A/N: Please read the important note at the end of this chapter. Thank you!

"This is Kalisah bin Sinan al-Jilani. It has now been two months since V-Day, and recovery efforts are still going strong on Earth, Palaven, and Thessia, the hardest hit by the Reaper invasion. Food, medical supplies, and working medical equipment are being provided by those home worlds and colonies that did not face as devastating an attack. Hospices, recovery centers, location centers, and orphanages are being opened up, and it is estimated that plans to clean atmosphere and rebuild infrastructure and cities planet-side will begin to go into effect as soon as next month.

"I have been informed that while some major databases galaxy-wide are still nonfunctioning, more and more casualties of the war are being identified and returned to their families. All major news networks that have returned to the air will be displaying a repeating list of the identified wounded and deceased, as well as names of refugees taken to rescue centers. If you are missing family please consult these lists, or send a request to any of your local recovery centers. Include name, age, species and description. We can confirm that Councilors Donnell Udina and Tibet Valern are deceased, and their bodies have been identified. They were lost in the initial attack on the Citdadel- an attack we now know was a joint effort by the Reapers and indoctrinated Cerberus forces. Councilor Lumina Tevos and Councilor Patrik Sparatus are alive, and aiding in recovery efforts on their respective home worlds. I am assured they will be available for public comment soon.

"As we start seeing a larger picture of the incredible effort at Earth and the massive, multi-species fleet that came to defend her interests, one name comes up again and again: Captain Delilah Shepard. As many of you know, Captain Shepard and I have often been at odds. I am not proud to say that I firmly believed her a puppet for the Alliance and a shill for the Council. To my shame, shortly after the initial attack on Earth, I confronted Captain Shepard, and accused her both of fleeing the battle and abandoning her people to the Reaper slaughter. I would like now to say that I was wrong, and offer my heart-felt apologies for my callous remarks regarding the captain- both on air and in private.

"Everyone in authority that I have had a chance to speak with since V-Day- from Admiral Steven Hackett of the human Alliance, to Chief Urdnot Wrex of the krogan, to Admiral Daro'Xen vas Moreh of the quarian fleet- have had the same thing to say. If it were not for Captain Shepard's beyond heroic efforts, this war never would have been won. Though full details remain classified, Admiral Hackett would like me to inform you all that it was Captain Shepard who was not only responsible for the enormous response we saw on V-Day, but also, it seems, is responsible for storming the Citadel with a small group of brave troops and opening the station's arms to allow the super weapon- dubbed Crucible- to fire.

"Again, full details are classified, but I can confirm that Captain Shepard is alive, though her condition remains extremely critical. She is being treated at an undisclosed location and is fighting a very different war now…one for her life. I ask all of you to take a moment and pray to whatever deity you may have faith in, that this tremendous hero will win this battle as she has won so many others. Whatever your species, whatever world you call home in this galaxy, every single one of us owe Del Shepard a debt we will never be able to repay. Mocked by journalists, scorned and disregarded by the Council and slandered from one edge of the Milky Way to the other, she endured disbelief, abandonment, vitriol, violence and pain that we can never imagine. Through all this, despite it, she still stood strong- not just for humanity, but for those she saw as brothers and sisters from every world and from every culture. Captain Shepard, as far as this journalist is concerned, you are the greatest hero that has ever drawn breath. I pray that you recover and live to see the fruits of the new galaxy you helped to forge. As you stood with us, we now stand with you. From the very bottom of my heart and a trillion other hearts across the galaxy, Captain- thank you. This is Kalisah bin Sinan al-Jilani, signing off."

Sky blue eyes rained soft tears down freckled cheeks, as Liara reached over and shut the newscast off. Kalisah's face faded away, and with a few strokes of her fingers, Liara switched the playback to Flatwood once again. The music began to play, softly, and her hand returned to Del's.

