I. Day One
Blessed Shepard, Lady of Our Armament
Abide by our trespasses, Protect our omniblade
Be with your comrades-in-arms in this battle
Shield them from grenade, Defend them from evil
Harbor them against the storm
Your honor and memory is for what we fight
“No one is an atheist in a foxhole,” James shrugged, lighting the tall white candle.
Kaidan shook his head, “I have been in many foxholes and I’ve stayed unconvinced the entire time. I’m also not a huge fan of giving away our location via purposeless fire.”
Garrus looked at them both confused, “What is a foxhole? What is a fox?”
“Look Major, I am just saying goodbye,” Vega’s voice raised slightly, “My abuela would light candles for our family members who have died.”
Kaidan sighed, “Vega, maybe I’m not ready to say goodbye.”
“Is anyone going to answer me?” Garrus asked again, “I thought foxes were what humans called attractive women.”
II. Day Two
Blessed Shepard, Bellatrix of Our Battle
Forgive us our mercy, Grant us our strength
Protect the platoon, gird the ship
Let us not be mild or meek, Let us not be tired or torn
Guide us into war with beauty and grace
Your honor and memory is our light
Vega stopped praying the day he landed in Omega when it seemed like no one was listening.
He started again as Shepard walked away from him for the last time even though he hadn’t found any proof yet that anyone heard him.
They hadn’t stopped moving since that day, refugee camps and mobile marine units running together in a montage of poker games lost and the realization that the Major didn’t have to salute many people these days.
Garrus stays with them after the Reaper ships fall from the sky and they move across Europe dealing with the new groups of mercenaries that had popped up in the power void. They sleep in shifts and nobody asks what they will do after this is all over.
On the second night of James’ devotion, Garrus joins him without asking and sits in silent meditation as James recites his prayer.
Afterwards, in the flickering candle light, he tells stories about Shepard’s laughter and the way she named all of her guns. He takes off his visor and shows James her name carved into the metal.
From the doorway, Vega can see the Major listening.
III. Day Three
Blessed Shepard, Mother of Our Regiment
Pray for our privates, Give guidance for our generals
Remember us in bleakness and in pain and in death
Remind us of those lost in grim red
Allow us to not fear the night
Your honor and memory is our weapon
In a small seaside fishing village in Spain, Vega is told his first legend about Shepard by a human child who recounts the Commander with wild hands and a stand-in pistol made from a tree branch.
His next came from an olive skinned Greek woman with almond eyes that fed them and invited James into her bed while Kaidan and Garrus slept in her barn. She rested her head against steady rise of his chest and told him about the night she spent hiding from husks in the grove of fig trees that surrounded the home.
“I thought of Shepard, and I knew I could do it,” she explained quietly, his hands lacing through her dark curls.
When he lights his third night of candles in a Cathedral outside Berlin, a red-headed Mary Magdalene smiled down upon the Major’s sleeping form.
It wasn’t till the next morning that they could see the small N7 that had been etched upon the figure’s chest.
IV. Day Four
Blessed Shepard, Valkyrie of Our Rage
Grant us memory long and vengeful
Guide the strike of death, Use our forms for your will
Strike at our foe, Stand for the weak
Wash our hands, our hearts, and our minds of sin
Your honor and memory is our promise
The tattoo is large and costs him a day’s rations, but the artist doesn’t complain when James lights his candle or request that Shepard’s petite form must be in armor but still parked on the front of the Normandy like a B-52 pinup.
“Are you sure you don’t want her topless?” The artist asks, pausing briefly, “I’ve had an odd number of requests for topless Shepard pinups.”
“How many?” James asked laughing, picturing Shepard’s face if she was ever to see one.
“More than I’m comfortable with,” he answered with a shrug, “But I have gotten really good at drawing them.”
Garrus declines his turn, pointing to his face, “I think I have enough scarring for one Turian’s lifetime.”
The Major takes his turn and Garrus hands Vega the scope he had bet that Kaidan would never go through with it. Kaidan passed the artist a set of numbers scrawled on paper and pulled off his shirt to reveal his chest.
“What is that? A date?” James asks, the familiar whir of the tattoo machine in the background as the artist started on the first number.
Kaidan’s face fell, “My anniversary.”
James scrunched his face in confusion, “Of what? Isn’t that in the future?”
“We had agreed before London to go back to Eden Prime on that date,” he explained as the artist continued to shade the numbers, “It was Shepard’s idea, go back to where it all started to make it official.”
Vega paused, before giving him a wicked grin, “Lola would think the tattoo was hot.”
Kaidan nodded, “She really would’ve, wouldn’t she?”
