The good Shepard.
Apart from the empty fish tank, and a generally dishevelled shape despite being cleaned up after the crash, the Normandy's cabin looked much the same as Thane remembered.
"You ready for this?" Shepard enquired, pausing over the rectangular case she had placed on the foot of the bed they had once shared, so long ago.
Curious, Thane nodded and knelt beside her. When she opened the lid to reveal its contents he blinked, looking down at the two long pieces of sharp silver. He had to force away the memory of how that object felt passing through his body, the pain it caused him, physically and emotionally. Thane took a deep breath before stating, evenly, "Lang's sword."
"Yes." Shepard studied his face a moment, unable to read his emotions. "You ok, Thane?"
"I... yes, I am." A slow smile spread across his lips. "This is... quite a trophy, my Siha," he said proudly, and kissed her deeply.
Thane carried the case out of the Normandy's airlock with a sense of pride. This was not his trophy, a prize he had earned, but it had been won for him, and as such, this once hateful symbol of destruction now represented an angel's vengeance, a triumph over evil, and in some ways, a testimony of love. He accepted this gift not because of her insistence that he take the sword, but because of all it represented. This weapon, now as broken as he used to be, was more symbolic to Thane than even he fully understood, at this moment. It would become one of his most treasured possessions. Thane had few possessions - his weapons, a few clothes, and more recently those items he had kept of Siha's. Now he owned something entirely impractical and beyond repair, rendered useless by his Siha's wrath. The two pieces didn't even fit together properly, due to the missing tiny shards, broken away as it was snapped in half. Yet this was no pointless trinket, but a wonderful gift he would treasure forever.
It would take time for Thane to find the words to convey his gratitude, so he could fully explain to his Siha what this object meant to him. For now he needed time to reflect, a moment of solitude. She had understood and he left her gathering up a few items from her cabin, to carry Kai Lang's broken sword back to the AJ.
The next two days flew by in a flurry of activity between the Normandy site and the AJ's landing zone. Shepard had found herself either too busy, or too exhausted, to mourn her fallen crew. Their remains had been carefully removed from their graves, and placed into individual caskets as each dog tag was scanned and the data uploaded into each casket's tiny memory core, before being carried away.
It had been depressing to watch.
Now the graves had been filled in and were just seventeen dips in the earth, a mere footnote to what had once lain there. Like the now disassembled campsite, it would be left for nature to quickly remove all trace of the crew's presence.
While all this was going on, the engineers had been crawling all over the Normandy, and Shepard had read each damage report as it came in, growing ever more depressed. She still hung onto the hope the Normandy was salvageable, but her main worry was that the overstretched, and under resourced Alliance, would declare her ship not even worthy of salvaging for scrap. She understood they had bigger issues than the return of one broken ship, but she wasn't going to let this one go without a fight, and was indeed preparing for just that with Admiral Hackett, while she sat waiting at her quarters terminal, chewing on her thumb nail, as Thane quietly cleaned his rifle at the small table near their bed.
Shepard quickly dropped her hand into her lap when Hackett's smiling face appeared on the view screen.
"Good work on the rescue Captain. I hear you had a little merc trouble?"
"Thank you, sir, and nothing we couldn't handle."
Hackett nodded, his face falling into a sombre mask, "I was sorry to hear about Doctor Chakwas. She was a fine woman. I knew her father when I was a young captain. They were all good people and their loss is felt deeply."
Shepard appreciated the Admiral's sincerity, as well as his swiftness in getting back to business when he picked up a data pad. "So we know what caused the Normandy to crash land."
"Yes sir, and about the Normandy..."
Hackett didn't look up when he cut her off with his hand, "The engineers are still over there, is that correct?"
"Yes, their final reports will be in tomorrow morning."
Hackett nodded, putting the pad down and sitting back in his chair, "Good enough."
This time he cut her off with both hands, "I know what you're going to ask Captain, and no, we don't have the resources to tow the Normandy home."
Expecting this, Shepard opened her mouth to make the first of many arguments she had formed over the last two days.
The Admiral had no intention of giving her the opportunity. "However," his eyes crinkled into a smile, "having read all the reports we have received on the condition of the Normandy, so far, the quarians have offered to send a salvage team to see if they are able to retrieve the ship and bring her home. No promises, Shepard, but if the quarians can't do it, then no one can."
She was unable to suppress her pleasure, and relief, when she offered a heartfelt "Thank you, Admiral! Permission to stay with the Normandy until it's on its way home?"
Thane's head snapped up, before he settled back into his task again when Hackett said, in a tone not to be argued with, "Permission denied."
Again, she expected this and tried to focus on the good news, while she told him, "Understood, sir."
The Admiral softened, "The quarians are already en route to your location, and I have been asked to inform you they expect to be with you at eleven hundred galaxy standard, tomorrow."
"Who is heading the team?" Shepard wondered if she might recognise the name of the quarian, but didn't expect the beaming smile Hackett gave her before he answered.
"I believe you have met him before, actually, and he is another person who seems to have caught the ability to return from the dead." Letting that hang for a moment, he finally put Shepard out of her confusion by adding, "Someone I believe you know - Captain Kal'Reegar."
"What?" She was stunned, believing he had died on Palaven with his squad when they sacrificed themselves to repair and protect a critical communications tower the Turian Hierarchy needed.
"I don't know the details, but it seems those reports of Captain Kal'Reegar's death jumped the gun a little. He was evac'd off Palaven, having been declared dead a little early. He, and one other member of his squad, somehow survived their injuries and infection."
Shepard barked a laugh as she shook her head, "And they say lightening doesn't strike twice." At Hackett's confusion, she explained, "When I first met him on Haestrom he was in a bad way, pretty much resigned to dying of infection. It only took him a week to bounce back, by all accounts. Thank you Admiral, 'Reegar is a fine marine. I'm happy to hear he survived, after all."
"He speaks very highly of you, too, Shepard." Hackett smiled. "Good work Captain, I'll be in touch." At that the Admiral's face vanished.
"Oh my gods!" Shepard turned to Thane, eyes as wide as her grin, "You remember Kal'Reegar, don't you? You met him at Tali's trial...? Oh, of course you remember!"
"I do." Thane smiled, looking at her while his hands continued to put his gun back together with well practiced movements. "I am glad he is another among us who has managed to defy death. I look forward to meeting him, again."