Two months, and over twenty surgeries later, Del still lay in a coma in the private medical room aboard the Orizaba. Though she had opened her unbandaged eye several times –the first time, nearly making Liara knock poor Chakwas over- there was no life behind the gaze. Helen told her that it was simple motor-reflex, and not any sort of conscious action. She was no more awake with the eye open than she was with it closed.

Thanks to Miranda's help, the nanites in her system had started to recover, increasing healing. The gunshot wound was now an angry pit of red scar-tissue just under her left collar bone. Her lacerated liver had been repaired. Her arm and the side of her face were still covered by the hard plastic burn casts. Liara had seen beneath them several times now, and each time it made her wince.

"I know how she feels about her scars," Helen had told her one morning, "but these are going to be bad, Li. The arm will be ugly even with regained mobility, but her face-"

Her face. Third and fourth degree burns from the close call with Harbinger's MHD had covered the left side of her face. Her eye, while remarkably intact, had been damaged enough to swell and turn blue, destroying all but twenty percent of vision. They had removed it, intending to replace it later with a synthetic or another clone. Chakwas determined that it was the heat that had caused Shepard's brain to start swelling, as opposed to any real concussive force.

Del's ear still resembled an ear, though two delicate surgeries had been required to reopen her ear canal and replace the ear drum and the tiny bones behind them. They'd had to wait until some good, working equipment had arrived, and Chakwas predicted that she would still lose a little hearing on that side and suffer some level of tinnitus. When Shepard was awake and in better shape, she could choose to address this if she wanted by having a tiny amplifier implanted in the canal itself.

Her cheek, jaw, and part of her forehead on the left side were nothing but seared flesh, exposing patches of scorched bone, especially along the edges of her jaw and cheekbone. Even with skin grafts, that side would forever be twisted and disfigured. They could have the entire side of her face replaced with cloned tissue, leaving no scars whatsoever. When Helen presented that option, Liara instructed Chakwas to do only what was necessary to keep Del's life and functionality. When she woke up, she could make her own decisions about the cosmetic portions of her care.

Helen reminded her that Shepard was still resistant to sedation. If they waited until Del woke, she'd have to endure the grafts or restructuring completely conscious- an experience that would be beyond torturous. Liara was torn by this, and after two days of debate, agreed to a compromise. They'd fix the burns, but leave some small level of scarring that would neither make her look grotesque, nor interfere with functionality.

That surgery had been a week ago, almost the moment the proper equipment arrived on the Orizaba. Even with it done, the healing swaths of flesh still looked painful and half-cooked, and Liara was grateful for the protective mask covering it most of the time, even though both Chakwas and Nan reassured her Del could feel none of it.

It was the coma that continued to befuddle and alarm them all. When the full 3D imaging brain scanner arrived, Helen was positive she could pinpoint the area of damage that was causing her total unresponsiveness. That hope turned to confusion and finally anger as the scans showed nothing but very minor damage from the swelling that was already being rectified. She went over it again and again, but she and a team of a hundred neurologists across the galaxy that she'd sent copies too all remained baffled.

From her scans, Shepard should be awake.

She remained unconscious.

Liara endured the parade of scientists, doctors, and crew who seemed to endlessly file in and out of the medical suite. The scientists and doctors were trying to help…the crew were Del's family, and Liara would never begrudge them seeing her. Yet at times, she wanted to scream at them all to go away, to give them at least a few minutes of peace.

Ashley was a regular visitor, she and David stopping by often, before vanishing to attend to the millions of things that still needed doing. Jack came once or twice, but seemed emotional and uncomfortable, making awkward small talk before ducking out again. Tali, like Liara, almost made herself a fixture in the medical bay any moment she could. Still being an Admiral, however, she had the enormous duty of helping to put the pieces of the quarian fleet back together again. When she had to be away, she sent almost constant messages to Liara, both encouraging her and sharing in her worries and pain.

