The door of the medbay chimed closed behind her latest patients, and Karin Chakwas took a deep breath before slumping in the chair at her desk.

Her eyes drifted unwillingly to the frames carefully hidden behind a flower vase on her desk. It was silly, she thought, and even unprofessional from her to keep pictures of her favorite members of the crew on the display like that, but she could not help it. The Alliance was the only family she had ever known, the only family she had ever wished to know, and the soldiers she took care of were like a bunch of boisterous nephews and nieces. Some more than others.

She held her trembling hand to the frames and brought them to her and as she stared at Joker’s grinning face next to a very serious Kaidan, she felt tears forming into her eyes and started to sob weakly despite herself.

The haunted eyes of the Commander would not leave her and on a day like this, she was happy she wasn’t the one to have to make calls like that. She wasn’t sure she could say she was the person knowing Shepard the best on the ship, but her place as the resident doctor had her watching multiple times the worry playing on the Commander’s face when she brought an injured Chief Williams in after she received a concussive shot while raiding pirates on a random planet, or walking in with Kaidan to make sure he would allow the good doctor to tend to a wound or to take care of a particularly severe migraine. Surely enough, the Commander would display concern for every other member of her team, but Chakwas was used to see the difference between strictly professional concern and more personal involvement. And she could tell Shepard held Kaidan and Ashley dearer to her heart than anyone else.

How could she feel after having to make such a choice? Karin Chakwas reasoned that she should keep an eye on the Commander in the days, and most certainly the weeks or months to come.

Later, she would straighten herself and offer much needed words of comfort to the Commander, and maybe if the need arose, even words of reassurance that this was the right choice to make. She had not been able to summon the strength and courage to find those words just after the ground team had come back from Virmire without one of their own.

Later, she would take time to grieve properly for the feisty, blunt and passionate Chief Williams.

But right now, she allowed her own tears to fall freely on her cheeks as, through the large medbay panel glass, her gaze traveled from the picture in her hand to Shepard’s ghostly silhouette striding to the elevator while Kaidan’s limping form was trying to catch up her with her.

Tears of relief.