he had never felt before. It drove him to memorize every scent, texture, and sound, reluctantly acknowledging that it could their last. Jane knew in her heart that this would be the last time he would ever hold her and relished in the loving security that only he gave her. She felt another wave of tears burn behind her eyes and tried to blink them away. She looked up at him through the hot, wet haze; gently pressing her mouth against his, desperately hoping that he would somehow know just how much she truly loved him. Jane was the one to break their kiss as her shiny eyes locked with his. She smiled at him as her fingers traced his mandibles.

"I love you," she whispered gently.

"I love you too," he purred back. "And forgive the insubordination, but your bondmate has an order for you…come back alive. It'd be an awfully empty galaxy without you."

Come back alive…

The words stabbed her heart. Could she come back alive? Was it possible? She had no idea. Her thoughts were interrupted as Garrus kissed her again. She kissed him back hard before pulling away and looking into his beautiful blue eyes.

"Goodbye, Garrus," she said, "And if I'm up there in that bar and you're not…I'll be looking down. You'll never be alone."

With that she walked away; willing herself not to look back or run into his arms again. Garrus watched as she walked out of the room.

"Never," he whispered as she cleared his sight.

Shepard felt a hand fall on her shoulder the minute she exited the room; it was Artus.

"Hey," Artus said as he squeezed her shoulder, "Good luck out there."

"Thanks," she smiled, "You too."

She gasped lightly, caught off guard as Artus pulled her into him and gave her a tight hug.

"Don't forget to look out for yourself while protecting my boy out there, got it?" he said sternly.

"I got it," she smirked as she rested her head on his armored chest.

"Good," he said roughly.

Victus smiled as he walked over to the two of them. Once Shepard was released from Artus' grasp, Victus reached out for a handshake from her.

"Commander, it's been an honor," he said with a nod.

"Thank you, Primarch," she replied, "Same here."

As she left the turians, she came across Wrex talking to his men. The krogan were fired up and ready for battle - as if that were a surprise. The next person she came across was Liara who seemed pretty tense.

"Hey, how you holding up?" Shepard asked her as she approached.

"This is it, isn't it?" Liara asked wearily.

"Yeah, this is it," Shepard sighed heavily.

"I don't know what to say. I just know I'll have a clever line five minutes from now. I do have one thing for you, Shepard. A gift. It'll only take a moment, if you want it."

"What kind of gift?"

"Do you remember when I first joined my own consciousness to yours? I can show you some of my own memories. Asari exchange them sometimes, with their friends, or the people they respect. It can also be a way to say farewell," Liara explained.

"I'd be honored," Shepard replied.

"Close your eyes," Liara instructed as she placed her hand on Shepard's shoulder.

Jane closed her eyes and saw herself and Liara standing in the dark with flickers of light falling around them. Liara hugged her and rested her head on her shoulder as a bright light flew over them. Jane was flooded with memories from Liara; her childhood, how they met, past missions, flickers of moments when Liara saw Garrus and Shepard together, and so on. Jane opened her eyes and looked at Liara.

"Thank you, for everything," Liara said as she hugged Jane, "Let's do what needs to be done."

"I'm with you," Shepard smiled and gave her one final hug before continuing on her way.

She noticed Javik staring out at the ruins of London. She quietly walked up to him.

"Commander," he said as he felt her approach him.

"Was it this bad in your time?" she asked him.

"Worse. I have been listening to the krogan speak to his men. In our cycle, the races never came together. There was no rallying cry. I envy you."

"Really? There's not much left out there."

"The future is still out there. It is something my people could never say: there will be a tomorrow."

"Only if we win today," she sighed heavily.

"No one else has ever made it this far."

"You came a long way, Javik. Further than anyone else here," she reassured him.

"And I look forward to fulfilling my mission. But you are now the avatar of this cycle; the exemplar of victory. Not just for humanity, or turians, or protheans…but for all life. Every soul that has ever existed is watching this moment."

"Well, no pressure when you put it that way," she smirked.

"Do not waver. Victory is never won without difficult choices."

"I know. I've had to make a lot of those," she said thickly as the memories tore through her brain.

"There may be more. But I know you will see this through for all of us - no matter the cost."

Javik reached out for a handshake which Shepard quickly accepted.

"If we actually pull this off, what will you do afterwards?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Since my birth, life's only pursuit has been war. I look forward to seeing what peace looks like," he said thoughtfully.

"It's a big galaxy."

"Perhaps I will write a book with Dr. T'Soni. She suggests "Journeys with the Prothean."

