farewell to h a l c y o n days
Chora’s Den was no different than it was before. Despite a shootout and a change of management, it seemed life went on in the underbelly of the Citadel. Marge meandered through, eyes drifting slowly about, until her gaze fell upon the slouched figure in the back corner of the room.
He was still in uniform, crisp and clean, in stark contrast to the mood betrayed by his posture, and the indecency of the general scene. She strode through the room in long lengths, cutting a sharp figure that drew all eyes. Tall, broad shouldered, muscular, with a long scar crossing her left cheek over her nose, Marguerite Shepard caught constant attention the way a black hole inevitably swallows the stars surrounding it.
“I hate seeing this,” Shepard grumbled. “They’re the oldest and most powerful species in the galaxy, but all these people see are objects to fuck.”
“It’s not like this everywhere.”
For the first time, she turned to look at him. “Anywhere is bad enough.” He looked tired. Only a single drink sat on the table before him, barely touched. Still, he seemed to be in a daze, almost asleep, half-lidded eyes drifting downward.
“True,” Anderson replied. “You’ve always had a special bond with Asari, haven’t you?”
She smirked. “Don’t ask like you don’t know.”
“I don’t.” He shrugged. “I had suspicions. But you aren’t exactly an open book.”
That was true enough. She turned her gaze away again. A waiter walked by and Shepard raised her hand. “A Palaven Pile Driver,” As the waiter nodded and walked away, Shepard leaned back. “My father was an Asari.”
Surprised eyes turned to her, and she chuckled. “Well, not my birth father. He died when I was just a newborn. Mom married an Asari scientist two years later.”
“Interesting.” He chuckled. “That explains some things. Did you have any siblings?”
“One,” She said. The waiter appeared again, a glass dropping onto the tale in front of her. “Thanks.” She took a sip.
“And is she…?”
“No, she’s alive.” Shepard grinned at his surprised expression. “She was off-world during the attack.” Her brow furrowed. “You’ve never met her?”
“I didn’t even know you had a sister, let alone an Asari.” The man chuckled. Shepard wasn’t smiling.
“You should have known that.” After a moment, she muttered. “You’ve known me for twenty years, yet… you’ve never met the only family I have left.” Her hands clenched in her lap. “I’m sorry, I’ve done wrong by you.”
“Stop with that.” Anderson picked up his glass. “You were a traumatized civilian trying to find your footing on a new planet living a new life. I don’t blame you for having secrets.”
“Back then, sure. Now?” The human scoffed. “I’m old enough to be a mother, and here I am still acting like a moody kid.”
“Well,” He shrugged. “I won’t disagree there.”
Silence; then, slow bubbling laughter, building into a cacophony like water rising to a boil. It simmered and weakened for a few moments, until the fools were grinning at one another.
“I am sorry.” Marge said. “For back then, for today. You should be the Captain of the Normandy. You should be the Spectre, not me.”
“What’s done is done.” He shrugged, but there was a look in his eyes that betrayed pain. “And we’ve all got to accept it. You feel guilty taking command of my old ship; I feel guilty that you’re being sent to finish a job I should’ve handled decades ago.”
“Saren’s shit’s not on you,” Marge scoffed, leaning back with drink in hand.
“Well, then,” He lifted his gaze to her, warm and tired. “The Normandy shit’s not on you.”
After a moment, she chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve heard you cuss before.”
“Looks like we both have our secrets.”
For a few minutes, they sat in peaceful quiet, nursing their drinks and their sorrows in pleasurable company.
“I can’t stop thinking about Jenkins.” Shepard murmured eyes distant.
“He was a good soldier.”
“He was an idiot.” The woman spat. “Running out into the middle of shit… no cover at all… the stupid kid…”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“No?” She raised her head to look at him. “No, maybe not. Still, I can’t help thinking… here you and I are, lingering on and on while the soldiers under us, these kids, keep getting themselves killed.”
“The tragic truth of the universe.” Anderson said. “When you survive as long as we do, inevitably you start to notice how many don’t make it. How many of those barely out of school get cut down before they can make it anywhere.”
“The only reason I survived this long,” The human began, head twisting towards him. “Is because of you, you know? I wouldn’t have made it here. Hell, I wouldn’t have even gotten off of Mindoir.”
“Someone would have found you.”
A pause, thick with meaning as the commander’s eyes drifted down, then up again. “But nobody else would’ve waited for me.”
He raised his eyes to hers. “You should get going.” He nodded towards the door. “You’ve got an early start tomorrow. Captain.”
“Yeah, yeah,” She sighed, head falling back. “I was heading towards retirement, you know? Slowing things down, planting my roots…”
“You would’ve been bored out of your mind.”
She laughed at that as she stood. “True, true,” Throwing the glass back, she finished off her drink, plopping the empty glass back down. Bright, smiling eyes met his as she leaned down.
“I’ll miss you.”
“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow, leaning back. “Be careful. ‘They’ll say we’re in love’.”
“Are you quoting something at me?” She crossed her arms. “You are, I know it. What is it?”
Laughing, he waved her off. “Forget it. Good luck on your mission. Don’t let down your guard – Saren’s a tricky customer.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She insisted with a grin. “We’ll catch up to him, toss him in the clink and be back before you know it.”
“You sound so sure.”
“I am.” Shepard chuckled. “In fact, I’ll be back… three months from now. Meet me here in three months, and I’ll personally hand you Saren tied up in a bow and we’ll have a drink to celebrate.”
“Please keep your prisoners in better containment than bows.”
“I’ll even introduce you to my sister.” She kept on, ignoring him. “What do you say?”
Anderson waited for a moment; eyes even with hers. Between them hovered the knowledge that victory was never so assured, that her return was never a guarantee, that the entire galaxy would soon lie between them and this might be the last words they shared. He smiled. “Sure, Shepard. I’ll see you then.”
She grinned in return. “The drinks are on me.”