Something of a character piece, one take on how even Renegades can do Paragon actions.
Plus, ever notice how Garrus and Shepard ever get face time unless it's a FemShep romance? There really should be more straight-up friendship fics.
I don't own Mass Effect. At all. Haven't even played the game.
Edit 2: Now a general collection of one shots, written as I have time and will. Same general Shepard, unless specified otherwise. Various secondary characters.
Quis custodiet ipsos Renegade?
'Who watches the Renegade?'
Quis custodiet ipsos custodies
Garrus nearly marched to the pickup point, thoughts of Sidonis flying through his head. The traitor was alive, the bastard walked free… and yes, Garrus wasn't furious at the thought. Not as he had been before. He was, but he wasn't at the same time, after seeing Sidonis's state. A state he wouldn't have seen if not for the unexpected interjection of one man.
Shepard arrived in the flying car just as Garrus did. The car top opened, and the N7 officer's face was visible even through the narrow visor of his helmet: withering dermal scars and glowing red eyes that suggested anything but mercy.
And yet this is the man who had stood between and his target, with nothing but his own shields and Garrus's restraint protecting Sidonis until Garrus let him leave alive. Shepard. The colonist, the Butcher of Torfan who had both his allies and far more of his foes killed, for revenge of Mindoir.
Why now? That was the question that flew highest in Garrus's mind.
"I know you want to talk about this… but I don't. Not yet," he said in way of greeting.
"Did I ask?" Shepard returned strongly. Garrus had years of experience understanding human tones and facial expressions, but Shepard was often an exception. His thoughts could be so far removed, it was almost as if they were conceived in another world.
"Get in," commanded Shepard, and Garrus did.
Not another unnecessary word was spoken until they reached the Normandy.
Later on, back at his usual station, when Garrus heard the steps coming down the hall he naturally assumed they were Shepard's, come to talk over the recent mission as was his habit. Which was good, because he felt ready to talk, to have things out with Shepard. But when the Turian turned around, it wasn't the Commander. It was the XO, the Cerberus Agent, Miranda.
Garrus raised an eyebrow in silent question, and was slightly pleased that it didn't make the scar ache. But Miranda's own question made such joy fleeting.
"What happened to Shepard?" the ship's second in command demanded.
"I beg your pardon?" Garrus asked, not understanding.
Miranda was not amused: her glare made that much apparent. "I'll say it again. What. Happened. To. Shepard? Answer the question, Turian." She was leaning forward, one hand meaningfully resting on that impractical pistol belt of hers.
Garrus looked at her, looked at the little human trying to intimidate him, over a mission where he if anyone was the wronged party, and turned away.
"I don't see how it's any of your business," he said, and made to resume with his work.
The tell-tale beep and configuration of a mass-effect pistol being armed, well that made him stop again.
"Anything that affects this mission is my business, which means anything that affects Shepard is also my business. You were the last one with Shepard, as the two of you went on your own little side quest. And yet, once you return, Shepard comes to me, requisitions all the strongest alcohols on the ship, and turns command over to me with final instructions being not to bother him for anything short of a reaper before going to his quarters."
"I can't say I've ever heard or seen him like that, Garrus, and you were the last one he spoke to. Explain," she demanded.
Garrus didn't get where he was by being intimidated by people with guns. They both knew that whatever the cause now, Shepard's reaction to the shooting of a team member would be worse. But they were a team, after a fashion, and they would have to work together. He would certainly be making the same threats if it were the fault of another person.
"Shepard and I went to track down a traitor named Sidonis, who got my team killed," Garrus summarized. "Shepard lured him out in person, while I had them in my sights. All Shepard had to do was move." Miranda nodded, signaling him to continue. She thought she knew what came next. "But he didn't, and wouldn't until I listened to Sidonis had to say. And then he convinced me to spare his life."
Miranda's eyes focused in thought as she lowered the pistol.
"That doesn't sound like Shepard," she said, stating the obvious.
"I know, but that's what he did," Garrus said. "Hardly said a word after about why, either."
"Then maybe you should go ask," Miranda suggested. "He sure isn't opening his door for me."
"Maybe I should," Garrus agreed.
In the end, Shepard didn't open the door, despite Garrus's polite attempts (knocking) and more direct (hacking) approaches. It was EDI who opened it, with a not-so-inspiring warning.
"Commander Shepard has consumed dangerously high levels of intoxicants," the shipboard AI advised. "His behavior may be… erratic."
Stepping inside, Garrus got his first real view of the Captain's quarters… and quickly stopped when a bottle flew into the wall in front of him, crashing with enough force that it would have triggered a kinetic barrier.
"Who's there?" demanded Shepard's voice.
"It's Garrus," he alerted. "Am I going to get another bottle in the face if I step in?"
There was a pause of audible decision. "No, come in," Shepard allowed. There was no apology, and Garrus noted that the bottle must have been simply the closest thing at hand. As he turned the corner to look into the commander's study, Shepard's hand wasn't filled with another bottle: it held a wicked looking knife Garrus had only seen used a few times.
