Intercept

Chapter 5

A/N: Here's the next part of Intercept. I'm trying to set up some stuff for next chapter, and letting other characters react to Shepard being awake. A big thanks to my beta OinkythePiggy for catching my mistakes!

Hannah stared down at her daughter's sleeping face, trying to sort out the horde emotions that were running rampant through her mind. Somehow, somewhere, she had messed up. In her rush to not think too hard about how her daughter had come back from the dead, she had forgotten that maybe, just maybe, coming back from the dead wasn't an easy thing. Lil had called herself a 'cyborg zombie'. Oh, she was fairly sure her daughter had been more than half joking with that, but she knew Lil. Part of that had been serious. For a moment Hannah wondered what it must have been like, to die and come back after two years. To find that everything you knew, everyone you knew, had changed and moved on without you because you hadn't been there. Hadn't been anywhere.

She should have put more effort into making time to see her daughter. Her reasons at the time had seemed good; she didn't know where her daughter was, she had thought her daughter was on a deep cover mission, and she had her own duties to attend to. Yet none of them could have really stopped her from going to see Lil if she had put her mind to it. Or at least she could have sent more letters, let her daughter know she wasn't alone in the universe.

Or, Hannah realized, maybe she'd already known that. Lil was more than comfortable around Vakarian after all. Whatever hang-ups her resurrection had brought into her family appeared to be entirely absent when it came to him. The Admiral couldn't help being a tiny bit jealous at the thought that she had accepted him so easily, which was unfair, she knew. For all that she knew, Lil and Vakarian could have had problems of their own, and worked them out long before they'd returned to Alliance space. It still didn't erase the guilty, sour taste in her mouth knowing that he had been there for her daughter when she hadn't been.

The door to the room opening was the last sound she wanted to hear, but her annoyance vanished when she saw the quarian slipping into the room instead of Garrus.

"Admiral Shepard," Tali said by way of greeting. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."

"It's fine Admiral Tali'Zorah," she replied formally but smiled as she said it, and heard the quarian sigh as the tension drained from her.

"It's Tali," the young woman stressed as she crossed the room. The two of them had been talking, and the young quarian had insisted they not be formal with each other. Hannah couldn't help but think part of that came from feeling slightly overwhelmed by the title. Something that she could relate to all too well.

"Then you have to call me Hannah," she said, smiling a little. "Admiral is only when I'm on duty, not here." Granted half of her daughter's friends had decided they were still going to refer to her by rank but, hey, she could always hope they would start to relax around her after a while. Admiral was a title she hadn't wanted, and it still felt jarring to hear it, especially when it came from someone she wasn't in command of.

Tail turned her head towards her; "Fine, I'll use Hannah then," and she could hear the smile in the younger woman's voice. "Just as long as you don't call me Admiral. I'm still getting used to that."

"You're not the only one," Hannah sighed. "So, came to check up on her?"

"Yeah," the quarian took the remaining seat next to the bed. "I wanted to be here earlier but there's been so much to do that I couldn't get away until just now. I ran into Garrus outside and he said she wasn't awake but I still wanted to be here. Just in case."

A small smile touched Hannah's lip. "He's only half right." When Tali turned to look at her, she outright grinned. "She woke up for a bit after he left. We talked for a while before she drifted off again."

"What?" Tali's helmeted face turned toward the ceiling for a moment before she sat down in the chair with a thud. "Keelah, not again! I never seem to make it in time! Every time I've tried to come see her she's always gone back to sleep again. I swear it must be a curse," she huffed.

"Bad luck doesn't last forever," Hannah said gently. "Lawson and Chakwas said she was only awake for a few minutes, but Garrus said she was awake and coherent for a lot longer when he talked to her, and she was able to have an entire conversation with me. She'll be up and talking with you in no time."

"I know," Tali sighed, "But I still can't help but feel a little jealous. I mean, if I had to choose I would have said that you and Garrus should be the first ones to see her, but I still wish I could have been there. I worry." There was so much emotion from the young woman, that Hannah had no trouble telling her state of mind even without her facial expressions visible. It was somewhat endearing.

"You're her friend, of course you do," Hannah smiled at her. "I am glad Lil managed to find such a loyal crew. It makes me feel better knowing that she had that kind of backup."

Tali seemed to deflate into her chair. "I've never been happier than when I was serving on the Normandy, Shepard wasn't just my captain, she was my friend. I keep replaying what happened over and over again, trying to figure out what we could have done differently. If I had convinced her to take me along then maybe…maybe something would have been different."

"I've seen the reports," Hannah told the young quarian gently. "I went over them I don't know how many times when we were looking for my daughter. There's nothing you could have done to help her. We aren't even sure if there was a way you could have been able to help her once she got inside the beam." Hannah shook her head. "Besides, I know my daughter. Once she's made up her mind about something it's impossible to change it. I wouldn't be surprised if she'd already decided that she was going to finish things alone, come hell or high water."

"Oh, I know that," Tali grumbled. "I've dealt with her enough to know we wouldn't have been given a choice. It just doesn't help this feeling."

Hannah heaved a sigh. "No, I suppose it doesn't." She looked down at her daughter. "At least now you'll be able to yell at her personally for taking risks like that."

"If I'm here when she wakes up," the young quarian leaned forward. "Do you know how often she's coming to? I mean, I know it's a bit soon to tell, but the last time I heard anything about it was last night when Garrus was here, and he said she wasn't awake when he left, and I don't know how long ago that was.."

"Not that long ago," Hannah told her. "He was only gone about five minutes or so before she opened her eyes again." She allowed small smirk to form on her face. "I'm not going to let him forget about that either. Let him curse his own luck for a while." She was fairly sure him not being able to shut up was part of what had caused the Lil to wake up anyway. Let being away be his punishment for that. "Or, at the very least I'm going to make sure he doesn't forget about it anytime soon. He's been here longer than I was and managed to miss her."

Tali had cocked her head and was staring. Or at least Hannah assumed that she was staring. She could barely see the glow of the eyes through the helmet. "I thought…" Tali's voice was hesitant, "I thought that you and Garrus were…getting along." The last was said with such delicacy that Hannah almost wanted to laugh.

"We are," she answered, "and I honestly don't have anything against him. But he is dating my daughter, and as such I retain the right to tease him unmercifully whenever I get the chance."

Tali studied her for a second then nodded slightly. "I believe you, but I think teasing him about this, about missing Shepard being awake, that wouldn't be fair. That would be cruel."

It was said with such frankness that for a moment the Admiral was taken back. "Cruel? Isn't that a bit of an overstatement?"

"Maybe," Tali admitted, "but maybe not. You don't know Garrus like the rest of us do. He took Shep…the Commander's death hard. I think he blames himself for not being there when it happened, as if by being there he could have done something to save her." It was on the tip of Hannah's tongue to remind Tali that the turian hadn't been the only one mourning her daughter. However she had developed a sense of when it was best not to speak, and kept silent as the quarian continued. "We've tried telling him it wasn't true, Shepard tried telling him he couldn't have done anything…but I know he didn't believe her. Then Shepard shoved us all on the shuttle before the beam, and she ended up…here." Tali gestured at the bed. "And he feels like he failed her by not being there again." She shook her head. "Maybe I am over thinking it just a little, but I can't help believing that even something as small as missing her being awake will get to him after all he's been though."

At first Hannah wasn't sure she really believed that. Vakarian had seemed stable enough to put up with a little teasing, but as Tali had said, she still didn't know him that well. He had been through a lot, she was perfectly willing to believe that. All of them had been though a lot. Maybe she didn't know him that well, but it wasn't as if she was lacking empathy. If the tables were turned, and it had been him here, would she appreciate him mocking her about that? She didn't even have to think about that answer. Ignoring it because she felt like teasing him was more than a little selfish. "…I'll keep that in mind," she said out loud. "Don't worry, I know how to hold back. I'm hot trying to hurt him here."

"Thank you," Tali said relaxing back into her seat. "And don't worry, he can put up with most other teasing just fine. He needs that ego taken down once in a while. It's just.."

"My daughter he's sensitive about. I get that, and I can understand." Hannah closed her eyes for a moment. Oh, she could understand that very well. Then she opened them again and looked at the quarian. "..Vakarian said he and my daughter weren't…together until after she came back. You almost made it sound like they were seeing each other before that."

"I…did?" Tali seemed surprised. "That's not what I was getting at all. Back on the SR-1 they were just good friends." Tali stopped and seemed to turn her head thoughtful. "Liara did think they were together for a little while after she came on board, but then there was Kaidan and I know that the gossip would have been even worse if it had been Garrus."

"Wait," Hannah said slowly, "you said Kaidan. Do you mean the Major Alenko that's been hanging around here recently?"

Tali seemed to freeze for a moment. "Ummm…yes?" she said in a small voice. "Although I'm really not sure I should be answering that. The Commander would probably kill me."

"Then let's just forget about it then," Hannah rubbed her forehead, deciding she really did not need to know the details of her daughter's love life. Not unless it started interfering with her recovery. "As long as it's not going to lead to a cock-fight in the middle of the hospital, it's none of my business."

"Uhh," Tali drew back in apparent confusion. "I think my translator is having trouble with that one. But, um, no, no fighting. At least I don't see why there would be. Garrus and Kaidan went though the entire war without anything happening. They aren't so petty that it would come up again now. And I'm pretty sure they know Shepard would rip them apart if they tried it."

"Good," Hannah said, just as there was a slight beep from her omni-tool. "Otherwise, they would have been dealing with me." She checked the message as Tali made a noise that sounded suspiciously like smothered laughter. She groan when she saw the message though. She hadn't realized how late it had gotten.

