Chapter 13.

The More Things Change...

He sat by the window, unmoving, enjoying the utter stillness of his form. A casual observer may envy his peace. Only the white flash of the drell's inner eyelids across his large black orbs gave an indication he was not a strange emerald statue. Thane stared up into the artificial sky, mimicking the statue in the gardens below. The bronze warrior-angel, who had been watching over the names of so many fallen heroes for nearly four years, like a good shepherd, or Shepard, as most people spelled the word these days.

Thane's lips curled into a smile as he remembered the first time Shepard had seen the statue.

"You have got to be kidding me."

He nearly laughed out loud when he recalled an image of Joker, bowing and scraping while he loped along behind her. Joker did this every time they passed the statue together, much to her chagrin. Of course she'd had her revenge; she always did, although it had been over three years in the making, about as long as it had taken to rebuild the Normandy. This was yet another of Shepard's against-the-odds achievements. Pulling together techs and engineers of all races, gaining respect, and the financial backing needed to make the project work, and all this in between the missions Hackett sent her on, usually with a team, but sometimes alone. When she wasn't away you could always find her at the Normandy's permanent dry dock on Earth, sleeves rolled up, doing whatever she could to help out, sometimes yelling her frustration when things didn't work out too well the first time.

The Citadel's artificial blue sky with its white fluffy clouds reminded Thane of the desert sky of Earth, and those days he had spent alone with his Siha. He'd enjoyed the heat much more than Shepard had, so when Koylat surprised them with a brief visit, Shepard was delighted. She quickly left the two men outside for the air conditioned comfort of the hotel. Later she had returned and remarked: "Hell, you two look just like lizards sunning yourself on a rock."

"You sound like Javik, Siha."

"Pfff, I seriously need to rethink my relationship with a lizard."

Thane chuckled. He always did when he remembered how she'd swaggered away, still wet from the pool, throwing up her hands in mock despair when he reminded her it was a little late to rethink their relationship.

His smile fell when his mind drifted away from the past, and towards the immediate future. It had been Shepard's idea. After access to Kahje became viable again and Koylat had expressed a desire to return home, Shepard had offered to 'give him a lift'. At the same time she had encouraged Thane to contact his family, to at least let them know he was still alive. He hadn't expected to be greeted so warmly by those he had abandoned when he finally contacted his family again, nor could he have anticipated an invitation to return home with Kolyat. Thane's initial trepidation had subsided, and he now looked forward to reuniting with those he thought lost to him forever. Shepard's initial excitement, however, had turned to trepidation. Seeing his family again would undoubtedly be yet another bitter-sweet reunion in Thane's life.

Looking down at the gardens below he noticed the keeper at its station. Thane agreed with his Siha, they did look like grasshoppers from up here. Eventually he stood, and turned away from the window. With a brief last look around the peaceful hospital lounge, he made his way towards the lift. It was time to pick Kolyat up and go home.

"Hey, Lola." James leaned against the railing next to Shepard, "Figured you'd be here."

"Yeah, well," she gave him a smile before looking away again, "this is one of my favourite views on the Citadel."

"Hell, yeah," James grinned, and he too looked out at the Normandy, secure in its docking clamps. "It's been months since we got her flying again, and I still can't get enough of seeing her."

Shepard nodded, "She's quite a sight. There were times I wasn't sure we would be able to do it..." She trailed off, chuckling, she had said this too many times, already.

"Nah," James said, also not for the first time, "always figured we would get her flying again. Hell, if they could rebuild my legs from so much mulch..." he shook his head.

"It's just a good thing they were better at fixing you up than keeping their damn paperwork straight!" Shepard was still bitter about that, mostly on James' behalf. The hospital had removed, and promptly lost, his tags. Although they had, apparently, run an ID scan on him, it was never followed up as soon as communications improved, so he had remained a John Doe for months until he could be woken and was able to provide them with his name.

"At least I know why none of you guys could be bothered to bring me any grapes," James teased.

Shepard laughed, even though she wasn't really in the mood. She recalled the gobsmacked delight on Garrus' face at the sight of James, all those years ago. He was sitting in a wheelchair, one leg extended out in front of him, a big grin on his face. He had lost a great deal of muscle mass, and ended up in physio for over a year, not that you would be able to tell by looking at him now. Seeing him that day had been both horrifying and wonderful at the same time. He looked so weak, but he was alive! Poor Thane, just when he thought he had finally seen the back of Huerta Memorial, for a few months at least, he was accompanying her to visit James as often as they could.

"So," James said, "big trip, huh?"

And there was the main reason for Shepard's glumness. "Oh, don't remind me."

"Aww c'mon, it'll be all right. We're all here for you, Lola."

"Yeah, somehow that kind'a makes everything seem, even worse." She grinned. With a sigh she confessed, "I am happy for Thane, really, but... Oh, I dunno, I'm just being stupid, I guess," she shrugged.

"Nah, I get it."

"You do?"

"Sure... who wouldn't?"

"You have no clue, do you?"

"Nah, not really," he confessed with a grin.

"James, you're all heart."

"Oh c'mon, we're getting a VIP aboard with us for a few days, you can't tell me you're not looking forward to that?"

Shepard chuckled, "VIP, Koylat will like that."

"Ha, I bet. It'll be cool, having the Krios family all together."

"Hmm… Interesting times."

James turned towards Shepard, leaning one arm against the railing. "Seriously, how are you holding up? I do get this is a big deal for you, you know?"

She nodded, "Yeah, I know. I'm ok. I think my biggest worry about this damn trip is not..."

Shepard stopped talking suddenly, and could only look at the dawning horror on James' face, as she felt something cold and hard jab into her neck, just behind her ear. It was a familiar a sensation, yet it turned her blood to ice.

"Back off," rasped a deep voice behind her, "or I kill her."

Shepard told James to do as he was advised with just her eyes, and he reluctantly stepped back a couple of paces, his horror turning to tightly held anger.

The batarian wrapped one hand around the top of Shepard's shoulder tightly, and he roughly pulled her backwards, further away from James. The barrel of his gun stayed firmly pressed against her neck.

This is vaguely familiar... Here we go again.

"I've been waiting for this for too long, Shepard," the batarian told her, his voice quiet and menacing.

She sighed, "Have we met already by any chance?"

"If we had, you'd be dead, already."

Shepard rolled her eyes. It wasn't that this situation didn't frighten her, it did, but this was the third batarian who had shoved a gun under her nose in as many years, and she didn't need to ask why. Instead she waited for the lecture as to why she should be given the death sentence for the mass murder of thousands of innocent batarian's... But the lecture never came, and it quickly became apparent this batarian wouldn't be walking away with a 'bah!' In fact, this particular batarian wasn't going to give Shepard a chance to talk him down, at all. She could feel his anticipation over shooting her at point blank range oozing off him.

He didn't rant, or shout. He simply and solemnly said, "This is for my people."

Shepard only had a split second to realise he was about to pull the trigger.

The noise of the shot in the docking bay was deafening. Many screamed when they saw the blood.

Kolyat was still in his uniform, waiting outside C-Sec, when Thane arrived. They hugged, awkwardly for Thane, due to the large duffel bag slung over one of Kolyat's shoulders.

"You have everything?" Thane asked.

"Yup!" Kolyat grinned.

"Would you like to change before we go?"

"No, I think I'll feel better walking onto the Normandy in uniform, if it's all the same."

Thane chuckled, "I suspect you'd look more out of place in a C-Sec uniform aboard the Normandy."

Kolyat shrugged. "I'll change once were aboard. Anyway, Aunt Mayana has asked for a memory of me wearing my uniform, so I didn't want to get it all crumpled by packing it."

Thane smiled and the two men fell into step together, strolling along the wards towards the lift which would take them to the Normandy's docking bay.

"How was your appointment with the doctor, Father?"

"The same as my last, I am pleased to say. Almost no progression of my Keprel's. I am well." Kolyat beamed, and Thane continued, "They have decided they don't need to see me again for a year."