"Hell yeah!" Shepard sprang up from her chair. "I can't wait to tell the crew!" She took a few quick steps towards Thane to plant a kiss on his upturned lips, then dashed towards the door grinning. "Joker's going to shit himself when he finds out the Normandy's going home..! Well, probably... He'll want to throw a party!" Shepard shot Thane a grin over her shoulder as she entered the mess, then shouted, "Oh my god, guys, guess what? Kal'Reegar is alive and you'll..." the door closed but Thane heard delighted cheers just moments later. He grinned, leaving the gun where it was to follow Shepard and join the celebrations.
The following morning Thane woke and knew he was alone before he had finished turning over to hold his Siha, or opened his eyes to look around the cabin. He stretched then sank back onto the mattress with a sigh of contentment. This was a feeling he was still getting used to.
Checking his omni-tool he found a simple message from Shepard which stated:
Had to work, I'll find you later. Love, Siha. x
It was a little cryptic, but Thane couldn't help smiling at the signature she used.
Making his way to the small shower cubicle Thane tried to ignore the little voice of caution in his head, feeling it was nothing more than an annoying habit left over from his many years as an assassin.
He'd only just stepped out of the shower when a voice came over the ships comm, breaking into his happy solitude.
"Thane? Are you awake? It's Miranda, here."
"I am, Miranda," he said to the cubicle ceiling, stilled by the strain in the woman's voice. Holding his towel in one hand, Thane ignored the tiny rivulets of water running off his scales.
"Ah, great. Sorry to disturb you, but do you know if Shepard went to the Normandy site this morning or not?"
Thane told her about the message Shepard had left him, while wondering if that voice in his head had perhaps been trying to tell him something important, after all.
"Well she's not on the AJ and I can't raise her on comms." Miranda said.
"What about one of the techs on site?" Thane asked, leaving the bathroom while he dried himself in a cursory way.
"There aren't any on site, now, they finished last night. If Shepard is over there, then she's on her own. It's probably nothing, but it's a bit strange I can't raise her."
"I'll be through to the mess in a moment," Thane informed as he threw the towel over the back of a chair, and quickly got dressed in his leathers.
The early sun dappled leaf patterns along the path underfoot, as Shepard strolled the pleasant traverse to the Normandy site. In some ways, it was quite emotive knowing this would be her last chance to say goodbye to her ship. Hopefully, it was only to bid it a bon voyage until she saw it again. It would also be a last goodbye to this beautiful place, which had sustained the Normandy's survivors for so many months.
Shepard was fighting opposing emotions over her final task ahead, and the real reason she had slipped out to be alone before any of her team had woken up. Initially, she had been looking forward to doing this, but as she got closer and closer to the Normandy, Shepard had begun to feel an odd sense of trepidation. She was glad she was alone as each step seemed to bring her closer to many overwhelming emotions she couldn't quite identify. She had stepped onto this path feeling light and happy, but by the time she reached the Normandy, Shepard felt weighed down and full of sadness.
Even so, she still found herself missing the steep slope from the small cliff top. The techs had made light work of turning the dangerous slope into something more easily traversable, making it easier to transfer equipment between the two ships as well as carry the caskets to the AJ. A part of Shepard wanted to throw herself down that slope again, this time whooping with joy at the silliness and exhilaration over this small danger - maybe slightly bigger danger, if she included her ankle - knowing no one was around to watch.
There was no reason to expect any problems, but Shepard had her Hand Cannon strapped to her thigh, just as a precaution. Out of habit, and partly to try and occupy her mind away from her sinking mood, she kept an eye on the tree line and around the Normandy's hull, as she approached the ships airlock.
With a sigh she looked down at the 17 empty graves. before turning away and opening the outer airlock door with the touch of her hand. Shepard paused, ostensibly to listen for any movement inside the ship. Too many years of training would allow nothing else, and also because she was considering retreat. She didn't have to go through with what had once seemed like a good idea, not so long ago. Now it was beginning to seem like this idea could be a close second on her list of things she didn't want to do; something only slightly more appealing than unarmed combat with a Thresher Maw.
With a deep breath Shepard stepped onto the Normandy, giving the cockpit a quick visual sweep before walking through the silent CIC. The techs had cleaned up the mess of wires and uploaded all the information they could get from the Normandy's systems. All except her personal terminal, which she now eyed with a thumping heart, as she passed by.
The gloomy War Room elicited bittersweet memories, especially the small Quantum Entanglement comm's room. She had spoken often to Anderson's avatar here while he was 'fighting the good fight' back on Earth. Shepard had come in here only to be sure it was empty, as she knew it would be, and because she was stalling. She eyed the small avatar platform, which was now as dead as her old Captain and dear friend, and realised she didn't want to be in here, anymore. Shepard retreated through the war room and back to the CIC.
Her heart began to beat faster, again, as she approached her terminal and it's eternally flashing green light. It was the only movement on the whole ship and was, in some ways, quite hypnotic.
Shepard shivered, playing with the idea of visiting Life Support one more time. With a huff, she decided not to drag this out any longer. Shepard was disappointed this little adventure wasn't to be the happy sojourn she had expected and hoped for. It was hard to understand why she felt such trepidation - it was just an unread message, nothing more.
The last time she had stood at this terminal was to send a message of her own. This was just before she left the Normandy for what was to be this ship's final battle after dropping her and the team on Earth. It had been a short letter of goodbye, just in case she didn't make it, rather than because of the fatalistic attitude she had carried around with her since Thane had died. Despite this, there had still been some optimism left inside her, back then. That is, until most of her positive thinking had been literally battered out of her once she had gone through the conduit. She had written just one mail, to the Admiralty, and attached her glowing reports for everyone who served on the Normandy. It was the last thing she did before leaving for Earth.
With a surprisingly shaky hand, Shepard finally ended that little light's blinking for good, and opened her unread messages file. It was a short list. A message from someone called Sarah who's N7 husband was missing. Sarah just hoped Shepard could maybe find something out about his whereabouts, or at least make sure her husband's dog tags would be returned, but mostly she wanted to thank Shepard for everything she was doing for the galaxy. There was some junk mail from Morlan's shop, not one of Shepard's favourite stores on the Citadel.
The following two messages gave her real pause. One was from Diana Allers, the other from Doctor Karin Chakwas. Shepard blew a breath out slowly, and downloaded everything into her omni-tool to sort through later. She was feeling emotional enough right now, without reading messages from dead people.
Finally she came to the last mail on the list, the one that had begun the blinking of her terminal light all those months ago. It had been sent only a few short hours after she had arrived on Earth. This was the one mail she had come here to read, Thane's letter.