They'd learned Garrus had survived his wounds, and as soon as he was able he came limping in to the suite, hugging Liara tightly before sitting a while, holding Shepard's hand. He pretended not to cry, and Liara pretended she didn't see the tears.

The hardest to watch was Grunt. The boy had also been hurt, showing up limping one day with Wrex. The older krogan was sympathetic but confident, squeezing Liara's shoulder.

"She'll come around, Blue. She's fucking tough, you know that. She'll punch Death in the scrotes if she thinks for a second he'll keep her away from you."

Grunt had said nothing, only silently stood at Shepard's side, looking down at her. Still healing scars crisscrossed his face, making him look older. Part of the corner of his mouth had been torn open, and the ragged line rising from his lip made him seem to be sneering.

Far from an actual sneer, however, the boy's eyes were grieving, hopeless. Liara had never seen a krogan cry, and Grunt would die before he'd ever shed a tear, but she could feel it all around him as strongly as if he actually were weeping. He touched Del's forehead carefully, keeping his fingertips away from the edge of the burn mask.

Then he blinked rapidly, awkwardly, and turned away, striding out with a thick "She'll be fine," before he vanished. Wrex looked after him, then back at Liara.

"She'll be fine, Blue," he echoed softly, before following after his young charge.

Liara found these affirmations hard to believe, especially in the lonely hours of the night when they was just patient and asari…when she'd reach out and hold Del's hand and talk to her, and feel nothing of her bondmate in response.

One morning, Helen came in to find Liara in her usual spot. She'd taken to sleeping in the chair beside the bed, or on the floor. At this moment, though it was early, she was not sleeping. Half curled up in the chair, she had her head pillowed on the bed next to Del's, her hand wound in limp fingers. Her other hand was almost idly rubbing her stomach.

Watching her a moment, Helen walked over and checked Del's readouts, before she said, "How long?"

Liara looked at her, confused. "How long…?"

"How long have you been pregnant?" Chakwas asked gently, looking at her. Liara paled and drew back from the bio-bed, hugging herself tightly as she stared at the doctor, almost in shame.

"One thing I've noticed about a pregnant mother, no matter the species…they can't keep their hands off their stomach, even before they're showing."

Liara said nothing. Chakwas retrieved a scanner and pulled another chair over, sitting down and facing the asari. Reaching forward, she rested a hand lightly on her knee.

"Does she know?"

Liara's weak sob was all the answer that she needed, but Helen said nothing until the asari spoke, covering her mouth with shaking fingers.

"I am so ashamed," she said. "I…deceived her. I just…I knew that if I lost her again, that I…I thought of Dees and Syd and I just…"

"Shh. Hey. It's all right. Here, let me have a look ok?"

Wiping her face, Liara submitted to the doctor, allowing her to scan her. Nodding at the results, Helen met her eyes again. "So far things seem all right, but you're under a lot of stress Liara. You barely sleep, you're not eating. That's not good for you, let alone a child at this stage of development. I'm going to bring you a breakfast tray and some nutritional supplements. I'm not going to ask you to leave Shepard unless I must, unless I think the baby is in some real danger, but you have to take it easy. As impossible as it sounds, try not to get too upset, to stress too much. Eat, even if you don't feel like it. Otherwise, you are going to miscarry. All right?"

Liara nodded, but as Helen started to rise, she sat forward and caught her hand. "Please, do not tell anyone else, not yet. What I did…it…it is one of the most shameful acts an asari can commit. To conceive without the permission of the father-"

"I won't tell anyone," Chakwas said, meeting her eyes. "But I don't think a single person that knows you is going to be upset with you over what you did…and that includes Del."

"She could hate me," Liara said weakly, tears renewing. "She could wake up and hate me-"

"Impossible. Utterly impossible. She might be frightened by it a little- not over your actions but just the idea that she's going to be a father- but she's never going to hate you, sweetheart."

Liara sniffled and curled in, hugging herself again. Helen watched her sadly. "I'll get food," she said. "You will eat every bit of it, and you will rest, all right?"

