Author: korinaka PM
The Reaper threat is no more, and Shepard is missing in action. Among the rubble of the aftermath, Javik's sensory abilities pick up traces of her and visions of her final journey.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Javik & Shepard (F) - Words: 3,481 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 2 - Published: 06-28-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8266826
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: A fill for the ME kinkmeme on LJ.
The first word he heard her say after thirty-six hours of suffocating silence was "Javik."
Javik's fingers stilled over the bent and charred piece of steel, fingertips barely brushing the surface. Visions flooded into his mind, Shepard barely conscious as she scanned the battlefield for the companions she had taken with her into the final surge-for Javik and Liara. She lurched forwards after crying out their names, after determining that she was alone now, pain making her body heavy, her sight spinning.
The vision stopped as Shepard approached a maurauder.
Quietly, Javik let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. All around him, rescue workers-turian, krogan, human, geth-dug through the rubble of the crashed Citadel, hoping desperately for survivors but pulling out nothing but bodies in varying states of decomposition and wholeness. The air hung thick with fine particles of vaporized building materials-metal, plastic, glass, and even organic matter, reduced to dust at the destruction of the Citadel. The megastructure's long arms had split upon its descent into Earth's atmosphere, pried apart as it fell and then breaking upon impact.
She had been here, where the center of the Citadel had landed. No others were so important as she.
He began to dig again with carefully concealed fervor, bare fingertips raw from exertion and throat choked with death and dust.
He picked up what may have been organic remains, preparing to toss the item behind him and continue, when his vision cut abruptly to white. She stood broken and bleeding in a dark hallway, tinged red by the emergency lights lining the walkway before her. To her left and right, bodies lay piled, still and stiff and grotesque in their positions. She tried not to look at them, tried to keep her pistol high and her eyes low, but the smell could not be escaped. Javik felt her chest heave with every labored breath. He felt the lance of pain that accompanied each heavy step.
When the visions stopped he forced his hands back into the rubble in front of him, neither wincing at nor acknowledging the sharp pieces that cut into the fabric of his gloves. He sat in the path she'd once walked, not so long ago. Little more than thirty-six hours ago, she had led them all into battle, survived a direct hit from a Reaper's beam, and then continued on alone while her friends lay dead or dying all around her.
"You really think she's still alive under all of this?"
The human's voice hardly surprised him. He had been surrounded by humans since the moment he'd woken up from stasis. But this was not the human he wanted to hear from, so he mostly ignored the meaty creature before him, focusing on the task on hand.
James knelt beside Javik and wordlessly began to help him, five-fingered hands easily three times the size of his shoveling debris out of the way with all the grace of a drunk krogan. Javik watched a dirty bead of sweat drip off of his dark brow and distantly remembered a time when he had watched this scene before, but on a smaller, lighter-skinned, more pleasant human. He had seen the sweat drip from concentration and not exertion, from being trapped under layers of armor, not under a thin "T" of cloth.
They continued for several hours. Earth's sun set below an orange horizon and most rescue workers retired for the night. Eventually, James sat back on his heels, clapped a massive hand on Javik's armored shoulder, and then left. Slowly, one by one, the remaining rescue workers retreated, until only one was left some distance in front of him. After several moments, they stopped digging, turned on a large spotlight, and then continued.
Javik worked tirelessly into the dark.
He awoke to an ugly face hovering a little bit above him, and he squinted four eyes angrily at it.
"Are you alright?" it asked, face plates shifting into a look of genuine worry. "Did you sleep out here?"
"Fine," Javik managed, though he felt anything but. He found it difficult to breathe but did not feel like sharing this information with anyone but himself. He pulled himself to a sitting position and stretched his stiff back, his smooth armor clanking as he twisted his spine right and then left. As soon as he rolled onto his knees, he began to dig again, ignoring his now bleeding fingertips.
He felt Garrus's frown on his back but said nothing on it. Instead, his hand passed briefly over a concrete block, and he was rewarded with a blinding white light and her.