She thought reading it at her terminal, where she was supposed to have read it so long ago, would be a nice thing to do. Now Shepard thought she was crazy, and wished she had just read it as soon as Liara told her it was available. She had expected this would be an emotional exercise, but wasn't prepared for the emotional storm she felt brewing inside her. The last two days had seen her so busy, there hadn't been time to think beyond her duties. Now everything was done and they were ready to go, just waiting for the quarians to arrive.
There was nothing but peace and silence around her, a chance to think and an opportunity to read what should be something very pleasant. Instead her mind lingered over those now empty graves outside. She remembered her last moments with Anderson, both real and imagined. Then Shepard thought about the last few weeks since she woke up to a galaxy at peace, but feeling like she was still at war.
In an almost perfect impression of Mordin, Shepard sucked in a long deep breath, and opened the message from Thane.
While Thane dressed he searched his memory for any clues which may explain Siha's unusual absence. It struck him as strange to realise someone always knew where a Captain was, or could at least quickly find out. He had spent ten years in the shadows. Quite literally no one knew his whereabouts for most of his adult life.
"Are you ok, Siha?"
Thane recalled asking her this question twice after they had boarded the crashed Normandy. The second time she had paled at seeing the damage in Life Support. This was shortly after he had noticed his name on the Normandy's memorial wall, and it had taken him aback. He had failed to consider he might see his own name on a list of the heroic dead. He felt honoured, but Siha made it clear how much she hated seeing it there, even now.
The first time she had turned ashen, however, Thane had been left to wonder what had passed through her mind.
She stops, skin pale, brow furrowed. I follow her gaze but only see the door of the lift. Under its solid green light, another, smaller light, flashes its diffused reflection from the terminal opposite. "Are you ok, Siha?" I pull her out of her brief hypnosis and she smiles up at me tightly, nodding, before moving forward...
With a sudden rush of understanding Thane pushed the memory away, pulled his boots on, and entered the mess hall. It was quiet at this time of the morning, and only Joker and Miranda occupied a table, with Garrus prowling between them, already dressed for battle.
Joker grinned, "Oh hey, Thane. I guess the cuddly assassin is here to rescue his damsel in distress... again." This elicited a 'not now' look from Garrus.
Thane said, "I believe I know where Shepard is and that she is fine. I will go to the Normandy now to be certain and, Garrus, I would prefer to go alone."
Thane held a hand up to cut him off, "Please, trust me Garrus. I would not allow any harm to come to Shepard, would I?"
Garrus marched around in a frustrated circle, unable to argue Thane's point.
"Seriously Garrus," Joker scoffed, "would you just take out the stick already? If we could survive on this planet all alone for six months, I'm pretty sure the Commander can manage to stay out of trouble for a couple of hours. I mean c'mon..." Joker snorted then turned to Thane, "So what gives? She forget her handbag or something?"
"I suspect Shepard simply wanted to take a last look at the Normandy before we left." Thane offered this half-truth in a desire to reassure them, while keeping Shepard's confidence.
"Yeah, I get that," Joker nodded, his smile fading, "said goodbye to her myself yesterday."
"Stay in contact," was the only thing Miranda offered, clearly still rattled by not being able to contact Shepard over the comm.
Garrus, who had finally stopped pacing, huffed, "And you can tell her from me, I'm really annoyed with her for going off without telling us!"
Joker giggled, "Yeah, tell her to leave us a note next time. Maybe something like; 'I'm going out for a pack of cigarettes, I might be some time...'" When no one laughed, Joker rolled his eyes, "Or, just tell her Garrus has got that stick up his ass, again."
Thane simply nodded at Miranda and made his way to the lift, pleased to have reassured the trio enough so they wouldn't make a fuss, which would likely result in embarrassing Shepard. He wasn't worried for her safety. As Joker had pointed out in his own inimitable way, this was a benign planet, especially now the brief visit by the mercs had been abruptly ended. However, Thane felt some trepidation as to the emotional struggles his Siha may be facing, right now. After all, she was still recovering from the emotional trauma of the last few weeks, and had yet to deal with her most recent grief.
Though he was unsure what he could do to help, or even if his help would be welcomed, Thane left the AJ to go to his Siha.
I love you.
I will await you in our usual place.
Huerta Memorial Hospital, by the window of the patient lounge, where she had often found him during her visits to the Citadel.
For long moments, Shepard stared at the screen, a hand over her mouth, fighting against the tears she knew would come. She believed reading this out of date letter shouldn't be so overwhelming. Yet, her heart felt as broken as when she had read his goodbye letter, in which he had thanked her for awakening him, confessed his belief in his own unworthiness, and promised to wait for her across the sea.
Waves of hot emotion she didn't want to feel crashed over her, threatening to drown her. It was as if this letter, this happy news, which should have reversed the terrible loss she had suffered. It encompassed all the other losses she had woken up to many weeks ago, beginning with the death of Anderson, and still, potentially, to end with James who was her last crew member still M.I.A.
So many of those deaths she was responsible for. Her orders, her actions, shaped the fate of her crew's lives. Yet, Thane had lived despite her inaction, her failure to do a thing to save him, to even try. Unlike Koylat, who had even gambled his own freedom to save his father.
Despite Shepard's deep gratitude and joy that Thane had survived, in many ways it turned her universe on its head. Everything she knew about the galaxy, a vast knowledge gained over so many years endlessly traversing it, had somehow lost its meaning now, and this new, almost perfect universe, was damn difficult to come to terms with.
It used to be so simple. Kill the bad guys, save the galaxy, have a little fun in between. Now it was all about swatting merc bands, tidying up dead Reaper trash, mourning so many deaths, and being alive and in love with a real future ahead to look forward to. It was damn confusing!
Shepard's tears finally started to fall when she began to read Thane's letter again.
Thane made swift work of the traverse between the two ships and had paused at the Normandy's airlock, to offer a small prayer that Siha would not hear the slight noise of the door as it opened, assuming she was in there. He had no wish to disturb her. When the sounds of her heart wrenching sobs reached Thanes ears, it was all he could do to stop himself going straight to her.
He looked down, blinking as he fought off his strong urge to enter the Normandy, before forcing his feet to carry him back down the slope and away from the ship.
"Miranda?" Thane's voice gave no hint of his own distress, as he stood with a finger at his ear to manually activate the comm.
"Shepard is fine."
"Good to know. What's she doing over there? Does she need a hand with anything?"
"No thank you, Miranda. She is..." Thane considered his words carefully, "going through a few last minute things she needed to do personally."
There was a moment of silence over the comm link as Miranda considered his words before she accepted, if not entirely understood, the situation. "All right, fair enough. Thanks, Thane."