"Oh, I see," Shepard smirked, "You'll have a traveling companion."

"I know what you are trying to imply, Commander."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Javik," she winked.

"Well regardless…thank you, Commander, for letting the last voice of the protheans speak. It has been a privilege," he said gratefully.

"The privilege has been mine," she nodded.

She finally made her way to the main room and before approaching Anderson, she sought out her quarian friend standing in the corner.

"Almost time for the final push. You okay?" Tali asked.

"I thought I'd be asking you the same thing," Shepard smirked.

"Shepard, I've backed you through everything. Why wouldn't I back you now? And you didn't answer my question. Are you okay?"

"I'm…I'll be fine. We just need to put this all right," she said tersely.

"We will. I have no doubt we will."

"You've been a good friend, Tali," Jane said as she held her arms out for a hug.

"It's been an honor serving with you," Tali replied as she accepted Shepard's embrace.

After that, Shepard approached Anderson.

"Commander," he said wearily.

"Admiral, how are we looking?" she inquired.

"Barely fifty percent of Hammer has reported in."

"Can we count on more making it?" Shepard asked hopefully.

"There's some stragglers still en route, but the bulk of Hammer that's still intact has arrived. We're as ready as we're likely to get."

"Every minute wasted here, the Reapers gather strength," she bit out fiercely.

"Exactly my thoughts."

With that, Anderson called in all troops for a strategy meeting. Shepard listened on as Anderson explained to the squads how the toughest part of their mission was about to begin. They had to drive right through the heart of Reaper-controlled territory, break past their defenses and get to the beam. The biggest concern was a Reaper destroyer that was guarding the beam personally. They had no air support to take it out due to some kind of interference. They would have to take it out from the ground. Shepard felt herself become overwhelmed as Anderson laid out a plan of attack that seemed hopeless. Everyone around her, although tired and mentally exhausted, seemed so ready and confident for this final push. They had a big task ahead of them…how would they accomplish it? Shepard was snapped out of her thoughts when she heard Anderson say "If we get close enough, we've got a shot at taking that thing out."

We've got a shot…

Even Anderson was hopeful of their slim odds. Shepard felt a new surge of determination to win this war. Anderson went on to say that this would be a one way trip for most of them and Shepard felt that she would be one of those people. But there would be no retreat, they would move forward at all costs. This was it.

It was time for Shepard to pick her team. Garrus was her first choice, as if there was ever any question that he would be. As for her second choice, well, that was much harder. As much as she wanted Vega by her side, she felt the need to have Javik with her. This battle had even more meaning to him and Shepard felt he was owed the chance to see it all go down from the front line with her.

"You boys ready for this?" Shepard asked them as they loaded up their weapons.

Garrus and Javik both nodded at her and fell into line behind her. With that, they headed out along with Anderson and the Hammer teams. Victus and his squad, along with Artus, flanked Shepard and her squad. They fought their way down the path, taking out Reaper forces along the way.

As they fought their way in, Shepard felt an overwhelming tingling sensation in her stomach. She fell back behind the cover of a wall and took a minute to breathe. Garrus kept his sights on the path ahead; making sure they weren't caught off guard by enemies.

"You okay?" he asked her without taking his focus from his scope.

"Yeah, just need a moment," she sighed.

Javik gasped as he looked over at Shepard. Her body had a very faint green aura around her. Javik immediately recognized it as prothean energy. He walked over to her and grabbed her shoulders.

"Steady your mind," he told her calmly.

"What are you…" Shepard gasped as the words died on her lips as she looked down at her hands and noticed the green energy enveloping them.

"Shh, calm your thoughts," Javik replied.

"What is this, Javik?" she barely whispered.

"They are prothean powers," he softly responded, "Why you are developing them, I don't know, but you need to steady yourself or this energy will grow."

"Grow?" she said with a panic.

"Yes, and it will become unstable since you do not know how to control it," he replied, "So breathe…deep breaths…calm yourself."

She took a few deep breaths, steadying her thoughts. She took another deep breath as she looked over at Garrus. He was staring right back, mandibles slightly flared, in a state of shock as he took in Shepard's glowing form. She looked back at Javik who locked eyes with her and continued to remind her to breathe. A few minutes went by and she found herself calm as the green energy dissipated. As they started to move forward again, Garrus kept in pace with Shepard.

"Should I be worried right now?" Garrus asked her.

"No, I'll be fine," she replied, "But when has that ever stopped you from worrying?"

