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Pre-Fab Victory

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Tali isn't exactly sure what she should be doing. Not sure what she should be feeling. She doesn't remember a time where she hasn't woken up to the gentle sounds of a ship's engine humming beneath her. Years since she's walked anywhere that didn't have corridors. This is what she's always wanted, but now that she has it, she can't do anything with it.

"You okay?"

Tali turns around to face Kaidan. She smiles but he can't see it. "I don't know," she answers honestly.

He steps carefully over the rocky terrain to her side. "You'll get used to it. You've got a place here. A permanent home now."

"I know. It's just... overwhelming. I wish I'd been here sooner. I would have a better view."

Kaidan huffs because that has to be a joke. The windswept beach cover Tali's found to set up her new home is nothing short of spectacular. There's still not much color in the landscape yet, but things are starting to break through. The ocean gets clearer every day. Small blades of grass and the promise of plant life is slowly starting to appear. "You've got the best view on Rannoch. I know 'cause you made me survey the whole planet, remember?"

"I'm being poetic," Tali answers with a tiny laugh.

"Why'd you go with us, then?" Kaidan eases himself into the sand beside her. He's still healing, and she deeply appreciates him having the fortitude to be there for her. All of them. Taking time away from their own homes and families in order to help her rebuild. She'd never expected it or asked for it, but Shepard had shrugged all of it off claiming that it's just what family does for each other.

"I wanted to see it all through," she says as though it's obvious, sitting beside him. "Shepard's crew did more for me than anyone else. I would never have been where I am without you. So, I had to see it through."

Kaidan sifts the sand through his fingers. "That's why those of us who can be here for you now, are. Things are coming along nicely."

"I didn't think the pre-fab units would be so homey," she answers. "Someone put flowers in mine."

"Thought you might like that."

"It was very thoughtful. I took my mask off for the first time to smell them."

Kaidan beams. "That's great! How'd it go?"

Tali shrugs. "The immunoboosters the Geth are giving us have helped. It was five days ago and I'm not sick."

Leaning back on his hands and looking out over the calm ocean, Kaidan says, "I'm happy for your people. The Geth are pretty extraordinary here. They're letting me study them some more. They seem actually concerned about the old Reaper coding."

"Everyone wants peace," Tali answers softly. Slowly she reaches to her mask and there's the hiss of the seals releasing. She cups it in her hands, removing the front and then breathing deeply like it's the first time she's ever done it. "It's cold here."

"It's winter."

"I've never felt the weather changing," she admits. "Our suits are so well-controlled that there's no such thing as simple temperature fluctuations. I was jealous of you on Noveria."

Kaidan's eyes widen. "That apocalyptic hellscape? Don't be; it was awful. I'd never been so miserable."

With a small laugh, Tali says, "but it's valuable to someone like me who's never experienced anything other than room temperature! Intellectually, I know what seasons are. I've been on other planets thanks to Shepard, but even so, I've got no concept of them."

"You'll get accustomed to them," Kaidan assures her. "Rannoch will eventually have distinct seasons once the rest of the reparative terraforming takes."

They stand by some unspoken agreement and walk up the short hill over the tide line to Tali's pre-fab unit. Eventually she'll have her own home built permanently and steady, but for now it's the small, but serviceable units they've seen all over other colonized worlds. Though, Tali's taken pains to decorate. She's draped colorful purple fabric much like the design on her suit along the walls. The flowers that Kaidan sent are actually thriving on the window sill in the kitchen despite the lack of strong sunlight. Then again, he'd chosen the night blooming succulents for being hearty in a more hostile environment. There are datapads scattered around, and dirty dishes in the sink. It's wonderful.

"You have a lovely home," Kaidan says honestly. He takes a moment to look over the picture frames on a shelf above the vidscreen that cordons off the bed from the rest of the living space. He's both pleased and nostalgic to see that almost all of the photographs are of the Normandy's crew.

"I have levo-tea, if you'd like some."

Kaidan turns and smiles encouragingly at her. "I'd love some, thank you."

She makes two pots, and Kaidan watches her fondly. She's trying so hard. He remembers a time not so long ago when they'd had many late shift talks about homeworlds and plans for the future after the war. It had seemed so far off back then. Kaidan hadn't even been half convinced that any of the "futures" would actually happen. And the longer the war dragged on, Kaidan had gradually considered them to be only "what-if's."

