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Shepard collapsing seemed as impossible as a sun going dark. Still, when the missile from the Blood Pack mercenary had struck her she’d fallen. The mercenary had been on a platform above, and none of them had noticed. She'd risen from cover after dispatching the last mercenary on the ground floor when the missile had struck her.

 

Her body had flung to the ground, skidding across the floor.

 

One quick, well-placed shot from Thane had taken down the mercenary before he rushed to her side. She hadn't moved, hadn't even twitched.

 

Thane had seen so so much death in his life, so many pass to the ocean that prayers for them were almost routine, now.

 

Nothing was routine as his knees hit the ground beside her. Blood leaked from her lips as blue and purple spanned across her face.

 

He pressed his fingers to her pulse. The shallow thud told him she lived. Barely.

 

He pulled medi-gel from her armor, but he had no idea where to apply it to. It helped with bullet wounds, with specific injuries. She was broken all over.

 

"Is she breathing?" Grunt stood above them, lips peeled back to show his blunt teeth. His eyes didn't rest on Shepard, scanning for potential threats.

 

"Yes, but not well." Thane unfastened her chest armor. Given the blood from her mouth, the injury had to be near her lungs. He didn't take the armor off entirely; That would be too dangerous in the field. Instead, he smeared the medi-gel on his fingers and shoved his hand inside her armor and shirt to apply the gel to her chest and ribs. It wouldn't be enough, but it would buy her time.

 

"If we want her to live, we need to get her back to the ship."

 

Thane nodded, removing his hand from her armor and then refastening it. "Yes. You carry her. You'll move faster when holding her."

 

Grunt leaned down and grasped her, hefting her up and over his shoulder. Thane would have rather she be carried with more care, but he understood. Grunt needed a hand to fight in the event they ran into trouble. Besides, they were only ten minutes out from the Normandy, at most. No additional measurable damage would be done in that time, and being faster would matter more than anything else.

 

The ring of gunfire had Thane turning. Another wave of mercenaries showed, taking point across the cleared space.

 

Grunt released a low growl as he reached for his shotgun.

 

"No. Get her back to the Normandy."

 

"They'll tear us apart if we try to turn and run."

 

Thane retrieved his sniper rifle from his back. "We will not run. You will."

 

"Krogan don't run."

 

"Shepard needs medical care now. She can't wait while we clear them. I'll hold this position while you get her back." He gave himself a moment while the mercenaries prepared themselves.

 

He moved to the back of Grunt, to where Shepard's head hung limp against his back. She'd never looked so fragile.

 

Thane pressed his forehead against hers, dipping down to manage it, then whispered to her. "I do not like to leave you, Siha, but I will hold the line for you. And if either of us falls, I'll see you again across the sea." He pressed a kiss to her cheek, chaste as they'd not passed friends, yet. He pulled away before taking position behind cover. 

 

"I will not-"

 

"-You will. Go, now, before you get us all killed."

 

A vicious growl from Grunt before the echoes of his footsteps told Thane he'd done as told.

 

Thane rested his rifle on the barrier he used for cover, ready to do whatever it took to hold the line.

 

 

#

 

Hours later, Thane sat beside the med-bay bed. Shepard had not regained consciousness. The doctor had treated her. Broken ribs, punctured lungs, so many bruises.

 

She looked more like a broken doll than the Commander Shepard he'd grown used to.

 

His injuries were minimal in comparison. A few grazed bullets, burns, and bruises. Dr. Chakwas had ordered him to rest but given up when he'd refused to leave.

 

Instead, he watched over Shepard.

 

Others came to check on her. Joker had limped in, one of the few times Thane had seen him out of the cockpit. He shuffled, but that hadn't hidden the pilot’s cockiness or his worry.

 

"She saved me," Joker said.

 

"She saves many people, it seems."

 

He'd stood by her bed before grasping her hand in a tight grasp. "She pulled me off the last Normandy when I was being stubborn and wouldn't leave. She hauled me out and threw my ass in an escape pod."

 

After Joker, Garrus had come. He'd talked about when she'd saved him on Omega, how she'd fought three bands of mercenaries to get him free.

