1: Last We Saw

Moments ago, there was a choice put before John Shepard, the options weighed to varying degrees. Despite the temptations, the Council Spectre's decision was never in doubt, not after what he had gone through these past six months.

Aiming from his central location to the large structure to his right, and well within his meticulously trained kill range even with his current injuries, Shepard fired the final rounds. Three shots from his Carnifex into the Catalyst's systems from across the room as outside allied ships tried in vain to succeed against the synthetic relics. To his left he could see the rogue AI that claimed to be controlling the Reapers fading away, leaving the human alone in this newly discovered location.

His reward for his accuracy was an explosion that engulfed the room, followed by a red wave that caused only pain as it passed through him and continued through the room and seemingly the Citadel. Shepard didn't have time to think about any of the consequences of his actions as the pain became too much, making his mind feel like he it was collapsing in on itself. Finally it brought him to his knees, his bloodied hands struggling to keep his shattered face from hitting the ground.

With a bellow of rage that attempted to push back this feeling he coughed blood. Shepard never felt like this before. He is a man that has had more rounds hit him than there were ships in the Alliance fleet. He was the recipient of a last ditch napalm attack on Elysium that left a scar on his back that he carried with him all the way up to his death at Alchera. Hell, even his death didn't have this level of pain. It was a burning sensation that coursed through his body, the feeling of little fires being lit underneath the muscles. When he could focus his eyes he swore he saw blue singes translucently dance across the back of his hands underneath his skin.

Was this what the Catalyst was referring to should he take the option of destroying the Reapers? As his body seized up and finally succumbed to the floor, he realized that whatever explosions that occurred had stopped, or had started to occur elsewhere in the Citadel. Sitting in a growing pool of his blood he tried to apply pressure to where he thought external wounds existed. Doing so took his mind off the pain that had yet to disappear. He wondered if all the cybernetic implants and muscle therapy were the reason he had yet to fall into shock, feeling it to be a blessing and a curse. If only he could die in peace, like Anderson appeared to, when he thought the war was over just minutes prior.

Finish this, John.

Shepard could hear the soft yet deep words in his head. His mind did what it could to put a face to them, a face he remembered every time he tried to sleep, when he saw loved ones reuniting in the refugee docks below, and whenever he exited the Normandy for yet another mission.

Find me.

Her pale, perfect face was looking out of her XO cabin, head resting slightly against the glass lost in though. Arms crossed and clad in her catsuit, she turned her head slightly to look at him, her lips changing ever so slightly from a commonplace scowl to a smile that seemed both mischievous and content with his appearance.

"It's a crazy life we lead, isn't it?"

Her hair, citrus in scent, offset the warmth he felt in her body as he embraced her from behind, her soft sigh of ease, of trust, making him feel so glad she thought he was worthy of her. The feeling lingered as her hands rested on his own as the two watched skycars fly across Silversun Strip from the large glass windows of his recently acquired apartment.

Silversun. Shepard's mind left the much more pleasing thoughts of Miranda as he wondered if this was sentencing the inhabitants of the Citadel to an immediate death, being at ground zero for a blast that would hopefully end the war with the Reapers. His mind raced back to the three hundred thousand lives he sacrificed at Bahak to delay the Reaper arrival. To do that yet again, only on a scale nearly fifty times its predecessor was something he didn't think he would be able to recover from, were he even able to get out of this situation alive.

And the Normandy? What of his ship, his crew, his family? He made sure that Garrus and James got into the ship and hopefully far away from Harbinger's attack in London, despite their many protests to see the mission through. He never acknowledged this, but as he led the allied fleets into that final attack on Earth, the frigate became his. It wasn't a frigate of the Alliance. It wasn't a Cerberus vessel made to entice the N7 marine to their side of the ideological battle. And it wasn't the Council's ship. It was paid in his sweat, his blood, and the sacrifices of his crewmates. After all he had done, Shepard would hope people would allow him a few selfish thoughts.

Memories returned to a conversation he had with one of his most trusted crewmates and friends, the only one who had been there since the beginning.

The two sat in the cockpit, one of the humans clearly losing the sobriety battle that Serrice Ice Brandy was capable of waging. Yet both were laughing at what had happened. They just experienced a battle that should have killed them all but they were now victorious, defeating the superior enemy with a much, much smaller crew.