She spoke in tones muddled by memory to a man with a face half shredded by cybernetics. The man held a pistol aloft and aimed at another dark-skinned man. Javik felt Shepard's anxiety, the turmoil roiling in her gut, as well as every throb of pain from her injuries. She and the blue-faced man spoke at length and for many moments, before he raised the pistol and pressed the barrel to his temple.
Garrus had not left. Javik collapsed again into his work, scowling deeply and trying to keep his heart out of his throat for the moment. Unlike the human, Garrus did not kneel and aid him. Instead, he watched his back, his presence entirely useless and wholly unwelcome. In fact, Javik opened his mouth to voice his feelings on Garrus's loitering, but the turian spoke before he could.
"I want to see her alive, too."
For the first time in longer than Javik cared to remember, he stood. His legs were weak, wobbly, like they had been when he had first stepped out of stasis, but he righted himself easily. Garrus appeared surprised at the quickness with which Javik had turned on him, blinking and taking a step backwards. He was not outfitted in his heavy silver armor as he usually was and instead wore civilian garments of blue with a simple black hood. He looked more frail than Javik had ever seen him.
"If what you say is true," Javik thrummed, voice so low that it was almost drowned by the vibrations of his vocal chords, "then help. Do not stand idly by while all others work."
A blank expression crawled over the turian's face. Javik attempted to steady his breathing, but he found it difficult not to pant. Garrus raised his hands slowly and turned them over. His hands were bare except for bright blue spots of raised flesh. "Shovel duty," he said, humor mostly overwritten by his somber tone.
Blood dripped from Javik's fingers and onto the ground.
James brought him a tube of nutrient paste and a container of water, but he only allowed himself to use the water to rinse his hands. Pinkish water ran over rubble until it turned muddy.
He worked longer than any other rescue workers, except perhaps the person with the spotlight. He still had not spoken to them and still had no desire to. Their reasons for searching were likely as valid as his. They were searching for something special. Something important. Some vital thing that had appeared suddenly in his life and became the most tolerable thing in the universe. She became a treasured thing with a swiftness that he had never anticipated-could never have anticipated. She was strong and resolute and quiet and heartfelt and logical, and she would have made an outstanding prothean.
He thought of her now with perhaps another set of eyes, perhaps a hard plate on her head, with perhaps wide-set and jutting hips, but the image was strange and offputting, so he stopped. She could only be Shepard, now and forever; Shepard with short hair and bright eyes and fair skin always hidden.
He picked up a piece of fiberglass and almost gasped at how bright the light was this time.
Shepard hobbled to a platform, near death or unconsciousness, asking someone over and over what she was supposed to do. Javik did not breathe as she pressed some button and then collapsed, and slowly, after she had been lying still for many moments, she began to rise to the ceiling on a large platform. When the platform docked, she rose, unsteadily, and pulled herself to stand with no small amount of effort. Before her stood a small spectral human, a hologram peraps, a child. "Choose," it told her, and she turned toward a control console that house two columns of blue.
It was night when he regained his senses this time, and shooting pains agonized his impossibly stiff spine. He lay in the rubble for several moments, looking up at the yellow-white stars in Earth's sky, listening to the sounds of the still digsite. He heard the groaning of large debris as it shifted positions, heard the crumbling of rocks as small local fauna disturbed them, and heard the rhythmic, methodical thwick, shiff shoveling of the strange rescue worker somewhere ahead of him. As ever, their spotlight was shining, casting faint shadows over his own work area.
His fingertips ached and his eyelids burned. He felt a sore spot underneath the back of his crest but couldn't quite find the strength to investigate.
Somewhere near him, a bird called, and he thought of Shepard. He thought of the way she had called his name, the word choking out of her throat and echoing through the empty air around her. It had been desperate. Fevered. The final cry of a woman walking willfully into oblivion. He had been lying not many feet from her but hidden behind a rock, not so much injured as incapacitated. He left the scene with little more than a few cuts and bruises. Liara had suffered this in addition to several major fractures and burns. It wasn't anything their primitive medi-gel couldn't handle, and he recalled the cool feeling of it slathered onto his tiny wounds as his heart hammered against his ribcage. Shepard had still been missing and he'd been sitting on a medical gurney and obediantly accepting treatment for wounds that he would in normal circumstances not even acknowledge. And the first thing he'd done after being released from the emergency medical facilities was dig. For her. To find her. To see her one more time.
