I saw the universe, I held it in my hand

The planets and the stars, merely grains of sand

The darkness that I knew is no more

The sun will shine for me, of that I can be sure

This is the day, the day of my ascendance

A time for life, a time for independence

Verse 1 lyrics to Asia's Never Again

December 2171, London

The trip would end up a pointless one in the long run. They always were. However, his father had insisted, and his mother cajoled, and in the end his father had ended up having to travel to London for an important meeting with the Alliance brass anyway, so ... why not? The hospital was there, touting to be the best of the best when it came to helping with such things. Odds were they wouldn't be able to do anything, but why not give it a shot, right? Besides, his mother had never seen London and her birthday was coming up soon. Why disappoint?

So they'd boarded the shuttle and made the seemingly never ending chain of stopovers before finally arriving in the city itself. Almost immediately, his father was called away to report to his superiors leaving him and his mother alone. Well, that had figured to be part of the plan. It usually did, no matter where they journeyed. Alliance business was Alliance business, after all. When the time came for him to report to the hospital, he'd insisted his mother stay at the hotel, he was nineteen, capable of going in on his own, reporting in, sending her a message once he was settled and knew when the tests would begin. Thankfully, she had agreed to his plan. He'd hugged her, kissed her cheek and hurried off with his duffle, determined not to look back. He didn't need her deciding to join him after all, worrying and fussing over him anymore than necessary.

The walk had taken longer than he'd expected, but it was nothing he couldn't manage. If there was one thing he'd picked up at BAaT, it was the desire to keep in shape, that it helped with keeping the biotics regulated properly which in turn led to keeping the headaches under control. Or at least as under control as they could be given the side effects of his implant.

That was why he was here. To see if anything could be done regarding the horrible migraines he had been suffering since receiving the L2 implant four years before. He was one of the lucky ones, he supposed. Some of the L2 recipients had similar problems, but the overall majority had it much worse. He shuddered at the thought of what could have happened. At least with his dad serving in the Alliance he had half a chance of getting some sort of help, though.

Checking into the hospital was the easy part, he found. Show his identification badge, receive the plastic bracelet with the matching information implanted in it, and then be shown to his room. The nurse who escorted him told him when meals were served and that he'd basically be on his own until the next day when his doctor would arrive and the preliminary tests would begin. Curfew was at eleven.

Seeing that he had most of the afternoon to himself, he began a methodical self-guided tour of the hospital. Beginning with his floor, he expanded first to the level above and then the one below until he was challenged by one of the security guards who insisted he cease. He considered arguing with the man, claiming it was a security measure should there be a need for a sudden evacuation or the like, but in the end he backed off his stance and returned to his floor. No sense in causing undue trouble. God forbid it get back to his father or his father's superiors even.

He was on his way back to his room, passing through the floor lobby when he first noticed signs of something out of the ordinary. He nearly missed it at first, though. Oh, he'd spotted the dark auburn haired girl with the brilliant green eyes standing alone over by the large-paned windows. What she'd been staring at was beyond him, but at the sound of the elevator opening, she'd turned slightly, her eyes finding his. For the briefest of moments, he'd been almost shocked at the expression he'd seen in them. It was familiar, recognizable certainly, and it hit him to the core.

Thing was, he couldn't put just one name to it. Fear. Loneliness. Pain. Isolation. Desperation. All of those applied, and more. He offered a friendly smile, the hope being it might help … somehow, some way. He'd been there before. He knew. No one should have to go through that, or at least not alone. But in the blink of an eye, she'd hidden it away so that as she turned back to stare out the window again, he found himself wondering if he'd actually seen it in the first place or if it had just been a figment of his imagination.

