There were so many machines in the room that their soft beeping drowned out the breathing of the patient they were monitoring. Commander Lilliana Shepard, hero of the galaxy, the one who enabled them to win the war and drive back the Reapers, lay in the center of them all amidst a tangle of wires.
Her mother stood at the foot of her bed, her hand resting on the edge as she watched the gentle rise and fall of her daughter's chest. It was the only sign that she was still alive. Admiral Hannah Shepard knew that the machines around her would be able to tell her the same, but she didn't know what the various readouts meant and quite frankly she did not care. Her daughter was breathing on her own now. That was enough to tell her there was an improvement.
She picked up her hand and walked around the edge of the bed until she reached the stool that had been placed near the head of it. Hannah lowered herself onto it gently, trying to hide a wince. Her own doctors still weren't happy with her insisting on being up and around but she had had enough of sitting still and being fussed over. There was far too much to do. Recovery, rescue, organization, rebuilding the list went on and on, even for an Admiral who was suppose to be on medical leave. Besides, doing things kept her mind occupied. Kept her from thinking and worrying about her only child.
Lil looked pale and fragile laying there with all the machines plugged into her. Gently, Hannah reached out and smoothed some hair away from her eyes, as she had when her daughter had been much younger. That had been years, and years ago, before she became a war hero, before she had even joined the Alliance, but right now she reminded her mother more of that little girl than of the legends people claimed her to be.
"Get through this Lillie," she said, covering her daughter's hand with her own. "You made me mourn you once. Don't do that to me again." It had been easier, back when they had been on separate ships, in totally different areas of space. Easier to just be proud of everything your daughter had accomplished when there was a million different things to do and you were scrambling to even survive another day. It was nearly impossible when you knew your daughter was in the same building as you and hadn't woken up since she was brought here.
This was one of the few hospitals that had remained standing after the Reapers had hit. Only the worst of the worst were being treated in the hospital itself, there were simply to many casualties to be able to fit even a fraction of their forces. Everyone else was in the temporary medical wards had been set up surrounding it. Turian, human, quarian, even krogan were all being brought here. It made things .interesting at the very least.
Her daughter's room was well away from the center of the building, in a private and well guarded wing away from the public. They were keeping most of the higher ranking personal that had been wounded in the same wing as well, although her daughter had been granted a private room in a separate hallway. Not many people even knew she was here, a blessing considering all the answers everyone was clambering for. They weren't particularly concerned about the personal welfare of the person who could answer them either. At least she was safe for the moment.
It was thanks to Admiral Hackett for that really. He had convinced what was left of the Alliance brass that it was better to keep the information quiet, at least until her daughter woke. Since the few remaining news feeds were all either calling her missing or presumed dead she supposed they were doing a very good job with the quiet part. Of those few that knew she was still alive, still fewer actually knew where she was. They might have guessed, but they weren't allowed into see for sure. The doctors kept a very short list on who they trusted near her.
It was one of her daughter's friends, or at least acquaintances that was proving to be a great help in that. Miranda Lawson had driven off or deflected away most people that tried to visit her. Having faced her at worst Hannah had a health respect for the woman, although Miss Lawson had mellowed considerable once she had verified that yes, she was indeed Commander Shepard's mother. Miss Lawson had placed her on the very short list of people she was actually allowing in her daughter's room after that. That didn't help the suspicion she felt toward the younger woman. She knew very well who Lawson was and where she had come from. She didn't trust her entirely, but she couldn't argue with the results she was getting. She just wished she knew who has tipped the woman off about where he daughter was. A security leak like that wasn't comforting, and that was one of many questions Lawson wouldn't answer. But that could wait. Better to let the questions lay fallow until Lillie woke up. Her daughter should be able to answer some of them at least.
After a while the Admiral glanced down at her omintool and sighed at time on the holoclock. She would have liked to stay a bit longer but duties, and the fact that Lawson would throw a fit if she stayed too long, meant that she had to leave. Besides, there was a twinge in her hip that was her body warning her that it didn't like her sitting on a hard stool for so long. Time to move.
