DISCLAIMER: Bioware owns the concept of Mass Effect and all of its characters. This fanfic is for entertainment and no profit what-so-ever.
AUTHORS NOTES: It seemed that Shepard would have been a bit more banged up than seen at the epilogue of the Paragon: saving the Council ending. I drew out the drama a bit more. Inspired by the Sam-bashing in SG1 episodes this pays homage to that as well.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Rising From the Ashes
By Elizabeth Carter
The image of the commander unloading her pistol into the chest cavity of the Saren Husk was burned in the chief's mind. Shepard had launched herself into the air, tackled the husk in a fluid movement it became a dark dance of death. The snarl of anger on the Spectre's face as she brought her side arm to full bear until it overheated and nearly exploded in the woman's hand. The bodies tumbled back to the garden's earth.
The sound of inorganic pain moaned above them, shifted, all around them, grinding metal against metal from behind. Liara summoned to her fingertips the power of a singularity, William lifted her assault rifle her own implant attuned to the mechanics of the firearm set to overkill and aimed at the spot Shepard had fallen.
Shepard tossed the body from her even as detritus from the battle overhead rained down upon them. "GO!" Shepard shouted over the din of explosions. She accentuated her command with a forceful biotic push that sent both Liara and Williams across the quad.
The chief rolled to her feet just in time to see a massive chuck of Sovereign's hull cascade through the tower's shattered roof right onto of the commander.
"NO! No it's not fair!" Ashley screamed. "You can't take her! It's not fair! You can't take her, you can't!"
"My love!" Liara moaned "Oh Goddess no please "
The ground beneath quaked as even more debris crashed down upon the horror struck women. Smoke cloyed the air, sparks erupted, shrapnel fell and darkness consumed consciousness.
"They're here!" a voice broke out from the invading light now visible in the darkness of destruction. "Captain, I found them." A male voice called out.
Ashley opened her eyes, but it did little good, the world looked as if someone had smeared it with grey chalk. It dawned on the young marine that something was wrong with her visor. She gingerly removed her helmet just as Captain Anderson knelt before her. He smiled at her, "It's alright, it's over. You're safe."
Ashley looked over the man's shoulder to see that Dr. T'soni had her own helmet removed so she could breathe. Her blue eyes clouded with tears that had nothing to do with the smoking ruins.
"Where's the commander?" Anderson asked.
Ashley swallowed the lump that had suddenly grown in her throat. Tears fell down the proud marine's face as she shook her head. "I .she my fault she chose to save us she should have shielded herself. She she gone "
Anderson winced; the words hit him like a blow. Shepard had been the best of humanity, their best hope to prove themselves to the Council---to the other races. Her orders to protect the Council had insured humanity's place in the Citadel. She had given so much of herself. Others had died today - a great many humans to protect the Council some would blame her choice, but Shepard must have seen the long reaches of her decision to protect the Council even at the loss of so many Alliance vessels. Because of that choice the Citadel and the Council were now indebted to humanity.
Liara looked to the spot where Shepard had been crushed. "My love. My love. She gave her life for ours." Liara spoke perhaps more to herself than anyone listening.
"She made a choice, Chief." Anderson said. "Just as she did on Elysium, just as she did on Virmire. She chose the Council, you and Dr. T'soni. She died as she lived a hero. Honor that sacrifice."
'Her blood is on my hands.' Ashley gave no voice to her thoughts. 'If she would have used her biotics to shield herself, she might have lived.' She looked at the openly weeping Asari. The young archaeologist hadn't simply lost a commanding officer, or friend she had lost the love of her life, her intended. Ashley felt more guilt than before. 'I am so sorry '
Broken and wounded Ashley and T'soni allowed the medic to lead them from the decrepit metal skeleton of what remained of the Citadel tower. More now than ever William resented the Council. If they had only listened to the Skipper before Ioas just listened so much could have been avoided. All this death. Shepard would still be alive. She and Dr. T'soni would be planning their nuptials. Instead a funeral lay in the future. It wasn't fair.
Liara looked back to the mound of sheered burning metal. "It can't be "
Anderson frowned; clearly the young woman was going onto shock. He gathered from the words that Shepard and Dr. T'soni shared an intimate relationship. He had no idea how asari related to death, but he knew young lovers were reluctant to believe the one they gave their heart to was dead, even more unwilling to leave their bodies behind. "Dr. T'soni " he moved towards her then paused as he followed the young woman's gaze to the rubble.