"I love this ship," Joker said without thinking it through, gently petting the leather arm rest as he finished his fourth glass of the liquor.

"Jeff, you're still the pilot."

"I am taking over for Mr. Moreau, Commander."

"See? EDI knows what to do. I killed two Collectors saving your lumbering butt, that's two drinks right there."

"And the other two?" Shepard wondered as he only finished his first glass.

"Well, it's the SR-2, so...yeah...that's...that's it." Joker's thoughts were being lost in a haze as a lull spread over the cockpit.

Thinking it was his cue to leave, Shepard attempted to get up. From the corner of his eye he could see Miranda still in the CIC, occasionally looking over to see if he was finished speaking with their pilot. Many of the crew were a level below, celebrating and thanking whatever deities they believed in that the mission had been a success. Others who wished to join in on the celebrations were only staying put because the Executive Officer was hovering around their posts, scared to face her anger even after such an unbelievable success.

Before he could push himself up Joker had a realization. "SR-2. Shepard...Reaperkiller...Two. Commander, that's it!"

Shepard was taken aback by the loud eureka moment. "That's what?"

"See? Don't you get it? Because all you do is kill Reapers! And Collectors! But we know they're basically Reapers!" Joker used his hands wildly at this point as he placed his glass down, the Commander trying to hold his amazement at Jeff's alcohol-fueled exaggerations.

"If only this was the fourth iteration of the ship, it could be the SR-4. Four-ever! Get it? Four!" Joker waved the four fingers of his hand to Shepard as he tried to get the point across, his face full of inebriated pride with realizing his achievement in name creation.

The Commander, not wanting to spoil his mood, simply placed a gentle hand of his shoulder with a pat, "I like it, Jeff. I think you'll like it even more when you've had some time to sleep on it. Just make sure we dock at Omega," His last words were clearly meant for EDI, following the plan of docking at the station for emergency repairs to be travel worthy to Illium.

"Everything is under control, Commander. You deserve time to celebrate."

Shepard couldn't tell if there was more meaning to this unshackled iteration of the Normandy AI. Aside from Kasumi, EDI would have to be the only one to know of his relationship with Miranda. At least until they saw how he reacted when she was nearly killed by a stray shot in the Collector Base. Or what Garrus would surely be describing to the others right this instant as their Commander slid down a nearly vertical platform to save Miranda from death.

Striding confidently and giving nods of thanks to his crew, the N7 marine and his XO entered the elevator without anyone else occupying it. His crossed arms and gave a smile of understanding as the elevator doors shut, hearing the crew recognize his quiet approval to begin celebrating. Shepard wasn't paying attention to Miranda's destination, believing they would share some time with the squad a floor below. But as the elevator rose, so did an eyebrow as he looked to his left, seeing Miranda's own suggestive brow raised as she showed a bottle of champagne she had hidden behind herself.

"Only the best?" Shepard was already stepping toward her as she let him pull her close with his hand, resting her back into him for the remaining few seconds the ride would take.

"Sadly, it's not up to your own caliber," her open and sincere flattery that surprised even herself, given the slight hesitation as she finished speaking the final word, only encouraged him to begin to kiss her neck as she desired, "Bekenstein '80. But it's a podium finish."

Miranda sighed with appreciation as he blew away some small debris that rested near her neck, obscured by her thick black hair. The feeling only made her wish they were in his quarters already. Dirty and covered with the physical and emotional dust of combat, all that meant nothing as the doors finally opened after what seemed like minutes. For a few hours they were going to revel in their victory, ignoring the coming threat of the Reapers. After all, they had seemingly found something they wanted to fight for, it was only right for them to indulge in their own desires, at least for a night.

Another explosion in this glorified AI room, shook Shepard from his thoughts of a happier time.

I didn't fight this war just to die now, Shepard realized, I will not end up as a forgotten fable, something to be offhandedly remembered by future generations.

Miranda Lawson, the only woman who he put ahead of everything else in the galaxy. The war hadn't been kind to them. Shepard's obligation of spearheading the war and the former Cerberus Operative's attempts to avoid assassination and locate her sister had made their encounters far, far too small, but so, so important to everything at stake.

