One Last Goodbye
Undisputed theme song: "Come Wake Me Up" by Rascal Flatts/"Never Be the Same" by Red
Equally appropriate music video: watch?v=uc4GseM7MDU (YouTube)
"Saren's hiding something! Give me more time! Stall them!"
Executor Pallin simply dismissed everything. "Stall the Council? Don't be ridiculous! Your investigation is over, Garrus." He then walked away.
I was more than ready to run off after him. I almost did. But I knew it was out of my hands. What could I do? Anything I could try to convince him would get me suspended. At best. Then the investigation would really be over. If I was going to do something, I had to find another way.
It was then that I turned around. It was at that moment I saw her for the first time. I knew who it was the second I saw her. The armor and weapons and her two companions gave away that she was an Alliance soldier. At present, there was really only one option.
I'd heard about her. Born and raised on Earth. Orphaned. Left to the streets. Enlisted in the military at 18. Singlehandedly survived a Thresher Maw attack on Akuze that killed her entire squad. Now came to the Council with the same claims I had: Saren was working against his Spectre duties in secret, possibly endangering the entire galaxy in doing so.
But, for all her hardened reputation…no one had ever mentioned she was quite so beautiful. Her light red hair fell against her shoulders enticingly, her bright green eyes sparkling. Not bad for a human.
Before I could start falling into those thoughts, I regained my composure and gave off the standard greetings: "Commander Shepard? Garrus Vakarian. I was the officer in charge of the C-Sec investigation into Saren."
"Come across anything I should know about?" Shepard asked me.
That was the first time I ever heard her voice. The first words we ever said to each other… "Saren's a Spectre," I answered, "Most of his activities are classified. I couldn't find anything solid. But I know he's up to something. Like you humans say, I feel it in my gut."
"I think the Council's ready for us, Commander," one of Shepard's companions spoke up.
"Good luck, Shepard," I said as we went our separate ways, "Maybe they'll listen to you."
It was only an hour later when we saw each other again. When I snuck through the med clinic, out of sight of everyone as a small group of thugs attacked the doctor. When Shepard came around and distracted them just long enough for me to get a clean shot at the leader. When we first went into battle together and won.
The first time we became a team.
"This is your show, Shepard," I told her, "But I want to bring down Saren just as much as you do. I'm coming with you."
"You're a turian," she pointed out, clearly showing that she, like most humans, wasn't one to outright trust a member of the race that attacked hers, "Why do you wanna bring him down?"
"I couldn't find the proof I needed in my investigation but I knew what was really going on. Saren is a traitor to the Council and a disgrace to my people!"
I don't know what it was, but something in her eyes changed at that moment. I saw it. Part of me wants to believe that was the moment she started to change her mind about turians. On the other hand, all of me knows that was the moment she started to change her mind about me. Because the next thing she did was smile and say "Welcome aboard, Garrus."
It was at that moment I knew. Though I didn't realize it until much later, I knew…
I snap out of it. My mind was lost in memory. That's been happening a lot lately.
"We're coming up on Earth," the pilot says as we begin our descent.
I just nod in acknowledgement. I suppose I should be thankful that the geth are carrying the Reaper code since it gave them the knowledge we needed to at least partially repair the severely damaged mass relays (not to mention the Reapers helping to fully repair them before disappearing into dark space as if awaiting the time they would be needed again, something I can only assume is the result of the Crucible). Otherwise, the trip from Palaven to Earth could've taken years. Earth. Where she was born…where she died. I try to shake the thoughts away but I know they'll never leave. I can't force myself to forget.
I stayed in the cargo bay for the entirety of our battle against Saren. Mostly, I worked on repairing the Mako after missions and keeping my distance from Wrex. But every so often, Shepard would come down to talk to us. I actually rather enjoyed our conversations. I feel like that's when things began to change for us. I started getting more comfortable around her, willing to share with her one of the most painful stories of my C-Sec career. Helping me catch Dr. Saleon…I don't think I have words for that. Not the right ones. It was after that when I started to realize what it was I was feeling for her. I never thought this would happen to me. Just imagine it. A turian falling for a human. It's unheard of.
I thought things would be different when Saren and Sovereign were defeated. And they were. But I never could've guessed how different. I never saw it coming. For weeks, I couldn't believe it. Having the Council deny the Reaper threat entirely and keep the truth from the public was one thing. But hearing the news of the Normandy's destruction and Shepard's death…it got to me. That was the moment I knew what I had to do. That was when I stopped boiling in fury at the red tape tying me down and started doing something about it. That's when I went to Omega and became Archangel. It occurred to me every now and then that I really was following Shepard's example.
