*DYLAN'S NOTE:

I recently played through the entire ME series of games for the first time, (having played ME2 & 3 beforehand, yes this is all on a PS3) and before I had romanced Miranda there. Which was nice and everything, but after going through everything with Ashley, a chord was struck within me that never has been before with any game or form of "entertainment" period. I simply couldn't let things stand with the ending. Dylan Shepard's story has to continue. Anyway, the story takes place a week after the ending of Mass Effect 3 (High EMS Destroy Version). Shepard's surviving friends/crew are preparing for his
funeral, and he...well...read on.

There are spoilers ahead, if you hadn't figured that out. Dylan isn't anything like the default Shepard. Pale, green eyes, short brown hair, sky blue armor with traces of silver. Paragon, with slight renegade leanings towards The Council and any threat to his relationship, maybe just evil in general too. :P

End*


It had a been a week since Commander Shepard had activated the Crucible and eradicated all synthetic life throughout the Galaxy and ended the Reaper threat that had taken a countless number of lives and laid down a path of destruction costing billions of credits worth of damages to every major civilization and species.

But it was over.

The tables had been turned for good, and in the face of sure destruction, this organic cycle was here to stay. Earth was a mess worldwide. Outside of a few pockets of South America and Antarctica that the Reapers had yet to hit, there was little but total destruction. But people had just now started to come back to this war-torn planet. Worldwide cleanup efforts and attempts to regain electricity set up by the Council. Truthfully out of respect for the man that had saved all of them, more so than of any worry about the human homeworld's plight. With no acting human councilor, they were free to undercut The Alliance and humanity just like they always had.

But truthfully the refugees were extremely grateful, regardless of the reasons for it. They had a long road ahead of them, every single person alive did. But humanity finally had their home back.

Today was not a joyous day for a certain group that had landed on Earth though. As the Alliance shuttle set down in Macapá, Brazil, one of the few places on the planet the Reapers' had left unscathed, outstepped a hardened old officer decked out in his standard Alliance uniform and hat, with a solemn look, greying beard, and enough wear and tear on his face to send chills down Evel Knievel's spine. Behind the man they call Admiral Hackett was what was left of Dylan Shepard's friends that he had left during the final assault in London.

The former Asari Professor turned Shadow Broker Liara T'Soni stepped out first, taking into account the sights of Earth at a semi-normal state. The grass was green, the sun was shining down, everything was so...peaceful. Liara mentally noted that a study of the Commander's homeworld would be a worthy task to honor him, should she find the time.

Out next stepped Garrus Vakarian and Tali'Zorah (formerly vas Normandy/vas Neema/nar Rayya) loosely holding hands, with Tali looking down through her mask, just looking at the ground, remembering the first time she stepped foot on her homeland, Rannoch.

"This feels so wrong. I haven't even seen Rannoch in peace. But Shepard was with me the whole way, he saved my world. Now I'm here on his and he's not even...he's not even..."

"Relax, Tali. Shepard knew what he was getting into. He sacrificed himself to make sure we could all see his world in it's natural state like this. It's not bad...could do with a little more silver though." Garrus stated in his usual cool and calm tone, though with a hint of his truly somber mood.

Tali chuckled slightly through her unseen tears at her unexpected Turian lover. She took solace in how lucky she really had been through it all. Finding Garrus, getting Rannoch back, even making peace with the Geth! Before they all shut down permanently after the Crucible was activated.

"Plus...I have a gut feeling there's more to all this. Shepard wouldn't die out of the blue. We should have learned that after the Collector fiasco."
"Garrus...I don't think Shepard's coming back this time." Tali said, looking down again. Garrus looked back into the ship, at the second human Spectre and the woman Shepard proclaimed his love for, Ashley Williams, staring down at the Commander Shepard nameplate she refused to place on the Memorial Wall, that she had clutched onto in utter silence the entire ride to Earth, and continued to.

"Tali...if he really is alive, I can tell him I never stopped believing in him. If he's up there in that big bar in the sky, looking down on me...I can always say I was strong for his girl."

