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First Flight

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     Petty Officer Guillermo Pérez stared, only half-seeing, as he scrolled through the list on his omnitool. He looked up at the turian. "Sir," he said at last, "this is not a commercial flight. You do understand that?"

     The turian leaned casually on the counter. "Yes," he said, "I do understand that—" The blue eyes narrowed as he peered at Pérez' name tag. "Pérez."

     Pérez looked back at the travel chits provided, scrolled through the list again and clenched his teeth against a nascent headache. "Mister—Vakarian, is it?"

     "Vakarian, yes. Garrus Vakarian." The turian inclined his head, as though expecting Pérez to be impressed by the name. It sounded familiar, but Pérez couldn't place it. It didn't matter, in any case.

     "Mister Vakarian," he repeated firmly, "these IDs are for children."

     "Four of them are children, yes. Three adults."

     "I'm not a child."

     Vakarian glanced over his shoulder at the krogan who had grumbled behind him. She was nearly as tall as Vakarian and easily heavy enough to crush him and Pérez without trying, and as a result Pérez felt rather inclined to agree with her.

     How had he ended up drawing this duty shift again?

     Right, he sighed internally. That bet with Riley, the slippery son of a—

     "You're classified a child for now, sweetheart," the turian said gently, and returned his attention to Pérez. Behind him, the krogan grunted in annoyance and rolled her shoulders. "Is there a problem?" Vakarian went on. "If you like, I could call my wife over to resolve any issues. She's much less pleasant to deal with than I am, though." He flashed his teeth in a fierce turian grin.

     Pérez looked past Vakarian, past the krogan, to where a turian female stood with two children—one turian, one human. She looked tired. Pérez clenched his teeth again. He didn't feel up to dealing with a pissed-off turian mother. Or any pissed-off mother, for that matter. His temples throbbed.

     "I'm just not sure we've space available for seven civilian passengers," he said at last. "Certainly not a lot of children." He checked his manifest rapidly.

     "Oh, there's space available. And there won't be any trouble," Vakarian assured him. "We've travelled plenty on Alliance rigs. The kids know the drill."

     "What's the problem?" snapped a sharp voice, and heavy bootsteps approached. Pérez straightened instinctively and stared at the human woman who had appeared out of nowhere with a duffel slung over one shoulder. Her blue eyes pierced his skull and it was all he could do to resist saluting.

     "No problem, ma'am," he said in his most conciliatory tone.

     "Oh, hey, hon," Vakarian greeted her. He straightened and leaned down to kiss the woman's cheek. Her expression softened slightly as she looked up at him, then resumed its military stiffness. "Petty Officer Pérez here is concerned about the kids. You wanna work that out with him? I'll go take the little monsters off Sol's hands, give her a break."

     "That's a good idea," said the woman. "Her leg is bothering her."

     "Did she say something?"

     "Of course she didn't."

     "I'll see what I can get out of her."

     Vakarian patted the woman's hip affectionately and sauntered in the direction of the turian female. The krogan turned slightly to watch him go, then took up her place just behind the woman.

     "Now," the woman said to Pérez. "There's a problem with my kids?"

     "Your kids," Pérez said.

     "Yes, my kids." Her blue eyes glittered. He got the impression that she wasn't used to being questioned, or disobeyed.

     "Ma'am," Pérez began.

     "Commander," the woman corrected him tersely. "Shepard."

     "Shepard," Pérez repeated faintly. "Commander, I thought—these kids—they're all named Vakarian."

     "Technically it's Shepard-Vakarian," she informed him. "Look, Petty Officer, it's a long ride to Tuchanka, and I'd like to get everyone settled in before this cruiser gets going." She dropped the duffel, which landed with an ominous clanking noise. With a fluid movement she raised her hand and brought up her omnitool. From habit, Pérez raised his own omnitool, only to find she had already bypassed his security measures and confirmed space available for four children, three adults.

     Bypassed his security with Spectre authority.

     What the hell?

     Pérez stared at the data a moment, then looked up at Shepard. She bent down and lifted her duffel once more, shifted to get it comfortable over her shoulder, and raised an eyebrow at him. He opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and simply nodded once.

     "As you were, Petty Officer," Shepard said, and flashed the briefest of smiles before she turned and marched in the direction Vakarian had gone. The female turian had taken a seat on a nearby bench, and Vakarian sat next to her; the two smaller children sat at his feet, playing some sort of game involving—oh, god, they were playing with the female turian's prosthetic leg.