He turned down the hall to his left, the one leading around to the side hall that housed his room, attempting to put the girl out of his mind, but before he could do so, even before he'd made it more than a dozen strides away from the lobby, he heard the scuffle beginning behind him. He didn't think much of it at first. There were plenty of patients who offered resistance to staff or treatment. Sometimes he could understand, other times it was harder to wrap his head around it. In the end, though, they usually were talked into the treatment. But this time it was something else calling to him, something else resonating through him that he recognized, something that had reached him deep inside and had him turning without consciously thinking to, retracing his steps quickly. Something that had him knowing it was her.

"Don't touch me!"

Part growl, part threat, but wholly raw, visceral emotion, his eyes were searching for her from the moment he neared the lobby again. However, where he'd expected to find her being guided away perhaps, or at least forcibly restrained in some manner, instead he discovered something quite the contrary. Upon the floor, face down, lay the male nurse who, presumably, had been the focus of her outburst. And she, petite thing that she was, knelt with her knee across his back, restraining him. Head raised, he saw her scanning about, her arm drawn back as if to attack, the slightest hint of blue glow building around her. Acceptance came with recognition.

Realizing he had limited time in which to act, he stepped forward. At first certain members of the medical staff attempted to restrain him, but he quickly pulled free. "If you won't help her, I will," he told them simply. When they refused to move in closer, he took that as his cue.

Wild, deep green eyes found his, the snarl at her lips almost visible in those depths. Approaching cautiously, like he would a wounded dog or frightened child, he maintained his eye contact with her. He saw a flicker of recognition behind them, hoped that was a positive sign, and continued moving forward ever so slowly.

"Stop there."

He halted when she asked, moved his hands out before him so she could see he meant no harm. He wasn't quite certain what he should say, how he should say it. All he wanted was to be certain she got out of this situation without being injured. Why that was important to him, he wasn't sure, he only knew that it was. "Can we talk?" he heard himself asking quietly. "I want to help you."

That, he noted, had her snarling a bit more, nostrils flaring, eyes darkening, lips curling. "Why?" she demanded.

Hands still out before him, he allowed the power to slowly build, just forming a translucent glow around his right hand and forearm. "Because we are the same," he replied.

She cursed herself silently. She could almost see her father frowning at her in reaction. Juniper, you know better than that. We don't use our abilities to harm people, we use them to protect.

But I was protecting myself, dad! Her internal child groaned at the thought of displeasing the one person to whom she'd always looked up. Between them, they had been training her to follow in his footsteps, even though she seemed to be a most unlikely candidate. For years, he'd been showing her ways to become faster, stronger, smarter than the rest. To figure out the ways in which to be better and to thus have a chance at success. But then he'd died, leaving her in a world of pain and isolation with a mother who was having her own issues coping with his loss. A world that she had nearly given up on just a few months before when her biotic abilities had suddenly manifested. How could she go on alone without his guidance and input in her daily life?

Eyes now upon the boy before her, she tilted her head slightly and watched as he demonstrated his own biotic abilities. Either he'd seen her attack just moments before, or … Her eyes caught the slight blue tinge around her hand then and she realized how he'd known. Confused, her eyes drew together as she stared at the betraying limb. She hadn't felt it, hadn't even known it was building again. But he … Her eyes lifted to look at him again. He seemed to be able to control his abilities. Certainly better than she could. How did he do that?

He took another step closer and instinct had her backing up a step, a move that had her rising from the man on the floor. Shoving hands out before her in a motion designed to ward him away, she warned, "Don't!" She didn't want to hurt him, too. Hell, she hadn't even meant to hurt the nurse, but when he'd reached for her arm, supposedly just to attach the identification bracelet around it, she'd reacted on instinct - which had caused her biotics to flare. They always seemed most violent when her emotions rose unexpectedly.

The boy hesitated, his steps pausing for a long moment. "I won't hurt you," he promised quietly. Her eyes met his, saw a kindness there and it was she who hesitated this time. "You're scared," he continued quietly, voice low enough so only she could hear it, "I get that. I've been in your shoes before. You don't know what to expect."

