A/N: This story is about the end of ME 3 and the end of the Reaper War. It contains sadness and angst. So be warned.

Mass Effect and everything associated with it belongs to Bioware not me.

Shepard woke up, pain arching through her body. Something telling her she wasn't done quite yet, managing to stagger to her knees, she picked up a random pistol off the ground, glancing at the clip before beginning the agonizing process of climbing to her feet, turning her head and searching for her squad, she had brought EDI and Garrus with her and she could see neither of them anywhere. She hoped they were alive somewhere in all this, but she didn't believe it, not after the damage Harbinger's beam had done to the forces attempting to get to the beam. She knew what she had to do, she had to get to the beam, the Citadel and open the arms. Slowly she began to make her way toward the beams, limping past the soldiers lying on the ground around her, either already dead or dying. There was nothing she could do except make their sacrifice mean something. She could and would stop the Reapers. Turning her attention back to the beam ahead of her, she saw the husks coming from her right. Ignoring the pain, she raised her pistol and shot the husks, three clean kills, everything around them and her ethereal. She made it a few steps further when a Marauder came out from the debris near the beam, catching her in the right shoulder with a shot before she fired several shots and killed it. Then she stepped into the beam and the world went bright white before once again going black.

She slowly came back to consciousness in darkness, a room that was dank and smelled of rotting flesh and the metallic sweet smell of blood.

"Shepard?" Anderson asked over the comm. "Shepard!" his call more urgent the second time.

Shepard grunted as she looked around, trying to get her bearings and back to her feet. "Anderson. You up here too?" she asked in response.

"I followed you up, but we didn't come out in the same place… at least I don't think we did. What's your surrounding look like?" Anderson asked. "You okay?" he asked after several moments of silence.

Shepard rubbed her shoulder where she had taken the shot from the Marauder. "I feel like death," she responded, as she moved the shoulder around, "but I'm moving."

Shepard started walking forward, looking closely at her surroundings. "It's dark… there's human remains scattered."

"Sounds familiar. I'm in a dark hallway… reminds me of your description of the Collector base."

Shepard kept looking around until she caught a glint of a weapon in the dim lighting. "Makes sense," she said.

"You think they're making a Reaper in here?"

"Sure. They round them up on Earth, then send the people here to be processed," Shepard replied.

"Goddamn abomination. I'm going to keep moving. The sooner we blow these bastards back to hell, the better," Anderson said. "The tubes don't go on forever… but where the hell are we?"

"Yeah," Shepard grunted. "Doesn't look like any part of the Citadel I've been to." Shepard continued to make her way through the corridor she was in, both Keepers and dead bodies littering the entire area.

"Whoa…" Anderson said sounding awed.


"One of the walls here just realigned itself. The place is shifting, changing." Anderson continued, describing what he was seeing. "There's a chasm here… and more hallways like the one I was in."

Shepard moved slowly looking around the area as well as she could. "I think I'm near an exit." She told Anderson. Moving through where a few minutes before had been a wall.

"I see something up ahead, might be a way to cross over."

"Don't get too far ahead of me," Shepard warned, hoping they would cross paths quickly. Slowly she made her way down a slope, trying to look everywhere at once as she moved. Seeing moving parts similar to what she had seen on the Shadow Broker's ship.

"Where do you think you're at?" Anderson asked.

"Just found that chasm you were talking about," she replied.

"Hold on… I see something. A control panel maybe," Anderson told her. "I'm just going to go ahead and check- -" He cut off in static.

"Anderson?" Shepard called as she continued across the bridge like structure. "Damn it!" she exclaimed sharply when she got no response. Shepard made her way up the opposite slope, still attempting to keep an eye on everything at once. "Anderson…" she called, seeing the man standing in front of some console.

She watched as Anderson turned stiffly toward her, his body moving like that of a puppet.

"Shepard… I can't…"

"I underestimated you Shepard."

Shepard tried to turn toward the voice, recognizing the voice of The Illusive Man, but she couldn't, it was like she was paralyzed. "What have - -" she attempted to ask, she felt the oily shadows as they surrounded her.

"I warned you," The Illusive Man began. "Control is the means to survival. Control of the Reapers… and of you if necessary."

A deep growl came from Anderson's throat as he fought The Illusive Man's control. "They're controlling you," he managed to bite out.

The Illusive Man turned toward Anderson, "I don't think so Admiral," he said, his tone dark and foreboding.

Shepard kept her attention on The Illusive Man, "Controlling me is a lot different than controlling a Reaper," she snarled.

"Have a little faith," he replied. "When humanity discovered the mass relays… when we learned there was more to the galaxy than we imagined," he said quietly, peering out at the ward arms in contemplation. "There were some who thought the relays should be destroyed. They were scared of what we'd find. Terrified of what we might let in," he continued, eyes lighting on Anderson.

"But look at what humanity has achieved! Since that discovery, we've advanced more than the past 10,000 years combined. And the Reapers will do the same for us again. A thousand fold. But…"

Shepard could feel the voice of The Illusive Man in her head, his desire to show her that he was right, she brought her hand to her head, trying to fight his control over her.

The Illusive Man stepped up next to Shepard, watching as she brought her gun up against her will. "… only if we can harness their ability to control."

Anderson put his hand up as if to stop the bullet should it be released. "Bullshit. We destroy them or they destroy us."

"And waste this opportunity? Never."

Shepard once again moved her attention back to The Illusive Man. "You're playing with things you don't understand. With power you shouldn't be able to use," she responded, trying to use diplomacy where it seemed her weapons were not available.