"Bad news?" Tali said.

That got a head shake in reply. "Nothing to worry about. Just a reminder that being cleared for active duty means I can't spend all my time here, as much as I want to. I have things to do."

"I understand," Tali nodded slightly. "It's been hell trying to get even a few moments to myself, what with trying to get the Relays back online and making sure supplies are coming in. I wanted to come see Shepard sooner, but.." she trailed off and shrugged helplessly.

"But we all have our duties." Hannah doubled check her other messages, and then closed her omni-tool. Nothing there that couldn't wait until she got back to the Alliance headquarters. "And maybe you can help me with mine. Give me an update on whatever progress your people have made with the Relays and I can at least pretend I was doing something productive while I was here."

Tali laughed. "Okay, I can try to help with that. Although it's not just the quarians and geth working on that problem right now. We have engineers from all the races working to gather data. Earth is…nice, but no one wants to be stuck here."

"And…?" she raised an eyebrow at the quarian.

"There hasn't been that much change since we sent the last official report," Tali was tapping a finger on her knee. "Although we did get some recent news from the team at the relay itself. One of the geth primes thinks that the relay is running some kind of background program. We're not sure what it is exactly, but we believe it could be a sort of diagnostic program. What that could mean we're not sure yet, and we've been holding off saying anything officially until we have something more concrete to go on." Her movements stilled. "We don't want to raise any hopes."

"So this is all unofficial?" Hannah asked. After half a second, Tali nodded.

"I guess it has to be. I'm not sure I should even be talking about it yet."

"Don't worry, my lips are sealed and your name will never come up." Hannah checked the chrono on her omni-tool once last time and sighed. "I supposed I should be going. Soon I'm going to start getting calls demanding to know where I am. I'd rather not let that wake Lil up." She stood slowly, holding back a sigh. Normally she didn't back down or try to dodge responsibility when her duty called for it, but she hadn't anticipated having to deal with so many politicians. She would almost rather be fighting Reapers again. Even that would be a cleaner battle. When she got around to the other side of the bed, near the door, she paused to look back at Lil. "Will you," she said out loud, "keep an eye on her? I know it's not fair to ask but…"

"Of course I will," Tali answered instantly. "It's what I came here to do anyway."

"Thank you," Hannah gave a grateful nod at the young quarian before she headed out the door. It was more than a little foolish to worry so much, especially when Lil was actually doing better than she had been when she had first been brought in, but she couldn't help it. That was her daughter, and oddly enough her regaining consciousness was only making it harder to just leave.

The shrill beeping of her omni-tool, right on time, cut through her thoughts and the Admiral shook her head before answering. "Hannah here."

"Admiral Shepard," Hackett's voice came back tired sounding. "Where are you?"

"At the hospital," she said without slowing down her stride, "exactly where I said I was going to be. And don't worry," she added before he could even ask. "I'm on my way back to headquarters now. I'll go over the reports once I get back. There was just something here I had to take care of."

"She is your daughter." There wasn't even a hint of a question in his voice. "How is she doing?"

"Better," she said after a moment. "She talked to me a little. It was nice to hear her voice again." She tried to keep her voice level, but it was a struggle. 'Nice' was such a gross understatement.

"Good," and there was relief in Hackett's voice. He had always been supportive of Lil, no matter what she had said or done. She had to respect him for that at least. "The doctors seemed optimistic about her recovery time, but unspecific and I want your opinion. How soon until you think she'll be back on her feet?"

"I have no idea," she replied. "The doctors are being even more obtuse with me than they are with you. I don't think they have any idea when she'll be up. But knowing her? Lil will be on her feet as soon as she can manage it. We'll probably have more of a struggle keeping her in bed than anything else. She hates being told what she can't do."

"I thought as much," Hackett sounded almost amused. "If she does get that stubborn, I think you're the only one I'll trust to keep her in the hospital. I'm afraid her crew would help her escape."

"They might surprise you," she couldn't help remembering the look on Garrus' face when he watched over her daughter. Somehow he didn't seem like the type who would just let her wander off while she was injured. Still. She would have a word with him about it later, if she had to. He seemed like the type to listen to reason.

"I'm still leaving it to you. Somehow I think you might be the only person in the galaxy that has a prayer of making her listen."

That was answered with a short bark of laughter as she reached the end of the corridor. "Now you're overestimating me. It's been years since she's bothered to listen to her mother." It had hurt at first, realizing that Lil was an adult and off making her own grown-up decisions. That pain had mostly been dealt with years ago, although the worry about her daughter had never left. Even her being proud as all hell of Lil didn't change that.

Hackett, however, just chuckled quietly. "You're still her mother. I doubt she's going to forget that." He said, then fell silent for a second before speaking up slowly. "Hannah.."

"Just spit it out Hackett." One thing she'd learned over the course of the war was that the sort of hesitance he had in his voice just now was never a good thing.

There was a gusty sigh from over the com-channel. "I hate to ask, but I have to. Her memories, Hannah. Has she remembered anything else?"

She came to a dead stop. "You're really going to ask me that? After all this time worrying over Lil, do you really think my first act would be trying to drag something painful out of her mind when I'm thrilled that she's even able to talk?!" The words came out as a growl. "And frankly, I don't know what the Alliance hopes to gain from pushing this. You know people have lost memories from less trauma than what Lil has been through. Honestly, after everything that's happened, I'm almost glad that she doesn't remember. She deserves a rest, and I do not care what the Alliance wants from her. She's not going to magically regain her memories just to satisfy their curiosity!"

Hannah was glad that she was still in the hallways at this point. The only people she was likely to run into were doctors or the guards. Better than outside, where this conversation would be attracting more attention than she was comfortable with. At least here she could be as loud as she wanted without worrying.

"Hannah," Hakett's voice was sharp, but he was using special emphasis on her name, not her rank. "You know I agree with that. I am not denying that she's done more for us than anyone else out there."

"Then why bring it up now?" She asked, getting more and more annoyed. "Why not just leave her alone? Let her rest for once."

"If it was up to me you know I wouldn't even have brought it up," Hackett said, and she could hear the exhaustion in his voice. At another time that would have worried her, but she couldn't bring herself to care at the moment. "But it's not up to me. The Crucible might have worked, but we still aren't sure how. People might be glad that the Reapers are dead, but some of those in charge aren't going to rest easy until they get answers and can assure themselves they aren't coming back."

"They can worry themselves to an early grave for all I care," Hannah snapped. "Tell them to put that energy into rebuilding, not into trying to interrogate someone who's barely been awake two days!" She shook her head, "If we give it time, Lil's memories might even return on their own! I might not be a doctor, but I'm willing to bet they would agree with me."

"They do," Hackett sighed. "We've already had doctors weigh in with their options, but our temporary council down here is still having doubts. I know there's been talks about trying techniques to see if they can bring her memory back sooner…"

"Over my dead body," Hannah growled, cutting off the Admiral. "My daughter is not going to end up being treated like some guineapig for curious politicians that are trying to poke into things they don't understand!" She was also sure the rest of her daughter's crew would respond to a suggestion like that in the exact same way. If push came to shove then she had no qualms about telling them exactly what they were planning.

Hackett chuckled over the line. "I thought you might say something like that. Which is why I arranged for you be part of their upcoming meeting." He sounded far too amused that prospect. "I figure if anyone can get them to change their minds, it's you."

"What?" Hannah was sure she half shouted the words but chose to ignore the curious glances one of the guards sent her way. "Damn it, Hackett you know I hate tangling with politicians. I dealt with that enough when the Crucible was under construction. Get. Someone. Else."

"I would if there was anyone I felt would be half as effective as you'll be. You're the single person I can see as having a real shot as making them back off. At the very least I think you'll make a strong…impression on them."

The last thing she wanted to do was be trapped in a room with a bunch of bottom-feeding assholes who were so focused on the 'how' that they weren't paying attention to the little people that need them most. On the other hand, she could see where Hackett was coming from, and if she was there then maybe she could shame or bully them into actually getting something done for the day.

"I'm still going to shoot you the next time I see you," she said conversationally. Hackett just laughed.

"I know. Goodbye Admiral, and good luck with them."

"I'll need it," she responded before she cut the connection. Then she shook her head before heaving out a sigh and heading down the corridor to the rest of the hospital. She was not looking forward to this. At all. However, this was part of her duty, and she would do the best she could with what she was given. She had been doing that since the Crucible construction, and she was not going to allow herself to fail this time. Not with her daughter's well-being on the line.

She was distracted and didn't notice she was walking faster than normal until a cramp seized her bad leg after she was through the final guard post. Pain twisted up it as it locked and she was forced to lean heavily on her cane. She took forced deep breaths through her nose, trying to fight the pain back, hoping she wouldn't fall, and trying to keep the pain from showing at all. It wasn't as if this was the worse she had ever endured, but if a doctor saw her white knuckled grip or the lines on her face she would have a much harder time explaining that.

Damn doctors didn't know when to back off.

At last the cramp when away and she straightened up, slowly putting more weight back on her leg. It felt stiff, but it held. Maybe she should be taking things just a tiny bit slower. Just as long as her doctor never found out about it.

A slight buzzing her in her ears, something that was felt more than heard, made her look off to her side. Vakarian was there, something that slightly surprised her. When she hadn't run into him in the hallway, she had assumed he'd been called away by the Primarch.

"…So you haven't heard from anyone else?" Vakarian was shifting from foot to foot. Apparently 'nervous fidget' was one thing their species had in common.