Red moved against black and grey metal.
"Samantha!" T'soni started rushing towards the debris.
"Skipper"" Ashley was right next to her.
"I'll be damned." Anderson laughed with relief, awe and disbelief. "Shepard how in the hell?"
Lumbering out of the detritus, clutching her side was none other than Commander Samantha Shepard first human Spectre. With a massive mega watt smile on her face. Blood slid down her grime caked face, but she was alive. Despite all the odds she lived!
Liara was at her side embracing the woman she loved with all her being, kissing her face frantically. "I believed you dead. Forgive me Oh my love "
"Owww!" Shepard moaned before she fainted.
Oh!" Liara lessened her hold but only slightly. Samantha's weight was quickly falling upon her. Liara slight lithe form belied the strength inherent of the asari but the shock of seeing her beloved alive nearly caused her to buckle at the knees.
"I got you Skipper." Ashley's voice cracked with overjoyed elation. As Shepard had when on Virmire now Williams carried the fallen comrade over her shoulder rushing for the medical-evac maco. Upon entering the cabin she dropped the commander down on a gurney. "Medic!"
Dr. Chakwas rushed to the gurney pushing Williams to one side. "Shepard, can you hear me? Shepard?"
Williams and Dr. T'soni ducked out of the way as a field medic rushed past on their flank intent on getting to Shepard's side. She quickly detached the locks on the hardshell cuirass and dropped it to the side out of the way. With a pair of shears she cut open the commander's tunic and sports bra. Blood gleamed from a four inch gash along Shepard's right side, where Saran-husk had plunged his talons. A second medic picked up the chest pieces and tossed it to Williams who managed to catch her commander's armour before it clattered to the floor of the maco.
"How's she doing?" Chakwas demanded still trying to assess the extent of Shepard's wounds. There was a regular menu of injuries: deep lacerations, extensive blood loss, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, internal bleeding, concussion and that was only what was evident on a cursory examination.
"Respiration is shallow, pulse is weak and erratic," the nurse answered.
Chakwas pried open Shepard's eyes, first the left then the right shining a penlight into them trying to assess head trauma. "Commander, answer me."
"I've lost the pulse."
"She's in de-Fib. Bag her." Chakwas announced suddenly. "I want an EKG and an EEG stat." She punched Shepard's chest to try and restart the heart's regular rhythm.
"She's in de-Fib. Bag her." Chakwas announced suddenly. "I want an EKG and an EEG stat." She punched Shepard's chest to try and restart the heart's regular rhythm.
The medic quickly and efficiently attached leads to Shepard's chest over her heart as well as to her biotic implant which connected her to a medical scanner. The medical HUD bleeped to life, but made no other sound.
"Are we in?" Chakwas demanded still forcing air from the bag into Shepard's lungs.
Liara held her breath as she looked to the monitors showing a flatline, the single monotone note: an electronic death knell. She was scarily aware of Chief Williams pleading under her breath for her God to save the Spectre. Her own prayers were sent to the Goddess that her beloved be restored.
"Charge the paddles 100. Take over." Chakwas shifted from her position over Shepard so the medic could take over the air-bagging that was helping Shepard to start breathing again. Chakwas took the paddles of the defribulator from the nurse.
"Clear." Said the nurse bagging Shepard. She lifted up and away from the body.
"Clear." Said the nurse bagging Shepard. She lifted up and away from the body.
Liara jumped at the sound of the paddles discharging and seeing her lover's body jolt off the table.
"What've we got?" Chakwas handed the paddles to her assistant beside her.
"Charge to 200."
Liara came to herself forcing herself out of the horror stricken amazement of watching the medical team trying with near febrile desperation to bring Shepard back to life. Ignoring the protests at her movements and the threats that she would be forcefully removed, the asari moved towards her lover's head.
"Embrace Eternity." She uttered softly. Her eyes went black. All noise of Dr. Chakwas' team faded away she was dimly aware that the physician had ordered them to clear once more. Again the sound of discharging paddles echoed loudly but all of Liara's will was steeped in ferreting out the spirit of the Commander from the darkness of death. She could not allow her love to slip into the cold unknown not when they had so much to live for.