He nearly lost her on Horizon thanks to Kai Leng, but even then Shepard couldn't find the ability to outright plead for her to stay with him about the Normandy in the final push to end Cerberus and the Reapers.

Was it to protect her, like Miranda had done with her sister Oriana, to keep her from being on the front lines, becoming a casualty to the war? Was it because he had expected Miranda to come along, simply by forcing herself back on the ship, or at the very least asking to come along? Or was it simply that he just didn't want to admit that he needed her, that admission turning into some fear of possibly being seen as less in her eyes?

No, even as everything literally came crashing down around him, Shepard knew he was drawn to Miranda's independent, often stubborn nature, and knew that she never thought less of him.

They were cut from the same cloth, the burden of others expectations always resting on their shoulders. Many times this was easy to handle, and with a surprising, almost alarming success rate, but both had never really experienced any kind of connection like the relationship they currently found themselves in, and it was a weird thing to explore in the middle of a galactic war.

Two people representing the perfection of humanity in their own ways, unable to properly convey what they truly felt, though it had been on the tips of their tongues all along. This led to constant ribbing from Garrus and Joker that initially annoyed Shepard, but he came to see it as a badge of honor, knowing that the two might appear perfect, but in their time alone Miranda and he had found solace and comfort, sharing their flaws and burdens with the only other person who might understand. He needed to feel that again.

It was hard to believe that for all their time together they still never said those three words that seemed so easy to say in the most popular holovids such as Fleet and Flotilla. With Ashley, he believed he had some feelings of love for her, but their relationship was so short, so off the cuff for the two by-the-books marines, that it never really developed into something more. Perhaps in another lifetime she was the one.

With Miranda it was different, he knew that this was love, this was what he wanted, it just seemed...unnecessary to say it? He wondered why, and knew that he never felt this before; perhaps it really was just the stubbornness making a stand. With Miranda it was no different; the closest Miranda came to letting her true feelings reach her lips was when she thanked him for saving her life. Staring at her beautiful blue eyes that morning, he knew, even she knew, what she was trying to say, even though she couldn't muster the strength to admit something she had only ever felt for her sister. At the time he knew that was enough, actions always speak louder than words. But now as he tried to gather his fourth or even fifth wind, he would finally say those words should, no, when he gets back to her. He tried to push himself off the floor but felt his body spasm under the pressure, his head hitting the floor with no resistance. He tried to again lessen the severity of his current situation by thinking of what to say when he saw her again.

This reluctance to cement their feelings must have grown from how they were raised. Shepard an orphan trying to survive on his own, Miranda being forced to excel at such an early age under maniacal pressure by her father that she rebelled and ran away as a teenager. That independence carried them to where they are, yet coming together was something much more than two parts becoming whole.

No, it was the feeling that together they were exponentially better than apart. It was something hard to describe. During the war, Shepard had once told Chakwas in one of their drinking rituals (that had became more like a motherly checkup) that it was like having a rifle that fired faster, was more accurate, and much more durable than simply having multiple rifles at his disposal. His tongue was silver when it came to diplomacy, but always tied itself in knots when it came to himself. He was also pretty sure women wouldn't like being compared to rifles either, and Chakwas' blank, somewhat indignant stare at the comparison confirmed this.

Shepard was not going to give all that up; he wanted a life of freedom, a chance to see peace across the galaxy once again. But more than anything he wanted a family with Miranda. Given he was a walking defiance of nature, he paid no mind to the files he saw in the Shadow Broker's dossier regarding his lover, they would find a way to be together and give her everything she wanted. If he could get the Quarians and Geth, even the Turians and the Krogan to work together, Shepard knew there was nothing that could stop this momentum now. But he wanted, no, had to see it come to fruition.

The pain in Shepard's body slowly subsided, however he was finding a need to draw shorter, faster breaths. He had no medigel left to use, and any adrenaline that was coursing through his body in the last hours had finally given up, leaving Shepard rudderless in all this chaos. Whatever was happening inside his body had done its damage, and he knew that it would require a miracle to get out of here alive. Hell, feeling pieces of his armor welded to him from Harbinger's blast, he realized it would take a miracle to get half of his suit off his body. Maybe the Council will be so thankful for saving the galaxy they'll pay to bring me back to life, Shepard thought to himself, wondering if his dark humor was the result of shock, blood loss, concussions, or more than likely a combination of all three.