"Nothing concrete," the female turian he was talking with said. "We're still sorting though what information we can get but it's so little and we have so many people asking after friends, family, or anyone they know. We've barely been able to make any progress." She heaved a sigh. "And you know Dad. He's not going to use his authority to push our requests to the front of the lists."

Hannah recognized the marks on the female turian's face. They matched Vakarian's. Some sort of relative maybe? Turian clan marks weren't her specialty but they were acting familiar with each other. She didn't think them having the same marks would be a coincidence. The other turian was also wearing a heavy cast on her left leg, which was unsurprising given how many had been injured.

"If it had been from any other time, I would put in something about how that sounds like him," Vakarian rubbed the back of his neck. "But according to the Primarch he was using official communications to sneak in little messages bugging people about my whereabouts."

"Really?" the female turian cocked her head. "Okay I'll admit that's just a liiiittle bit surprising. Understandable, but that he would even bend the rules like that is weird." Her mandible twitched. "Although it might explain why he's so against pushing our requests to the top of the lists. Half the crew handling information has done it, but Dad refuses to use the rank he has now. If it's because he feels guilty about looking for you.."

"Then he wouldn't risk it to look for anyone else," that got a sigh from Vakarian. "I suppose I should feel flattered he was that worried. I don't think he's ever broken the rules for me before. Makes me feel all special inside."

"You really don't pay as much attention as you think," the female turian's voice was clipped. Hannah wondered if they were siblings. They were certainly acting like it, although she wasn't sure turian siblings would act the same as human ones. "At least now that he knows your fine, maybe he'll let me start double checking, see if I can find anyone."

Vakarian seemed to hesitate for a moment. "You really haven't heard from anyone since the end of the war?"

"I did get word from Jaenex that he's recovering on another ship."

"Jaenex? You said recovering. He's hurt? How badly?"

The female turian shook her head. "I'm not sure. He made it sound like it had been pretty serious, but you know how he is. He'll make a broken claw into a life threatening injury just for the drama."

"Yeah, but I'm still not willing to trust him. Tell me if you hear from him again?"

"You know I will," the female turian sighed. "And anyone else I happen to get into contact with."

"Thanks," Vakarian said heavily. "So he's really the only one..?"

"Yeah."

Seeing Vakarian like that, Hannah couldn't help feeling sorry for him. It was hard sometimes, in the face of personal losses, to remember that everyone was working under their own grief. She turned, cursing the stiffness in her leg, and walked toward them. "Looking for family, Vakarian?"

He turned to look at her in surprise, his mandibles flaring. "Admiral? What are you doing out here? I thought you were.." he glanced back towards the guarded entrance.

"Unfortunately I do have other duties besides this," she told him dryly, then said in a gentler tone. "And I think my daughter will be fine. Tali was with her when I left."

"Ah, good," Vakarian relaxed just a fraction of an inch. "Tali's probably happy. She was anxious to see Lil, although I think she was hoping for her to be a bit more…awake."

"I know," Hannah nodded. "She told me that, and was more than a little disappointed that she'd just missed that."

"What?" Garrus' voice seemed to waver for a moment. "Missed? She's awake?" He took half a step towards the hallway before he caught himself. "Or, I mean was awake?" he was shifting his weight back and forth anxiously, and he kept glancing back at the guard post. "She didn't look like she was anywhere near conscious when I left." She couldn't tell if he was disappointed or slightly annoyed. Damn subvocals still weren't clear to her.

She had to admit it was kind of amusing seeing the look on his face. "She woke up a little after you left. Just opened her eyes." Hannah tried to control her voice but even she could hear the slight waver in her voice. "It was nice to hear her voice again, to know she was all right. Not that I doubt you, Vakarian," she couldn't help saying, "but I needed to hear something like that for myself."

"Don't worry, I understand completely. It's hard to really believe it until you hear her start talking to you." The turian took a breath. "How was she when you talked with her? Did she seem…normal to you?"

"In reference to her? Yes, she seemed normal," what exactly that conversation had been about was something that Hannah had no intention of mentioning to anyone. That was a private, family affair. If her daughter ever chose to discuss the conversation, and her own fears, with Vakarian, well, that was her own business. The turian just wasn't going to find out from her. "She drifted off pretty fast, but she was awake for longer than the doctors said happened when she first woke up. I might not be a medical professional but I'm guessing that's improvement."

Vakarian gave a distracted nod, and again glanced back towards the entrance to the hallway. "She'll be sleeping for a bit now, won't she?" he sounded disappointed.

"Probably," Hannah said. "Though I have no idea for how long. It could be a while."

"Yeah, probably," came from the turian and he gave a longing look back towards the hallway. "I should let Tali have some time with her anyway. She's been patient so far. No need to take that away from her." By that point Hannah was certain he wasn't talking to her, or even the other turian anymore.

Next to him the female turian snorted. "Would you just go already?"

Vakarian snapped his gaze back around to look at her. "Sorry, what?"

"Go!" The woman made a shooing motion that translated across species. "Like I don't know the 'I want to be anywhere else besides dealing with my sister' look. It's not like I haven't seen it before. If you want to see your Commander, go. Spirits, you're acting like you're already there. Go, if it means that much to you."

Vakarian seemed to freeze for a moment, his mandible snapping tight to his face. "Sol.." he said hurriedly. "It's not like that! I didn't mean.."

"Garrus," Sol said impatiently, "I get it. Really. She's a friend that's just woken up, and I'm right here. We can talk later. It's not like I'm going to be leaving Earth anytime soon." She added, "Not like there's really anywhere else I could go anyway."

"Yeah, that's kind of been obvious" Garrus glanced back at the guards before turning back to his sister. "I just don't want you to think I'm trying to ignore you and Dad. I haven't exactly been around recently, and that's my fault. No matter what happened, we're family. I should have tried harder."

"I think helping to save everyone from the Reapers kind of made up for all that," she crossed her arms. "It's not like you're going to be paying any attention to anything I say anyway."

"I would!" he protested indignantly, mandibles fluttering. "Or at least I will as long as you don't start in on one of your stories about the newest guy you've taken a shine to. What number are we up to now? I lost track a long time ago."

Hannah couldn't help chuckling. "Is he always like this?" she asked Sol.

The female turian snorted. "This annoying? Yes. This impatient? That I would classify as 'a bit worse than usual'."

"Oh, thank you so much Sol," was the dry reply from her brother. "Apparently I missed the memo about this being-double-team-your brother day. I wonder why I even bothered getting out of bed."

"This isn't double teaming you," Sol said sweetly, "that was just being honest. If I was really trying to mess with you it would be so, so much worse."

"That isn't really comforting."

"It wasn't meant to be," Sol pointed out and flared her mandibles at him. "And you're halfway towards the door already. Are you really going to keep pretending that you want to stay here?"

Vakarian had moved a few steps back, towards the hall guard post. He stopped immediately. "Sorry. I'm just…"

"Go, Vakarian," Hannah sighed. "And tell my daughter hello for me if she wakes up while you're there." Not that she thought Lil would actually be awake for a while yet, but the turian's anxious look made her feel pity for him.

"I will," he said, and gave his sister one last glance. Sol sighed and made a shooing motion with one hand and he gave a head shake before starting towards the hallway. He stopped and looked back after a few steps. "I will meet up with you later, Sol. We have a lot of catching up to do."

"Yeah, I know," Sol said. As she shifted her weight, Hannah couldn't help but notice that the female turian was keeping most of her weight off the leg with the cast on it. She wondered if she was even supposed to be up and around. "Just send me a message later," Sol said to her brother, distracting the human from her line of thought. "We'll probably be seeing a lot of each other anyway, if you're working with the Primarch."

"Yeah, probably," Garrus nodded, gave a last wave, and then he was gone.

As they watched him vanish, Hannah kept a careful eye on the turian still next to her. "Are you really that okay with him just taking off like that?"

"Not entirely," Sol admitted as she looked at her. "I would have liked a chance to talk a bit more, but it isn't that big of a deal." She was silent for am moments, mandibles fluttering. "Besides, I don't think I could really keep him here. Not when he's acting like that." There was a kind of head shake, and then Hannah found herself pinned by serious green turian eyes. "So you're Commander Shepard's mother." It was said more as a statement than a question, but Hannah still nodded to it.

"Yes," she confirmed. "Admiral Hannah Shepard at your service. I don't believe I caught your name?"

"Solana Vakarian, ma'am," the turian, who suddenly seemed young to Hannah, snapped to attention in something that was probably automatic for her, as military mad as turians were. Only this time she fell out of the military posture right away, all her weight shifting onto her good leg for a moment. Hannah might have missed the way Solana's mandibles slapped tight to her face and the way the younger turian's eyes narrowed if she hadn't been watching for it. There was no sign the turian had been carrying a cane or a crutch of any sort, and she wasn't acting like she should be without one. She wondered what doctor had let her off with jut a cast like that. Then again, hospitals and medical centers had been dealing with a massive influx of patients. Maybe she was a victim of that oversight. After all, she wasn't bleeding, missing a limb, and clearly didn't have any holes blown through her. Those who weren't in immediate danger of dying tended to be shuffled out as soon as possible, so the doctors could focus on the people who needed their help more. There were so many wounded there was no way to treat all of them at once. Most with none critical injuries were just left to recover as best they could on their own.

Or, Hannah had to admit to herself, maybe Solana was just stubborn. The Admiral would freely admit that she hadn't known Garrus Vakarian long, but 'stubborn' happened to be a very accurate adjective when it came to him. Who was to say that same trait wasn't present in his sister?