Helen had only been gone a few minutes when a pair entered the private suite. Nan was no surprise, but the man with her made Liara blink.

She rose as Nan hugged her tightly, looking at her in concern. "You're so drawn dear…did you not sleep?"

"A bit," Liara lied. "There…there still is no change."

"I hope you don't mind, I brought Javik," Nancy said. The prothean was standing at the foot of the bio-bed, looking at Del with a moody, brooding expression. "Admiral Hackett is sending a few scouting ships out to more remote systems. He seems to think that it's possible some Reapers may have been too far away from the main systems to be affected by the Crucible beam. He wants to locate them and make sure they're eliminated. Javik asked to be a part of the effort. He's leaving tomorrow morning."

"My purpose is to see the Reapers eliminated," he said, finally looking from Del to the asari. "I will not rest until I am sure that is done."

"And what will you do then?" Liara asked. "When you have satisfied yourself that they are all gone?"

"My life has no meaning after that. I will join my brothers, my people, in death."

"Are we not your people now?" Liara asked with uncharacteristic anger. "Are we not your brothers and sisters? You would simply just kill yourself?"

Javik looked surprised. "We do not get along, asari. Why do you care what fate I choose to go to?"

"Just because we do not agree does not mean I wish you to die! What do I care? I care because she cared!" She pointed firmly at Shepard. "I care because there is still so much you can do, a long life you can live. You are not just a warrior, Javik…you are not just an embodiment of vengeance! You are a living, breathing, thinking man, who can still do much in this life."

"Fighting is all I know-"

"Then learn something else!"

At Nan's touch, her anger seemed to wither, and she lowered her head. "I am sorry, Javik. I am…I have not been sleeping well. I cannot tell you what you should or should not do, but I do beg you to reconsider. You have so much to offer, to contribute. Throwing that away would be a waste to the galaxy, and a waste to your friends. Even if we do not always see 'eye-to-eye.'"

Javik said nothing, just looked at Del a long moment again. Finally, he nodded. "I will consider it, but promise nothing."

A long, awkward silence followed, broken when Nan cleared her throat. "Javik didn't just want to come to say good-bye. I…asked him to do something for me. I know what you said, about not being able to feel Del. The Prothean's touch is not like an asari meld. Perhaps his abilities can reach her, or at least sense her….tell us if she is still in there, somewhere."

Liara looked at Javik, her face clearing as she considered it. "Yes. That might work…and if it does not we are no worse off than before. Javik…would you?"

"I would be honored," he said. Moving around a little, he reached out and carefully placed his fingers on Del's good hand, closing his eyes. There was a moment of hesitation before he touched her that did not escape Liara. No doubt he was thinking of the horrible and rather spectacular consequences of his last attempt to read Shepard, and her threat that she would kill him if he ever tried to do so again.

It was only a momentary pause, however, and as his fingers landed he grimaced a little, eyes rolling under their lids as if he was reading something. Nan gently lay a hand on Liara's shoulder.

After a few moments of silence, the Prothean opened his eyes, and slowly withdrew his hand. "I have seen. It is…regretful."

"What did you see?" Liara asked, stomach clenching as she stepped forward. "What happened? Is she-"

"When she was struck by the laser, she was left unconscious for a short time," Javik said. "After she regained consciousness she made it onto the Citadel. She was badly wounded, bleeding. There were others there. The Anderson human, a small handful of others. They encountered C-Sec, and then used an air car to crash into the Citadel chambers."

"Sounds like Del," Nancy said.

"The 'Illusive Man' was there. He had tried to enhance himself as Shiva- instead, he was nothing more than a twisted abomination. It was he that killed the Anderson human, and the others, before he was stopped. Her anger in killing him was quite vehement and impressive, given her wounds.