 

Person after person came, recounting the ways Shepard had taken care of them all. They all left with the same message: that they needed her.

 

It was deep into the night by the time the visitors stopped. A few had offered to stay with her, to give him a break, but he'd refused. He'd go nowhere until she woke back up.

 

He approached the bed, taking her hand as Joker had. He leaned in, his forehead to hers. He whispered to her, his own admittance, his own plea for her to recover. "You must wake up, Siha. Not to fight the Reapers, not for some mission, but because I haven’t told you something. I should have never let fear rule me, let it turn me into a coward. Come back, and I will tell you, I promise.”

 

She said nothing back, showed no sign of awareness, so he kept hold of her hand and took the seat again.

 

He would wait forever if that was what it took.

 

#

 

Shepard woke up to bright lights. Her quarters were dim since she slept only with the blue glow of the aquarium. It meant she hadn't fallen asleep in her quarters.

 

She was far too old for one night stands, for waking up of not remembering where she'd spent the night.

 

Still, the room came into focus. The med-bay? She lifted her head enough to peer down at her body. A bandage around her chest covered her, though the skin above and below it ranged from blue to black. A few greens and purples thrown in for good measure.

 

Slowly, it came back to her. She'd been clearing the Blood Pack's base when she'd gotten hit with a missile.

 

Everything after that initial hit was fuzzy. She recalled voices. Not fully awake, but just whispers. Joker. Garrus. Jack. So many whispers.

 

She twisted her head, frowning when she caught sight of green scales.

 

Thane sat in a chair beside her bed, his head forward and resting against her bed. His face was lax in sleep, a strange look. He was always so pensive, guarded, sure and yet unsure at the same time.

 

Stranger still? His hand was wrapped around hers, his fused fingers slid between two of hers. The touch was intimate, sweet. She and Thane had grown closer, and she'd be lying if she didn't admit she’d hoped it might go that direction, but he'd shown no real interest in her beyond friendship.

 

She tried to speak, but the dryness of her throat caused her to croak more than speak. She swallowed the bit of saliva in her mouth to help, then tried again. "Thane?"

 

He jerked upright, eyes jerking side to side as he took in the room. Another moment and he locked those eyes on her. "Shepard? You're awake. How do you feel?"

 

"Please tell me someone killed the asshole with the missile launcher."

 

"Yes."

 

"Good. Whoever it was I'm buying dinner for." She shifted back so she could sit up.

 

Thane pressed a hand to her shoulder. "Stay flat until the doctor clears you, please."

 

"Have you been here the whole time?"

 

He looked down at where his other hand was still around hers. He extracted it with a slow tug. "I shall go find the doctor and bring you whatever food or drink she allows."

 

He left in a rush, leaving Shepard to frown.

 

At least until Garrus walked in. "Decided to stop sleeping on the job, Shep?"

 

"Well, I needed some scars to match yours."

 

When she went to sit up again, Garrus set a hand behind her to help her. "Sorry, but humans don't wear their scars as well as I do."

 

"How long was I out?"

 

"Over a day. We weren't sure you'd pull through. I'd already put dibs on your quarters. Except for the hamster. Grunt wanted that."

 

"I didn't figure him for a pet owner."

 

"He said it looked delicious."

 

"If I die, please don't let grunt eat Thresher."

 

"You named your hamster after a thresher maw?"

 

"He has big aspirations. Reminds me a little of myself."

 

"Ah, well, in that case, he is my kind of friend. I'm glad I didn't have to take him in, though." Garrus went quiet for a moment, a rare hesitation. "You worried us."

 

She reached out and patted his arm. "You know nothing's taking me out."

 

"That's what I thought until I saw Grunt carrying you up over his shoulder. You and I have crawled through hell together, but I've never seen you like that."

 

"Grunt? Where was Thane?"

 

Garrus tilted his head. "No one's told you? More mercs showed up, and Thane stayed to hold the line so Grunt could get you back. He had to have taken out two dozen on his own before I could get there."

 

"Why would he do something so stupid?"

 

"Same reason he sat by your bed for the last twenty-four hours, I'd say."

 

Before she could respond, Dr. Chakwas came in.

