The Mako was little more than a wreck. Two wheels were missing; another was barely hanging on. It was crumped front and rear. It was upside down. The engine didn’t fire. It was dead. After we’d all clambered out, Garrus took a moment to himself, resting a hand against what was now it’s roof, muttering to himself. Little wonder the turian took it hard considering he’d worked on it constantly.
Remarkably, despite some bumps and bruises, we’d all survived the journey. No-one except Garrus was sad to see the end of the Mako. I was a little disappointed as the machine proven a reliable workhorse, and to be honest, the thought of driving it around the Citadel had proven amusing.
After a check of weapons, armour, and ensuring my squad was okay, I ordered us to move. The destruction around us was already mind-boggling. We could hear plenty of gunfire and screaming in the distance. Finding an Avina VI nearby, I figured asking that a few questions might help. While it wasn’t full of information, it told us the Council had evacuated to the Destiny Ascension and that the Citadel was now in defensive mode, all systems engaged.
Soon as our conversation finished, we were set upon by geth units. And, to be honest, that was the story of our next couple of hours. In addition to geth, there were husks and also krogan, Wrex taking joy in taking on fellow battle-masters. Fires raged around us, sirens wailed and, if we looked up, we could see fleets moving into place, I assumed to stop Sovereign. We made it to the elevator leading up to the Council chambers after mowing down more geth, though our ascent was halted as the elevator ground to a halt.
So I ordered helmets on, mag boots switched on, and we’d do it the hard way. Stepping out onto the side of the elevator shaft wasn’t something I thought I’d be doing waking up earlier that morning. Then again, I hadn’t thought I’d cross space in a Mako through a Prothean built mass relay, so the day was full of surprises.
The geth were waiting again, and this is where my biotic colleagues came to the fore. Though we could still shoot them, Liara and Shiala took delight in simply lifting them and simply watching them float away into space. Quite a few geth went sailing over our heads harmlessly. Even the larger geth units, like the Primes and Juggernauts, were susceptible to simple biotic attacks such as those. The krogan were left for Wrex, our giant colleague effectively demanding they be left for him to deal with. Ashley and I assisted where required, but there was no doubt Wrex took great joy in pitting his wits against fellow warriors like himself.
Eventually I couldn’t be sure where we were exactly, simply moving ahead and battling whatever was in our way. The fact we kept meeting geth and krogan to kill suggested we were walking in the right direction, and the further we progressed, the heavier the enemy presence. None of us had a clue where Saren was, but I figured he was near the master control unit Vigil had told us about, and putting two and two together, it was no doubt somewhere in the Council chamber.
Shiala was the first one to go down. Not dead, but she was definitely injured and out of the fight. Looking across my team, I knew we couldn’t just leave her behind. I had no idea if the Normandy was close. We’d tried our radios but all we received was static, Garrus suggesting Saren would have blocked our communication.
“I can keep up,” Shiala stated through gritted teeth. Liara slapped some medi-gel on the wound, but even that didn’t seem to work. Her commando leathers were torn up completely.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I’m not being left behind, Shepard. And I’m not planning on dying just yet.”
“Okay… Keep in front of Garrus. If you fall behind him, you’ll have to fall back to a safer area. We can’t get spread out.”
She nodded, face grim. I knew she was in immense pain but now was not the time for empathy. The mission was the most important thing.
Turning and leading, the next few geth paid the price for wounding one of my colleagues. We were facing ever more enormous geth units, figuring Saren would have ordered these to remain behind to be one of the final lines of defence. A couple of geth dropships proved to be a real nuisance. Noticing inactive turrets nearby, I had Tali get those working, Ashley and I defending her as the little quarian got to work. She had two working in quick succession, the turrets firing enough to chase one of the dropships away. After getting all four working, the second dropship simply exploded under fire. The wreckage collapsed onto the side of the Citadel, wiping out many more geth units.
We ran into more turrets after moving only a couple of hundred metres, but these ones were not friendly, firing upon us immediately. A blast landed near Garrus, sending him end over end. I heard him cry out though added quickly he was fine, just slapping medi-gel onto a wound. He got to his feet but was clearly hobbling. I ordered him into cover before asking Tali to start hacking anything geth. As she got to work, the rest of us focused on the geth first before we’d worry about the turrets.
I’ll admit, this was probably the hardest part of any mission. Even Virmire hadn’t proven as death-defying. More than once, a shot from one of the turrets came too close for comfort, but once Tali somehow managed to hack one of them, we slowly whittled down geth numbers before she hacked a second turret, with our two hacked turrets firing at the others. Ours blew up first, but a few grenades finished off the others quickly.
We were now all exhausted, and in addition to Garrus and Shiala, all of us except Tali were now covering minor wounds, covered in dirt, blood and sweat. After taking down another pair of krogan, Wrex taking a major wound for his troubles, doing nothing more than fuelling his blood rage, which he thankfully managed to keep a lid on, a check of the schematics suggested a nearby hatch was our way into the Council chamber.