"At ease," Hannah said, trying to fight back a smile at the last thought. Something translated across species very well, "I'm not even part of your military, and I'm off duty at the moment."

"If you went through that war you more than deserve respect," Solana did relax her stance however, and glanced back the way her brother had gone, then looked back at the human in front of her. "Since you're her mother, I take it you've been with the Commander this whole time?" There was something in the turian's voice that she couldn't place, and it was an odd question, but Hannah nodded all the same.

"As much as I've been able too, yes."

"And Garrus? What about him?"

Hannah was watching the younger turian careful as she spoke. "If you mean, has he been here since she was brought in…no. I take it there was some trouble with the Normandy when the Crucible went off so it took him a bit to get back. But since then? Yes, he's been here."

Solana took another, harder look, at the way her brother had gone. She spoke without looking. "Then can I ask you something?" She finally looked back. "About Garrus and the Commander." She finished the sentence hesitantly.

Hannah looked at her for a moment. She was starting to wonder if she wasn't the only family member who had been left in the dark about the relationship between Vakarian and her daughter. Not being the last person in the galaxy to have that piece of news dropped in her lap made her feel a bit better. Talking about it with someone? That was something she could do.

Still, she was supposed to be dealing with those political assholes soon…fuck it. She was more than happy to make them wait. Dealing with Solana Vakarian was bound to be easier anyway. "All right," she said at last. "But only if we sit down first." She thumped her cane against the floor for emphasis. "I'm technically cleared for duty, but the doctors have been bugging me about resting as much as I can. I would rather not listen to them yell more than I have to." She had been dealing with soldiers for decades. Outright telling Solana she looked like she needed to get off her feet would only make her deny it. Make her think she was doing it for someone else though, and she wouldn't even question it.

"I understand that perfectly, ma'am," Solana flared something that might have been a grin and glanced around. "There's a waiting area over that that I think will be private enough." She gestured down a small corridor, and Hannah just decided to trust her on that. It wasn't as if she had been given the time to just go wandering around the hospital.

"Lead the way."

The 'waiting area' turned out to be a bench that was shoved in a small out-of-the-way corner. She was fairly certain Solana had chosen it more because it would be hard to be over heard than because it was convenient. Still, she wouldn't help noticing how the female turian relaxed as she stretched her leg out. Apparently she wasn't as healed as she had been trying to pretend.

"I take it you've had doctors yelling at you too?" Hannah nodded towards the cast on the turian's foot.

Solana looked at the cast and sighed. "Spirits, yes. They wouldn't even let me up for days, and kept me from actually fighting during the final battle." She seemed to treat the last as a personal insult, but Hannah understood the frustration.

"So you were injured before the fleets were called here?"

"You could say that," Solana's hands clenched. "Got it getting off Palaven. A brute knocked a wall onto my leg when my father and I were trying to make it to an evacuation site." She let out a breath and her hands slowly relaxed before she turned to look at the human next to you. "What about you?"

"Slammed my hip into a bulkhead on my ship," Hannah answered crisply, "but somehow I get the feeling you really aren't interested in that story. You didn't want to ask about old war wounds, did you?"

"No," Solana let another breath out. "Look, this is going to sound weird but, I'm curious…" she paused a rubbed the back of her neck, something she had seen the male Vakarian do several times. "My brother and the Commander...do you know how close they are? I don't mean a political answer either," she said quickly. "I mean what you've really seen." The female turian was giving that almost predatory look Hannah had seen from turians when they were really focused on something. It was almost intimidating and she could see why people sometimes found turians threatening even when they weren't trying to be.

"Keep in mind that I haven't known your brother long," she warned Solana. "Just since my daughter's been in the hospital. I haven't even had a chance to see them together, since she's been unconscious."

That brought paused to the green-eyes turian. She seemed to freeze for a second. "Right," she sighed. "That would make it a bit difficult. Sorry, I should have thought of that myself."

Hannah couldn't help feeling a little sorry for her. "I can say," she said quietly, "that Garrus has been there for my daughter as much as he can be. He's never given up on her." The words surprised her even as she spoke them. Yes, this was Garrus' sister, but she hadn't been intending to bring out compliments just because of that, just state the facts. And, no matter her personal feelings, she had to admit that Vakarian had been nothing but supportive. She was careful to keep her personal feelings out of her voice though. No need to drag another person into her personal baggage.

"Everything else," she finished, "is mostly just the usual rumors and reports. If you really want to know more I suggest asking them yourselves."

She wasn't sure why Vakarian hadn't told his sister about his relationship, although given how secret even Lil had kept it she could guess, but she wasn't going to inform her. It was up to Vakarian to figure out how he wanted to handle that. Her daughter might be heavily involved in this, but it was still private business and she had never been a gossip.

"Yeah, I figured that," Solana sighed. "I had just hoped for something a little more solid. Garrus getting worked up over something isn't that unusual, but I've never seen him acting like that before." She paused and shrugged, "well, maybe once before. That's why I'd hoped to come up with answers for it. It's not like him."

"Then ask him the next time you see him," Hannah said firmly. She had no intention of getting drawn in between the siblings; no matter how close her daughter was to one of them. Family quarrels always ended up getting very messy, very fast.

"I'm going to ma'am," Solana answered, sounding tried. She reached up and rubbed at her forehead. "Sorry, I didn't mean to push like that. I'm just tired of not getting any answers, and I thought with this maybe I could finally get something." The last word was said almost in a growl.

"I know," Hannah said slowly, "that they were careful about what sort of information they were giving out to civilians, but I didn't think it was that bad. The leaders are still scrambling for answers ourselves, and don't want to admit to it. Once we know what's going on, I'm sure you'll hear something."

"Admiral, most of us on the ships haven't heard anything," Solana shook her head. "If my father had more information he never mentioned it to me." She looked up at the human woman. "We have people up there that are dying for word from their homes, their families. They want to know for sure that all the Reapers are gone, that the colonies and other homeworlds are safe, not just Earth." She paused. "There are even some panicked enough to try convincing everyone that we're not going back. That we're stuck here."

Those rumors weren't new. They'd been dealing with misinformation since the Relays shut down, but the Admiral hadn't realized how far and fast it had spread. It was natural she supposed, and turian discipline would hold the fleet together, but who knew how long that would last. "Look," she said at last, "they're going to start releasing more information in a day or so, but I can give you some of it now if you want. I still don't know why they've waited so long, really. It's not like it's sensitive material." She nodded at the female turian. "It just didn't come from me, all right? I doubt there's anything the brass could or would do to me at this point, but I would rather not listen to them screech at me over it."

Solana flashed her a grin. "Don't worry, I know how to keep my sources confidential. They won't ever know where I got it from." She settled back in her seat expectantly.

"As I said before, the people in charge don't know as much as they would like," Hannah said, "which is part of the reason I think they've been keeping quiet about it. What we do know is that whatever that energy blast was that took out the Reapers, it did make the trip through the Relays. We're fairly sure it would have affected all the other Reapers the same way it did here." She rubbed a thumb over the top of her cane. "We've also confirmed the energy blast is the reason the Relays shut down. According to the scientists we have up there, it overloaded and triggered something they think is a fail-safe of sorts. It's locked down all systems."

"All right," Solana said slowly. "So we know what happened. I take it we don't know how to fix it yet?"

"Not yet," Hannah was forced to admit, "they have made a bit of progress though. I just got some information from one of the quarians saying they've figured out there's some sort of program running in the background. What that means, I don't know, but she seems to think it's a good thing."

"At least it's something," Solana relaxed back onto the bench as best she could. "Thanks for mentioning it to me. Really. After everything else going to hell it's nice to know we're getting somewhere." She made a soft clicking sound and cocked her head. "Although it would be nice to be able to tell everyone about it. You're saying that they're going to give out official reports soon?"

"Within the next day or so," Hannah was confident in that. There were still a few of the current leaders who would be happy to keep everyone in the dark until they could solve everything, but thankfully more logical heads had prevailed. "I'm going to push for them to release the information sooner, although I can't make any promises." Reluctantly, she looked down at the omni-tool alert that had been flashing for the last few minutes. There were several urgent messages from Hackett staring back at her. She didn't have to listen to them to know what they said. "And I suppose I should get on that."

She looked back up at Solana. "I'm afraid I have to go. I'm supposed to be trying to talk sense into politicians right now, and I can't put it off any longer."

"Don't let me keep you," Solana's mandibles quirked upward slightly. "…And good luck with the politicians, ma'am. It sounds like you'll need it."

"Considering what I'm up against?" Hannah said as she stood. "I probably will, so thank you for that." She paused. "I'll probably be seeing you around, won't I?"

"If my brother is here? Definitely."

Hannah chuckled and shook her head as she headed away from the female turian. There was a nagging feeling that she should have said something else to Solana, but she knew that there was nothing she could really explain. She was still coming to terms with that relationship, and trying to answer questions she didn't have answers to herself would just end up confusing anyone. Better to let Lil and Garrus take care of it themselves.

Besides, watching someone else be shocked by the revelation would at least be entertaining.

o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

There were faint voices again, arguing over her. Shepard possessed enough awareness to wonder why this appeared to be happening so often, but she considered that question secondary to who was speaking.

"I'm just going to stay here a tiiiny bit longer," there was a familiar accent and echo behind the voice. Shepard knew who it was even before another voice spoke up.

"You've been saying that for an hour, Tali," Liara sounded more than a little amused. "It's getting late, and I know you've been working yourself to the bone. I'm sure Shepard wouldn't want you falling asleep here because you were waiting for her."

