James Vega tried to maintain a scowl, but dios it was hard work. He and the rest of his people stood around the makos. Strewn about the ground was some of the less used tools for working on them, even as they tried to look pissed about the state of their equipment. He turned his face towards the cavern just so he could finally release the grin, for at least a moment. That turian general had come up with the idea of using his people to operate the vehicles, after he had grilled him on how difficult the machines were to use. Vega had assured him that they were pretty straightforward and easy to use, after that the turian had stalked off and returned in a few moments with six turians in tow. Three of the females (their smaller crest and spurs making it easier for them to use the human seats) had been taught how to drive and the rest had been taught how to man the guns. Once that was in place, Arterius had stalked about with his people, pointing out spots for them to dig pits that would hold them. Wrex had followed suit with his own people, and now the field only had a handful of turians and a few humans on it, seemingly alone. Vega had requested that the salarians make mention that the krogan had gone off to chase something leaving the rest of their allies alone. Now the trap was set and they just needed the asari and or batarians to show up in order to spring it.

"Lt, I think I saw some movement in the trees," one of the soldiers said without glancing away from the tire he had been studying for the last ten minutes.

"Yeah, I saw them, Jenkins. About damn time these pendejos show up for their party."

Vega glanced over when he noticed the General heading his way. He nodded to the turian.

"General. We have movement in the trees; be ready to give your people the signal."

"Yes, I noticed it as well. I trust the krogan will be ready."

"They will be. They are itching to fight, as soon as they hear gunfire, they'll be popping out of the ground. Trust me, an angry krogan is scary and they hate the asari as much as you do."

"I doubt that," Desolas grumbled.

Vega shook his head. "Theirs is an old wound, one they haven't forgiven or forgotten about. I'm more surprised that you convinced them to use your tactics. Krogan aren't known for using subtle approaches in combat."

Desolas smiled. "Their leader explained it in terms his people liked. I merely stated that our way made our guns more effective against the asari and their shields. He added that meant they could see their enemies die up close and personal. After that, they were all for laying in wait like my people."

A voice cut across the area, interrupting their talk.

"Drop your guns and surrender and no one has to get hurt!"

Desolas and Vega turned to look at the asari holding a gun pointed at them, a blue field surrounding her. Other soldiers flanked the one that had spoken to them.

"No," Desolas stated, his voice flat even as he pointed his gun at the speaker and pulled the trigger.

The bullet ricocheted off her barrier and she sneered in disdain. However, that single shot was enough to set off a cascade of events. The apparently broken makos came to life with a roar, their turrets swinging around to target them. The asari ducked back into the tree line, seeking what little protection they could against the vehicles' large caliber weapons. That was when the ground erupted around them.

The turians had used this tactic before, but usually only as a last ditch effort for some of their people to sacrifice themselves to save a larger force. They at least had the decency to shoot at them, not so the krogan. A few krogan were positioned such that they just reached up and pulled an enemy down into the trench with them. Shrieks of pain, roars and gunfire carried across the area. The handful of Alliance soldiers that had been in the makos shot at the enemy forces when they could, but they had been given orders that the entrance to this cave was to be held at all costs. The turians that had waited just inside the cavern now poured out, eager to exact some retribution on their most hated enemy.

If any asari had thought to surrender, a single thought was all they got. The turians and krogan rained down on them, the turians in cold fury and the krogan in a blood rage. The effect was the same; the field fell into silence once more as the last asari fell under the onslaught. There were some wounded on their side, mostly krogan who had insisted on going hand to hand, but all in all the maneuver was a huge success.

Primarch Victus strode out of the entrance before Desolas had barely called all clear. The krogan and turians moved amongst the bodies, ensuring that all the fallen would remain down permanently.

"And?" Victus asked.

Desolas smiled. "It was refreshing."

Victus tilted his head and waved a hand at him, encouraging him to elaborate.

Desolas gestured towards the field. "A few wounded on our side, but as you can see, none of the asari are still standing. It was a much needed boost for our people."