"Really? No more six-month visits? That is good news."

"Indeed. So tell me Kolyat, what are you looking forward to the most, flying on the Normandy, or returning to Kahje?"

"Oh, er, both!" Kolyat chuckled. "I'm looking forward to seeing home, again, but, it's quite exciting to think I'll be flying on the most famous ship in the galaxy - well, next to the Ascension, anyway. What about you, Father? It's been... a long time since you have been home."

"Hmm," Thane rumbled, "indeed, it has. Like you, I am anticipating a happy reunion with our kin. It has been... too long."

"What of Shepard? She told me she is looking forward to seeing Kahje."

"She..." Thane couldn't find the words to describe the mixture of emotions his Siha had confessed to, so simply said, "Yes, I believe so. Kahje is one of the few world's she has yet to visit, and she is almost as excited as you are about you flying with us." Thane smiled warmly, "It will be nice to have you aboard the Normandy."

Kolyat laughed, "I've been warned it will be an eye opener."

"You have? By who?"

"Er, Jack, Liara, Kasumi, Zaeed, Miranda... Pretty much everyone, really."

Chuckling, Thane said, "Then, I can't argue with my shipmates."

"How long will it take us to reach Kahje?"

"Around four to six days, depending on circumstance. We have a couple of supply drops, then a potential layover before we reach the home world."

"Why only potential?"

"This will be our first trip back to Omega. At least since Aria T'Loak, uh, moved back in. We can't be sure what state the station is in, so Shepard wishes to speak to Aria and assess the situation before deciding if the crew can have a night's much needed shore leave."

"I thought you hated Omega, Father?"

"I... It is not a place I enjoy visiting. Let's just say, there was very little call for people like myself, back when I was an assassin, as the residents there tend to deal with things themselves. Suffice it to say, you must be careful on Omega, Kolyat, assuming we spend time there. Unfortunately, it makes the worst wards on the Citadel look like havens of peace, at times."

"Why are we going to Omega, anyway?"

"We have our final squad member to pick up. A friend of Mordin's who Shepard had arranged to rendezvous with on the station."

"Oh. Well, I hope we stay. I hear Afterlife is quite good!"

Thane smiled, "Assuming it is still there, then, yes. I suppose it is quite... entertaining when the crew get together over a few drinks, as you know."

"It's certainly better than going out with some of the guys from C-Sec!" Kolyat grinned.

Thane simply shot him a wan smile. Though Kolyat had come to know most of the crew quite well, and had spent his fair share of evenings out on the Citadel with them over the years, it was fairly tame compared to the few layover's on Omega Thane had been witness to in the past. After all, the motto was, 'what happens on Omega, stays on Omega'. Thane believed this was probably for the best. He smiled quietly to himself as they approached the lift and Kolyat hit the call button.

"One thing I've been meaning to ask, Father - did Shepard keep the wall?"

Thane frowned for a second, "Oh, the memorial wall?" At Kolyat's nod, Thane continued, "Ah yes, the wall was salvaged along with most of the CIC. The last time you saw the Normandy in dry dock they were re-building the engines, were they not?"

Kolyat stepped into the lift saying, "Hmm, 'that damn wall', she hates it."

"Only in that it represents those lost to her, not the wall, itself." Thane smiled, hitting the button to take them to their docking bay.

"No, she told me she hates that wall, and would have it replaced with a new one if she could."

"Ah, yes, perhaps because it once had my name etched into it."

Kolyat nodded sombrely, then, with a smirk said, "Although, she did tell me there have been a few times when she felt like etching your name back onto the wall herself."

"After throwing me out of an airlock," Thane chuckled.

"I'm sure she was only joking, Father."

"Oh indeed, most of the time, at least." The two men laughed as they stepped out of the lift, and Thane continued, "I have to say, Shepard has..." he trailed off, blinking at the commotion as they approached security.

Officers were running back and forth, amidst the screams and shouting coming from beyond the doors to the visitors lounge.

Thane and Kolyat looked at each other and hurried forwards. They were briefly stopped from entering the docking bay, until the turian security officer noticed Kolyat's uniform and allowed them through with a, "Sorry, Sirs."

They ran through the door, past the visitors lounge, and Thane took in the scene within seconds. A few C-Sec officers were moving a few curious onlookers out of the way. Other officers were milling around what looked like someone lying on the floor. Thane saw a flash of red hair from between their legs, the blue of an Alliance uniform. One of the officers slipped, quickly regaining his balance as he ran past, and with growing horror Thane saw what the officer's foot had slid in. Blood, human blood. Beyond the knot of officers stood James, fists clenched, angry eyes which looked out from an unusually pale face.

Thane had to stop himself from pulling Kolyat out of the way when he dropped his duffel bag and quickly approached one of the security officers, asking, "What's the problem here?"

"Please sir, if you can move bac..." When the human officer looked at Kolyat, he quickly said, "Oh, sorry, Sir. It's... er..." Unable to describe the scene, he stepped back to allow Kolyat to see for himself.

"Gods," muttered Thane when he saw the blood was Shepard's. It covered one side of her face, her shoulder and most of one sleeve on her uniform was soaked with an odd claret colour, it looked black to Thane. It was with a perplexed horror he watched his Siha's blood, as it dripped in slow, consistent splatters, from the side of her head onto the batarian she had pinned to the floor.

One of her knee's dug into his chest, and one of his hands was pinned down by the heel of her boot, his other hand twisted painfully at the wrist she held. She was practically nose to nose with the horrified batarian, her face a mask of molten fury, while she choked the life out of him.

No wonder the security officers seemed unable to act. Shepard was a Spectre. None of them would be prepared to go against the wishes of a Spectre to deal with this matter themselves, even if she did need medical attention, or was in the process of murdering someone. Even without knowing the circumstance, Thane wanted to step in, snap the batarian's neck, and get Siha to the aid she needed. He only waited because Kolyat, who had an edge with Shepard the other officers didn't, crouched down beside her.

"Shepard," he said gently, but firmly, "You're killing him."

"Oh? Really?" She seethed. She glanced at Kolyat, softening slightly when she saw who it was. After glowering at the batarian again, she relaxed her grip on his windpipe just enough for him to gasp a few breaths, his four eyes blinking fearfully up at the murderous face above him.

"James?" She asked, not taking her eyes of the batarian, "Did this bastard shoot my ship?"

"Nope, he missed that, too." Though James spoke mildly, it was through clenched teeth. "Don't let a small thing like that stop you, though, Lola. You can kill him for me. Sooner the better, though, huh? You're bleeding all over the guy."

Shepard moved her hand, roughly cupping the batarian's chin, and forcing his head to turn towards Kolyat. "See that drell?" She hissed. The batarian's top two eyes rolled towards Kolyat, then back to her, "He just saved your sorry ass." With that she sat up, dropped his wrist then pulled her fist up, before driving it down into his face. The batarian howled and brought his hands up to his face, rolling to one side as Shepard stood up.

Thane noticed her hands shaking a little as James told the officers, "You can arrest him for attempted murder, or maybe assassination, whatever gets him the most years in jail."

It was only when the batarian was pulled up to his feet by a couple of security Thane noticed the gun under James' boot.

"I can walk!" The batarian shook himself free of the officers hands. There were about thirty C-Sec officers now, the batarian couldn't go anywhere, so they allowed him to walk unaided.

As one of them retrieved the gun, the rest followed the batarian. The prisoner nearly fell over when he tried to shove his way past Thane, walking smack into the drell's densely coiled muscles. Thane simply blinked, fighting hard to suppress the urge to break the would-be killers neck. The batarian stumbled and an officer grabbed him to haul him away.

Both Shepard and James sagged and Thane was next to her in two quick steps.

"Siha." he pulled her into his chest, barely able to contain his relief.

"I'm ok... Ow!"

"I'm sorry." Thane allowed her to step back then caressed her chin to gently tilt her head sideways and assess the damage. "What happened?"

