"Again. Run it again."

"Commander." Chakwa's tone holds a note of chastisement. Shepard glares and the doctor sighs. "Commander, we've run it three times."

Shepard leans foreward, elbows to knees and forehead hanging even lower. She is exhausted. "Shit."

Chakwas lays a hand on her shoulder, "if I may ask, who...? She trails off, unsure how to complete the thought.

Anyone else and Shepard would joke, or dodge the question, or else shoot them a steely "shut the hell up" glare. With Chakwas her shoulders heave in a sigh, "Garrus."

Chakwas face smooths in understanding. "I see. There are a few documented cases of carrying to term. It's possible that with medical care-"

"No."

"Commander, if you and Garrus are serious you should understand that this could be your only chance if you wish to-"

"The reapers are here," Shepard's voice is firm, all trace of weakness obliterated. "and I can't lead a war and raise a child."

When she leaves the clinic she carries a tiny plastic box with her. Green ones first, white one two days later. Don't push it too hard this week (ridiculous. she doesn't have a choice).

They caught it early. No surgery required. You're lucky Shepard.

Lucky.

Shepard does not feel lucky.

She arrives in her cabin, sets the pills on the table, pages Garrus, and waits.

Shepard has always imagined that she had no mother. Like Athena she sprang to life from some god's forehead fully formed and shivering on the winter streets of Vancouver. That was why she couldn't remember the woman who had birthed her or the man who had donated his genetic material.

Liara had offered to look. Shepard had shrugged, "what's the point, they wanted anything to do with me, they'd find me."

Her stomach clenches with nausea and she leans forward resting her cheek into the cool surface of the table. She pictures the life inside her, a strange globule, like a shrimp, or a goldfish, looping around her organs and running into her stomach.

"Settle globby." This, she knows, is not how pregnancy works, but she says it anyways. "Settle."

The nausea passes. She feels strangely tender towards the tiny glob now. As if it listened to her. Is this motherhood?

Garrus is still not here and she can't hold still anymore so she leaves the ship to head for the citadel. Liara wanted to get lunch. She needs a distraction.

Liara spends most of their lunch talking about her childhood. About Thessia. About Benezia.

Shepard wonders what it is like to have a mother. Shepard wonders what it is like to be a mother.

Liara comments at children do strange things and Shepard agrees absently.

On the way back to the ship she remembers Jade. It was Jade and Holly who taught her the birds and the bees growing up. She was six. It was inevitable after Jade, a whore, got knocked up. Shepard had watched as her belly swelled to unimaginable sizes.

"Are you sick? Will you die?" She had asked.

There were no answers, but there was a graphic description from Holly about how this had happened to Jade in the first place and the cryptic warning to "not fuck unless you use a rubber."

When Jade had finally gone into labor there had been nowhere for it but the basement of an abandoned factory on a pile of rags. "Push!" Holly had screamed "dammit Jade, push!"

Jade had been reduced to terrifying, feral roars while Shepard crouched in the corner, wide eyed. There was a sudden rush of blood, and shit and Jade screamed again and then collapsed, pale and shaking onto the blankets as Holly lifted a bloody form from between her friends legs. Shepard approached, her legs shaking. Was Jade dead? What had happened?

Holly shoved the dripping body into her arms and rushed to Jade's side.

"Fuck, Jade. Breathe. Just fucking breathe."

Jade's face was pale and beaded with sweat. Her eys were bruised. Her hair looked like sticks. She panted.

Shepard glanced down at the bundle in her arms and was shocked to find herself looking at a tiny person. It's eyes were screwed shut in an expression of concentration. It's fists were clenched, but when she pryed one open it had tiny fingernails. There was a dusting of fuzz on it's head. It wasn't heavy, as she had expected. It looked like a skeleton with skin.

It was also blue, when the blood was wiped away and silent. The basement seemed to echo with the panting mother and the silent child

"Wake up," Shepard had whispered, "wake up."

It hadn't woken up and they left the body in the blankets. "That's ok," Shepard had told the tiny corpse, "I wouldn't wake up either if I were you."

Jade had pulled through. Barely. When she saw the child's corpse she had howled in despair.

Shepard feels like she could use a good howl about now.

There is no time for tears, though. She has to lead this war.

"I'm sorry," she whispers touching her stomach. It feels strangely rounded. That doesn't make sense. It's in her head.

She tries to imagine her body swelling garishly. Her stomach rounding. Her hips widening. She tries to imagine waddling. She remembers the way Jade would lay on her side and have Shepard rub her swollen feet. There's a sudden and intense revulsion at the thought of her body like that. Soft and weak and helpless. Shepard has never been helpless.

She remembers Jade's hours of labors as she sat in that corner scared shitless. The screams of pain and the blood. The inevitability and vulnerabilty of the process. Shepard's no stranger to pain, but she can't imagine being like that. She tried to picture herself gripping Garrus's hand, pushing. The thought brings another bout of nausea.

Shepard tries to picture herself as a mother. What do mothers do?

If she has this child, there's a good chance it will be left an orphan. She and Garrus don't live safe lives. They are not normal. Shepard would not wish her childhood upon anyone.

No, the decision is clear.

Garrus is finally there when she gets back to the ship, waiting in her quarters with a datapad. She can see whatever it says isn't good. His brow plates are tilted, making his eyes look strained. When she clears her throat he looks up.

"Did you go see Chakwas?" His subvocals thrum with what she has come to recognize as concern. He has watched her throw up every morning for a week, and she had very nearly botched a mission between that and the back aches.

There's nothing for it, but to tell him.

"I'm pregnant."

Garrus is silent for a moment. "Mine?"

"Yes."

The emotions flash over his face. Surprise. Happiness. Excitement. Realization. Resignation. The same gritty determination she's felt since she heard the news. He asks the question anyways.

"What are we going to do?"

There's comfort in the word "we". She sits down across from him, "two pills today and another in forty eight hours."

The plastic case sits between them and they both eye it.

"You're right." His voice is stiff, but it is sincere. She is so, so thankful he's a turian right now. Duty first. "Are you ok?"

"I'm..." from her memory Jade screams over the body of a cold child who will never see the starlight, "...not really okay."

They sit in silence.

"There will be time later, after we survive this war."

There are so many lies in Garrus' sentence Shepard can't count them. She thinks about calling his bullshit. She decides to let it go.

She thinks of Jade and the smell of shit and blood and knows that she will never, ever go through that. "We can adopt."

She knows Garrus sees the memories in her eyes, but today he doesn't ask. Instead he takes her hand across the table. "Yes."

She takes the first pills.

"Sorry globby."

When the cramps come, after the second pill, she waits until they subside and then studies the contents of the toilet. There is nothing resembling a shrimp or goldfish. Nothing humanoid. That makes her feel better.

Later that night she lies next to Garrus. He runs a gentle hand over her stomach and she grimaces.

"Not tonight."

"I know."