"Excellent work," Victus said, clapping Desolas on the shoulder.

One of the runners on duty raced up to him.

"Primarch, sir. The QEC machine - it's active, sir."

"I'll be right there. General, congratulations. Keep me posted on any new events out here."

"Of course, sir."

Victus followed the messenger back inside. After this small victory, he finally found some hope to hold onto. He took a breath before he pushed the button and the machine whirred to life. Admiral Anderson appeared before him.

"Primarch, I was beginning to get worried."

Victus shook his head. "Nothing bad at all, Admiral. I was just surveying the field after our victory."

Anderson smiled, relief evident across his face. "Excellent. Well, you'll be glad to know that the asari and salarians are on their way for a meeting. My contact with the salarians assured me that the asari are looking to negotiate a peaceful settlement."

"Good. We are prepared to talk."

"Our technicians have modified the QEC on our end so that you may view all of us during the discussions. We thought it might help the process."

A voice spoke near the Admiral, "Sir, the dignitaries are requesting permission to board."

"Have them escorted here, ensign."

"At once, sir!"

Victus didn't have long to wait before new images appeared before him: an asari and a salarian. He had only caught glimpses of that second species from the medical team that had been sent in by the Alliance.

"Primarch," Tevos began, "the asari people would like to end this unfortunate incident between our two races."

Victus snorted. He dearly wanted to blast the councilor, but he was here to negotiate for his people. "Agreed. Your people have twenty-four hours to leave our world peacefully. Any found after that time will not be leaving under their own power."

Tevos's mouth gaped open for a moment. "We are currently unable to contact our forces."

"I'm sure the Alliance would be happy to allow you use of their communication satellites. Once your people have left, we then require that all the turians currently in a prisoner camp or sold off be returned to Palaven."

"It will take some time to coordinate such actions," Tevos tried to explain.

"The Alliance would be willing to send ships to help. Primarch, perhaps you could send some of your people along to help the refugees?" Anderson asked.

"Excellent idea. I'll have my people began preparations. Lastly, to facilitate the rebuilding of our world, we require a line of credit be established for Palaven; and of course, suitable resources be made available, as well."

Tevos's eyes narrowed a bit. "So far, you've only issued demands."

Victus leaned forward, baring his teeth. "Hardly, these are the bare minimum things we need to begin to set our world aright."

Valern nodded. "These are perfectly reasonable requests, Councilor."

Tevos rubbed her brow with one hand. "Fine. But at least allow us to use some of our craftsmen in order to defray some of the cost."

"I'm afraid that would be a bad idea," Victus said with a shake of his head. "We would be unable to guarantee the safety of any asari found on our world, at least for the foreseeable future. No, it would be better to let us select technicians from races my people won't be so openly hostile to."

"Admiral Anderson, if you could give me access to your comm buoys, I'll begin the announcements," Tevos said with a resigned sigh.

The hatch opened up and the two females that had manned the mako climbed out and stood atop the vehicle. Vega had at least picked up on the subtle differences between the sexes during his brief stay on the planet.

"Spirits! We never even got to fire these beauties," the first one said to her companion.

"I know. And I was looking forward to driving over some asari," the second one said with a laugh.

"Ladies, I'm sure you uh, could use the mako to clear the field some. You know, just to make sure there is room for ships to land," Vega said, giving them his best smile.

"I like how he thinks, Nyreen." The second one nudged her companion with a smile at the human.

"Agreed. I'll just go and tell the General what we are doing."

Nyreen jumped down from the vehicle, landed lightly next to Vega, and stalked off to find Arterius.

"I'm Lt. James Vega, Alliance marines."

"Sgt. Coren Marinis, and that is my friend and fellow soldier, Lt. Nyreen Kandros."

Spirits, did he have broad shoulders which made his waist look very nice indeed. And she wondered what the rest of his face looked like, since all she could see were his warm brown eyes and his mouth. Coren was a little surprised that the human didn't react to her trill of invitation, but then those devices that did the translation for them might not pick up on the subtlety of turian speech. Never one to back down from a challenge, she sat on the edge of the vehicle and leaned on one arm, showing off her waist to him.