James shook his head, "Too close. Man, the guy was loco!"

Thane moved out of the way when a medic approached.

"I'm fine," Shepard barked, "I'll let the Normandy's doctor take a look, thank you." The medic left her with a large pad to hold over her badly mauled ear and the gash in her temple.

"What's going on?" Kolyat demanded, now looking as shaken as Shepard was.

"Oh, Kolyat," she gave him a quick, one armed hug, before telling them, "Ah, just another batarian who didn't like the cost of the subscription fee to my fan club."

Thane inwardly winced at her dark description. He knew the events of all those years ago in the Bahak system still pained her.

"She did a Kai Lang," James told them. "Just as the guy pulled the trigger, she... moved," he shook his head in disbelief. "Sorry, I blinked, so pretty much missed it all. I'm not kiddin', don't think I've ever seen anyone move that fast."

"Not fast enough," Shepard complained, "still got shot... Shit, my ear is ringing."

"Huh, what's left of it, Lola."

"Is it really that bad?"

Thane gently pulled her close, "It probably looks worse than it is," he told her, unsure if this was to comfort her or himself. "At first, I thought it was you lying on the floor." He took a deep breath. "You have lost a fair amount of blood," he looked around at the smeared mess on the floor, "we should get you to the Normandy."

Shepard gave Thane a squeeze and nodded, carefully. Looking at Kolyat, she said, "Good timing, Kol. Not sure if I shouldn't have just killed him, but thanks."

Kolyat simply shrugged one shoulder, "Anytime, Shep."

"Yeah, right," James grumbled. "But next time, take your time, huh. God damn batarian asshole." Turning to Shepard, he said, "Here, lemme see." After she had briefly removed the pad she was gingerly holding over her ear, James said, "Hell, it's pretty cabbaged. But nothing the doc can't fix, I reckon."

Shepard nodded, "Come on, let's get onto the Normandy. Kolyat, I'll let Thane show you around the ship while I sneak into the med bay - with as little fuss as possible, I hope."

"No problemo," James said.

Shepard put her free hand across Kolyat's shoulders, and quietly escorted him through the airlock. With a wink, she and James left him and Thane at the cockpit door.

Thane watched them go, torn between accompanying them, and staying with his son. Fortunately, Kolyat would likely prefer a quick tour of the ship, so they could go see how Shepard was as soon as possible.

"Hey, Commander." Joker looked behind him without turning around in his seat. "Oh! Where'd she go? Hey Kolyat!"

"Hello, Kolyat," EDI said. "Welcome aboard."

"Thanks!" Kolyat's eyes darted around the cockpit, taking everything in.

Turning to Joker, EDI said, "Aren't you going to turn around, and welcome Kolyat properly, Jeff?"

"Wasn't planning on it, no," Joker muttered.

Leaning against the doorframe, Thane smiled at his bemused son, and said, "I believe you should Joker. It is, after all, only polite."

"Not gonna happen!"

"Turn the chair around, Jeff."

"Awww, EDI! Shit..." Joker slowly turned his chair to face Thane and Kolyat then put his chin in his hand, rolling his eyes skyward with a huff.

"Gods!" Kolyat said, trying to keep the disgust from his face as he looked upon the most lurid seat covering he had ever seen. Joker sat surrounded by a mixture of brown, purple, orange, green and pink colours, in vague flower patterns and swirls. It was truly hideous to look at.

Knowing Joker had designed the seat himself, Kolyat tried to be diplomatic, "That's... unusual."

"Hey, don't think this was my idea! My seat had lovely black leather!" Joker huffed again.

"Siha's revenge," Thane grinned.

"You should have seen the expression on his face, Kolyat," EDI said with a smile, "We should have taken some photographs... Oh, no, wait, we did."

Thane explained. "Shepard had Jokers seat cover changed at the last minute. He only discovered the change shortly before the Normandy's maiden voyage. It was... payback, for all the stunts Joker had pulled on the crew over the years, while we were rebuilding the ship. Now you know why he has stopped embarrassing Shepard whenever they are near The Good Shepard statue on the Citadel."

"Oh." Kolyat grinned. "But, the Normandy has been flying a few months now, and you haven't changed it, Joker?"

At this EDI rolled her eyes, and Joker sat up, grinning. "Well see, I was going to. Then I figured you guys have to look at it more than I do anyway, so I decided to keep it."

"Oh... dear." Kolyat pressed his lips together to stifle his laughter.

"Yeah, I know," Joker giggled. "How cool is that?" He swivelled back to his controls so he could undock the Normandy. Before he did, Joker asked, "So, the Commanders not here. Who's gonna say it?"

Thane whispered into Kolyat's ear, who looked at his father, then EDI, who nodded with a smile. With a huge grin, Kolyat said, "Get us out of here, Joker!"

"Hell, yeah! Let's take you guys home!" Joker grinned.

Thane gave Kolyat a little time to watch the Citadel shrink and vanish into its nebula where it had been returned to just last year, before starting the tour. After a brief pause to greet Specialist Traynor, Thane showed him Liara's room, introducing him to Glyph and explaining that this room used to be the Armoury before it was turned into the Shadow Broker's base of operations. With the lab locked until a full-time scientist was able to staff it, and the comms room likely empty, Thane escorted Kolyat down to the Shuttle Bay and Armoury, where Sarah Williams had just finished working on a shuttle and was preparing to join most of the team in the mess.

On the engineering deck Thane pointed out Zaeed's quarters, and opposite that the clean room where their resident quarian lived, before taking him downstairs, along the small corridor past the door to Jack's lair, and back up into engineering. Only Adams and Ranger were there and, again, after brief greetings, Thane took Kolyat up to the Crew Deck.

Kolyat was shown his room and its breathtaking view. Thane told him this was once where Samara resided, and waited until he had put his duffel bag on the bed before finishing the tour. Thane pointed out Kasumi's room opposite Kolyat's, then showed him where Miranda worked, and where Garrus calibrated, before the two men stepped into the Med Bay.

"She is in life support," Doctor Michel said straight away. "And she is fine. Hello, Kolyat. I've not seen you in a while."

Again they didn't waste time and after greeting the doctor, re-entered the busy mess hall to head straight for Life Support.

Kolyat paused at the door. "This is where you once... er, stayed, Father?"

"Indeed." Thane smiled.

"Shep still comes here?"

"She works here. I'll let Shepard explain it to you, come on."

Kolyat followed Thane into another room on the ship which looked vastly different than it used to.

"Welcome to my office," Smiled Shepard, leaning back in her chair. No trace of her injury could be seen under her long hair, and at Thane's silent, questioning look, she told him, "I'm fine. Ear's a bit swollen, but it all glued back together ok. I'll have reconstructive surgery once the swelling has gone." Though looking much more relaxed, James shook his head, but offered no more as he sat in the two-seater sofa opposite Shepard's desk. She asked Kolyat, "Did you enjoy the tour?"

"Yes, thank you. I can't get myself lost on the Normandy, now," he joked. "So," he looked around the small room, "this is where Father originally lived?"

"Yeah. Although the only similarity are the junctions and monitoring equipment for life support." She nodded towards the bulkheads either side of the door then stood. "This is where the table he used to clean his guns on was," she pointed towards her desk. "And that," her finger moved to the large square of softly diffused light casting a pleasant glow over her terminals and the many pads scattered across her desk, "used to be a window, with a view into the engine core."

Kolyat's eyes took in the room, and eventually settled on the shelves dominating the bulkhead behind Shepard's desk. "Father said you had an impressive collection of model ships, Shep."

"That's only half of them, the rest are in the cabin. The old shelves that used to be there were where your dad kept his guns."

Kolyat nodded, "Where was your bunk, Father?"

"There," Thane pointed to the bulkhead opposite Shepard's desk and sofa, towards the space under the shelf with Shepard's space hamster, and the books she had borrowed from Kasumi but not read yet.