"Pulse is back. Regular sinus." The nurse called out. "She's out of de-fib."
"Okay, let's get her in the infirmary, let's move."
"Joker! Get down here now!" Ashley barked the order. Despite the fact the pilot was technically a superior officer the gunnery chief had no qualms about issuing the orders. She doubted the sarcastic pilot would even protest.
"Already on the away, Chief."
Liara remained touching Shepard's brow. Her mind mingling deeply with the Specter's. She deepened the bond drawing out the memories of her beloved, to their ancestral core. As they had when they first made love their spirits intertwined, their mind becoming one. In one desperate moment, fearful of what the future might be, Liara caused her nervous system to blend with that of Shepard's. If her lover was going to die, Liara would hold a part of her to live on.
Whatever Dr. T'soni was doing to Shepard it was stabilizing the commander, Chakwas was sure of it. She knew the asari were able to blend their own nervous system to that of another, generally this was for reproduction. But perhaps T'soni was using such a method to connect Shepard's body to a stronger, healthier nervous system. T'soni's heart seemed to be beating for both of them.
For a moment, Shepard's eyes flickered open. The medic who was assisting with the breathing took the bag away. Allowing for the commander to drawing a gasp of air. At the same moment Liara exhaled. Her eyes changed from the full black to their azure blue.
"He-ey beautiful," Shepard managed to mutter as she took in the very worried look on her lover's face. Her consciousness didn't last long, but at least she hadn't gone back into de-fib.
"Medi-vac, Normandy here ready for pickup, hatch is open." Joker's voice came over the comm-system. "Med-bay on stand-by."
"Good work, Lieutenant." Chakwas answered.
Ashley hadn't even been aware that there was a driver in the maco and only became so now because he was maneuvering the medical vehicle into the bay where Normandy's maco used to be parked. Chakwas and her team deployed rushing Shepard out of the bay, into the lift and headed up for the infirmary. Liara was on their heels. Coming back to herself, Williams rushed for the lift, though she'd have to wait to catch it on the return trip as the others were already gone.
Around her crew members gathered asking a dozen questions but she heard none of them. Sprinting past the mess hall and crew bunks to the rear of the second deck, Ashley made for the infirmary still clutching the Commander's dented and bloodied cuirass.
The infirmary's surgical bay was a hive of activity: medics scurrying trying to get units of blood into the Commander as she was being prepped for surgery. Chakwas wasn't seen; no doubt she had made for the wash station to sanitize herself. A nurse had forcibly removed Liara from Shepard's side.
The effect was immediate, Shepard flatlined.
"What are you doing?" Chakwas barked to the nurse who had almost sedated the struggling asari to prevent her from reaching the commander's side.
Liara's hand glowed an electric blue as she summoned her power to send the nurse as far from her as she could.
"She's hysterical I thought it best to sedate her." The nurse protested her innocence in the brawl about to take place.
"Don't! Dr. T'soni, reestablish your link." Chakwas ordered. "Quickly!"
Glaring at the nurse the asari shoved past her to Shepard's side. Her voice a husked whisper as her hand touched Shepard's brow. "Embrace Eternity, Samantha."
Williams watched as Liara's eyes once more became completely black.
"Doctor, I 'm sorry I don't understand." The nurse said still staring at the asari woman and their commander.
"Asari can link their nerves system to another. Whatever Dr. T'soni is doing is keeping Shepard stable and alive." Chakwas pointed to the monitors that were now reading normal pulse, sinus rhythm and heartbeat.
"Astonishing." The nurse gasped. "I had no idea ."
"We need to stop the bleeding, she has a punctured lung and God knows what else." Chakwas said. "I am sorry Chief you're going to have to leave."
Ashley nodded slowly. "Doc I have the same blood type as the Skipper, we're both B-positive. Blood, bone marrow, organs, whatever she needs I'll gladly donate them. Just please save her."
"Your blood is greatly appreciated, Chief. Marina, see to it." Chakwas commanded the nurse that had tried to sedate Liara only moments before.
