Commander Artemis Shepard marched down the clean hallway of the Alliance’s main building in Vancouver, leaving behind the court room and returning to her “cell”. Lieutenant James Vega walked to her left, about half a step behind. Even though she was currently suspended from active duty James still treated her with the traditional respect a junior officer showed his superior. As they reached the room the Alliance had given her, she paused to allow James to unlock the door. Shepard had not been given the access code to her own room because of the nature of her trial and incarceration. Anytime she left the room she was accompanied by the young lieutenant. The measure was more for show than anything else; Shepard had willingly turned herself into the Alliance after the destruction of the Alpha Relay, running now would have just been pointless. But more so, Shepard was and Alliance soldier down to her very bones. When they called, she answered.
“You feeling alright ma’am? You took a lot of heat back there.”
Shepard gave James a slight smile and nodded. Although Shepard had only known him for a few short weeks she felt she had a handle on the type of person he was. James a loyal, hardworking and dependable person, the type of guy you wanted to have your back in a fire fight.
“I’ll be fine but thank you lieutenant.” Although Shepard tried to sound positive she failed at keeping her feeling of exhaustion from creeping into her voice.
James could hear the feeling in her voice but chose not ask. He simply nodded instead.
“Alright then ma’am. I’ll leave you to it for the rest of the day.”
He stood at attention and nodded to her again before leaving, letting the door close behind Shepard as she walked into her room. Shepard slowly walked over to her bed, rubbing her shoulders in a futile attempt to relieve the pressure she felt building. She knew the feeling had nothing to do with any physical discomfort, but she had to do something with her hands to stop feeling so helpless.
As she slowly sat down on the edge of her bed the events of the morning’s trial session were replaying in her mind.
“Everything you have told us so far has been believable but it is the next section of your report that I cannot understand.” The admiral was staring at her intently, as if he was trying to exactly what was going on in her head. Shepard took a deep breath before starting.
“It is exactly as I’ve stated in my report admiral. Dr. Kenson had been indoctrinated by the Reaper artifact “Object Rho”. When I insisted we continue with her original plan she ordered her guard forces to subdue me.”
Shepard allowed herself a small sense of satisfaction at that memory. Despite the best efforts of the guard force it had taken direct intervention from Object Rho itself to finally subdue her. Otherwise she would have stopped Kenson right then and there. But the memory of what happened next made her stomach churn.
Shepard held no love for batarians. The stories of batarians slaver raids were horrifying and Shepard never met one who wasn’t pointing a gun at her. But combat was nothing personal; she was a soldier, a N7 operative and a SPECTRE. She killed because she had to; it was part of the job. It was not something she found pleasing, Shepard always looked for other options but she did not hesitate to pull the trigger. This time Shepard had again tried to find some alternative but there was no choice, the Alpha Relay had to be destroyed to slow the Reapers. Shepard did what needed to be done. Shepard looked over at the nightstand and read the number on the small note pad sitting there.
“I had no choice admiral. The relay had to be destroyed.”
“Shepard this is an entire system we are talking about, not just some small science facility.”
“I am well aware of the sir. I tried to warn the batarian colonists. But. . .there wasn’t enough time for them to heed my message.”
Shepard closed her eyes repeated her words to the admiral. “I had no choice.” Even now, weeks later she was still repeating those words. Who was she trying to convince? The Alliance or herself? Shepard never killed innocents. She had never believed that it was sometimes necessary to sacrifice the few to save the many; there was always another way. And yet, she had done just that. Shepard was haunted by the thought of that. With one simple push of a button, she had sent 300,000, largely innocent people to their death.
She continued to stare at the note pad but not really seeing it. The number had been memorized almost immediately but the sight of it was still powerful. Shepard hated this feeling despair and hopelessness. She had been given an impossible choice and did what needed to be done. Logically her mind knew that, but her heart was having a hard time believing that. The trial was bringing into focus the pressure she had been feeling ever since waking up on Lazarus station. There had been so little time between her mission through the Omega-4 relay and the Bahak system and then finally back to Earth. Shepard knew she could run harder and longer than any other soldier out there but now she was starting to question her own limits.
Sighing, Shepard moved to turn on her music player. When she had played sports in middle and high school, Shepard had used music to get herself fired up. She had taken to fast, aggressive, short guitar riffs that were simple and raw. The energy and ferocity helped to get her adrenaline flowing and allowed her to focus on the next moment alone. Even now nearly two decades later, she still used the same music to get fired up. But instead of getting ready for the next game, she used it to get ready for whatever mission she faced. Shepard smirked as she remembered the first time her squad mates and friends on the Normandy had heard the music.