"That can't be the same space hamster you had during the war, is it Shep?"

"Sure is, the little guy just won't quit," she grinned.

Finally, James spoke, "So what do you think of the Normandy, Kolyat? Glad to be here?"

"Oh yes, it's... wonderful."

"One hell of a cool way to go home, huh? We were just talking about that, eh, Lola?" James grinned.

"Yes, James," Shepard rolled her eyes.

"Yeah," James said, "she was just telling me how much she is looking forward to meeting the family."

"Oh," Shepard crossed her arms, "You had to go there didn't you, James?"

Both James and Thane laughed, the latter saying, "This could be a unique memory for you, Kolyat. It isn't often you will see Siha afraid of something."

"Oh no," James chuckled, "try petrified!"

Shepard shot back, "You're just saying that because you crapped yourself earlier."

"Hell, yeah, so did you!"

"I don't understand," Kolyat said.

"Yeah, c'mon, Lola, what gives? I've seen you bitch-slap a Thresher maw and go toe to toe with the Reapers before kicking their asses. What could be so scary about meeting the in-laws?"

"James," she huffed, "maybe one day you'll understand, assuming you can find someone willing enough to put up with you and be your partner!"

"Oh, this is going to be so much fun!" James grinned.

"Right," Shepard laughed. "That's it, out you go, you two. Leave me and Kol in peace."

James chuckled all the way to the door, but before Thane left, he gently pushed Shepard's hair back to reveal her gnarled looking ear. Clearly it would heal in time, and she would have a few more scars to add to her collection. "I will see you in the mess," Thane told her, lightly kissing her forehead.

"Won't be long," she said quietly in his ear. "Love you."

Once she and Kolyat were alone, he asked, "So this is the unique life support system?"

"Actually, no, that's all regulated in the AI core behind the medical bay. I'll show you later." Shepard motioned for Kolyat to join her on the sofa.

As he sat, he said, "I was surprised to see the clean room, down in engineering."

"Ah, in Grunt's old quarters, and Javik's. Yes, it was where our resident quarian was able to un-suit when he first joined us, but with the geth regulating the atmosphere, he is able to spend longer and longer out of the clean room without his suit. It's similar to what they have been doing back on Rannoch, but you'll need to ask Ranger, or one of the other two geth, about it for all the technical stuff." Shepard grinned.

Kolyat nodded then asked, "So, what was all this stuff about in-laws?"

"Oh, just human humour. You know what an in-law is right?"


"Among humans, when a couple gets married, their families become related 'in law', but the term is often used for couples unmarried, too."

"Er... yes." Kolyat said, clearly unconvinced but unwilling to be subject to confusing humanisms any further. Looking around the room again, Kolyat said, "Father was surprised, happily so, when you decided to use this room. He said you had many... emotive memories of life support, much of them unhappy ones."

"Oh, not all of my memories are bad," she told him, smiling at those times she had spent getting to know Thane after he had first joined the team. Her mind wandered back to that morning she and Thane had spent together in the downed Normandy's life support, and she had to force herself not to grin. "But yeah, when Garrus first suggested I turn this room into a work space, I kind'a told him he was off his head." She laughed. "I had decided I just wouldn't have anything to do with this room anymore, pretty much the way I hadn't back before I met your dad, on the SR1. But with Thane and I sharing a cabin, an extra work space to keep all my crap was a good idea. Plus it saves Thane having to go into stealth mode and creep around the cabin while I'm working."

Not that this bothered Thane. Hell, he found it impossible to move around anywhere but silently anyway. Shepard preferred to work alone, there were enough distractions to keep her permanently behind on the paperwork as it was, without a hot drell hanging around just a few feet away. Plus, it was good to have somewhere to come to for a private sulk, or a quite fume, on those rare bad days. Most of all, it fixed the problem of Thane having to graciously leave his own quarters every time a crewman needed a quiet word with her. Now she could just use the office, or 'Shep's Den' as Kasumi had christened it.

"It must have been..." Kolyat searched for the words, "I'm not sure how to say it, maybe, cathartic? To take back this space, and make it your own? It must have... helped to put the past firmly where it belonged, perhaps?"

Shepard considered this as she looked at Koylat, "Are all drell's such deep thinkers? Or is it just the Krios boys?"

He grinned, "I guess you'll find out when we get to Kahje, Shep."

"Oh God's, don't!" Shepard slumped in her seat, arms folded, "I'm nervous enough as it is, already."

"Why?" Kolyat laughed. "Two drell's have already come to love you, and I know you get on with Liara's friend Feron, because he has told me himself. So why would you think meeting the family would be less positive?"

"Honestly, I don't, not really. It's just a little scary meeting the in-laws, as it were. But even more scary, what on earth are they gonna make of the rest of the team!"

"It's ok," Kolyat sniggered, "we've warned them."

"Oh Gods!"

"They are looking forward to it, Shep. There's going to be quite a gathering."

"What?" Shepard balked.

"Father didn't tell you? Oops!"


"He didn't mention Nyahir, the hanar holiday?"

She shook her head.

"Nyahir means 'first cresting bloom', it's a religious holiday, but everyone joins in with the festivities. The names of the winners of a traditional competition are written across Mount Vassla, an underwater volcano, in bioluminescence, which you can see for a whole year."

"Wow, I'd like to see that!"

"Oh you will. The holiday lasts thirteen days, and we will be arriving pretty much in the middle of it. It means all of our family and friends will be on holiday, so will be there to greet you." Kolyat grinned, mischievously.

Through gritted teeth, Shepard muttered, "I, am, going, to, kill, your, father!"

"Sorry, Shep," Kolyat laughed, "I'm with James. A roomful of drell is hardly as scary as many of the enemies you have faced."

"Ah, see, that's where you would be wrong," Shepard held a finger up. "Maws and Reapers? Predictable. The former just wants' to kill you, the latter wants to turn you into a husk, then kill you. All nice and simple. But in-laws? Now, they're unpredictable, and you can't really just shoot them and have done with it. Although, I have heard many people say they would, if they could get away with it."

"I have heard a number of human jokes about a mother-in-law."

"Yeah, Joker's been telling them for days, now," she rolled her eyes. "I guess you've never even met Thane's mom, have you?"

"Once, about a year before I left Kahje. it was after her husband died, so I didn't get to meet him. She is very elderly, now, so this is likely to be Father's last opportunity to see her."

"Quads, she hasn't seen him since he was six years old!"

Kolyat nodded, "And he has yet to meet his brothers and sisters."

"It's a bit mind blowing to be honest. You think he's ok? He seems to be, but what to do you think?"

"Oh yes, he is looking forward to it as much as I."

"Good. Y'know, I am, too. I'm just, well, the Alliance didn't train me for this," she laughed. "And to answer your question, yeah, it was good to take back this space. I'm glad Garrus pushed me into it, well, he and Thane. Apparently Garrus came up with the idea after a comment Thane made way back when we were on the AJ." Before Kolyat could comment, she stood, "You hungry?"

"Getting there."

"C'mon then."

Before they reached the mess, Kolyat paused at the memorial wall, and Shepard stood beside him.

"It was strange seeing Zaeed's cabin." Kolyat said.


"It was where Diana reported from wasn't it? I often watched those reports, from Father's bedside. For much of that time, Father's name was on this wall."

"Hmm, that was one name I was very happy to see removed," Shepard sighed. "Unfortunately, many more have replaced it since then. One day, I'll get a new wall." She muttered.

Most of the team were eating when they entered the mess, and though she knew Koylat had already been made familiar with the ship Shepard pointed a finger towards the main battery, saying loudly, "That's where Garrus endlessly calibrates."

"I heard that!" Garrus shot over his shoulder.

Koylat laughed, and they made their way to the kitchen. "It was nice to see Doctor Michel, again."

"Yeah. Never thought I'd talk her into working on a ship. I think she missed us messing up her hospital."

"She says she only came on board to keep an eye on Father."