"She made it to the console, managed to open the station for the Crucible. She activated the master program and…here, I cannot tell you what transpired. If the imprints exist, they are too deeply embedded even for me to read them. All I can say is some time passed between her activating the program and the next image I have. In this image, she is weeping."

Del was…weeping? Unconsciously, Liara flattened her hand over her stomach again. When he didn't immediately continue, her slim brows knit.

"And then…?"

"The Crucible powered, and she was shot," he stated matter-of-factly. "It was the 'Eír' asari."

"Eír," Liara gasped, horrified. "No…"

"There was no way the captain was going to win in a fight. She was too weak, too wounded."

Liara covered her mouth with a trembling hand. Javik straightened a little as if drawing to attention, or affirming the impact of his next words. As he spoke them, Liara lost her battle with her tears, making no sound as they silently spilled over her lashes and onto her hand.

"Shepard asked the Eír asari to take care of you, to make sure you were safe. The Eír asari agreed…and then she left. Shepard lost consciousness soon after and…now we are here."

Eír had just left her alive?

Perhaps the wound was enough. Perhaps when she saw how badly Del was hurt, death seemed an inevitability. Was that enough to fulfill Gellian's hateful programming…or was Eír able to find some compassion, and break free of those shackles on her own?

After a moment, Liara recovered herself, lowering her hand as she spoke softly but steadily. "The doctors say that her wounds do not account for this continued coma. The damage to her brain has been repaired- she should be awake. She should be…be here. Yet she is not. Even when she opens her eye it is…it is simply blank. She came back from two years dead…this should…this shouldn't be this way. Why…could it be a result of what happened when she fired the Crucible, the space of time you cannot see? Is that what is keeping her away from us?"

"No, I do not believe so. I have seen this before," Javik told her. "Among my people, this is called 'dor so'. A rough translation I suppose would be…the Choice."

"The Choice?"

"There are two paths before her now. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, everything that she is- everything that is Captain Shepard- is utterly exhausted. Even the strongest of warriors has a limit to their strength. She has finally reached hers. She is simply too tired to continue."

I'm just so tired, Tianlán. I…some nights, before I fall asleep, I almost pray that something will happen. That I just won't…I…no, it's ok, Liara. I'm just…tired, that's all.

Shepard's words came back to her, from one of the myriad nights when Liara had woken to find Del stirred by a nightmare, wearily smoking and pacing.

Yes, Del had been tired. She had done so much, fought so hard for so long- she had pushed herself mentally and physically much further than anyone should have been able to go.

"Now, she is in limbo," Javik continued, "and she faces her Choice. If she can find the strength and the will, she may choose to come back, to continue on. Or, she may choose to accept her rest, to finally put down her burden. If she chooses that path…"

"She will die," Liara whispered.


"What…what can I do?" she asked.

"There is nothing you can do. This is her Choice. You…"

Nancy glared sternly at the Prothean, who sighed and shook his head. "Just…be with her. You two share a special bond. If she has any reason to choose the path that comes back to this life, it would be you. I do not know if she can hear you, but if she were to hear anyone…well, it is a chance."

"Just stay with her, Li," Nancy said. "Remind her she's got a reason to haul her behind back to us."

Liara did not know why humans called the time between midnight and dawn the 'small hours' of the night. In her experience, these were the hours that stretched on the longest, encapsulating whole eternities of time on their own.

Things were still too much of a mess for the Orizaba to fully go to sleep but for now, in the small and private room of the infirmary, it almost felt to the asari that the rest of the galaxy had completely vanished, leaving her alone.

She had dozed earlier, in that damnable chair beside the bio-bed. She was awake now, however- lost again in one of those eternities. She was holding on to Shepard's hand- warm, perhaps, but feeling just as dead as it had in the weeks before. The spirit that had once animated it had gone still.

Just past 0345, Shepard's eye opened again. The flutter of lashes drew the asari's attention and she sat up a little, stroking her hand carefully over the woman's forehead, avoiding the seals of the burn mask. The dark brown eye, half-lidded, looked upward. It reflected Liara's face as she looked into it, but it was only the reflection of a mirror. There was no life, no thought behind it. Still, she had to try.