"Good point," he smirked and did his best to keep his focus on the battle and not his ever changing bondmate.

They fought their way past many more Reapers forces, including brutes, as they worked to catch up to the rest of Hammer squad. Javik was keeping a closer eye on Shepard than normal which made her increasingly nervous about her condition. Her stomach was in knots and she felt feverish; body running hot and slightly achy. How many enemies they encountered as they pressed forward was a mystery to Shepard. Her focus was to keep moving, just keep moving.

Shepard and her squad made it to the rendezvous point first and needed to secure the missile battery. This was their shot at taking out the Reaper destroyer guarding the beam. Shepard approached the control panel as Garrus and Javik took out incoming enemy forces.

"Firing!" Shepard shouted as she pressed the button and the missile fired off. She watched with hopeful eyes as it headed towards the destroyer…and dodged around it.

"Damn it!" she yelled as she looked back at the control panel. "The Reaper is still too close to the beam and we only have two God damn missiles left."

"We need to draw it away from the beam and closer to us," Garrus said.

Commander, Hammer forces are being overrun," Anderson said over the comm, "Reaper ground forces are converging on your location. We're fighting our way to you…hold on, Commander. Hold on!"

"Spirits, there's more coming?" Garrus sighed.

"Hold on, guys. We can do this," Shepard replied.

Shepard looked ahead at the Reaper destroyer that was getting closer and the many ground forces that were flocking in.

Oh dear God…one enemy at a time. One at a time. Don't worry about the Reaper…one step at a time; starting with the closest enemy. We can do this. Hold on, Shepard thought to herself.

Right then Victus and his squad showed up and helped with the overwhelming enemies that were flooding in. Artus took point next to his son as they picked off target after target.

The Reaper had gotten awfully close but Shepard decided to let it get a little closer. She wanted there to be absolutely no chance of the next missile missing it. She continued to pick off enemy after enemy until finally the Reaper was too close for comfort. Shepard ran over to the controls and launched the second missile.

Again, she watched with hopeful eyes as the missile took off and this time she was rewarded with a direct and crucial hit. The Destroyer was terminated and Hammer squad drove in to meet up with Shepard. Anderson briefed her on the latest; several sovereign-class Reapers, including Harbinger, had broken off from the battle and were headed down to the beam.

"Harbinger?" Shepard gasped, "Well, shit."

"It's an opportunity though for Hackett to get the Crucible in place, but we have to get a team on board the Citadel to opens those arms. NOW."

"Okay, let's do this then," she replied as she gave a quick glance over to Garrus. She noticed Artus give his son a firm pat on the back and encouraging nod. This was it.

They got as close as they could by truck and then had to run out the rest by foot. This was crazy and the situation looked even more hopeless as they got out of the trucks and Harbinger landed right next to the beam.

"Fuck!" Shepard shouted.

"We gotta move!" Anderson yelled out.

"Let's go!" Shepard replied as she drew her gun and ran forward.

Anderson, Hammer squad, Garrus, Javik, Artus and Victus and his squad were right behind her as they charged towards the beam. Shepard ran with all her might as she dodged around the laser attacks Harbinger was throwing out. Shepard had pulled ahead of her squad by quite a bit without realizing it. Harbinger attacked again; causing a tank to turn over and almost crush her. She ducked and dodged around it and looked back to see Garrus and Javik in the path of the tank as it came crashing down.

"No!" she yelled as she turned back around and sprinted towards her squad.

Javik was fine and got up without assistance but Garrus was still on the ground. Shepard knelt down and grabbed his arm; throwing it over her shoulder as she helped him get up. Artus ran over; breaking from Victus and his squad. Artus grabbed the other side of his son and helped Shepard carry him behind some cover. Shepard scanned over his body. He was cut up really bad, even though he would never admit it. There was no way he would be able to run the rest of the way to the beam. He would not survive if he tried and she could see that Artus was having the exact same thought as he looked at his son.

"Normandy! Do you copy?" Shepard shouted into her comm, "I need EVAC, right now!"

"On our way, Commander."

"It's going to be okay, Garrus," Shepard said, "You're going to be okay."

It wasn't long before Shepard saw the Normandy flying towards them.

"Come on!" she said as she and Artus grabbed Garrus and sprinted off to meet the Normandy. They wouldn't have much time before Harbinger would attack the ship. They had to be fast.

Javik ran onto the ramp and looked back to see Shepard handing Garrus off to Artus completely.

