His session ended on a good note that day. The doctor said he was making good progress. She said that every day, though, and there were times he wasn't quite so sure. The nightmares were growing less, but that could be the medications. The shakes and paranoia were subsiding day by day now that he was back home and not on the small human colony.
He was always so nervous and scared around people, he hated the crowded conditions of the Fleet, and a small human colony that employed mechs as their protection sounded much better to spend his pilgrimage where he could help others. They had taken right to him, weren't loud or obnoxious, didn't look at him with mistrust. Instead they asked him to monitor their cameras and to take care of their mechs as they handled the building of their small colony, in exchange they would share some of the resources they found with him to take back to the fleet as his gift.
It was so much better there. He had a small building to work in and was left pretty much alone, they smiled at him and made sure he was comfortable, they included him in their human holiday celebrations. Yes, he liked it there and for the first time was at ease.
Until they came.
The screams, the shouts of the people he had come to call friends, the creatures that stung them... froze them while the other ones took them. But not him, no they wouldn't get him. His mind had become fractured from what was happening around him. He didn't notice the small rupture that occurred in his suit as he hid behind some crates before fleeing into the safety of the office. He reprogrammed the mechs to protect him from anything and everything that moved. They wouldn't find him, they wouldn't take him.
He heard a soft, female human voice call his name.
"No, no Veetor here. They won't find me. Mechs will protect." He answered, his mind was too far gone from fear.
All of a sudden his screens went dark, and he heard a noise behind him. "You... you're human, why didn't they find you? Where did you hide?"
Her voice was calm and gentle as she spoke to him, asked him what had happened and it settled his mind some. He answered her, entirely focused on the human standing before him in armor with bright green eyes staring at him. The other woman that was with her scared him, she wanted to take him away somewhere. A female quarian came in and argued. Take him? Take him where. Then he noticed the symbol on their uniforms, Cerberus... no, no, no...
But the green-eyed one yelled to the dark haired one that he was traumatized; he needed medical attention not to be interrogated. The woman's eyes turned to him and her voice once more gentle. "Veetor will go with Tali; they will give him the medical attention he needs."
Then she slowly reached her hand out and placed it on his arm. "Thank you, Veetor. The information you were able to give me is what we need. I do hope you get to feeling better soon, take care of yourself. Tali will make sure you get safely back to the Fleet."
It has been so long now. Veetor's recovery was slow. But he was doing better, and it was all because of her, the thought of her and her kindness. Her bright green eyes and gentle voice. The way she protected him from the others. It wasn't until he was on Tali'Zorah's ship heading back to the Migrant Fleet when he learned who she was. Commander Shepard. Captain Shepard of the Normandy and she had made him feel safe again, protected and cared about.
She was all he could think about, the talks with his Doctor inevitably turned to her. He was sitting there as he usually did at the end of their sessions with something the humans called colored pencils and a book with chaotic looking designs that were made especially for adults and were meant to be filled with color. When Tali had brought them to one of the sessions, the quarian doctor scoffed until Tali brought up the information on how human adults colored to relieve stress, to free their minds from the chaotic, filled days. "Captain Shepard uses these all the time, and with everything that she has to do and has done, this is what she turns to. When she uses these, we can see the calmness wash over her. She thought Veetor might like to try it and sent these for him."
All it took was to mention her name and Veetor grabbed the items from her hand and carried them to the small table set in the corner. It took a bit to figure it out, but the small sheet that she put inside the book that had been colored in, along with an extranet address where he could learn about different coloring techniques, helped.
Every session he would sit there afterward and work on one of the pictures, carrying his book home with him to work on when he felt the need. Tali sent him more books and a larger set of pencils along with a handwritten note from Shepard that he had tucked away in a compartment of his suit.
He even started to learn to draw the designs himself with the black pens she had sent along. He had a folder of them in a drawer under his bed, maybe... maybe one day he would send them to her.
He knew it was one of the reasons he was doing better; he really did feel calmer when he was coloring, and it helped to know that the famous Captain Shepard did the same thing. She thought about him... sent him these gifts to help him, as he thought about her a smile crossed his face, hidden by his dark mask.