Ashley sat upon one of the bed, watching or rather attempting to see what was going on in the surgical bay. Chakwas was calling for a plethora of medical equipment, ordering medics to perform various duties the Chief couldn't follow. Unlike her sisters she never got into medical holo-vids so she didn't follow the medical language Chakwas was issuing. All she could understand was that as long as T'soni maintained the asari mind meld, Shepard was stabilized.
Nurse Marina grumbled, "Even if it's amazing its still hocus pocus. That's not real medicine. I'm with you Chief, Asari mumbo-jumbo has no place on this ship."
For the first time Ashley was aware someone was talking to her. "What?"
"That little asari girl playing at doctor with the commander's life is deplorable. It's their kind that put the commander in jeopardy in the first place."
Ashley glowered. "The commander won't like it when she hears your comments about our allies."
"Our allies?" Marina scoffed. "Humans died by the score to save the Councils' sorry asses you of all people should hate them for what they did on Shanxi."
"Just draw the blood, private," the chief ordered soundly. Gods did she really sound like that? No wonder the skipper was pissed off about bigotry. It truly had an ugly sound to it. "Dr. T'soni is a valuable asset to this crew. She's keeping the commander alive so Dr. Chakwas can save her life."
"Ma'am," was all the nurse would say. The chief had pulled rank, if Marina didn't want a further disciplinary mark on her records she knew she would have to keep her tongue. She finished drawing blood from Williams and returned a little more sullenly to the surgical-bay with a fresh pint of blood in her hands.
Ashley thought of the skipper's steadfast belief in their allies, in the ideals of galactic unity. Having seen what horrors humans had committed upon other humans perhaps Kaiden was right. Aliens are jerks and saints just like humans.
'I can see where your concerns are coming from Chief. But this is a multilateral mission you're going to have to work with aliens whether you like it or not.'
Ashley recalled the mild rebuke from the strong woman now lying on the surgical table. Williams had said it wasn't going to be a problem and in truth it hadn't been. Or at least she tried not to let it be. The chief had a difficult time adjusting to fact she was required to work with aliens. She had for so long wanted to be posted on a ship and she loved that she had been given that chance. Even if it was difficult to adjust to the small cramped areas, communal sleeper pods, lack of fresh air, having to breathe recycled air instead, and surrounded by utilitarian painted walls and bulkheads instead of open skies. The chrono telling her the time of day rather than just looking at the sun, moon or moons as the case might have been. There had been so much to adjust to those first days of their mission, through all of it the skipper was there to lend advice, offer a tutoring hand and even when necessary a discipline. Williams would follow the skipper on any mission, anywhere anytime.
'When I need words from the head I go to Alenko, when I need them from the heart I go to you.'
The words had astonished Williams when the spectre first admitted them, and they still did now. Shepard wasn't taken in by her own glory and hero status or the fact she was the first human spectre. She seemed to have a very real perspective of herself. A trait Williams thought to be admirable. Shepard had taught her so much in the months they had served together. There were times when Ashley felt as if Shepard was molding her into officer material, for command. Even Alenko had commented on it. No other officer Williams had worked with had done such a thing so deliberately. Oh they had promoted her to squad and platoon leader given her recommendations and commendations but not one of them took extra time out to guide her into the field-school of command.
Now this remarkable woman who had might be dying. If that happened, Ashley swore she would carry on in the skipper's footsteps to honor her. She had sworn to honor her grandfather and father and bring honor back to the Williams name she would give no less of herself to the skipper. She would bring honor of the humans to the other species of Citadel space. She left med-bay for there was nothing more she could do but be in the way. Numbly she moved forward towards the open mess hall her mind replaying the skipper's fall and miraculous rise and near dead body on the gurney inside the belly of the medi-vac Maco. There was just so much blood.
"Well? Does she live?" rumbled the deep baritone of the krogan.
For the first time Williams was aware of another's presence. In fact the mess hall was filled with the bodies of the team, all them waiting for her to return from the med-bay. Wrex was leaning with his elbows on the table watching Ashley, waiting impatiently for her to speak. A worried looking Garrus paced, Tali was wringing her fingers fretfully; even Joker was there at the table fidgeting with a tired looking paper napkin. Lieutenant Presley leaned against the bulkhead looking apprehensively towards the medical-bay, afraid what news Williams would bring them.
"She she flatlined twice. Once in the medi-vac and just recently. T'soni um linked their nervous systems so basically she's the Skippers life-support. She's pretty busted up. I think something burst inside. She lost so much blood."