A rumbling started to occur through what seemed to be the entire Citadel, and with it Shepard felt his body falling down. Down to where the lifeless body of David Anderson had slumped to one side, down into the depths of the Citadel's ring, down to...hell?

On instinct he tried to bring his right hand to grasp onto something, unable to even keep his eyes open. A hole in the grated floor, something, he knew he had to hold on. But as the floor he rested on turned a full ninety degrees, the man found himself falling to what would be his certain death. As he fell, Shepard lost consciousness, his limp body finally contacting a hard surface as rubble of the millennia year old structure had fallen on top of him.

I...I can't have it end now...my body can't...I...Miranda?

10 Minutes Earlier

With the Citadel under Reaper control for the past few days, Commander Bailey and his C-Sec forces worked primarily on defending the Council on the Presidium tower. With the arms closed and the station effectively cut off from the rest of the galaxy in recent hours, the primary goal was to minimize the loss of life, but the order of importance was always clear: Councilors. Ambassadors. Everyone else.

Bailey hated to think of those families who might get caught in yet another assault on the Citadel, but he had clung to the belief that the galaxy would pull through this and need familiar leadership afterwards. More importantly, he believed in Shepard, he saw the determination in the man's eyes, the effort he went through using his Spectre status to augment security procedures. Taking the time in his overburdened life to adjust these minor details carried with him a firm belief that planning would save the day, and to do anything less to fulfill that vision, Bailey thought, would diminish those efforts.

Despite what was occurring on ravaged planets across the galaxy, the Reapers did not seem intent on the instant slaughter of the Citadel population. Perhaps this was because of the Citadel's new location, that there was too much "material" on Earth that it would keep the Reapers occupied for the time being. It was a thought Bailey was actively trying to push to the back of his mind, thinking of his ex-wife and kids who had been on Earth when the Reapers attacked.

Bailey was expecting the chaos of the attempted coup by Cerberus a few months back, only on a scale much more relentless, but it never occurred. Their were Reaper forces on the station ever since they arrived in Earth's orbit, and if they found anybody in their patrols they were summarily killed or taken away for processing, but for the most part the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" was becoming the norm.

It felt in many ways like a mandatory curfew, with all commerce cut to a halt, automatic taxis flying without commuters, families barricading themselves within their homes, trying not to draw attention with any noises. This version of house arrest was not what Bailey expected or had planned for, as he waited on the other side of a barricade just near the entrance to the Presidium tower. He wondered if the Reapers were planning to use their methods of indoctrination on the citizens of the Citadel, making them more complacent and even willing to be harvested, and whether he should just make peace with his new fate.

No, snap out of it, he thought, that's exactly the kind of thinking that will make you an easy target for husks or those grotesque cannibals. But what if this isn't even my own thoughts? What if I'm being indoctrinated right now? This second guessing of his methods made him close his eyes, taking his focus away from the tower's primary entrance.

"Hostiles! Multiple hostiles!" A human C-Sec guard announced and Bailey immediately sprung back into action, holding his Vindicator rifle against his shoulder and taking aim as tens, then hundreds of husks started to pour from the stairwells, the elevators, seemingly everywhere all at once, their magnified moans and screams would be debilitating alone to anyone not prepared for combat.

What the hell brought this upon us? Bailey thought as he and the other guards emptied their clips into the oncoming push of the mummified corpses. As he hid behind cover to reload, he saw through the tower's glass skylight the arms of the Citadel open up, returning to their former positions. A smile came across his face, realizing that whatever was happening, it was not what the Reapers wanted.

"Keep up the fire! O'Brien, watch your left flank! Sergius, toss a grenade or two near the right stairwell! We can do this! Just hold out!" The pasty white human turned to his left, scoring clean headshots that dropped the husks, leaving them to be objects to be crawled over by the remaining reapers. The turian's grenades landed right at the top of the stairwell leading to the Tower, sending husks flying into one another in an attempt to knock them off their feet, buy the other guards more time to reload and line up their kills.