Losing my squad destroyed me. I didn't even have time to grieve for them before the mercs started storming my base. I thought I was done for. Until I saw her in my scope. That redheaded, green-eyed soldier I thought I would never see again. My hope was restored in that moment. I started fighting again, not just for my survival but for hers. Of course, as the fight died down when she reached the compound, I realized: things had changed, but nothing had changed at all. I had lost my way and she had lost her life; I was hiding away feelings I didn't understand and she didn't reciprocate.
At least, that's what I thought.
I heard her come up behind me. "Archangel?" I heard her voice again.
I, however, stayed focused. I answered with a signal to wait a moment and kept my gaze through the sniper scope. When the final mercenary leaned out of cover, I took him out effortlessly. Only then did I step away from the ledge. I got up, turned to face her, took my helmet off, placed it aside, and sat down on the crates, holding my sniper rifle as I faced her for the first time in two years. "Shepard," I said, not even bothering to hide my relief as I looked once again at her emerald eyes, "I thought you were dead."
I felt my hope return when she greeted me with a smile of pure joy. "Garrus! What are you doing here?"
"Just keeping my skills sharp," I answered, trying to let some humor through, "Little target practice."
"Been better, but it sure is good to see a friendly face."
I pull myself out of my thoughts again. Those days are behind me. I need to focus on the here and now. So I turn all my attention to the human regiment I'm meeting, suppressing the urge to wonder at why we even bother now that the greatest threat is gone and the galaxy is finally at peace.
"Find everything to your liking, Vakarian?"
I know that voice. I turn to face it and smirk at what I see. "So far. Nice to see you, Williams."
Ashley smirks back. "I see you managed to hold together without anything to shoot at."
"We do still have practice ranges, Ash. You never know what's gonna happen next."
"No, you really never do." She walks off, letting me follow as we tend to business.
But even now, part of me falls back into memory.
Because memory is what was killing me back in those days. What happened to my squad was killing me inside every day. I was focused during missions but fighting alongside the team still made me remember the team I failed. I failed them by letting myself get so caught up in the fight that I couldn't see what was happening around me. I couldn't tell that Sidonis had been tortured into luring me away from the base so the mercs could kill my men and then take me out while I was weak.
When I finally learned where Sidonis was, I knew I had to do something before it was too late. So when Shepard came by to see what was eating me, I told her everything and all but begged her to get to the Citadel and find him. When we fought our way through to Harkin, all the anger I'd been holding for two years came out at once. I took it out on him. Shepard understood. But when the interrogation worked out and I took it one step too far, she stood in my way. I tried to understand why she did, but when we started talking about it on the way to meet Sidonis, I lost it again. She tried to talk me down, but in that moment, I couldn't care less about her or what she thought. I just wanted Sidonis DEAD! So she set up the plan. She stepped in for me while I aimed and pulled Sidonis into place. The last thing I expected at that moment was for her to warn Sidonis.
It felt like she'd betrayed me, too. So when she kept Sidonis out of my line of fire and herself in it, I started to see what she was seeing. Because, for a split second, I had the urge to fire and send the bullet right through her and into him. The moment I felt it, I began to realize how much I'd lost myself to the darkness. I began to be afraid of myself. I pushed it all out of my mind, trying as hard as I could to keep my focus on the matter at hand. But seeing Sidonis break down in guilt for what he did was the last straw.
"You've gotta let it go, Garrus," she pleaded to me, "He's already paying for his crime."
"He hasn't paid enough," I snapped back, "He still has his life."
"Look at him, Garrus, he's not alive. There's nothing left to kill."
"My men…they deserved better."
"Tell Garrus…" Sidonis said. He stopped himself, shaking his head. "I guess there's nothing I can say to make it right."
That was the moment I found myself fighting. I didn't know what to do anymore. I wanted to pull the trigger more than anything…but I couldn't. "Just…go. Tell him to go."
"So how's life on Palaven been treating you?" Ashley asks, snapping me out of my daze.
I quickly toss aside those memories. I want more than anything to leave those days behind me. It's what she would've wanted. "Good, I guess. I've been spending a lot of time with my dad and my sister. Victus still has me overseeing some of the military, just in case, but most of our efforts right now are focused on rebuilding."