"Shepard?" she whispered, as if afraid to speak out loud. "Del…can you hear me?"

The eye didn't flicker, and after a moment, it closed again. Liara felt something within her chest sag in misery again, and she lowered her head. Still holding the woman's hand with her left, her right fingers continued to lightly stroke over the inch-long, choppy lengths of dark hair that had started to grow back.

"I do not know if you can hear me," she said softly. "There is…so much I wanted to say to you. There never seemed to be time enough. There was always one more meeting, one more mission, one more thing that had to be done to save…to save everything. I always believed that you would see us through. Even…even when I doubted, I believed, as silly as that sounds. I was right, Shepard. You did see us through. You gave everything of yourself to save us. No one else could have done what you did."

Her eyes blurred, her throat tightening. She took a deep breath, determined to get this out. "I cannot be selfish," she gasped, then paused again.

"Shepard, you are to be a father," she said softly after a moment. "I…the gift, back in London- it was a moment of weakness, of desperation. I was so afraid I would lose you again, I…to be honest, Del, I do not know if I did it to save a part of you…or to save myself. I knew that if you were to die again I would not be able to survive it, not unless I had something else to fight for, some part of you to cling to. It was…it was incredibly selfish of me, to make such a choice behind your back. I cannot-"

She let out a soft little laugh that was close kin to a sob. "I cannot even regret it, Shepard. I cannot even make myself regret it, because I do not. I love you. I needed some part of you…and…and our daughter will be beautiful, Shepard. Beautiful and strong, and she will grow up knowing that her father-"

Her throat choked off, and the tears she had been fighting fell. Lowering her head, she touched her forehead to Del's, releasing her hand to grip her shoulder, holding her the best way she was able.

"I cannot do this," she sobbed. "I cannot do this by myself, but I cannot be selfish. Del, you have done so much for us, for this galaxy…for me. I know how tired you are. You fought so hard and I…I cannot ask you to keep fighting. It is not fair of me to ask that. I just- I wanted you to know that it is all right. It is all right to rest, now. I have a reason to go on, and our daughter will be loved- by me, by Ash and Tali and Garrus and…and so many people, Shepard. She will want for nothing, and I know that…that whatever is after this life, you will be there and you will be loving her, too. She will stand proud, and she will know that her father is Del Shepard, the greatest hero-"

Her voice broke off again, and she fell silent in the wake of her own emotions. She sat there until her throat had loosened again, until she could be sure of her voice once more.

"I do not want you to go, but it is not fair of me to ask you to return. It is all right, Shepard. You rest. You have earned your rest. I love you, and I will see you again. Just…it's all right to rest."

Straightening a little she looked down at the still, half covered face, still faintly marked and bruised and battered. She sniffed, wiping her fingers over her damp cheeks before she softly kissed Del's temple, whispering in her ear. "Sleep now, Shepard. Sleep now, and I will see you again with the dawn."

Liara was asleep in the chair again- not that Helen was even remotely surprised. Lowering her head a little, she moved to the console and checked Shepard's vitals. Still steady, but her brain waves remained catatonic. Turning her head, she regarded the sleeping Liara, her hand still limply clinging to the captain's, and shook her head.

Sleeping in a chair and eating only when the food was forced upon her was not a pattern she could continue to follow. It was showing in the sharp angles of her cheekbones, the hollows of her eyes. She needed real rest, a proper meal. For the sake of her unborn child, she needed to be away from here.

Moving over, Helen gently stroked a hand over the woman's cheek before lightly shaking her shoulder. Liara's eyelids fluttered up to half-mast.

"Hmm? Helen?" Lifting her head, Liara looked first at Shepard and- seeing no change- only then turned her gaze to the doctor. "What is it?"