"Yeah, and Joker! Doctor Chakwas would have been pleased, she liked Chloe."

As they turned to take their food to a table, a familiar voice said, "Kolyat! Hey, nice to see you again!"

Kolyat froze, watching the unfamiliar alien approach. He was a shocking sight, his pale skin pulled over an angular face, only the creatures shining eyes stopped him looking skeletal, but only just.

Out of the corner of his mouth Kolyat muttered, "Who the Gods is that?"

Shepard laughed, "Oh hell, I forgot, you've never seen Kal'Reegar without his mask, have you? Or any quarian, for that matter."

"Oh! Kal, hello! No, it's been a while."

Kal and Kolyat shook hands, warmly, while Shepard took her and Kolyat's food over to a table.

"Not since Shepard dragged us all to that damn desert!" Kal chuckled. "A few hours there, and I was still sweating a week later."

"I liked it," Kolyat grinned.

"I'm with Kal," Shepard called over, "A week in that place and I couldn't wait to leave."

Thane looked up at her, grinning, then laughing when she shook her head at his half closed lids. She wandered off to get drinks, and Thane sat back to watch his

son and his Siha.

As James passed his table, he paused, following Thane's gaze, "Must be nice to have the family aboard, eh?"

"Yes, very much so." Thane smiled.

Over the past few years Thane had quietly observed the blossoming relationship between Kolyat and Siha. To his surprise and delight, they had eventually become closely bonded as they became more and more comfortable in each other's company. The two people he loved more than anyone in the galaxy had each confided in him how much they had come to care for the other. When apart they would often write to each other. Yet they both still insisted Thane send the other kisses, whenever he and Kolyat mailed, despite the fact Kolyat and Shepard wrote to each other just as often. It was an annoyance Thane was more than happy to put up with.

Through Shepard, Kolyat had developed a taste for Serrice Ice Brandy, and in return Kolyat had introduced her to a new game called 'Reaper Invasion', in which the protagonist, Commander Shearer, would endlessly shoot ever more formidable Reaper foe. Occasionally the character would make comments, which differed depending on which race the gamer chose to play. Kolyat's drell character said, "Go to the sea, and drown yourself you motherfucking Reaper!" Shepard's human character yelled, "Let's go kick some Reaper ass," or alternatively, "I'm Commander Shearer, and this is my favourite dead Reaper on the planet."

Sometimes, she would switch to the turian character, because he had sniper ability. All he said was, "And here was me thinking these Reapers were actually tough. Oh well, let's go find some more, shall we?" As it was made by the same company who made Blasto the Jellyfish, there was also a hanar Commander Shearer who no one played because he constantly, and annoyingly, shouted, "Enkindle this!" every five minutes.

Thane couldn't see the attraction in the game himself, but he enjoyed listening to the laughter and banter between Kolyat and Siha when they played. Kolyat often sounded like one of the Normandy's team, rather than the respected C-Sec officer he had become. No doubt, this would come in handy for him over the next few days.

"So," Kasumi suddenly appeared, and took a seat next to Thane, "what's it like having Kolyat aboard? Must be strange."

"It is," Thane agreed, "though, not unpleasantly so."

"Well you're obviously happy, I can tell."


"Though, I know you would rather we weren't going to Omega, but it'll be fine, I'm sure."

"Hmm, I suspect it is still a den of iniquity and not a place I would encourage Kolyat to visit."

"Better he gets a taste of it with us though, eh?"

"That is what worries me Kasumi, that he does develop a... taste, for Omega."

Kasumi waved a hand, "Oh that won't happen, Kolyat is too much like you!"

"He... is?"

"Oh yes, can't you tell?"

"Hi Father. Hi Kasumi," Kolyat smiled, taking the seat opposite Thane, as Shepard dragged up a chair to sit between them.

"Hey Shep," Kasumi grinned, "looking forward to seeing Kahje?"

Kasumi was already standing when Shepard told her, "And you can fuck off as well!" With a loud giggle Kasumi left them to it.

"So," Shepard glared at Thane, trying not to smile, "seems I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, at all!"

"Ah!" Thane said, glancing at Kolyat, who just kept his head down to eat his meal.

"Still," Shepard continued, "I'm glad Kolyat's aboard, he reminds me some drell can actually be fun to have around."

Kolyat snorted, which turned into a cough when he nearly choked on his food, eliciting a bigger laugh than Shepard's joke.

After a moment, Thane told Shepard, "I can be fun."

At that Kolyat laughed, telling them, "Please, don't you two start, I'd like to eat this, not breath it!"

Shepard grinned, chewing on her own food. Then, deliberately timing her words while Thane was drinking his tea, she announced, "I can't wait to get Kolyat pissed on Omega." She laughed hard when Thane half choked, and had to wipe his chin.

"That's two for two, Shep!" Kasumi said from behind her.

"I know," Shepard grinned at Thane and Koylyat, "I am so awesome at this." She looked at one man, then the other, before putting her head down, muttering, "Ok, getting glared at in stereo here..."

It was late when Thane finally said goodnight to Kolyat, making sure he was settled before retiring to the cabin, where he found Shepard at a terminal.

"Hello, beautiful," Thane greeted.

Shepard held a finger up for a few seconds while she finished reading something, and as Thane took off his boots and flopped on the bed, she turned to him, smiling a knowing smile. "How's Kolyat? All settled?"

"He is, yes. And what's on your mind?"

"I've just had a letter from Kaidan."

"Ah, how is he doing?"

"Oh, he's ok. Enjoying his Spectre work, but still a bit annoyed the Council decided two Spectres on one ship was too many."

"Hmm, understandable, I know he was torn between continuing with his Spectre position and staying with the crew."

"Yeah. Anyway, you will never guess who he bumped into, on Ilium!"

"Kaidan is on Ilium?"

"Not the point!"

"Ah, ok," Thane pondered a moment, "Javik?"

Shepard huffed, "How did you know?"

Thane shrugged, "Simple deduction. I assumed it must have been someone we know well, and of all those it couldn't be Mordin, as he's awaiting our arrival on Omega, so Javik seemed the most obvious choice."

"Have you been reading Kasumi's Sherlock Holmes Books?"

"I have not, though, I would like to."

"Huh, I guess that's elementary, my dear Thane." She didn't explain that one. "Ok, so guess what Javik has been doing on Ilium?"

"Hmm, that... has me at a loss, I'm afraid, Siha. When Javik announced he wouldn't be joining us, he was very coy over his plans."

"He's promoting his new book." Shepard grinned.

"He's... written a book?"

"It's called... Oh hell, Liara is going to be so pissed off... 'Prothean History, Legacy, and How They Saved This Cycle'."

"That's a rather long title."

Shepard chuckled, "I know, but apparently it's selling like hot cakes!"

"Hot cakes?"

"Never mind, it's selling well. I'll have to get a copy. After I break the news to Liara."

"Hmm, she was hoping to write a book with him wasn't she?"

"Yup." Shepard stood, stretched, and made her way over to the bed. "I'll tell her in the morning, before we hit Omega."

As the couple undressed, Thane asked, "How long until we get to Kahje?"

"Oh, maybe three days. We'll hit Omega, drop these supplies off at the colonies then go scare the hell out of your family."

Thane chuckled as he slid into bed, "I don't believe anyone onboard will do that."

"Not deliberately, no," Shepard snorted, sliding in beside him. "You gonna be ok, not coming with me to pick up our new scientist?"

"You have been through a few battles without me over the last few years, Siha. I understand I cannot accompany you on every mission, and believe I should stay aboard with Kolyat rather than have him worry about us both. Hopefully, Aria will have Omega back under control, I'm sure it will be fine. Just be careful, as always, my Siha." He kissed her head as she snuggled up to him.

"I always am. Maybe I'm getting old, but I think I'm less gung-ho than I used to be."

"Hmm, perhaps on the battlefield, but," he gave her his half lidded look, "in the bedroom, however..." Suddenly he grabbed her and pinned her onto her back, waiting until she had stopped giggling to kiss her deeply.