"Are you injured Chief Williams?" the dual-tone voice of Garrus nearly startled Williams.
"Bruises, a mild concussion. I did a number on my wrist but it ain't broke."
Garrus pointed to the bloody tunic and cuirass Williams was still carrying. "Are you positive there is nothing more?"
"Wha " Williams stopped speaking when she noted just how damp her tunic was. The blood was so wet it was still dripping onto her boot. Ashley looked decidedly green and ran from the mess hall, dashed into the head and emptied what little was in her stomach into the toilet. Wiping her mouth with the back of her trembling hand, she fell back on her heels, shivering.
The skipper's blood was all over her. It must have happened when she carried Shepard into the medi-vac unit. Now the cool air of the head, dry-heaving and the very real prospect of Shepard dying came cascading down around Williams in a spectacular blow. In the privacy of the stall Williams wept.
Back in the mess hall Tali rose from her chair and picked up the red and black cuirass the chief had been carrying and realized that the bit of hard-shell armor had to have belonged to the commander. "Keelah!"
"What is it?" barked Wrex. He was never one for patience and these flimsy females, (even if one of them was a hardened warrior) didn't do his nerves any good.
The quarrian dropped the cuirass onto the table. "This is the commander's."
Who swore first Tali couldn't be certain but they all had muttered the curse. The armor's chest plate had a long gash running from the right shoulder down to the left side. The metal was gouged and torn. Blood stained the edges of the now serrated metal like broken teeth of a fishdog. There were dents, carbon-scorch marks, deep cross-hatched scratches and melted fragments no doubt from biotic powers being unleashed.
"She still lives after that?" Wrex was the first to comment recovering from the shock of seeing the battered hardshell. "I'll give Shepard this she's one hell of a warrior."
"Her life is still in the balance." Tali said pessimistically. "If any of you have a deity, I would suggest offerings of prayer."
"The doc will save her." Joker said. "She has to. Chakwas is one of the best. She'll pull the commander through. I'm not giving up on the commander."
"We may have to accept the inevitable." Presley the current XO of the Normandy spoke with a pragmatic but apologetic tone. "She's beaten the odds too many times for them not to go against her."
"Believe what you want Lieutenant Presley. You might serve on her ship but you haven't fought along side her, not as we have." the terse reply came from Garrus. "She does not give up; she will struggle to the last. She will not yield to death, and Liara will not allow it. If they are linked as Chief Williams says then it is this joining that will save our commander."
Joker looked up hope in his green eyes. "I don't get this joining. How can Doc T'soni join her nervous system to the commander's?"
"Typically such a joining is for an asari the way they procreate. The asari are able to link their nervous system to that of another species of either gender. The bond isn't always physical but highly mental. Liara has melded her mind to Shepards twice in our company the effect was profound as we have seen. Perhaps they have shared such joinings, quite possibly more intimate ones privately. Liara's heart now beats for both of them. It is even possible that our young Prothean expert breathes for both of them as well."
"Wow. That's deep. Pretty handy for the commander to have her own walking-talking life support system. It's gotta make things easier for the doc to patch the commander back up." Joker commented, impressed with the abilities of the resident asari.
It was no secret to the crew of the Normandy though they pretended not to notice that their heroic leader had returned Doctor T'soni's interest. Shepard was discreet about it, however. The only way one would notice is if they had had been deeply or were deeply in love with someone else to pick up on the signs. Scuttlebutt was they were a couple.
Lieutenant Alenko never stood a chance against the asari despite the fact he was in love with the commander. He had, according to Williams, thought the strong friendship he held with Shepard was more than it was, but the commander had eyes only for T'soni. He must have misinterpreted the signs of the commander's feelings for the archeologist to be for him. Hell if the relationship saved the commander's life Joker wasn't going to say boo about it. He didn't think anyone not even the ornery Chief Williams would condemn it. Not now. Not even Presley the wooden man himself seemed overly concerned about the interspecies relationship between the commander and Dr. T'soni. Apparently the other aliens on board accepted it readily enough for none of them even uttered a word of protest.