"Would you inform me when Kal'Reegar is in orbit, please?"
Miranda understood Thane's unspoken request for solitude, and that it was possible they may not be returning to the AJ just yet, "Will do. Miranda out."
Pleased the conversation had been brief, Thane returned to the Normandy.
Shepard stood by her terminal, her hand over her mouth now, muffling the sounds that broke his heart, as did the sight of her tears. They flowed down her cheeks, spilling over the back of her hand and falling, until each one shattered against the workstation she leaned against.
He moved forward slowly, silently, keeping to the shadows, before pausing at the CIC steps when she hitched in a breath and whispered, "I love you, too."
Thane's heart broke for her, and soared for her, all at the same time, while it hammered in his chest. She sniffled, wiping at her eyes with the sleeves of her tunic, before refocusing all her attention back on the terminal screen. Despite the gloom, Thane watched his Siha's eyes flicker back and forth as she read his letter.
Hope is not lost.
From: Thane Krios.
Please forgive this unexpected and no doubt shocking news, but I had to let you know, I am alive! It's a long story and one I hope to tell you in person soon, but the main thing is, I have new lungs and a longevity I had not thought possible. Perhaps it is selfish to hope you would still want to share with me this new life I have been granted? It pains me to know how much you suffered, by having to say goodbye to everything we had, as you watched me take what should have been my final breaths. I can only beg you're forgiveness for the grief I have brought upon you, and the shock you must be feeling, now, as you read this letter.
But I would not be so selfish in asking you to come and see me. I know the war still rages and you are very much needed elsewhere. What I wouldn't give to be at your side right now, to protect you with everything that I am. I can only promise to join you as soon as I am recovered, and well enough to be more than a burden to you.
What I must tell you is; please take care of yourself, Siha. The thought of you crossing the sea, only to discover I broke my final vow to you, is an unfathomable pain I can barely endure. Only the cherished memories of our time together are holding my mind intact, while my body regains its strength.
More than anything, I pray I will see you again.
By the grace given me by the Goddess Arashu, I bid her divine protection to you, my warrior-angel, my Siha, to succeed in your destiny, for she has already given you hope when all seemed lost. I pray your path stays lit through the coming darkness and that it may, eventually, lead back to me.
Wherever you are, you carry my heart with you, and whatever happens, it will be yours forever.
I love you.
I will await you in our usual place.
The dam that had been holding Shepard's grief in check since finding the Normandy, finally burst, and Thane's word's blurred on the screen, again. Her tears were not just for those gone forever from her life, but also for the one who returned so unexpectedly. The pain in Thane's message, as he delivered what should have been joyous news, was heartbreaking.
Though she tried, her grief was unstoppable and she covered her mouth again to muffle her sobbing, even though there was no one to hear. It wasn't the white-hot agony Thane's death had wrought upon her; instead this was a deep aching sadness, though no less overwhelming. Clinging onto the edge of the workstation, all of her emotions poured out in fast hot tears, from deep within her heart.
Her knees buckled and suddenly Thane was there, scooping her up into his arms. Her hand briefly, automatically, reached down towards her gun as she gasped her surprise, then wrapped around him. She clung on as tightly as he held her.
For many minutes he said nothing while she sobbed into his neck, damp with her tears, while his own silently rolled down his cheeks.
They just held onto each other.
Shepard balled a fist to pound it against him once, as she said, "Don't you ever leave me, again!"
"I won't," he whispered, firmly, holding her against him and repeating, in a low rumble she could feel against her cheek, "I won't. I promise."
Slowly, her muscles relaxed and finally she lifted her head from Thane's chest. She was about to use a sleeve to dry her damp cheeks again, but Thane reached into his coat and produced a tissue, which she took with a small, breathy laugh before blowing her nose.
When she finally looked up at him, it was with a sheepish expression, which quickly melted away when she saw nothing but love, compassion, and understanding on his face. Shepard's tears threatened to spill again, and as if to distract her, Thane gently led her to the top of the galaxy map platform and lowered her down to sit before settling beside her.
Taking her hand, Thane ducked his head slightly in order to catch her eye. When she looked at him, he smiled. "I love you, too, Siha."
A plethora of emotions crossed her face in seconds, before she snatched her hand away from his, just long enough to complain, "Quads! You heard that? I said that out loud? Fuck! That wasn't how I..." she shook her head, "You have got to be kidding me!" Shepard huffed and shoved her hand back into his.
"It was a truly wonderful thing to hear, despite the pain you feel."
After a deep sigh she offered him a small smile, "It's not you, not your letter, I mean. I expected it to... but it's not that, not really..."
"I understand. My message from the past has brought with it many old emotions, and on top of a particularly difficult few days."
Nodding Shepard slumped against him in relief. After a moment she asked, "I've never really told you about the war have I?"
"Facts, but nothing really personal. No, Siha. I had assumed it was... difficult for you to talk about."
"Then perhaps sometime in the future, when you're ready."
Shepard considered this a moment before a thought occurred, and she sat up to look at him, "I'm sorry about EDI. I completely forgot you didn't know."
Thane rumbled a low laugh, flicking a dismissive hand, "It is of no consequence, no harm done. Ultimately, it was good to see her, face to face. Knowing of your affection towards the AI I should perhaps have realised, when you didn't seem too concerned about EDI not being on-line after we boarded the Normandy."
"Do you know about Legion? I can't remember..." She trailed off at Thane's nod.
"He sacrificed himself to bring his people back together with the quarians and stop the war between them."
"Yeah," she agreed sadly, "that pretty much covers it. Do you know the last thing he said before he died? 'Keelah se'lai'," she sighed. "Tali thought he had finally reached full sentience in those last moments, but I believe he got there long before he died. He even asked if his unit had a soul..." Shepard frowned. "We shared a few tears over his death. Well, I assume Tali did, kind'a hard to tell what's going on behind their masks. Hell," she sniggered, "it must be hard having to find a clean room, or risk contamination just to blow your damn nose!" Shepard's smile was brief. "You liked Legion, didn't you. Thane?"
"I never knew him well, unfortunately, but yes, I did like him, and he was an impressive marksman."
"Oh yeah, he got those husks off our backs didn't he? Hell, I thought it was us he was shooting at, until I turned around and saw those damn things creeping up behind us." Shepard's emotions prowled around a no man's land between grief and mirth. "After he died, it was, kind'a funny in a way. Tali and I were in shock, looking at Legion's dead platform, his body. I was trying not to cry and was about to go to him when Tali grabbed my arm, really tight. When I looked up, oh I swear Thane," she giggled, "we crapped ourselves! This bloody great Geth Prime was marching towards us. It didn't kill us, obviously, and I guess I hoped, just for a second, that somehow it was Legion, but when it wasn't I felt really pissed off at that damn Prime. Even after he told the quarians there was a place back on their home world for them, I just felt... I dunno... frustrated."
