Sorry for there being a bit of a delay, folks. I wasn't having a lot of chances to be on my computer, and then had a severe case of writers block. Hope this makes up for it. Again, answers to reviews at the end of the chapter. Enjoy!
This was one situation Miranda hadn't foreseen. She had never expected to be sat on a bench on the Citadel with Jack, looking out over the Presidium and talking over old times. It seemed time had changed both of them.
Jack seemed different, and not just in her clothing or her hair. It was her mannerisms, her persona; she hold herself differently now, and seemed more at ease in herself. She had grown up in the months they had spent apart, had changed... just as Miranda had. The night they had been together, Shepard had said that Jack had undergone a 'transformation'. Miranda hadn't been sure what he meant at the time... but she did now.
"I have to say, I didn't think i'd see you around, Jack."
Jack gave a slight laugh, leaning forward so that her elbows were on her knees and she was looking back at Miranda.
"Look who's talking. Aren't you supposed to be hiding from Cerberus right now? They don't like it much when their operatives decide to quit, i've right."
"I don't think they're in much of a position to be looking for me right now. Shepard all but decimated them. Plus I... wanted to do what I could to help Earth, so I joined in with the Alliance. What about you?"
"The Alliance offered me a job. Teaching biotics at Grissom Academy. After the place got destroyed by Cerberus, my students wanted to join in the fight, so we did." Jack's face had softened slightly as she mentioned her students. "They've done great. Saved some lives with barriers and such. And now, they're doing what they can to help rebuild."
"Are they back on Earth?"
"They're helping with the relief effort, but... I wanted to come up here, when I heard Shepard was alive." She met Miranda's eyes. "How's he doing?"
Miranda explained succinctly about his injuries and how he was being kept in sedation temporarily. Unlike others she had spoken to, Jack didn't try to comfort her or say that he would be fine, which she was glad for. The fact was that they didn't know that was the case. Until Shepard opened his eyes, they could have no idea of the true state of his health. How long he would still need to heal, or indeed, if he would be able to heal completely. Not just physical either; mental. Such traumatic experiences were bound to leave scars.
"I told the dumbass not to trust Cerberus." Jack said suddenly. "Told him off for it too, gave him a hell of a slap back on Grissom. Bastard deserved it."
Miranda managed to hold back a smile. Shepard had told her about that, but conveniently left out the slap.
"Don't I deserve one too, in that case?"
"You sure did before." Jack muttered. "But nah... I was generally pissed at everything in the place, thanks to Cerberus getting in. He just happened to be in the way, and hadn't listened to me."
"We... both should have listened to what you said." Miranda said. Jack looked round at her sharply, puzzled. Miranda took a deep breath. "I think... I owe you an apology. After we'd seen the truth of what happened on Pragia, when you came to confront me about whether that was wrong or not... I shouldn't have said what I did. I called you a mistake, and that was utterly wrong of me. Cerberus was the mistake, not you. You were just a frightened kid."
Jack seemed stunned to silence for a moment.
"Are you playing a damn game or something? What happened to 'Cerberus is for the greater good, Cerberus is always right'?"
"I grew up." Miranda said simply. "Cerberus wasn't always right, and neither was I. If anything, I was blind. I believed the Illusive Man's primary goal was to help humanity. His real goal was to gain power, even if that was at a great price. Not to mention the fact that he duped me, and worked with my father..."
Her voice drifted off. After a second, Jack spoke up.
"Cerberus always finds a person's weaknesses and uses them. Either to get their help, like with you, or to hurt them and bend them to their will."
"Like you." Miranda said quietly. Jack nodded.
It felt so strange. They weren't friends by any stretch of the imagination, not yet, but... there was that cord of understanding there now that hadn't been before. That was certainly cooling off the hostilities.
