Shepard picked the oddest times to think about certain things. One time when she was in basic, huffing and struggling her way through an obstacle course, she had been reminded of losing her virginity. While scaling a wall via rope (she never did understand that part. Who used fucking ropes anymore?) she had decided that the two experiences were not terribly dissimilar. She was sweating, she wasn't enjoying herself, her muscles ached, she was going to be in pain tomorrow morning, and there was a large frightening man yelling at her to get her ass moving. Minus the fear and the trauma, it was a perfect match in her mind's eye.
Back then, the thought had caused her to laugh so hard that she had fallen off of the wall before reaching the top. As the top recruit, everyone had been shocked, but she had quickly recovered and managed to cross the finish line first, laughing all the way.
Now from the temporary protection of the small sliver of cover she had managed to find behind a short wall, she found herself thinking about eating shellfish. Crab, to be specific. Her stomach positively growled at the idea of some nice, steamed to perfection and dipped in butter crab claws. It wasn't exactly something she wanted to be thinking about as she popped out of cover and sprayed a vorcha with sub-machine gun fire as she waited for her amp to cool, but… There it was. She wanted some crab. Somehow, after watching some poor fucking Turian be torn out of his plates, she wanted shellfish.
There was obviously something wrong with her, because she was also pretty sure that the second she did get her hands on some crab, the memories of that holo would rob her of her appetite. She wondered if there was a name for a mental condition that allowed to think morbid thoughts, but still allowed her to be disgusted with herself.
While she mentally tracked where she had seen the last few vorcha take cover, she also tracked the sound of a roaring Krogan and the repeated and steady thucccoom of the Widow rifle. As long as she kept hearing those sounds, she could focus on the vorcha. The fact that the battle between the two had gone on as long as it had already told her that she had gotten through to him. From the size of Garm, the speed that she had seen him pour on when he had first charged into battle, and the fact that he carried a shotgun with as much stopping power as the Widow, she was certain that Vakarian was keeping his distance and picking his shots. She was a little confused as to why the Krogan wasn't dead yet. She had heard rumors that Garm regenerated more quickly than your average Krogan, but it couldn't have been making this much of a difference.
Her worries were interrupted when she heard shuffling to her left, and spotted a pair of red clad vorcha moving to her flank. Not one to panic, she stood still rather than try to move to deeper cover. Two second. Two… One… She felt the little whir and rush of energy as her amp fully recharged, and grinned with the pleasant buzz of battle fury as the bullets started to plink against her barriers again. Drawing her shotgun, she ramped up the biotics as she turned to face them and saw the world narrow to a tunnel of blue lightening before she was gone.
Even after so many years, there was still a very small delay between the moment her body became a biotic detonation waiting to happen and the moment she was able to bring her shotgun to bear. Butas adaptable as their bodies were, vorcha were really terrible at adapting to being surprised. They were also terrible at taking cover, so even as the merc she hit went flying across the room with a shriek of shocked pain, the blast from her shotgun wiped she look of stunned surprise from the face of the other. And took the rest of the head with it. Feeling a little tickle as her amp charged again, she dashed over to the weakly rising survivor, and put an end to her survival with a second bark from her gun before she popped the heat sink.
Eyes turning to what remained of the vorcha, she slid in another sink… And paused, when she saw another group of six mercs turning the corner, running full tilt towards the battle. Three of the slender, quick vorcha, two Krogan, and one thickly built vorcha with a tank strapped to his back and a tube of fire leading him. Dropping behind cover, she groaned silently to herself and rolled her eyes. Garm had finally gotten smart enough to call for backup, and she really didn't want to fight a Krogan. Charging them with biotics was often a hard lesson in 'It may or may not work the way you hope, because Krogan are fucking heavy.' Add a flamer unit to the mix and she was in for a tough one. Still, it was either engage them, or let them go off after Vakarian. Starting the build in her amp, she swung around the corner…
Her amp went silent when she watched the hideously toothy face of one vorcha vanish, and the sudden mad, desperate sheiks of the one with the flamer tank on his back. A single heartbeat passed before the flames bloomed from the tank, hissing escaping gas in every direction as the vorcha tried to rip it off his back. Luckily, it seemed to take the rest of the unit a beat too long to realize that they were well and truly fucked. She didn't bother to get behind cover, and she was glad she didn't. When the tank went, it was like a work of art. The resulting explosion of liquid fire poured out over the mixed unit with such hunger and force that sent blood red armor and limbs flying in all directions at once.