"I know," Tali said heavily. "But still…just give me a little bit longer? Please, Liara. I know you're trying to help, but I just want to talk to her."

"You know I understand that. But how much good will you being here do if you're so exhausted that you're falling asleep in your chair?"

Shepard decided that she had heard enough. "That would probably be a bad idea, yeah," she croaked as she opened her eyes. "Although it would be kind of funny to see." Both aliens, Tali sitting on the chair Shepard remembered her mother occupying and Liara standing behind her with a hand on her shoulder, stopped and stared. The Commander couldn't help smiling. "Hey," she raised her hand slightly. It shook, but at least she was glad it didn't feel like stone anymore. And she could raise it, just a little. That was an improvement.

"Shepard," Tali all but breathed and then lunged toward to hug her. "Keelah! You had us worried!"

"Ye..yeah," bursts of pain exploded across Shepard's shoulders and she took a deep breath to keep from yelling. "Sorry about that. Um, could you not..?"

Some of that pain must have leaked into her voice because Tali let go and sat up quickly. "Sorry! I'm so sorry Shepard, that was stupid I shouldn't have.."

"Hey, it's okay. Just…don't do that again." She winced a little. It had hurt, and she was painfully aware of how restrained Garrus and her mother must have been earlier. Pressure on her hand distracted her, and she looked up to find Liara squeezing her hand tightly. The asari was teary eyed and her voice was wavering when she spoke.

"Oh, Shepard," Liara sounded like she was about to burst into tears at any moment. Tali had almost sounded that way too, but Shepard had selfishly been glad that her helmet hid it from view. She wasn't sure how much comfort she could give the asari right now.

"Sorry, I worried you," she repeated, hoping it would do something. Liara just shook her head. "So, uh, I heard that I owe you thanks for finding me?"

Liara made a small noise, but managed to smile through her tears. "Only because you did a good job of marking your location. It still took more time than I liked to convince anyone that you might be in the beam that returned from the Crucible. The general consensus was that I was operating under 'false hope'. Vega and I actually headed out on our own before someone realized they should send backup. I think they were surprised when we found you at all. When we did, even James…" She choked and looked away.

"Wasn't sure I was alive?" Shepard managed to finish for her. "I get it Liara. I was in bad shape."

"But you're not now!" Tali said hurriedly, glancing quickly between the two of them. "You're doing much better than you were even when I first saw you! And you can talk!" The quarian's voice rose slightly at the end of the sentence. "You kept falling asleep before I could say anything to you. I was beginning to think I was really that boring!"

Shepard could tell Tali was trying to joke, but there was a waver in her friend's voice that made her feel guilty. "Sorry," she said, not really certain what she was apologizing for.

"Would you stop saying that!" Liara said sternly. "No one is blaming you at all!"

"If anything," Tali added, "I think there are people that owe an apology, and thanks, to you. We wouldn't have won without you around."

Liara was nodding in agreement to that, so Shepard just sighed. "I would dispute that, but I don't have the energy to argue with both of you at the moment. So you win for now."

"Of course we do," Tali said with a finality that somehow seemed to end the conversation. "Don't worry about anything but getting better Shepard."

"Please?" Liara said softly, "for all of us." She did manage a smile then. "We can look after ourselves you know. While you've been sleeping we've been keeping things together."

"We even started to make some progress on bringing back the Relays," the quarian said quickly. "Well, kind of, sort of progress. At least we have an idea of what we have to do now."

"That's good," Shepard said. "I would hate to win the war, and have everyone stuck here." In the back of her mind she wondered how the turians and quarians were dealing with being stuck on a levo planet. She thought about asking, but she didn't know how to phrase it. At least Garrus had looked all right. Not like he was starving or anything.

"That would make things complicated," A new voice agreed as the door to the room opened. "Can you imagine having a krogan as a roommate? He would never manage to clean up after himself." Garrus shook his head as he walked over to her bed. "Although there is one good thing about this. I doubt anyone will ever complain about the Relay 314 incident again. Nothing like having a race of machines try to kill you to erase past wrongs and promote camaraderie."

Shepard couldn't help smiling as he reached the end of her bed and just paused, studying her. "Garrus," she said carefully, "hey."

"Shepard," he said, the weight of her name sounding heavy on his tongue before he moved over to the other side of the bed. "Hey." Shepard thought she saw Liara hiding a smile, but decided she didn't care at the moment. Garrus did flick a glance toward the asari, smiling a little on his own. "Do I want to know what the three of you were talking about? Or is it some deep feminine mystery that I really don't want to know?" He reached down and rested his hand atop her free one, but didn't make another move besides that. She was slightly disappointed he didn't do anything else, but she didn't expect him too. One thing she had learned early on about Garrus Vakarian was that he wasn't demonstrative in public. Endlessly affectionate in private, yes, but when there were other people around he kept himself to smaller gestures. Or at least he did when he wasn't nearly drunk off his ass.

The stiff way he was standing clearly said that he wasn't entirely happy with the whole 'small gestures' thing at the moment. She wasn't either, but trying to bring it up would only embarrass him and that was the last thing she wanted. He had been waiting faithfully by her side, even when they weren't sure she would wake up. It made her ache to think of it and she was beyond grateful he had been there fore her. She might not understand why he was holding back right now, when she was awake when Liara and Tali were two of their oldest friends, but that didn't matter. She would just be glad he was there.

So instead she spoke. "Nothing that exciting," she said. "Just the state of the galaxy, how I worry too much, the usual."

"Please don't tell me you've been awake for a couple of days and you're already trying to fuss over everyone else," Garrus said automatically. "You're wounded. Let other people actually do their jobs for once. Take a break from saving the galaxy." He gave her a worried look. "Please?"

"I'm beginning to think I don't have much of a choice." Shepard felt like she should have been protesting more, but the thought of actually doing it was exhausting. That, she hoped, would clear up soon. She didn't like the thought of not even having enough energy to argue with someone.

"You don't," her collective asshole friends said at the same time. Even Garrus joined in, and she made a note to do something about that later. He even gave her the turian equivalent of a teasing grin, then looked away before she actually glared at him.

"Well, thank you," she grumbled back. Garrus' eyes darted toward her, and he did give a turian smile, but it was a long moment before he looked away from the door. That was more than a bit unusual, especially considering what she thought he had been thinking. "So what's got you so distracted?" She asked after a second.

"What?" Jerked a little in surprises. "Ah, it's nothing. Really," he added seeing the look on her face. "I just…ran into someone earlier."

"Someone?" Tali said teasingly, "you mean your sister?"

"Sister?" Liara said, Shepard echoing her.

"She's here?" the Commander asked. Last she had heard Solana Vakarian had been with the other turian refugees. She was pretty damn sure that Garrus would have mentioned her taking part in that final battle.

Then again, she thought as he just tensed up, maybe not. Her lover had a tendency to keep things to himself. If he had been worried, he would have kept it from her so she wouldn't worry too. He did that often, come to think of it. She made a mental note to bring that up to him later just as Tali started talking.

"She is," the quarian said. "I ran into her when I was coming to see you. She seemed nice."

"I need to stop the two of you from meeting again. I'm afraid you might actually get along," Garrus said loftily. Shepard started to ask something, but he must have seen the question in her eyes because he gave a small head shake. "She wasn't here for herself. I almost wish that she was given how her leg looked, but she was looking for me. Victus told her I kept coming here and she thought I was the one that needed medical attention." He sounded annoyed, although whether it was because of Victus letting it slip or because Solana had dared to think he was hurt Shepard couldn't tell.

"Ah yes, how dare she worry about her brother," she couldn't help saying anyway. "I mean it's not like you know, ended up with a rocket to the face before or anything. You're always fine."

Tali giggled.

"That's not what I meant," Garrus fidgeted a little, not sure what to do with his hands. "But if she was here then it meant she was asking questions about what I was doing hanging around a hospital."

There was a subtle vibration in his subvocals that Shepard had gradually learned signified anxiousness in turians.

"Does," Liara said gently, "does your sister know about..?" She glanced pointedly at Shepard.

"No," Garrus admitted, "Solana and I have had an…interesting relationship over the years. Bringing up the 'dating-my-human-commander' thing is going to take perfect timing."

"And here I thought you were an expert at the timing thing," Shepard said, and tried to smile. This was…unexpected. Garrus' family had always been a distant thing when they would discuss her finally meeting them. Having one of them suddenly right here brought everything into almost frightening immediacy. "Weren't you saving up the story about me and the fish tank for just this occasion?" She said, mostly to distract herself.

Garrus just looked confused. "What?"

"..I thought you hated when people brought that up." Tali said curiously.

"Leeeet's just forget I said anything," she said quickly.

"Look, Shepard," Garrus said, still fidgeting with this talons still. "Don't feel like you have to push this if you don't feel up for it. I'm not ashamed of what's between us, but if you want to wait, we can.."

"Garrus," she said patiently and reached up to place her hand over his. It still felt heavy, and there was a persistent ache with the movement, but at least she could do it now. "I want to meet your sister. You've been dealing with my family. It's only fair I learn to deal with yours."

She could see the tension drain from him, and he held her hand gently. "If you're sure then, yeah, sure I'll figure something out." His mandibles flared out in a turian version of a half-smile. "Just give it a bit. Get some strength back first, then we can.."

"Garrus," she said slowly. "I don't think I need to get strength back just to meet someone." Yes, she wasn't exactly at her best right now but it wasn't like she was completely out of it. "I think I could deal with your sister."