They sat there together for a while, talking about the Normandy and it's crew, and the times they had both experienced. Miranda had taken on the human reaper alongside Shepard and Garrus, and told Jack what that had been like. In return, Jack talked about when she and Grunt had accompanied Shepard to get the Reaper IFF – and when they had met Legion, of course. Battling all those husks had been just up her alley. And Grunt? Well, Grunt loved getting right into the thick of things.
Finally, they walked together back towards the upper levels of the Presidium, heading towards the lift. As they reached it, and Miranda pressed the button to call it, she glanced towards Jack.
"Do you want to come down and see how he's doing for yourself?"
Jack thought for a second, then shook her head.
"You said he was still sedated, right? I'll wait until he's back with us. No offence, but doing the whole 'watching-by-his-beside' thing is your job."
"What will you do for now?"
"Head back to Earth. Help with the relief effort, guide my students. Be the good little Alliance brass.
Miranda gave a faint laugh.
"Bet you never thought you'd be saying that."
"Hell no. I guess..." Jack hesitated "Shepard and the Normandy and his mad as hell crew taught me one thing. Being part of a team can be better then running alone. And the Alliance have really given me a good break."
"You look good for it." Miranda admitted.
"Well, so do you." It didn't sound like Jack was saying that grudgingly. It actually sounded sincere. The lift arrived then, and Miranda stepped into it.
"Hey. Tell Shepard from me to wake the hell up. And when he does, tell him he owes me another dance in Purgatory."
"Will do. Take care, Jack."
"You too, Cheerleader."
And with that, the doors of the lift closed. Miranda really hadn't foreseen any of that.
For the next few days, events were virtually the same. The doctors had advised Miranda that sitting by Shepard's bedside for hours on end would serve no purpose whilst he was under the effects of the sedatives. So, she came once or twice a day, to sit with him and talk. She had made sure to deliver Jack's little message.
On the fourth day, she went to visit the Alliance headquarters on the Citadel. There, she had used the Q.E.C to communicate. First with Admiral Hackett to exchange news.
"Admiral Anderson is to be buried next week. We're building a monument to him, and to the other soldiers from all the different species who lost their lives. I'm hoping Shepard will be able to be here."
"I hope so too, Admiral." Miranda answered. "The doctors say that once he's healed to a certain level, they'll take him off sedation."
"Good." Hackett paused for a second, and then said. "Miranda, I was wondering if you would contact the Normandy from here, and tell them the progress. I have a feeling they would like to hear the news from someone who has been there and seen the progress first hand."
Miranda hesitated. Would the Normandy's crew actually believe her? Would they trust her?
"Good. The Q.E.C operator there will be able to hail the Normandy for you. Hackett out."
Miranda moved back from the Q.E.C, and watched as the operators hands flew over the controls.
"Patching you through to the Normandy now, Ma'am." He informed her.
"Thank you." Miranda waited. Her heart was pounding. This was irrational, she knew... but she still felt nervous.
After about ten seconds, a woman appeared. She seemed uncertain as she took in Miranda, clearly expecting someone else.
"Yes, may I help you?"
"My name is Miranda Lawson. I used to be part of the Normandy's crew. I have news about Commander Shepard."
"Oh, thank goodness." The woman breathed, relief washing over her face. "Admiral Hackett said he'd let us know, but he's so busy on Earth. I'm Specialist Traynor, Miss Lawson, i've been acting as the Commander's personal assistant in the last few months. I'll inform Major Alenko straight away."
She disappeared. Miranda sighed slightly, waiting. Kaidan Alenko. She didn't know the man, and so was uncertain what his reaction would be to an ex-Cerberus officer giving him information about Shepard.
After a few minutes, the Major arrived... accompanied by Liara T'Soni and Garrus Vakarian. Garrus' face at least was one she recognised and was glad to see.
"Miss Lawson." Kaidan seemed unsure how to address her, as did Liara. Garrus, however, seemed fine with it all.
"Miranda. Good to see you again." Garrus said, nodding at her.