"Shepard," he croaked quietly, forlornly, the word sounding weak and pained against the silent backdrop of night. It was then that he realized the shoveling had stopped and a shadow was moving toward him over the rubble. He pushed himself into a sitting position, the most dignified position he could manage. The shadow came to him in the form of a humanoid figure, the spotlight shining behind them and obscuring their features. For one aching moment, he thought it was Shepard, back from the dead to offer him a hand and one of her beautiful human smiles.
"There's something you should see," the figure said, sounding like Liara and not at all like Shepard, his shepherd, his woman in kevlar and steel guiding him with bright eyes and all those pretty niceties he pretended to cast away. Liara outstretched a hand and he grasped it in a light daze, her five-fingered hands-so much like hers-fitting oddly around his own. She helped him stumble to his feet, and when he was unable to stand on his own, she looped an arm under his shoulders and helped him hobble toward the spotlight. The light cast stretched shadows behind them as they walked.
"You have been digging," Javik said in a faraway voice underlayed by thick thrumming that tickled his throat. "It was you. Night and day. When all others would not."
"All but you," Liara corrected. She looked down at him and he turned away from the pity on her face, staring instead at what work she had done. She had treated the site like an archaeological dig, sections cordoned off with small red rope and tagged with holographic markers. Just to the side of the spotlight lay a large structure, a steel door twisted in its frame. Beyond it lay what appeared to be an uncollapsed section of the Citadel's bowels, all buried beneath several feet of dust, concrete, steel, and glass.
Javik separated from her and stumbled against the door, catching himself by the broken passcode console and then steadying. He ran his fingertips over the metal, traced where it had been wrenched out of shape, leaving thin trails of blood wherever he touched. He hoped for visions but was given no more than fleeting feelings, strong emotions that someone here had once held: Anxiety, fear, pain, and very faintly, hope.
He opened his mouth to speak, marveling at the structure as if Liara had just unearthed the secret to reviving every war casualty since his cycle and beyond, but she cut him off.
"Shepard may be in there," she said gently, and his hands curled into tight fists at the words. His lungs burned. His head pounded. "Alive or not, whatever she is now is behind there."
He rested his forehead against the cool metal. "Why did you not enter?"
"I just finished digging it out enough to get the door open." She paused, and he stilled at her words, fingers fitting into the crack in the door and pushing it to one side. It groaned, whined, and then jerked toward the doorframe, allowing a large enough passage for him to slip through. "I thought it should be you," she continued, and he heard the shuffling of rubble, heard her begin to approach him from behind. "Shepard didn't have any family or lovers." When she was directly behind him, she did not touch him, but he could feel her presence; could feel her standing and staring. "But she had you."
Before she could reach out a hand to console him, he slipped through the door and into darkness. He stood for a moment, was aware that Liara was watching him through the thin opening in the door, and then heard her walk away. Only then did he continue forward, eyes adjusting slowly to the dark.
All around him he saw broken structures, large pieces of machinery that had once worked to run at least one portion of the Citadel. The floor was stained with blood, dirt, and broken things. Several times he stopped to steady himself against a wall or on an overturned block of concrete, catching his breath though he did not feel as though he was overexerting himself.
He walked into a familiar room. The ceilings were tall, and where large bay windows had once been, crushed debris now sat, sloping in through the window frames as scree on a mountainside. Shepard had been here, he remembered; he had seen it in his visions. She had spoken with the ghostly child; she had made a decision here that had affected the entirety of the universe. It seemed fitting that this room had been sealed but not crushed by the fallen rubble. The last place Shepard had been now sat preserved under the ruins of the greatest technological marvel of his and their cycle combined. He tried not to think of it as a tomb.
