AN: I have made some changes to the ending canon to make this story work better. You'll recognize it when you see it. Thanks to Punslinger for beta-reading and general awesomeness. Most of the respective characters and locations are copyright of Bioware.
Humanity had always assigned deeper meaning to colors. Green, the color of plant life needed to survive, was always used to represent the good side. Red, the color of spilt blood, represented the bad. But no color had greater meaning to the human race than the color white. White. The color of something untouched and unharmed by the dark evils of the universe. A fresh sheet of white paper acting as a blank slate. A virginal bride in her white wedding gown walking down the aisle. A movie hero outfitted in white as he fought against the villain. These were images that humanity clung to in their greatest moments of weakness. The color white gave them hope.
Then why, Shepard wondered, was the color so blinding to her now instead of being inspiring? The white of her hospital room was suffocating. That, combined with the fact that her injuries from the Citadel battle were far too grievous for her to move from her bed, had creating an atmosphere that was making her insane. The room was bare except for a bed and a vast number of machines, all which were hooked up to her through various tubes and were there for the sheer purpose of being kept alive. A little too similar to the purpose of the Cerberus implants in her body. Shepard smirked, which quickly turned into a grimace when the movement of her face pulled at the stiches on her cheek and inside her mouth.
She had first awoken at hastily assembled war hospital located on Earth just outside of New York City. She hadn't been anywhere near her home city since leaving for boot camp at 18. Shepard had laughed, a laugh restricted by a punctured lung but a laugh nonetheless, when they told her where she was. She remembered telling her probation officer that she wouldn't come back to this shithole of a city unless it was in a body bag. Close but no cigar. The laughter immediately stopped when the assembled team of doctors and surgeons began to relay her injuries; numerous broken bones, bruises, scrapes, lacerations, internal pleading, a punctured lung, severe burns, a concussion, and fragmented armor in embedded her skin. But worst of all was the fact that her pistol had fused to her hand in the heat of the explosions. The initial surgeries had taken over 30 hours of tireless just to put her into a stable condition.
But soon after her physical injuries were taken care of, the doctors began talking about mental injuries. Every time a nurse came in to check on her, the topic of PTSD would be brought up. And every time Shepard managed to deflect it. She had grown up on the streets then moved to a gang before finally becoming a marine. None of those situations allowed for the contemplation of feelings or an unguarded heart. Every emotion was discarded, pushed down until the person that had felt it was either left with numbness or anger in its place. That had been all Shepard had known until she had met Liara.
Liara. Shepard smiled, gently this time to avoid causing herself further pain. She wanted nothing more than to have her bondmate at her side right now. To hold the woman that she almost lost. To kiss her and to reassure her that they would never be separated again. But she had been informed that the mass relays had been destroyed along with the Reapers and transportation was difficult. Communication was also close to impossible with the number of working lines of communication significantly reduced and everyone in the galaxy trying to use them. One of her regular nurses, a young human woman, had assured her that the hospital was doing everything within their ability to try to contact the Normandy.
That same nurse entered the room a few moments later. With her was another woman, much older than the nurse.
"Good morning Commander. Did you sleep well?" the nurse asked.
"As well as I possibly could like this."
The nurse laughed, a bit nervously though. Shepard had noticed that despite the fact that she had been at the hospital for close to two weeks, the hospital's staff never lost their nervous attitude towards her. She had forgotten what it was like to not have the casual respect of her crew around her at all times.
"I'm going to just update your charts," the nurse said. "But while I do that I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Casey. She's a psychologist who specializes in military related PTSD."
"It's an honor to meet you Commander," Dr. Casey said, extending her hand for Shepard to shake. The red-haired commander took it and shook.
"Listen Dr. Casey," Shepard started. "I've already told the staff that I'm not interested in receiving any psychiatric care. Of any kind. So while I appreciate your concern, it really won't be necessary."
"Can I ask why you believe that?"
Shepard was momentarily speechless. First of all, she wasn't used to anyone questioning her after she had made her decision. At least from those that weren't her friends. And even then her commands and wishes were final. Secondly, she had no idea how to go about making it clear to the doctor that she could deal with her own emotions as she had been doing since she was a child. And quite successfully she might add. "I don't need it," she finally said, cursing herself for her lack of eloquence.
The doctor's frowned, her brow creasing with concern. "Are you sure? PTSD is a legitimate concern for any post-combat solider, most of who have experienced far less than you have."
"I understand that" stated Shepard, her patience beginning to wear a little thin. "But I've seen other soldiers with PTSD. I don't act like they did."