     What the hell?

     Pérez realised with a sudden jolt that the large krogan hadn't moved, and that she was staring intently at him. "May I help you?" he asked her, suddenly nervous.

     "My mother," she said grimly, and thrust a finger in his direction, "shouldn't have to pull rank anywhere in the galaxy to get the respect she deserves." With that she turned and stomped toward the rest of the family.

     Pérez closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, exhaled. He let his omnitool vanish, reached under the counter and found a bottle of analgesic tablets. He swallowed a half dozen without water, and prayed that the rest of his day would be entirely uneventful.


     Shepard tested the boys' harnesses, made sure they were fastened tightly, and straightened. "Now," she said sternly, "once we're cruising, the captain will let us know it's all right to take off the harnesses, but not before then. Understood?"

     "Understood," they intoned simultaneously.

     "Good." Shepard gently knocked their heads together and headed toward her seat.

     Kataq was already buckled in, albeit uncomfortably; older Alliance ships like this one had never planned for krogan size requirements. Shepard patted Kataq's shoulder in sympathy, which elicited an acknowledging grunt.

     Solana had fallen asleep, her head sunk deep into her cowl, arms folded, her leg stretched out in front of her. Garrus sat easily next to her, and watched as Shepard approached and sat on his right.

     "Little one's hungry," he said, once Shepard had buckled herself in. "Demanding her mama."

     Shepard snorted and slid her feet below the bench, felt the reassuring weight of her duffel beneath it. "Can't argue with baby," she said.

     Garrus reached into the cowl of his jacket and gingerly withdrew a tiny squirming bundle wrapped up in a soft cocoon. "There you are, sweetheart," he crooned. "Mama's here." He cradled her bottom as he handed her to Shepard. She wriggled joyfully and shrieked in excitement.

     Shepard unwrapped her from the cocoon, took her in both hands and held her up high, brought her down and kissed her face, held her up again. The baby shrieked again, and Solana jerked slightly in her sleep. "Oops," Shepard murmured, as she held the baby to her chest. "Can't wake Auntie. She's very tired, you know." She looked up at Garrus, who handed her a small tube. "Did you talk to her?" she asked, keeping her voice low.

     "As much as she'll let me," Garrus admitted. "The leg's giving her some trouble."

     "She doesn't have any blisters, does she?" She popped the cap off the tube and smeared some of the contents on one finger.

     "No. Says it just feels like it needs adjusting. Like it's too long, maybe."

     "Hm." Shepard looked down at the tiny turian in her arms, offered her finger; the baby clutched her hand and happily licked at the paste with a rough tongue. "Maybe," Shepard went on, watching the baby's face, "if she wakes before we get to Tuchanka, we can get the ship's medic to take a look at it."

     Garrus sat watching Shepard feed the baby for a moment. "Maybe," he murmured. "You know she'll complain."

     "Let her. The sooner she gets a needed adjustment done, the less damage it does to her knees and hips."

     Garrus nuzzled her ear affectionately, and kissed it. "Always looking out for everyone," he said. "You need to look out for you, too, you know."

     "Sure," Shepard agreed. "That's why we're going to Tuchanka, isn't it?"

     "A trip to Tuchanka isn't exactly what most people think of when they want some R&R, you know."

     "Most people aren't you and me." Shepard flashed a grin up at him, and Garrus returned it. "Did you contact Wrex?"

     "Nope. Didn't want to ruin the surprise."

     "It's been a while since we've seen him." She looked down at the baby again. "I'm looking forward to it."

     "Mm. Me too."

     Beneath her feet the ship's engines rumbled slightly, and Shepard smiled to herself. It would be good to reconnect with old friends.


     Disembarking was rather a longer process than it had been the last time Shepard had been to Tuchanka. Their IDs had been scanned, and then each person had to pass through a decontamination chamber. Shepard and the baby were manually decontaminated by a female officer, in a separate room. "Never know what will affect a little one," the officer said apologetically to Shepard afterward, as Shepard gathered her clothes and redressed. With her thick finger the krogan tickled the baby's belly; the baby shrieked, grasped her finger and bit it with needle-sharp teeth. The krogan chuckled.

     "She's fierce," she noted. "How old is she?"

     "Couple months," Shepard said.

     "What's her name?" She wrapped the baby up swiftly in her cocoon, and handed her back to Shepard.