She bit her lower lip, drawing it between her teeth as she stared at him. "Yeah," she whispered in reply. Eyes dropping, she noted that her sleeves were beginning to creep up her arm. Reacting quickly, she tugged them back down, edges caught firmly in the grip of her fists. The last thing she needed was for anyone to see the bandages there.

He moved a step closer then. She stood still, allowing him in closer. Then he took another. Her eyes lifted to his again, searching them. Still noting that intense look of concern there, she allowed him into her personal space without argument. "Do you have a room yet?" she heard him ask. She nodded. "Why don't we go there?" he suggested. "A place to talk, away from everyone else. Would that be okay?"

She worried her lip some more before glancing around his shoulders. Somehow she didn't think the hospital staff would be that forgiving for what she'd done. But the man she'd knocked down had moved away, or been moved away. She didn't see him anywhere nearby just then. Eyeing another group of nurses, she saw one of them, a lieutenant if she was reading the rank properly, nodding in her direction. "Your room is ready," the woman told her. She dared a few steps closer, but paused before getting too close. Reaching out, she handed over the identification bracelet to the boy who reached for it. "Just down the hall on your left."

"You - you'll just … let me go?" she asked while swallowing tightly.

The nurse nodded. "It was an accident," she assured her with a friendly smile. "It happens more often than you'd think around here."

She glanced up at the boy. He was smiling too, a smile that reached those caramel colored eyes and helped her feel … safe. "Both of us?" she asked.

He nodded. "If that's what you'd like, yes."

With one last glance at the nurse, who nodded her agreement as well, she relented. "Okay."

He stepped in beside her, his arm moving lightly to her shoulders and she allowed him to guide her away from the lobby, from all the strangers staring at her. They followed the nurse who led them quickly down the hall, only stepping aside when she was certain they knew which room was their destination. By the time he was guiding her inside, the woman had left them alone.

Warily, she stepped into the room, thankful to see that it was a private one. Her bag, she noted, had been set aside on one of the chairs over near the window. Probably when she'd first arrived and they'd taken it from her. Tugging at the sleeves to her hoodie once more, she stepped further into the room and began to investigate. Her arms crossed over her chest as she approached the window and stared outside and down at the courtyard below. There was a dusting of snow on the ground, not enough to stick really, but enough to be blown about by the wind and to indicate that it was definitely chilly out there.

"Better now?"

She took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then released it slowly before turning to face him. He was still across the room, barely even inside, she noticed. She felt a small smile pull at her lips at the thought of his consideration. "Yes," she told him quietly. Then, nodding at one of the empty chairs, she added, "You can come inside, you know. I won't bite." She winked at him with this last and finally allowed him to see the smile.

His chuckle and the smile that followed went a long way to setting her at ease. Moving further into the room, he replied, "Oh, I don't know," he responded lightly, teasingly. "I'm pretty good at judging when I'm outclassed."

She blinked. Outclassed? Her confusion must have shown because he was nodding his head in the direction of the lobby then. "I didn't see it, but I'd say your biotics must be pretty good without any amplification if you took that guy down on your own."

She couldn't stop the blush that flushed her cheeks just then. "I … um … that wasn't all biotics," she explained.

"Oh?"

Shaking her head, she added, "I tried pushing him away from me, but I think he was too big or something." Her eyes met his then. "I … flipped him."

He seemed confused for a moment. "Flipped?"

She felt a smile pulling at her lips again. Reaching out her hand, she waited to see if he'd take it. When he did, she turned, tugged lightly but not enough to actually launch him, and then nodded towards the floor. Straightening again, she told him, "I've been studying martial arts since I was about six. I used his own weight against him and flipped him over. My … my father always said it would come in handy someday." She felt that sudden strong pull of depression that always tugged at her whenever she thought of the man who had given her life. Gnawing at her lip once more, she blinked back quick tears.

To say that he was amazed by this petite girl standing before him would have been an understatement. The top of her head barely reached his shoulders, but she'd not only used unaugmented biotics against a man who was nearly twice her size, but then announced that it wasn't the biotics that had laid him low but her abilities with martial arts.