One morning he was sitting in his small living space when there was a chime at the door. The doctor was there and so was one of the Marines. Kal'Reegar. He had heard of him, of course, the Marine that was assigned to protect Tali'Zorah when they were on a mission. Geth killed his whole team, except him. He survived because of her, Captain Shepard, and her willingness to protect him, putting herself and her crew in harm's way to get to Tali. Now here was the quarian, who also spoke of Captain Shepard with something like awe and respect in his deep voice, with nothing like the trembling and high-pitched, excitable quality of his own.
"Veetor, this is Kal'Reegar. He has some news and a request that he would like you to listen to, it concerns Tali'Zorah."
After the group had left Veetor's home, he took out one of his books and started working on a new page. He couldn't believe the Admiralty board would charge Tali'Zorah with treason. That didn't make any sense to him. He had promised to speak with the Admiralty board in private, but he couldn't stand up there in front of the entire Conclave and speak. No... not even for her.
It had done little good. Even Kal'Reegar got mad at the Admirals for not listening. For insisting that she was guilty when there was nothing that she had ever done even to cause someone to think she would betray the Fleet. But... one thing he did hear, and it made him excited. Tali'Zorah was coming back to the Fleet, and Shepard was coming with her. As Tali's Captain she would be speaking on her behalf, because the one Admiral insisted that Tali be stripped of her ship name and instead be made to use the human ship. Maybe he would get to see her again, even talk to her.
The day finally arrived, and they were all called to the Raaya to hear the charges against Tali. When Shepard and Tali arrived for the hearing, he hid behind one of the overgrown masses of vegetation to watch Shepard. When the Admirals started to speak, he moved out of hiding and took a seat in the back. When he heard them telling Tali that geth had attacked the ship her Father was on; he felt outraged. They hadn't told her; they startled her with it. They intentionally hurt her. Shepard told them they would take back the Alerai from the geth, the safety of the Fleet must come first.
They all moved away, some heading into other areas of the ship to discuss what they had heard, but he and his doctor stayed nearby. He didn't want to go too far, just in case she happened by and wanted to talk. Maybe.
He waited, and he watched her, all of a sudden her little group headed his way, and he grew nervous. His suit notified him of his accelerated heart rate and breathing; his temperature rose, and his mouth went dry. Then she smiled at him and asked how he was doing and if he was enjoying the coloring books. Then his mind calmed and he answered, still nervous and a bit bouncy, but he spoke to her.
"Yes, Captain Shepard, I am enjoying them very much. Thank you."
Then she smiled at him again and he smiled back, she couldn't see it, but hopefully, she knew anyway.
"I love those books. I'm glad they are helping you. I always enjoy picking up the shipment when I go to the Citadel. I order them straight from Earth, along with the pens and pencils. I will be happy to order some more and share them with you." Her voice was the same gentle, calm that it had been before and he let it seep into him and relax him further. He quickly nodded and said please. Then another touch to his arm as she told him to take care and she would talk to him again as soon as they were back from the mission.
He watched as she spoke with some more then shook that Kal'Reegar's hand and spent more time talking with him than anyone else. His heart gave a lurch. Did she like the other one? Kal was more like herself than he was. Kal wasn't timid and shy, he didn't shake and tremble when someone shouted nearby. He didn't get anxiety attacks. He also didn't get her pencils and books. Tali told him that she didn't share those with anyone other than a few people on board. She picked up certain ones especially for him and didn't share those with anyone.
The doctor had been trying to talk to him for several minutes then gave up. As long as Captain Shepard was anywhere nearby, it would be hopeless to talk to him. After Shepard and Tali left she tried again, "Veetor? Are you alright? Did you need to go back to your room?"
"No... yes. I do, I need to get something." Then he left, hurrying away and hoping that he made it back to his own ship to grab the folder from his room and make it back before Shepard did.
He sat on the bench, clutching the folder and listened to Shepard's impassioned speech defending Tali and once it came out that the trial really wasn't about her, but about a war with the geth, it had all started to make sense. They had no choice but to find her innocent.
