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This Fantastic Life

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‘The stars are so beautiful.’

That was her last thought, even as the Normandy broke silently apart around her and the air hissed ominously from her hardsuit. Even as death grasped her with cold fingers, she could never regret seeing them like this. They were her home.

Rose could never have been expected to stay on Earth. Not when the whole of the galaxy was again at her fingertips. Jackie had worried, of course, and John had questioned her endlessly but nothing could sway her. She had known it wouldn’t be an easy life, but after everything she had seen and done before how could she have ever accepted normal again? In the end, Pete helped her create a new life as Marion Shepard and she reached for the stars once more.

Many in the Alliance thought her cold and aloof, cutting herself off from her peers and rarely socialising. To her, however, the time she spent alone between missions silently staring at the stars was when she found peace. These hours of meditation, while they distanced her from her fellow soldiers, only made her stand out to their superiors and she was promoted rapidly.

Elysium showed her that he was still with her. That it had almost been a good day, that almost everyone had been saved, fanned a flame in her chest that had been quietly dying since she’d been left standing on that beach what seemed like a lifetime ago. Maybe he’d even forgive her for using guns. Slowly she began to feel like Rose again.

Her promotion to Commander was a modest affair. Where Captain Anderson urged her to celebrate, she declined. Despite her re-emerging interest in social interactions, she did as she had always done when something important happened: she found a quiet place to watch the galaxy spin around her and composed a letter that she would never send.

Her induction into the Spectres was understandably less low-key. The loss of Nihilus was regrettable, but she’d had no way of changing the outcome. That they had rescued not only Gunnery Chief Williams, but several colonists as well, gave her hope that Eden Prime would survive.

That she’d had visions other than those of the Bad Wolf was both a blessing and a curse.

The more non-human crew they’d attracted, the more Marion Shepard had begun to resemble Rose Tyler. She’d never been uncomfortable around aliens, after all.

Garrus was a solid presence at her side. Give him a leather jacket, she’d mused, and the turian would be so like first-him that she’d probably have freaked him out by reaching for his hand in the middle of a fight.

Wrex too was a reliable constant on their missions. Thankfully, he was not a Constant, or she might have tossed herself out the airlock with guilt. Still, between the krogan’s seriousness and Joker’s teasing, she’d felt as though some part of Jack was with her again.

Tali’Zorah, while shy at first, had slowly become as close a friend as she’d had since she’d left Shireen behind so long ago. They were often heard laughing and talking in the Captain’s quarters. Eventually, as Ashley had warmed up to the presence of the quarian (if not aliens in general), the Gunnery Chief joined them.

Liara... Liara had helped her adjust. The first time their minds had met, she could tell the young asari was startled by the presence of Bad Wolf. A flash of golden eyes had prevented her from bringing it up around the other crew, but as soon as they were alone in the private room behind the med bay, the questions had poured forth. As the truth came out, Rose had felt at peace in her skin for the first time since he’d left. Liara did not judge, did not pry too hard at those fresh scars, but instead helped her to accept Bad Wolf as a part of herself.

The return of her carelessly flirtatious attitude had given more than one of the crew false hope. She was glad that Liara had understood, hadn’t pressed when she had told her it wouldn’t work between them. She regretted that she was never able to do the same for Kaiden. Her time with him had taught her that sometimes there had to be small sacrifices made for the greater good and there, on Virmire, she’d had to make the choice that ultimately doomed the young Lieutenant.

No one ever blamed her for killing Alenko, but the hours that passed en route to the Mu Relay had stretched into an eternity as she had agonised over failing one of her crew. After all, he had saved both her and the planet. What was wrong with her that she hadn’t been able to do the same? She’d come to terms with it by remembering all those who’d died so that he could finish his mission. He carried memories of each of them between his hearts and she could do no less for her crew.

The aftermath of the Battle for the Citadel had nearly broken her again. ‘I killed them; I turned the key,’ echoed in her mind. But he had picked himself up again and so would she. And she had, but she’d retreated into herself once more as her friends left to pursue their own ambitions. She’d wondered if he had felt this numbness, this emptiness every time his companions returned to their own lives and left him behind. She’d smiled at them and wished them luck and then returned to her ship that could only travel in space not time and wasn’t blue at all. But it was home and she could ask for nothing else.

Life had continued on and she’d emerged again with the gentle coaxing of Ashley and the teasing concern of Joker. She remembered that even though they weren’t with her, they were still alive, and she could write letters to friends who could respond. Routine missions slipped by, new discoveries and milestones were shared across light-years, and then it had all broken apart.

‘He would have been proud; almost everyone survived,’ she sighed in her mind. Regrets clamored for attention but here, at the end, she could only feel at peace with her beloved galaxy spinning around her.

‘The stars are so beautiful.’