     "It's Laelia. You do that like a pro," Shepard commented.

     "I've got two of my own," the krogan told her with a small smile. "I understand it's thanks to you."

     "Not me," Shepard said, as she slipped the squirming cocoon into the harness that crossed her chest. "A lot of people came together to make that happen."

     "Well, they're owed thanks too." The krogan opened a door on the opposite side of the room to let Shepard out. "Have a safe visit."

     Shepard thanked her, and headed out to join the rest of her family.

     They took a shuttle to the capital, where an enormous pyramid stood, glass and stone and metal gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine. As they stepped out of the shuttle the boys chattered excitedly about the building, both reciting facts about its construction which they had learned in school.

     "Pipe down, you little nerds," Garrus chided them. "The whole galaxy doesn't need to hear it. Come on, now, we'll go see about some supper, while your mother and Kataq see Wrex—"

     "But I wanna see Wrex too," David complained.

     "Yeah, me too," Timaeus chimed in.

     "It's not fair, you didn't say we could meet him—"

     "That's right," Garrus said sharply. "Because—"

     "It's not fair," David howled. "Why does Kataq get to go?"

     "I wanna go too. Mum's taking Laelia with her. So everyone gets to go except us!"

     "I'm not," Shepard tried to interrupt.

     "It's not fair!"

     Around them, krogan paused to stare, no doubt curious to see how the situation would be resolved. Before Shepard could make a move, Kataq swiftly stomped an enormous booted foot in front of the boys. They blinked up at her, startled into silence, faces tear-streaked. Kataq crouched to be on their level. "Hey," she said, quietly. "I know it's new and exciting and all, but we're not here for fun. It's an important mission for me and Mum, all right? And you can't come along because it's gonna be really dangerous."

     "We can protect you," Timaeus began.

     "No," Kataq said. "That's not allowed. But listen. I'm gonna give you a mission, of your own." She leaned in close and Shepard could not hear her words. As Kataq pulled away, the boys nodded in unison. Kataq hooked her arms around their shoulders and they both reached as far around her thick neck as they could. Kataq released them, straightened, glanced at Laelia, who was still safely ensconced in the harness over Shepard's chest, and winked. Laelia watched her with wide eyes.

     "And that," Garrus said with amusement, "is how the Shepard women get shit done."

     The bystanders had wandered away. Shepard suppressed a smile. Solona snorted soft laughter.

     Shepard unfastened the harness and held Laelia up, kissed her face until the baby giggled, and handed her over to Garrus. "Don't know how long we'll be. Depends on how many are ahead of us."

     "I'm sure you can hop the line without repercussion," Garrus replied. He tucked Laelia into his cowl. "I'll take the beasts to the hostel, get us checked in, and we'll scare up some food."

     "And then maybe some naps," Solana cut in, with a tilt of her head toward the boys.

    "And maybe some naps," Garrus agreed. "Buzz me if you need me." He leaned down and kissed her deeply, and Shepard sighed, patted his scarred cheek.

     "Always," she said. She turned to the boys. "Come on, give me a kiss," she said, and they both flung themselves at her for hugs and kisses. "Be good for Dad," she said. "He's a wreck without me." They snickered at that, and Shepard straightened. "Sol," she said, "don't overdo."

     "Why," Solana said drily, "you gonna take my leg away as punishment if I do?"

     "I'll get Kataq to carry you around," Shepard promised. Kataq grinned.

     "Traitors both," Solana sighed, melodramatically. "Be careful out there, Shep. You too, kiddo."

     "I'm not a kid."

     "Kataq, I've rocked you to sleep," Solana reminded her. "Singing old turian lullabies. You used to drool on me."

     "Ugh." Kataq drew her head back toward her barely-extant hump and feigned annoyance.

     "We should go," Shepard said. Once more she swung her duffel up over her shoulder and together with Kataq she climbed the steps leading to the pyramid's door.


     Wrex spotted her as soon as she entered the hall and stood from his seat—a much more richly-decorated one than his first 'throne' on Tuchanka, and in a cleaner, air-conditioned space. Several aides hovered around his chair, and looked to see what had brought Wrex to his feet.

     "Shepard," he bellowed, and his voice echoed from the walls. "What in the void brings you here?"

     "Wrex," she hollered back. "What the fuck is all this?" She swept out her free hand to indicate the expansive hall. "You're not going soft on me, are you?"