"Here, take him!" Shepard shouted out as Javik ran over to help Artus carry his son.

"Shepard," Garrus said bleakly.

"You gotta get out here!"

"And you've got to be kidding me!" he coughed.

"Don't argue, Garrus. I always win," she retorted succinctly.

"We're in this until the end," he pleaded.

"No matter what happens here, you know I love you. I always will," she choked out as she ran up to him for one last kiss.

"Shepard, I…love you too," he sighed; knowing there was nothing he could say to change her mind.

Shepard walked off the ramp and saw Harbinger preparing its laser.

"Go! Now!" she yelled to her squad as they ran up the ramp and the Normandy prepared to take off.

She turned around and ran for the beam and looked up to see the Normandy take off safely and out of harm's way.

She focused back to the task at hand; making it up to the Citadel. She ran as fast as she could, dodging, weaving, almost there… then Harbinger sent its laser towards Shepard again and this time…it didn't miss.

Shepard could barely open her eyes and her body refused to move. She focused on getting her eyes to open fully and look around. She noticed Harbinger flying away out of the corner of her eye. She felt her body let out a sigh of relief. She worked on trying to move her fingers…one finger…two…three…okay good. Then she slowly moved her arms and her legs; testing each of her limbs. She weakly grabbed her pistol and shakily pushed herself up onto her feet. The beam wasn't that far away…one foot in front of the next. She was almost there…a couple more steps.

I can do this!

Then there was a bright light and she felt her body begin to rise; closing her eyes as she let the beam carry her. She felt a rush through her as her body was shot up and thrown onto the floor of the Citadel like a ragdoll. The room was dark with a faint red glow to light it. Shepard felt chills as she noticed the piles of dead bodies everywhere.

"Ugh!" she grunted as she felt the weight of something crash on top of her. She pushed the weight off of her and turned around…it was Anderson.

"Hey," she sighed happily, "You made it."

"Yeah, saw you hit the beam and I followed you up," he replied.

"Well c'mon, let's move," she groaned.

"You okay?" he asked her.

"I feel like death…but I can still move."

"Same here," he grunted.

As they moved forward, Shepard took note of a Keeper - still dutifully doing his job.

"Tough little sons of bitches, aren't they?" Shepard muttered to herself.

Anderson scanned the piles of dead bodies as they walked by them.

"Do you think they're trying to make a human reaper again?" he thought aloud.

"I could see that. They round them up on Earth and then send them up here to be processed. Sick bastards," she spat.

"Goddamn abomination. We better keep moving - the sooner we blow them back to hell, the better."

"Does this look like any part of the Citadel you've even seen?" she asked him, looking around trying to get her bearings.

"No…I have no idea where we are."

They exited the room they were in, crossed a bridge and went up a ramp into a central room. At the end of the room was a control panel. Anderson approached it first and started to investigate when out of the corner of the room, the Illusive Man emerged.

"Shepard…" he said as he walked out of the shadows. His face was scarred black and his eyes glowed like that of the husks.

"Back the hell away from us," Shepard said sternly as she felt panic set in her stomach from seeing the Illusive Man's face. "You're not yourself anymore. They've taken you."

"No! No! I am in control!" the Illusive Man shouted.

"Look at yourself! They own you!" Shepard shouted back as she kept her gun clearly fixed on him.

"No!" he yelled as he walked towards Shepard.

"I told you to stay back!" she yelled, "Don't step any closer or I will shoot you!"

The Illusive Man paused for a moment…

"You can't stop me!" he yelled as he charged towards Shepard.


The Illusive Man fell to the ground and Shepard let out a sigh of relief as she watched his body collapse. For everything he had done, for everything he had caused, for everyone he had killed. He was finally dead.

Shepard turned around to see that Anderson had opened the arms of the Citadel. They had done it…the Crucible could now dock and finish this war. A warm feeling spread through her body from head to toe and she let out a heavy sigh as she sank to the floor. Anderson sat down next to her and patted her leg.

"We did it," he said, "I'm so proud of you, kid."

"Thank you," she replied warmly as she looked out at the view.

"God…feels like years since I just sat down."

"I think you've earned a rest."

Anderson started to drift to sleep. Shepard looked at Anderson's body more closely and that's when she realized just how torn up he was. He must have gotten hit by Harbinger's laser just as she had.

