Hello, and welcome to my little corner of the webertubes. This story has been sitting in the back of my mind for a long time, and since it's been far too long since I've written, I thought I'd try to put pen to paper, as it were, and share it here, with you. So please, give it a read, and let me know what you think. All comments are welcome!

One more little note: Mass Effect and it's characters are not owned by me. I get nothing out of writing this, other than the joy of writing. So please don't sue me, BioWare. :P

He awoke slowly, the suppressed, muffled sound of voices nearby drawing his attention. Around him, all he felt was darkness.

As he focused, the voices began to have definition. The words meaning. He fought through the darkness. But it was not easy. As much as he tried, it was as though his body was fighting back.

He didn't give up. He never gave up. After all, he was Commander Shepard.

"...Shepard... waking up," a voice said from nearby.

"Shepard?" Another voice. He didn't like it. It was too loud. Too much, and it required far too much thought. He tried to shut it out. "Shepard, can you hear me?"

Suddenly, the darkness was pierced. No. More than that. It was annihilated, and replaced by the brightest light he'd ever encountered. It was brighter than any bomb, any star he'd ever set his eyes on. And it burned. Oh, how it burned.

Something moved, blocking the light. He tried to focus, to adjust his eyes, but he couldn't remember how. Before he could stop it, something was happening to his eyes. It was his first real sensation. Unlike the lights, this was cool. Cool, and... moist. It was water. Mist, to be exact.

He blinked reflexively. As he did so, his vision began to clarify. He began to see shapes, colors, and details. He blinked several more times. It was only then that other thoughts began to creep into his mind. Where am I? He couldn't see much, but if he had to guess, it was the Normandy. Good. That means I'm not dead, he thought sardonically. Body? He flexed his arm muscles a bit, and immediately felt white hot pain shoot through his body. Body. Beat up.

At this moment, something, no, someone crept into view. He saw the face. Recognized it. He knew he knew it, but even still, it took him a minute to pick out the kindly eyes, the wrinkles, and the gray hair of Dr. Chakwas.

"Don't move, Commander." Her voice was firm, but kind. And tired. "Blink twice if you recognize me.

Blink. Blink.

"Very good. Do you know where you are?"

Blink blink.

"Excellent. Commander, you woke a bit earlier than we anticipated. I don't want you to try and move. You're still very much not ready for that. Commander, I'm going to put you under again. But when you wake, we should be able to talk."

Before he could do anything, Dr. Chakwas reached out of his field of vision, and suddenly he felt a warm, liquid sensation spread throughout his body, before darkness consumed him once again.

This time, there was no darkness. Well, not in the same way. There was nothing to fight through. Instead, this time, he was gradually aware of thoughts. His own presence. Dreading what would happen next, he willed his eyes to open. The light was less harsh this time, which was a relief. That was when he felt it. The warmth. The familiar pressure. There was something soft, yet reassuring, and comforting in it. He tried to speak, but all he could get out was a rasp. But it was enough, as her head floated into view.

God, she's more beautiful than I remembered, he thought to himself. Her icy blue eyes, normally piercing and analytical, now showed only worry.

"Shepard? Shepard, is it really you?" She normally controlled her emotions so well. But now, when speaking his name, it sounded desperate. Pleading. As if she wanted it to be him, but was afraid of getting her hopes up.

He tried again to speak again, failing terribly. Instead he smiled, and nodded as best he could.

In that moment, her face transformed from one of worry, to one of relief. In less than the time it took him to blink, she had him in what was easily the deepest, most passionate kiss they'd ever shared. In it, he could feel all the worry, the stress, the sleepless nights.

After what seemed an eternity, albeit all too brief an eternity, she finally pulled away, giving themselves a chance to breath, and rested her forehead against his. This was what he has fought and bled for. Nearly died for. Had been willing to die for. Originally, it had been so much more. He'd had the weight of a galaxy on his shoulders. He'd known the Reapers were coming. Had faced down Saren, the Geth, Cerberus, the Collectors, more Cerberus, the Reapers, Cerberus yet again, and finally Harbinger. In the end, it had all been for her. And he'd do it again if he had to.

"Miss me?" He asked, having finally worked moisture back into his throat, as he threw her his usual playful smile.

"Never do that to me again," she said. "Ass." She added under her breath.

"No promises," he whispered, enjoying the moment of bliss.

And a moment it was, as someone nearby gave a polite cough. Snapping out of their reverie, Shepard and Miranda both looked up to see Admiral Hackett at the hatch, a faint smile on his lips.