At Thane's questioning look she explained, "Well, even I know you can't punch a Prime!"
She sniggered, Thane shook his head, "Indeed," he agreed.
Shepard's smile quickly fell into a frown. "Still can't believe Tali's gone. I missed her funeral, hell everyone's funeral's, feels weird. Dammit... so many dead." The tears came again, this time rolling quietly down her cheeks, until she used the tissue to wipe them away. Yet, Shepard was also able to smile when she asked, "Have you ever seen a quarian drunk, Thane?"
Realising this was not a rhetorical question, Thane answered, "One or two, yes."
She sniggered, telling him about the time she had found Tali in Kasumi's old room, bent over the bar, and sucking alcohol through a straw. "She was so pissed! She insisted on calling it an 'emergency induction port', though she could barely slur the words out. In the end, me and Garrus had to wait until she finally passed out on the bar so we could carry her to bed. I tell you, them little quarians are heavy in their damn suits! Oh hell she had the best sense of humour, didn't you think?"
"Hmm, it was certainly... dry."
"Dry? Well that and acerbic, sarcastic... although," she snorted with laughter, "I think she met her match with Javik."
Thane's brow shot up in surprise.
"Yeah, I know, I don't think he even means to be funny," Shepard shrugged, "but anyway, when Tali met him she said... I remember this word for word, it was so funny. Tali said 'So, you're a real living Prothean?' and Javik..." Shepard could barely get the words out, she was giggling so much, "he said, 'As opposed to a fake, dead one?'"
Thane rumbled a deep laughter at that before he confessed, "I met the Javik once, on the Citadel."
Shepard's surprise curbed her laughter, "You did?"
"Briefly. He came to see what was bringing you to visit the Citadel so often."
"He informed me that in his day, my people were merely lizards who bathed on rocks and ate flies."
Shepard tried hard to hold in her laughter, but couldn't and snorted, "He said the same thing about the salarians. You should have seen the look on Mordin's face! Oh hell, I'm so sorry Thane, he had no right."
Thane was grinning, "It is of no consequence, Siha. He was simply curious and... quite focused on the Reapers."
Shepard snorted, "That's putting it mildly, the guy was obsessed! I've no idea what poor old Prothy is going to fill his time with when we get back to the Citadel now."
"Oh, Joker's nickname for Javik. He doesn't approve of course, but then he didn't approve of much of anything, to be honest. Can't really blame him. I mean, waking up after fifty thousand years to face the same enemy who wiped all your people out is bound to make anyone grumpy, isn't it?"
Shepard told him of Liara's delight at discovering the prothean in a stasis pod, and of her disappointment when the species she had studied and admired for the last fifty years, turned out to be empirical bullies. Shepard swung between laughter and tears as she related memories of Ken and Gabby, who Thane knew, as well as those he didn't.
"I can't believe that after near millennia of service to the galaxy, Samara ended up dying like she did," she muttered, alluding to reports of the asari Justicar being turned into a banshee before she died. This was information she had declined to pass on to anyone but Thane, knowing Jack especially would be upset.
Loosing Grunt was a heavy disappointment, too, even if he got to die in the manner he would have chosen, anyway. Strangely, many of Shepard's memories of Grunt involved Mordin.
"I lost count of the amount of times I heard Grunt threatening to," she adopted a deep voice, "snap that salarian's other horn off!"
Thane laughed, "Yes, it was rather like having a teenager around the ship. What with giving Gardener cause to complain how Grunt was eating half of the mess supplies in one sitting, and Grunt's desire to hit things all the time."
Shepard nodded, leaning against Thane while she laughed, before sobering to tell him, "Oh, but you should have seen him on Utukku, where we found the Rachni Queen being held captive. Oh Thane, I honestly thought we had lost him when he charged off to cover us. He took out loads of Ravagers before taking one over the edge of a cliff with him. He just... vanished. He was gone. I thought that was it. Then, I couldn't believe it, up he came! He was pretty beat up and completely covered in Ravager goo, all sticky and disgusting, and utterly delighted with himself. After I'd helped him onto the shuttle I must have spent two hours in the shower trying to get the stink off me. Hell gimme a husk splattering all over me any day!" Shepard wrinkled her nose, sniggering, "I couldn't believe it when Zaeed told me he found Grunt in the engineering corridor hours later, still sticky and smelling like something a cat threw up. Er," she amended for Thane, "putrid vomit might be a better description, but actually worse. Anyway, Zaeed had to march Grunt into the shower. Hell, it was funny. Zaeed was so pissed off, told me he wasn't a bloody babysitter! Considering Zaeed had only popped aboard the Normandy to say hello while we were docked at the Citadel, I guess he had a good point. Ah, shame they both couldn't stay." After a pause she said, "I suppose only James is left, now. How the hell could they lose him like that, damn it? How the hell can we not know if he's alive or dead after all this time?"
Instead of waiting for an answer from Thane, she went on to tell him how much she'd enjoyed listening to the banter between Vega and Steve Cortez, whenever she was in the shuttle bay modding her weapons, or checking the requisition list. "James was a tank of a man, but," she sighed, "when we heard Steve over the comm, just as his shuttle got taken out, I saw something die in James." The tears came again as she spoke. Thane listened, content to allow her to pour out all of her grief, while sharing her happier memories, so she swung from one emotion to another.
Eventually, she fell silent and he asked, "Who was Diana Allers?"
"Oh, ship's reporter." At the surprise on Thane's face, she added, "I know. Never thought I'd end up allowing the press anywhere near the Normandy, let alone aboard my ship! But, to be honest, Diana really helped people back home understand what was going on with the war, and she proved herself, I trusted her. One thing you could rely on with Allers was she would always report nothing but the facts, and if I told her to keep something back, she did, even if it killed her. I need to have a word with Traynor, I'm not sure, but I think she and Allers got close, maybe more than friends, I dunno. I've not had a chance to really talk with anyone too much since they got settled on the AJ."
"You have been busy, Siha, and there is plenty of time."
Shepard smiled when he squeezed her hand, and somehow she felt less guilty over feeling as if she had neglected some of the survivors. She would make time to speak to everyone properly on the way back to the Citadel.
"I, I found a message from Allers on my terminal, and one from Karin too. Not read them yet," she huffed.