Harbinger's laser…

That reminded her to check her own body. As she scanned herself for injuries, she felt a lump form in her throat. Her left arm was bleeding profusely and her right leg was torn up pretty bad. The adrenaline had prevented her from feeling any pain but now it was starting to ebb. She felt her head spin as she realized the seriousness of her injuries and how much of her armor had been torn apart. She pushed herself onto her knees and crawled over to the Illusive Man's dead body. She tore a piece of fabric from his shirt and used it to make a tourniquet for her arm and another for her leg to stop the bleeding. She tore some more fabric off and crawled back over to Anderson.

"Hey!" she nudged him, "Stay with me."

"Hmm," he groaned.

She went to work wrapping up his worst spots; hoping she could stop the bleeding long enough for help to arrive.

"We're almost through this," she said to him, "I need you to stay awake - help will be here soon."

"You did good, Jane. You did good. I'm so proud of you," he murmured.

"Thank you, sir," she sincerely replied as she finished wrapping his wounds. She looked back up at Anderson…his eyes were closed.

"Anderson? Anderson?" she said bleakly.

He did not respond. Her hand shook as she reached up to feel for a pulse…there was none.

"No," she cried softly, "God damn it! No!"

She buried her face in her blood covered hands and began to let herself mourn.

"Shepard? Commander? Come in! The Crucible isn't firing. It must be something on your end. Come in, Shepard!", Hackett said on the comm.

Shepard moaned in frustration; of course she wasn't done yet. Would this war ever end?!

"What do you need me to do?" she said weakly.

"You've got to find the control to fire it. Some sort of switch perhaps? Find it!"

She crawled towards the control panel and reached her hand up…searching. She pulled herself up to stand but quickly dropped back to the floor.

"I don't see…I'm not sure how to…" she barely said before everything went black and she fell into unconsciousness.

Shepard awoke to find herself in an open part of the Citadel with the beam in front of her and something moving her way…a clear figure…a young child?

"What the fuck?" Shepard muttered as she squinted to focus on the figure walking towards her.

"Wake up," the figure said to her.

"I am," she replied shortly as she got herself to standing; feeling a new wave of adrenaline begin to fill her body. "Where am I? And who are you?"

"You are on the Citadel…my home. I am the Catalyst," it explained.

"I thought the Citadel was the Catalyst."

"No, the Citadel is part of me," it said simply.

"Okay…whatever," Shepard sighed with frustration, "Look, I need to stop the Reapers. Do you know how I can do that?"

"Perhaps. I control the Reapers. They are my solution."

"Solution?" Shepard scoffed, "To what?"

"Chaos. The created will always rebel against their creators. But we found a way to stop that from happening - a way to restore order."

"By wiping out organic life?!" Shepard asked angrily. Who the fuck was this kid? And why in the fuck was she listening to him? She was growing increasingly upset.

"No. We harvest advanced civilizations, leaving the younger ones alone. Just as we left your people alive the last time we were here."

"I think we'd rather keep our own form," she retorted facetiously.

"No, you can't."

"The fuck I can't!" Shepard snapped; trying to resist the urge to strangle this thing that had the balls to take the form of a child.

"I was created to create balance between synthetics and organics. This is the way it has been."

"Well not anymore."

"I…" it started.

"No! I don't fucking care what you have to say. I am here to stop the Reapers. You can't change that. You either help me or get the hell out of my way," she ground out through her teeth.

"I will help you. Being the first organic to make it this far proves that my solution will no longer work. So we must find a new solution. You have altered the variables."

"How?" she asked, her curiosity peaked.

"The Crucible changed me - created new possibilities. But I can't make them happen. If there is to be a new solution, you must act. It is now in your power to destroy us."

Damn right it is!

"But be warned," the Catalyst continued, "Others will be destroyed as well. All synthetics would be targeted - even you are partly synthetic."

Shepard thought about it for a minute. All synthetics targeted? How could she be sure what this Catalyst was saying was true? He could just be trying to save the Reapers. But what if it was true? What would be the consequences? Could the quarians rebuild the geth if they were shut down by the signal? What about EDI? She was backed up on the Normandy - a new body could always be built for her. Wasn't it worth it to destroy the Reapers once and for all?