When the farce of a trial was over, he stayed near the exit and waited. His doctor nearby, in case the excitement and crowd got to be too much for him.
When they got close, as they were leaving, he called out, a slight nervous crack to his voice, "Captain Shepard, wait." When she approached him, his hands shook as he held out the folder, "these - these are for you."
She opened the packet and looked at the drawings, "you made these?" At his nod she pulled out more. He could see her eyes moving across the paper. "These are wonderful, Veetor. Thank you." She slid the papers back into the folder then did something that almost made him pass out. She kissed the side of his mask. Well she would have, if her mask wouldn't have had to be on. Instead it was more like, bumping masks together before she gave him a hug. He froze almost missing the chance to hug her back, quickly wrapping his arms around her for a brief moment as she pulled away.
He missed the way Tali's eyes crinkled behind her mask and the way her body language changed when she realized his feelings toward Shepard.
The months went by and a report came in that Captain Shepard had entered the Omega-4 Rely and had returned. She had defeated the Collectors. Veetor let out a sigh and found that he was now able to relax even more. Another month went by when Tali returned to the fleet. This time without Shepard. When he asked where she was she told him what had happened, how she had stopped the Reapers from invading unimpeded but was arrested by the Alliance and taken to Earth.
He retreated to his room and didn't come out for days. The doctor grew nervous and demanded entrance. What she found was a bunch of colored sheets scattered all over the place and a huge file of papers with outlines covering them. "For Shepard when the Alliance realizes their mistake."
Six months went by when the Fleet had heard the Reapers finally arrived; they had other things set in motion, and he felt they really didn't care, even though Tali had argued and fought them over a war with the Geth, in the end, she caved to their desires. And it cost them, severely.
He was rocking back and forth in his room as the explosions from the ship's cannons echoed. He wasn't on a warship, this was a civilian vessel. Then he heard the ships comms, the Normandy was on the way to help. He smiled for the first time in almost a month and hurriedly gathered up everything before heading to where he could send a message to, now Admiral Tali'Zorah. She told him after this was over and she had spoken to Shepard she would call him back. But right now getting help was more important. So he waited and listened. He grew angry when he heard that Gerrel had ordered the ships to fire on the dreadnought, Shepard was still on board it. Then he grew worried when she went to the surface of Rannoch to get rid of the Reaper base that was causing the geth to side with the Reapers. He grew frantic when the news over the comms said she was facing off against an actual Reaper and they were to wait for the synced up targeting link to fire.
When the cheer rang through the ship he was elated, until once again the other Admiral refused to listen. By now the civilian fleet was growing tired of the war, they hadn't wanted it to begin with and were dragged into it nonetheless. The ship grew quiet as everyone listened to Shepard try and talk sense into him and it seemed everyone let out a sigh of relief when he listened. He stood near the shuttle area until finally one appeared, Tali waved to him and told him to hurry up if he wanted to see Shepard. She had to hurry and get to another location.
On the way to the Normandy Tali told him about how the geth were looking for volunteers to allow them to upload into their suits, so they could start building up the quarian's immune system. She had one already hard at work and was hoping that she could be ready to be able to come out of her suit without fear in a year. He looked at her, his glowing eyes blinking. "Out of your suit? Sharing the open air with others?"
She nodded to him, "Yes, I was hoping that Kal'Reegar would be able to as well. But he is helping some of the turians on one of their other planets." She waited for a moment then right as the call came in to dock, she whispered, "you know Shepard hasn't ever seen a quarian. I bet of any of us; you would be the one she would want to see the most."
His mind started racing as he thought about what she had said. He followed her through the ship, not paying much attention to the famous vessel only snapping out his ponderings when he heard Shepard's voice. She looked so very tired, and her eyes looked haunted, so much sadness.
"Veetor? How are you? I hope you didn't get injured in the fight. I bet you'll be glad to set foot on your homeworld instead of always being on that ship." She smiled at him as she entered some data on the terminal in front of her.
"Yes, being off that ship will be entirely different. I have something for you."