Vakarian, you absolute badass. Now I feel all warm and fuzzy. Or horny.
The warm fuzzy feeling, because she did actually have one after watching the new mercs decimated in one perfectly placed shot, remained when she saw the two Krogan start to struggle to their feet. Still burning. Her amp buzzed almost before she had the conscious though to send the shockwave in their direction, but moments later the lovely thumping mini explosions slammed into both of the massive aliens. When a biotic pressure wave met fire, the effect as always impressive. The sudden change in air pressure, the vortex of energy, and the resulting rush of oxygen in the form of ozone all added quick burning fuel to the flames. Which in this case, resulted in a beautiful sphere of red and blue that blasted the mercs with more than enough force to end their already violent lives in an equally violent way.
She heard the skittering of feet again, and braced herself for another wave of attackers, but quickly realized that the footsteps were moving away from their little battlefield. Having never seen a vorcha retreat, she was left a little shell-shocked for a moment. Then her world focused on one point above her.
She could see it very clearly when she raised her eyes at the sound of Garm's bellow of rage. The body of a Turian being slammed into the railing of the upper level walkway, torn away with a force that made his head snap against the cowl of his armor before he was slammed forward again by the body of the Krogan. Again and again, until a heartsick Shepard was sure she was watching the death of Garrus Vakarian. She heard his flanged snarl of pain, and the weakening grunts that followed before he was lifted from the ground like a rag doll, and was hurled over the side.
Somewhere, she was pretty sure that she screamed his name when she watched the limp body slide through the air and slam into the ground with a heavy thud. There was no cliché moment of slow motion where she saw every detail of his fall, giving her the time to feel helpless as she realized she couldn't do anything to stop it. It was over fast. So fast that she hardly had time to process what had happened before she saw the massive form of the Krogan Battlemaster climb onto the ledge, and jump down with surprising agility. The massive alien slammed into the ground next to where the fallen Turian lay unmoving, his eyes never leaving his opponent as he watched for signs of life.
Her mind started to move again when she watched Garm prod the motionless form with the barrel of his shotgun, before grunting slightly. Shepard wondered dully why he didn't simply pull the trigger, make sure the Spectre was dead. Then she saw that the red warning over overheating near the trigger, and realized that he was out of heatsinks and couldn't fire until the weapon cooled naturally. With a snort, and a firm kick to Garrus' side that gained not so much as a twitch, the Krogan turned his attention to her.
"I don't know how you got mixed up in this, Shepard," he rumbled with a snarl on his wide mouth, his voice sounding hoarse and ragged. Most likely because of more than a dozen fist sized holes that were clearly visible in his chest armor. "But this is what happens to those who mess with the Blood Pack. And you're not off the hook."
She wasn't a bleeding heart. She didn't break down in tears at the sight of her comrade, and once possible lover lying motionless on the ground. Instead, fury grew swiftly as her mouth twisted into a snarl of her own; her fingers tightening on her shotgun as she pushed her amp to the limit. She was going to tear this Krogan to…
Shepard and Garm both heard the happy humming sound at the same moment; the almost cheerful tone drawing their gazes down. Shepard positively gaped at the three fingered hands attaching the disk grenades to each of Garm's knees, and behind them the bloody face and still sharp blue eyes of Vakarian.
"You always did talk too much, Garm," he hissed, and with that he was rolling away from the howling Krogan quickly at the same moment that Shepard dove for cover. Garm only had time to reach down in a vain attempt to remove the disks before the explosion ripped his legs from his body, and sent him flying into the wall with enough force that she was sure all of Omega must have shook. And then there was silence.