"Not at all? No irritability, insomnia, feelings of depression, nightmares-"
"No." Shepard winced. She had answered far too fast. She had been having nightmares. Horrible nightmares. Some nights she relived horrible moments in her life; dying in the Normandy explosion, seeing her first girlfriend shot during a police battle against the 10th Street Reds, seeing Mordin die before her eyes in the shroud explosion, watching Kai Leng stab Thane. Other nights her mind created its own scenarios, mostly involving her watching her friends die in front of her, unable to remember them. She couldn't remember her last time sleeping without them present. Shepard glanced up at Dr. Casey to see if she had noticed.
If she had, she wasn't letting her face betray anything. "Alright. If you change your mind about seeing more or want any more information, just ask your nurse here to contact me." And with that Dr. Casey left the room.
The nurse looked up from the machines and smiled gently. "Is there anything you need, Commander? I know we have some books around here somewhere if you'd like something to read to pass the time. I could bring them with your lunch later."
Shepard shook her head. She had never been one for reading and the idea of trying to focus on a book now seemed impossible. "That won't be necessary. Thank you though."
"Your condition is looking good. All the numbers indicate stability and you're making vast improvements every day. It's incredible, really." the nurse said, her excitement growing. "I've never seen a recovery at this speed before! It's almost like your some sort of superhu-"
Just then the door to the Commander's room flew open, sparing her from having to explain to the nurse about her terrorist ties and their role in her healing process. Standing in the entryway was a young man with dark brown hair. Shepard had watched him running throughout the halls from her bed, delivering messages to the doctors and nurses. "Mara," he said, addressing the nurse, "We've finally made contact with the Normandy. Or, well, what's left of it."
"What's left of it? What do you mean?" Shepard shouted. Oh God. Please don't let them be dead. Please. Please let them be safe.
"The Normandy was apparently hit by part of the explosion by the Crucible. They were forced to land on a planet in the Annos Basin. At least, that's what the pilot told me."
Joker was alive. Thank God. "And the others? Did he say who else was alive?"
"He said for the most part the crew was fine. They had lost a few but that was it."
"Did he say who?"
"Most were support crew members. And for some reason he mentioned the AI core too, although I'm not sure why."
EDI was dead? Shepard's mind immediately flashed back to the memory of the child at the Catalyst telling her about how choosing to destroy the reapers would result in the destruction of anything containing Reaper tech. She had ignored him, so focused on the possibility of finally finishing her mission, of obliterating the threat that loomed over the galaxy. She had never considered the consequences, had never thought about how it would affect those she cared about.
Suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her from her thoughts. "Shepard are you alright?" the nurse cried.
Shepard slowly reached her injured right hand up to her face and felt tears sliding down her cheeks. She quickly brushed them away before inhaling deeply. "I-I'm okay. Are they able to get transport?"
The messenger nodded. "With the mass relays down it will take a lot longer than normal for them to get here. But the hospital has arranged for a high-fuel capacity transport to bring them here at their request."
Kara nodded. "Thank you Connor. Is that all?"
Connor scratched his head before speaking again. "Oh yeah, the pilot told me that someone…um…Liara, wanted to tell you that she was counting on you to get better so you could fulfill your three promises to her. I don't know what that means and he didn't either but I guess you do."
She made a noise in the back of her throat, a mixture of a laugh and a sob. The promises; marriage, old age, and lots of little blue children. Once a hopeful fantasy, it was now a checklist for the rest of her and Liara's life together. "Yeah. Yeah I do." She then turned to the nurse. "Would it be alright if I was left alone for a while?"
Checking her watch, Kara gave a nod. "It will be once I give you your medicine."
Shepard froze. "That's not the stuff that has to make me sleep in order for it to work, is it?"
"The very same. Why?"
Shepard quickly weighed her options. She could tell the nurse the truth; that the sleeping medication forced her to experience horrid nightmares for hours on end and wouldn't let her wake up until 14 or 15 hours later. But that would lead to Dr. Casey or another psychologist coming back and insisting on poking around her brain and trying to make her talk about her emotions. Or she could lie. She chose that.
"I'm not a fan of losing all of those hours to sleep, really. I just feel like I missed a lot of my life with the war going on and I want to experience as much of it as possible." Cheesy as hell but it could work.
And work it did. Kara smiled. "Understandable. Though I can assure you that life is much more enjoyable when you're well-rested." She pulled out a syringe with a long needle attached and a vial of thick green liquid. She pushed the needle into the vial, drawing the liquid into the syringe. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be for that monstrosity."
Kara chuckled as she took the Commander's arm and plunged the needle into a patch of undamaged skin near the elbow. "That's a new word to describe it. I rather like it. Now sleep tight. When you wake up just give me a shout."
Shepard quickly began to slip into unconscious. The medicine was quite fast acting. I am tired. Maybe I can deal with the nightmares this time. I'm an N7 marine. I shouldn't be afraid of something in my imagination. And with that she fell asleep.