A/N:

One month after the Reaper Wars, Shepard walked away from the Alliance and Admiral Hackett. He's been looking for her ever since.

This is a sequel to The Renegade Heart.

I got the idea for the text/chat messages while I was replaying the Shadow Broker mission and saw Garrus' dossier.

Beta: None

Bioware owns all. Sadly.

Read. Enjoy. Review.

Fucking coward.

Commander fucking Shepard was a fucking coward.

It was the thought that kept her up at night. Eleven months ago, Shepard was the hero of the Reaper war. Ten months ago, the attention had finally gotten to her and she disappeared from it. She left in the middle of the night. She abandoned the Alliance and Hackett.

Hackett.

She sat up in bed with a groan. It felt like someone punched her in the gut every damn time she thought about the Admiral. She'd left him on Earth without a word. There was no way he was going to be able to her forgive her for that. And she couldn't remember the last time that she'd apologized to anyone for anything. The regrets had started the moment the shuttle she boarded left London. And they grew with each day.

Damn fucking idiot.

Ten long fucking months, Shepard fell off the grid. No news. No extranet. Nothing. And no goddamn Normandy. She missed her ship and her crew. And him. She really missed him.

Stupid.

Pushing off the bed, she headed over to stare out the window. This month the rebuilt Elysium was her home. Moving every few months ensured that no one found her… or worse, recognized her. It was a lonely existence. But no one demanded anything of her, no one asked her to save them.

In the last few months, she hadn't checked her messages once. The downside of knowing the Shadow Broker was that Liara would probably be watching to see if she accessed her accounts. It was time to move again. And she was so goddamn tired of it. She felt like such an idiot.

She packed up her bag and disappeared into the crowded streets. She passed by the local cafe that had public extranet terminals and for the first time in ten months, it was impossible to resist the urge to reach out. There were over three hundred messages from Hackett. It looked like there was one for each day that she'd been gone. She felt the punch in her gut again. Against her better judgment, she broke down and checked the one dated yesterday.


From: Hackett

To: Shepard

Subj: Come Home

I miss you.

I love you.

At the very least, let me know that you're still alive out there somewhere.

Please?

Hackett


She should have walked…no…run away from the terminal. It was the please that stopped her in her tracks; hell, she thought her heart stopped for a minute.


From: Unknown Sender

To: Admiral Hackett

Subj: Commander Shepard

is alive.

~ A friend


"I traced the message to a terminal on Elysium." Liara was speaking with Admiral Hackett over the vid-comm.

"Was it Shepard?" He'd contacted T'soni the minute that the anonymous message had been received.

"I can't say for certain. My agents haven't found a trace of her on Elysium. If she was there, she's gone now." Liara sounded strained over the comm. "But I do know that someone accessed her extranet account three days ago. Whoever it was, they read the last message that you sent then logged out. I'll keep looking for her, Admiral."

"Thanks, Hackett out."

Hackett moved away from his desk. He'd temporarily set up command at the rebuilt Alliance HQ in Vancouver. He was just waiting for Arcturus Station to be rebuilt. He planned on moving there in a few weeks. He didn't like the idea of leading the fleets from Earth. The picture on a nearby shelf caught his attention. It was Shepard, not long after the reapers were destroyed. He stepped closer to the frame.

Where the hell was she?

It was late. He decided that he'd done enough for one day. He made the short trip across the courtyard to the apartment that he was calling home. Stepping inside, he was just unbuttoning his shirt when he noticed a datapad sitting on the table in the entryway. It hadn't been there earlier. It contained one message.


From: Unknown Sender

To: Hackett

Subj: re: Come Home.

Are you sure?

I think I've fucked it all up pretty spectacularly.

Haven't I?


She was alive…maybe. She'd make her way back home to him. Maybe. He sent Liara a quick update and then poured himself a large glass of scotch. The datapad was still clutched in his hands an hour later. No matter how many times that he read it, it didn't offer him any further information. It was time to send an answering message to Shepard's old account in the hopes that she would check it.


From: Hackett

To: Shepard

Subj: Sure?

Of course.

I love you.

Hackett


He wasn't sure what to expect, but he received a response an hour later.


From: Shepard

To: Hackett

Subj: re: Sure?

..


And that was it. No words, just a serious of fucking dots. Hackett tapped his fingers on his glass for a few minutes. He knew she was checking the account. He pulled up the chat function and sent a text to her.


23:14: H: I am sure, Shepard.

23:21: S:…..

23:21: H: You're going to have to use more than periods. Unless, it's Morse code.

23:22: H: Will you tell me where you are?

23:23: S: Not yet.

23:24: H: Will you tell me how you are at least? Are you ok?

23:24: S: No.

23:24: S: Not even close to ok.

23:25: H: What can I do?

23:34: H: Are you still there, Shepard?

23:37: H: I'm not going anywhere. I'll wait as long as you need me to.

23:38: S: You…I don't know how to come back.

23:39: H: Everyone understands your need to get away.

23:40: S: Everyone?

23:40: H: Everyone that matters.

23:42: S: Is Liara tracing this?

23:42: H: No, but thanks for the idea.

23:43: S: Bastard.

23:45: S: I miss you so much it hurts. And that really pisses me off.

23:45: H: Then. Come. Back.

23:53: S: Can I …text you again?

23:53: H: Anytime.

23:55: User has disconnected.


Against his better judgment, Hackett decided not to have T'soni trace the chat. If he pushed Shepard, she'd never come back to him. He wasn't sure that the Commander would contact him again. But every morning, he sent a message to her extranet account like he had for the past few months. It was three days before he heard from her again.


01:04: S: Are you awake?

01:10: H: Barely.

01:11: S: Are you wearing the blue boxers?

01:12: H: Did you really message me at 0100 to ask about my current choice of underwear?

01:13: S: Not entirely, but your state of undress is always a personal priority to me.

01:13: H: I'm not wearing the blue boxers.

01:14: S: Pity.

01:15: H: I'm not actually wearing anything at the moment.

01:20: S: Can a brain short circuit?

01:21: H: Maybe. Though why my being naked in bed would cause it is beyond me.

01:22: S: You are an evil fucking bastard.

01:23: H: You could tell me where you are.

01:24: S: Are you trying to blackmail me, Admiral?

01:24: H: If I were really playing dirty, Shepard, I'd tell you what I was doing with my hand.

01:25: S: You are killing me.

01:26: H: So tell me where you are.

01:28: S: I…can't.

01:29: H: So what was the other reason that you contacted me tonight?

01:30: S: I can't do this.

01:31: H: Do what? Shepard?

01:33: User has disconnected.


"Damn it," Hackett muttered to himself.

The smart thing to do would be to contact Liara and have her located Shepard. But he was afraid to lose the tentative connection that he had with her.


01:54: S: I thought talking to you would make being alone easier.

01:54: S: It just makes it worse.

01:55: H: I'm not going anywhere, Shepard.

01:56: S: I'm moving again. I keep traveling. I know you're looking for me. I saw the Shadow Broker's agents on Elysium.

01:57: H: I wasn't going to let you go without a fight. I won't stop looking for you.

02:02: User has disconnected.


Hackett was starting to regret every single time that he'd disconnected from a conversation without giving the other person a chance to say something. This was obviously the universe way of paying him back. He was just drifting off to sleep when a beep signaled an incoming vid-comm. He pulled on a shirt and shorts before heading over to answer.

Shepard.

She just stared at him in silence for a moment. And then the call was disconnected. He scratched his jaw trying to figure out what the hell that was all about. Maybe she'd just wanted to see him. He gave up on sleep and sat down to send a note to Liara.