This story is not my fault! It's that damned girl who lives in my head -- she made me do it!
Honestly, though, I'm not usually big on romance. But I am one of those people who gets way too much into good RPGs. After playing through with my female character and romancing Garrus, well... he's just plain perfect for my FemShep. It was only natural that this would make it on paper.
Oh, one last thing. Spoilers all over the damn place! Enjoy!
Bang. Erin Shepard was gone.
There had been no flash, no distortion of light. Not even a heat spike on his trusty eyepiece. It had just happened. One moment, she was there, crouching behind a crate with her slightly worn M-92 Mantis Sniper Rifle clutched firmly in her hands. The next, she was gone, like she had never even been there in the first place.
It still surprised Garrus how… completely the cloaking system worked its magic. Even the geth assassins from which Cerberus had adapted the technology left a silhouette, a little slice of air where the light didn't quite blend right, when they went stealth. Not Shepard. She turned on the cloak and she was no longer there. The Cerberus engineers said they had improved upon the technology, but he was of a differing opinion. It wasn't the tech. It was the operator. Erin Shepard was the best damned infiltrator in the galaxy -- if two years ago hadn't proved that, nothing else could. She moved through a battlefield so fast and subtle and bending with the cover and graceful -- Hell! She was practically invisible already when she wanted to be. The stealth cloak fit her like a glove.
Garrus sensed a pause in the gunfire and popped out from behind his cover, instinctively raising his own rifle to eye level. Not fifty meters up was a batarian merc doing one hell of a poor job of using a shipping container as cover -- crouched, body covered, but head very exposed. Rookie mistake.
He slid a finger to the trigger. One mandible twitched. He braced for recoil. Started to pull.
No. Stop. Shepard's.
And sure enough, less than a second later the batarian mercenary's head was shredded apart by a grain-sized bullet accelerated to untold speeds. The batarian dropped straight to the floor like a ragdoll, like he had never been alive in the first place. Shepard rematerialized on the far side of the walkway.
Her rifle was at eye level, but she wasn't looking down the scope. She was staring straight at him with two gemstone green eyes -- sharp, penetrating, yet somehow still tender. The corner of her mouth bent into the tiniest of grins.
The two were so in synch that it was almost scary. There had been no signal, no indication, that Shepard was about to kill the batarian. He just knew. Her kill. Inherent knowledge. Even when she was cloaked and invisible, when not even the most advanced geth heat-motion sensors could register a damned blip, Garrus could still track every one of Erin Shepard's movements instinctually. It was a sixth sense of theirs, he supposed. After all the battles and the blood and the near-death experiences they had shared. He knew her. She knew him. Trust implicit.
"There's one more behind this pillar." Commander Shepard's strong, authoritative voice flowed through his comm. "Miranda, can we get a warp on--"
"Already on it, Shepard."
Miranda Lawson, who had been crouching behind some boxes up until now, entered the corner of his eye, pulsating with blue biotic energy. She raised one arm to the air, open palm. Then she closed her fist. Garrus heard… someone scream at the far side of the walkway. Asari? Or salarian? They both had such high-pitched, irresonant voices. He honestly couldn't tell.
Two seconds passed. Then Shepard popped back out of cover. "Clear." Garrus let his tense muscles relax.
Miranda started moving toward the second building. "This place is just crawling with Eclipse, commander. I wonder what Nassana is so eager to hide."
They were on the walkway between the two Dantius Buildings. A breathtaking panorama of Nos Astra surrounded them, with all its lights and cars and black glass and white concrete buildings. The wind was strong and the air was cold, but he could still hear the calming hum of urban noise. The living pulse of a living world.
Erin Shepard walked up to the edge. She stared out into the heart of Nos Astra. "I never imagined Illium to be so… violent."
"Don't let appearances fool you, commander," Garrus quickly began. "Illium may look safe and peaceful on the surface, but walk into the wrong alley, piss of the wrong person, and this place can be as dangerous as Feros or Noveria."
Shepard grinned a little, remembering. He watched as her eyes remained fixed on the panorama, fascinated. The wind picked up; it blew her yellow hair back like a rag.
They were rare, moments like these. Especially while on a mission. Moments when she stepped back, dropped her guard, let go of that enveloping shield of calm and confidence. Moments when she stopped being Commander Shepard for just a second, and enjoyed life.
Just let herself be… Shepard.
He felt a knot in his stomach. She deserved more moments like these.
"Well, we've definitely pissed off the wrong person here," Miranda said impatiently. "Let's just hope this Thane Krios character is worth it."
He realized now how far back on the walkway Miranda was. Had she doubled back? No. It was him. He had been moving this whole time, without noticing, toward the far end of the bridge. Toward Shepard.