"You," Chakwas told her softly. "You need to eat, Liara. When Shepard wakes up I'll be getting an earful of grief about letting you do this to yourself. You need food, and a real bed."


"I'll drag Hackett down here by his ear if I have to, and get a pair of marines in here to carry you to the mess and a set of proper quarters. I'll even forbid you to see her if I must," Chakwas said firmly.

Liara blinked at her, sitting up straight. "You…you wouldn't!"

"I would, and I will. Unless you eat one hot meal and get a few hours' sleep somewhere other than in that chair, you bet I will."

Liara lowered her head, then looked at Shepard. Helen's face softened a little. "I promise, I will let you know if the slightest thing changes. She wouldn't want you to do this to yourself, Li. You need to be strong and healthy for her, for that baby. She's going to need you when she wakes up."

"Do you believe that, Doctor?" Liara asked softly, still looking at Del's face.

"Of course I do-"

"You believe that she will wake up?" Liara asked, finally meeting Helen's eyes. "After all this time, do you think that she will open her eyes and be…be all right again?"

The automatic platitudes were on her tongue but Liara didn't deserve them. She deserved honesty. "Truth be told, Liara…I don't know. Part of me clings to hope but…I don't know if what Javik told you is true, or if this is still some kind of damage we just can't pinpoint but…I think that if she were going to wake up, she would have done it by now. I can't say there is no hope left, and Del has done impossible things before- but every hour that goes by, every day…"

"It dwindles," Liara said wearily, "until you have nothing left to cling to."

Chakwas said nothing. She knew she didn't have to. After a moment she held out her hand. "C'mon. One hot meal and a few hours of sleep."

Reaching upward, Liara reluctantly took that hand, rising from her chair. Pausing, she drew away again, bending over the bio-bed and laying a soft kiss on Shepard's good cheek, before she stepped back and turned away.

As she headed for the door, Chakwas beside her, the doctor glanced at her.


"I didn't…" Liara began, then blinked, turning her head with a gasp.

Shepard was humming.

It was low, faint, but she was definitely humming, the tune familiar. It was the song that Shepard had been writing for her.

Hurrying over to her side, Liara felt the tears moving up hot and fast as she grasped Del's hand. This time, she could feel the life in it.

Del's eye cracked open, and as it sought her out, Liara felt her entire body sag in relief. "Del…"

The human woman smiled slightly, that crazy lopsided grin that Liara had never thought to see again. Her voice was faint, little more than a dry rasp.

"Hey, Sky Blue…" she said weakly, prompting another sob from the asari. The hand in Liara's shifted, feebly squeezing. Shepard's tired grin never wavered.

"Guess what?" she said. "I think I finished it…"


A/N: DE3 is officially over! It wasn't quite as long as I was expecting it to be, I cut some things out due to brevity or simply because they were not necessary, but hopefully what remains was worth the read.

You might be asking yourself why I ended it where I did. Well, I did it so that those of you who wish to can decide for yourselves what happens afterward. I know that quite a few people like the mystery of the Reapers' true origins and purposes, and I ended the story this way so that those readers could keep that mystery.

For the rest of you who want to read MY take on the origins of the Reapers, and what actually happens at the end of the war and beyond, DE4 and DE5 will answer these questions.

DE4 follows my version of events as I imagine them, stretching from the end of the war to about 200 years or so afterward.

DE5 takes place about 300-350ish years after the end of the war, and will answer the outstanding questions: Who are the Reapers? Who made them? What was their purpose? Who created the Citadel and relay system, and what are really the consequences of having stopped the Cycle that has continued on for billions, if not trillions of years?

Whatever your choice…to stop here or continue on this journey with me…it has been an honor and a privilege to travel this path with you.

DE4 will start next week, so if you want, be sure to add me to your author's alerts so that you'll be notified the moment it comes up. It will be called Dark Energy: Aftermath.

Thank you once again, and have a wonderful weekend.