|Just Like Old Times
Author: That'sNotMe PM
Post ME3: Shepard breaks the Reapers' indoctrination, and makes it back to Garrus alive. But what is in store for two heroes who are not content to stop the fight for justice? M for language and occasional interspecies "relations."Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Adventure - Shepard (F) & Garrus V. - Chapters: 20 - Words: 67,071 - Reviews: 107 - Favs: 167 - Follows: 242 - Updated: 12-21-12 - Published: 03-22-12 - id: 7949252
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 1: "Forgive the insubordination"
She took a deep breath – and instantly regretted it. The air was filled with ash and smoke – it burned. Everything hurt.
The rubble held her claustrophobically – trapped against the ground. Shepard tried pushing it aside. Pain shot down her arms and she cried out reflexively. Another breath – not so deep this time.
"Come back alive."
She gathered her strength. She could barely recall the last hour – or had it been longer? Her time inside the Citadel was hazy – split between reality and dream state. Her return to earth had been even worse. Despite the pyrotechnics in the sky, the warped, disfigured minions of the Reapers remained on earth. Their masters were gone – just like that – but like vicious animals, they continued to fight. All she remembered was coming out of the beam into the path of a brute. And that headache… perhaps she would lie here a moment longer.
"It'd be an awfully empty galaxy without you."
The flanged voice ran through her memory. It was different from the voices that had been in her head before. This one was real. Concrete. Harshness and desperation tinged the edges.
She felt the same desperation rising up in her gut. Where was he? When she last caught sight of him, he was behind her, visor aligned with his scope. In his element. But that was a long time ago. Or at least it felt that way.
She managed to pry the largest chunk of London's rubble from atop her and pull herself out, biting her cheek at the pain. But she breathed in the free-flowing air – the pain dissipating for a moment in the starlight.
The chorus of gunfire, shouts, and agonized groans came from all around her. The path to the Citadel beam – the concave valley she found herself in – was empty, aside from the dead. She dimly remembered someone – Anderson? That couldn't be right. No, it was major Coats – calling for a retreat over the comms.
"Did we get anyone to the beam?"
"Negative. Our entire force was decimated."
The panic rose up in her again. Her team. She had brought Vega and Ashley with her – the two were like tanks pushing against the Reaper beams. She had left the rest behind – battling in the mazes of London's destroyed streets – to keep the husks focused on them until the Reapers could be brought down.
"Vega?" She called, but no sound emerged from her dry throat. She coughed – another deep, painful breath.
"Vega! Williams!" She shouted, this time her voice carrying, echoing through the valley.
An explosion in the sky above her rocked the rubble and made her stumble. The Crucible had spotted another Reaper – there were few left now – and disintegrated it with one fiery beam. She balled her right hand into a fist, willing them to continue, sending her strength to them. It was a grim victory, but victory nonetheless.
She continued through the rubble – through the bodies.
"Vega!" She shouted again. "Williams!"
No response. God damn it. She couldn't let that fear that was settling in her gut make it to her mind, not yet. Not to mention the pang in her heart when she wondered whom they might have lost in the city above her.
She stumbled over an assault rifle in her path. A Valkyrie, well-loved and battle-worn. A classic – Ashley always insisted on the good old-fashioned N7 issues. Shepard felt that cold pit in her stomach grow as she turned the rifle over in her hands.
There it was. A tiny engraving.
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Tennyson. Shepard tore through the rubble, the ache in every bone of her body ignored. Until she felt it. Soft flesh, cold and slick with blood. She pushed the rubble aside. Ashley lay silent, her torso cleaved by a Reaper laser, her armor ripped apart like it had been fragile silk.
Sense returned to Shepard's clouded mind after a moment. She crossed Ashley's arms gently over her chest, and picked up the rifle.
Perhaps this will help give Sarah some closure, she thought wearily.
She stood, her pessimism sealed. She no longer feared the worst – her conscious mind was fighting to accept the truth. The assault on the Collector base was supposed to be a suicide mission, but she had always known that this confrontation would make their fear of the Collector base feel laughable.
"You're a survivor, Ash. Always were."
"I hope you're right."
"Goodbye, Ash," Shepard said, more to herself than anything. "Thank you."
She began to trudge back up that hill, the aches in her body making themselves heard. She grabbed at her side as a sharp pain tweaked, and felt the sticky, hot blood that was beginning to congeal.
There – suddenly! – something stirred under some rubble. A meaty hand – a behemoth of a man – pushed its way out from some rubble.
Shepard ran to the pile, pulling the rubble aside as quickly as she could with a gentle hand. There was no telling the injuries he had suffered. She dug him out, his eyes barely open, his head lolling back like a baby's.