Slipping inside quietly, the level of destruction equalled that we’d seen on the Presidium below us. Fires raged as the sirens were almost deafening in the confined space. Making it to the courtyard, a few geth units seemed to be the last line of defence. We took those out as quickly and as quietly as possible before moving towards the podium I’d last stood on when the Council had tried and almost succeeded in grounding me.
Saren was busy doing something but seemed to sense our presence, immediately disappearing for a moment before dodging out of cover on that hover-board he’d been riding on Virmire, throwing a grenade in our direction. We split up as it exploded behind us.
“I was afraid you wouldn’t make it in time, Shepard.”
I wasn’t sure if he was being condescending, sarcastic or actually rather serious. I glanced around cover to see him standing rather still on his hover-board, pistol aimed in my direction. Remaining in cover, I looked around to see everyone was okay behind cover. Shiala met my eyes and I could see she was in agony. “You okay?” I mouthed. She grimaced but nodded. She was stronger than I could ever give her credit for. I found Garrus and knew him leaping into cover would have hurt. He met my eyes and simply nodded.
“Killing geth takes time, Saren. Shame you had such useless allies.”
“You’ve lost, you know that, don’t you? In a few minutes, Sovereign will have full control of all the Citadel’s systems. They relay will open. The Reapers will return.”
I chanced a peek. Surprisingly, he didn’t fire. He was now more metal than turian. He hadn’t looked completely turian the first time I’d seen him but the changes since Virmire were obvious. “I’m not done yet, Saren. Either get out of my way or be destroyed before I stop the Reapers.”
Glancing around, I noticed one or two get ready to move. Wrex stood but Saren fired quickly, forcing the krogan back down. He roared with disapproval. “Shepard,” he growled.
“Working on it,” I muttered. Chancing another peek, Saren was focused on me again.
“You survived our encounter on Virmire, Shepard. I’ll give you credit for that. But I’ve changed since them. Improved. Sovereign has upgraded me.” My laughter rang around the chamber. What an absolutely fucking idiot. I told him that as well. He didn’t approve, firing near my position, though all that made me do was crouch a little smaller, hearing mass effect rounds whistle past my ear. “In a way, I suppose I should thank you, Shepard. After Virmire, I could stop thinking about what you said. About Sovereign manipulating me. About indoctrination. And, I’ll admit, the doubts began to eat away at me. Yet Sovereign sensed my hesitation. I was implanted to strengthen my resolve. And now my doubts are gone. I believe in Sovereign completely. I understand that the Reapers need organics. Join us, and Sovereign will find a place for you, too.”
“Vigil spoke of this,” Liara hissed quietly, “Those who were indoctrinated were used during the slaughter, then left to die afterwards.” I met her eyes and nodded. I wasn’t going to listen to his devil for much longer anyway.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Saren, how can you not see that with the implants you’re simply a slave to Sovereign? You’re being controlled by the Reapers. You don’t have any choice.”
“No, no, no, Shepard. You’re once again failing to understand. The relationship is symbiotic. Organic and machine intertwined, a union of flesh and steel. The strength of both, the weaknesses of neither. I am a vision of the future, Shepard. The evolution of all organic life. This is our destiny. Join Sovereign and experience a true rebirth.”
I glanced at Liara. “Vigil?” I mouthed. She nodded immediately. Might as well let him know the full truth. “We spoke to Vigil on Ilos too, Saren. Learned a few home truths that perhaps Sovereign hasn’t told you about. The Reapers don’t just use organics; they indoctrinate them to further their cause. They devour everything that makes us… us, then discard us like tomorrows garbage. As soon as their conquest is complete, you’ll be case aside. A mindless husk, left to wither and die like all those you turned your back on.”
“I had no choice!” Saren cried, and I knew my words were getting to him, “You saw the visions, Shepard. Yet I saw them much earlier than you, and I’ve lived with it every day since. But you saw what happened to the Protheans, and think of how much stronger they were than us. It is either surrender or death, Shepard. There are no other options.”
“You forgot the third option, Saren. We fight. We fight until we do die, or until we win. Yet you took the cowards way out. You turned your back on the galaxy, your people, the Council, the Spectres. You surrendered before the fight had even begun. You quit before you’d even gained a sweat. You’ll go down in history as nothing but a traitor and a fucking coward, Saren. So fuck you. Fuck the Reapers. And fuck anyone who gets in my way.”
I stood up out of cover and stepped forward, rifle hanging to my side. I met his eyes and somehow, I don’t know how, but my words were working. I could see the conflict in him. Sovereign was powerful, but to his credit, Saren was fighting whatever was in his mind. He collapsed to his knees as he cried out in pain. He met my eyes again and, for the first time, they were clear. Like meeting the eyes of my turian friend, Garrus Vakarian. “Shepard… He’s too powerful…” he moaned, holding his head in his hands.
