Her reflexes kicked in just quickly enough to identify the rushing krogan before he swept her up in a bone-crushing hug and hauled her into the apartment. “Oof. Good to see you too, Grunt.”
Wrex limped by and gave the young krogan a shove. “Try not to kill her, will you?”
“Bah. Nonsense, old man. Shepard can’t be killed.”
Shepard raised an eyebrow, but Wrex just shrugged. “I’m beginning to believe it. Good to see you awake, Shepard.”
She affectionately head-butted Grunt, and he finally set her down. “What the hell’s going on here, anyway? Not that it isn’t good to see you, but…”
The krogans glanced at each other and laughed. “Jack! Shepard’s asking questions!”
“Well drag her boney ass in here, then!”
Shepard groaned. “Just tell me the apartment’s still in one piece.”
“For now.” Wrex grabbed her and tossed her over his shoulder.
“Dammit, Wrex, don’t make me rip off your headplating! I—”
Wrex dropped her on her feet, suddenly surrounded by familiar faces. Friends, crew members, family. Her mother, Aethyta, Miranda, Jack, Ashley and James, Joker and EDI, Garrus and Tali, Javik and Samara. The whole crew of the Normandy, including Karin Chakwas, Sam Traynor, even Adams, Donnelly, and Gabby. And in the back, smiling, stood Liara.
“What are you guys…”
Jack walked up and punched her in the shoulder. “What do you think, dumbass? You’re the one who gave miss cheerleader something to plan.” She leaned in closer with a conspiratorial grin. “Consider this your bachelorette party, both of you. And your welcome-back-from-the-dead, we-saved-the-galaxy party. Or some shit. Now, are you going to officially tell them, or am I?”
Shepard stared. “Wait, they don’t know?”
Jack gave her an evil grin. “Nah. Your news to share, not mine. Miranda agreed with me.”
“That’s gotta be a first.”
Jack grinned. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Ok. Right, wow.” Shepard took a deep breath, and looked around. “God, it’s good to see all of you. We’ve been through a lot in the last few years, all of us. Honestly, as much as I hoped, I didn’t expect that we’d all make it out. But seeing all of you here, alive, and with a future, it means so much. All of you mean so much.” She ducked her head, then looked up at Liara before continuing. “I’m not used to making speeches unless we’re all about to die. I kind of suck at this.”
“Come on, Commander! Just tell us you love us and let us get to the drinking!”
Shepard grinned at Ashley. “That’s Captain to you, LC. And you’ll have plenty of time to get drunk and climb all over James, no worries.”
Ash laughed. “I hate you.”
“I hate you…?”
The lieutenant commander laughed. “I hate you, ma’am!”
Everyone laughed, and Shepard waited for the comments to die down again before continuing. “Ash is right, though. We do need drinks, so I’ll make this quick. You guys are my family, and I don’t know what I would have done without you. So I’m hoping you’ll all be there for me one more time.”
“What did you get yourself into this time, Shepard? And no, you can’t have my sniper rifle. I saw what you did to yours.”
“Thanks for reminding me, Garrus. Bad enough the damn Reapers burnt off half my hair, what they did to my Black Widow was unforgivable.”
Garrus laughed. “And there you have the real reason the Reapers went down. Never melt Shepard’s sniper rifle. Oof.” He bent over laughing as Tali elbowed him.
“Hush, Garrus. So, Shepard, what do you need us to do?”
The apartment quieted, as every pair of eyes turned back to Shepard. “No guns, this time. No fighting, no dying. I just need you to show up, and be happy.”
Everyone looked around, but it was Joker who finally spoke up. “Well, that’s easy enough, Commander. I mean, Captain. What are we being happy for, exactly, besides being alive? And when?”
Shepard smiled. “Oh, just this thing, tomorrow. When Liara and I get married.”
The room exploded with excitement, as her friends, her family all tried to congratulate them at once, but Shepard could only grin and stare at her bondmate. Finally, someone slammed a full glass in her hand and shouted, “Shepard and Liara!”
The room echoed the toast, and she lost herself in a sea of happiness.
Shepard smiled sleepily and pulled Liara closer. The asari sighed against her, then squeaked suddenly, as she was yanked away.
Shepard’s eyes flew open, zeroing in on her bondmate’s struggles. She flew off the bed, rage fueling an adrenaline burst, and lighting up her biotics. Liara’s assailants were pinned to the wall in a heartbeat, fighting helplessly against her grip. “Let. Her. Go.”
Liara’s touch cooled her anger, enough to realize it was Jack and Tali whose throats she held. “Oh, God.” She dropped them.
“Fuck, Shepard. What the hell?”
Shepard took a horrified step back. “I am so, so sorry.” She clung to Liara, who continued to soothe her.
Tali rubbed her throat while Jack laughed. “Shepard, it’s fine. Miranda warned us, but we thought it would be fun to steal away the bride. We didn’t think it through.”
“Damn, Shepard.” Jack continued to laugh. “I don’t know what they did to you, but I think your biotics got stronger. I might’ve actually had to work to take you down!”
Shepard grinned, despite herself. “Yeah, well. Maybe we’ll test that theory sometime.”
“Deal. Now, can we steal Liara already?”
Shepard turned to her bondmate. “What’s this about?”
Liara shrugged. “I thought it was some human custom.”
Ash stuck her head in the room. “It is, kind of, but we’re improvising, since you’re both girls. It’s not like Shepard’s wearing a dress today, so…”
Shepard groaned. “So you’re leaving me with the boys. Thanks, LC. I expected to see you passed out on the floor somewhere, not upright and chipper.”
“Ha, ha. And miss my captain’s wedding? Not hardly, Shepard. I’ll get pass-out drunk tonight,” she added with a wink.