     "Hell, no. I'm gettin' old, but not soft, not yet." He stepped down from the dais and stumped his way toward her. He had a few more scars and he moved a touch more slowly than he had before, but he was still a battlemaster, and it showed in every movement. He stopped in front of Shepard and punched her shoulder with one fist. She did the same to him, and they both laughed. "You look good, Shepard," he said. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

     "Didn't want to get treated any different," Shepard said with a shrug. Wrex beckoned to her, turned and made his way back to his seat on the dais. Shepard followed, and waited for him to settle comfortably, dropped her duffel to the floor.

     Wrex glanced at the duffel, eyed Shepard critically a moment, then looked past her to Kataq. "Who's this?" he asked. "Another one of your strays?"

     "This is Kataq," Shepard said. "Your ru'shan."

     Wrex stared at Kataq a moment, and his eyes narrowed. Kataq watched him in return, respectful but unafraid. "You're shitting me, Shepard," Wrex said slowly.

     "I shit you not."

     "Bakara should be here." Wrex turned and gestured to one of the aides near the dais, who took a step forward. "Go get Bakara. Tell her Kataq is home." The aide raced to obey, and Wrex settled back into his chair to look at Kataq again.

     "I didn't realise it'd been so long," he admitted. "I should've checked in more."

     "No need to," Shepard assured him.

     "Mm. I suppose you brought her home for the Rite?" His red eyes flickered back to Shepard.

     "Naturally. Kataq refused to consider any clan but Urdnot."

     This made Wrex laugh. "Why would she want anything else?" he wondered. "We've been the ruling clan here since Tuchanka reunited. She's practically royalty."

     "Shepard." Bakara's low voice was a welcoming one, and Shepard turned as the krogan entered the hall. No longer hidden behind a veil, Bakara's broad face showed every ounce of her pleasure as she reached for Shepard's hand and squeezed it tightly. "It's good to see you again, Shepard." She turned to Kataq. "You've grown so much, ru'shan," she said, softer. "I hardly recognise you." Kataq shifted her weight slightly and flashed a shy smile. Bakara looked again at Shepard. "You brought her here, for the Urdnot Rite?"

     "Yes."

     "Not a lot of female warriors, even now," Bakara said, thoughtful. She turned to Kataq. "What have you got to offer Clan Urdnot, that another warrior might not bring?"

     Kataq raised her chin. "I have been trained," she said, "in weaponry and strategy, by the best warriors in the galaxy."

     "Anyone can be trained to fight," Bakara snapped. "What makes you special?"

     Kataq stood a little straighter, lowered her head slightly to meet Bakara's gaze. "I have been trained not to fight, by the best warriors in the galaxy. I know when to lower a weapon and use words, instead. I want to build alliances whenever possible, to ensure that all have a chance to thrive."

     Bakara stared at her a long moment.

     "And I will put a bullet between the eyes of anyone who doubts the skills my parents have taught me," Kataq finished, defiant.

     Wrex laughed at that, and Bakara smiled. "I suspect we're gonna lose another thresher maw," Wrex said, rueful. "You won't be permitted to raise any other krogan brats, Shepard. We'll end up short of ways to test 'em."

     "Technically, I didn't raise Grunt. And anyway, there are still a lot of thresher maws," Shepard reminded him. "Kalros is still out there, isn't she?"

     "Hey," Wrex grumbled, "Kalros is an institution. You leave her out of this."

     "We're more likely to alter the Rite of Passage for the clan," Bakara pointed out. "After all, it's not just about survival, anymore." She glanced at Kataq as she spoke. "You've done well, Shepard. I don't for one moment regret giving her to you."

     "I'm glad to hear that," Shepard said. "She's a little too smart for her own good, but that'll pay off."

     "Well," Wrex cut in, "no need to wait around. Kid's got a Rite to pass." He looked over at Bakara. "You gonna be ruzad, or—"

     "No," Bakara said. "Not today."

     Wrex nodded slowly. "Then you'll stay here with me." He looked back at Shepard. "Just you? She needs at least two."

     "I'm waiting for someone to show, actually," Shepard said with a grin.

     "Is it Garrus? That turian bastard still doin' it for you?"

     Shepard scoffed. "We're married, Wrex, you know that. And we have three other kids."

     "Well, shit, no one tells me anything."

     "That's because you never call. And no, it's not Garrus."

     Brisk footsteps approached and all eyes turned to watch a sleek armoured form approach. Wrex frowned. "Is that—?"

