AN: Wow... At the end... Didn't expect this to be such a big (or long) undertaking when I started it, but I've enjoyed working on it and glad I started it. It's definitely jump started me wanting to write again (though I'm not sure if I want to continue with new projects or pick up some old ones...). Anyway, I wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to read this story as it's progressed through this random idea I had based on watching too much Star Trek to a full out Mass Effect story... Thank you again and I hope the ending is at least somewhat satisfying...
The blur dissolves and she's still on her feet, though barely. She's retching, stomach more aware of what's going on than she is. A crash behind her, metal on metal, but she's not sure if the shockwave or her own disorientation that finally knocks her feet out from under her.
She pounds her fists angrily into the ground before slowly rising to her feet. So goddamned close... The blast makes her think this might be Earth. The thought of seeing Anderson again, even if it's at the price of watching her world go to hell, is somewhat comforting.
"Shepard- I need your help-"
Her blood freezes when she recognizes Liara's voice. Liara wasn't on Earth... How far back did she go?
Jumping to her feet tells her she's still a little disoriented, but she ignores it and turns back to the crash and Liara and hopefully something that will tell her when and where she is. She's in her own memories now, before the accident, so she should be able to figure out-
A gasp and a second to realize it's her own.
The oncoming storm looms over the Martian landscape. Liara's biotics are a torch around her as she tries to keep the shuttle level long enough for James to escape. It's teetering over the ledge - what should have been her ledge, her accident, but now it might be James' injury or Liara's death - and that finally makes her break into a run. Together the two marines wedge the door open long enough for him to jump out. Liara almost immediately collapses, the shuttle instantly lost to the chasm below.
Shepard is peeking over, wondering how she even survived the first time, when she hears Liara weakly say, "Cortez is on his way in with another. We should be able to make it out before the storm hits... barely." When their eyes meet, Shepard has no idea what look Liara's giving her. She just looks very tired, confused and... skeptical.
Did it happen?
"You alright, Doc?" She nods slightly, eyes not leaving Shepard's, and she's forced to look away first. Shepard knows what questions she'll have to face but has never known the answers.
Was it real?
James is looking over Kaidan, knocked out cold, and she's left to investigate the cold remains of Dr. Eva. He must have hit her - lucky for them - as he came in for his impromptu landing because there's no spark of anything resembling life, whether it be mechanical or biological. At least it's mostly in one piece, though.
Good, maybe there will still be something left for EDI.
"Hey, Lola?" She winces slightly but turns anyway. "Did I see that right or did you biotic jump back there?"
Is it over?
She instinctively goes to rub away at the remaining bile. "Yeah," voice hoarse, she pauses long enough to clear her throat. "Yeah, I think I did."
All three of them know she's no biotic. Which is perhaps why he hesitates slightly before adding, "I didn't know you could do that."
Can I fix it?
The shuttle's there, Cortez opening the hatch, and she's saved from having to say more than the truth.
"Neither did I."
It was smooth sailing after that. At least considering the storm she'd just weathered for god knows how many years. They had their questions, she gave her answers. True, they might not have been the real ones or very satisfactory ones, but they were comfortable lies that would have to do.
In the end, Shepard told them she had no idea about the biotic amps Cerberus had implanted in her during her resurrection. Coming up with adequate venom and disgust was hardly challenging, and feigning ignorance to how they got activated didn't take much. Just another example of the miracles following Commander Shepard.
If they only knew how true that was.
They were all burnt out. Wouldn't work ever again, the doctors had said with a sympathetic pat on her shoulder. Probably the most devastating news they could give a biotic. She just blinked at them, not bothering to correct them.
Being back on the Normandy was good for her. Having things the way they should be helped calm the strange feelings building inside of her chest. Part of her mourned people who were still alive, another part demanded the Reapers pay for their blood, and yet another warned not to let it come to their deaths in the first place. She'd spend hours starring at herself in the mirror, trying to figure out which part of her most needed to be heeded. Which part of her was the most real...
Several times she tried jotting down what she remembered, all the lists and dates and names Miranda had urged her to keep track of. Things to prevent or at least make better. But each time frustration would build and she'd hurl the damn datapad across her cabin. Goddamnit, she'd known so much more just one jump ago. As always, the ghosts that haunted her were just that - intangible, unclear, and ultimately something she couldn't prove existed.
Stopping the accident had cut her off almost completely from that world. Every time she tried to pin down a memory from that future that was, they slipped away. Everything was on the tip of her tongue but she could never get it farther than that. They were just whispers in her subconscious, ideas manifesting in her dreams and rarely in her waking thoughts.
Sometimes she wondered if that was even a bad thing.
The rest of the time she just hoped she'd know what to do when the time came.
"You settling in alright in the battery?"
"Aside from everything being in the most annoying possible spot, all the algorithms I meticulously perfected being completely re-written, and hitting my head on these damn beams the Alliance put in... Sure, I'm settling in just fine."
Her face is starting to get sore from smiling ear to ear. Try as she might, there's just no getting around how happy she is to see him alive. This, this feeling that centers around Garrus Vakarian is the most concrete thing she has left.
"You... you alright Shepard?" he asks, an embarrassed flick of his mandibles as she continues to grin like an idiot at him.
She blushes slightly, finally forcing herself to look away. She manages to keep her eyes from wandering back to him for a full three seconds. "Never better."
They go back to the conversation they probably never got to have - or had so many times it made him sick - small talk that seems ridiculous all things considered. But the easy friendship they'd always had makes it easier to forget the things going on outside this room. And as she looks into his grey blue eyes, she knows just how damn good she's gotten at forgetting.
As she leaves, there's almost a girlish spring in her step. There was a shift in their relationship, maybe something small or a lot of small things slowly building up, and she'd missed it the last time. But it was still with her, and she got the feeling he was starting to feel that shift. She smiles at the irony of it. Now she's the one who gets to wait patiently while he figures it all out.
It's alright. He's earned her patience.