The mess hall was deathly silent.
Ashley was originally completely freaked out by the idea of an AI watching her every move. She'd be there physically at the worst times, never breathing, calculating her with every flash of her metallic eyes. But it hadn't take it long to figure out that EDI was a lot more than an AI. Especially when she had been the one to bring her headache medicine and a cup of coffee after her fun night of drinking with Vega. Throughout her time on the Normandy, EDI had become increasingly more personable? No…relatable? No. Human. Ashley could only imagine the look on her own face the first time she heard EDI tell a joke, or the strange look of concern on her face when she found Ashley sprawled out on the floor.
The silence prevailed. And everyone was listening to it.
Strangely enough, Tali broke it. She hadn't said a word since the Normandy went into hyper-drive through Uncharted Space. Her voice was hoarse. From not using it or crying? Ashley stared at her now cold coffee as she talked.
"What…should we do now? What is there to do?"
Vega stared at some invisible spot on the table, his mouth slightly pursed.
"You heard the Doc, we've gotta wait for Blue to wake up."
"After all that, we don't even know if the Crucible worked!"
"Do any of you see huge reaper claws?"
Garrus twitched his mandibles. "If there was anyone who'd figure it out, everyone here knows just exactly who it would be.
Traynor's eyes glazed over a bit. "Commander Skye Shepard, Champion of the Impossible it would seem…"
This wasn't enough!, Ashley wanted to yell. They weren't going to accomplish anything sitting and moping around the mess hall, not talking, talking too much about things already known, withdrawn in their own thoughts and successes or failures. But that would be hypocrisy on her own part, so she kept staring at her coffee.
The memorial wall had two new additions now. Two additions who should be sitting with them, maybe playing poker with the abandoned cards on the table. They both had excellent poker faces, if one more than the other."
The entire ceremony had taken a heavy toll on the remaining crew, leaving them with dejected and wandering spirits. What was that saying? 'Cut off the head, and the body will die?' Yeah...
Lost in her own thoughts, her own analysis of the night and day's events, she hardly noticed the angered and tense chatter that had stared to resume. Something had gone wrong. Horribly wrong. She couldn't even tell, not with everything that could go wrong, if it was a better kind of wrong. She could still hear the shrieks of banshees, Wrex's bellowing orders to his clan, and she could still see Shepard's silhouette; ceramic plating and bun and all, staring resolutely at the giant Reaper claw destroying their home world.
If she were an artist or a poet, she could make a damn fortune.
She heard the crackle of a recording rev up, and as a familiar voice filled the echoes of the near empty frigate, she found herself drawn back in.
"This is Shepard to Normandy. Shepard to Normandy. Normandy, do you copy? …..I'm going to activate it, I don't know what's going to happen….feed…..bit fuzzy….get them the hell out of there Joker! The Reapers are going down, and I don''t want you going down with it….Shepard to Normandy…please…tell Liara I love her….didn't mean for any of this to…you guys…..my family….you safe-"
The feed cut off. White noise consumed the rest of the tape. Garrus gently pressed the button, shutting the white noise off and letting the silence consume them all.
Well. Would you look at that.
Chakwas couldn't suppress the burst of glee and pang in her heart as she read over the test results. Clear as day, dark as night, Shepard was still going to live on now through her tiny blue daughter. Liara looked peaceful, the dejected despair on her face when James had dropped her off in the Med Bay vanished in rest. Although Chakwas didn't miss the pure hope in Liara's eyes just before Commander Shepard's nameplate was put officially on the memorial board.
Chakwas's eyes crinkled in sympathy. She gently patted the young asari's hand. You'll see her again, child.
A crash and a muttering of shit sounded from the AI core room. With weariness, Chakwas left Liara to her rest and checked up on her other patient, sent by Lieutenant-Commander Williams with strict instructions to him of sleep. That hadn't lasted long, for painfully obvious reasons. He wouldn't give up, not on her.
Joker was crouched in the ruined AI Core, his hands furiously trying to make sense of the tangled wires. His face was contorted in pain, as she noticed the awkward placement of his legs. He would break a bone if she didn't intervene now.
"Jeff…" He made no response. Just yelled SHIT a lot more loudly than before as he burned his finger. He continued to work, connecting wires, attempting to connect the networks to his omnitool. All fruitless as the room remained hauntingly silent.
"Jeff." She said more firmly.
He turned around. "What."
"Jeff…there's nothing more you can do. She's…." She sighed, not wanting to bring her non-temporary absence if she could help it. "It's time to take your pills."
Anger took over the look of pain as he nearly snarled.
"What? So I should just let her die? I shouldn't do anything to bring her back?."
She considered her next words carefully.
"You're going to drive yourself insane if you keep doing this to yourself. It's not what she would have wanted."