Although she did lower her arm and stood, Hannah still stood by her daughter's bedside for another long moment before she gave her hand a hard squeeze. "Don't give up," she whispered furiously before she let go and moved away.
She had left her cane leaning near the doorway. It wasn't something she had wanted to use but her injuries had left her with little choice. Hannah knew that her doctors would probably have preferred if she was either in a wheelchair or confined to a bed, but she wasn't about to let herself be chained to either. There was just too much to do and this suited her, even if it did make her move a bit slower.
She gave a nod to the guards that had been stationed right outside the door to the room. Hackett hadn't been willing to take any chances. Her daughter was still the only one who knew everything that had happened up there in the Crucible, why it had fired and the answer to a million other questions. That was why there was a second set of guards just outside the door that lead into her daughter's little hallway.
As she neared the ended of the bigger hallway that lead out of the main hospital, raised voices reached her ears. They were agitated and instinct but made her tense and drop her free hand to the pistol she still carried out of habit. It was only a twinge of pain that shot up her leg that snapped her attention to what she was doing. Slowly she removed her hand from the gun, reminding herself silently that she hadn't heard any gunshots yet nor did she have any reason to suspect there was a real threat at the moment. Arguments were commonplace, and nothing to be concerned about. That didn't stop her from increasing her pace as she continued down the hall, ignoring the pain that shot down her hip and leg.
" ..already know she's here, so why don't we stop the games and just let me through?" was the first thing she was able to make out when she got close enough. The voice was Turian, that was obvious and it sounded half familiar to her. She couldn't place it for the life of her but she felt she should know it. Unusual, given that most Turians were being treated in their own area but not something entirely unexpected. The rest of the wing with the higher-ranked personal, including her own room until recently, was right there and she did remember some fuss being made over a Turian general that had been brought in. One of his men could have come looking for him, but then again whoever this was had said 'she'. It twanged suspicions with her.
She wasn't near enough to hear the reply of the guards protecting the entrance to this corridor itself, but she was more than near enough to hear the Turian.
"If you need authorization, why don't you ask someone who Garrus Vakarian is?" You didn't need to be an expect on interspecies interactions to hear the annoyance in his voice. "Served on the Normandy? Both of them? Helped kick the asses of both the Collectors and the Reapers? Advisor to the Primarch? Best friend to Commander Shepard?"
Hannah turned the corner in time to see one of the two Marines turn to look at his partner in confusion. He was young, very young, and apparently didn't know what to make of this.
"Do you think we should..?" he didn't even try to keep his voice down. The other Marine was older, although not by much, and he just shook his head.
"We have heard your name before, sir," he said politely, "but you do not have authorization to proceed past this point. We cannot break orders, and we haven't received word to add your name to the list of those with clearance for this area."
"Oh, come on," was the snarled reply from the man they were blocking. Admiral Shepard studied the Turian with the battle scars and the visor. At least that told her why she had recognized his voice. They had met only once, years ago, at that tense funeral for her daughter. It had been brief, only a polite version of 'I'm sorry for your loss, she was a good Commander' before he had walked away. Beyond that, she knew him only from the reports she had read and wide spread rumor. Those alone had indicated a rather impressive record and rank. Lil had mentioned him a time or two in passing as well in the short messages they had sent each other. He had been someone she trusted.
"I'm sorry," the younger of the Marines did sound as if he meant the sentiment, "but our orders come from Admiral Hackett himself. The restrictions are necessary for the Commander's safety. We can't just take your word for it that you "
"So all the scans and barriers are just for fun?" Vakarain flicked a talon that biometrics scanner that had been placed at the beginning of the hallway, just past the guards. They were supposed to sound the alarm if anyone went though them who didn't have clearance. Hannah had thought it unnecessary and a waste of time the first she had heard of it but when they remaining Alliance brass agreed on something there wasn't much she could do. "You would think that the Alliance would be more competent than that. Unless your saying that it's Marines can't even interpret a simple scan."
