Mass Effect: Rehabilitation
Sequel to Stability
Characters: Tali and Commander Rowan Shepard (Paragon/Infiltrator)
Full Summary: In 2189, Tali'Zorah received a visitor from a person she never expected to see again. That man was Commander Shepard. One-legged and tattered, he appeared before her to ask for closure. What he got was a home instead. How will he deal with the normalcy of life? Tali will soon find out that the exterior of Shepard is much different than the odd, squishy interior.
"It's nice to meet you, again."
Chapter Genre: Romance
Characters: Tali and Shepard
Chapter Summary: It's like meeting him for the first time, but falling in love all over again.
Admiral Tali'Zorah vas Normandy was falling in love with Commander Shepard, all over again.
It was the strangest feeling, to be honest. The moment that he showed up on her doorstep that day—tattered and hobbling on one leg—she questioned if she could love him again after so long. That doubt was ill-placed. She never fell out of love with him. But somehow, he had managed to get her stomach tossing and fuzzy again. Lying beside him even now felt somewhat unreal. Well…despite his snoring, it felt unreal.
She leaned over to watch him stir under the white sheets. Shepard was a restless sleeper. She didn't mind, in fact she really liked the noise. It was a habit she still held onto since being on the fleet. But, this noise wasn't a buzzing of an eezo core that needed some patches or the roaring engines. He was a person, the best sound to wake up and fall asleep to.
The feeling was nice and she loved every second of it. But, she also had responsibilities.
Tali went to carefully move the sheets from her slender body. She stopped, realizing Shepard held her body tightly. His muscled arms were wrapped around her waist and hips, hugging her like one of those stuff animals she had seen on the Citadel. She cocked her head back on the sheets, laughing. She had to get up. Did she want to? No. This felt nice. But the admirals were going to meet this morning and she had to be there. She tapped him on the crown of his head. "Shepard."
"Shepard, I need to get up."
"No, you don't," he moaned, sleepily pressing his head on her shoulder.
"Shepard," she repeated.
"I don't want you to leave," he said in a sleepy slur.
Tali found herself dissolving in giggles. Sleepy Shepard was nothing like the Commander Shepard that she had known. Well. A lot of things about him personally were radically different than the leader of the ship. At first, it was a bit rattling. But now, a month after living together, she had realized that he was much quirkier than she could have ever imagined. "Shepard," she beckoned again.
She earned a louder grunt this time.
"Please let me get up."
Slowly, Shepard reeled his arms back, before finally opening his eyes. All she could think was how gorgeous his eyes were.
Unbeknownst to her, Shepard was thinking the same thing about her dazzling white eyes.
"If you really have to, I guess I can let you go for now," Shepard said, pulling the sheets from her side to his.
"You are getting up, remember"
Tali gave a playful smile as she hopped out of the bed. She quickly threw on the nearest robe, looking at the cocoon of sheets, a mass of red hair popping out from the top of it. She stared at her pillow, then back at Shepard, then back at the pillow again. She really needed to get going but, she could make time for this.
A devious smile slid on her face as she carefully pulled the pillow into her hands. "Would you mind helping me with something, Shepard?"
"What…" Smack. "Tali!"
Playfully, Tali kept whacking Shepard in various places with her pillow. After the first few hits, Shepard quickly tore the sheets from his body, grabbed his pillow and retaliated. The two swung wildly at each other, continuing to hit each other in any way that they could. Even with a single leg, he was still remarkably swift, even sitting up right to get better reach to her.
Before either of them knew it, Tali was back on the bed and on Shepard's chest, fluffy weapon raised. This continued way over the allotted time she would play with him in her head. "I win," she said, smiling.
"No. Not yet."
With an incredible amount of strength, Shepard picked her straight up as though she was a child. He lowered her closer to his chest, before kissing her. "I win," he said, pulling his lips away.
"I'm not counting that, Shepard."
"I don't see why."
"Because you cheated," she smiled, kissing him again. "I'm going to be so late thanks to you."
Tali had just finished the weekly Admiral meeting—for which, in fact, she was over two hours late. She opened the door to see that Shepard was working around the house. He hadn't even noticed her enter, so she had been watching him work on various things undetected. The best part was that he was working completely in his boxers. No, maybe that wasn't the best part. The best part was that the boxers were purple and printed like her quarian hood.
For a moment, she had thought to ask when or where he even got those. Extranet was probably going to be his answer. But the whole prospect of such was just amusing.
"What in the hell is wrong with this ventilation system—"Shepard muttered, looking over the control panel, scanning it again with his omnitool. "I might have broken it more than before." He scratched his red beard, thoughtfully. "I wonder how Tali even got it this bad—she's better at tech things than me so why—"
"I haven't had the time to.'"