"Would you like me to leave you so..."
"No," she said quickly, "I'd rather you stay. You've already seen me an emotional wreck now anyway so..." she shrugged in embarrassment.
"No matter." Thane leaned towards her to plant a soft kiss on her temple. "You, too, have seen me at my worst, or very nearly, when I came to your cabin that evening before we hit the Collector base." He smiled, "The night that was to be our first together, er, technically."
Shepard grinned, remembering the day she had returned from destroying a mass relay, and feeling wretched for it, only to fall asleep in Thane's comforting arms.
Wiping away the tear trickling down Shepard's cheek, Thane continued, "I think, however, it's fair to say Garrus is the one who has seen me at my very worst, after finding you on the Collector ship."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry," she drawled, "I'm pretty sure I was still in worst shape."
Despite the memories, Thane laughed, and how strange it was to be able to find mirth in what had been such a horrendous time. "True," he agreed, "after all, you had to be carried to the shuttle, I only needed to be dragged."
Shepard snorted and looked at Thane's smile, part angelic grin, part devilish smirk. She twisted towards him to wrap her arms around his neck as she chuckled. When the laughter died down she pulled away from him, and shook on her omni-tool. Opening her messages with a deep breath, grateful for the comforting hand Thane placed on her thigh, she read out Diana Allers message.
Well, here's some headline news Commander. All hell is breaking loose on the ship. Outside comms have gone dark and the Normandy seems to be trying to shake itself apart. I can barely stay in my seat to write this.
No big dramatic speeches or anything. I just wanted to say thanks for letting me aboard.
If I don't make it, the University of Milgrom's Rossberg School of Journalism will get all the money. You can do what you like with the rest of my stuff on the ship. Just make sure ANN gets my last feed, would you? I was cut off halfway through so had to record the rest, and I hate to leave a job half finished.
Thanks Shepard. Hopefully I'll see you again, soon.
P.S. Remember, I said I'd hold a Bekenstein wake for you if you didn't make it? If things turn out the other way around, make sure you get really drunk for me.
Shepard sighed, dropping her arm and looking down at the floor. Thane gave her shoulder a squeeze, keeping his silence while she considered Diana's last words to her. Eventually she took a deep breath and lifted her arm again, this time to open Doctor Chakwas' letter.
Because Thane knew the doctor, he was able to hear the letter in Chakwas voice, while he listened to the words Siha read out.
Now you're on Earth and we are about to do battle with the Reapers, it's just occurred to me I didn't properly thank you. Frankly I am in awe of what you have achieved, by bringing together all of the galaxy's races to face the Reapers as one. I believe we have a good chance of actually winning this war, thanks to you.
I have no desire to sound fatalistic or anything like that, but I want you to know, just in case I don't have the chance to tell you in person when all this mess is over, it has been a real honour and a true pleasure serving with you these last few years. My life has been all the more richer for having you in it, Shepard, and I know I'm certainly not the only one, not by a long way.
I've left a little something for you, it's in my personal stash in the med bay. Sorry if I am unable to share it with you. If this is the case, however, you can be sure I will be there with you in spirit, as it were.
Good luck, my friend.
Shepard's tears had been falling silently until she looked at Thane, then she collapsed, sobbing into his waiting arms.
Thane had admired and respected the Normandy's long serving doctor, and to be reminded she would never again shoo him out of the med bay, was more heartbreaking this time around, than when Chakwas had visited him in the hospital to say goodbye.
Despite everything he would have lost had he died, Thane believed death was much easier on the dying than the living, left behind. He believed Doctor Chakwas shared the same philosophy.
After Shepard's sobs had subsided to sniffles, she gently pulled away from Thane to wipe her nose. "Right," she sighed, and surprised Thane by muttering, "come on," before pushing herself up to her feet. Following her to the lift, Thane offered a questioning look. Shepard shrugged, gave him a sad smile and told him, "I'm just following doctor's orders."
In the med bay, Shepard pushed one of the beds away from the bulkhead and bent to open a small panel near the floor. Reaching inside the cupboard, she grinned, "Best we don't tell Joker he missed this," producing a bottle wrapped in red paper, and two unbreakable brandy glasses. Shepard wondered if these were the same two glasses used last time she had shared a drink with the doctor.
Watching her pour, Thane cautioned, "It's not even nine o'clock, yet," before emptying his shot of Serrace Ice Brandy in one gulp, and allowing his glass to be refilled.
"And I'm on duty." Shepard grinned.
"When are you not?" He offered mildly.
Thane was content to sit next to her on a bed and toast the Doctor, twice. Once for being a great friend and the best doctor a crew could have, the second time for the gift of the brandy. Shepard promised to make sure the bottle she had bought for Karin would be placed into her coffin.
However, by the time they had toasted all of the dead, most of the living, and Shepard was pouring her fifth shot to raise it for those still missing, Thane was beginning to wonder if he might have to carry her out and drop her into the ocean as a means to sober her up before duty called, again. He needn't have worried, Shepard nursed her glass this time, while she passed on some of the stories Chakwas had told her over a bottle. Most of them were amusing anecdotes of past crew, and Thane laughed especially hard at the one about a young marine called Corporal Jenkins.
Deciding Chakwas told the stories better than her, Shepard fell silent, so Thane wondered if now might be a good time to pass on another message to her.
"I've been meaning to tell you, Koylat messaged me last night."
"Oh? I'm guessing you didn't mention the mercs?" Shepard slurred.
"No, I did not." Thane said, darkly, his speech unaffected by the rapidly consumed alcohol, partly because of a higher tolerance to most alcoholic drinks, and partly because he was still only on his third shot. "However," he smiled, "Koylat asked me to pass a message to you."
"Oh hell. Has this got anything to do with the other night?"
"Hmm, I think it's safe to say the impression you made on him with your kiss, was more favourable than when you hit him."
Shepard snorted, "Go on, what did he say?"
Thane's laugh rumbled out when he told her, "Koylat merely told me that he... sends you kisses."
"He..?" She sat back in surprise, then a smile brightened into a huge grin, "Well, who would have thought it! Looks like some drell do have a sense of humour, after all."
Thane's smile fell from his face and he glared at her, making her laugh even harder. "Next time you write," she giggled, "tell him I send kisses back."
"Perhaps you should message this to him yourself? Lest I find myself delivering the same message to you both repeatedly."
"Hey, Koylat started it!"
Thane shook his head, laughing quietly. "Suffice it to say, he seems to be recovering nicely."