After they made love, Shepard lay back in Thane's arms, while he toyed his fingers through her long hair. She only let it grow because Thane had been fascinated by it. He loved to brush her hair and had even taught himself to plait it. She didn't have the inclination to mess around with it, often going on missions with her hair up in a haphazard pony tail. There was a line of sweat along her hairline, and Thane grinned, remembering the pleasure on her face, as he pressed her body against the fish tank.

Eventually Shepard rolled onto her stomach to look at him, propping her chin in her hands. "I swear you have more stamina the older you get."

"Hmm," he grinned, "you do rather inspire me, Siha."

She snorted.

"Corny?" He asked.





"Yeah, that's it. Sweet, in a corny kind'a way."

Thane shook his head, "I am not sure if I will ever understand the human rules of affection. I am beginning to think it is you, Siha, whose appreciation of romance is inadequate."

"What? Hello? Can't do romance? What about Earth, and that damn hot desert?"

"That was a special occasion."

She bat her eyelids at him, and put on an annoyingly cutesy voice, "Oh, but Thane, every day is a special occasion with you." When Thane offered her his impassive look, she grumped, "Oh, come on! That didn't make you wanna puke just a little bit?"

Thane shook his head, laughing, and as his eyes fell onto the fish tank, his memory suddenly took him back to a much earlier time.

She wipes away my tears, my shame, my bitterness, and my confusion. She tells me, "Be alive with me tonight." I melt into her kiss. She takes my breath away, and I have no doubt, if I could live forever, I would love her forever. I wish, more than anything, I could give this warrior-angel more than just my heart. But I have nothing else to give. Not even time...


He blinked away the vision of her face, and saw her again, the same features changed only by a few more scars, and the length of her hair.

"Where did you go?" She asked, gently.

"Back to the first time we made love. To the moment my heart first broke with love for you."

She kissed him gently on the cheek then reminded him, as she often did, "I love you." He wrapped his arms around her, and she asked. "Are you happy, Thane?"

"Hmm, I believe that was... stupid question number one hundred and thirty seven."

"What? I have not asked over a hundred stupid questions in three years!"

"Actually, I was being conservative, by not including all the marginally stupid questions."

"Oh, that's it!" She huffed, putting a hand on his chest to give him a shove as she pushed herself up and out of bed, moving too fast for Thane to catch her. "I'm going for a shower. Alone!"

Thane put his hands behind his head, watching her walk away. Before she reached the bathroom door, he said, "Siha?"

Half turning, she muttered, "What is it, drell?"

"I have never been more happy, nor more content, in my life." He grinned, enjoying the sight of her melting.

"Aww Thane, now that's romantic."

"Ah," he teased. "And I was simply reaching for sincerity."

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," she muttered, entering the bathroom with a huff.

Thane heard the shower and smiled, jumping out of bed to follow. He walked into the waters spray, wrapping his arms around her to pull her against his chest. She moaned when he slid his hands up to her breasts, and when his lips found her neck she dropped the washcloth she was going to use, and placed her palm flat against the wall in front of her.

"Now, Siha," he whispered. "You mentioned stamina?" He pulled her hips towards his.

"Gods," was all she could gasp.

"You know what, Shepard," Kal'Reegar said from behind his mask, as he stood next to Jack in the Normandy's airlock, "I've not been on Omega in years. Not since my own pilgrimage."

"Shit!" Jack said, "How'd you end up in this dump?"

Kal didn't get the chance to answer. As soon as the airlock finished its cycle, and the door opened onto the space station, allowing Shepard to step out, the gunfire began.

It was an ambush. Shepard counted at least six krogan, waiting for them at the end of the docking bay, as she returned fire.

"Holy fuck!" Jack yelled, pounding two of the krogan with a biotic volley, before bringing up her shotgun.

"Bosh'tet!" Kal shouted, "Suit rupture!"

"Retreat, airlock, now!" Shepard ordered, it was their only cover, and her shields were taking a beating, as she tried to weave from side to side.

"Keela, I can't believe this!" Kal kept firing until the airlock door opened again. He and Jack made it to relative safety, just as three of the krogan began to charge.

Shepard assumed it couldn't get any worse - then it did. Suddenly, at least a dozen Asari Commandoes came pouring through the same door the krogan had used. All but one of the charging krogan turned, and as she, Jack and Kal dealt with the one still coming towards them, Shepard realised the Commandoes were taking on the krogan, as well.

"My shield's are down!" Warned Shepard.

"No worries, Captain," came Miranda's voice. "We have you covered," as she, Zaeed, Garrus, Thane, and Ranger exited the Normandy, and lined up in front of her. By the time Shepard had turned to dive for the airlock, however, it was over. All the krogan, and one of the Commandoes, were dead.

"Captain Shepard?" One of the asari approached.

"Kal," Shepard said, "go get medical attention now."


Meeting the asari half-way, Shepard said, "Yes, I'm Captain Shepard, what the hell is going on around here?"

"You're lucky we got here in time, Captain. We only just found out about the ambush. Seems some of the krogan discovered one of your friends is on Omega, and deduced you wouldn't be far behind. Professor Solus?"

"Hell, is he ok?"

"As far as we know, but we suspect the clinic may come under attack any moment."

"Jack, Ranger, with me." Shepard said, without looking over her shoulder, as she and the asari began walking towards Omega's main hub. "The rest of you, keep the Normandy safe, and keep an open comm."

"Will do, Shepard." Miranda answered.

"Aria might be able to tell you a little more," the Commando explained. "I don't know what you did to piss off the krogan Captain, but they appear to be out for your blood, and that of your salarian friend."

"Long story," she muttered. "Thanks for covering our asses."

"Pleasure, Captain. We didn't meet but, a couple of us saw you on Thessia, during the war."

"You did? What brings you to Omega?"

"Long story." The asari grinned, "No time now, c'mon."

There was little time to register her surroundings as she jogged toward Afterlife with three of the Commandoes and her team, but Shepard still noted how similar things were. It appeared little had changed since Cerberus attacked Omega. In fact, it was surreal looking around the main street as the group jogged towards Afterlife.

As they passed a queue of people waiting to get into the club, Shepard overheard, "Aww c'mon, lemme in!" She stopped dead for a moment, looking at the elcor bouncer as he stopped the impatient partygoer from passing.

"Shepard?" Queried the Commando.

"Ah," she shook her head, "you have got to be kidding me... It can't be..." But there was no time to find out if this scene, so reminiscent of Shepard's many past visits to Omega, really had the same players, or if it was just coincidence.

They hustled through Afterlife's foyer with its flaming walls, and into the main nightclub. Again, little seemed to have changed from the last time Shepard visited.

"Fuck!" Jack muttered, "Is it just me, or..."
"It's not just you, Jack," Shepard cut her off.


The Commando lead them to Aria's usual place in the VIP area of the club. As they ascended the stairs, it was clear Aria was in residence and very much in control, as they all heard the Matriarch's voice before they saw her.

"Don't fuck with Aria!"

Shepard stopped short when she reached the top of the steps and saw the krogan Aria was dressing down. When Aria saw Shepard, she dismissed the krogan with a lift of her chin, telling him to, "Fix it, now!" Then she turned to Shepard. "Well, well. I assumed you wouldn't be far behind your little salarian friend."

"Looks like you got this place fixed up ok Aria."

"Yes, mostly. In fact it was pretty quiet around here, until your professor turned up." Aria scowled, before taking her seat, and motioned for Shepard to join her with another chin lift.

Although Shepard sat down, she told Aria, "Maybe we can catch up on the gossip some other time, for now..."

"I agree," Aria interrupted, "for now perhaps you would care to tell me why some of the krogan want to kill you?"

"Only some? Well, that's a step in the right direction, I suppose." Shepard muttered. "I bought the krogan alliance for the war effort in exchange for curing the Genophage."

"But it was a bluff." Aria grinned.