"You know, you could always ride with us. Just in case we have any questions," Coren said with a smile.

Vega gazed up at her. He might be mistaken, but he was pretty sure she was flirting with him. In the spirit of fostering good will between their species, he should probably join them. Besides, he found the turians intriguing and she had the loveliest green eyes.

"Sounds like a plan, and please, call me James," he said, swinging his way up onto the vehicle.

"Then you must call me Coren," she answered with a soft laugh.

A strange noise that hummed/buzzed/droned off to one side was what finally brought Nihlus awake. His eyes protested the whole notion of opening up, but he managed to convince them to do just that. His brain gave the command to turn his head and after a few seconds, his body decided to obey. Whatever pain medication they had given him was good; it felt like his body floated disconnected to the world. His mandibles flared in a smile as he caught the sight of Saren sleeping face down on the side of his little bed. That explained the strange noises. His hand lifted slowly and dropped down to caress the top of his head, however, it was a little bit harder than he intended. Saren's head shot up and the hum of relief at seeing him awake could probably be heard across the whole room.


"Saren," Nihlus said, his words a little slurred still. His mouth felt like he had been eating sand for days.

Nihlus expected a gentle brush of foreheads, but instead Saren dropped his head, even refused to meet his eyes.

"I'm sorry," Saren said, his voice low and thrumming with emotion.

"For what?" The disbelief in Nihlus's voice at least got Saren to raise his head.

"You were trapped under that ship and we couldn't get you out. And then another ship approached and I had to have them lower it back down on top of you and leave you there."

"Spirits," Nihlus exclaimed with as much energy as he could muster. "You did what you had to do. It was the right thing and the only thing you could do, and you know it."

He reached up to touch the side of Saren's face and he knew things would be all right when Saren leaned into his hand.

The cheers and laughing that rang through the area finally managed to shake loose the fog that had held Shepard in its grip. Her neck was a little stiff and she realized that she was sprawled on the floor with her head on Garrus's leg. At least she hoped it was his leg. A warm weight rested in the middle of her back, in fact, she could feel the rough texture of his fingers where he had slid his hand underneath her suit to rest it against her skin. Everything about it felt right somehow. She didn't remember anyone else she had been sitting with before she passed out. She rolled over with a groan and looked up to find Garrus had fallen asleep with his head on his chest. That couldn't be comfortable, she thought, but then his eyes opened, whether from the sound or her movement, she wasn't sure.

"Sounds like a party. I wonder what happened," she said.

Whatever Chakwas had given her had packed a punch. She managed to push herself upright; although her head ached with the sudden change in altitude. At least she remembered everything and Garrus hadn't seemed to mind her earlier behavior. She offered him a hand up, which he took.

She gently bumped his shoulder with hers. "Thanks for the use of your leg."

A low rumbling laugh came from him. "Anytime. Shall we go see what's going on?"

They didn't make it far before Tarquin came rushing up to them.

"Ma'am, sir! A Lt. Vega is looking for you, ma'am."

"What's going on?" Garrus asked, as he looked around at the turians talking excitedly all around them.

"Oh, what, did you sleep through everything?"

Amala laughed. "Apparently."

"Right. Well, we slaughtered an asari unit that attacked us. My - I mean, the Primarch got the asari to agree to all his demands. Everyone will be returned home and the asari have to leave. I can't believe it," he gushed.

"So where is Vega?" Amala asked.

"Oh, right. He's at the front entrance."

They found Vega leaning against the earthen wall, his helmet in hand while he was having a quiet chat with a turian, a female one at that. Amala couldn't stop the grin that appeared on her face.

"You were looking for me, Lt?" she barked out.

Vega stood quickly at attention. "Ma'am, yes, ma'am. Uh, Admiral Hackett wanted me to talk with you since Doctor Chakwas kept putting him off, saying she was busy. You are okay, right?"

