Just my little headcanon. I've been needing to do this since like...well, since I finished the game with that bullshit ending. And then the EC came out and while it's not perfect, it's enough for me to work with. I can overlook the plot holes and fill in the gaps myself. So this is just a two-shot of what came after the red explosion, in my head at least :)

They said they had found her in the rubble not far from Anderson's body. They said she was barely clinging on to life, her eyes half-open in a dead stare as she gasped for what little oxygen her crushed lungs could grasp.

But she refused to die.

The man that had found her, a quarian, told a tale of finding the faintest of life signs among the wreckage; of shouting to his colleagues that there was someone alive - someone that could have been Shepard. They had found Anderson's body moments earlier, in the location that they had predicted the Admiral and the Commander would be. They wanted to find her body, to give the woman who saved the galaxy a proper funeral. They never expected to find her. She was barely visible in the debris, her legs crushed from material of the ceiling above. Her right arm was at an impossible angle, her left hand was a mangled mess (and yet still holding onto a burned-out Carnifex). Her armour was burned, parts of it had melted into her skin and the left side of her face bore blackened and burnt skin.

The quarian didn't think she was conscious, even with her eyes open. She never made the move to look at him as he talked to her while his team-mates moved the rubble that was trapping her; no noise, no response, even as she was lifted and her shoulder moved so that she could be carried.

He was talking above her, past her, to a krogan that was saying her was amazed such a small and squishy creature could not only take down the Reapers but survive all that - not to mention for two days. The quarian had glanced down then, wondering aloud how anyone could have that much resolve.

He had almost dropped her when he locked eyes with the frail woman he was carrying. She was staring at him with such an intensity he was in no doubt that she was conscious. And very focussed. He almost missed it when her lips started to move, her breath hissing past as she tried to form words. In the silence of the keeper tunnel, she was still almost impossible to hear. The quarian had dipped his head, his colleagues watching with interest, and the sensitive auditory sensors finally picked out the word she said.


And then, with the faintest ghost of a grin, Shepard had closed her eyes and fallen unconscious.

They said she'd been unconscious ever since.

They had taken her, and Anderson's body, back down to earth via shuttle. Back to London. There, she had been rushed into a repurposed office building, far away from the site of the beam and the battlefield. It was large, concrete, old, and had survived almost completely intact. It had electricity and running water and a lot of rooms of varying size.

It was no longer an office. It was a hospital.

And it was almost full to capacity.

But this was Shepard. The Shepard. An injured Admiral couldn't move from his private room fast enough. He needn't have rushed so much. She barely saw the inside of that private room for days. The best medical team they could assemble, from all races, operated around the clock. Patching her together, repairing what they could.

Her laundry list of injuries was impressive. Shattered pelvis; fractures in almost every bone in her legs; four broken ribs; shattered right shoulder; necessary amputation of outermost finger of left hand. Third degree burns, torn muscles, ripped ligaments and tendons. Not to mention the bullet wounds. She was a mess. But she was alive.

And she still refused to die.

They had told him that there were times on the operating table when she should have flatlined. She shouldn't have been alive when the team found her on the Citadel. That it shouldn't have been possible for there to be Shepard alive, breathing on her own, in a private room. She was under heavy guard, her room was the only one flanked by two heavily-armoured Alliance soldiers. Everyone knew who was in there. No one quite believed it was true.

She shouldn't be alive, they said.

We don't understand it, one admitted.

We don't think she'll wake up, added another.

But that wasn't Shepard. It took her two years to wake up again, after she had gone down before. And that was death. She wasn't dead. She was breathing unaided. Her vitals were stable.

In the months it had taken for the Normandy to be repaired, they had little contact with the galaxy. They weren't even sure if there was much of a galaxy anymore. But then an Asari cruiser hailed them, telling them everything. And then the captain said she was alive. And suddenly repairs were going faster. Even the agonisingly slow trip back to Sol wasn't quite so bleak when there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

And when the Normandy crew stepped out of the transport shuttle they went unnoticed. Just as it should be. They were not the heroes. They left her because they were unable to do more. None of them wanted to do it, but they had to.

But what was strange was how none of the squad wanted to go into her room once the doctors had left them. They all stood outside, as if they were waiting for her to come out to them. Each one of them had a different expression and none of them moved. And Garrus Vakarian didn't know what to make of it. He watched them all in turn, though none looked his way. They were all looking at the door. Remorse, guilt, regret, hurt, shame, confusion, suspicion; all in varying degrees. It was as if this was just a random group of strangers brought in to see a museum exhibit.

Eventually, it was too much for him to bear. With a growled curse that didn't translate (but that a few turian doctors caught and gasped at), he stomped towards the door like an angry krogan. Calmly, peacefully, the door slid open and then slid shut behind him. He didn't now what he was expecting to see, but it wasn't what was waiting for him.

Her legs, hips, and shoulders were still in a tight bandage. Her left hand was still in a wrapping from a recent surgery. But her skin was almost perfect. They had said she was burned, but there was no outward signs of trauma. Then he remembered the heavy skin weaves and how fast she regenerated thanks to her Cerberus upgrades. He was even surprised at how healthy and fit she looked.

If he didn't know better, he would have said she was sleeping. But she had been sleeping now for nearly an earth year. In the same bed. Yet she looked the same as she always had. As much as he loathed Cerberus, he blessed them for the job they did at rebuilding her because without it, she probably wouldn't have been looking no better than a husk.

But she hadn't woken in that time either. And the longer she stayed asleep, the less likely it would be that she would ever come out of it. They had told him this over and over again. But he didn't believe it. That wasn't Shepard. His Shepard would come through. No matter what.

Heaving a heavy sigh, he all but fell into the chair nearby. Then, deciding that the chair was in no way close enough, he stood and moved it so that he could take her right hand in his left.

"I'm here, Shepard," his voice was hoarse and tired. "Took me a while to get back. Sorry about that." But he wasn't going anywhere now. He wasn't there when she fell asleep - but he damn well was going to be there when she woke up.