"I'm not interrupting anything, am I, Commander?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Shepard saw Miranda turn bright red. She had never been very open about anything that could be used against her. Hell, it had taken him months just to break through her icy shell. Even still, he couldn't help but smile inwardly a bit when he saw the sight. Meanwhile, Hackett, with Dr. Chakwas in tow, had strode over next to his bed.

Swallowing again, Shepard responded as strongly as he could. "No sir. Just enjoying the perks of being alive." It still took more effort than he'd liked. And it didn't quite sound like him.

"Hmm. Doctor, how is the galactic hero looking?"

Chakwas, having taken a seat at her console, didn't even have to pull up Shepard's records. Under Hackett's orders, Shepard was her only patient, and as such, she knew his status by heart. "Most of his minor injuries have healed, since he arrived on the Normandy. But, he still has a pair of broken ribs on the left side, a cracked vertebrae, and a hairline fracture along his right femur. I'd recommend at least 3 more weeks of minimal activity. Bed rest, ideally."

"Doctor, Shepard has been laid up for the last 5 weeks." At this, John felt his eyebrows go up. He looked to Miranda for confirmation, as she gave him the slightest of nods. "We can't afford to have him bedridden for 3 more. The galaxy needs to rally together, and Shepard is integral to that. How are you feeling, Commander?"

"Honestly, sir, I can't really say," he responded. "This is the first time I've really been conscious. Hell, I don't even know how I got here, sir."

"That would probably be the concussion," Miranda chimed in. "Dr. Chakwas and I were talking about it when we first found you. You'd sustained a pretty severe one. We were a bit worried for a while."

"Nevertheless, Commander, I need you on your feet. There is still work to be done, and the Alliance would benefit greatly from seeing you alive and well."

John sighed mentally. This was not what he had been hoping for. After all, he'd just saved the galaxy. Didn't that warrant a break? A little vacation? Apparently not.

"Aye, sir," he responded, keeping his thoughts out of his voice.

"Excellent. See you soon, Commander." With that, Hackett nodded to Miranda and Dr. Chakwas, and then marched from the med bay.

"Anything for the Alliance, eh, John?" Miranda said, dryly.

"You know, you said that with less sarcasm than I anticipated," John responded.

"That's because it wasn't supposed to be sarcastic, darling." She'd watched the admiral leave the med bay, but still hadn't turned around to face him. Chakwas, to her credit, had managed to find some report to bury herself in, though she was trying just a bit too hard not to eavesdrop. "You've given everything for the Alliance. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Hell, you've even died for them. You became the first human Spectre. You saved the Council on at least two separate occasions. And let's not forget the fact that you not only united every sentient race in the galaxy, but you also took on, and defeated, the Reapers."

She was obviously worked up. By now, though, he'd figured out where she was going with this.

"I know," he said soothingly. "It's damned selfish of them to ask more. But you know what the difference is between those times, and now?"

Miranda didn't even skip a beat before responding. "You're not getting shot at this time?"

When she turned, he could see the slight smile on her lips. But he could also see the truth in her eyes. She was hurt and disappointed that he was being asked to put the Systems Alliance ahead of her again, though she would never admit it. She had a hard enough time opening up, simply because of her upbringing, and there were still a lot of deep seeded issues. But the way things had been going, they hadn't exactly had time to work on, well, anything. And they both knew that if this was going to work out, that had to change.

"Actually, knowing the admiral, it's almost guaranteed that I will. The difference is, I'm doing this for you. In fact, everything starting from the Collector base on has been for you. Let me just get them on the right track. Then it'll be you, and me, and anywhere you want in the galaxy, for as long as you want us to be there. I promise."

"We better, John. Otherwise, we'll need Dr. Chakwas to patch you up again, once I'm through with you."

Her tone was joking, but he saw the tenderness and sincerity in her eyes. It was important to her that they get some away. He swore silently to himself that he would make this work, regardless of what it took.

With that, she leaned over, kissed him on the forehead, and walked away, putting a little extra sway in her step. Just to remind me who's in charge, I'm sure, he thought amusedly to himself.

"Well, Commander, sounds like you'll be as busy as ever," Cahkwas' rich voice came from her console. "What say we get you out of here so you can get to putting the universe back together?"

"Actually, Doctor, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather stay here. I feel safer in here than out there."

Chakwas laughed at this. Too bad she didn't know he was only half joking.