"More of your drawings, wonderful. Why don't you hold onto them for a bit, let me show you around the Normandy, we have a few minutes before we need to leave." She linked her arm around his and he stood straighter, his eyes crinkling as the smile spread on his face. The last place he thought she would show him was her personal quarters. They were much larger than anything offered on the ships.
"You know, Veetor. Today is a special day for humans."
He turned to her, "how so?"
"Today is called Valentine's Day. And it has been celebrated for many generations. A day to exchange gifts with the person you care about. Sometimes it's a gift of food or jewelry. Other times it's a simple card or a promise to do something special for the other one."
She reached into one of her footlockers and drew out a stack of books that were tied with a ribbon and had a huge box of the pencils attached to it. "I asked one of the guards at the Alliance facility to pick these up for me after they took me into their ... care, I didn't want the company to sell them to someone else." She gave a laugh, "when the Reapers attacked, the bag that these were in was the only thing I grabbed."
She handed them to him with a shy grin on her face, "I think today is the perfect day to give these to you. Happy Valentine's Day, Veetor." Her face had turned red and the change of color entranced him. A gift for someone she cared about... did that mean?
He swallowed as he held out the thick beige packet, "Ha...Happy Valentine's Day, She...Shepard." She gave him a huge grin as she hugged the packet to her chest before she tucked it into her foot locker.
He stumbled a bit as she took him by the hand and walked with him back to the shuttle bay where his transport to the surface was waiting. When they reached it she stood on her toes and kissed the side of his helmet. "I'll come see you on Rannoch when this war is over, alright." All he could do was nod at her. She took several steps back as he turned to get into the shuttle. All of a sudden he turned back and drew her in close for a hug, telling her to be careful and he would be waiting for her.
The scattered bits and pieces of news that made it to Rannoch were troubling, to say the least. When Veetor had made it to the surface he spoke with his doctor and insisted he wanted a geth to help him be able to take his suit off as soon as possible. He wanted to be able to see Shepard without the mask, touch her without the gloves and he wanted to be able to return the kiss she gave him. The print from her lip gloss still on the mask, he refused to wipe it off.
He spent the rest of the war being incredibly ill. He helped where he could. Otherwise, he was stuck recuperating in bed and coloring.
Finally the day arrived when the galaxy cheered, the Reapers were destroyed. Shepard would be returning soon. He was finally out of bed and as the geth that had been residing in his suit suggested before he left, he was removing his mask for part of the day. When he went outside he noticed the quarians milling around the geth units, their lights were off and they couldn't seem to activate them. When he asked about it all that he was told was there was a bright red flash and they all just stopped moving.
A week later the doctor stopped by as he was helping to move the geth platforms to a storage facility. "Veetor, I need to speak with you."
She took him to the side and told him of the report that the Admiralty board received. The flash of red light, destroyed the Reapers but no one could find Commander Shepard. The Alliance sent out a notice that they are trying to repair their relay. All of them had their activation spheres blown apart and had to be fixed. They were cut off from everyone else. "One more thing, the Normandy can't be reached. No one knows what happened to them."
He jerked away from her and stumbled back several paces, the news hitting him like a physical blow. "No...no, Shepard is alive. She promised she would be coming to see me. The Normandy survived, they are somewhere, just... their communications systems are down. That's all... you'll see. Everything is going to be fine. They are all going to be fine."
He kept the hope inside him alive, working day by day doing his assigned task. Removing his suit for part of the day when he was back in his own small home. It wasn't much but he found a nice little spot with a great view of the mountains on one side, the sun set on the other and claimed it for his own. Many of the other quarians had come to help him build, they knew what he was hoping for, and they had also heard about the promise made and felt it was the least they could do, just in case.
Three months had gone by with no word until one morning he was sitting outside his home one of the last books that Shepard had given him on the table in front of him when he looked up and saw the doctor and a quarian running toward him.