"You two were great friends, Garrus."

"He was the great friend. I'm just trying to finagle my way into getting him to pick up my tab...for once."

Tali laughed out weakly while Garrus mustered up enough inner strength to flash a smile, leading to Tali embracing him softly.

"Come on, we need to get outta here. Grab Ash for me and lets get to our cruiser. I hope the hotel they set up for us has working bathrooms."

"I'm glad you're here, Garrus." Tali said with affection, before climbing back into the shuttle and sitting down next to Ashley, placing her three fingered hand on Ashley's shoulder, which startled her and broke her from her trance-like state she had fell into, staring at Shepard's nameplate.

"...Are you o-"

"I don't want to talk about it." Ashley spoke with a renewed vigor, especially for a person who hadn't slept in a week.

"All I care about is getting this stupid "funeral" over with. I'm going right back to London after this is over and finding Dylan."

Ashley stood up and held Shepard's nameplate to her chest before beginning to walk out of the space-faring vehicle.

"Ashley, The Alliance hasn't cleared anyone to go back there yet."

"I'm bringing him home."

"But l-"

"I'm bringing him home."

Tali just stared at the former Gunnery Chief as she surveyed Macapá.

Ashley couldn't help but think back to her days in the Recruit Training Depot as she stood on the edge of the Alliance shuttle, staring out into the small stretch of plains where they landed. 'Only thing missing is Ellison chewing my ass out. I wonder if you're going to want to see this place again if-...when I find you, Dylan. ...How did you keep up this determined act so damned long anyway? I wish you'd left me a how to book on this sorta thing. Staying brave in the face of impossible odds. Going all out to complete missions everyone else thinks is crazy...at least I learned from the best, Skipper.'

A small upward twitch formed on the Spectre's mouth, giving her a brief smirk as she recalled some of the Commander's adventures, with her and apart. That wouldn't last too long though.

"Alright, Ash. We need to go. Unless you want to sleep on a bench in this thing tonight." Tali had brushed past her and jumped out of the shuttle door onto the ground. She sighed inwardly, but then extended her arm to help Ashley out of the shuttle and onto the fertile earthen soil.

'I wish you'd give me some sorta sign. Give me the extra reason to keep fighting for you...'

The Spectre took her Quarian former squadmate's hand and hopped out, squinting her bloodshot eyes, finally facing the brunt of Earth's Sun beating down on her, as well as the agonizing heat the center of the Equator, Macapá, provides.

"Hey, Tali..."

Just then, as the former "vas Normandy" was about to answer the black haired beauty, Admiral Hackett walked back over to cut both of the ladies off.

"Williams!"

"Sir!" Ashley saluted the veteran, almost out of instinct. Though her crinkled brows and stern expression definitely gave the look of someone who wasn't particularly concerned with protocol or showing respect to anybody.

"We need to get a move on. The driver is getting more impatient than Blasto at a convention full of Vorcha. But while I was waiting for you two I found something to help you pass the time, I also think you'll find it interesting on a...personal level, Miss Williams."

A gasp could be heard, coming from the lips of Commander Shepard's love as soon as Hackett put his hands out from behind his back, showing Ashley the very same Tennyson poem collection Shepard had given her when she was in the hospital after her run-in with Cerberus on Mars, what felt like years ago. She couldn't help herself from snatching the poetry book out of the Admiral's hands and looking at it with the kind of affection that makes everyone around you uncomfortable. Especially when the people around you thinks the guy you love is dead. Especially when the people around you think you've lost your mind.

"Thank you, Admiral! I really thought I lost this. Shepard would have kicked my ass if he found out. Not literally though. If he knows what's good for him." Ashley felt her heart beating faster and faster as she talked to the Admiral and Tali.

"Tali, I'm sorry I snapped at you back there. I'm glad I've got friends here."

"No problem, Ash. I'm used to it anyway."

Before there could be anymore chit-chat among his two comrades that could hold things up anymore, Hackett stepped forward and spoke with cold professionalism. "Alright, lets all get going. I can't say I'm looking forward to burying such a noble warrior...again. Lets get it done, ladies."