The two Marines bristled at the remark, but Admiral Shepard just gave an amused grin. Young they might be but Admiral Hackett had placed them here for a reason. Vakarian had much to learn if he thought he could actually make them respond to that remark.
Not that she thought he really expected them to. She might be the first to admit that she knew crap all about Turian body language or expressions, but there were just some things that seemed to translate across species. Like the impatient, worried pacing or the desperation undercutting his voice. She wasn't completely sure about the last, the dual harmonics were throwing her off slightly, but she was fairly sure about it. Besides, she had been serving with Turians during the Reaper war. The way his mandible were flaring and twitching was something she had only seen when once before, when she had seen a commander getting news from Palaven. Hannah hated to assume anything but if she had to take a guess that was the Turian equivalent of 'complete helplessness'. It was a feeling she knew all to well. Back when they had first brought her daughter in, no one accept the doctors had been allowed anywhere near her until she was stabilized. The waiting, that had been the hardest part. That was not a feeling she would wish on anyone.
"Look, you just contact one of your superiors right now and tell them I'm here. One way or another I'm getting through here, and I would much rather it be through the peaceful route. Less damage that way." There was a menacing rumbling that crept into the subvocal harmonics. It made even her stiffen and she saw the guards drop hands to weapons. Immediately she started to move forward to avoid an intergalactic incident.
"I'm sorry sir," one of the Marines said, "but our superiors are in a meeting. You'll have to wait until it's concluded." The tone of 'and just try to do something about it' was clear even from where she was standing. The response from an outright growl from Vakarian that had the two Marines shifting uneasily.
"I really don't care where they are," was the more coherent response although there was a clear rumble still in his subtones. "Get a hold of them now or you patch me through to them. I really don't feel like being patient right about right." There was a familiar note of command in his voice. He was used to giving orders, and she would tell them Marines recognized that even if they weren't consciously aware of it.
"We can't do that," was terse response from the older Marine, "sir." The younger one shifted uncomfortably.
"Look," he said before Vakarian would reply to that, "even if you get clearance for this wing, you might not be able to get back to Commander Shepard. The doctors are the ones really controlling access to her, you won't get anywhere unless you talk to them. They said they wanted as few distractions for her recovery and they've limited the visitor list. Right now it's only family and close friends that.."
"Well that's fine; I think being her boyfriend more than qualities me for both lists," there was a strange look in his eyes, "and I don't care who gave the orders. Just tell me where they are, or just take the easy way out and let me through. I'm getting past here no matter what you decide. One way is just quieter than the other."
Hannha's mind had screeched to a halt at the first sentence and she used every ounce of self-control to keep her mouth from dropping open completely. She wasn't totally stunned; the logical part of her brain was already prompting her that she should do something before it turned into a diplomatic incident and trying to figure out what action she should take. It was the rest of her brain, the emotional part, that was stuck on an endless loop of 'What?'
It wasn't as if she hadn't heard the rumors flying around about her daughter's involvement with her Turian crewmember, but she hadn't taken any of them seriously. Scuttlebutt ran rampant on any ship and when you threw in someone with a reputation like her daughters well, that was just an invitation for the gossip to come creeping out of the dark corners. It hadn't occurred to her there would be some truth buried in there.
Besides her own daughter hadn't even mentioned that she was seeing someone. Not that personal lives were high on the list of things they talked about anymore, but you would think an inter-species relationship that could have very high intergalactic political ramifications would be worth brining up.
The guards appeared to having the same thoughts she was, although the older of the two had actually drawn back a little and was just staring.
"What?" the younger one said, "But you're " he trailed off, shaking his head and looked over at his partner. "Should we..?"
it doesn't change anything," he said after a moment and Hannah was struck by how very, very young they two of them were. She would have to revise her initial thoughts on why they had been set here. They bore the wounds of having served in the war but they had probably only seen action because the Alliance had been in desperate needed of any warm body that could fill a uniform. Maybe not the most skilled of those who had been rushed out of training, but they were badly wounded and more than capable of standing guard to free up other, more needed, personnel for other duties. Or that was probably the thought process behind their assignment.