I stepped forward, realising I was on the verge of ending it. “You know what to do, Saren. Make your last act heroic. I’ve read your file. Sure, you’ve done some nasty shit in your life, but you’ve also done what was right numerous times. What will the cost be this time? One life? Or the trillions of innocents?”
He cried out again, pain no doubt surging through his body. It was obvious Sovereign was nearly in full control of the turian, just like Benezia had been under the control of him and Sovereign. But there was a small window into his mind, just enough that was alive enough to communicate with me. He looked up, his eyes still clear. Meeting mine, he nodded. I took the pistol from my holster and stepped forward, handing it to him. “You know what to do, Saren. I’ll ensure everyone knows what you did at this moment. But…”
“I know, Shepard. But thank you.”
“You’re still a bastard though.”
The bark of a laugh reminded me of Garrus. Completely turian. “You were a worthy opponent, Shepard.” He met my eyes. “And I am sincere. At this moment, I die free.” And with those words, he put the pistol to his chin and blew his brains out. I watched the blue blood spatter before his body collapsed to the bottom of the hover-board, which then tipped and dropped his body far below us.
Walking to the same master control unit he’d been working at, I uploaded the data file and took control of all systems. The first thing to do was unblock communication and open the arms of the Citadel. I knew Sovereign was close by, but after my last communication with the Normandy, I was confident Joker would now surely be close enough to have joined up with an Alliance fleet.
Opening the communications channel, we heard a mayday from the Destiny Ascension. They had the Council on board, but they were also in trouble. Their engines were dead. Shields were failing. They were easy prey for the geth that hovered nearby.
“Normandy to Citadel. Normandy to the Citadel. Please tell me that’s you, Commander.”
“Who else would it be, Joker?”
“We caught that distress call, Commander. I’m sitting here in the Adura sector with the entire Arcturus fleet. We can save the Ascension. Just unlock the relays around the Citadel and we’ll send the cavalry in!”
Everyone gave an opinion. Wrex suggested sacrificing the Council. Surprisingly, Garrus agreed, though the pragmatic course would be to save the entire fleet for Sovereign. Liara and a now flagging Shiala agreed on saving the Council. Ashley actually agreed, seeing the bigger picture if we let them die. Tali admitted she didn’t care about the Council but suggested saving them would be politically expedient. I almost smirked.
I glanced over my team. “There are ten thousand souls on the Destiny Ascension, not just the lives of the three councillors. We can save the ship while keeping enough in reserve to take down Sovereign. And Tali is right. Politically, it will be a good move for humanity. But it’s also the right thing to do.”
“It’s your show, Shepard,” Wrex muttered. He probably didn’t really care, but I knew would have had no love for the Council. Garrus agreed, admitting it was probably the right but not most pragmatic course. He was thinking like a turian. Victory, whatever the cost. I could see his point, most of the time, but this time, doing the right thing was best.
“Joker, this is Commander Shepard. Send word out. Save the Destiny Ascension.”
“Aye-aye, Commander. We will be through the relay in two minutes.”
“Hope we get thanks for this, Commander,” Ashley muttered. I knew what she meant, meeting her eye and nodding.
We were now bystanders, comm lines opened as we could hear the arrival of the fleet. “Alliance ships move in. Save the Destiny Ascension!”
Hackett knew as well as I did that a lot of men and women were going to die saving it. But I knew, in my heart, it was the right thing. Part of me knew that letting the ship burn was the best option. But ten thousand people were on that ship. And the Destiny Ascension itself was a magnificent craft. Keeping the ship intact was a smart move.
“Commander, we’re picking up reinforcements!”
“It’s the Alliance! Thank the Goddess!”
Over the radios, we could hear the fight. There was no doubt the Alliance paid a heavy price to save the ship. But the geth took a battering in addition. It was a short, sharp fight, lasting no more than half an hour. We heard more than one mayday during that time, and I knew we’d lost ships. Ashley met my eyes more than once. At heart, she knew I’d made the right call, but hearing our fellow men and women in uniform dying… Even the hardest of hearts would not always understand.
“Destiny Ascension, you are all clear. Repeat, you are all clear. Withdraw to the rallying point, you will have cover.”
“Thank you, Alliance. Thank you, Commander Shepard. We will withdraw. May the Goddess be with you.” I recognised the voice immediately. Councillor Tevos. I now had an ally on the Council. In fact, I probably had three simply because I’d saved them.
“The Citadel’s opening. All ships, this is a direct order from Admiral Hackett. Move in! Concentrate on Sovereign!”
Even in the tower where we were, with Sovereign sat above us, we could actually hear the fight outside. We heard more than one radio call, of people screaming, of people dying. I hung my head, wondering if I’d made the right choice. I felt a hand on both shoulders, glancing to see Ashley to one side, Liara to the other. I wondered if my choice had just cost us victory.