"Same here." She sighs, looking out at London. "It's so…quiet."
I look out at the city. The last time I saw it, it was acres of shadowy wreckage overtaken with monsters. Now it seems to be well repaired. All things considered, that's especially impressive. But that's one thought my mind won't dwell on. I finally look away. "Yeah. It really is."
Ashley looks at me, seeming to suddenly understand what's really going through my mind. "…I miss her, too, Garrus."
I still don't meet her eyes. "Not like I do."
Ashley understands. "No one can."
That much is true. It was only a few hours after dealing with Sidonis and returning to work calibrating the Normandy weapons systems that Shepard came to see me.
"Shepard," I said as she walked in and I turned to face her, "Need me for something?"
"Have you got a minute?" she asked as if she needed the company.
"Sure," I answered with a shrug, "Just killing time anyway. I wanted to thank you again for your help with Sidonis. Whatever happens with the Collectors or the Reapers or whoever else comes after us, I know you'll get the job done."
"You really think we'll find something worse than Collectors or Reapers?"
"I like to expect the worst. There's a small chance I'll be pleasantly surprised."
She smiled. "I couldn't do this without you, Garrus."
I smiled back. "Sure, you could. Not as stylishly, of course."
She just suppressed a laugh and went to sit on the crate nearby.
"It's strange going into a suicide mission on a human ship," I confessed, "Your people don't prepare for high-risk operations the way turians do."
She stayed seated on the crate, seeming to observe me as I answered her questions about my past and the turian military. She seemed utterly enamored with my tale of sparring the female scout. I finally realized every reason why when she shook her head and stood up. "Sounds like you're carrying some tension. Maybe I can help you get rid of it."
That threw me for a loop. "I, uh…" I struggled just to say it, "…didn't think you'd feel like sparring, Commander."
She really shocked me when she stepped over to the console and leaned against it to smirk at me. "What if we skipped right to the tiebreaker? We could test your reach…and my flexibility."
If her suggestion threw me off, that knocked me out. "OH! I didn't—uh…" I had absolutely no idea what to say, so I attempted to divert the subject with humor: "Never knew you had a weakness for men with scars."
She just kept looking at me.
So I kept stumbling over what to do. Finally, my true feelings came to the fore and I outright agreed. Of course, that's when things really got awkward between us. I never let it interfere with the mission, but when it was just us and the ship, well…
I was burying myself in work when she came to see me. I looked at her for a second before sealing the door to the main battery and laying my worries to bear. "Are we crazy to even be thinking about this? I'm not sure…" I finally sighed and faced her. "Look, Shepard, I know you can find something a little closer to home."
She simply drew closer. "I don't want something closer to home. I want you. I want someone I can trust."
I knew then that she wanted this to work, would do anything to make it work. She felt the same way I did. "…I can do that. I'll find some music…and do some research to figure out how this thing should work. It'll either be a night to treasure or a horrible interspecies awkwardness thing." We just looked at each other for a moment after that, before I realized the bright side to it: "In which case, fighting the Collectors will be a welcome distraction, so, you know, a win either way."
She smiled and placed her hand against my face. "You know, Garrus," she spoke gently, unaware of the feelings rushing through me at her touch, "if you're not comfortable with this, it's OK. I'm not trying to pressure you."
But I stayed close, desperate to keep her near me, fighting the fear of losing her again. "Shepard, you're about the only friend I've got left in this screwed-up galaxy. I'm not gonna pretend I've got a fetish for humans, but this isn't about that. This is about us. You don't ever have to worry about making me uncomfortable. Nervous, yes, but never uncomfortable."
"So when should I book the room?" she asked, taking a step back.
"I'd wait, if you're OK with it," I suggested in response, "Disrupt the crew as little as possible and take that last chance to find some calm just before the storm. You know me, I always like to savor that last shot before popping the heat sink."
She smirked at me in amusement.
After a moment of confusion, I then realized how my statement could be interpreted. "Wait! That metaphor just went somewhere horrible!"
She just smiled, almost snickering before stepping away. "I'll let you get back to work."
I sighed. "Right. 'Cause I'm in a great place to optimize firing algorithms right now."
I find myself smiling at the thought. "There's no one quite like her."
"There's never been anyone like her," Ashley agrees. She then looks around as if making sure no one is observing us. "Look, Garrus, there's something I was planning to do today. I think you should come with me."
