a/n: say it with me, ya'll! "Bioware owns mass effect. I'm just taking a stroll through their universe". So, what does 5+ months in a medically induced coma mean? When you finally wake up, you're as weak as all hell. A little more insight into what Earth is like after the attack. (and anyone who thinks massive rebuilding is likely within at LEAST 5 years, is crazy! I lived through Hurricane Katrina, I've seen extensive damage first hand, it's seven years out and there are STILL places not fit for human habitation. sorry, rant.)


"Hey, Doc." Shepard said brightly as the older woman entered the room.

"Good morning, Commander. I'm sure you will be pleased to know that it's moving day." Doctor Chakwas said smiling. "Major Alenko will be here within the hour. You feeling up to meeting him?"

She started to spring out of the bed that confined her, thought better of it and then slid gingerly from it. While she had been mostly healed from her wounds, her muscles were not in their usual condition and she was uncertain that her legs had the strength to support her. However, she would not wait a moment longer than necessary to see her Kaidan. He had been gone for two weeks and while they had spoken via a salvaged omni-tool—hers had been destroyed in the explosion—it wasn't the same as seeing him and holding him in her arms.

Shall I get the chair?" the doctor asked as she limped and hobbled to the closet to get dressed.

"No." she said, perhaps a little too sharply. "No, I need to see him on my own two feet. I need him to see me do it." She rummaged through the small closet of salvaged clothing looking for something that wasn't the loungewear she's been wearing since she woke up. Eventually she settled on a soft blue t-shirt and a pair of jeans that would have been just a hair too tight back on the Normandy, but now hung loosely on her bony hips.

After a quick shower—well as quick as she could make it—she looked appraising in the mirror. Her hair, which was cropped close as a necessity due to the extensive medical procedures, was starting to get shaggy and was desperately in need of a trim. Streaks of blonde-white colored it's typical bright red hue, where it was growing in over her scars. A bright red scar, nearly the color of her hair, ran across her forehead. But her eyes were bright and as alive as ever, shining in anticipation.

She stepped outside for the first time since the attack ended and blinked in the sunlight. All around her lay destruction, devastation, but the bright summer sun seemed to make it all glow, washing it in pure light. She wavered a bit on her feet as she took it in. She knew it was bad, but being told about the devastation was one thing; seeing it for herself was something entirely different. She could see some salvage crews picking through the rubble of buildings across a square. Piles of usable materials sorted by type lay to one side. A small pile of bodies for interment lay to another.

'Over six months since the attack and they are still pulling people from the rubble.' she though in sad awe. She had never been a religious person, but she closed her eyes and said a little prayer for those lost. She must have swayed on her feet, for a large hulk of an medic put a hand on her shoulder to steady her.

"Commander?" he asked.

"I, I just need to sit for a moment." She could hear the waver in her voice as she said it, but had no way to control that just yet. "So much was lost, wasted." She said quietly as he directed her to a stack of crates containing much needed medical supplies. She sank onto the box's hard metal surface.

"True, but so much more could have been. At least we are still here, still fighting for a chance to survive, to live." He seemed so optimistic. She looked out over the scene before her. Perhaps he was right. She looked closer at the salvage team. She hadn't noticed it before, but it was a very diverse group of individuals: humans, of course, but also turians, asari, and even a krogan.

'Hmm, maybe things aren't as bad as they seem. Maybe this be for the best in the long run.' she thought as she watched them. She was distracted from her reflections by the approach of a caravan of military vehicles. She felt a grin spread across her face as a familiar black head dropped out of the passenger side of the second vehicle. She wanted to run to him, to jump into his arms, but she knew her body wouldn't stand for that just yet. So she settled for standing up.

He sprinted up the steps to her and pulled her close to him, swinging her around in a circle before setting her down again.

"It's so good to see you out of bed, Shepard." She leaned into the hand he laid on her cheek before he gently stroked her hair.

"I don't know if I'll ever get used to the white." He smiled down at her.

"Well, at least it grew back." she ran her hand through the shaggy mane self-consciously. He tilted her chin up toward him and kissed her gently. It felt like springtime, and birthdays, and dancing. She sighed happily as she returned the light pressure.

"Come on. Let's take you home." He picked her up, so easily—too easily, she thought—and carried her down to the truck.

"I can walk, you know."

"And I am certainly glad to hear that. But..."


"I just wanted to hold you a little longer."

She chuckled and nestled her head into the crook of his neck, taking in the smell of him. The ride was over too quickly and he settled her into the center seat of the large vehicle.

"Major." She heard Doctor Chakwas call him away from her. She only heard bits and snatches of the conversation, something about her still being fragile and not getting to overly physical just yet and about building up strength. She gazed out of the dirty window in front of her and took in the skyline of London. She could recognize some landmarks from studies in school so many years ago. Some were still standing, intact, but others were just fragments of their former majesty, crumbling ruins after the attacks. The salvage team she had been watching earlier hauled their loads, along with the crates from the hospital, onto the trucks, while another fresh team began setting up camp in the bombed-out hospital that had been her home for the last seven or so months. She heard Kaidan bellowing out orders to the crews, but her thoughts turned to imagining what London was like before the attack. She had never been and it was difficult to superpose the images she remembered studying as a child with the hollow shell of a city she saw before her.

'This clean up is going to take a long time. Rebuilding will take even longer.' she thought. She noticed some evidence of patches on some buildings around the square; soldiers and civilians working to shore up the crumbling buildings so they would have a place to return to once the infrastructure could be put back in place. As it was, even on as critical a structure as the hospital, power was not always a guarantee, and solar generators were heavily relied upon. She knew the same story was happening all over the planet, in every major city where there were survivors, and where military personal were able to unite them in a resistance. She knew it would be a monumental undertaking, but until she looked upon the wreckage, she hadn't realized just how bad, how extensive the damage was.

"But at least we survived. Somehow, I survived." She had no memory of what happened after the explosion, but Chakwas had told her she was found on Earth, about a mile away from the Conduit's location. They had started to give up on her, but somehow she had held on. She knew she was in pretty bad shape when she was found; the good doctor had given her the litany of broken parts and conditions at one point, but she didn't care to remember them. She just knew that, even though she was cleared to leave the hospital, she was definitely NOT cleared for duty... or pretty much anything else.

The door opened next to her and she turned to see Kaidan—my Kaidan, she thought—climbing in next to her. He grinned at her like a schoolboy as he took her hand and kissed it lightly.

"Ready to go home?"

She laid her head on his shoulder. She knew he meant the settlement in the country, but it seemed such a empty question. She never really had a home, always growing up jumping from place to place. Home was her family—or what was left of it. Slipping her rail-thin arm around his, she interlaced their fingers.

"I already am." She whispered.