"Yes, sir." Ashley saluted quickly, then trailed off behind the Admiral, as well as Tali, who couldn't wait to get to this hotel and get some sleep before Shepard's funeral. She hadn't been present at his last funeral, and was somewhat relieved she would get a chance to say goodbye.

As Ashley was walking to their car, she noticed that the Alliance bookmark Shepard had given her was still in place. She opened the book up to see a page with a small strip of light blue highlighting one of her many lines she particularly enjoyed. The color a warm reminder of Dylan's custom armor that seemed to always blend perfectly with her own blue gear she started wearing after their encounter on Horizon.

'...I'm such an asshole.'

Ashley felt a lump of sadness in her throat and felt the familiar sensation of fresh tears forming in her eyes at the thought of never telling Dylan about the reason why she changed her armor. Just then she looked down to read the part of the book she had seen highlighted in the first place.

Love's arms were wreathed about the neck of Hope,
And Hope kissed Love, and Love drew in her breath
In that close kiss and drank her whispered tales.
They said that Love would die when Hope was gone.

'The Lover's Tale? This was one of Tennyson's rarest poems. I don't even remember reading this, not in this book.'

Suddenly the expression on Ashley's face turned to a smile. A real smile, not a faux one she tried to put on to assure herself or others Dylan was alive, This time...she knew.

'Thank you, LORD...I knew you wouldn't let him just die in a pile of rubble. ...Wherever you are now, I'll be with you soon. I promise, Skipper.'

With that, Ashley stepped into the modified hover car with everyone else that was there, everyone putting a consoling hand on her shoulder, and obviously her telling them all she's fine.

"Alright, everyone. We've got some food getting prepared for us, but we're going to have to wait a couple of hours. A second shuttle's on it's way here for some more people who are attending Commander Shepard's funeral tomorrow." Admiral Hackett again spoke up to everyone, giving them the situation.
"Shepard had more people besides us that actually liked him? He would be really touched."

Tali punched Garrus in the arm as Liara stared obliviously.

"Garrus, the Commander was well respected among many, even before London. You don't need to be The Shadow Broker to know who's responsible for saving everyone from the Reapers."

"It was a joke, Liara." Ashley sighed at the Asari's lack of understanding of the intent of Garrus' comment.

"Dylan would think that's the right way to handle things. He'd just say something way more corny than that, Garrus. ...He wants people to believe in him. That he's doing just fine, wherever he's at."

Everyone in the car nodded in agreement, as well as let a small smile creep onto each of their faces. Clearly they were relieved that Ashley was showing some sign of becoming slightly more normal again.

As the car pulled up to the makeshift living quarters set up for them, Ashley thought to herself about what she said during the ride.

'...I hope you all can believe in me too.'


Meanwhile...in London:

Contrary to what Ashley thought earlier that day, Dylan Shepard was still lying on that small mountain of rubble. And he was definitely dying. The Alliance had sent a small team in to sweep the city, account for casualties, and make sure no Reapers had survived. Unfortunately they didn't reach where Shepard was, and had effectively marked London as the lowest priority of Human rebuilding due to it being the most heavily damaged place on Earth. As far as Shepard went, all of his Cerberus upgrades had been effectively rendered non-functional. He could move his right arm very slightly, and that was it.

He had lost a large amount of blood even from his natural body parts. He hadn't eaten or had anything to drink in a week, and was constantly slipping in and out of consciousness. The only thing keeping him alive was the one thing he had right now...resting in his hand, that same picture of Ashley he kept through all these years.

Suddenly his chest leapt up with a large inhale/gasp. He was awake again. Fading, but certainly not without proverbial kicking and screaming.

He looked at the picture of Ashley for probably the millionth time this week. With the little energy he had left, he smiled thinking of her, for probably the millionth time this week.

'Every time...I won't let you be alone again, Ash. I'll find a way to make this right...I promise.'

Chapter End.