“Shepard what the hell are you listening to?”
“Punk. It’s music.”
“That is not music Shepard. It’s just noise.”
“Trust me Garrus, it is definitely music. It is supposed to sound raw and unrefined, that is part of its charm.”
While she had made a complete believer out of him, Garrus eventually came around to admitting there was a certain charm to it. However it was not Garrus’s reaction that surprised her but Shepard had been floored by Liara’s reaction to it. While she doubted she would ever love it like Shepard, Liara was right away able to appreciate the simplicity and honesty behind the music. It was just another item to a very long list of reason why Shepard had fallen for Liara.
Shepard felt her heart ache as her thoughts turned towards Liara. She had managed to steal a few, all too brief days with her asari before returning to Earth but it was not enough. Shepard could spend every moment of every day for the rest of her life with Liara and it would not be enough. As her mind drifted over their very short history together, Shepard had to admit it was a little surprising to fall so hard for her so fast. But there it was and she wouldn’t trade their time together for anything. Liara made Shepard feel safe. She was where Shepard could go and just be Artemis. No pressure, no Reapers, no galaxy to save. Shepard knew that no matter what Liara would always be there for her. And knowing she had that made Shepard fight so much harder.
A blinking window flashed on the computer screen, catching Shepard’s attention. She slowly got off her bed and sat down in front of the screen. It was a request for a video chat but the sender was blocked. However no one was supposed to have access to her terminal but the alliance. Shepard decided that if the person was good enough to hack the Alliance encryptions they would be worth talking to.
“Admiral Hackett!” she gasped.
“At ease Shepard, this is far from official. In fact I am not talking to you right now.”
“Got it sir.”
“Good. I’m just here to connect you.”
“Connect me? Sir?”
But Hackett was no longer on the screen. Staring back at Shepard was a pair of brilliant blue eyes. Shepard was suddenly winded but managed to gasp out her name.
“Liara. What-? How-?”
“It’s good to see you too.” She smiled at Shepard. “I can’t say what but I’m on my way to a project for Hackett. As a thank you he arranged for us to have a few moments together.”
“Guess that’s another one I owe him.”
“He did mention something about his favorite whiskey.”
They both shared a laughed at the joke. Although it had been a few weeks since they last saw each other, Shepard felt as if things had changed so much. As they chatted and caught up, Shepard realized just how much she had needed this. Just hearing Liara’s voice was soothing her troubled mind. As much as it would hurt to say good bye, the ache was worth the motivation Shepard had gained.
“Just keep your head up Shepard. Everyone knows you did what you had to.”
“I know that Liara. But half the time it feels like I’m trying to convince myself and not the Alliance.”
“Shepard, look at me.” Shepard locked her eyes onto Liara’s, violet gazing into sapphire.
“You gave it your all and achieved the best possible outcome. It may not have been what you wanted, but it was enough. Don’t ever doubt yourself. Everyone that has ever served on the Normandy still believes in you. Garrus believes in you. Wrex believes in you. Tali believes in you. Anderson believes in you. Hackett believes in you. I believe in you.”
Shepard could only smile at Liara. She always knew how to take away Shepard’s self-doubts give her back her spirit. “Thanks Liara. I needed to hear that.”
“I just wish I could be there with you.”
“I know and I wish you were too. But I know it’s impossible. Just promise me you’ll be careful doing whatever it is Hackett wants you to do.”
“Trust me Shepard, I will be completely safe.”
“Alright then. I miss you so much. Good bye Liara.”
“Good bye Artemis. And remember, keep your head up.”
As they signed off, Shepard thought about what Liara had said. “Gave it your all.” She immediately went over to her music player and pulled up a specific song. As she listened to ferocious guitars and poundings drums she felt Liara’s words cement themselves to the front of her mind. Shepard knew that she had to make the Alliance listen and make them see what was coming. She had to once again give it all and Shepard was willing to step up to the plate.
As always, Liara was the one who helped Shepard find her feet again and give her strength. She was her safe haven, the one who loved her body and soul and Shepard would make sure she did what was necessary to save her and everyone else.
As the song finished, Shepard felt her resolve had returned and she felt immeasurably better than she had only a few hours ago. She sang along with the last line in the song, feeling the lyrics described her exact mood.
“I give it all, now there’s a reason, there’s a reason, to give it all.”
A/N: Song is "Give it All" by Rise Against.