The horde was constant, keeping up a pace that for the next five minutes did not relent. Guards fell, succumbing to the mob attacks while trying to reload, the swarm slowly breaking over the barriers erected, climbing over their own in some weird sense of teamwork that might have just been a trick on the eyes.

"Fall back! Back! Up the stairs! Use all grenades on hand!" Bailey yelled as he pulled back, realizing there was nowhere else to fallback after this point. He picked up another Vindicator rifle from a fallen guard, firing both rifles freely in order to buy his men more time to move up the stairs and get into position for one last defense. He looked around quickly as he turned, realizing that despite all this, he only lost three guards, much less than he anticipated.

As Bailey climbed over the final barrier at the top of the stairs he started to feel a rumble from what felt like the trunk of the Tower. The Citadel was one of those places where up didn't really mean anything, it was down that was constant, the result of an artificial gravity system he didn't fully understand himself, he just knew it worked. He returned his focus on the horde, realizing they were not affected by whatever was occurring at the moment. Bailey continued to fire his Vindicator until it the final three rounds left his clip, realizing this was it. He stayed on the wall of barrier, using his rifle as a club to knock the husks down as they climbed up, and found his fellow officers resorting to the same thing.

As Bailey made peace with the fact that this was it, a red wave appeared from everywhere, seemingly coming from the bottom of the stairs and the elevators. It rippled past everything, seemingly doing nothing until it passed husks that had fallen from the initial assault, turning them to ash. The wave kept coming, turning anything Reaper in its path into embers that disappeared as it caught the air around them. As the wave finally came across Bailey he instinctively closed his eyes, but after a second or two of pause he opened them and saw the husks, and their screams, had disappeared. He looked around, panicked, wondering exactly what was happening. As he looked outside the Tower skylight he again saw the red wave continuing past everything in its path, reaching space, swallowing anything that looked like a Reaper into fiery explosions. This is it, he realized, we won. We won!

Bailey smiled, a roar that he saved only for Biotiball matches seemed to force its way out of his throat without him even realizing it, as he hugged and shook hands with the surviving guards. They looked on in amazement, as the wave reached Earth, everyone convinced this was it, they could rest. Little did they know that wasn't the end of the story.

The guards looked as the Tower itself seemed to get brighter outside, light building up in blinding intensity and developing a crimson red hue to it, bringing with it an ominous feeling that their joy will soon disappear. This feeling was diminished when the tower ultimately began firing into space, it's target being the Charon Relay. As the beam left, explosions followed all throughout the Citadel, reminding Bailey of Sovereign's attack nearly three years ago.

During all this sudden commotion, Bailey heard the sounds of a building collapsing, realizing the sound was not from any buildings in the Presidium's vicinity but rather one of the arms of the Citadel, mimicking the sounds of metal twisting and warping, slowly leaving it's spot as the station continued to spin. The sound had to be deafening to anyone closer to the arm as it broke off, many of the surviving C-Sec officers trying desperately to identify which arm it was, and if their friends or family were there. He wasn't a man of faith, but Bailey prayed quietly under his breath that those on the arm would be safe, realizing that the Citadel arms, in the event of this type of emergency, would automatically create a mass effect field to protect from the vacuum of space. This information provided at least some comfort that those on the arm were not doomed to instant death.

Amidst the chaos and ongoing explosions, which eventually subsided, the Citadel itself didn't seem to suffer any more gaping damages to compliment the loss of the arm. Silence soon fell over everything and everyone in the area, recognizing that now, the war was over. Realizing that this was it, many of the C-Sec officers fell to the ground in exhaustion, some officers hiding their tears by putting their hands in their faces. If only there was more of a chance to live in that moment between destruction of the Reapers and witnessing what could be seen, at best, the loss of thousands of lives.

After making sure all the Councilors and Ambassadors were safely accounted for, and successfully making radio contact with other officers throughout the station. Bailey made his way down to the main level of the Presidium, hoping to make it the epicenter of the recovery effort on the Citadel. The elevators were still functional, and Bailey and his squad jammed into the elevator to make sure there were bodies ready to assess the situation and help anyone in need. The officers in the elevator noticed the atmosphere inside consisted of caution, yet contained a sense of giddiness, as though the sooner they arrived downstairs to the Presidium grounds the quicker it would even be more apparent that the Citadel was free of Reaper presence, and this was not a dream.