"I… don't believe that. If we can control it, why shouldn't it be ours?" he demanded shortly.

"Because… we're not ready," Shepard responded calmly.

"No. This is the way humanity must evolve."

Anderson shook himself, "There's always another way," he told The Illusive Man.

"I've dedicated y life to understanding the Reapers, and I know with certainty: the Crucible will allow me to control them," The Illusive Man retorted.

"And then what?"

"Look at the power they weild! Look at what they can do!" he demanded, raising his fist between Shepard and Anderson a circle of dark energy surrounding his hand, causing Shepard's gun to fire, the bullet impacting Anderson on the his left side.

Anderson shook, a pained grunt issuing from his mouth. He only stayed standing because of the control The Illusive Man.

Shepard dropped her eyes, guilt racing through her. "I see what they did to you," she said quietly.

The Illusive Man faced Shepard. "I took what I wanted from them! Made it my own!" he responded darkly. "This isn't about me or you. It's about things so much bigger than all of us."

Anderson's attention turned back to Shepard. "He's wrong. Don't listen to him."

"And who will you listen to, Shepard? An old soldier, stuck in his ways, only able to see the world down the barrel of a gun?" The Illusive Man demanded. "And what if he's wrong? What if controlling the Reapers is the answer?"

Shepard didn't miss a beat, "If we destroy the Reapers, this ends today. But if you can't control them…"she said warningly.

"But I can."

"Are you willing to bet humanity's existence on it?"

"I know it will work," The Illusive man hissed, his hand going to his temple.

"You can't, can you? They won't let you do it." Shepard said, continuing to push at the one weakness she knew The Illusive Man had - humanity.

"No, I'm in control. No one is telling me what to do…"

"Listen to yourself," Anderson said, "You're indoctrinated."

"No. No! The two of you, so self-righteous. Do you think this power comes easy? There are sacrifices…"

Shepard pushed harder. "You've sacrificed too much."

"Shepard, I… I only wanted to protect humanity. The Crucible can control them. I know it can. I just…"

Shepard's eyes softened in pity. "It's not too late. Let us go. We'll do the rest," she said softly.

"I… I can't do that, Commander."

"Of course you can't… they own you now," Anderson said stiffly, still fighting The Illusive Man's control.

"You… you'd undo everything I've accomplished. I won't let that happen."

"Because of you, humanity is already undone," Shepard said harshly.

"That's not true…"

Shepard had enough. "They have the Citadel. They've got us fighting each other instead of fighting them."

"I just need to…"

"You've done exactly what the Reapers wanted. You're still doing it because they control you," she snapped at him.

"I… they're too strong."

"You're stronger. Don't let them win. Break their hold. Don't let them control you," Shepard pleaded, still fighting her way through The Illusive Man's control.

"I tried Shepard," he said quietly, raising the gun in his hand to his own temple, pulling the trigger.

Released from his control, Anderson collapsed near the console he had been in front of, Shepard felt the need to stop and check on him but knew she needed to make sure she got to the ward arms open, that was the one thing that had to be done. Stepping up to the console, she tapped a few commands and watched the arms begin to open as she stood leaning against the console. Turning around as she heard Anderson's soft groan behind her. She limped over as she watched Anderson pull himself up against a small ledge that had appeared in the center of the room. She carefully lowered herself down next to him.

"Commander," Anderson said in greeting to his prodigy, a woman who had done more than he could have ever imagined.

"We did it," Shepard said turning to look at her mentor.

"Yes we did," he replied. "It's uh… quite a view," he said.

Shepard grunted in pain. "Best seats in the house," she replied.

"God… feels like years since I just sat down…"

Shepard looked back over, "I think you earned a rest," she replied, concern marring her bruised and bloodied face. "Stay with me. We're almost through this," she commanded.

Anderson looked over at her. "You did good, child. You did good. I'm proud of you," he said softly, his head falling forward as his eyes closed, his last breath silent.

"Thank you sir," Shepard replied, turning to look at Anderson. "Anderson?" she whispered, knowing he was already gone.

She closed her eyes, knowing she wouldn't have to grieve for her friend and mentor for long as she glanced down at the hand holding her left side, she was bleeding heavily, it wouldn't be long now. She sat silently watching the Earth turn beneath the Citadel as the darkness closed in over her.

She woke up with a start, looking around the meadow she found herself in, "Where?"

"Asgard Shepard, it's time," a soft voice replied.

Shepard looked around and saw him standing there, her biggest regret, "Kaidan," she whispered.

Kaidan Alenko, Staff Lieutenant of the SSV Normandy SR-1, the second casualty of the Reaper war, and the one she regretted the most. He walked over to where she was standing, "I'm here, I've been waiting for you," he told her softly, his arms sliding around her and pulling her close. "You're home now, you won. All the sacrifice finally paid off."

Shepard looked up into his whiskey colored eyes. "I am so sorry Kaidan, I…"

He silenced her with a soft kiss, "You have no reason to be sorry Shepard, you made the right choice," he whispered against her lips.

The tears fell between them as Shepard reveled in the feel of his arms around her.

Garrus found her in the rubble, her form still and silent. He called Ashley and Vega over to pull the rubble off her form, she deserved to be honored for her sacrifice.

Ashley sighed softly, "She's with Kaidan now, where's she has wanted to be since she laid eyes on him." She whispered.

Garrus nodded, "She'll be waiting at the bar for the rest of us when our time comes."