When she came out of cover, the first thing that struck her was the thick scent of cooked flesh and blood that seemed to saturate the air around her. Not unfamiliar smells, unfortunately. The scorch marks left by the explosion formed a near perfect ring around what was pretty much a pulverized mess that had once been Battlemaster Garm's legs. She heard, before she saw, Vakarian drawing himself to his feet with a low grunt of effort. Then she watched with a tight jaw as he slowly limped over to the Widow he had been holding when he had been tossed off a ledge, leaned down with obvious effort to pick it up, and started towards the wall in a slow limp. He looked like shit. There was a line of blue blood visible on both corners of his mouth, one of his mandibles was twisted at an odd angle, his armor was burned and peppered with holes from glancing shotgun fire. He also looked very, very tired. She wondered why he was walking towards the wall, and decided he might need to lean against something. Starting towards him, she froze in place when she saw movement.
What the fuck? That Krogan is a freak of nature.
Garm struggles uselessly to pull himself into an upright position as Garrus walked towards him slowly. Despite her own lingering rage, Shepard stood still and watched with no small amount of admiration as the Spectre raised his rifle on his hip and fired.
Each shot from the Widow caused the Krogan to make all sorts of random, blood filled gurgling sounds. Half of them sounded like simple pain, but she knew that the rest were curses and attempts at threats. But he didn't stop moving. Trying desperately to survive even when he knew there was no chance to escape this fate. She knew the feeling.
Vakarian stopped firing only once he had blown sizable holes in both of the Krogan's shoulders, two in his hips, and one center mass in his gut. Shepard realized that he had not been shooting to kill; he was making sure Garm wouldn't be able to regenerate enough to become a threat. She heard a horrible gurgling rumble coming from the Krogan, and realized it was a humorless laugh.
"I should have known it was you," the dying Krogan managed to say, turning his head and spitting blood onto the ground near Garrus' feet. "I didn't recognize you out of that blue armor, and you usually wear that helmet… But… No one… Ngh!" His words were cut off when one armored boot stomped on the hand he had been using to quietly draw a pistol. Shepard heard bones break when the Spectre bore down full force before kicking the gun away and standing over his fallen enemy. "No one else was ever such a pain in my ass."
Shepard went very still, her eyes ticking between the two of them quickly as she hung on every word. One dying Krogan who moments before had been one of the most feared figures on the station, and one Turian who stared down at him with a face so expressionless it may well have been carved from ice.
"So you really think this will change anything?" Garm continued as Garrus folded down his rifle, and reached to his sides. He drew out another grenade, one which the Krogan watched like someone suddenly very aware of the means of his death. And like most Krogan, he didn't look at all afraid of it, even as another wet couch wracked his broken body. "When I'm gone, someone else will come to take my place. Another leader will rise in the Blood Pack, and it will be business as usual. All of your raids, and your squad's sabotage hardly made a dent in the long run. You might slow us down… But you haven't stopped anything."
"That's the thing about objects in motion, Garm." The sudden sound of the Turian's voice cutting into her thoughts of 'There is no fucking way…' actually made Shepard jump. Just a little. "If you slow them down enough, they inevitably stop moving."
His voice was as cold as the deadly look in his eyes might have suggested, but he still seemed calm as he leaned over Garm and grabbed his lower jaw to force his mouth open with a vicious yank. He pushed the grenade into the wide mouth of the Krogan, and only after reaching so deep that Shepard could hear Garm gagging as he was forced to swallow did the hand withdraw, empty now. Shepard felt just a little sick when she realized the Krogan had just been forced to swallow an active grenade.
With that, Garrus drew himself to his feet and started to walk away. The Krogan snarled in final defiance as he struggle to raise just enough to lash out, an attempt that fell short and left him lying motionless on his side, glaring death into the back of the gray armor.
"I'll see you in Hell, Archangel!"
