One Small Word

Posted: March 13, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction, We've Got Your Back
Tags: , , ,

Part 17 of “We’ve Got Your Back,” a Mass Effect fan fiction. This story has spoilers for the end of Mass Effect 3.

Sorry for the long post. Well… not really ;).
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Shepard awoke to the sound of quietly beeping equipment. He felt thirsty and hungry. He felt a low, throbbing pain in his lower abdomen. Shepard opened and closed his fists. He tried moving his legs. He didn’t have the strength to move them far. He felt exhausted, and aching all over.

Well, that was no surprise. He’d been hit by the edge of a Reaper beam, shot, thrown into orbit by a transport beam, had his nervous system held prisoner by the Illusive Man, nearly bled to death, and had his body drained of life like a water squeezed out of a sponge trying to send to a message to warn the geth. He’d had the longest day of his life. And been rescued from it.

He blinked open his eyes. He was in the medical bay. He heard footsteps, and the smiling face of Dr. Chakwas leaned over him. “Welcome back, Commander. How do you feel?”

Shepard coughed. “Good,” he croaked. Yeah, right. His mouth tasted like glue. He coughed again. “Can I sit up?”

Dr. Chakwas adjusted his bed to lift his head up. A medic was getting him some water. Shepard felt lightheaded as the blood ran out of his head. He took deep, slow breaths. The feeling passed. Dr. Chakwas checked his vitals.

“What day is it? Where are we?”

“It’s the day after the battle. We’re in orbit around Earth.”

The door opened. Miranda hurried in, followed by Garrus and Ashley. Dr. Chakwas must have called them when she saw him waking up. More were coming. Dr. Chakwas turned to the door. “I’m sorry, but everyone, back up! He needs to rest!”

Shepard looked over his shoulder at the windows to the mess hall. Zaeed and Inali were outside, along with mess sergeant Gardner and half a dozen of the crew. Everyone applauded, whistled and cheered. Shepard smiled. He started to wave, but his right arm was the one with the IV. He had to use his left instead. Shepard started coughing again, and gratefully accepted the water from the medic. Water had never tasted so good.

Dr. Chakwas looked at the crowd at the door. “No more than two at a time.”

Garrus and Ashley looked at each other, because Miranda certainly wasn’t turning away. They did paper rock scissors. Garrus chose paper and Ashley chose rock. Ashley said, “I had you pegged for scissors.”

“Kind of guy I am. That’s why I picked paper.”

Ashley grumbled. She waved and said, “Looking good, skipper!” as she left the room.

Miranda gave him a light kiss, then pulled over a stool and sat down next to the bed, holding his hand. Garrus stood behind her. Miranda wore a casual uniform, cargo pants and a collared shirt with short sleeves. She had bruises and bandages here and there, and one small band-aid on her arm. He could see she still ached.

“How do you feel?” Miranda asked.

“Pretty good. How about you?”

“I’ve got my share of bumps and cuts, but I’m all right.”

He squeezed her hand. “Good. So, we’re all still here. The Crucible worked?”

She smiled. “It did. The Reapers are dead. Everywhere.”

“How did we get away from Harbinger?”

“The fleet ripped it a few new ones when it broke through the blockade,” Garrus said. “The video is glorious.”

Shepard smiled. “Couldn’t happen to a better Reaper. I can’t wait to see that.” His smiled faded. “What about EDI? And the geth?”

“EDI’s fine. We broke every speed record in the book getting out of the system,” Miranda said.

“Most of the geth fleet was destroyed by the Crucible effect. Their fastest ships made it—they outran the effect like we did. No one knows about the rest of the consensus yet.” Garrus added

Miranda continued, “The mass relays were damaged, so the comm buoy network is down. Long-distance communications have been by quantum entanglement. Short messages. Very limited. The whole fleet returned to Earth from the rendezvous.”

Shepard nodded slowly. “I hope the geth are okay. I had… choices… when I armed the Crucible.” He explained how Harbinger had spoken to him, and the alternatives that he’d seen.