He turned sharply to her, wires bunched in his hands.
"How the hell do you know what she would have wanted?" His eyes were as haunted as the room, but a strange smile suddenly broke across his face. "Actually she'd probably something along the lines of 'Jeff, I'd highly recommend you stop attempting to repair those wires until you are emotionally stable enough as to not cause damage your hands because you and I will need them for further use.' And then she'd say 'That was a joke,' because that's something EDI would do, because she's freaking EDI…and…." He trailed off as the memory seemed leave his whole body. He dropped the wires and slumped against the consoles.
Chakwas remained perfectly still.
"Shit….shit…shit…I never told her. What, was I self conscious about it? Who the hell knows now." He glanced at the small table where Legion once lay, now gently holding Eva Corre -no, EDI's- body.
He was being cryptic, but Chakwas had been an Alliance doctor for many years before this damned war. She had never seen atrocities and the horrors seen in this one, but she knew exactly what he meant.
"She knew Jeff. Believe me, she knew."
He glanced up at the ceiling, his hands connecting across his stomach as that smile appeared once more.
"She used to send me song files when she couldn't properly express what she was feeling or something like that….sometimes it would be soulful, sometimes funny…once she sent me 'Do You Wanna Touch Me?' and I nearly fell over in my chair." He smirked before taking a heavy breath.
"…Anyway….on the morning of, you know the Final Push, Let's Take Back Earth From Those Fuckers Day….she sent me 'You Are My Sunshine."
He paused, lost in the memory.
Chakwas's eyes widened ever so slightly and her heart did a pang and a twinge again. It was doing that a long recently, and she suspected it wouldn't cease for a long while.
"Before that day I hadn't cried since the first Normandy blew up with Shepard along with it." He admitted bitterly.
She waited another moment before grabbing his cane and offering her hand for assistance. He took it with a sigh of his own, the last of the wires falling off his lap. It was resignation. It was necessary for moving on, but the pain of it was even festering in Chakwas's own heart.
She hadn't like the AI as much as Joker himself didn't like her back on the Collecters mission. EDI had grown on her. She could truly call the AI of the ship she served on; friend.
Joker went over to one of the beds, dropping his cane beside it. Chakwas handed him his pills, made sure he actually drank them, and then told him point blank that she would tell on him to Ashley if he didn't sleep. He said "Yes, Ma'am!" before mock saluting and falling emotionally exhausted and dejected and into the scratchy med bay sheets.
With a heavy heart, Chakwas resumed her place at her desk, even though she virtually had nothing to do now besides wait for her patients to wake up.
We'll make it Shepard. They won't fall apart if I have any say in the matter.
She sighed with that last thought and opened a bottle of Serrice Ice brandy, having saved it for a special occasion. She considered surviving the possible apocalypse of the galaxies something to celebrate. Glancing at the empty chair beside her, where Mordin would mutter in broken sentences about the DNA sequences of asari-krogan children, and Skye Shepard once sat, drunk off her ass and laughing with Chakwas as if they didn't have a galaxy to save for once. Shepard was one of those people who had a smile that could light up her entire face, but otherwise her strong and sharp features spoke of a more harsh disposition that she truly only had when necessary. And towards the end necessary was all she knew. The soldiers had been Chakwas's children for more than twenty years, and one of the best gifts in her career had been when the weary soldier's would realize something to smile about.
Regardless of the fast paced and relentless war, Shepard managed to find that something. Whether it was dancing with Liara when she thought no one was looking, or trying to figure out tech with Tali, or making terrible wise-ass jokes with Garrus, Shepard would hold onto that something. Until Thessia. Until destroying the Reapers became everything she had to be about.
She lifted her glass towards the empty seat as a salute.
To you, Commander. To you, Mordin Solus. To every soul out there who's lost or has lost, or probably will lose another.
Downing the glass, she reckoned that celebrate wasn't really the right word for this at all.
As she lifted a datapad, perhaps just to give her something read instead of thoughts to dwell on, the intercom in the Med bay began to voice white noise and she lifted her head in confusion. The engineering crew hadn't gotten the intercom systems up yet, had they? Weren't they still working on getting the radio back up?
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
A chill raced down Chakwas's spine as she recalled Joker's words. She remained perfectly frozen, staring in shock at the intercom crackling the tune softly. Her patients didn't stir.
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take
My sunshine away
The tune ended, and the Med bay was as silent as it was before. Chakwas could hear her own breaths, slightly labored and shallow. She waited for something, anything, to happen again. She glanced briefly to the AI core room, the red circle indicating it was as locked as it was minutes ago.
"...EDI?" She whispered.
The silence continued. The tension left Chakwas's shoulders and spine and she poured herself another glass of brandy.