Those were the last words Garm, leader of the Blood Pack on Omega, spoke before his torso erupted in a spray of blood, bone, organs and fire.
Shepard was frozen in place as he walked towards her. She wasn't even paying attention to the doomed merc leader in the moment of his violent death. But the sudden eruption of flames and gore soft of… Outlined Vakarian for a moment. This time, she did have one of those cliché moments; one that she had seen in the action romance vids she had been forced to watch by Tali on the SR1, where the hero of the story was sudden seen in a whole new light. In this case, the light was the orange flames and crimson rain of an exploding Krogan; and it sort of washed away her image of him as just a Spectre. She thought he looked like an otherworldly spirit of vengeance. An entity sent to hand out violent justice on behalf of people who had no other means to get it.
Of course, she thought numbly as he stopped a few feet away from her, looking exhausted but unbroken. An Archangel. Who else could you possibly be?
Being Commander Shepard, who was running around the galaxy looking for a way to stop an unstoppable fleet of genocidal machines that made most species ideas of religion seem pointless and short lived, she wasn't exactly standing in awe. She was shocked, impressed even. But she was also a little pissed off. And before she could stop herself, she had her fingers stuck in his face, stabbing it at him it as though it would force him to explain everything. Making irrational gestures in his direction was starting to be a habit with her.
"You! You… You…. Turian Ass! You're…!"
"Archangel!" came a voice that was clearly being broadcast through coms. She had enough time to think an annoyed 'I was getting to that' before she realized that the voice was coming from the heavily armed gunship that swung around the buildings to bear down on them.
As quickly as she might have reacted, there was a moment when she realized that she wasn't going to be fast enough as the gunship opened fire in a storm of bullets, most of which glanced off of her barrier and Vakarian's heavy armor. There was a tickle of in the back of her mind when she realized that Garrus' shields had never come back up, likely damaged in his fight. His body was jerked sharply every time his armor was hit, and it was impossible to miss the agonized sound that escaped him. She was a moment away from reaching out to pull him into her barriers when there was a pause in the assault. But the calm was false, and the voice raged again. "You think you can mess with the Blue Suns?!"
A soldier's instinct told her that the pause was an ordinance change only a second before heard the rocket preparing for launch. She was stunned when still strong hands grasp her shoulders, and before she could protest she was being shoved away from the one she had moments ago wanted to protect. "Get down," she screamed, even as she fell into cover. But even as he dove into a roll that would have landed him out of harm's way, the rocket found its intended target.
"Garrus!" His name was the only thing that she could manage as she watched the rocket strike, erupt, and fling the Turian across the ground with a sickening force that ended with him lying motionless on his side. This time, she knew he wasn't pretending. This time, as she stared in horror at the silent figure, she saw a pool of blue blood start to spread quickly and knew I her gut that he had to be dead.
She became dimly aware of the sound of the gunship still waiting for a chance to finish her off. She didn't even try to stop the wave of fury that rose to replace a sorrow that threatened to crush her; she had found someone who believed her, a man that she could trust, and who trusted her in turn. And just like always, he had been ripped away from her by a universe that seemed determined to fuck her over, again and again. She didn't bother to dodge the rain of weapon fire ripping across her barriers as she rose from cover with a red haze settling over her vision, her scream ripping through the air as she charged forward.
In retrospect, something that she found herself doing a lot after a particularly reckless action in battle, she knew it had been stupid. She hadn't used cover at all, hadn't bothered to maintain her barriers, and had rushed forward without a single thought of what that meant. One lucky shot and she would have been on the ground, just as dead as Garrus. But fury drove her to push her biotics well beyond the limits of her amp, and in less than a minute she watched with terrible pleasure as the burning wreck of the gunship spun out of control into the mines in the deeper levels of Omega.