     "Shepard, sorry I'm late. Lotta paperwork to get leave, especially for something like this." Ashley waved. "Hey, Wrex." Wrex raised a hand in greeting.

     "Ashley Williams," he intoned. "Been a long time, Ash."

     "You're looking good, old man."

     "Is that a little grey at your temples, Ash?"

     "Glad you could make it," Shepard interrupted, and elbowed her gently. "Good trip?"

     "Could've been worse," Ashley agreed. "Straight shot from Sol."

     "Nice."

     "Bakara," Wrex said with amusement, "this is Ashley Williams, the one who would have shot me."

     "One of thousands, Wrex," Bakara said, and rolled her eyes. "You'll have to be more specific."

     "She actually had the chance. On Virmire." Bakara shook her head and Wrex sighed.

     "Aw, Wrex, you'd've shot me if our situation was reversed." Ashley rested her hands on her hips and eyed him with another grin. "Admit it."

     "Yeah, you're right," he said, and chuckled. "I'm just glad it never came down to it." He glanced at a krogan aide next to his chair. "Get a tomkah ready," he said. "This brat and her krantt are gonna undergo the Rite." He sat back in his chair. "If you kill the maw this time, Shepard, I'm gonna hafta take down that statue of me they got out in the courtyard, and put up one of you. The krogan are gonna demand it."

     "You're full of shit, Wrex," Shepard told him. "You killed the maw in your Rite, too."

     "Yeah, but I didn't kill two, plus every damn Reaper in existence."

     "I've only killed the one thresher maw, remember."

     "Uh-huh."


     "So," Shepard said, as she reloaded and peered through her scope. "How's James?" She fired three shots in rapid succession and reloaded again.

     "Oh, he's good," Ashley replied. She blasted a klixen at close range with her shotgun, and swore as its fluids scarred the surface of her armour. "I never thanked you for recommending him for the N7 program. He's really come into his own, you know?"

     "Good to hear," Shepard said. "Watch my six, there's a sneaky bastard hiding down there, I'm gonna get him." Ashley walked with her back to Shepard, scanning the field for more beasts.

     Kataq covered the field easily with her rapid-fire weapons and biotics. She appeared to have her own strategies in mind, but she adapted well when Shepard called out commands, and so far none of the three of them had been in any real danger.

     "Got 'im," Shepard declared, and she and Ashley returned to the makeshift cover in the centre of the field. "Where are you stationed now?"

     "Titan," Ashley told her. "Training recruits in HEAT."

     Shepard laughed. "Have to kick any in the ass?"

     "All the time, Commander."

     "How're the kids doing?"

     "Awesome," Ashley said, and counted her clips rapidly. "Rosa's interested in botany, now. Some boy she likes is into it. All I can say is, if liking a boy can get her into science, I'm all for it."

     "And Gabi?" The klaxon sounded and a new wave of beasts was released.

     "Gabi's doing great. She's—" Ashley paused and tossed a grenade into a cluster of klixen; the grenade went off and the klixen bodies exploded in a disgusting mash of fluids and broken shell. "She's picking up sign language really quickly, and it's such a relief to be able to communicate with her." She grinned over her shoulder. "Mama and Papa aren't quite as gifted with it."

     "You'll get it," Shepard assured her. "You'll do it for her."

     "Absolutely. Anything for my baby. How are your little monsters?"

     Shepard picked off another klixen from a distance, then switched places with Ashley. "The boys keep forgetting they're not twins."

     "They do have the same birthday," Ashley pointed out.

     Kataq slid by with a missile launcher and fired, then laughed out loud as the missile wiped out a cluster that had just emerged into the field. She sighed, satisfied, and crossed the field again.

     "They do," Shepard said, "but they also keep forgetting not to eat one another's foods."

     "Ouch."

     "I dunno, maybe it'll develop a tolerance in them. They're funny. Very into architecture, right now."

     "Architecture?"

     "I'm sure it's a phase," Shepard said. "Just like they wanted to play professional bioticball, until they found out neither of them is biotic."

     "That's still adorable."

     "It is. And the baby—"

     "Wait, baby?"

     "Her mother—was not well. We never did find out what was wrong, only that it was congenital, and that the little one doesn't have it. She—shit." Shepard paused and launched a grenade in front of a group of klixen, who surrounded it, to their detriment. "She was born a little premature, so we couldn't bring her home right away. Her name's Laelia. Little turian girl. Just two months old, now."