The Catalyst went on to tell Shepard of two more options available to her; controlling the Reapers and fusing synthetic and organic life together - both of which would require her sacrifice. Shepard didn't like either of those options. Controlling the Reapers was what the Illusive Man tried and she labeled him a bad guy. Fusing synthetics with organics was what Saren tried to do and he was labeled a bad guy for it. How either of those options could be seen as a good thing now when back then it was so black and white and the right decision was clear? Both those options left the Reapers alive! She couldn't stomach the thought! Everyone they had lost; everything the Reapers had been responsible for…how could she allow them to live?! Everything everyone around her had sacrificed under the impression that it would lead to them destroying the Reapers. All the faith placed in her that she would accomplish this task, how could she let everyone down? Yes, it meant the possibleloss of other synthetic life but she wasn't entirely convinced that would even happen. Even if it did, was it worth it for the Reapers to be destroyed? How did she know that she wasn't under any sort of indoctrination right now? That the Catalyst was trying to confuse her into doing what the Reapers really wanted her to do. The Catalyst made it sound like controlling or fusing would both be acceptable options but destroying the Reapers? Well of course, the Catalyst did what he could to make that sound like a terrible option. The more Shepard thought about it, the more she just wanted the Reapers gone. She thought of all the people that would be upset if she let them live - they came here to do one thing. DESTROY the Reapers. Everyone knew there would be sacrifices and loss of life going into this. It was all for one thing…to wipe the Reapers out. She had to stick with that decision, regardless of the cost.

"Okay, I've heard enough," Shepard said, "I came here to do one thing and that's what I'm going to do."

She didn't give the Catalyst another look as she walked towards the conduit to destroy the Reapers once and for all. She felt heavy and sluggish as she drew her gun to fire. It took almost all the energy she had to pull the trigger…*BANG!*…she felt lighter…*BANG!*…she no longer felt heavy. Yes, she felt stronger and more determined than ever. *BANG!* Was she breaking some sort of indoctrination? Regardless, this was the end! *BANG!* This was it! It would all be over soon! One more shot…she felt her body surge with energy and she noticed a green aura around her…*BANG!*…the conduit exploded and the flames fanned out; reaching the green energy surrounding Shepard.

Garrus, I love you…

"All fleets, this is Hackett. The Crucible is armed. Disengage and head to the rendezvous point."

Joker circled the Citadel, searching for any sign of Shepard or a place to dock and send a crew to get her.

"I repeat: Disengage and get the hell out of here!"

Kaidan and Traynor approached Joker…

"Joker, listen. We have to go," Kaidan said as he placed a hand on Joker's shoulder.

"Damn it," Joker sighed heavily as he flew the Normandy away from the Citadel. Within seconds Joker could hear Garrus yelling from the med bay and a lot of commotion around him.

"NO! DAMN IT, JOKER! TURN BACK AROUND!" Garrus shouted. His voice was getting closer and Joker could hear Chakwas yelling after him. Soon, he could hear Garrus entering the room. He was in a medical gown and had an IV bag in his hand that was running into his arm. Traynor and Kaidan ran interference - keeping Garrus away from Joker as he piloted the Normandy to safety. Joker felt his heart sink as Garrus continued ranting at him.

"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?! YOU'RE LEAVING HER TO DIE! TURN BACK AROUND NOW!" Garrus spat out as he shoved Traynor and Kaidan off of him. Before he could get closer to Joker, Artus and Solana had entered the room and grabbed hold of Garrus; effectively pulling him out of the room.

"NO! NO! GET THE HELL OFF OF ME! WE HAVE TO GO BACK! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" Garrus cried as his family pulled him further away from the one man that could turn the ship around and back to the woman he loved.

"Son, there's nothing we can do," Artus sighed as he restrained his frantic son.


"Garrus, it's going to be…" Solana started to say.

"NO! GET OFF OF ME!" Garrus shouted as he pushed them both off of him. He ripped the IV from his arm and threw it to the ground. He ran to the elevators and Artus quickly followed after him. He made it into the elevator right before the doors closed and he braced his son's arm.

"What are you doing?" Artus nervously inquired.

"I'm taking the shuttle to go get her," Garrus replied.

"Garrus…what good will that…" his father started, trying to talk some sense into his son.

"I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT HER! I either save her or I die trying!" he growled, determined to go back.

"Garrus, you need to…" he tried again.


"What the hell was that?" Artus whispered.

"Approaching Mass Relay, we're in for a bumpy ride - everyone hold on!" Joker yelled over the speaker comm.

"NO! NO!" Garrus yelled as he pounded his fists into the elevator wall. He collapsed onto the floor unable to breathe. He couldn't believe what was happening. It was a bad dream…a nightmare. The thing he feared the most was happening…why? SPIRITS! WHY?!

Artus knelt down and wrapped his arms around his broken son. He had no words of comfort, nothing he could say to ease his son's pain. He just held his son silently as he felt him break down in his arms. Spirits help him.