"I appreciate the offer, Ashley, but—"
She places her hand against my arm. "I really think you should come with me."
I look at her for a moment. I see it in her eyes that this is important. Finally, I nod in agreement and follow her off. As she drives us to our destination, I look out the window of our transport at the city passing by. But I'm no longer paying attention to the restored city. I'm pulled into the memory of that night just before the suicide mission…
When I came to the captain's cabin, I heard the shower running and subsequently turning off. I stepped into the cabin, waiting for her to come out.
Only a moment later, she stepped out of the bathroom, as beautiful as I had ever seen her.
I was stunned for a moment but brought myself to speak: "Hey. I brought wine. Best I could afford on a vigilante's salary."
She simply smiled at me.
That meant it was still my turn to make a move, so I started using my research. I rushed to locate her music system and turn it on, attempting to set the mood. As she drew closer, I tried to think of something to say. But since I was the least qualified person in the galaxy for this situation, I started stumbling over my words again, showing just how nervous I was: "If you were a turian, I'd be complimenting your waist or your fringe. So…your, uh…hair…looks…good…and your waist is…very supportive."
She just smirked at me again.
Considering the circumstances of the last time she'd done that with me, I just got worse: "Hopefully, that's not offensive in human culture. Crap! I knew I should've watched the vids. Throw me a line here, Shepard!"
"Whoa!" She finally put her hands up, sending me a signal to stop. "Consider me seduced, smooth-talker!" She sighed, turning off the music. "Calm down, Garrus. You're worrying too much. …and talking too much."
I sighed, following her advice and releasing my true thoughts: "I just…I've seen so many things go wrong, Shepard. My work at C-Sec, what happened with Sidonis…"
Now she was looking at me, her eyes glistening with sympathy.
"I want something to go right," I continued sadly as she stepped closer, "Just once. Just…"
She cut me off by reaching over to touch my scars. I saw the feelings in her eyes and knew it pained her to see me hurt. That made me believe she loved me before this, too—that what I felt for her death, she felt when I was gunned down.
The next thing I knew, we were pulling closer together, into each other's arms. That night was the first time we kissed.
I don't have the strength to turn away that memory. If anything, I'm about ready to prove whether or not turians actually cry.
Finally, I feel Ashley begin to slow down and know we're coming up on our destination.
But even in that moment, I find one last, even more powerful memory overtake me.
"Shepard," I said as she walked up to me on the battlegrounds, "So I guess this is…"
"Just like old times?" she smirked.
I laughed for a moment. Then I thought over the implications and realized something: "Might be the last chance we get to say that."
"You think we're gonna lose?" she asked incredulously.
"No, I think we're about to kick the Reapers back into whatever black hole they crawled out of. Then we're going to retire someplace warm and tropical and live off the royalties from the vids. Maybe even find out what a turian-human baby looks like."
She smiled and laughed. "I'm game. Though I think adoption's a better idea. Biology may not cooperate."
"I suppose there will be a lot of little krogan around soon."
"We just have to beat the Reapers first."
Then every emotion inside me pushed me to the brink and I found myself unleashing it all for her. "James told me there's an old saying here on Earth: 'May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.' Not sure if turian heaven is the same as yours, but if this thing goes sideways and we both end up there…meet me at the bar. I'm buying."
"We're a team, Garrus," she countered, drawing a step closer to me, "There's no Shepard without Vakarian, so you'd better remember to duck."
"Sorry," I bantered back, "turians don't know how. But I'll improvise." That's the moment that I finally let it out: "And Shepard, forgive the insubordination, but your boyfriend has an order for you: come back alive. It'd be an awfully empty galaxy without you."
Her eyes filled with sympathy for me one more time. Finally, she pulled me in and we kissed.
"Goodbye, Garrus," she whispered, "And if I'm up there in that bar and you're not…I'll be looking down. You'll never be alone."
I watched her brokenly as she walked away. With a sigh, I engraved that word in my memory: "Never."
"You coming, Garrus?" Ashley asks, snapping me out it.
I look at her for a second before stepping out to meet her. I follow her to what appears to be a memorial. I freeze when I see who it's for.
Ashley sadly places a hand against the stone. "I thought we should do something to honor her."
I walk over with Ashley, matching her gesture and placing my palm against the rock engraved with her name. But, once again, my mind is blanketed by the memories.