"Yeah, because a potentially messy interspecies meeting is such a great idea when you can't even sit up on your own. And that isn't a challenge Shepard!"

Shepard chose to ignore his words, and Liara, and Tali. She tried to lever herself up on her elbows, but even getting them into position was a miniature battle all on it's. There was a heaviness to her body, and the muscles everywhere, shoulders, back, arms, were quick to scream at her when she tried to force herself up. It was like straining against a krogan on her chest. Tali trying to push her down and going stop it right now really wasn't helping matters either. There was a distinct shriek from one of the machines that said they weren't too happy about it either, but she was sure if she pushed justa little harder she would be able to make it up.

"Would the lot of you calm down." The voice that rose above the chatter in the room was crisp and no-nonsense. Shepard spared a moment to glace at the nurse that had walked in – it wasn't Miranda or Chakwas but one of the other nurses that worked here at night – and the distraction was too much for her body. Her strength gave out and she fell back onto her mattress with a slight yelp that had the nurse all but charging over.

"I'm not even going to ask what all of you are doing here this late," she said crisply as she moved Liara and Tali out of the way. "But I'm going to question your judgment on the matter. We have a patient that needs rest…"

"And is right here!"

"And we have all of you here, riling her up and over exiting her," the nurse pretended she hadn't heard Shepard, something that had clearly impressed the aliens in the room. "She's never going to make progress if she doesn't have a chance to rebuild her strength." She leveled a glare at everyone around her. "Considering the time, I suggest you leave for now, before you make her any worse."

"I'm fine," Shepard started to protest.

"No, you are not," the nurse cut her off, "and you are not going to be for a good while, especially if you keep trying to move around before you're ready. I was warned that you might make a habit of this, but I didn't think it would start this soon!"

Any other protests she had been going to make were stymied by the nurse looking around at the other people in the room. "I think it might be best for you to leave. It's far too late to be bringing this kind of excitement in here."

"What? No!" Tali's protest was the loudest out of the flurry that followed that. "You can't just..

"Yes I can," the nurse said briskly, "I'm part of the team assigned to see her recovery, and right now, she needs time to rest. She'll still be here tomorrow, and might actually be in a better shape to talk if you actually give her a few more times."

"I can talk just fine!" Shepard wasn't surprised to find that ignored too. She was beginning to get very, very annoyed with that. She wasn't used to people just pretending she was there. It was even more humiliating when she realized she wasn't even in any shape to do anything about it.

There were a few more protests as the nurse started to usher Liara and Tali out of the room. Shepard kept a grip on Garrus' hand and looked at him pleadingly. "You don't have to leave," she said. "If we can beat up a few Reapers then I'm pretty sure we can handle her."

Garrus chuckled and gave her hand a squeeze. "Oh, probably. Might be a bit of a challenge though…and I'm beginning to think she's right."

"Hey!"

"Just listen to me for a second?" he said and Shepard just gave him a stern look. "I'm serious here. I want you back on your feet as soon as possible. You know that. And maybe letting you lay around for a bit is the best way to do that. And you know that's true," he said when he saw her expression. "I could point out what just happened, but you know, hey, I'm sure that had absolutely nothing to do with anything."

"Smart-ass," Shepard grumbled.

"You know you like it," Garrus said. "Just…rest for tonight Shepard." There was such a worried look in his eyes that Shepard became concerned. Maybe he really was that concerned about her. The last thing she wanted was to put him through any more of that.

"Only as long as you promise you'll come back tomorrow?" She hated how weak and needy that made her sound. "If I wake up without anyone here I'll just be bored out of my mind." And being alone, in a hospital, was not something she wanted to go through. Childish as it was that thought made her almost…scared.

"I'll be here," Garrus rumbled. "You don't even need to ask." The nurse started making impatient noises, and Garrus left slowly after that. Shepard stared after him, feeling absurdly vulnerable now that she was alone.

Maybe she should sleep some more. At least then tomorrow would come faster.

O0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

It was raining again the next morning. Hannah Shepard pulled the hood on her Alliance issued coat up higher, both to keep out the water and because of the faint hope that no one would recognize her in it. There were more people than usual hovering around the hospital, and she wasn't about to blame this one on the Primarch. Not when half of them were reporters clearly looking for a story. Part of it might have been the recently dropped news about the state of the Relays, but they wouldn't be here unless they were chasing a story that was just as interesting as that little announcement. Like say, Commander Shepard being alive and well.

She managed to skip past most of them, grateful that she wasn't nearly as well known as her daughter was. The hood, and the coat, made her look like just another solider on a trip to the hospital. She just had to hope they continued to think that until she was inside. She kept up a brisk walk as she shoved her way past a man with his camera, but he barely glanced at her before going back to arguing with an asari who was standing in the door. The woman was wearing a uniform herself, and Hannah noticed her glance over, note the coat, then turn back to arguing with the reporter.

Maybe the hospital had started to bring in some more security. If that was the case, she was going to have a stiff word with whoever was in charge of it about just letting people walk in like that. It wasn't like it would particularly hard for a determined person to steal a bit of Alliance gear after all.

The coast looked clear when she actually entered the building itself. She scanned the area, searching for any signs of stray paparazzi, but none presented themselves. Hannah allowed herself to relax and pushed her hood back as she started towards her daughter's room. She had very little time this morning for a visit before they tried to drag her into yet another useless meeting. Yelling at the 'executive council' had been entertaining in its own right but dealing with how displeased they were about not being able to drag her daughter into questioning right now had been draining. All she wanted to do was go check on Lil, then maybe find some nice wholesome paperwork to bore her out of her mind until..

"Admiral? Admiral Shepard?" Whoever it was had the bright earnest tone that Hannah had come to dread. She bit back a groan and kept walking briskly forward. The guards should stop most reporters, or at least cause enough fuss to get the paparazzi thrown out for causing a disturbance near the special wing. All she had to do was get there.

"Admiral Shepard, I'm Alexandra Lawkins for the…" An almost impossibly blonde woman popped up right in front of her. Hannah had to take a step back from running her over, and barely noticed anything else the woman had said.

"I already said I was through talking to you people," she snapped biting back the first choice words that sprang to her mind because of the camera hovering over the blonde's shoulder. "If you want information about the announcement, go speak to Alliance headquarters. You're not going to get anything out of me that they wouldn't say."

"I'm not here about that, Admiral," the woman said brightly, "although it would be interesting to know why not only the Alliance, but the Council as a whole decided to put off informing everyone about the state of the Mass Relays…"

There were really two levels of leadership now that everyone was trying to clean up after the Reaper War. One was race specific, like the Alliance leaders and the few politicians they had found trying to help humanity. The other was the multi-species council that met regularly to make sure there was some sort of order, that another war wasn't about to start between them, that everyone was getting enough to eat….and to figure out how to get everyone else off Earth and home safely. No one involved with that had dared refer to it as the Council yet, but reporters had been calling it that since day one. It made Hannah feel slightly uncomfortable, but she supposed she could see the need for the public to cling to a name that held some sort of familiarity and respect attached to it. It made them feel as if something was going to get done.

That didn't mean she had to like it though.

Her distaste must have been clear because the reporter started talking quickly.

"Although my focus at this time, Admiral Shepard is on something of a much more human scale. Care to comment on the rumors that your daughter is being held, alive and well, in this very hospital?" The reporter looked at her eagerly.

A shiver swept down her spine. This was exactly what she had been trying to avoid. "Is that it?" Hannah said, trying very hard to avoid showing any reaction at all. "Can't you do anything more useful than reporting on gossip? In case you weren't aware, most of Earth was destroyed. I'm sure the work crews would welcome an extra pair of hands, even if they don't have any real strength to offer."

The reporter bristled. "This isn't just gossip Admiral! This about your own daughter, I thought that you, of all people, would understand why people are so set on searching for answers about her. She's not just anyone, she's Commander Shepard! Everyone knows that we owe her our lives. Knowing whether she lived or died could mean the difference in the morale for some very desperate people out there!"

"Then they'll have to keep wondering," Hannah snapped before pushing passed the reporter. "There's a lot more they need to be focusing on. If I could survive with no news, so can they." Normally she might have been a bit more sympathetic. A symbol or ideal held a lot of power for people. They were looking for hope, and throughout the war her daughter had given it them. Now, with the war over, they wanted that assurance they could still recover from all this.

It was when that hope was linked to Lil, who was still too exhausted too move, Hannah felt she had to take issue with it. Every race, not just humans, seemed to forget that most heroes were only mortal. Her daughter had all but driven herself into the ground while they were fighting. Now it was time for the rest of the galaxy to let this hero have a chance to rest.

"Admiral!" the reporter protested, and hurried after her, staying at the older woman's elbow. "You said 'could wait' does that mean you have had news about your daughter? Are you going to visit her? If you could just give the word to our viewers then you would let half a galaxy find some relief in the fact that.."

Hannah turned to face her so abruptly the reporter cut off. As satisfying as decking the woman would have been, she had a feeling that Hackett wouldn't be pleased about her causing a public relations nightmare. They'd already had to deal with something like that before, when her daughter had actually pulled that stunt. "Tell that half of the galaxy," she managed to say instead, "that while they're looking for their hero, I'm thinking about my daughter. If she's as important as you claim she is, then try to honor her by putting the galaxy she worked so hard to save back together. Let that be her legacy." She turned and started walking away again. Circumstances might force her to deal with the press once in a while, but like hell was she going to put up with their crap when she was trying to visit her sick daughter.