Shepard nearly spat out the brandy she was about to swallow, but coughed out a laugh instead. Suddenly she jumped off the bed, grabbing the bottle of
Brandy saying, "Come on," and wobbled out of the med bay.
Thane wasn't surprised at all to see her leading him towards life support.
"Just wanted to show you this," she opened the door to reveal how the room had been cleaned up. The only evidence of the damage this small space had taken was the hole in the bulkhead, exposing the Normandy's destroyed FTL Drive Core, along with a few dints in the table and chairs. It hadn't taken Shepard long to sweep up the thick chunks from the window and remove the broken shelving, before straightening out a couple of chair legs.
Walking slowly into the room Thane said, "You spent a great deal of time in this room, mourning my death, didn't you?"
"Yeah," she breathed, following him in, "I guess, some. It's kind'a strange, standing in here with you, now."
"Hmm, it is an odd sensation for me too, Siha," he turned to her, "though not unpleasant."
A single tear hung on her cheek, which Thane gently wiped away with his thumb, before pulling her close to him. When she spoke Thane felt her breath on the crest of his neck.
"Thanks, Thane. Not sure how I would have gotten through any of this without your patience and understanding."
Thane closed his own eyes briefly, feeling unworthy of her gratitude. "I am sorry I didn't write to you sooner, Siha. I deeply regret..."
"Don't." Shepard cut him off, stepping away briefly to put the brandy and glasses on the table, then turning to put her hands in Thane's and look him in the eye. "I think," she said, carefully, "I'm glad I didn't get it in time."
Thane tilted his head in surprised curiosity, but said nothing.
"It's not easy to explain why I feel this way but, I believe, if I had known there was a chance you were alive, and were maybe waiting for me, er, this side of the sea, I think I may have given up hope, back in that Collector ship, once I started believing no one was coming."
A dark cloud passed over Thane's features.
"I would have become anxious, not knowing if you had survived, if anyone had survived, if the Reapers had won or not. I would have been so worried, wondering if you were worrying about me, or mourning me, or have just been turned into a damn husk or something. I'd have probably worried myself into an early grave, and would have definitely felt shit scared that I'd be going back to... well, to that nothingness I spent two years in. But, Thane, your words, they hold weight." Shepard looked into his eyes deeply, willing him to understand her as she continued.
"I believed you were waiting for me across the sea. I believed I'd see you again. Ok, not quite the way things turned out, but... some part of me just knew I would... see you again. So, as much as I wanted to know if the war was over and if anyone had survived, in some ways even that didn't really matter, anymore. I could accept dying without finding that out. I'd done what I could and, I guess, I was at peace, Thane. I believe what got me through that crazy nightmare of being stuck there, knowing I was going to die, was thinking you already had. You were, um, safe I guess. The thought of dying didn't scare me because I believed you would be waiting for me, and that... kept me calm. I think it may have been... what saved me, what kept me going long enough for, uh, rescue. Does that make any sense?"
Due to the lump in his throat, Thane merely nodded. It was a far greater gift to receive than he could put into words, so he hugged her tightly, his eyes watering until they spilled over. She had forgiven him, but more than that, she had given a purpose to his dallying over writing to her. With the wisdom of a Goddess, his Siha had lifted the guilt of his ill timed letter, and replaced it with a sense of fated importance, as if the Gods themselves had intervened.
Finally, he was able to say, "Thank you, Siha." It didn't seem much, but the look on her face told him it was enough. Their lips met in a long kiss, both feeling like a weight had been lifted, somehow.
Shepard wobbled over to the edge of the table to sit, her feet dangling, and she grabbed Thane's coat to pull him close, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Yes Siha?" Thane smiled at her, wishing, hoping, she felt the same joy he was experiencing at just being alive with her right now. Despite everything she had gone through over the last couple of days, Thane realised she would be fine.
Her smile sparkled across her eyes, as much as it did her lips. "Thane, I love you."
"Gods, I cannot tell you how much I love you!"
This time their kiss was deep and passionate, until Shepard broke off panting, "Hell, if only we had the time."
Thane's brow furrowed for a moment before he understood. "Ah," was all he said, giving her a half-lidded look. At Shepard's smirk he added, "There is plenty of time, and we will not be disturbed," unsure how much he was actually joking or not.
"Thane Krios!" Shepard blinked, shock masking her face, "I'm on duty!" Then with a smirk, she popped the top off the bottle of brandy and took a swig. In one quick movement she locked her legs around Thane's hips, as he took the offered bottle, replacing its cap without drinking. Shepard made him have to lean very close in order to put the bottle back onto the table behind her.
"Gods!" Thane muttered when Shepard took off her tunic, then slowly peeled off her vest top. His hands cupped her neck when she lifted her chin and their tongues found each other.
Her hand moved up his inner thigh and she ran the tip of her tongue over his crest, from his neck to his ear, only pausing to whisper, "Let's make our last memory of this room a really good one."
"Well," said Thane as they strolled through the CIC arm in arm, "I believe that was the first time I have ever had sex while armed."
Shepard threw her head back in a laugh, "Oh, there are so many things I could say to that, Thane! It was quite the sobering experience at least, so I won't have to go skinny dipping in the sea now."
"Ah, that is a shame."
Shepard giggled, "Maybe one day, Krios." Pausing at the airlock she looked at the half bottle of brandy in her hand. "Question is, what do I do with this?"
"Here." Thane took it and stashed it away in his coat.
"Nice." Shepard squinted as she left the gloomy interior of the Normandy for the bright sunshine outside. "Well," she smiled, "to quote a cook I used to know, 'Back to work!'"
Thane laughed, briefly wondering what might have happened to Gardener, but his thoughts quickly turned back to Shepard. "Did I hurt you Siha? You are... limping, again."
Shepard laughed, giving him a squeeze as they walked away from the Normandy. "Thane, while you were sleeping, I had a bitch fight with several Brutes while, at the same time, luring the biggest Thresher Maw in the damn galaxy towards a Reaper, which was also trying to kill us. And, I faced off another Reaper, practically going toe-to-toe with the damn thing, before kicking its ass. So I'm pretty sure I can handle a hot drell with just the one good foot." Before Thane could answer she suddenly sagged against him, complaining, "Quads, I feel so drained."
"Hmm. Aside from... anything else, you have just exorcised deep emotions over the many losses in your life, it is bound to drain you. But I hope it proves to be cathartic for you."
Shepard nodded, "Yeah, I think it has."
Before they reached the AJ, Shepard stopped, turning to Thane and asking, "Do I look ok?"
"You look beautiful, Siha." Thane said sincerely.