But as the fury started to fade, and along with it the natural high of adrenalin and battle lust, she felt a weight of loss that she didn't know what to do with. She made her way quickly to where Vakarian lay in a pool of his own blood, stumbling a bit before she dropped to her knees beside him. She wasn't even sure what she intended to do. Cry over him? Rage at his corpse for getting himself killed? Maybe a little of both? She just knew that she was alone again, and that loneliness started to creep over her as surely as his blood crept across the ground.
The sudden, wet gasp for breath snapped her out of her self-pity. She couldn't believe what she was seeing when the Turian sucked in another breath, fingers trying uselessly to grip the barrel of the Widow at his side.
Alive. He was alive. She rolled him over to see his condition, but… Oh god, his face. There was so much blood, so much damage, she didn't even know where to begin as she started to pour every ounce of Medi-gel she had on the bleeding muscles and ragged, burned tissue. She stared in sick horror at the giant, gaping hole where the right side of his face had been, even as she steadied her voice to speak assurance to him.
"I'm getting you out of here Garrus, just hold on. Please," she added as she fought with her desire to pull him into her lap. She was afraid of what damage even that might have done. "Joker, emergency medical evac, now!"
One should never wake up in such blinding agony. It wasn't even really a conscious thought; more a simple feeling of bitter annoyance when the simple act of opening his eyes caused pain to flare through his entire face. Plates throbbed so intensely that he saw spots before his eyes; the muscles of his cheeks burned with such raw pain that he almost screamed; his mandible felt as though it was attached by a single threat of sinew, so much so that he dared not flex it to make sure it still worked. He struggled for a moment to move, but someone walk talking to him in a firmly comforting voice before he felt a needle slide into his neck. The side of his neck that didn't feel like a varren had been using it for a chew toy. There was even pain in his shoulder and chest, though before he could process the sensation a cool feeling spread through his system. Pain killers. He had never felt the need for them before, but he thanked the Spirits for them now as the agony was toned down to an extremely unpleasant throb over half of his body.
He didn't bother to open his eyes just yet. When the pain eased, he was able to focus. He was able to think, he was able to put himself through a mental checklist of what had led him to be… Wherever he was.
Omega. A message. Sidonis dead. Blinding fury. Jaroth. Garm. Both dead. Satisfaction in that. Tarak. Gunship. Fire. Pain. Shepard.
What should have been a clear call to the human commander came out as a weak rasp that was hardly recognizable as speech at all. He tried again, and tried to struggle upright only to have hands push him back gently. He found that he didn't have the strength to fight them just yet. He was in a bed, likely in a med-bay. Normandy? The smell was too clean for Omega, the air filtered and sterile. He risked opening his eyes, and squinted against the light that flared into them. The face looking down at him was human, female, but older.
But it wasn't Shepard.
Focus. Control. He took a deep breath that caused pain to flare in chest, but once released he took another. This time when he spoke, his voice came out as recognizable words even if the sound of his own voice was strange to him. "Where… Where is Shepard?"
Maybe he should have been concerned with where he was, and how he was doing; if he would recover, or if this bed was where he would spend his last few moments of life. But he could only think that he had left Shepard alone to face Tarak. The human leaning over him, Chakwas he remembered from his intel on the crew of this Normandy, replied to his question without stepping away from him. Smart. She was likely aware that he would just try to get out of the bed again.
"Shepard is fine, and is waiting outside. You've given us quite the scare, Spectre," she said, her omni-tool flashing to life on her arm as she checked his vitals. "And here I thought all of you were as tough as Shepard."
It was amusing, but the best he could manage was a light grunt before he tried to turn his head towards the door. Chakwas seemed to notice the motion, and closed her omni-tool as she leaned over him. "Would you like to see the Commander?"
Thoughts were coming more clearly now. He had been hit in the face with a rocket. He had actually felt the impact of the warhead against his mandible a split second before the explosion had turned his world into a swirl of pain before merciful black had taken him. At least temporarily. He managed to nod without screaming, but didn't both trying to speak again. The pain killers were taking a full hold now, and while he was fully lucid, even the throbbed had backed off a bit more. Cerberus had spared no expense with the medical supplied, clearly.