"You too, Garrus." Miranda said with a slight smile, before meeting Kaidan's eyes. "Admiral Hackett asked me to let the Normandy's crew know about Commander Shepard's condition."
"You've seen him?" Liara asked. She looked tense.
"Yes. I'm on the Citadel, i've been visiting him at Huerta Memorial. He's alive, and healing, but he's under heavy sedation. They say he will recover though. With luck, he'll be awake soon."
"Thank the Goddess..." Liara breathed, while Kaidan let out a little groan of relief, breaking his professional soldier look. Garrus had merely nodded, but Miranda thought she saw a softening of expression. Not that it was easy to tell with a turian.
"I'm sorry that I don't have more solid information yet." Miranda said apologetically.
"It's good to hear that he's alive, at least. All Hackett could say was that Shepard had been taken to hospital, before he had to dash off. Everyone's been frantic waiting for news." Kaidan admitted. "It'll be great to give them some good news."
"What's the Normandy's status?" Miranda asked. The last she had heard, the Normandy was being repaired after a crash landing.
"We crashed on an uncharted planet after passing through one of the Mass Relays. From my understanding, we got through in the nick of time. There was extensive damage, but EDI assures us that we'll be able to get it flyable again within two weeks. Then we'll fly to the Citadel and get repairs done there, if we can."
"I'm glad it's good news. I was afraid when I heard the Normandy was missing."
"Well, we couldn't let Shepard take all the attention." Garrus said, his mandibles twitching slightly in what Miranda recognised as a turian version of a smile. She had often seen Shepard and him sat in the canteen, laughing and bantering.
"Of course you couldn't." Miranda said, humour in her voice.
"Miranda?" Liara asked. "Tell him everyone here is thinking of him."
"And there's a round of drinks waiting for him when he gets out of that hospital bed." Garrus said. From the grin on his face, this was some inside joke she didn't get.
"And we'll be there soon. Annoying him until he throws us out." Kaidan said with a slight laugh.
"Will do. Take care, all of you." Miranda said with a smile. She was about to turn away when...
Liara and Garrus were gone, but Kaidan was still standing there, a serious look on his face. Miranda again felt nervous, though she had no clue why.
"I'm glad you're with him. He talked about you a lot, you know, during our free time. When we went to Sanctuary, and Kai Leng was there..." He hesitated, seeming unsure how to describe it. "I've rarely seen him like that before. He was hellbent on getting to you."
Miranda lowered her eyes, remembering for a moment fighting with Kai Leng, but managing to get through it thanks to Shepard's warning before... Oriana trying to shoot her father... Shepard entering the room with Kaidan and EDI. He had seemed calm, measuring the situation just like he always had, but after...
"You found her. And I found you. That's all that matters."
"Did you worry?"
"Of course I worried."
"I can imagine he was." She said softly, then let a slight laugh out. "He's always been a stubborn bastard."
Five days after Shepard had first come to Huerta Memorial came the news Miranda had been waiting for. Doctor Michel believed that Shepard's wounds were healed sufficiently for him to be taken off sedation. He would soon be awake.
Miranda stood beside Shepard, watching as the doctor checked his vital signs and pupil dilation. Somehow, this was the tensest she had felt since finding out he was alive. She felt like waiting for his eyes to open would be agony.
"I'm afraid there's no real way to tell when he will wake up." Doctor Michel said as she took a step back. "You can, of course, stay with him if you wish."
"Yes, I... I want to be here." Miranda answered at once. Doctor Michel hesitated for a moment. Miranda saw her open her mouth to speak, perhaps to comfort her or something along those lines... but then she merely nodded before leaving the room.
Miranda thought it was going to be a long night. She was wrong.
She had begun to drift in and out of sleep when it happened, a few hours into her vigil at his bedside. Her head was leant against the bed, her hand on Shepard's.
She'd try to tell herself not to fall asleep. What if he woke up whilst she was out for the count? And besides, there was no reason for her to feel tired! But somehow, the quiet of the room, the soft lighting, the scenic view through the window, all of it combined to make her eyelids droop.