Garrus’ mouth hung open by the time he was finished. “Harbinger hid behind the face of a child? That coward. I don’t care what it offered you. You did the right thing. The universe is better off without the Reapers,” he said. He sounded like he was channeling Archangel, his vengeful alter-ego.

“It was certainly a gamble, for the geth and EDI,” Miranda said. Thoughtfully, she continued, “Maybe we’ll have synthesis someday. When we’re ready for it—organics and synthetics alike.”

“Controlling the Reapers would’ve been a fair turnabout, but who would I go drinking with then?” Garrus asked with a grin.

Shepard laughed, then he winced. “Ow. Oh, that hurts.” He tried to breathe slowly and relax the muscles in his belly. He looked at Dr. Chakwas. “How am I doing, doc?”

“You’re through the worst of it. The bullets went all the way through you, so I only needed to treat the wound. Your other injuries were extensive, though minor. You lost a lot of blood. I gave you a few pints of synth blood and the crew donated the rest.” Shepard’s eyes ticked to Miranda’s band-aid. She winked at him. “I’ve conferred with several other physicians on exposure to Reaper technology from the transport beam, and that message you sent. So far you’ve exhibited no symptoms of side effects.”

Thank God. “When can I leave?”

“We’ll see how you feel tomorrow. While I’ll discharge you from the medical bay, I want you under a strict rest protocol for two more days.”

“Oh, jeez,” Shepard moaned. He was more embarrassed than annoyed. Two days off sounded like heaven.

“I’m serious, Commander. Eight hours of sleep a day, no heavy lifting…”

“Yes. Doctor. Okay. Loud and clear,” Shepard said. “Thank you.”

Dr. Chakwas touched his hand. “Thank you, Commander. I think the whole galaxy needs to tell you that.” She gestured to the medic and they both walked back to her desk on the far side of the medical bay.

Garrus said, “I’ll leave you two. Do you want any more visitors?”

Shepard said, “After we’re done. I’d like that. Thanks, Garrus.”

The turian left the room. Shepard squeezed Miranda’s hand. “Kiss me again?” he asked. He didn’t think he could lift his head without passing out. She chuckled and did. “Thank you for coming to get me.”

“You didn’t think I’d leave you, did you?”

“Never. But I didn’t even know if you were still alive. If anyone was still alive.”

“We were, because of you.”

“It wasn’t because of me.”

“Not all of it, but you brought us all together. Even the armada was because of you. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think any of us would have made it.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re quite welcome.” Miranda squeezed his hand. “Get some rest. XO’s orders. You have a big day tomorrow.”

Shepard had been smiling, but as Miranda finished her words, he started to cry. Dizziness be damned, he reached his arms around her and wept.

Miranda was so shocked that at first she didn’t even move. She wrapped her arms around him. “What is it?” she asked. He kept crying. “Talk to me, love. What is it?”

“I’m sorry. Maybe it’s the meds. It’s just… y’know, between the fight, and everyone who died, and you coming for me… I just remembered what it felt like when I was there on the Citadel. Dying there.” He held her tighter. Shepard’s voice cracked as he said, “I… I never thought about how much that word means.”

“What word… what…” Miranda thought of what she’d said. Then she sighed, and he felt her tears on his cheek. Miranda kissed him there. She hugged him closer and whispered, “Tomorrow. We have tomorrow. And all the tomorrows after.”

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Comments
  1. Steve says:

    Great scene! I’d put this right a scene like this alongside the Mass Effect happy ending mod. From now on it’s how I imagine it “really” was done. I especially like the part at the end – for sure, none of them could’ve known that the word “tomorrow” could ever carry so much meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 thanks! The Happy Ending Mod was part of my inspiration–and for sure, the scene at the memorial wall happened in my headcanon. The odds were stacked so far against them at the end that Shepard didn’t think there would be any tomorrows–probably not for him, probably not for others on the squad, probably not for anyone else, though he had hoped against hope we could manage to survive.

      Like

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