The reporter's silence only lasted a split second before she was babbling again. "Admiral Shepard, just what do you mean by…"

"If you don't leave me alone, then I'll call hospital security and have them throw you out. I've heard they haven't been very pleased about paparazzi bothering the patients lately. Imagine what an entertaining story that would be." Hannah sped up as much as she dared then, hoping that she wouldn't start to limp, because then it would give the reporter something else to latch onto like a starving varren. She wasn't sure if she would be able to keep civil if that happened.

She managed to reach the checkpoint before the reporter could decide if it was worth risking. At least now she would be bothering someone else, if she decided the story was big enough to bother with. Hannah nodded to both the guards stationed there, who saluted her when she got close. One of them kept glancing back down the hallway that lead into the private area and fingering his gun.

"Good morning, ma'am," the woman said sounding cheerful. "Was that Lawkins woman bothering you? I didn't think she was getting that desperate."

That snapped Hannah's attention away from the fidgeting guard. "You know her?"

"Seen her around," the woman shook her head, "she's been talking to most of the hospital staff. One of the boys here earlier said she tried to get by but he chased her off. Apparently she wasn't smart enough to just leave." The last was punctuated by a glare Hannah swore she felt the heat of, even if it wasn't aimed at her.

She glanced back over her shoulder to follow the look the guard was giving someone in the middle of the room. The reporter was trying to talk to one of the hospital personnel stocking supplies, and getting no response from the salarian. The Admiral turned around and shook her head. "She won't need me to get her kicked out if she keeps that up," she remarked, then glanced between the guards. "I trust I don't have to remind you want your jobs are here?"

"You mean keeping busy-bodies like that at a safe distance? Don't worry, ma'am, she's not slipping by." It almost sounded like she wanted the reporter to try getting by her. Hannah couldn't help but smile a little at the thought.

"Then I'll leave things in your hands," she said, only to pause when she realized that the other guard was still more interested in something behind him than her words. He responded with a 'ma'am' when his comrade did, but he clearly wasn't paying attention to why he was saying it.

"Something the matter, soldier?"

It took him a moment to realize he was addressing him. "N..nothing ma'am!" he snapped around to face forward and threw her a salute. "Keep an eye on the reporter, make sure no one gets by without authorization. I will do my duty, ma'am!"

"Impressive," Hannah said dryly, "but I will feel much more reassured if I knew why you're eyes were wandering."

"It won't happen again ma'am!" he said quickly. Hannah just crossed her arms and gave him the sort of splintering look that she gave the rawest of recruits. She was impressed. He managed to hold out for a few seconds before cracking. "There was just…a krogan that came through here, ma'am." He finished the sentence almost sheepishly.

"Krogan?" She hadn't even known there were any krogan in the area.

"One just went past us, ma'am," the female guard clarified. "Big fella too. Thought Andrews here was going to faint when he showed up wanting to get through."

"Shut it," the guard hissed back, clearly trying to draw himself up straight as he glared at his companion. "I was just concerned because we were letting an armored krogan back among wounded personnel. I know we're supposed to be allies and s.." he quickly cleared his throat, "know we're supposed to be allies…but it's a krogan."

"Uh huh," Hannah said calmly, "and did he have clearance?"

"Yes ma'am," the female guard said quickly. "We wouldn't have left him by if he didn't."

"And since I don't hear gunfire, I think it's safe to say that it's fine, soldier," Hannah said firmly, carefully hiding her amusement. "I hope you were just a touch more diplomatic when you were actually dealing with our allies." She stressed the last word slightly. Besides, she had a shrewd idea who this one was, and was only surprised that he hadn't bothered to turn up sooner. She still might have been a bit more concerned, if she hadn't trusted the other guards around her daughter.

"He barely said anything actually," the other guard said sounding almost cheerful. "He just kept staring like it was the first time he'd ever seen a krogan."

Andrews sputtered something and Hannah chuckled, but decided not to press him further. "I'll keep that in mind then, and I'll keep an eye out on the way there. Andrews, you remember what I said about keeping your eyes front instead of worrying about your back."

"Yes ma'am," he said firmly as she walked past him. When she was nearly through the gateway, the Admiral stopped.

"It's never a good idea to underestimate anyone," she told the younger soldier as she glanced back at him. "You keep thinking that all krogan are unrestrained brutes and it will come back to bite you in the ass someday."

The guards down the hall didn't seem at all affected by the presence of a krogan. Whether that was due to professionalism or because they were sure he wasn't here to start trouble, she couldn't be sure. They didn't even give a warning, just returned her nod as she headed through.

The guards in front of her daughter's room, now they did look a bit nervous. Then again, they did have a mountain in red armor just watching them with an amused expression on his face.

"Urdnot Wrex. I would wonder if you enjoy intimidating everyone, but I'm afraid that of what the answer to that would be," Hannah remarked as she came up on his position. He snorted and turned his head slightly to look at her with one eye.

"And just who are you?" he said gruffly. That was a question she had been expecting. Although she'd seen the krogan leader from a distance once or twice, most of what she knew about it him came from the various reports and second-hand stories. The most recent ones, straight from Hackett's mouth, were how the krogan warlord had invited himself along to the meeting of the inter-species 'Council'. Whether anyone had even wanted him there was a moot point. There was no one who was willing to risk a confrontation just to throw him out.

She supposed the old joke about the eight-hundred pound gorilla applied to krogan as well. They both did whatever the hell they wanted.

"Rear Admiral Hannah Shepard," she said in answer to his question. "I'm surprised you even knew where to find my daughter."

There was a moment while Wrex looked her over again, then he returned to watching the guards. "Thought you smelled like Shepard's clan. I've known where she was since you humans dragged her here. I just didn't see the point in showing up to mope over her while she was sleeping. Figured I just had to wait until she woke up again." He snorted. "Didn't think anyone would be raising this much of a fuss when she did. I hate waiting," he gave the guards an outright glare that, which just made them tense nervously.

"All right," she said calmly holding up her hands in a placating gesture, "I can understand that. But why exactly are you waiting out here anyway?" She glanced over at one of the guards for answers.

"Orders from Operative Lawson, Admiral," one of them said quickly. "She's doing an examination on the Commander to determine how much her health has improved. We're under orders not to allow any disturbances until it's completed."

"Lawson?" It occurred to her, right after she spoke, that of course the woman would be here. She'd been checking up on Lil regularly. At any other time she wouldn't even have been surprised. Given what she had learned in the last couple of days though, now she didn't know what to feel. Lawson was the woman who had brought her daughter back to life. She was still trying to process that.

"Bah," Wrex grumbled and pushed away from the wall to pace a little. "They've been saying that since I got here. I don't like leaving her alone with someone who worked for Cerberus, no matter what Shepard said about her."

"I'm not saying I don't understand the sentiment, but Lawson has been treating Lil since she was brought here. She's been watched, and she hasn't given us any cause for alarm. If she really meant her harm she would have done something by now."

There was a snort from the krogan leader. "Probably just buying her time and waiting until we let down our guard."

"You're being as suspicious as Vakarian was when he first showed up," she noted, remembering how the turian had been acting. "Or maybe he was just annoyed at her trying to order him around. I thought he wasn't going to listen for a while after that." She did remember that both the krogan and Vakarian had served with her daughter. Maybe reminding him that he wasn't the only one with a cause to worry would calm him down. Probably not, but it was worth a shot. She wasn't even sure he knew about their relationship.

"So Garrus was listening to his instincts for once," the krogan leader said. "At least he's learned that much. Think he would be happy about Shepard being in there alone with her?" He gestured toward the door to Lil's room. The windows had been darkened for privacy making the room look far more ominous that it should have.

"Probably not, but I think he's learned to deal with it," Hannah crossed her arms. "And Lawson is well aware of what will happen to her if she tries anything. Lil is my daughter, remember. I wouldn't let Lawson near her if I thought we couldn't trust her."

Wrex snorted, but the windows cleared before their conversation could continue. Both turned to watch as the door clicked open, and Lawson exited, talking quietly to another doctor behind her. They stopped short when they realized who was waiting for them. The other doctor looked like wanted to bolt back into the room, but Lawson just gave them an unsurprised look.

"I suppose I should have expected this," she said crisply. "You can go in if you want. She's awake for now, but I can't tell you how long that will last." Lawson moved out of the doorway, the other doctor following quickly after her.

"If you're as good as everyone says you are, why can't you even tell us that?" Wrex's voice was little more than a rumble. To her credit, Lawson didn't seem the least bit ruffled by it and just gave him that same cool look.

"Because this is the Commander we're talking about, and we're dealing with something that's extremely hard to measure. You should know she's raised unpredictability to an art form. I hesitate to try to pin down anything when it comes to her," Miranda crossed her arms. "I would think your time would be better spent talking to her, not wasting time arguing with me."

Wrex growled something, but he didn't bother to say anything more to that. He just started through the doorway. As he passed by Lawson, he did stop for the few seconds it took to turn, glare at her, and give another grumbling growl before continuing inside. After he was past Lawson almost seemed to relax a fraction. Apparently even her normal unflappable nature couldn't stand up to a krogan that large.

Hannah had been going to follow him, but there was too much nagging at her. Hearing what had happened to her daughter, that she had lost her only to have her brought back, had left the admiral with far, far too many questions. She hadn't had a chance to seek Lawson out since she had heard the news, but now, with the former Cerberus agent right in front of her, she couldn't pass up that chance. There was still a large part of her that wanted to just go after the krogan, but she knew herself well enough to realize that the questions would only continue to bug her unless she did something about them.

"Lawson," she said out loud, and kept her position near the wall. "Can I have a word?"