Looking down, that’s when I noticed Saren lying there. “Wrex, Garrus, Ashley. Make sure he’s dead.” I didn’t hear anything until a couple of gunshots echoed around the chamber.
“Yeah, he’s dead now,” Wrex grumbled. I had no doubt he took pleasure in putting a few bullets in the body of the turian.
Then something happened. The entire chamber seemed to shake. Looking down, the body of Saren seemed to transform, glowing red electrical currents sweeping through his body. Before I could move nor say anything, the platform I was standing on gave way, sending me arse over head onto the ground below. I managed to regain my footing quickly, and the thing that stood before me was no longer Saren. The turian was now well and truly dead. Whatever stood before me… was more machine than organic.
“I am Sovereign! And this station is mine!”
“Like hell it is!” I roared, opening up immediately as the body of Saren or whatever it was leapt out of the way faster than imagined. Everyone was quickly into cover, those above joining us where we were. “Kill this fucking thing!”
Biotics, tech attacks, bullets. Everything opened up. But Sovereign, as it was clearly now directing Saren, the turian no longer in control, was incredibly strong. Tali went down first, hearing Ashley cry out. I ignored everything, my eyes and my rifle aimed only for the enemy. Garrus went down again, this time taking a shot into his chest. He yelled out he was okay, but was out of the fight. Our numbers were dwindling, but we somehow, we were also gaining the upper hand. My two biotic colleagues worked wonders as Wrex got in close, almost hand to hand combat with the body of the turian.
“Fuck you, turian fucking cunt,” Wrex roared. I almost laughed in appreciation at the use of his curses. Learned from me, obviously.
“Sovereign’s too strong! We have to pull back!”
“Negative! This is our only chance!” I didn’t believe, but thank god for Admiral Hackett. “Take that monster down, no matter the cost!”
Then the body of Sovereign seemed to change again. “Liara!”
“Is it possible Sovereign has somehow transferred itself into Saren?”
I glanced to see her look. More red electrical current. “Yes, Shepard. No doubt Sovereign believes defeating us here will mean victory. Beat us, it can open the relays, then the cycle will begin.”
“Well, I think killing it here and now would be best, right?”
We stepped out of cover, even those of us injured, and we simply laid waste to it. It was clearly no longer Saren. It was an indoctrinated monster. It might have had speed. It might have had power, as whatever it fired in our direction, I certainly didn’t want to be shot by it. But we had the numbers, and we were pretty pissed off. And we were definitely not going to let the cunt win.
It took a long time. We all took wounds. My left shoulder was left bleeding, almost useless. I took another shot in the leg. But Sovereign, or whatever it was, didn’t win. We did. I had the pleasure of taking the last shot as the body of Saren hit the ground, limping forward to put a bullet into its head again. This time, it didn’t get up. This time, the body seemed to just disappear into nothing. Saren or Sovereign, neither seemed to exist.
We could hear a loud screech above us, though we could see little of the outside, but surely if we’d eliminated Saren and Sovereign in here, we now…
“It’s shields are down! Now’s our chance!”
Trust Joker to be in the thick of the action! And that meant the Normandy was still alive.
“Hit it with everything we’ve got!” Hackett ordered.
“Hard on my flank. We’re going in!” Joker reported.
We never heard all the firepower that was sent in the direction of Sovereign, nor the final shot that killed the Reaper, once and for all. All we knew is that it was destroyed when its parts were spread across the Citadel, including a giant piece of one of its arms that went fired in the direction of where we all were. I heard the breaking of glass, turning back and simply ordering everyone to go before I looked up. If I was going to die, then it would be a good death. The Council was saved. The Reapers had been stopped.
And I would be with Annie once again.
I wasn’t dead. Somehow, I’m still not sure how, we all survived. The remnants of Sovereign near enough killed the lot of us, only blind luck saving us in the end. I staggered out of the ruins, bloodied, battered, bruised. Shiala was in dire need of medical attention, C-Sec finally showing up, whisking her, Tali and Garrus off straight away for attention. The rest had figured I was dead, Liara unable to hide her emotion, while even Wrex could only bellow with laughter before I found myself hugged nearly to death.
We all ended up being taken to hospital. My left arm was hanging on by a thread, only medi-gel numbing the pain. Anderson had shown up in the immediate aftermath, clearing a path for us so we could be taken for treatment. We could only look around at the five arms and see the utter destruction. No matter what, the galaxy had changed forever.
It took a week for the madness to die down. I kept abreast of events by watching the news. The Council and Destiny Ascension made a triumphant return to the Citadel. I couldn’t help smile when they were quick in their praise of the Alliance. They admitted that perhaps it was time to recognise all the contributions we had made since our arrival. We didn’t just have strength on our side, we’d proven ready and willing to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good. Adding that we’d stopped a threat that would have ended our existence certainly helped.