 

"Well, I'll let you be. Good to see you up, Shep." Garrus squeezed her hand before leaving.

 

The doctor gave a quick examination. She undid the wrap at Shepard's chest, and the color beneath it was worse. By the time the doctors poking and prodding had ended, sweat covered Shepard's brow.

 

"So, I'll live?"

 

Dr. Chakwas handed her a cloth gown to slid on after redoing the bandage. "Yes."

 

"Well, I'm pretty hard to kill."

 

She turned, arms crossed. "I don't think you understand how close this was. Had Grunt taken another ten minutes to bring you back, you would have never made it."

 

"I remember people talking."

 

"You had many visitors. They were both encouraging you, and saying their goodbyes in case you didn't pull through. Make no mistakes, you almost died." She turned her back and went to the computer. "Thane is bringing water and soup for you."

 

"Garrus said Thane was here the whole time."

 

"Yes. I ordered him off at one point since he had his own wounds to worry about, but he is as difficult as you. I treated the injuries, no matter how he waved me off, but he refused to leave."

 

He'd been injured? She'd been on many missions with Thane, but he was never hurt. He was too fast, too good at avoiding strikes. He didn't allow enemies to box him in, so how had he gotten injured?

 

The door opened, and Thane walked in with water in one hand and a bowl of what she assumed to be soup in the other.

 

His gaze went first to Shepard, then moved to the doctor. "How is she?"

 

"Good. She can eat as much as she feels up to. It will be a few days before she should resume most activities, but by tomorrow she can move back to her own quarters." She moved away from the terminal. "I'll give you some privacy. If you need me, just let EDI know."

 

Thane approached the bed, frowning at Shepard. "I believe you were to stay laying down."

 

"Garrus helped me up."

 

"Of course he did." Thane first handed her the water, waiting until she finished drinking before he set the bowl in her lap. "He is a bad influence on you. Or you on him. I'm not entirely sure who is at fault."

 

Shepard took the first bite of soup as Thane took a seat beside the bed. "I heard you were hurt."

 

"It was nothing."

 

Shepard reached out with her free hand to catch his chin, tilting his head to find the discolored scales near his cheek. "I've seen you fight a lot, Thane. You never get hit. What happened?"

 

"I had to hold the line. Most I could take out from further away, but I couldn't pull back to a better position."

 

"Why not?"

 

"I needed to give Grunt the time." Even with his chin forcing his face toward hers, his gaze remained down. "Nothing else mattered."

 

She released him and finished her soup, the silence sitting in the room like another person. She sorted through the words in her memory, the ones people had offered while she'd laid there still.

 

I need you to wake up, Siha. Thane’s voice echoed in her head. I should have never let fear rule me, let it turn me into a coward. Come back, and I will tell you, I promise.

 

Thane took the bowl when it was empty, not exchanging any words, telling her he'd been paying attention.

 

He took his seat again afterward, and she noted he moved slowly. Sleeping in a chair could not be good for a person recovering from their own wounds.

 

"What were you going to tell me?"

 

He lifted his gaze. "What?"

 

"When I wasn't awake, you told me I needed to wake up so you could tell me something."

 

"Oh. I had not expected you to remember that."

 

"Are you welching on the deal?"

 

His lips pressed together before he nodded. "I wanted to tell you that. . . you matter to me. While I may be ill, and I have accepted I do not have much time left, I had never before worried about it. For the first time, when I saw your body, I realized I still care, that I have something still in this world that matters to me."

 

She said nothing while he spoke, each word coming out slow, as if he forced it from his throat, as if he discovered them at the same time she did.

 

"I'm not good at this, at admitting my weakness. After my wife, I had written off that part of my life. The more time I spend with you, the more I know about  you, the more we talk, the more I realize that part of my life may not be gone."

 

"I'm not trying to replace your wife."

 

"I know. You are different. We would be different. Still, I find the idea of facing my last months, my last days without you unacceptable."

 

“What are you saying?”

 

He took a deep breath before he took her hand in his, like he had when she'd woken. "What I am saying, Siha, is that I do not have much time left, but whatever time I have is yours."

 

She looked down at where their fingers laced together, and thought this might just have been worth waking up for.