"Veetor! Veetor, we just got word from Tali'Zorah, the Normandy just limped into the Citadel docks. She needs you to gather your belongings, whatever you will need for several months and hurry to the Citadel. Shepard is in the hospital there. On top of it, the geth units have started moving again. One of the Primes stated that the blast had taken them all off line and it wasn't until EDI and the Normandy regained comm use that the AI could access the fail safe and reboot them all. Hurry, hurry Veetor, the shuttle needs to leave as soon as possible."
He sat frozen for a moment then hurried into his home, gathering a bag full of items and his medications, then he was back out the door running beside the other quarians to the docks.
Another month had come and gone as he sat in the hospital at Shepard's beside. The doctors had let him into the restricted room after being told by the Alliance Admirals, who were told by the Quarian Admiralty Board, who finally listened to what Tali was saying, told them that he was her fiancé. Even though he had no idea what that had even meant. Tali whispered to him to just agree and not let on that he hadn't a clue.
He had removed his mask and was sitting beside her on a chair at a small desk when the beeps on her machines changed. He looked up and over to her bed, his glowing silver eyes met her bright green ones. He froze as he watched her eyes move over his face without the mask concealing him. A lone tear trickled down her face and her hand flexed just slightly. He had just enough time to touch her fingertips before he heard the door signalling entry into the clean area had begun. He slipped on his mask and moved his things out of the way of the doctors who had just come in.
Several months later they stood on Rannoch in front of his home. Now their home. "It's a bit small but feels enormous after living on the ship my entire life. I hope you like it." His voice had grown stronger, not so shaky as it once had been. She smiled at him and stood on her toes, kissing him as she ran her hand over his long, dark hair. "I love it, husband. Just as I've always loved you."
He still couldn't believe what had happened. After they had removed all the tubes and wires and told Shepard that her fiancé had been there every day since he had found out she was alive, she had pronounced that they were due to wed in a few weeks and was happy not to have missed their wedding day. He had dropped his books and pencils to the floor as he stood there staring at her. The female nurses had giggled and oohed at a Valentine's wedding.
Now here they were, standing outside their home. When he opened the door and followed her inside his nervousness had returned.
She looked around the spartan home, the walls were bare and so white they hurt her eyes. The floors were of a cool tile and the furniture looked functional yet comfortable as well. The kitchen was sparkling clean and quite large with a table and several chairs and a big window that over looked a garden that was a riot of colors. Their bedroom was also pure white as was the only guestroom, that was also unfurnished.
She smiled at him, and pronounced it perfect, they could fill it full of things together. He hugged and kissed her, taking her hand and drawing her closer to the one living room wall. It was only as she got closer to it that she noticed the doodles covering it, very fine gray lines covered the entire wall. "We can bring color to our home together. There is another wall in our bedroom." He watched as she touched the outlines.
"The small room is bare. I... was thinking that with all the orphans... ones that need help, like you helped me, that maybe once we colored these rooms we could ....", Veetor let out a grunt as Shepard flung her arms around him and squeezed.
"That is an absolutely, perfectly, marvelous idea, my love."
A year later they added the last of the bright color to their bedroom wall. Their home had taken on such a cheerful and peaceful air that others had stopped by and wondered at the wall in the living room. Many had asked Veetor to come and do the same to their home. He told them that the outlines he could do, but to bring the color and life to their home they would need to fill it in, then he gave them sheets of designs to practice on and instructions on how to do it.
A month later a knock came at their door. Tali told them of an accident that had happened in the other settlement. Several children were now orphaned. They looked at each other then went with her to the small home that a family converted to an orphanage of sorts.
As Shepard stood speaking with the quarian couple that had taken the children in, Veetor started to talk with the kids. His eyes kept traveling to a small girl in the corner who sat staring out of the window. The child looked so lost, so alone and devastated. He moved closer and sat beside her, reaching into a small bag and bringing out a sheet of his doodles and a small box of crayons. He didn't say anything, just started to color. Eventually, he noticed the girl's eyes were drawn from the window down to the piece of paper.
He held out a crayon to her, "would you like to try it?"
When Shepard followed the couple into the other room, she took one look at the two sitting in the corner coloring and she smiled. "Our choice has been made already."