V. Day Five
Blessed Shepard, Beacon for the Missing
Your warning was given to save us
Our penance is eternal, Our tears are shared
Your gifts were not deserved, Your followers were unworthy
The shadow of our deceit cast upon Earth
Your honor and memory is our spear and shield
Vega isn’t afraid to call some days good. The sun shines, Garrus has enough food, and the Major doesn’t get a migraine. They fall asleep around a fire, well-fed and nobody dreams of Big Ben.
But on other days, it rains, their stomachs scream the entire walk, and nobody can sleep without remembering the roar of the Reaper ship. On those days, Garrus doesn’t flinch on the sniper rifle and the Major’s biotics flicker long after the battle has ended.
The fifth day of James’ personal vespers, his fresh tattoo itches, his feet ache, and the wind blows out his candle three times before he can finish his prayers.
But Kaidan sits with him the entire time, and Garrus trades with a local Turian camp for full rations. They talk about how much fun a copy of the Shepard VI would be, and Vega does his best impression of her pointing at the Council.
He chalks this up as a good day, even when it starts to rain.
VI. Day Six
Blessed Shepard, Maiden of Hope in Death
In the killing stroke, hold your soldier's heart
In the final blow, shield your soldier's eyes
As final breath leaves, guide him to your shores
Keep him in safety and he will follow you
Your honor and memory is our haven
Vega tries to be the man that Shepard ordered him to be.
He thinks twice before jumping into the line of fire, he takes his time planning attacks, and spends time ensuring that the two most important people to her when she was alive don’t die.
They don’t make the task easy for him.
Kaidan’s only goal in battle seems to be to join her in oblivion and Garrus breaks with grief, wasting ammo rained into already-fallen enemies.
James saves the medigel for their particularly bad days, and accepts the sharp ache of a broken rib.
It is what Lola would do.
VII. Day Seven
Blessed Shepard, Leader of our Flock
Before you, we were lost without guidance
With you, we have order and hope
After you, we are given action and movement
We are your instrument
Your honor and memory is our spark
“I don’t know why you keep calling me Major,” Kaidan took a swig from the bottle of wine.
Vega grabbed it from him, “Because you are Major.”
Garrus looked back and forth at the drunk men, “Are we sure that both of you getting intoxicated is the best idea ever considering that we’re still being hunted by seven different merc bands?”
“Are you counting that Amazon Asari group that we ran into outside of Toulouse?” Kaidan asked, as Vega thoughtfully counted on his fingers.
“Eight different merc bands,” Garrus corrected himself.
James held up nine fingers, “Are you counting the Krogan that still haven’t hitched a ride back to their system?”
“Nine different merc bands,” Garrus shook his head.
VIII. Day Eight
Blessed Shepard, Helen of Our Troy
Your face pushed ships to sail, tanks to charge
It constructed barriers and shelter and faith
Your body cried out in last moments
A sacrifice that can not be repaid
Your honor and memory is our pain
Six months, eight days, and Vega was still waiting for Lola’s orders.
He was still looking to his left for a quirk of the eyebrow. Waiting for the way that she never seemed to smile completely, unless it was at the Major and nobody was looking. Seeking out her hands bathed in blue light with eyes firm and focused.
She would grimace with every lunch tray he delivered to her in the brig, her nose scrunched in mock-disgust.
After every mission on the Normandy, she would sit at his table and talk about what the desert looked like from his grandfather’s ranch.
When James finally told her that his dream gig was serving on her ship, Shepard nudged him in the ribs and it was better than any hug he could’ve imagined.
IX. Day Nine
Blessed Shepard, the Commander of our Fleet
You gave me love, light, and reason
You gave me hope, power, and strength
The galaxy cries in your physical absence
My heart sings in your spiritual presence
Your honor and memory is my truth
They are approaching a small village in the Alps, when Vega looks to his right to see Kaidan take off in a full sprint.
James had played out this moment, crouched behind rubble when a familiar battle cry would erupt from behind him.
He would be walking into a alleyway when a shot would ring out and Garrus would give a cheer as a merc hit the ground.
A shuttle would land and she would hop out, shooting James a grin, “Sorry that I’m late for the party.”
But the frail woman embracing Kaidan has a cane, no witty remark, and is crying heaving sobs into his armored shoulder. James watches as her legs give away and the Major lowers her gently to the ground and kisses her tears as they roll down her scarred cheeks.
She doesn’t let go of his hand for the rest of the day, and Garrus finally calls Turian command to arrange his first meeting with the Hierarchy since London.
That night when Vega lights his final candle, the flame dances over Shepard’s sleeping face resting on the Major’s lap.
For the first time, he thinks that someone must have been listening.