He saw tears forming and understood quickly that her father must be a touchy subject for her. "It sounds like he was right."

She glanced away quickly, but he saw that she nodded. Searching for a safer topic, he thought for a moment then ventured, "So … you're here to get your implant?"

Another nod. "Yeah. First that, then send me off for training … then into the Alliance, I guess." She shrugged, but remained facing away from him. "At this point, I just … I don't know."

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

She turned to face him then, an arm moving quickly to swipe across her eyes. "I always planned to join the Alliance, like dad," she explained. "From the time I was five, he began helping me prepare. When it became clear I wouldn't be able to be a marine, a soldier like him, he began teaching me other ways in which I could use my skills so I could still serve. But I always wanted to be front line like him, you know?"

He nodded. She stepped around him, wandering over towards the bed where he saw her pull herself up onto the mattress and cross her legs. She glanced over at him, paused for a long moment, then patted the wide open space beside her. Offering her a smile of thanks, he moved to join her. "Why can't you be front line now?" he asked as he sat.

She sighed. "Mom doesn't think it's safe," she muttered. "She thinks I should stick to the navy, work my way up and serve on ships like she does." She sighed again. "Now … I don't know. The biotics thing, it just … makes things more difficult, I guess."

He frowned. "How so?" he challenged. "The Alliance has soldiers who are biotics. Might be the safest place for biotics these days, actually."

"Hmm, maybe," she acknowledged. "I don't know. I guess it all depends how I react to the implant." She lifted her eyes to meet his. With a soft yet slightly nervous laugh, she added, "Don't mind me … I guess I'm just nervous."

He offered her a smile. "It's okay," he promised. "They'll do the surgery in the morning probably, get you into recovery where they'll let your parents come see you, and then spend a few days making sure the amp takes with no problems." He saw her wince slightly. "What's wrong?"

Her smile was less than enthusiastic or reassuring. "Nothing. Just … I'm here alone. Dad died a few years ago, and mom's ship is deployed. Two days ago they let me off on the Citadel with a ticket to London … and here I am." She shrugged. "It's not like I can't do things on my own … just …."

He sighed. Instinct had him reaching out and grasping her hand lightly, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Tell you what. How about we arrange it so I can sit with you afterwards? That way you've got a familiar face to see when you wake up."

She seemed stunned, but whether it was from his touch or his words, he wasn't certain. "I … you'd do that?" she asked softly. "I mean … you're here too, right? For medical reasons?"

He nodded. "I've already got my implant," he explained. "I'm here because of the headaches it gives me."

"Headaches?"

"I've got an L2. I get horrible migraines from it."

L2. She already knew her implant would be an L3. They'd been very quick to assure her of that from the moment her biotics had manifested. What they had neglected to tell her about in detail was why it had been so important that she was not an L2. That, she'd discovered out on her own. From what she'd learned and what he'd just told her, it sounded as if he was damned lucky in his case. "I'm sorry," she murmured wholeheartedly.

He shrugged and offered her a slightly lopsided smile. "It's not so bad," he told her. "Could be worse."

She smiled back and squeezed his hand in return as he'd not pulled his free from her yet. "True."

A soft knock at the door had their hands dropping and both turning to face the nurse who stepped inside. "I'm sorry," she apologized with a look in her direction, "but we need to be getting you ready. Your surgery will be first thing in the morning."

She felt dread drop heavily into the pit of her stomach … until she felt a strong hand grasp hers once more. "I will see you afterwards," he reminded her. "I promise."

Biting back her worries, she nodded. "Thank you," she murmured just for him as he started to step away. "For everything." He flashed her a grin before exiting the room.

"Have you your identification bracelet?" the nurse asked before she could say anything further to him. "Ah, there it is. Come on over here, Miss Shepard, and I will run through what you can expect over the next twenty-four hours …."