"Hey Lola," he grunted.
"Vega, you okay?" She leaned over him, checking his wounds carefully. He'd lost a lot of blood, but she didn't think it was fatal.
"Could be worse," he coughed. Then he looked up at her chest pointedly. "At least I gotta great view."
There was that twinkle in his eye. Shepard couldn't help but smile.
"Glad your morale hasn't suffered, Vega. Can you stand?"
She helped him up, and his eyes nearly rolled back in his head. He stumbled, and as strong a woman as she was, he easily had 100 pounds on her. It was all she could do to keep him from tumbling to the ground.
"Whoa, easy, soldier," she chided. "One step at a time."
She activated her comm link and spoke into it. "This is Commander Shepard. We need medical personnel at the beam. We got one injured survivor, maybe more."
There was a long pause, and the voice at the other end was incredulous: "Commander Shepard?"
"You heard right, Coats," Shepard replied. "Now get me a medical team."
She shifted Vega's weight to support him better.
"You ready to meet them halfway?"
"You bet, Commander," he grunted.
She half carried the hulking marine up the hill. The shouts of the medical team grew louder as they grew closer. She could hear the sounds of battle growing dimmer – receding. Suddenly, she felt heavy, cold. She began to shiver.
Barely conscious, Vega muttered: "You alright there, Lola?"
"Yeah," she gritted her teeth through the words. "I died once already, remember? This is nothing."
His laugh was more a groan, but it was good to hear. The medical team encircled them, pulled Vega from her to treat his wounds.
Shepard plodded on – she heard the voices of the team speaking to her receding back dimly, as if in a dream:
"Commander, we should take a look at you, too."
"I need to get back to the base."
Did she say that out loud? She thought she did, but wasn't sure her mouth had cooperated. She kept on forward. Her mind began to blur again, but this was different. Not like on the Citadel – it was memories that threatened to block out reality this time.
She had stretched upwards, lifting herself onto her toes to touch her lips to his face. His arms had tightened around her waist, pulling her close. Reluctant when she finally pulled away.
"Goodbye, Garrus. And if I'm up there in that bar and you're not, I'll be looking down. You'll never be alone."
She hadn't expected to survive. She had feared for his loneliness, in the inevitable event that her life was the sacrifice she had to make for the galaxy. For the first time, Shepard realized that she might be the one who was left alone. Her head throbbed, and the world in front of her swirled. She had lost a lot of blood.
There was a glint in a tower up ahead – she looked up. Light from a nearby explosion glanced off of blue armor. Then a whistle, and a concussive round hit – a few feet to her left.
She looked up, her mouth hanging open in a silent pant. Was that…?
And then she felt that slow ebbing of blood in her temples subside. The world around her spun faster, darkened to red. And then silence engulfed her.
When Shepard had called over the comm for a medical team, Coats had barely believed his ears. He knew someone had made it to the Citadel – the Crucible had been activated and begun to decimate the Reapers – but Shepard and Anderson had both fallen silent long before that. They had both been assumed dead. And then, to hear that voice, ringing with conviction, over the comm…
Well, he chuckled to himself, perhaps the stories are true. If this woman has already returned from beyond the grave once, who's to say she can't do it again?
He watched the hubbub below from his perch inside Big Ben. For any young British boy in another time, this would be a dream come true. Sat atop one of the most famous structures, one that had been closed to the public for generations, clutching a sniper rifle. But watching London smolder below, it was more of a nightmare.
A deep sigh loosed from his chest. Weary. He looked through his scope again, taking out a marauder from afar. The victory of watching those metallic monsters explode in the sky was soon crushed by the heaviness of weeks of battle. The fight wasn't over yet.
And they had lost so many.
Darkness enveloped her. Voices ran together in her head. Chatter and static, like a disrupted comm link. It made her head ache. She tried to stir, and the voices picked up. She fought against the darkness – everything hurt – but she couldn't stay there anymore. She needed light, needed to find the source of the voices.
Her eyes opened.
The figures surrounding her blurred together, their voices still indistinguishable.
She blinked – the fuzzy glare of lights began to sharpen, solidifying the figures. A salarian in doctor's clothing. He was talking to her. She blinked again.
"…slowly, Commander," he was saying.
Another doctor, this one a human, leaned into her field of vision. He said something to her – the words echoed, but did not register.
She blinked again – more murmuring. A fuzzy blue figure cleared up into –
"Liara," she murmured.
Liara's smiling eyes brightened at her, and she took Shepard's hand in both of hers, squeezing gently.