Tali had believed, though. She'd spoken of the most beautiful dreams. Of hosting guests in her home on her homeworld. No need to spend hours in a decontamination room beforehand. Just brushing off their shoes before entering. Making tea and talking about nice things. She's trying very hard right now, unable to keep the pride off of her face as she places the tea on the coffee table and takes a seat on a comfortable chair across from him.

"Is it all still worth it?" Kaidan asks.

"Yes," Tali answers. "It's nice now, but in a few years, it will be ideal." She pokes at her omni-tool, pulling up a schematic.

Kaidan leans forward to study it closely. "Ah, so this is your dream home. It's beautiful. You'll even plant flowers?" He points to the small garden behind the two-story home.

She's a little sheepish when she says, "I hadn't planned it, but you inspired me. The Migrant Fleet disallowed anything frivolous, and for good reason. But I like waking up to see the flowers you brought. They're pretty."

"Good. Once your immune system is doing better, you should come to Earth. My family home is on an orchard. Lots of trees."

"That would be lovely," Tali says wistfully. "I need to visit Shepard, anyway. How's his recovery going?"

Kaidan smiles over the rim of his mug. "Stubborn, as ever. He's making it as difficult as possible."

She titters like she's happy to hear that. "He wouldn't be the Commander otherwise. I send him messages all the time. Sometimes his replies don't make much sense. His mistypes and won't turn his autocorrect on."

Chuckling, Kaidan agrees, "he has good and bad days. But he'll recover. All he wants to do is be out there helping, naturally. Earth is a mess."

"It's amazing how we can rebuild anything, isn't it? It's been a long time coming. I'm proud I was a part of it."

"Me, too." He huffs a small laugh. "Do you think we'll even be able to handle the peace?"

"I'm going to take up gardening," Tali grins. "Work the land."

"You sound like a down home farmer already." It sounds good, though.

She kicks back in the chair, crossing her legs. "Are you staying in the Alliance?"

"Yes," Kaidan confirms. "I'm a lifer, really. Originally I enlisted because human biotics in my time were being tracked, anyway, so it was easier to get paid for it. But now, I'm ground side and they're doing great work rebuilding and support. And I'm teaching other biotics now. I like it. What are you gonna do now?"

Tali's beaming at him now. "I have no idea." She sounds relieved. "I'm looking forward to learning, actually. Most of us have the same sorts of skills having lived only on the Migrant Fleet. We had botanists, doctors, engineers, teachers, everything, but it's different. It's bigger. I'm excited. I don't know what I'll actually do on land, but I'm going to find something."

Kaidan raises his mug. "To something."

Tali taps the rims together. "To something."

They're silent for a long time, watching the winds outside the prefab whistling down the hills to the ocean. "I think I'm fine with it," Kaidan says eventually. "Being out of the action, I mean. Most people would admit that we've done more than enough for fifty people each."

"That's true," Tali agrees. "And I'm glad you said that because I was starting to feel guilty about retiring and being happy about it."

Stretching back, Kaidan says, "galactic heroes have a shelf life. Sure, we'll be on the vids and the posters for a long time during reconstruction, but it won't last forever. Most people will forget all about us, eventually. We'll have to retire, or do something else, but there's no shame in admitting you're done now."

"You'd like to be obsolete?"

"Wouldn't you?" Kaidan returns pointedly. "Don't you hope that one day people won't have to fight the wars that we just did? Maybe one day we'll be able to actually learn from history. I kinda need this to be the time."

Tali's face softens. "I understand. And I agree with you. But you're teaching biotics, right? Aren't the made for combat?"

"Sure," Kaidan says agreeably, "but that's not everything. They work well in all kinds of situations. Law is the most natural, of course. They can make good cops. But also good medics, construction, anything. Just have to think outside the box. Stasis fields can be put over wounds so they don't bleed out before a patient reaches the hospital, they can lift huge weights to help build things on the cheap. Anything."

Tali is smiling at him proudly. "You really are good at everything, aren't you?"

"Oh, no," Kaidan admits. "I'm a terrible dancer."

Tali winks. "From what I've seen, most heroes are."

They both share a laugh at the memory of their commander dancing, and slowly fade to more nostalgia. "It'll be good, Tali," Kaidan assures them both. "From here on out, it'll be good."