Her mind was slowly pulling out it's shocked loop, pushed out by sheer annoyance at whoever was the commanding officer of these two. The guards on the inner doors might be veterans but that was no excuse for assigning personnel to a much more public position that had an even greater chance of causing incidence. She was going to have to have a word with someone about assigning kids so woefully under prepared for their positions here.
That feeling was only enforced when Vakarian took advantage of the fact that their startled steps back to slip between them with that strange grace Turians kept even when they were in full armor. He was through the scanner, which didn't go off for some reason, a small blessing, before they could even react.
"Hey, you can't !"
Vakarian had glanced back to check on the guards and almost ran into her before he noticed she was there. He screeched to a stop as he stared down at her in confusion. Apparently he been so focused he hadn't even noticed that his little conversation that he hadn't seen the other human in the hallway. She pinned him with a measuring look.
"Let him go," she heard herself say. The two Marines pulled up short and seemed to notice that she was there for the first time as well. Lax of them not to even be aware of her presence.
"Admiral Shepard," the older one said in shock and threw her a sketchy salute. "Um, sorry, but we can't "
"Shepard?" Vakarian looked at her sharply, finally taking the time to really study her.
"Make it an order if you have to, and tell anyone who asks I was the one that gave it. If they have a problem with it tell them to come to me." She turned her attention away from the marine and back to the Turian in front of her. For a moment she didn't say anything.
Back during the First Contact War, she had been a very young marine. She still remembered being instructed in how vicious, brutal and strange the Turians were. How they were aliens, cold, merciless being that could not be understood or reasoned with.
She doubted anyone back then had ever seen a Turian with this sort of naked emotion in his eyes.
"Um," he cleared his throats, seem to vibrate with some sort of nervous energy.
She nodded. "If you want to see her, come on," she told him and gestured down the hall. "The Alliance didn't give my daughter just one layer of security, and I think they would be happier if I made sure there weren't anymore events over it."
" Thank you," was the response as they started walking. "How is the Commander? I mean really, not just what the reports said."
"She's recovering," was the only thing Hannah said. "Now, if you really want to thank me then tell me how you managed to find out where she was. I thought that we had maintained better secrecy than that."
There was silent for a moment and Hannah wondered if the Turian was even going to answer her. Vakarian hesitated then said quickly. "Dr. T'soni sent me a message about it. She thought I had a right to know."
"I suppose you do," was the only reply she could think of to that beyond a faint annoyance at the scientist for breaking protocol so easily. Didn't she realize how much of a security risk that was or how much trouble she should get in? At least that anger was something she knew how to deal with.
She wasn't sure what you were supposed to say when you found out your daughter's boyfriend was from an alien race you had started out your military career shooting at. Not that she held any sort of animosity or judgment towards the Turians themselves but this was just awkward. Thankfully she was saved from having to figure out more conversation when they reached the inner door guards. The two Marines there older, more experienced and, although no one had actively told her about it, N7 members that had been trusted enough to know who they were really guarding. She had taken time to look up their service records herself or at least as much of their service records as she could get access to.
They gave Vakarian measuring stares, which he matched with an impatient glare, before she stepped up and explained things. She had expected to meet more resistance than she did with the hallway guards, but either they were more aware of who Vakarian was or they were willing to trust her judgment in the matter. After a few curt questions they let them pass.
"Please tell me they're more competent than they look," Vakarian muttered as they went through the doors. "I really really don't want to think about the security around the Commander being so lax that someone can walk right in."
"If you weren't with me it would be a lot harder to get back here," she pointed out. "These are good men, and they were chosen for a reason." The Turian grumbled something under his breath that her translator didn't catch. Not that she needed to know exact words in order to catch the meaning behind it. "Would you really have wanted them to waste more time arguing with you?"
He mulled that over for a moment. "Ask me later. When I'm actually feeling charitable."