He followed the doctor with his eyes as she walked to the doors, flexing his hand silently as he did so. It only took him two attempts before he was able to open and close it with ease. Then he tried lifting his arm, turning his foot, being his leg, and finally flexing his trigger fingers. He released a slow breath of relief when he realized everything was working fine. So there was no obvious nerve damage beyond the side of his face, at least as far as he could tell. His turned his head with a wince when Shepard all but stepped on the doctor as soon as the door was opened. "Doctor, is he…?"
Their eyes met across the room, and held. He wasn't sure which of them was more relieved to see the other; but given the way Chakwas had to physically hold the Commander at arms length to keep her from moving directly to him… He was willing to harbor a guess. Of course he also couldn't help but notice the way her eyes moved to the side of his face, and a wince marred her features for a moment. That bad, huh? He lay back then, and closed his eyes as he listened to the doctor explain things to Shepard.
"I've done what I can for him, Commander," she began in a low voice, obviously not fully aware of the fact that being across the room did not keep him from hearing her. Humans had such dull senses. "But the damage was extensive. I managed to repair the permanent damage with surgery, and adapting some of the cybernetics intended as replacement parts for your own. Once he is fully healed, he will regain full mobility and use of his faculties. However…"
There was a pause, a certain pause in the flow of the words that let him know that the next words were going to be the bad news. Shepard seemed to know the same thing, and with a tone that that was quick with impatience, she said "Spit it out, doc."
"He will have major scarring over almost twenty-five percent of his face and neck," the doctor continued, hushing her tone even further. "Without a proper Turian medical specialist, there is nothing I can do to diminish it. The only way I was able to save his mandible at all was to fuse it with cybernetic weave, so it will probably never feel quite right to him again. There was also some damage to his shoulder from the blast, but that at least will full heal with him. This is not even mentioning multiple broken ribs, a fractured leg, internal bleeding blunt force trauma, and the thirty minutes I spent removing shrapnel from small weapons fire. Frankly, it is amazing he lived long enough to make it onto my table."
He felt a little twinge at the talk of massive scarring on his face. He wasn't by any means a vain man, but he also had no illusions that it wouldn't affect him at all. Still, if there had been a price to pay for ending Garm for what he had done to Sidonis… It was a fair trade. Even if the disfigurement might turn her off of going any further with him.
When he opened his eyes again, he found that Shepard had not taken her off of him. She just stood there while the doctor continued, her back stiff, her face expressionless, her eyes unmoving. He wondered if she was struggling to keep that professional face in place, or if she was just that pissed off at him.
When the doctor finished the medical speak about light duty, no combat for at least a few days while the cybernetics healed, and pain killers, Shepard excused herself with a nod and made her way over to him. Even though the distance was short, he only needed to watch her take a few steps to know that she was storming towards him.
Angry then. I can handle that.
"Shepard," he began, using the returning strength of his arms in an attempt to sit up. "No one would give me a mirror. How bad is… Mmph!"
Finding himself pushed back onto the bed was no surprise; he probably didn't need to be moving around much anyway. Finding her mouth locked on his? That was just as surprising as it had been the first time. This time, though, he knew what to do with it. A little purr rose in his chest as she kept one hand pressed to his chest to keep him still, and another sliding down the mandible on the undamaged side of his face. He raised his own hand, and ignoring the twinge of pain from his ribs the motion cause, traced his talons down the side of her face as gently as he possibly could. But even though she released a small, pleased sound at the caress, he was thankful that she didn't deepen the kiss; he wasn't sure he could survive an erection in his current condition.
Maybe the scars won't be a problem, after all.
When her mouth left his, there was another tiny press of her soft lips to his mandible before she lowered herself into a chair beside the bed. When his eyes met hers, the low rumble in his chest died when he realized that she was glaring at him. He crossed his eyes a little to look at the fingers that was suddenly shoved in his face (she really liked doing that to him) before she spoke in a tone that was anything but affectionate.
"Glad you're feeling better. Archangel."