Reaching the ground level, Bailey saw amazing levels of damage. Stores were collapsed in, the fountains that were one of the Citadel's many landmarks were filled with rubble, the Relay Monument destroyed, along with the Krogan statue. Surprisingly there were very few bodies on the ground, realizing that many might be buried underneath the rubble, or remained hidden in their various residences. Bailey hoped for the latter.

Oddly enough, the signs of Keepers and their busywork were beginning to show themselves, as the spider-like race was already in the process of removing the rubble out of key junction areas. Compared to the Tower, power was nonexistant in the beginning of their survey, the officers relying on their rifle mounted flashlights to provide greater detail than what little light was reflecting out from space and Earth. An hour after the surveying squad was wandering around the grounds, it seemed as though the daylight simulator made it's way online again, beginning it's cycle anew with the sunlight barely shining through. Bailey took it as a good omen, the station sure needed it at the moment.

"Sir, I believe there's a survivor on top of that rubble" Sergeant Haron motioned his flashlight to the rubble that had collapsed the Relay Monument. Bailey made his way over to the turian, spotting the location with his own. Bailey was shocked with what he saw, the unmistakable signs of a human hand at the top of the pile, his chest showing signs of short breaths, the rocks on his body making it more evident that there was still life in the man.

"My God, how could someone survive that? O'Brien, on me, bring the first aid kit!" Bailey ordered as the officer complied, the two making their way up the rubble, attempting to not to disturb the pile that had appeared.

As the two got closer to the body, they were able to hear the labored breathing of a man who had half his combat armor blasted off of him, bruises covering nearly every area where his skin was exposed. Immediately O'Brien applied medigel, and ran his omnitool over the man's body, attempting a rudimentary diagnostic before attempting to move him in any way.

Bailey moved some of the rocks that had covered his arms and legs, a glint of light hitting him in his eyes as he did so. The light from the artificial sun drew attention to a pair of dogtags on the man's neck, the iconic N7 logo apparent and immediately recognizable to any human alive in the last thirty years. It didn't take long for Bailey to solve the equation.

"Holy shit, it's Shepard..." Bailey couldn't even believe what he was saying, O'Brien looking at his Commander as though he had finally snapped.

"What...what's Shepard doing on the Citadel? Shouldn't he be on Earth?"

"All I know is that Shepard is barely alive in front of us, and there are no more Reapers. Who else could have done it?"

"Should we move him?"

"Not unless you want to be responsible for letting the man who saved the galaxy die! Now get backup and a stretcher here now! Make contact with any hospital and tell them to make room! Move it!"

Shepard woke up to the sounds of metal hitting the floor, though it wasn't steel girders of a city structure succumbing to its own weight. It was lighter, softer, and perhaps clumsy in manner. Of all the things to wake him up, it really wasn't what he expected to hear anytime soon. His eyes coming into focus, and a parched mouth fueling his desire to get up, he felt pain as he attempted to brace himself up with his elbows, noticing he was in the bedroom of his apartment.

Tiberius Towers. The...Citadel. And...alive. This can't be right, Shepard thought as he turned to get out of bed, noticing the bandages that covered his chest and arms, realizing the bridge of his nose was covered as well.

As his feet landed on the wood floor beneath, he turned to face the TV, and noticed two medical stations pushed to the corner, accompanied by a variety of medical accoutrements, various bandages and open vials showing signs that it had been a location of frequent use in recent days. His mind flashed back to what had occurred with the Catalyst, choosing to destroy the Reapers once and for all.

It couldn't be a dream, he thought, why else would I feel like complete crap?

Shepard's thinking was interrupted by another clanging of metal. Despite his groggy nature it was definitely the sound of pots, and also the sound of a female voice expressing her displeasure with a variety of curse words.

Not knowing exactly what to expect, he remembered the Predator pistol he had placed underneath the bed, making sure there was always a weapon nearby. The weapons locker that Anderson installed in the closet was just too far away when it could be a matter of life and death against another clone, or Marauder, or Phantom. Shepard knew he would always have a target on his back, this was his way of having a potential equalizer.