"Not... at the time, but things happened. We still have the cure, but by the time the relay opened, the krogan had... worked things out, and haven't allowed for any negotiation so we can help them. They don't trust anyone, and the few krogan left just want revenge. So, now no one is overly willing to work on distributing the cure." Shepard shook her head. "It's a mess, and one I intend to clean up, but first I need a full team."

"I see. Then I suggest you get on with it. Perhaps we'll talk again. Get to the clinic, Shepard," Aria lifted her chin, "look out for a small group of mercs, mainly vorcha and batarian, working for your krogan friends, and good luck."

Shepard nodded and stood, catching the murderous scowl Aria's krogan bodyguard was giving her. Clearly only Aria's influence had stopped him, and probably some of the other krogans in her employment, from killing her.

With a nod, Shepard said, "Thanks, Aria."

"Hmm... Oh, and Shepard, if you're planning on returning to get drunk sometime, this sofa is unavailable." Aria smirked.

Shepard simply shook her head, there was no time for banter, and left Aria to rejoin the Commandoes waiting on the main floor of the club.

"We'll take it from here," Shepard told them, "thank you for your help."

"Actually, we'd like to help you," said the asari.

"Thanks, but no. This is a big enough mess as it is, I don't want to drag the asari into this."

When Shepard and her team headed off to the clinic, she realised she hadn't asked the Commando's name, and swore under her breath.

The fire fight didn't begin until they were close to Mordin's old clinic, and with the small group of mercs only consisting of one krogan and a handful of vorcha and batarians, it was a pretty short fire fight. Even the damn mech they had was no threat, as Ranger had hacked it within seconds. Now the mech was following Ranger around like an oversized, over-armed, hulking great puppy dog. Jack thought it was hilarious.

Unfortunately, Shepard had failed to consider the two vorcha who had run off early on in the battle, and who she now ran into as she turned the last corner for the clinic.

"Shepard," one hissed as soon as he appeared, both of them aiming guns at her. "You come with us, Shepard. Won't hurt you, no, big reward for usss."

Shepard held up her hand to her team, intending to either talk the vorcha out of using her for a nice ransom reward, or kill them.

She was just about to make a stab at diplomacy, when Ranger warned, "Shepard Captain!" and she looked down the corridor to see the batarian striding quickly towards them, his machine gun raised in one hand. Before she could move, the batarian fired.

"What the shit! What was that?" Joker nearly snapped a bone when his body stiffened in surprise.

"That was gunfire, Jeff." EDI informed, also sitting up in her chair. She looked at Joker with a big grin on her face, "I ambushed you."

"Aww shit." Joker punched a button to shut the game off and flopped back in his chair, defeated.

From between them Kolyat said, "I don't understand why you play this game. Reaper Invasion is far better."

"Hell, no," Joker argued, "I had enough of Reapers with the real ones thank you very much. I don't understand how the Commander can even play Reaper Invasion... Shit." Joker shook his head.

"How long has Shepard been out now?" Kolyat asked, trying to sound casual.

"About eight minutes longer then when you last asked Kolyat," Thane answered, as he leaned casually against the cockpit's doorframe. "Do not worry. She will be fine," he smiled.

"Yeah," Joker grinned. "She's probably forgotten all about us by now and is already at the bar... about to drink something poisonous, or something stupid like that." He chuckled.

"Jeff!" EDI chastised, "Kolyat's sense of unease is already heightened enough, without you teasing him."

"I wasn't teasing. I mean, c'mon, it wouldn't be the first time Shepard has..."

"Jeff!" Turning to Kolyat, EDI smiled, "I can compute for you the chances of Shepard becoming involved in another similar situation that you found her in, just before you boarded the Normandy." Briefly, EDI paused then with a tilt of her head, said, "Oh, it appears the chances are much higher for Shepard than the percentage for anyone else, by a large margin." When Kolyat's eyes widened, EDI explained, "That was a joke," to which Joker cackled heartily.

Pushing himself off the bulkhead, Thane said, "I am going outside to join Garrus and James. I won't be long. Kolyat, please do not worry. Shepard will be fine."

Thane felt sorry for Kolyat, so unused to this kind of military life. He, too, was worried, of course. It was inevitable when you cared about someone so much. But Thane had complete faith in Shepard, her ability to survive, and that she would always return to him alive and well. It was a comforting thought, of course, but also a very strong belief.

As Thane entered the airlock, Joker began lamenting over losing their chance at shore leave on Omega, before perking up when he remembered they had a layover on Kahje to look forward to. Thane grinned at the memory of his Siha's growing jitters the closer they got. He felt a little nervous himself, truth be told, but he was very much looking forward to introducing his friends aboard the Normandy, and of course his Siha, to his family.

As the bodies of both vorcha slumped to the floor, the batarian lowered his gun, now ambling towards the team at a more leisurely pace. "Sorry about the stray fire. Damn hard to fire one of these one handed," he motioned the machine gun. "But I wasn't leaving this baby unattended," he held up the guitar.

"What the fuck is that?" Jack said.

Shepard wanted to rub her eyes at the bizarre sight of a batarian holding up an ancient human instrument. She didn't often see a real guitar. These days most bands used omni-instruments. A batarian with a guitar in one hand, and a gun in the other, which he had used to effectively save her ass, was just, weird.

"Er, it's a guitar, Jack. An acoustic guitar." Shepard explained, still not convinced this was actually what she was seeing.

"So, come on, what gives?" Jack scowled at the stranger. "Who'd you mug for that, then."

"The guitar," scowled the batarian, just as menacingly, "belongs to me. Touch her, and I'll break your neck."

"Fuck, yeah! I'd love to see you try!"

"Her?" Ranger said, "Your musical instrument has a... gender?"

"So, come on," Jack spat, leaning forward with her fists balled, "what's a batarian doing with a guitar from Earth?"

"You humans are all racist!"

"Enough!" Shepard barked, standing between Jack and the batarian, her palms held out as if to break them up. To the batarian, she said, "Look, no offence, but Jack has a point."

Rolling all four of his eyes, the batarian huffed then leaned his gun against a bulkhead so he could hold the guitar in front of him. Both Shepard and Jack's jaws dropped, while Rangers ocular flaps lifted up and down, at the surprisingly melodic sound the batarian made. He plucked and strummed his way through a short demonstration of his expert guitar playing, before muttering, "Satisfied?" and retrieving his gun.

"That was... impressive," admitted Shepard, desperately trying to get her head around what she was seeing and hearing. She found herself wondering, almost seriously, if maybe she had been indoctrinated, after all, and this was the first sign the shit was about to hit the fan.

"Mordin didn't tell you, did he?" Asked the batarian, seemingly rhetorically, "Ah, that would explain it." He looked behind him at the sudden chatter coming out of the clinic, and stepped aside so Shepard could see Mordin approaching.

"Sorry, late," he said breathlessly. "Had to secure clinic, all the data. Shepard," he smiled, taking a deep ponderous breath. "Good to see you, again."

"Yeah, and you Mordin," she shook her old friend by the hand. "We need to get you out of here."

"Hmm, yes, wasn't quite ready to leave right now..."

"Mordin, I will drag you out of here by your damn horn if you don't pack up and be ready to go in five minutes. And make sure your scientist is ready to go, too!"

"Ah, yes," Mordin turned to the batarian and introduced, "Groff, this is your new Captain."

Shepard and Jack's jaws dropped again, Rangers ocular flaps continued to lift and tilt. Groff shook hands with the team, "Assuming you'll have me aboard?"

"Oh, yes," Mordin said, "one of the best scientists in the galaxy, apart from me of course."
"I've... read the reports," Shepard said, "I'm just surprised a batarian would want to work with me."

"Let's just say I had an unusual upbringing and didn't make a very good batarian."

"Fair enough." Turning to Mordin, she said, "You could have filled me in a bit more Mordin, saved yourself a dangerous trip here."