Two weeks after the Battle of the Citadel, as that is what it would be known, there was a ceremony. Not in the Council chambers, still to be reconstructed, but in front of the masses. It was there that humanity found itself accepted as the fourth member of the Citadel Council. And, for some reason, they wanted my input as to who the Council member of humanity would be.
I could have elected Captain Anderson as a middle finger to Ambassador Udina, but I knew Anderson needed to be back out in the fight, not stuck in an office on the Citadel. But like hell I was going to nominate Udina after his shenanigans prior to Ilos. So I suggested the Alliance parliament should nominate a Council member. That made the three of them agreeable, noticing I chose probably the best course of action.
“And what do you plan on doing, Commander?” Tevos asked.
“This isn’t over, councillors. Sovereign was simply the vanguard. Saren and Sovereign might be defeated, but the Reapers are still out there in dark space, ready to arrive. There is still work to do, and if the Reapers think I’ll forget about them, they’re going to learn quickly that I have a long memory. I suggest, to all of you, that we prepare for their arrival. This is just the beginning…”
Of course, I should have known better. But that is a story for another time.
Instead, I returned to the Normandy as a hero. Awards were handed out left, right and centre. Joker begrudgingly accepted one of the highest awards given by the Alliance. Chief Ashley Williams was finally given a promotion and a possible route towards becoming an officer. Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko was posthumously awarded numerous medals, not just by the Alliance, but by the salarians, turians and asari. And I found myself with at least a half a dozen new medals on my chest at the same time.
But with the battle over, I thought some would have moved on to different things. But even Wrex decided they’d hang around for the time being. Tali could have headed back, but aware of the relationship with Ashley, she would not return for the foreseeable future. As for Benezia, admitting that she was probably safer with me than anywhere else, she would remain by my side and with her daughter. Now that Saren and Sovereign were dead, she felt the lingering effects of indoctrination wearing off somewhat. She still struggled at times, but she felt her mind freeing itself every day.
And, of course, there was the celebration. The Citadel was still a mess. Thousands had died, not just on the station, but the Alliance had taken losses. But we’d still managed to defeat an incredible enemy. Once I was out of hospital, I found myself propositioned constantly. I was fairly sure even Councillor Tevos was flirting with me at one stage. Emily Wong grabbed me for an interview, and that night, we fucked like never before. How she didn’t end up pregnant after that night, despite all the precaution she took, I’ll never know. It must have lasted at least twelve hours, sending her to work the next morning exhausted and very sore, watching her hobble towards the elevator of her apartment building as I stood naked in the doorway.
Gianna took a shuttle to the Citadel so we could meet up. There is nothing like having your cock sucked by a woman you feel great affection for as you look out over the Presidium. After she took a load in her mouth, we made love or fucked for three days solid. She was the first woman since Annie to say she loved me. Her feelings were not a surprise. I tried to say them back. I really did like her. I mean, I liked her perhaps more than most of the women I’d been with. But something held me back. Somehow, she understood. I’d probably never understand her really. But she loved me, and we enjoyed every second we were together. When she finally had to return to Noveria, her tears were no surprise before she hugged me tightly. I promised her I would see her again soon.
Then there the women on the Normandy. Ashley wasted no time getting her hands on me. We fucked. We fucked in my bedroom. We fucked down in the loading bay. I had her naked on the bench as I fucked her. We fucked in the bathroom. We fucked around the Citadel. Tali was sometimes involved when possible, but she was understanding too, knowing Ashley wanted my cock, and sometimes, she wanted it badly. I was also intimate with Tali, but that did take time and preparation, but she also took some deep dicking, sometimes alone, sometimes with Ashley present. Occasionally, they’d put on a show for me, and I enjoyed watching them eat each other out. They were certainly very good at it.
Tali surprised me by stating she would remain with me until the Reaper threat was at an end. That didn’t only put a smile on my face. Ashley was delighted. The two were now very much in love, and I’ll admit, slightly surprised that Ashley was now smitten and deeply in love with a non-human. She hadn’t been anything but honest originally, understanding why she was hesitant about inviting non-humans on board originally, but I don’t think anyone would have expected the relationship that had blossomed between the pair. Neither had shown any sort of inclination towards same sex relationships but… well, there we have it. They couldn’t be physically intimate all the time, but they spent nearly every moment when not working together. It was incredibly cute to watch at times, particularly as Ashley was an Alliance soldier at her core, but watching her drop those barriers with Tali…
But if I enjoyed time with the above, Shiala and Liara was something else entirely. Once we were all out of hospital, I enjoyed more than one threesome with the pair. In fact, I think they had discussed and agreed that I would only ever enjoy them together. I licked, ate and fucked so much asari pussy, it would have made my head spin. They loved nothing more than sitting on their knees, side by side, sucking my cock. They’d happily put on shows for me, watching them eat each other out. Both of them went so far as to want me in their arse. Shiala was eager for it. Liara was more hesitant, but after Shiala got her ready, she was begging for my cock. Soon, I was fucking all three holes on both of them regularly.