     "You need to send me hols. And vids."

     "You bet I will."

     There was another break, and they took a moment to catch their breath.

     "Hit the keystone, Mum!" Kataq called from her position.

     "Ready for this?" Shepard asked Ashley.

     "I hate those things, you know that, right?"

     "No one loves them. Let's kill the bastard."

     Shepard hit the keystone and they braced themselves as the ground beneath them shook.


     "So you killed another maw," Wrex grumbled.

     "Technically," Ashley pointed out, "Kataq killed it."

     "Truth," Shepard nodded.

     Wrex watched them balefully a moment, taking in their sweaty, dirty faces and their scratched and acid-roughed armour. He turned pointedly to Kataq. "Urdnot Kataq. How does that feel?"

     "Like something worth earning," Kataq told him.

     "Are you planning to stay here on Tuchanka, or leave here with Shepard?"

     Kataq looked up at Shepard. Shepard kept her eyes firmly ahead. This was Kataq's moment, her choice. It was what she had been working toward, all her life. No matter the answer, Shepard would accept it. Kataq looked back at Wrex.

     "I will stay," she said, "and serve the krogan people as best I can."

     Wrex nodded. "Say your goodbyes, then, and go with Bakara. I think she has plans for you." He looked at Shepard. "Thank you," he said quietly, "for bringing our daughter home."

     Shepard inclined her head to him, and turned to face Kataq just as she wrapped powerful arms around Shepard's shoulders and lifted her in a bone-crushing hug.

     "I'm gonna miss you, Mum," Kataq said. "Tell the boys goodbye for me. And Dad. And Aunt Solana."

     "It's not forever, baby," Shepard assured her. "We can visit anytime."

     Kataq set her back on her feet and turned to Ashley. "Lieutenant-Commander," she said, and offered her hand. "Thank you, for agreeing to help."

     "Shepard's family is my family," Ashley said, and shook her hand. "You're gonna do great."

     "Well," Shepard said after a brief and awkward silence. "I should go."

     "Yeah," Ashley agreed, "we should." She nudged Shepard's shoulder and turned to walk out with her. Shepard did not look back.

     Outside, dawn was breaking, hazy and dim. Ashley stretched. "When you leaving?" she wondered.

     "Mm. Cruiser docking around eleven-hundred tomorrow—well, I guess, today." Shepard gestured to the sky. "Breslau, I think."

     "Me too. Guess I'll see you aboard."

     "Thanks, Ash. For helping."

     "Anytime, Shepard."

     They embraced quickly and parted ways, and Shepard walked briskly to the hostel. Sitting on a bench outside was a familiar turian shadow. He looked up at her approach, and stood; Shepard walked into his arms, let Garrus hold her, and they swayed gently together.

     "How'd it go?" he asked.

     "Killed the thresher maw," Shepard said. "Wrex is a little pissed."

     "He's just jealous. Kataq?"

     "She'll be working with Bakara, whatever she ends up doing. It'll be so good for her."

     "And she'll be so good for them." He kissed her hair.

     "The place is going to seem a little empty without her."

     "Sure it will, but we'll adapt. And David and Timaeus will leave, and then Laelia, and then it'll just be you and me again. Just like old times."

     She laughed softly against the fabric of his jacket. "What are you doing out here anyway?"

     "Woke up and you weren't next to me," he said. "So I got up for a drink of water, and came out here to see the sunrise."

     "You were waiting for me."

     "Like I said, the sunrise."

     She smacked his shoulder gently with her palm. "You are cheesy. And hopelessly romantic."

     "I seem to recall someone telling me that before. Maybe at my wedding. Maybe it was you."

     "And it was true then too."

     "Mm. Today's the seventh, you know."

     Shepard lifted her head, searched his face. "Holy shit," she said. "It is." She reached up and touched his cheek. "Happy anniversary."

     "Happy anniversary, Shepard. May every one be as filled with excitement as all the rest of them have been."

     "Now, wait a minute. They're not all exciting. What about last year?"

     "Bomb threat at the Citadel."

     "...shit. Okay, but that had nothing to do with the anniversary."

     "Nothing ever does."

     "Are you saying that I attract trouble?"

     "Trouble does seem to find you." He grinned down at her. "Dance with me, while the sun comes up."

     "You are a very bad turian," she told him.

     "I know. It's why you love me." He pulled her into a slow waltz and they danced with the blazing sun of Tuchanka their only witness.