Author's Note: This is my first fic EVAR so please rip it to shreds. I love constructive criticism!
Disclaimer: Bioware owns everything, including way too many hours of my life.
Waking up to find you've been dead for two years, are now working with an organization that's behind your worst nightmares, and immediately being sent on a mission that is generally considered suicide…well, it's kind of hard to make the situation any less unpleasant. But Shepard was a survivor, and more importantly, an unflinching optimist. She honestly believed things would work out, despite impossible odds.
And they were working out. Her team was coming together far better than she had expected. Joker was an utter surprise, the first good news she'd had since waking up. Well, other than the fact that she did wake up, of course. Having her favorite pilot under her command again was a mixed blessing, though. It meant he'd willingly joined up with Cerberus – worse yet, he'd joined even before knowing they were bringing her back.
Cerberus. The name alone was enough to make her eyes narrow in anger. Her…"employers"…were the cause of so much pain in her life, so many atrocities. Akuze. Admiral Kohaku. Husks and rachni and Toombs. She hated the fact that she had to work with them, but Joker? Joker didn't care about any of that as long as they let him fly, and Shepard was worried for him. Worried that the man she'd grown to love like a little brother would end up in over his head with the wrong kind of people.
She wasn't alone in her worry. Dr. Chakwas, one of the best physicians this side of Citadel space, worried enough about Joker to join Cerberus herself to keep an eye on him. Consequently, she landed on the Normandy as well; a fact Shepard was ever grateful for. A lesser doctor would have quit the Alliance in frustration with the amount of work Shepard's crew thrust upon them, but Dr. Chakwas just smiled and shook her head like an indulgent parent as she patched up the seemingly never-ending injuries. "I know better than to tell you to be more careful," she'd explained.
As thrilled as Shepard was with having both her pilot and medic back at her side, she wished for more of her beloved crew. Someone to watch her back in the field – because, really, as nice as Jacob was, she held no delusion that he wouldn't turn on her in a heartbeat. She'd rattled off the names of each of them, and the Illusive Man had methodically shot down her hopes one by one. Alliance classified. Agent for the Shadow Broker. Dropped off the grid. She'd left sullen, disappointed that the "dream team" would not be there for her a second time.
But the best surprise was yet to come, in the form of a blue tattooed, sniper-wielding turian.
Garrus didn't believe what he was seeing. Surely it was a delusion, a hallucination brought on by 26 hours of continuous fighting. It was the lack of sleep, or the stress, or the ghosts of his past haunting him. It had to be, because there was no way that Commander Shepard just cleared that wall.
He pulled back, rubbing his eye with the back of his hand to clear his vision before looking through the scope again. He scanned the bridge quickly, ignoring the faces of several freelancers in his search for her. Nothing. He sighed, feeling the loss of his commander all over again.
It had been two years since the attack that killed her. Since that devastating moment when the last escape pod landed and only Joker stepped out. It had seemed so surreal at the time, almost as if he was watching it happen in a movie instead of right in front of him. Joker's head was hung low, trademark baseball cap held limply in one hand. Everyone held a collective breath, waiting for Shepard to follow. She never came.
"Where's Shepard?" Wrex asked, though his voice held little question. He knew. They all did.
Joker wouldn't look up. He just shook his head slowly, confirming their fears.
Kaidan lost it. He leaped at the pilot, grabbing him by his collar and lifting him several inches off the ground. "Where is she?" he demanded, "Where's Shepard!"
"Kaidan, stop it, you're hurting him!" Liara protested.
"WHERE IS SHE?" Kaidan screamed into Joker's face, shaking him violently.
"Stop!" Liara shrieked as she released a biotic push at Kaidan – not enough power to hurt him, but it sent him reeling backwards, dropping Joker in surprise.
The awful crunch of bones breaking. Joker's moan of agony. A moment of silence before Kaidan ruthlessly continued his onslaught.
"She went back for you! To save you!" he began, scrambling to his feet. Before he could fully recover, Wrex grabbed him, holding him back from the broken pilot. Kaidan struggled against the krogan, his hands glowing blue with the promise of further violence. "Where the fuck is she?"
"She's dead!" Joker yelled out, voice cracking with pain. "She got spaced. So do whatever you want to me Alenko, because none of it is going to hurt as bad as knowing that the commander died because of me."
Kaidan stopped struggling. His body went limp and he fell to his knees, all the fight in him gone. Wrex let go of his arms and walked away – without Shepard, there was no more reason for him to stay.
There was no more reason for any of them to stay. After helping Liara and Tali get Joker to a medic, Garrus never saw any of them again. He didn't want to – they just reminded him of what he'd lost, and he thought about her enough without the outside influence. The leader who inspired him to do better. The soldier he respected above all others. The woman he loved.
Love. If you would have asked him two years ago, he'd tell you he loved his sisters, his rifle, and a hot shower after a long day…but a woman? Sure, he'd been with a few, but it was never like that. Just wasn't cut out for that sort of thing, he reasoned. He was married to his work, the idea of upholding justice, and a woman would just get in the way.
He never even entertained the idea of falling in love, which was why he had such a hard time recognizing it in the first place. There was no "a-ha!" moment, no sudden overwhelming affection or point where he looked upon her face and just knew. It happened gradually, a compilation of moments where she took just a little of his breath away, stole a little piece of his heart at a time.
The way her eyes lit up when she smiled, like emeralds dancing. How she never judged him for being a turian, and seemed genuinely interested in learning more about his culture. The girlish giggle she had when chatting with Gunnery Chief Williams, and the shade of pink she turned when caught making such a sound. How, despite being so small and seemingly fragile, she could take down a grown turian male in hand-to-hand combat and shoot a target with her eyes closed at 100 meters. How much she cared about everyone, even when they didn't deserve it. Her wit and intelligence and kindness and honor and utter selflessness…
And he never realized it. Only once she was gone, and he was left with an empty hole in his chest, did he realize she'd taken his heart with her.
Garrus laughed once without humor, pointing his rifle at a crate he'd seen a merc dive behind. It didn't matter anyway, right? Even if he had realized it, even if he had expressed interest in her, even if by some incredible twist of fate she'd chosen him over Alenko – she'd still be gone right now. The only woman Garrus Vakarian had ever loved would still be…
Right in his crosshairs.