Then there was Benezia. I thought she would have disappeared once all was settled, but she wanted to remain by my side, admitting she had feelings for me. Not love, but she respected me completely, and wanted to help. Now that Saren and Sovereign were dead, she was confident that she could now be an ally going forward. I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity of having an asari matriarch as part of my team. No-one seemed to mind otherwise so I agreed.
I fucked her as much as anyone. Then there was the night mother and daughter walked into my bedroom, admitting they were intrigued as to how it would all work. It didn’t get weird; I’ll say that straight away. But mother and daughter certainly enjoyed the night with Commander Shepard. We enjoyed plenty of orgasms together and both asari were fucked well that evening. After that first time together, it became a regular thing, enough that Shiala gave into temptation and joined us. Considering she wasn’t related to Benezia, it didn’t take long until one asari could pleasure another while I could simply fuck or have my cock sucked by another. Watching Shiala eat out Benezia, or vice versa, was incredibly erotic. Even Liara found it exciting. Neither Benezia nor Liara crossed that border, but their relationship had clearly healed, and when I was being intimate with any of them, the words of love and affection were beautiful. By the end, even Shiala had forgiven Benezia completely. The day they day kissed and made up, holding each other tightly, Liara simply wept, now believing her mother was completely free, while Shiala had dealt with her personal demons. She still spoke of returning to Feros, but likely everyone else, she would remain by my side until the Reaper threat was ended.
Despite all this, I still remembered Annie. Despite the humans, asari and quarians I was intimate with. Despite the fact I was now a galactic hero, feted across numerous systems and world. Despite all the medals I could now place on my chest. Despite everything, I still missed her every day. Our photo still sat next my bed. I’d never remove it. All the women I was intimate in my bedroom on the Normandy with understood and never questioned. I’d told all of them everything, the whole truth. I think that simply made them like me even more.
“Hold onto those memories,” Benezia whispered into my ear one night, her to my right side, Liara and Shiala to my left, “They will get you through whatever the galaxy will throw at us next.”
“You speak from experience?”
“Of course, Shepard. I have centuries of life behind me. I’ve felt every emotion possible. I know what it feels like to lose someone you love. But I remember every single one. Carry them in your heart. Fight in their name. When you are finally victorious, one that final battle is finally complete, then perhaps you can lay that memory to rest.”
“Even now, I’m not sure…”
I felt her place a hand on my chest. “I understand, Shepard. A love like that is nearly irreplaceable. And it doesn’t matter if you were only together a few days, weeks, months, years, decades or centuries. The heart just… knows. It’s what makes organics beautiful. The fact we can fall in love so easily. We can give ourselves to someone within moments. That is how you felt about her, yes?” I nodded, feeling tears prick at my eyes. Benezia had always somehow understood. “I would ask to meld, so I could understand, but…”
“I shouldn’t do this without…”
Liara and Shiala woke up. Benezia explained what was going to happen. Once they understood, I told Liara and Shiala I would do the same with her next. I had melded with both of them before, but that had been only to learn what the beacons had to tell me. I’d kept myself shut off. Now they would know all about me.
Benezia slid down my cock, settling herself down, before she began the melding process. I opened my mind to her. As much as she learned about me, firstly she let me know about her. In addition to being utterly beautiful, with a self-confidence I’d rarely seen and an intelligence that made me felt stupid at times, there was a wisdom I could only hope to one day achieve. But there was also no end of heartache, pain and regret. I didn’t feel sorry for her, that’s not what she wanted as we melded. But I definitely gained new understanding. Once I learned about her, she searched my mind, and I let her discover many of my secrets. She knew everything by the end.
Once she broke the meld, her cheeks were wet with tears as she rode me. She’d already enjoyed a couple of orgasms, kissing me hard, resting her forehead against mine. She tried to say something but couldn’t get the words out. Shiala sat on her knees by her side, kissing her cheek. “We all feel the same, my lady.”
“I’m sorry,” Benezia choked out softly.
“Don’t be. Your actions brought us here. You now enjoy him like we do.” She put her lips close to her ear. “Enjoy him further, my lady.”
Benezia certainly did, eventually arching her back and crying out, her orgasm ripping through her entire body. As she did that, I blasted one of the best loads I’d ever felt deep inside her. The connection had broken mentally, but physically, we were still joined. Benezia collapsed onto my chest in flood of tears, enough that it almost got me going. She mumbled a few things which all of us, even Liara, simply shushed her about, assuring her it was all okay. Saren was gone and she was now safe.