His footsteps echoed loudly as he approached a console. He felt fleeting emotions as he neared it, and the memory of Shepard approaching the very same console seared into the back of his mind. He walked the same path she had, a ghost of what she had once done, and when he stood in front of the still and mostly ruined console, he was overwhelmed with Shepard's being. She raced into his thoughts unfiltered, her quivering fingers on the trigger of a gun too large for her frame, the barely imperceptible whirring of cybernetics just under warm, smooth skin, the gentle curve of her hips and the blunt white square teeth just behind pink lips and the scent of her pheromones, heady and thick in the humid air of his quarters, as she spoke to him openly, without reservation, without fear or wonder at who or what or when he was.
He fell to his hands and knees, unable to process so many strong memories and lingering emotions that satured the air of this console. He hung his head and a quick exhale of breath as he sighed her name, O Shepard, my shepherd, disturbed a small pile of dust between his firmly planted hands. He watched the dark particles swirl in the empty air, devoid of anything but the remaining fragments of what Shepard had once been. As he watched little flecks of grey and black flutter around him and the cold console, he realized that they were ashes.
He grit his teeth, his jaw tight and aching at the pressure, ridges at this throat trembling around a thrumming but quiet growl. His temples throbbed as more of Shepard danced through his mind, teasing him with the image he saw there-her, standing whole and defiant and radiant against a backdrop of red sunset and defeated Reaper on Rannoch-and what lay before him-a scattered pile of ash that made his eyes sting.
He brought a hand to hover over the ashes, fingers trembling and caked with dirt and blood. His gloves were ripped in places and he saw his skin stretched tight over the knuckle of his middle finger, stretched tight like his resolve. Touching the ashes would bring him images of her final moments, he knew; he would see how and why she had been reduced to this. He could bring an answer back to the ugly turian and the meaty human and Liara. He clenched his hand tight, watching his knuckle grow white, and then pulled it away.
He took in the silence of the buried room, tried to commit to memory how he had last seen Shepard here, beaten and bruised but never knocked down, and as he stood to unsteady feet and began to make his way toward the outside world, the last trace of Shepard he felt was triumph.
Liara was not outside, and the spotlight had been switched off for the first time in several days. The red string marking various areas of her digsite had been retrieved and presumably stored away, and the hologram markers were missing as well. Javik stood in the light of Earth's moon, his back to what remained of Shepard and her resting place.
He left the crash site, walking slowly, feet dragging over rubble. He passed his own digging area and saw the depression in the debris where his body had been for uncountable days. He walked on, his feet padding against scorched earth presently instead of broken concrete, glass, and steel. He continued further until he felt the texture of grass under his toes, and there he saw tents and makeshift buildings erected for refugees.
The first tent he entered was large and the color of sand, and upon entering, all heads turned to him. He must have appeared as a specter, wallowing through the flap with bloodied hands, a sallowed face, and armor coated with mud and dust. Among the onlookers were Garrus and James, glasses of water in their hands and plates of food in front of them.
"Javik," someone finally said, and Javik turned to the source of the voice. Liara emerged from another section of the tent. In the dark, he had been unable to see how pale her face had grown. She wrung her hands and then guided him to a canteen. As she poured him a cup of water, he listened to the splashing and the heaving of his own breaths.
He followed her blindly, obeyed her without question. He drank this. Ate that. Sat here. And finally, when a human doctor with brown hair that was nothing like Shepard's was finished poking and prodding at him and telling him she didn't feel comfortable treating a prothean further, Liara led him to a cot in a dark corner of the tent's back partitions.
When he lay down, his throat no longer parched, his fingers no longer bleeding, his head no longer pounding, he saw Shepard. She stood with her back to a violet sky on a foreign planet of sand and ocean, her hair wispy in the cool breeze. He watched her but did not feel surprised or upset at seeing her here. It was as if she belonged.
She smiled, and he took a step towards her, the sand warm under his bare toes.