"As soon as the cast is off, Chakwas promises she'll give me a clean bill of health."

"Did you need a ride out of here, ma'am?"

"Hang on," she said, holding up her good hand. She activated her omni-tool awkwardly with the fingers sticking out of her cast.

"EDI, you still there?"

"Where else would I be?"

Amala rolled her eyes. "Well, I don't know. Maybe the asari found you and destroyed you."

"And of course then I would not be answering, would I," EDI laughed.

"Fine, you got me there. Here is our coordinates, but I'm grounded for the time being."

"I will get clearance from the Alliance before heading to your location."

"Good idea, would be a bitch if they shot you down."

"As if," EDI snorted in disdain.

Amala turned to Vega. "I'm good, my ship is safe and well, I have to wait for Chakwas to clear me, so I'll be staying here for the time being."

Vega gave her a salute, which she couldn't quite return with her arm in a cast. He threw a wink at the female he had been chatting with before exiting the cave. Amala turned to Garrus.

"Well, at least this whole fucking mess of a conspiracy is done with."

He made a low hum of agreement, but she could tell something was bothering him.

"Although I have to make sure the asari return everyone before we can call this totally over," she said as she watched for his reaction.

"I was thinking the same thing," he said.

Her translator might not have picked up on all the nuances in his speech, but even she could tell he was relieved. She grasped his hand, her much smaller one lost in his.

"You didn't think I forget my promise, did you?"

"No, uh, I had hoped you hadn't."

"And you never know, we may have to go personally 'persuade' some individuals to relinquish the turians they are holding."

His heart leapt at her use of we; she wouldn't leave him behind. The relief Garrus felt at her words he expressed the only way he could, a gentle press of his forehead to hers. The action was made even better when she returned the pressure with a smile.

"Hmm, if the Council doesn't strip me of my Spectre rank, I could say you were my apprentice and that way they would have to pay you as well."

He pulled back, his mandibles fluttering for a moment. "What? You can do that?"

"Yep, that's the most common way. A Spectre finds someone they think might have potential and they mentor them."

"So who was your mentor?" he asked, curious at who had worked with her before.

She scratched idly at her arm in the cast. "Well, I was a special case. Both humans and batarians had put forth a candidate, but the Council said they only had need for one. We were both given missions at different locations and they would evaluate our performance and decide who would be selected based on what they saw."

"How close did it come to him being selected?"

Amala grinned at him. "Hard to be a Spectre when you are dead."

He laughed at that. "He did that badly?"

"Yeah, I don't think he thought it would be a serious contest. We had heard rumors that it was made a test just so they wouldn't piss us off, but that the batarians were secretly backed by the asari. Of course, now we know why."

"You think I could be one, though?"

"Garrus, I've never even thought of offering to take on someone before. You survived through hell already. And honestly, anyone who is willing to run through Omega naked with only a gun -" she said.

"That was pretty bad ass, wasn't it?" he said, grinning.

"Yeah, and I know you won't quit and there is no one I would rather have by my side. But think about it; you might want to be with your family when they come back."

He nodded for a moment. "Yeah, I'll want to make sure they are okay. But the chance to do what you do with you, you know, helping people all over the galaxy - that's something I want."

"Alright then, but if at any time you decide it's not for you, you tell me, promise?"

"I promise. Think I can get a Widow like yours?"

"I'm sure we can find something. Oh yeah, if they let me take you on as an apprentice, well, then you get access to the Spectre requisitions and we get the best gear first."

"You know, if you keep making a habit out of giving me new guns, I'll never leave," he said with a laugh.

"Good to know. I wonder what would happen if I left a trail of gun parts that led to my cabin?"

"Try it and find out," he said, his words came out as a deep, rolling purr.

The low, throaty laugh from her sent a thrill coursing through his body. Things were definitely looking up now.

~The End~

~Thanks once more to Mordinette for all her work on this story. And a thank you to the readers, hope you enjoyed the ride!~