“Go!” The command echoed through the air. Garrus and Kaidan turned as ran, as much from the sight of the hunk of metal on a collision course with the window as from Shepard’s cry. Kaidan felt as though a wind made of steel knocked him flat, and the world went black.
Kaidan came to, unable to move, scarcely able to breathe.
“Shepard!” he called.
There was no answer.
Desperate, he reached out with his senses, trying desperately to feel the hum of her biotic amps, to touch that connection that they had shared from the moment he’d met her.
Nothing. The room was as cold as it was dark. He could feel something holding him down, but the cold dread of fear seemed heavier. She was gone, lost to the fight she’d valiantly seen to the end.
They had followed Saren to Ilos, followed Ilos back here to the Citadel. The Counduit, not a weapon after all, but a doorway, had led them right back to the beginning, and here they had made their stand against Saren and Sovereign both. He and Shepard and Garrus had defeated the rogue agent – or what was left of him, and Joker and the Normandy and all the ships of the Alliance fleet had shot down the Reaper.
The blast of that monster ship’s explosion had showered the station in debris – and the worst of it had hit the Council chambers where they had been. Where Shepard had been.
Kaidan thought he was going to be sick.
“Sir!” Kaidan heard the voice as if from a long way off. “They’re in here.”
Kaidan didn’t move. He was pinned for a start, he figured his arm was broken, but he didn’t want to move. If she was gone, and looking up at the mess that used to be the Council chambers, he was sure she was gone – then he had no idea what he’d be moving on to. He couldn’t seem to breathe – couldn’t seem to think.
“Shepard,” It was Captain Anderson, right in his face. The lights were so bright suddenly that he blinked. “Where is she?”
Kaidan shook his head just as much to hide his face from the flashlight beams as to indicate that he couldn’t say it aloud. Behind him, he caught a glimpse of Garrus. The turian looked utterly defeated.
“She’s gone, isn’t she?” he murmured. “We’ve been pinned for so long…”
“Get them down to the medical clinic,” Anderson was saying, helping Kaidan to his feet.
“The clinics are going to be overflowing, sir,” a rescue worker told him. “If they survived the blast at all.”
“Take them back to the Normandy, then,” he said. “It will be back at the docking bay.”
Kaidan felt himself being led away. It was easier to go numb like this, he thought, than to stop and consider what had happened, better to feel…
He jerked alert as he felt something else on the air. It was a strong, soothing current of energy, like a stream of electric fire. His ribs protested at the sudden movement, but he spun around at once.
“Shepard,” he breathed.
There she was, stumbling over a piece of broken Reaper-claw, looking like she’d broken a cheekbone, several ribs, and blackened an eye.
She’d never looked more beautiful to him.
“Planning on letting me find my own way out of here?” she called. Two of the rescue workers ran to her at once, but she waved them off.
“Shepard,” Anderson said, stepping in front of Kaidan and taking her hand. Kaidan had to admit he was a little annoyed to be cut off like this, but considering that he’d been about to run to her and kiss her right here in front of all these people, perhaps it was for the best.
“Captain,” she said, nodding to him, wincing as he gripped her hand. “Thank you for the vote of confidence. I can safely assume that we won’t be court-marshaled.”
“The Council will want to thank you the moment they return to the station.” Shepard shook her head.
“Of course, they will,” she said sarcastically. “I guess they’ll have to believe me now.” She waved at the Reaper-fragments littering the Council’s hall. Shepard then turned and looked first at Garrus, then at Kaidan. A biotic flare flickered across her lips when she glanced at Kaidan, and he found himself doing his best to hide a grin.
“Alenko,” she said, looking at him steadily.
“Ma’am,” he nodded to her, giving her a look he hoped she would know was meant for her alone. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Me too,” she told him. Her smile told him that she’d gotten the message. She recovered herself a moment later and asked, “Garrus, you alright?”
“I’ll live,” the turian told her.
“You always were a tough old bastard,” she grinned at both her crew. “Let’s get down to the Normandy, folks. I think we’re going to need some serious patching up.”
“Commander,” Captain Anderson said. “You’ll need to come with me.”
“What?” Kaidan frowned, “Sir, she’s wounded. With all due respect…”
Shepard had a momentary flashback to the last time she’d heard that phrase: Ashley Williams had said on Virmire:
Why is it whenever someone says “With all due respect,” they really just mean, “Kiss my ass.”
Shepard couldn’t help it. She laughed.
“Commander,” Anderson blinked at her. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she chuckled. “I just…grew a sense of humor over the course of the mission. It shouldn’t be a problem, sir.”
Anderson stared at her.
“Well, if you’re done with the humor,” he said, uncertainly, “It seems the Council needs you now. They want to speak with you.”
Shepard sighed and nodded her head. “Alright. Meeting first, rest later. Gentlemen, I’ll see you on board the ship. Oh, and see if you can’t find any beer on your way back to the Normandy. I owe the crew a drink.”
“Beer, commander?” Anderson frowned.
“It was a promise,” she shrugged. “No, strike that, it’s a Spectre-classified thing. Blame the council. All that power really went to my head.”
Anderson looked at her blankly. Shepard just smiled at him. “Lead on, Captain. Let’s go talk to the Council.”