Shiala was next once I’d recovered. Like with Benezia, I completely freed my mind. I’d liked Shiala from the moment we’d met, so our joining was far happier than with Benezia. We simply learned about each other, now knowing what made us tick at heart. She broke the mould quickly so we could simply focus on the physical aspect. She ended up on her back as I made love to her. Her words of ‘I love you’ were not a surprise at all. I couldn’t return them. I knew I liked her immensely, much like Ashley and Tali, definitely like Gianna and Emily, but part of me just… couldn’t…
All she did was kiss me gently on the cheek and assure me that she understood why. All that mattered was that she was with me, and like all the others, she would remain by my side until the end. Only then would she return to Feros. Until then, her place was by my side.
Then Liara… She wept once she knew the truth. She didn’t know much about Annie. I’d told her bits and pieces but had never opened my mouth so she understood. Once she’d completely searched my mind and gained complete understanding, she broke the connection, stopped bouncing on my cock as she collapsed onto my chest in floods of tears. “I didn’t know,” she cried quietly.
“Sorry. I thought…”
“No, no,” she sobbed, “I’m glad I understand now. I understand everything.”
I held her, understanding why the fact all three of them had been so upset. Benezia explained that connecting in such a way let them understand not only my thoughts, but the emotions that came with those thoughts. Now that they knew what I felt in addition to what I remembered, it made then understand everything, absolutely everything, about my relationship, my history, what made me… me…
Just like Shiala, as I made love to Liara, she expressed her feelings for me too. Absolutely no surprise. Benezia smiled, approving of her words. Shiala lay by her side, running a hand down Liara’s chest, stating she’d have a fight on her hands. Liara smiled, simply meeting my eyes, stating I’d be worth the fight.
Sleeping that night with Benezia to one side, Liara and Shiala to the other, I felt like a king.
It was never going to last.
I’d admit that we’d been lucky throughout most of our battle against Saren and Sovereign. And luck is always bound to run out eventually. The Council had originally taken the Reaper threat seriously, but when they gave me new orders, to go searching for geth out in the Traverse, I was left wondering why. The geth had been practically defeated during our taking of the Armstrong Nebula and during the final battle. They certainly didn’t have the strength for a new offensive into Council Space.
But, what the Council wanted, the Council got, and I soon had orders to search the Traverse for remnants of geth, and to either annihilate or push their forces back beyond the Veil. I could have ignored them, of course. A Spectre could do what he or she wanted. But the Alliance agreed, and Admiral Hackett echoed the orders of the Council. Considering the somewhat close relationship we’d now established, despite having barely met, I couldn’t ignore it.
It was two months after events around the Citadel that we found ourselves on patrol in the Omega Nebula, having heard rumours of a geth presence in the system. We were currently flying through the Amada System, searching for any sign of the geth. I was growing frustrated at the lack of any real progress, and that was starting to affect my crew members. That was my fault, but they would keep working as long as I kept leading them. All of them now were beyond loyal to myself as the lone the human Spectre and Hero of the Citadel.
Joker was at the helm as always. Pressly was still my XO, despite recommending him for promotion. He didn’t mind, always insisting he would happily serve the Normandy and myself. Couldn’t ask for a better XO in all honesty. He was a good man. The ship was otherwise peaceful, even happy. Despite the frustration, the ship functioned as it should. The events of the Citadel were now behind us, there was now the next mission. At least that gave everyone focus.
I guess people wondered why we were in the Omega Nebula? Hackett had given us the news. Three ships had gone missing in the last month. It wasn’t the Reapers. They couldn’t blame piracy. There was something else out there that even gave the Council concern. Whether it was the Reapers or not, no-one was sure. Guess it was why I was sent to find out, right?
I had no idea what was coming. Working in my office, I had left Pressly in charge on the deck. I am in no way blaming him for what happened. No-one could have predicted… The first thing I knew something was wrong, Joker called over the radio to grab my attention. “Brace for evasive manoeuvres!”
After Saren and the Reapers, I now kept everything I needed nearby in case I needed to leave the ship immediately. Feeling the Normandy rocked by a blast, it took little time to assemble myself in armour, grabbing a weapon at the same time. Whatever ship was attacking us, it either wanted us destroy or would board us and attempt to do gods only knew what. Until then, I’d fight.
“Kinetic barriers down. Multiple hull breaches,” I heard Joker report. What he said would undoubtedly be true. We were only a frigate so we were already a sitting duck. The only thing we could do… “Weapons offline!” Yep, we were now fucked.
I felt our ship hit again and again as I made my way to the emergency beacon. If I couldn’t get that away, no-one would know what was happening. The ship was on fire around me, making sure extinguishers eliminated some of the flames around me. I was almost knocked from my feet more than once. I heard the screams of some colleagues, stepping over more than one body. Whether they were alive or dead, I couldn’t be sure. I had to let the Alliance know at least…
The Normandy was falling apart around me. I had to reattach pipes before I could get the distress beacon activated. Behind me I heard footsteps over the explosions, glancing to see both Liara and Ashley behind me. Liara would simply be worried about me. Ashley would want orders from her CO, though I knew she could have done the right thing without me.