The moment we kissed at the top of the Presidium.
How we danced together at the casino.
"I don't know what I'd do without you…"
"It was a year ago today," Ashley says as she takes a step back, "And the whole galaxy would be destroyed if not for her. It's only right."
"Yeah," I force myself to speak, "You're right. It's just…" I take a step back as well, my gaze locked on the stone. "…it's been a long year."
Ashley places a hand on my shoulder comfortingly. "I know it's hard. But she'd want you to keep fighting. That's why she did it—for all of us. And I knew her well enough to know the last thing she saw before it happened…was you."
Involuntarily, I place my hand over hers. But there is one final memory racing through me. One that is a year old as of today. One that has haunted me every day since.
The fight was finally in our favor. Everything was going according to plan. Until Harbinger came to the beam. Until every troop we had was sent racing across a battlefield as the head Reaper's laser tore through it. Until one of the tanks was thrown back and right at us. Shepard ducked in time, but I only had time to jump out of the way. I missed the brunt of it, but I was still injured, too much for combat.
"Normandy, do you copy?" I heard her voice as we ducked behind another upturned tank, "I need an evac! Right now!"
I heard Joker respond but there was too much static to correctly determine what he was saying without devoting more of my attention to it. And all my attention was on the pain rushing through my body. I finally saw the Normandy fly into the battlegrounds and land just out of range of the Reaper beams. I felt Shepard helping me to my feet, practically dragging me to the ship. As we came to the entrance, I watched the soldiers around it give us covering fire, holding off the Reaper forces.
And I felt her let go of me. "Here. Take him."
"Shepard!" I instantly called even as I was pulled to the ship.
"You've gotta get out of here," she told me.
"And you've gotta be kidding me!" I snapped.
"Don't argue, Garrus."
"We're in this to the end!"
She finally gave me one last look, her eyes showing me her true feelings, and stepped closer to me. "No matter what happens here…" She drew close, her eyes locked on mine and her hand against my scars again. "…you know I love you. And I always will."
More than I've ever wanted anything, I wanted in that moment to pull her close, to hold her in my arms one last time and never let her go. Selfishly, I wanted her with me even if it meant we lost the war. "Shepard…" I pleaded, "…I…" But I knew that all I could do now was tell her the truth and hope it was enough: "I love you, too."
She sadly pulled away.
I reached for her.
I watched as we flew away from her, leaving her there.
She watched us fly off as well. I saw in her eyes as she faded from view the same longing that I had within me. That was the last I ever saw of her.
I hang my head in reverence. "Whatever happened…I would give anything for one more day with her."
Ashley keeps her hand on me for a moment. I don't look at her so I don't know what else she could be doing or even what she feels right now. Of course, I have a decent idea.
For a moment, we stand there in silence, remembering the lost. I get the feeling Ashley is remembering not only Shepard but Kaidan as well. I am, too. Not to mention Mordin, Thane, Legion…the war took too many people from us that we cared about. None of them were any easier to take.
But none of them hurt like this.
Ashley finally steps away with a sigh. "Come on. We should head back."
"Uh…" I finally face her. "…if you don't mind, Ash…I'd like a moment alone."
She nods in understanding and walks off.
Once she's gone, I look at the memorial. For a few seconds, it feels like I'll be standing here for hours, staring at this rock and remembering the past like I have been for the last year. Instead, I start to speak to her as if she can still hear me: "…hi, Shepard." I sigh. "I gave you an order. I warned you and I was right: it's an awfully empty galaxy without you. I'm really not sure what to do with myself now. Even the geth and the krogan are being all friendly, and Cerberus and the Reapers aren't a threat anymore so the only way I'll be getting any fighting done is if I go back to Omega, but…there's too much pain there. And I don't exactly see the point in retiring like we talked about if you're not with me. I'll just kill myself with the memories even harder than I'm doing now." I look up at the sky, remembering her last words to me and her final goodbye. "And if you really are up there, looking down…know that I not only still love you, but…always did. I just never had the courage to admit it. But I loved you from the moment I first saw you. I just didn't realize it. Not until it was too late. Of course, then you came back and proved you felt the same way and everything changed. But…now that you're gone again, for good this time, I…" I look down again, unsure of what to say. "I miss you. More than anything. Hopefully, I'll get to see you again someday. Until then…"
At last, I let it out. The very thing I wanted with all my heart to say to her when she was alive: "I love you, Sara."