"Shepard, it's good to see you."
Shepard smiled. She tried to sit up, and everything went nearly black again. The voices blurred.
"…transfusion… rest necessary."
"…okay? I am happy to…."
That must have been Liara – the sweetness in the voice came through.
Her dizziness grew, and the voices started to meld together again.
She felt her hand slip out of Liara's grip.
She closed her eyes again. The blurry faces were making her dizzy. The darkness was preferred – she felt less like she was going to expel what she was certain were the meager contents of her stomach.
Then the murmuring began to clear. She felt cool air move across her chest and knew the crowd was clearing away.
Fear started to rise in her again. What if it wasn't over? Where were they going – was the attack still going on? New patients coming in, needing their attention. But a small, selfish part of her didn't want them to leave…
She forced her eyes to open again. One figure over her now – her blurred vision could only make out a vaguely gray blob with a blue circle seemingly attached to it. She felt someone take her hand again – a warm hand, much warmer than a human hand, with three long, slender, curved talons. And that unmistakable voice spoke softly, saying her name quietly, as if it were a treasure, a secret for just the two of them:
Her vision cooperated once again – the silvery blur focused itself into a smooth face: the elegant fringe, the rounded carapace, the faint scarring on the right mandible and cheek, and those fierce blue eyes.
Liara was supporting him; he leaned heavily on her, one arm slung over her shoulder, white bandages wrapped tightly over the smooth plating of his opposite shoulder. Blue blood seeped through the bandage. She took this all in – her eyes memorizing every detail of him.
It was barely even a breath, but she knew from the way his mandibles twitched that he'd heard it. His hand closed tightly around hers.
He slowly eased out of Liara's supporting grip, resting his weight against the hospital bed. He reached his injured arm towards her face, lightly brushing her hair from her forehead. If she hadn't known him so well and become so well-versed in the subtleties of turian expressions, she wouldn't have noticed him suppress a wince at the movement in his shoulder.
"Not bad for my first order, hmm?" He spoke so softly, for her ears only. "Maybe I have leadership potential after all."
The lightness of the joke was betrayed by the depth of feeling in his voice. She felt herself falling away again, despite her struggle to stay there – stay coherent.
"Garrus…" she started to say, feeling the blackness creep in at the edge of her vision.
He shushed her gently, squeezing her hand again.
"Just rest," he said. His voice was echoing now as she felt herself slip away. "I'll be here when you wake up."
Garrus held her hand in his long after she had slipped back to unconsciousness. Behind him, he could hear Liara fussing about, communicating with the doctors and coordinating triage. She was doing what she could – what she did best. She had avoided injury in the battle on Earth and was working double to make up for it. She paused for a moment and he felt her cool hand on his shoulder.
"Garrus," she said in her soft voice, "you should rest, too."
"I'll be okay, Liara," he said, although he felt every bone in his body on fire.
He didn't look back at her, but could feel the apprehension in her gaze. He knew she didn't believe him, but she stepped away respectfully. She would be back, and that was fine. For now, he just needed to stay here.
He had seen her coming up that hill. Hobbling, barely held together. At first he had been astonished. When Harbinger had arrived, he had feared the worst. When the crucible had begun firing what felt like an eternity later, he had cheered with the rest of them. But then there had been nothing from her. They had called her name over the comm. He heard Hackett asking her to come in. Nothing.
Anger rose up in him. He had heard human soldiers speak of suppressing their feelings of grief on the battlefield, but such a concept was foreign to a turian. This anger, this grief-anger, propelled him forward through the crowds of brutes, banshees, and other terrible, disfigured beasts. It was the same anger that propelled him back on Omega, after he had lost his team; when he had been known as Archangel.
Fierce, calculated, intense. He couldn't see the intimidating impression he projected, but he felt it all in his bones. Assault rifle out, he sent cascades of bullets ripping through the chalky grey hides. When he ran low on ammo, he vaulted over a wall and scrambled up the stairs to a tower, where he brought out his sniper rifle and took aim.
It seemed like ages he was perched there, watching for targets, taking them down. And then he saw her crest the hill, her armor glinting. How he knew it was her, he wasn't certain. It could be any woman in armor. But something in the way she walked, through the limp, through the obvious pain she was in. He just knew.
Liara's gentle hand on his arm pulled him from the reverie.
"I've brought a chair over for you," Liara told him. "You should rest, but I knew better than to think you will return to your room."
She helped him take a seat as he chuckled.
"Yes, mom," he teased her.
"She'll be alright, Garrus," Liara soothed as she left the room.
He simply nodded, taking Shepard's hand in his again.