Reaching under the mattress and feeling a tenderness of his arm as it connected with the soft sheets, he found it exactly where he remembered it to be, and turned the safety off. He stood completely still, focusing on the sounds of the apartment to see if he could identify anything else that was out of the ordinary. He could hear the occasional hum, which confused him further, and slowly made his way downstairs, his right hand more than capable of holding a pistol again.

Leaving his room, he noticed the conversation area was a mess, statues and books on the ground, the pebbles used to accent the apartment's flora all across the floor. Weapon drawn, yet still lightheaded from whatever surgery or injuries he had sustained, Shepard moved down the stairs slowly, wincing as he placed pressure on his right foot.

Must not be completely healed, Shepard thought to himself, though his left leg seemed to carry his weight just fine. Reaching the edge of the stairs he saw that the entrance door was closed, then immediately looked left, seeing that the game room fared even worse than the conversation area; bookcases full of Admiral Anderson's literary choices on the ground as shelves were barren. Oddly enough, the poker table didn't seem to be buried underneath the wreckage, it's location moved to just inside the room's entrance. It signaled use.

As Shepard looked right, he saw that the bar was relatively safe, bottles thrown across the floor here and there, but there seemed to be a more understandable method to this madness, not just thrown to chaos. Chaos, that was a word Shepard didn't want to hear or think about for a long time.

The Spectre heard the sound of a faint hum and instinctively readied his pistol, but noticed it was just the sound of a hovercar passing by the opulent glass windows, having now realized they all had shattered, and with it the lack of neon signs flooding the Silversun Strip also became apparent. Shepard began to piece things together as best he could.

It seemed that the Citadel was still able to maintain the illusion of artificial daylight, but the power seemed to be sparse. As he looked out the open window, he could see rubble everywhere, hovercars thrown around like they were the victims of a child's tantrum, and the lack of individuals in one of the busiest parts of the Citadel made Shepard wonder exactly what happened when he destroyed the Catalyst. Did he send the people of this station to their deaths? That wasn't what the AI had stated! Then again, when could something from the Reapers ever be trusted?

The desire for water was becoming too much, and Shepard eyed the bar's sink, wanting to test the possibility of having water on hand. As long as there was water, Shepard knew he could make through whatever had happened, or was still happening.

"Ow! Ow!" the sound of that female voice became more pronounced, and Shepard immediately turned his eyes away from the sink and towards the kitchen, gun raised. As he slowly walked over, gun drawn, he saw pots above the stove, water boiling, and what seemed to be meat of some kind sizzling, whatever excess oil was in the pan looked to escape its confines with loud splatters like fireworks.

The scene made no sense to the marine as he saw no one in the kitchen. As he lowered his pistol one more time, he wasn't able to keep his coordination, his right foot staggering wider than he believed he could walk, kicking a glass bottle to the side, watching it rolling until it clinked the corner of the stone wall twice before stopping.

With his muddied peripheral vision a young woman with short hair popped up from behind the kitchen counter, jar in hand. She too seemed confused by the sound as she tried to enhance her search with the use of her eyes. It was her quick movement doing so that finally brought her to Shepard's attention.

Turning with a precision that was beat into him since his boot camp, Shepard pulled the trigger once, believing the jar to be the individuals weapon. If he was in a more capable state of mind he wouldn't have shot at all. The jar shattered, it's red contents falling to the ground and with it the loud scream of a woman who clearly thought she was alone this whole time, now realizing there was a man with a gun pointed at her. Again.

"Don't shoot!" She pleaded, clearly recognizing the man who did such a thing, "Shepard, You know me!"

"How do I...Oriana?"

I own nothing, this is all based on Bioware's work. But if they want to use this then hey, that's cool. Like, you know, whatever.

For quick reference Shepard is the default male, an earthborn soldier. Romanced Ashely in ME1, Miranda in ME2 & 3. Saved the Council in ME1, Destroyed the Collector base, saved all the crew, cured the genophage with Eve still alive, united the Geth and Quarians. So the only deaths are the mandatory ones: Kaidan, Mordin, Thane and Legion.

*Chapter updated 8-21-14 with some cleaned up dialogue and additional scene.*