It was then she felt Shepard's hand twitch in hers. For a moment, she thought she had imagined it. Then, it happened again. The slightest contracting of his fingers, his hand around hers. She opened her eyes and lifted her head, looking up at him.
His head was moving. Turning slightly. Again, his hand moved in hers. Miranda let the faintest gasp out. Was this it?
"John? John... can you hear me?"
He moved again, seemingly at the sound of her voice, and let a low groan out.
"Oh God..." Excitement and fear combining within her, Miranda got up quickly and ran to the door, opening it, looking up and down the corridor. Some bemused looking doctors and staff looked back at her. There was no sign of Doctor Michel though.
"Doctor? Please, someone find Doctor Michel, Shepard's waking up!"
One of the doctors ran off, seemingly to get Michel. Miranda quickly moved to Shepard's side again. His eyes were opening up, fluttering half-way. Automatically, she reached out and cupped his cheek with her hand, looking at him, desperate.
"John. Come on, wake up, please wake up."
Finally, as if in slow motion, his eyes opened fully. He seemed to be having problems focusing for a few seconds... then his eyes fixed on hers. She saw recognition flash in them, and a surge of relief washed through her. He recognises me... She'd been terrified he wouldn't. His hand reached out for hers and she took it, her fingers interlacing with his.
"Miranda..." His voice was hoarse, grating. Just that one word set him off coughing.
"No no, don't try and talk. Anything that needs to be said can be said later." She glanced back at the door for a second. "You're in hospital, John. Huerta Memorial hospital." Again, she saw recognition at the name.
"The Citadel?" His voice was still hoarse, but there was no coughing this time. When Miranda nodded, he let out what sounded like a relieved sound. "What happened? To the Reapers?"
He remembered that too.
"They're gone. Destroyed. You defeated them, it's all over." She saw the comprehension of that dawn slowly on his face. The relief, the same countless millions of people were feeling right now, thanks to him.
"It's over... Thank god, it's over." His voice broke on the last word. Miranda tightened her grip on his hand in response. It was rare for him to show emotion, or indeed fear... but this was a momentous occasion.
"I owe you an apology, Miss Lawson." He said suddenly. His voice was stronger then before.
"An apology?" She repeated, not understanding. "For what?"
"Back on Earth. I promised i'd come and find you when this was all over. I've broken that promise." There was the faintest smile on his face, the old spark to his eyes. He was teasing her lightly... but she could tell he meant that. She let out a slightly tearful laugh, feeling the happy tears now sparkling in her eyes.
"You were a little busy. Saving the galaxy. Being the hero. I think I can forgive you."
He seemed about to answer, but his eyelids were starting to droop again. She saw him try and force his eyes to stay open.
"No, don't." She said quietly. "Sleep. I'll be here."
He reached up his hand just for a moment, and cupped her face with his hand. His eyes locked on hers... and then slowly closed as he passed out once again.
Despite the briefness of the moment, and the fact he was now out cold again, the stress and fear Miranda had felt over the past few days had washed away, to be replaced by elation. He had recognised her, spoke her name, and asked her about events. He had remembered one thing she had said, and the promise he had made in return.
Everything would be alright. She knew that now.
I'm working on a couple more chapters, trying to get them out before I go on holiday in a couple of weeks. Review answer time!
Mask211: Thank you! I took a little break from flashbacks this chapter to drive the story forward a little, but the next few chapters have some.
Nutt Man 117: Haha, I was thinking of that too, but... ehh, him being chucked halfway across the Presidium made me giggle, so I stuck with that.
Gammer: By 'going my own way' i'm guessing you mean developing the story? Don't worry, lots of storyline development ongoing.
CADGuy: Ta very much!
Robbie: Aww, thank you. I always try and make characters from games and such true to their in-game personalities, to get into their mindset.