Williams gathered herself, her nerves back under control or at least the mask of it. She had taken a moment to use the sonic shower, watching mutely as the blood, grime and sweat of the battlefield dissolved. She ran the shower a second time to clean her uniform as she had nothing else to change into. Even after being cleaned by the sonic scrubbers, Williams felt as if she was still wearing the skipper's blood. She doubted the phantom image would soon go away if ever. Raking her fingers through her shoulder length black hair discovering tangles she cursed under her breath for the lack of hygienic implants to un-snare them. It'd be a holy nest of knots later but there was nothing for it, her only choice was to tie it back as per regulations.
Time dragged its feet. It was a strange sensation as one hour slipped into four then into six. On later reflection Joker would recall how spooky it was that upon the toll of the Witching hour, Dr. Chakwas emerged from med-bay carrying the news of Shepard's fate. From her expression it was difficult to say what that news was. Chakwas was beyond tired and stressed.
"There was extensive damage. A ruptured spleen which was why there was so much blood, a collapsed lung, five broken ribs, four sprained as well as a severe concussion. The trauma to her "
"Doc please - do we have a commander or not?" Williams demanded.
"Commander Shepard is alive." The older woman said. "She's in recovery now. But she will pull through, thanks in no small part to Dr. T'soni."
"You did it!" Williams was all smiles. "Do we have the best damned doctor in the fleet or what? Thanks Doc!" The chief rushed the exhausted physician hugging her. "Thank you!"
"We gotta tell the crew." Joker struggled to his feet making a grab for his crutches, causing the braces on his legs to creak.
"I'll do it." Williams darted past the pilot making a bee-line for the bow of the ship communications.
"Yeah sure see you take all the fun just because you can run." There were times when Joker loathed his bone crippling disease. Times like now when he wanted to be the one to announce the glorious return to life of their beloved leader. But even if he tried to run the hollow bones in his legs would snap and shatter. Besides Williams was half way up the flight of stairs that led to the command deck before he even managed to sit back down. She must have taken them two or three at a time. In no time at all the click of the intership intercom opened up.
'This is Gunnery Chief Williams; it is my privilege to announce the commander is alive. Repeat the commander is alive! Doctor Chakwas and T'soni pulled her through. She's alive!'
All over the ship cheers of jubilation rang out above the thunder of applause and foot stomping. Soldiers hugged one another, slapped each other on the back, and toasting their skipper. Once more Shepard had bested the odds and came out on top.
"When will we be able to see her?" Garrus asked of the doctor.
"Maybe late tomorrow and only one at a time and no longer than two minutes no more. Not yet. She needs a lot of rest. She's not completely out of the woods yet but she's getting there. She's tough, a survivor but she still needs to recoup like any mortal."
"Where's Dr. T'soni?" Tali asked looking around the human female for the asari. There was no sign of graceful archeologist. She rather doubted Liara would willingly leave Shepard's side anytime soon.
"She exhausted herself with the link and is resting," Chakwas answered. "Something I'm also going to go do. If you excuse me there's a shower and sleeper pod with my name on it."
Below decks crew members had rolled out a keg of contraband moonshine from a well hidden still. Or at least the commander ignored it for the most part. If there was ever ship to sail the seas or stars one could bet there would be brew hidden. No one dared to exploit this blind eye the Spectre had turned and drink on duty or become derelict. And right now it was time to celebrate.
Someone had a fiddle, and other an Irish harp and still another had a harmonica. Chief Engineer Addams had even pulled out an asari dulcimer. Someone kept time by using a work bench as a make shift drum. Old sea shanties rang out cheerfully as crew members allowed themselves the frivolity of dancing in the manner of ancient sailors when the tall ships still ruled the oceans of earth.
Even Wrex join in the festiveness belting out an old krogan tune of the glory of a hard won battle in some long past war. Garrus watched in amazement at the humans' ability to lose themselves in the moment of music, dance and drink. He didn't know if he was more astonished that Chief Williams performed what the humans called an Irish reel with Tali or that the qurrinan seemed to be very adept at the human dance.
But what was not to celebrate? Sovereign was dead so to was Saren. Best yet Shepard was alive. The Reapers were still out there, but civilization had a greater chance of winning the war with Shepard leading from the front. Garrus knew the Spectre would not stop until the dreaded foe was vanquished for all time. He vowed as did everyone else on the Normandy to be with her every step of the way.
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