The Spectre pulled herself away from the edge, running a hand through her pale shoulder-length blonde hair. Fixing it up just a bit because, yes, there was still time for some vanity. She was a natural blonde. Garrus knew that was a genetic rarity among humans. That it was prized. And now, seeing a few rogue strands of light from one of Illium's moons reflect off the shimmering golden cascade… he supposed he could understand why.
"Come on, squad," she ordered. "We're almost at the penthouse."
Yep, she was Commander Shepard once again.
As Garrus headed for the far door, he let his rifle drop to the hip. Big mistake. A few seconds later something popped behind him. A little too much heat hit his back. "What's--" Miranda started. And then…
"Reinforcements!" yelled Shepard. "Heavies!"
Garrus whirled around, raising rifle to eye as he leapt for the cover of a nearby crate. There were four Eclipse mercs on the other side of the bridge now, back where the squad had just come from. How the hell? Had they missed them? Had they been hiding?
And through the veil of shock, he just barely noticed Miranda on the floor, her black-and-white armor quickly turning crimson red.
Garrus took half a second to get the mercs' positions. Just two heads bobbed out of cover. Human on the left, turian on the right. He stared down the scope.
Left is Shepard's. Shepard always goes left.
Without a moment's hesitation, Garrus put a slug right between the eyes of the turian.
The two mercs dropped dead simultaneously, like one was a mirror of the other. He glanced back just in time to catch Shepard rematerializing behind him mid-sprint. Her face was expressionless, but her eyes… they were flaring. He could see anger and fire and fear underneath the piercing green. She opened her mouth to yell.
What was she DOING? There were still two mercs left! And the one who shot the rocket might still be standing. Shepard! He started to yell, but he killed the word in his throat. No time. Instead he aimed his rifle toward the mercenaries' position and fired a heavy concussive blast right at the floor.
One second passed. Nothing. Were they dead? Stunned, at the very least. Garrus's eyes moved over to Shepard. The Spectre was kneeling over Miranda's motionless form, omni-tool over her arm. He heard her voice, but couldn't make out what she was saying.
Then his reticule caught something. His heart froze; the yell tore out of his throat by itself.
Erin Shepard slid to the floor, her frame shielding the downed Miranda. Was she still cloaked? -- she could never tell whether the damned thing had worn off.
Miranda's leg was hit, but the Cerberus operative was conscious. A sizeable red puddle was expanding around her. With a thought, Shepard activated her omni-tool.
"It looks bad," she said bluntly. The Spectre wasn't one to euphemize injury. "But I'm getting you out."
That was when she heard Garrus yell. "Move! Now!"
Shepard's body responded before the sound had even hit her ears. She moved automatically, like a machine tuned to specifications. Trust implicit. One second. She grasped Miranda's wrist and yanked, tossing the Cerberus op forward. Then, using the momentum of the midair Miranda, she let herself leap forward, her left foot maintaining a tenuous grasp on the ground.
Two seconds. Miranda landed in front of the crate with an excruciating grimace. Tremors shook the walkway; the heat of the rocket blast hit her first. Then the impact wave -- the air itself became a solid wall.
She was smashed by the blast, propelled into midair. For a moment it felt more like drifting than falling. She looked down; her feet were over the edge of the walkway.
And then she was dropping. Five-hundred-and-God-knew-how-many stories straight down. A half second, at most, before she'd fall below the walkway. She extended her arm. Had to catch the--
Two fingers touched the concrete. Grazed it, really. She closed her hand. Nothing to grasp -- done. She was falling. Not Saren, not the geth, not the collectors, not the goddamn Reapers! Gravity.
Maybe it would be easier this way. She'd get to escape it all -- the pain, the nightmares, the scars. The guilt -- all the fucking things she'd done wrong! The fear, apprehension, the responsibility hoisted onto her shoulders like a supermassive black hole. Every damned heartbeat in this galaxy depending on her. What? A person can't be expected to hold that burden!
She would fall through Illium clouds. Terminal velocity in two seconds, drop at roughly one hundred meters per second after that. 1.6 Earth Masses. High gravity… well, higher. Minimum air resistance -- twelve seconds total before impact, maybe? And she would count every one of them, too, damn that rational and compulsive mind of hers.
But no. Those were coward's thoughts, and she was no defeatist. She forced them away; refused to die with them in her head. She was Commander Shepard, damn it!
And then something was touching her hand. Something was grasping it. She glared up. Three fingers -- talons. Their grip was strong and tight. Protective. Her hand seemed to disappear into them.
She hit moment of peak inertia, and then -- she was hanging. Swaying in the wind.