Shepard almost stumbled from his crutches to wheel around. "I—Tali—urgh. You're home early." Even from this distance, she could see that his face was slowly turning crimson from embarrassment.
"Is there are reason why you are just in your boxers?"
He arched his eyebrow at the question. "Uh—it helps me think better when it comes to tech stuff."
"Has this been a recent thing?"
"No…" he trailed off, muttering.
It must be very interesting to see him work on guns, she thought. Tali decided to say nothing about his odd quirk. In fact, she enjoyed probably more than she should have. "So did you get it fixed?"
Shepard shook his head annoyed. "I have no clue what's going on."
Tali grinned, tossing back her hood. She walked towards the console, closing the door behind her. She swept her hand over it, the shape of her omnitool flashing on her wrist. Shepard leaned in to see what she was doing. "You see," she started, feeling comfortable talking about technology, "you didn't use connectors quite right to get proper flow to the rest of the system—"
She went on to explain the semantics of the system while he simply and dutifully listened to her words. For a bit, she had thought that he had phased out. A part of herself felt like she was ranting, and no matter how aware he was to her words. Discomfited, Tali swept her hair out of her face. "I'm talking too much…I can just fix it by—"
Smiling, Shepard nodded his head as he lowered his omnitool.
"You were listening to all of that."
"…I like hearing you talk."
"Did you know all of what I was talking about...?"
"No. Well I knew a lot," he said quickly correcting himself. "It's nice having a crash course. How about dinner?"
Tali cocked her head at his attempt to change the subject. "How about you put some clothes on first?"
"If you really want me too." He gave a large grin before hopping away on his crutches.
Shepard really didn't have to put on anything, yet she wasn't about to tell him that.
"How in the world did you get this to taste so good?"
Shepard stared at his plate. On it, Tali had made him steak with potatoes and green beans. She had imported a lot of the materials to Rannoch a while back, mainly because Shepard needed to eat. He couldn't exactly eat quarian food. He tried before and was sick, badly. From then on she had stocked the food filled with edible materials for humans, keeping it separate from hers. However, that didn't explain how she got so good at cooking said materials.
In disbelief, he cut another piece off the steak with his knife and plopped it in his mouth. He chewed the food carefully. It was probably the best tasting food that he had tried…even on Earth. Shepard furrowed his brow, before quickly moving on to eat the last bit of potatoes. "How—"he tried to question her majesty, but found himself side tracked by the food.
"Just eat," she said, happy inside about what's been done. It took practice, the extranet, and a lot of burnt food. That was something he didn't need to know.
She placed the pans that she had used to make his food into the sink, and pulled out some for preparing hers.
"Do the Admirals know that I'm here…?" Shepard said, forking a green bean.
No. They didn't. They might have noticed the packages for Shepard such as the clothing and food, but they didn't know that Shepard lived there. The Admiral Board had approached her about her recent tardiness. But she couldn't exactly tell them that Shepard was alive. Not just for the safety of the quarians, but Shepard's safety as well. Admiral Koris might understand, however that wasn't a sure bet for the rest of the Board.
"No. I haven't—"
"You really should be honest with them at least. You don't have to tell the entire quarian race…I'll advise against that. I don't want people to…freak out. You know how—" he chomped on a green bean, "you know how people would react if the Shepard is alive."
Tali tossed some ingredients into her pan. "Do you want to see Garrus and everyone else again? Know what they are doing now?"
"Maybe," he placed his fork down for a moment. "But I'm not quite the same person that they know. I met them at war…and I just don't think they would…I don't think they—I'm bad at this."
She let him work through his sentences.
"You must have noticed that I'm…different than what I am in front of a group of soldiers."
He was right. Shepard was an entity. Rowan was a person. There were qualities the professional face and the private one shared, but it was almost night and day. With his guard down, he was much more bumbling and looser. But, he still held that quality, that smooth charm that got people together. Soldier or not, he was still a good person. Just different, like a stranger that you met before, somehow.
"Yeah…"Tali paused, giving herself some thought. "It's like…meeting you again."
Shepard gave a thin smile, reclining back in his chair. "Then Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, it's been a pleasure to meet you all over again. I hope first impressions weren't too bad."
"Not too bad, Rowan Shepard. You would have got more points if you cooked me dinner instead."
As much as both of them tried to contain it, their laughter echoed through the house.
Author Notes: It's been absolutely humbling to see the amount of press I have received on this story's prequel, Stability. So, here you guys go! I'm going to try to post chapters of this story as regularly as possible. I hope that you enjoyed. Every chapter is going to have the song that I wrote the chapter to (and got the name of the chapter from, sometimes it's going to be different). This time it was:
Song of the Episode: Stranger by Chris August
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