"Wanted to be here, make sure there were no... misunderstandings."

"Well, you screwed that up," Groff muttered.

"You should have waited in the clinic, as instructed," protested Mordin before turning to Shepard to explain, "Had to be here, had to be me, someone else might have gotten it wrong." Shepard declined to comment and, shaking Groff by the hand again, told him, "Welcome to the team." Then she said, "Ranger, go settle your pet mech into the clinic, they can probably use it."

When she was alone with Jack, she said, "Did all that just happen?" When Jack slapped her across the face, Shepard said, "What the fuck?"

With a shrug, Jack grinned, "Well, you ain't dreaming that's for sure, and there's your proof."

"Ok, next time I'll just pinch myself, but thanks." Shepard frowned at Jack.

"Whatever, you're welcome."

In the four days it took to finally reach Kahje, Groff proved himself to be a real asset to the team. When he wasn't in the lab working on a way to swiftly, and efficiently, spread the cure to the krogan Genophage, he would be in the mess hall, entertaining the crew with his guitar music and, as it transpired, nice singing voice. With the alliance still working on trying to repair diplomatic relations between the krogan and pretty much the rest of the galaxy, especially the salarians, all Shepard had to worry about now was the forthcoming 'family thing' that would put her far out of her comfort zone. The fact they were later than planned didn't help to put Shepard at ease, but she had to make sure Mordin was dropped off in a safe place, with orders to, "Damn well retire, already, and go experiment with seashells," and the promise to visit him soon.

She tugged at the hem of her dress uniform as she made her way up the CIC towards the cockpit, where most of her team had already assembled. Shepard would introduce the team to the Krios family and friends first, before the rest of the crew disembarked for a full two days shore leave. Then they would bid a temporary farewell to Kolyat, at least until they returned in a few weeks to pick him up, and take him back to the Citadel. She knew Thane wanted to stay longer, but despite all the progress the doctors had made with his Kepral's Syndrome, it was still too big of a risk for him to stay in the humid atmosphere. Kahje was a planet which was ninety percent the Encompassing; the hanar name for their vast ocean.

"Hey, Commander," said an excited Joker as soon as she entered the cockpit. "Look at that!" he said, in awe.

She leaned forward to get the best view out of the cockpit window as the Normandy broke through the heavy clouds of Kahje. Before them was one of the many large, domed cities where most of the drell lived.

"Wow, it's beautiful," Shepard breathed. To her left, Kolyat was grinning. To her right, Thane blinked as he looked upon his home again for the first time in nearly fifteen years. A small smile curled at the corners of his lips, but his eyes were liquid as he fought with his emotions. Shepard gave his arm a squeeze, as Joker brought them towards their docking bay.

No one spoke until Joker announced, "The eagle has landed! Just one small step for the Normandy's awesome pilot, one seriously giant leap for its Captain! Who is shitting bricks right about now, eh, Commander?"

Shepard huffed and turned away to go wait by the airlock.

"Well, Shep," Kasumi grinned, a mischievous glint in her hooded eyes, "this is it! Don't be nervous, it'll be great, trust me."

"Honestly," Shepard muttered through gritted teeth, "facing that Maw back on Tuchanka during Grunt's Rite of Passage was less nerve wracking."

Liara giggled, "If you can get on with my father, you can get on with anyone's family!"

"You'll be right, Captain. No worries." Miranda smiled.

James was trying, and failing, not to laugh, "Hell, Lola, if only you could see the look on your face."

"Hmm," Garrus agreed. "I'm not sure I've ever seen you looking this nervous before."

"Fuck off, the lot of you!" Shepard growled.

Jack laughed, "This is so cool!"

"Ignore these bastards," Zaeed slapped her on the shoulder, "Thane's lot are gonna love meeting you, Shepard. You're a big goddamned hero to us, and you will be to them."

Shepard smiled at Zaeed, grateful for the compliment, even though it made her feel even more under pressure.

"Hell, Commander," Joker called from the cockpit, "there's a shit load of drell out there waiting to meet you."

"They are looking forward to meeting all of you," Thane said as he approached to stand by her side.

"I think I'm gonna throw up," Shepard admitted.

"Do not worry, my Siha," Thane said gently, taking her hand. "They will love you as much as I do."

Shepard offered him a small smile, and swallowed hard. She cringed when EDI opened the airlock door. Then she noticed Groff's furrowed brow. "You ok, Groff? Must be a bit weird for you, all this."

"Yeah, you could say that. I mean, why so many names?"

"What?" Shepard still wasn't used to the tangents Groff seemed to so easily go off into, at times.

"You're Captain Shepard, right?"

She smirked, "You only just realised that, Groff?"

This made Thane's smile widen further as he recalled the evening she had said a similar thing to him, the first night he had finally taken her hand, after so many days of longing to.

"Oh I realised this a while back, actually, but what about the rest of this lot?" Groff grumped, playfully. "I mean, Joker still calls you Commander, Kasumi calls you Shep, I've never heard James call you anything but Lola, and Thane often calls you Siha. Everyone else uses a mixture of ma'am, sir, skipper and skip. Oh yeah, and occasionally Captain. It occurs to me, I don't even know your first name."

"Hah, I do," Jack said gleefully. "Maybe I'll tell you later, if you let me have a go on your guitar."

"Seriously, Jack?" Joker teased as he and EDI left the cockpit, "You playing an instrument? Pfff."

"Fuck off, Joker!"

Looking around the group, Groff asked, "And any other names I should know about?"

"Well," Thane smiled down at Shepard, "there is Mrs. Krios."

"Captain Krios," sniggered Kal, from behind his mask.

"Oh, stop it!" Shepard said, in desperation, just wanting to get this damn reunion over and done with.

"Captain Krios?" Pondered Groff, "Sounds like a cartoon character." Everyone laughed, apart from Shepard who put her face into her palm, shaking her head.

All four of Groff's eyes widened as if remembering something and with a grin he said, "Oh guys, you gotta hear this!" he brought up his omni-tool and started playing an Ancient Earth rock song.

Some of the team smiled and tapped their feet, others frowned as they listened to the words until it got to the songs bridge and they all fell against the bulkheads laughing.

"You have got to be kidding me," muttered Shepard. Looking at Kolyat, who was proudly wearing his C-Sec uniform, so his family could have immediate memories of it. He, too, was laughing.

She turned to Thane, who told her, "It is a fitting song."

"Agh!" Shepard rolled her eyes.

Pulling her close, Thane told her, "I want you to know, this is a proud moment for me, to be able to finally introduce my family to a warrior-angel like you."

"Yeah, I love you, too." Shepard smiled over clenched teeth, and took a deep breath.

"Are you ready?" Thane asked.


He chuckled, "Then I am ready enough for both of us to present my beautiful wife."

Shepard offered him a warm smile, and kissed his cheek.

While the airlock cycled, Kolyat, Thane, and Shepard could still hear the song playing on Groff's omni-tool and, annoyingly for Shepard, both men were tapping their feet. There was, however, no time to consider the scarily appropriate lyrics. The Normandy's outer airlock door opened, and Shepard felt suddenly overjoyed by the warm welcome they all received from her new family.

You Know My Name. (Chris Cornell).

If you take a life do you know what you'll give?
Odds are you won't like what it is
When the storm arrives would you be seen with me
By the merciless eyes of deceit?

I've seen angels fall from blinding heights
But you yourself are nothing so divine
Just next in line

Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can't deny the prize it may never fulfil you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins

You know my name

If you come inside things will not be the same
When you return to the night
And if you think you've won
You never saw me change
The game that we've all been playing

I've seen diamonds cut through harder men
Than you yourself
But if you must pretend
You may meet your end


Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can't deny the prize it may never fulfil you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins

Try to hide your hand
Forget how to feel
Forget how to feel

Life is gone with just a spin of the wheel
Spin of the wheel

Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can't deny the prize it may never fulfil you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

The coldest blood runs through my veins
You know my name [Repeat: x7]