“Thanks, I think.” She sighed. “Alright, go on.” Standing, she pulled Liara in for a kiss. “I’ll see you soon.”
Kasumi flashed into the room. “By the way, Shep, the boys are waking up, so you might want to put pants on.” She vanished again as the others laughed, and pulled Liara out of the room.
“Hmph. I like my underwear.”
“Hey Lola, you decent?”
Shepard groaned, and dropped her head in her hands. “No. And I’m getting in the shower. Make some coffee, will you?”
James grunted something, and she turned to the shower. Goddess, this is going to be a long day.
Shepard stepped out of the bathroom in a bra and sweatpants, still toweling her hair, and grinned. “Hey, Mom. I’m surprised you aren’t with all the other girls.”
Hannah snorted. “I love Liara, and I couldn’t be happier about you guys, but you’re my daughter. Which means my loyalties sit very firmly here.” She kissed Shepard’s cheek, and handed over a coat bag. “I wasn’t sure if you had a new set, so I picked had a ceremonial dress uniform done for you.”
Shepard grinned and unzipped the protective bag. “Mom, thank you. I was going to fudge it with my regular dress uniform, but ceremonial whites—fuck, where the hell did you find an officer’s sword?”
Her mother laughed as she pulled out the saber, a tradition millennia old among Earth’s navies. When Shepard looked at her, she just grinned. “I know people.”
“No shit.” She set the sword down and hung up the uniform, before pulling the older woman into a hug. “Thank you, Mom.”
“You’re my only daughter, Kylie. I don’t care how quickly you’re getting married, I want it to be done right.” Hannah pushed her back to arms-length, and smiled. “I appreciate you asking your father to officiate.”
Shepard shrugged. She still wasn’t sure how she felt about having Hackett for a father, but her feelings didn’t change the biology. “I probably would’ve asked him, even if he wasn’t. Well, okay, maybe I would’ve been too nervous to ask…” She sighed. “Sorry he has to share the duty with Aethyta.”
“He’s very happy you did, Kylie. He’s been wanting to tell you for years, but we were afraid—”
She waved her off. “It’s fine, Mom. I get it. I’d have done the same. Honestly part of me finds the whole thing hilarious. Liara and I both grew up not knowing who our fathers were, and now they’re officiating at our wedding. You have to see the humor…”
Hannah chuckled. “Oh, I do.” She hesitated. “Kylie, what happened earlier...”
Shepard sat on the bed, her face falling. “I know. I'm working on it. We both are. Liara's been helping me deal with it.”
Her mother sat beside her gingerly. “You've died twice now. It's not surprising that you're struggling with PTSD. Just promise me you'll keep working through it. Go see someone, now you're not overwhelmed with saving the galaxy again. Please?”
Shepard nodded. “I will. I don't want this to ruin everything. Not after everything we've been through. Especially not with a kid on the way—”
“What?” Her mother turned quickly. “Kylie Jane Shepard...”
Shepard winced at her middle name, then laughed. “Liara just told me the other night. We wanted to get the wedding over with, but... Yeah. She's pregnant.”
Hannah wasted no time enveloping her in a bone-crushing hug.
The knock on her door didn't even make them flinch.
“Hey, Lola. You decent, yet? I have coffee, and the boys are getting restless. Esteban is trying to set up another shooting gallery for Joker.”
Give me patience. Shepard untangled herself from her mother's arms and threw open the door. “Dammit, if I hear one gun fire—”
She froze as every male member of her crew came to attention. All in full dress uniforms with every button and clasp and ribbon shining, or ceremonial armor polished to a high shine. James dropped his salute and handed over two steaming mugs.
Shepard took a sip to cover her shock. Even the krogan were all shiny.
She shook herself off. “At ease, boys. God, James, this is fantastic coffee.”
Joker cut him off. “I brought the good stuff, Captain. Figured after all those years of crappy shipboard coffee, we deserved it.”
James cleared his throat.
Joker rolled his eyes. “Fine. EDI made it.”
Shepard laughed. “Well, thank you.”
Behind them, Garrus cleared his throat. “Shepard, unless you want to miss your own wedding…”
“I’ve got her, boys. Just go wait downstairs, I’ll have her ready shortly.”
Shepard grinned as they all saluted her mother, then performed an absolutely perfect group about-face, and marched back the way they’d come.
“I wonder how long they had to practice that maneuver.”
Hannah winked. “They were probably up all night working on it.” She shooed her daughter back to her seat. “Sit, so I can deal with your hair.”
“I was just going to pull it back—”
Her mother leveled a glare. “For your wedding? Please, Kylie. Now, sit. That’s an order.”
She sat, and took a sip of her coffee. “Yes, ma’am.”
In the back of her mind, Shepard recognized how amazing her surroundings were. How miraculous it was that they'd found an almost untouched area of the Presidium. The sheer number of people that had survived, and were there, watching. But the truth was, she had eyes only for Liara, who stood at the top of a raised dias, resplendent in a flowing white gown.
That was the true miracle. Liara, waiting for her. Alive, both of them, and about to be joined for eternity.
Shepard's chest tightened even as she took steady steps forward down the path left open for her between the press of friends, family, and everyone else who had come to celebrate the bond ceremony of two of the galaxy's most famous saviors. Liara's eyes never left hers.
She barely heard the words spoken in Hackett's—her father's—deep rumble, or in Matriarch Aethyta's smoky drawl. She just went through the motions, said the words, her attention solely on her bondmate. And in the end, two new matching tattoos adorning their wrists, it was all that mattered.
Captain Kylie Shepard stared deeply into the eyes of her new wife, Liara T'Soni, as the crowds around them cheered. Shepard and T'Soni. Joined forever, their child on the way.
Forever, for them, would be a long time.
Shepard was looking forward to it.