Victory flashed before Emilia's eyes, then pain. Then darkness. It was over. The Reapers would be no more.
All of synthetic life was no more.
Her eyes were covered in darkness when the pain hit her full force. It hit her strong and hard, forcing a cry from her already weak body. Shouldn't she be dead? Shouldn't it all be over? Where was the sea? Was the galaxy fucking her over in one, final, grand gesture? Is that what this was?
Emilia's body heaved and shuddered as her head tilted back, pressing against something hard and metal. Even if she thought she could open her eyes, she had them squeezed too tightly from the pain. Every nerve in her body was on fire and every muscle felt as if it was being torn into pieces.
A gentle hand pressed to the side of her face, warm and sweet, smelling of honey and oranges. It was familiar, but not what she expected. She took a few shaky breaths as she straightened herself up, afraid to open her eyes now.
"Margaret..?" Her mouth felt dry, the word forcing itself past her lips. Had she ever said the other woman's name since what happened on Akuze?
Had she really let her just disappear into being a memory?
But that couldn't be. That memory was touching her face. If she opened her eyes, would she see those beautiful green ones staring back at her? Her heart raced, almost like someone had kicked it back into life. Oh, but it hurt. It raced and ached, hurting worse than the pain Margaret chased away.
"Open your eyes, silly." A gentle, scratchy voice teased. Emilia took a deep breath and held it before slowly opening her eyes. The last thing she had seen was that machine when she went to it, her condemning all synthetic life to destruction. An end to it all.
But this was not so blinding.
A beautiful night sky - No, a Mindoir night sky - that was alive with pretty stars she once only ever dreamed of reaching, and two, beautiful green eyes on a warm face, framed by thick, black curls. And that smile. A smile that never died and haunted her.
Emilia could not stop herself from taking Margaret's face in her hands and pulling into a kiss, her heart still aching and still racing, tears sliding down her cheeks. Her hands slipped so her arms wrapped around her neck, while Margaret's hands moved to her shoulders, neither pulling her closer nor pushing her away. Her lips still felt so smooth and soft, especially against her own chapped ones, and it felt right again. This woman the galaxy had ripped away from her, replaced with Thane-
Where was any of that?
Emilia broke the kiss and glanced down. It looked like they were sitting on the roof of one of the homes on Mindoir. Not surprising. When she was young, she did that often with her best friend.
"You cut your hair." Margaret whispered, pressing her lips to her cheek. "And all your old scars have been replaced with new ones..."
"Next you're going to say I got old." Emilia laughed a little, closing her eyes again. She missed Thane, but Margaret... Margaret was a yearning, a wanting she forgot she had. She loved Margaret, once. Before she ever got aboard the Normandy. Before Commander Shepard became a title to be feared and respected, depending on who you were.
"You did." Margaret chuckled. "And tired... I missed you so much, sunshine."
Sunshine. Hair like wheat, eyes like a clear sky. A guy from Earth said that to her once. From London, in fact. Did he make it out alive?
Margaret kissed her cheek again. And again. And again, before finally resting her head on her shoulder. They drifted off to silence together, Emilia's hands behind her neck, and Margaret's face buried against the crook of hers.
It was over. The war was over. The hell she walked was over. All the pain vanished, disappeared with this moment. It was done.
But then... Where were the ones she lost during the war? The people she had to apologize to? The ones she failed? Why had she been granted peace in death?
"You always worried about everything, everyone." Margaret said softly. Emilia closed her eyes. "No one was allowed to worry about you. Some things never change, do they? You're still so stubborn. You can't see when people love you, and how everyone's still going to worry about you."
"It wasn't their job to." She muttered, tilting her head back against the door to the roof. "I was their commander."
"And you still are." Margaret giggled as her hands moved to take her hair down from the ponytail it was in. "But you're still human, Emilia."
Emilia. Who was the last person to call her that? Even Anderson just called her Shepard. Never Emilia. That was her, right? That was her name, right?
"You never stayed in one place, either. What happened to moving to a quiet little colony some day?" She teased, kissing the side of her neck. Emilia bit her lip and resisted the urge to scream. Her whole chest hurt more than before.
"How could I without you?" She laughed a little, the sound strangled as it left her. Margaret was her world once. Her reason to live, to fight. Just like Thane.
"You stood on your own against those Threshers until help came. And Saren. And the Collectors. And the Reapers." Margaret scolded, tapping the hollow of her throat. "I think you could stand on your own living on a farm, Emilia."
"How do you know about all that..?" She asked as she shifted, opening her eyes and glancing down at her. She was met with a mass of black, tangled curls hiding the other's face.
"I've watched you for so long, waited for you to come back. And when you did the first time, I knew it wouldn't be long." Cerberus. "You were happier after you died. Not at first, but... You were happier."
Emilia fell silent. She knew what Margaret meant. The worst part was how there was no pain or anger or bitterness in her voice. Just... Love. Affection. Happiness.
"With your friends at your side... You weren't afraid of anything." She whispered, shifting so she could look her in the eye. "Except the past."
"And the pain." Emilia commented. Margaret huffed, then pulled away and stood. Emilia immediately mourned her kiss, her presence, her warmth. Margaret, come back to me.
Then Margaret held her hand out to help her up to her feet. She took it and felt that gentle hand pulled her up, then another hand move to the small of her back. And without so much as a word, only a wicked smile, Margaret began to dance with her atop the roof, under a starry sky.
“How’s our little miracle patient?” A nurse asked as she looked down at the bandaged up woman on the bed. She was unresponsive, eyes closed. Monitors beeped to show she was still alive, by some miracle or grace of whatever gods existed.
The nurse watched her for a few minutes, sorrow in her eyes. She reached down and touched the woman’s hand briefly.
“Don’t worry, honey… Once we get you I.D.ed… I’m sure you’re gonna have a whole buncha people here to see you.” A sad smile tugged at the nurse’s lips. “They’re gonna want you to wake up.”
Still there was no response. No change in the beeps or anything. It was as if she had never heard her.
The door opened, prompting the nurse to turn around. Another woman stepped into the room, dressed in blue and wearing a white coat. Her eyes were wide with shock.
“Sandra? You’re not going to believe who our little coma patient is…” She said in a hushed tone.
“Ma'am..?” Sandra looked back at the woman. She slid her hand back over and grasped the woman’s hand, offering a small smile before looking back at the doctor.
“Commander Emilia J. Shepard…” Sandra’s heart leaped into her throat. “The galaxy’s savior.”