"Lil never mentioned anything between the two of you," she said to distract him. Or at least that had been her intent. The words came out a little sharper than she had meant them to be. She knew it was foolish; it wasn't as if she had ever wanted to know all the details of her daughter's personal life. However right now, with everything so raw, the thought that she didn't even know her daughter had been seeing anyone threw her. Such a small thing, why hadn't seen been aware of it?
Vakarian reached up to scratch at the back of his neck. "There wasn't .we weren't really together until right before we blew up the Collector base. Then it was the Mass Relay and she was dragged back to earth. The Alliance wasn't letting her talk with anyone after that, and then when the war hit, well ..it slipped our minds?"
The last sounded almost apologetic and she felt a twinge of guilt over that. "I can't really fault you for it," she said. "Everyone had bigger things to worry about during the war."
"Just a few things," he agreed, "like say the fate of the entirely galaxy or how we were going to get everyone to actually be sensible for once," but didn't get a chance say anything more as they reached the door to Lillie's room. The only windows into the room where the small one in the door and the slightly larger one positioned so someone could keep an eye on the patient. They had to pass that first window in order to reach the door, and even that small glimpse of her daughter made him freeze for half a second. He made a noise, low in his throat. She looked at him in confusion. She had never heard a Turian voice anything like that half whine-half growl.
That sound brought both guard snapping to attention but she flashed them the hand signal that meant 'all clear'.
"Admiral Shepard," one of them said, coming forward to meet her. "What are you doing back here? I thought you had ended your visit for today."
"It's complicated," she said. While she was trying to explain things to the guard, Garrus slipped by them. They noticed but apparently they believed her, or at least trusted her enough at this point, that neither of them tried to stop him. They knew how much Lil meant to her. Maybe they knew what it meant if she was willing to allow him near her while she was unconscious. After a few more assurances she followed the Turian back into the room.
Vakarian was standing by the head of her daughter's bed, head bowed. He was speaking but whatever he said was too low for her to catch. She learned against the doorway and watched as he slowly brought up a hand toward her cheek. He didn't let the hand touch but instead he let his fingers hover a hair's breadth from her skin. Still not touching her he trailed a trembling hand down her face, neck, shoulder, and then followed her arm down to her hand. He didn't take it though, and just let his fingers ghost over hers, as if he was afraid she was going to break or disappear at any moment. A soft tone crept into Garrus voice, something so tender it hurt to listen to it. Hannah began to feel like an intruder. There was an intimacy and emotion there that felt as if should be private.
Nonsense, she told herself. It was her daughter. She had a right to be here. With a few steps she crossed the room to stand at the foot of her daughter's bed again. A sense of déjà vu crept over her; she had been standing here far too much lately. A twinge of pain again, telling her she should be resting somewhere. She pushed that aside for the moment.
Something about her movement must have alerted Vakarian. He glanced in her direction but then turned his gaze back on her daughter.
"The first reports we received said she was dead ," he said, sounding faintly accusing. It made her bristle before she forced herself to calm down.
"Some idiot started throwing that around almost as soon as the battle was ended," she said remember the old pain she had first heard it. "As far as I've been able to fathom it was only rumors. One that reached someone in a position of authority, and believe me they will regret it when I find who it was, but just rumors. The Alliance had her listed as MIA until Dr. T'soni and Lieutenant Vega brought her in."
"Funny, I thought most of the Alliance still listed her as MIA," he actually looked. "Not that I blame you. It's a good idea. Keep the scavengers away until she's on her feet again."
"That was the idea," she said relaxing a little at not having to deal with an angry Turian. "There are a lot of questions out there about what happened with the Reapers, a lot of people impatient for the answers to them. Some of them are just looking for someone to blame." She snorted, "Some of the Alliance brass wanted so answers so badly they were ready to try forcing her wake." She couldn't keep the quite fury out of her voice as she remembered the meeting where they had brought that idea up. "I told them no, and exactly what would happen to each of them if they tried it."