"Ok, not quite what I was after, but I'll take it." She grinned. "Seriously..."
"I was being quite serious."
Shepard huffed, "Do I look like I've been crying? Or like I've been drinking? Or like I've just had sex in life support?"
Chuckling Thane said, "The latter two no, though it's possible someone may smell the brandy on our breath, if we allow them to get too close."
"The former, perhaps a little."
"Under the circumstances, at the sight of your broken ship, the graves of your crew and friends, it is understandable."
Shepard considered this, "Thanks, Thane. You always make me feel better. Now you just need to help me get to the cabin, so I can shower and brush my teeth, before anyone gets near us."
"Hmm, this may require a level of stealth you are unaccustomed to, my Siha."
"Ooh, you bitch!"
"Not at all. My only wish is to make your life better in any way I can."
Despite his playful smile she knew Thane meant every word of that, and she melted. "I love you."
Thane smiled lovingly at her before his lips curled into a smirk, "I hope you are as relieved as I am, that you have finally found the time to mention that. I... OW!"
Thane was sitting on a boulder, rubbing his shin. He looked up as Garrus wandered over, a questioning look on his face.
Thane grinned, "For a woman with a limp as pronounced as hers, Shepard can still deliver a good kick."
Garrus smirked, "Lovers' tiff?"
"Hmm, actually, I believe the humans call it... foreplay," Thane said, choosing the inaccurate word deliberately.
Thane laughed as Garrus shuffled his feet, said "Oh" several times, stammered, then walked away.
Shepard came out of the AJ's airlock, showered and refreshed, in time to watch the shuttle come in to land. As soon as it's hatch opened Shepard shouted, "Kal!" Greeting the marine warmly , and shaking his hand. "How the hell did you survive?"
"Ha! Maybe some of that Shepard magic rubbed off onto me eh? It's good to see you, Captain. Nice promotion!"
"Thanks. Hell it's fantastic to see you, Kal." Shepard sobered, "I'm so sorry about Tali."
"Yeah, you and me both. We lost a hell of a lot of good people, didn't we? But we won the damn war, Shepard, that's gotta count for something right?" Before she could answer, Kal'Reegar turned to his two companions and introduced, "This is Ranger and Solis."
"Shepard Captain," said each geth when she shook their hands. She grinned at 'Reegar. Like her, Kal had fought many geth in his time, and now here he was, happily working alongside them. It reminded her that Legion's sacrifice was not in vain, and would have a far reaching and positive consequence for a very long time to come.
"Thanks for doing this, guys. I Know you've got enough to do rebuilding the Migrant Fleet, so coming here for the Normandy, hell it's above and beyond."
"Oh please, Shepard, least we could do considering everything you've done for our people. Anyway, we're not rebuilding. We'll have a small fleet, of course, but as soon as we can get the live-ships to Rannoch, the plan is to settle there."
"Oh wow, that's great news," she grinned.
"We brought something for you." Kal motioned to Solis, who held up a black cylindrical object before showing her it's plaque on the top, with the name of every crew member who had been buried on this planet. "These guys made it on the way here. Sorry, it's not much, but we figured you would want to leave something behind, at least, for now, until your Admiral Hackett can arrange something more permanent."
"I... I don't know what to say..." Shepard was moved beyond words. She thanked them, managing to blink back pinpricks of tears.
The small monument was placed into the ground in front of the now excavated gravesite. During a short speech, Shepard recited every name on the plaque from memory, before asking for a moment of silence.
After the team said their goodbyes to Kal, Ranger, and Solis, Shepard offered her hand to thank him again.
"Enough already, Shepard," he laughed. "You've thanked us enough. We'll get her back and start working on her as fast as we can."
"Wait. Working on her?"
"You didn't know? We're going to rebuild the Normandy. At least, the engineers are going to have a damn good try anyway."
Shepard was stunned and her eyes travelled back and forth along her severely damaged ship.
"It won't be easy," Kal warned, "Can't say how long it will take, resources and manpower will be a problem. But Admiral Hackett has supplied the plans for the SR2 and the techs we can spare sure have the will to get her flying again."
"Wow," she grinned, still in shock, yet beginning to feel excited at the same time, her mind already starting to look for solutions. "Maybe I can call in a few favours. I reckon being a Spectre might come in handy, too. Barla Von gave some big donation to the smaller clinics on the Citadel in my name, maybe he'll still be feeling generous?"
Shepard fixed her eyes on Kal's small shining orbs, barely perceptible behind his mask, and told him, "Thank you!"
"She's in good hands, Captain."
"I know. Hell if you guys can't rebuild her, then no one can."
"So, before we leave, you have to tell me, what happened, Kal? Reports said you had died."
"Yeah, I ended up delivered back to the fleet in a body bag."
"Hell yeah," Kal chuckled. "Turian's just assumed we were all gonners. Can't say I blame em, by the time the Krogan turned up to give us back up, the comms tower worked all right, but the place was strewn with husks... and my men." He sighed. "I guess I got lucky, again. Combat seals clamped down to isolate contamination, and I was swimming in antibiotics. Doc noticed I was still alive soon as we got picked up, and thanks to the geth technology, they somehow managed to keep me alive while I fought the infection. Oh, and the injuries, too, of course." He shrugged.
"Hell, incredible." Shepard shook her head, grinning.
"Yeah, the geth have been pretty amazing. But you know me, Shepard. The enemy might get me, but I'm not going to die from an infection in the middle of a battle. That's just insulting!"
At that, Shepard laughed. "When you get back with the Normandy, there is going to be one very large drink waiting for you - several in fact."
"Now you're talking, Captain! Now go, will ya? Get the AJ off our landing zone so I can get my people to work. I'll be in touch." Shepard opened her mouth to speak but Kal jumped in, "And for Keela's sake, don't thank me again, please, Shepard."
Clamping her mouth shut, she shook Kal's hand once more, and simply nodded.
Before Shepard took one last look at the Normandy and left, she paused in front of the small monument set into the ground. It wasn't just a monument to those seventeen dead, but also a message for future generations. Nestled inside the mostly buried cylinder, was a time capsule Liara had begun working on during the war. It would tell the people of the future how a woman called Shepard had united all the races of the galaxy, in order to defeat the biggest threat known to every single species that had ever lived. The Reapers. How she had ensured that this cycle continued uninterrupted, and would do so, forever into the future. This time capsule would speak of the importance of unity to those who would come long after even Liara had died. Of a legacy that would ensure those future generations would still speak the names of those responsible for saving their lives, long before they were born. All thanks to a human who would become known only as The Shepard.