They both seemed to realise what I was doing. “Will the Alliance get here in time?” Ashley asked. Smart girl, helmet already on, weapons at her back, ready to fight if necessary. Glancing at Liara, her faceplate was clear. The fear in her eyes…
Both lost their footing as another shot crashed into our ship. I caught them both at the same time. “The Alliance won’t abandon us. We just need to hold on. Get everyone to the escape shuttles.”
“Joker’s still in the cockpit,” Ashley reported.
“And I’m not leaving either,” Liara added.
I grabbed a fire extinguisher as flames seemed to surround us. I didn’t answer at first, focusing on putting those out before anything else. I knew the Normandy was already doomed. All we could do was save everyone then wonder who the fuck was firing at us.
“Chief Williams, I need you to get the crew onto the evac shuttles. I’ll take care of Joker.” She looked up, seeing her eyes behind the tinted glass. “That’s an order, Chief.”
The place was now falling apart. The beacon wouldn’t go without reconnecting the link. Ashley made to walk away but turned back as Liara wouldn’t leave. “Shepard…”
I looked at my asari lover. “Liara. Go. Now. Ashley, take her. Get off the ship.”
“Aye-aye, Shepard,” Ashley stated. The emotion in her voice at that moment… She knew… She knew…
Reconnecting the link, the screen reappeared that would allow me to fire the beacon. Slamming the console, the VI reported the beacon was away. The Alliance wouldn’t arrive in time to save us. Not a chance in hell. But they’d save most of the crew at least. The Normandy was dead though. I was realistic enough to know that. Hell of a way to end my first command.
The VI reported that escape pods had fired with crew on board. I could only hope they would now be safe from whatever was attacking us. I stepped over the bodies of the fallen, shaking my head, cursing our bad luck. We’d survived Saren and Sovereign, but now they were dead for… what? The engines were now failing. Explosions continued to rip through the Normandy. None of us had long left. I could hear Joker through my ear piece, the desperation in his voice clear.
When I stepped out into what was the CIC, I couldn’t help stop and look. The roof had disappeared, leaving a somewhat beautiful view of space and the nearby planet. Only the ship’s gravity and shields kept me from floating into space, making sure my magnetic boots were also working. Ahead, I could see Joker behind a kinetic barrier, only that preventing him from being suffocated by space. The ship was a sitting duck. We had to get off quickly.
Stepping into the somewhat safe zone, I immediately recognised the body of Pressly on the ground. I checked for a pulse and dropped my head for a moment. The gaping hole in his stomach suggested he had died instantly. Another body lay nearby. I recognised her as Ensign Caroline Grenado. Always very friendly and bloody good at her job. She had a significant head wound. Another check told me what I needed to know.
“Come on, Joker. We need to get out of here.”
He glanced back, a sigh of relief that he had his own helmet fixed. “No. I won’t abandon the Normandy. I can still save her!”
At that moment, I respected the hell out of my helmsman, willing to go down with his ship. A reminder of sailors from centuries past who would go down with their ship, no matter the cost. But we no longer lived in those days, and sacrificing his life was a futile gesture.
I grabbed his upper arm, making him look at me. “Joker, the Normandy is lost.” He stared at me. “Going down with the ship won’t change that.”
He gave it a moments thought before he sighed, nodding his head. “Okay… Can you help me up?” Before I could lift him up, he reported the unknown ship was coming around for another attack, looking back to see the sheer the cockpit practically away from the rest of the ship. Knowing we had little time, I lifted Joker out of his seat and practically dragged him to the nearest escape pod. Sitting him down and ensuring he was secure, the ship was rocked by another explosion, which slapped me back against the wall. I already knew the score.
I smacked the button that closed the hatch that allowed the pod to escape, watching it fire before I was hit by another shockwave, floating through the remains of the CIC. I already knew my fate but couldn’t help but marvel at the destruction. Whatever had done this had my respect, though I thought they could go fuck themselves at the same time. Bastards ruining my ship and all…
The ship exploded into pieces as I watched, hanging my head for a moment. Never would have believed my command would end in such a manner. I then calmed myself. I was in a hard suit. I had plenty of air. All I would need to do was contact…
Yeah, not going to happen. An alarm sounded, warning that pressure and air in my suit was running low. A hose had disconnected behind me. I grabbed to reconnect it, but doing it blind was nearly impossible. With each passing second, I was losing air and pressure. I felt my mind start to drift, breathing started to become difficult. Before I knew, I was passing out…
What a bitch of a way to die…
But… finally... finally, after all the false starts and facing near death too many times to count… I would be with Annie again.