For a moment there was something angry in his eyes that almost made her take a step back as he finally reached over and squeezed Lil's hand. Then that look faded and he cocked his head, mandibles flaring slightly. "Heh." The laugh was quiet, and strained but there.
"You find that amusing?"
"Just starting to realize where the Commander gets it from," he said as he glanced back at her daughter. "I almost wish I could have been there. That was bound to have been entertaining."
"Glad I amuse you," she said dryly, but without malice. "Although I can't claim all the credit. Admiral Hackett and Miss Lawson gave as much too.."
"Wait," Vakarian cut her off, " You mean Miranda is here?"
"Yes, she's been helping with Lil's care," Hannah gave him a puzzled look. "Didn't you know?"
"For some reason no one thought to mention that to me," he said under his breath then looked at her. His gaze locked on her own. "You do realize what she is, right?"
Hannah didn't even have to think to know what he meant. "You mean a former Cerberus operative? I did read her file, Vakarian. I know what she is."
"Then the Alliance is keeping a close eye on her?"
"Do you really think I would let someone like her near my daughter unsupervised?" It had been impossible not to hear about her daughter's activities in Cerberus. From the moment the first sighting had come in Alliance command had started scrambling to make sense of it. She had been called in for questioning. They had wanted to know if her daughter had contacted her, did she have any idea where she was or where she had been for the past two years. On and on while she had been struggling to come to term with the fact that her daughter was alive, that that particular miracle was a reality. When she seen where Miranda Lawson had come from she had come close to chasing her off. Hackett had convinced her otherwise.
"..Right. Sorry," the Turian admitted. "I suppose that even the Alliance isn't that naïve."
"Oh, humans learn fast when given the motivation," she couldn't help saying. "I didn't like it much, but she has been improving rabidly while under Lawson's care. She's almost fully healed. We just have to wait for her to wake up."
Both them feel silent, the reality of those words weighing heavily on them. There was nothing either of them could do about this situation. It was a place she was not used to being in, and if she had to guess it was probably affecting Vakarian the same way. However she felt about the Turian at he moment, he did obviously care about her daughter in some way. She could feel sympathy to that.
"Do we have any time frame when she will?" Vakarian asked. She shook her head, not trusting her voice to remain steady if she spoke.
"Sooner, if she actually has a chance to rest," the crisp female voice came from the doorway. Hannah Shepard was not remotely surprised when she turned to see who it was.
"Miss Lawson," she said by way of greeting as the younger woman entered the room.
"Miranda," Vakarian said dryly. "So you are here. I'm surprised you cared enough to come."
"Nice to see you too," she said with equal dryness as she gave Hannah a nod. "You don't have to be sound so surprised Garrus. I owe the Commander, in ways that I can't repay. Besides, I am the one that's best qualified to see to her and you know it."
"Unfortunately, I can't argue with that," Vakarian admitted after a pause, "although I really, really want to."
"You don't trust me?"
"I never trusted you," Vakarian rumbled. "I trusted Shepard. There's a difference."
An urgent beeping from Hannah Shepard's omi-tools broke the tense atmosphere in the room. She glanced down at it, feeling rather relived that she wouldn't be forced to run another intervention.
"I'm afraid that's my reminder that I have a meeting to get to," she said, looking up at the other two conscious occupants in the room. The interruption felt forced but at least it had shattered the tension. She didn't want to leave it like this, but she had duties that she had to get to. Things she had volunteered for in order to keep herself occupied. There was so much to do they were only to glad to accept help. "If you'll excuse me?" She gave both of them a parting nod.
"It was nice to see you again, Admiral," Lawson said, sounding neutral.
"Thanks for the help earlier," the Turian said after a moment's hesitation. "And uh, it was nice to meet you?"
"That wasn't any trouble," she said mildly then paused in the door. "But, Vakarian? We are going to have a talk later. A nice long one." She moved away and out of the room before he could answer.
Her soft order to 'make sure they don't kill each other' only amused the guards as she passed by them.