The younger woman gave her a long measured stare, then nodded curtly. "Of course," she said, then turned to the other doctor. "Go, and make sure the reports we have are filed correctly. I want to make a proper comparison later."

"I'll make sure all the data is available to you," the man said, and gave a small nod to the admiral before he started walking down the hall. At a faster-than-necessary pace.

From inside the room she heard the deep boom of Wrex's voice answered by her daughter's, and felt a moment of impatience to be there with them. Willpower was something she had learned to rely on and had strengthened during her time with the military. She turned her attention to the woman who had crossed the few steps to her and tried to block out the voices.

"Is there something I can help you with Admiral?" Lawson asked.

"How is she?" Hannah wasn't even sure how to bring up the whole 'did you bring my daughter back to life' issue. Better to ease into things slowly while she figured that out. "I mean, really, not just what you're putting in the reports I know the brass is getting."

"Actually," Lawson said, smiling a little. "She's doing extremely well all things considered, and that is not just a platitude. I didn't even think she would be awake yet, but she's already getting her energy back at a fairly impressive rate. Granted, I'm not saying she'll be on the battlefield any time soon, but if her improvement continues like this, she'll at least be out of the hospital faster than any of us thought possible."

Hannah let out a soft breath. "Good. I know the prognosis from every other doctor has been 'good' but I don't trust half of them to be really honest with me," she paused and gave the younger woman a searching look. "And most of them seem to have no idea why she's recovering as fast as she is. They say it's the implants she has, but I've lived long enough to know they're not as sure about that as they would like to be." You didn't get up to any sort of rank in the Alliance without being able to tell when someone was bullshitting you. After a while you started to pick up the skill required to read between the lines on reports, to separate what they wanted you to hear from the reality of it. The doctors weren't the first people Hannah had come across trying to seem like they knew more than they did.

"I'm hardly surprised," Lawson answered, "the Commander's implants are far more advanced than most in use today. It's entirely new technology. Highly experimental if you want me to be totally honest about it. I very much doubt that any of them were in a position to even get a glimpse of it before."

"And Cerberus was able to get its hands on technology like that?" Hannah leaned back against the wall behind her. She was sure that Lawson knew she was testing her, and the younger woman gave her a searching look before answering.

"Yes. It's not like Cerberus' only interest was in copying technology. There was a large group of laboratories and research stations funded entirely by Cerberus." Lawson tensed, "Of course, I can't deny that some of the research was…perhaps less than ethical. It did however lead to great scientific leaps forward."

"You're lucky I'm not here to get into an argument about ethics," Hannah shifted her weight slightly, trying to keep as much of it as possible off her bad leg. "Or talk about my opinion on Cerberus' tactics. What I will be more than happy to talk about is the truth." She glanced over at the guards by her daughter's door and dropped her voice to little more than a whisper. "Are those implants really so advanced that the best doctors the Alliance can find don't even recognize them or do they not recognize them because they're not the sort of thing that can be installed while the patient is still alive?" Granted 'the best' doctors were from the pool that had managed to survive the war and were near Earth, but the statement was enough for Miranda's eyes to go wide and her body to stiffen.

After a moment Miranda glanced behind her. "…May we take this discussion somewhere more…private Admiral?" She managed to ask.

"Of course." Hannah had been expecting something of the sort, and would have suggested it herself if Lawson hadn't. Somehow she had the feeling the galaxy wasn't ready to accept the whole 'brought back from the dead' thing.

Miranda nodded, leading them a short way up the hallway, toward the blank wall at its end. When they reached it, Lawson double-checked to make sure they were out of earshot of the guards before turning back to the conversation. "I can't say I wasn't expecting you to find out, I just couldn't say for sure when you would get a hold of that information. Did the Commander tell you?"

"Actually, Vakarian was the chattier one," Hannah said, copying Lawson in keeping her voice down. She could feel a faint buzz of adrenaline under her skin and feel her heart beat slightly faster. "Although I did wait until I could talk to Lil too. I wasn't about to believe this without her input on that. You have to admit the whole thing sounds more than a bit unbelievable."

"That's understandable," Miranda said. "Even I wasn't sure the Lazarus Project would be successful when it was first proposed to me. It seemed more like a prayer for a miracle than a real scientific process, but it went better than any of us could have ever hoped." She took a breath. "And I suppose you have questions about it now?"

Lazarus. Somehow Hannah wasn't surprised they had chosen that name. Cerberus had seemed to love being pretentious. She crossed her arms. "More than a few, yeah. There's just some I'm not sure I want answers too." She studied the younger woman. "So you really did help bring my daughter back to life?"

"I was in charge of the project yes," Lawson admitted, looking a bit uncomfortable. "That's one of the reasons I'm helping her now. Beyond the fact that I owe her for the help she's given me, there really is no one else as qualified as I am."

It sounded more like a simple statement than any sort of bragging, and Hannah couldn't deny the truth of it. Lawson had brought Lil back from the dead. There wasn't really anything you could do to out do that. "I'll take your word for it," she said out loud. "I suppose you've answered the question of why no one ever found my daughter's body. You needed it for your project." There was the steady thunder of her heartbeat in her ears. This was calling back all the old buried memories of when they had told her that husband had been lost and there would be no body left to bury. Hearing the same thing about her own daughter had been one of the hardest moments of her life. Knowing that her daughter's body hadn't been lost, but had been carried off to be experimented off…that was a hard pill to swallow. Not that she could argue about the results, but it was not something she wanted to dwell on. How dare they think they had the right to do something like that? To just take Lil without any sort of thought for those who had missed her, that was something she didn't think she could ever fully forgive.

"Yes, that was Cerberus," Miranda answered. "We needed it if we were going to bring the Commander back to us, and it had to be her. The Illusive Man was very adamant that she be brought back, no matter the cost, no matter how impossible what he was asking us for seemed to be."

"I…see," Hannah didn't know what to say to that. The only intel she had about the Illusive Man came from Alliance reports. Even that appeared to only have given a surface view of the man who had been responsible for nearly wiping out the galaxy. Maybe she didn't want to know what he was thinking. But then again, this didn't have anything to do with his decision when he was indoctrinated. At least she hoped that was the case. "Then let me ask why. Why my daughter? I'm not ungrateful, understand, but you brought her back from the dead. You don't do that just to have a chat with someone." She pinned Lawson with her gaze, but the younger woman just turned and looked back down the hall for a moment instead of answering.

Hannah frowned, and turned to follow her gaze. Lawson might just have been looking towards Lil's room, but the Admiral found herself distracted by the sight of Garrus coming down the hall. He was walking at a clip that could barely be called a walk, and was clearly restraining himself from breaking into a jog. When he reached the guards at the door he stopped and said something to them. They were too far away to hear the words, but he jerked his head around look over in her direction. There was a surprised flare to his mandible when he saw them, then he nodded, turned, said something else to the guards, and slipped inside the room.

"…I wasn't sure about the why at first either," Lawson said at last as they turned to face each other again. "I thought the Illusive Man was more than a little crazy when he first insisted we try the Lazarus Project. He was adamant that it be Shepard we bring back, not a robot, not a clone of her, but the real thing." The younger woman kept talking, although she gestured down the hall. "I didn't get it at first either, but despite the evil he did in the end, the Illusive Man did have a gift for seeing further than other people. He wanted whatever it was that the made the Commander a Spectre; let her defeat Saren. Whatever it was that made her great. A clone wouldn't have that. You can clone memories or experiences. Only Shepard herself could ever understand what she's been through. And, I see now, we needed her. You and I both know that we wouldn't have gotten though this if she hadn't been there, driving everyone forward. She has a gift for that, and I don't think there's anyone who could have replicated what she did." Lawson looked her square in the eye for a moment.

"I think, ultimately, the why is because the galaxy needed Commander Shepard. We couldn't have survived without her, even if none of us realized it at the time."

Hannah nodded slowly, trying to store all that information away. She knew her daughter was amazing, had known it for years. Of course, she was also her mother. That was kind of part of the whole deal.

Then her daughter had gone out into the world, into the galaxy, and started changing it. Started doing things that even her mother couldn't imagine her doing. Hannah was proud of her, and she made sure Lil never doubted that, but sometimes she couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with how much her own daughter meant to the rest of the galaxy now.

They saw a hero, but she couldn't help remembering the little girl who would bounce on the bed as she fought imaginary pirates.

"I can't say I like the thought of thanking the Illusive Man for anything," the Admiral said, "but I suppose I have to be grateful to him for pushing this one thing. I have my daughter back." She closed her eyes for a moment. She hadn't anticipated how deep this would dig, or how confusing this would be. It felt like she should be mad. Part of her was, over what Cerberus had done to her daughter. Then the logical part of her would remember they had brought her back.

"I understand this is probably very confusing," Lawson said, somehow echoing her thoughts. "I would imagine that anyone would find something like this slightly unsettling."

"I believe you have a talent for understatement," Hannah said flatly. "I have more answers I want from you, but right now I think it's better if I let this sink in." She didn't want to walk away, not really, but her head was buzzing enough right now. She wanted a chance to sort through it all, to talk to Lil, and then try to make more sense of what had happened.

"Of course," Lawson nodded. "I'll be working here, at least for the time being. I'm sure you'll be able to find me."

"Oh, I will," Hannah answered and straightened up. "But for now, I believe I'll go see my daughter. I've nearly lost her twice now. I think I've earned some time with her now that we can actually talk."

And finally talk without any big scary secrets in the way. It might not be remotely the same as it was when Lil was younger, but at the very least Hannah wanted to make sure that she was there for her daughter.