"What do you want, Garrus?" the scarred specter asked, absently flipping the knife. When he noticed Garrus's gaze on it, he suddenly became aware of it, and placed it on the desk and grabbed another drink.
"Shepard… you are a mess," Garrus said, ignoring the question and looking at the litter around Shepard, who himself was covered in drips and dribbles of spilled liquor. Bottles of everything covered the desk, littered the floor, filled the rubbish bin. The only clear spaces were devoted to mementos and awards the commander had won. A few photographs as well: of the old Normandy, the old crew, a smaller, personal photo of the late Chief Ashley Willion, though it was hard to see behind the wines, beers, whiskeys, and…
"You've been drinking too much," Garrus said, striding over and taking the next drink out of Shepard's hand. Shepard didn't resist, but complained none the less.
"I have the right to," he said, somehow not slurring words. "I'm the Commander here. Let me have my occasional vices."
"You're a damn drunk," Garrus said, "and somehow I got stuck dealing with it. Here," he said, and was soon making Shepard stand. "We'll get you cleaned up."
Shepard didn't resist, but he didn't help. Garrus would have been more concerned, enough to call in Doctor Chakwas, except that it was clearly by choice. Instead of calling for help, instead of interrogating Shepard for why, he was rambling idle complaints while helping a drunk human to the shower.
"Certainly not the way we handle stress on Turian ships," he said. "Drinking to excess? You're just making things worse if an emergency comes. You should consider taking a page from us."
"Then how do you do it?" Shepard asked lazily, even as he looked longingly towards the wine bottle on the desk.
"Fighting, mostly," Garrus admitted. "Sometimes a bit more… personal engagements."
Shepard snorted. "You mean sex. Yes, I can definitely see the connection between violence and sex. Sadly, Garrus, you aren't exactly my type, and if we fought right now, I'd kill you."
Garrus raised an eyebrow as they stepped into the refresher room. "You? Kill me? Shepard, you can hardly stand." To make his point stronger, he took Shepard's arm off him and gently pushed Shepard into the corner. Shepard slid down until he was on the ground. "See?"
"Wouldn't be too hard," Shepard said, not even raising his head. "Kick left leg into right kneecap, taking advantage of Taurian joints to dislocate. As target falls, use right arm to twist falling body to right. Roll over onto dominance position. Jab eyes, and while target recoils in pain, take opening to crush throat from superior position." He said it as calmly and surely as anything he had ever done sober, and Garrus realized he meant it.
"That's pretty morbid, Commander," Garrus stated. "You think like that all the time?"
"All the god-damn time, for every god-damn person," he said with irrational cheer. "Kept me alive this long, through Torfan and beyond. Now be a good man and turn on that shower, would you please? If I'm going to talk, might as well sober up a bit."
Garrus did, and stepped back as the water began to soak his friend and nominal superior. "That doesn't sound like a fun way to live your life."
Shepard shrugged. "It's like seeing or breathing to me. I see someone, and I start thinking 'How could I puncture that Quarian's suit in the fewest moves?' or 'how many steps will it take to place shotgun to Krogan throat?' And it just doesn't stop. Wouldn't want it to stop, or else Torfan would have been wasted."
Garrus sighed. Before he was a Spectre, long before he was Savior of the Galaxy, Garrus and the rest Galaxy had only heard of him as the Butcher of Torfan, the murder, done in revenge of Mindoir. Many dramas had been made of it.
"It all comes back to Torfan for you, doesn't it?"
"Damn straight," Shepard agreed as the shower continued to soak his uniform. "Mindoir made me. Torfan defines me. Everything else, not so much."
"Not Saren? Not Sovereign?"
Shepard let out a snort of derision. "Anyone could have taken care of them, if they had just acted. Some orphan from the slums of Cape Town, or some pretty-girl war hero. Lots of people could have stopped Saren. But they wouldn't be me. I'm me, and I can't be anything else and still be me. And that's why I'm not going to apologize for contemplating murdering every single god-damn person I see, and I'm not going to feel sorry for taking whatever steps are necessary for the greater good."
Garus sat on the only convenient chair, the porcelain thrown, and rested his head on his clasped hands. "You're a strange person, Shepard," he said. "There are times I've seen you mow down criminals in cold blood, and then the next day you'll cut a deal with the leader of a crime syndicate to get it change its priorities to lesser crimes. You sacrificed a number of hostages to stop Balek at Terra Nova, and yet you went to extreme lengths on Feros to save the colonists from the Thorian. And yet now you tell me even as you did that, you were planning on how to kill them? What's your measure, Shepard?"
"The greater good. It's always been for the greater good. Crime exists, so it may as well be organized to be less harmful to people. Balek would have repeated his actions if he got away, and more would have died. No one else had to die on Feros, and so they didn't. What's so hard to understand, Garrus?" And here, Shepard's voice softened fractionally from its legendary confidence. "What's hard to see about that? Why don't other people understand?" He almost sounded… lost. And Garrus found himself asking what many an alien had wondered since first hearing of Shepard.
"And Torfan?" he asked. "Was that necessary? Was that for the greater good? Murdering even those who surrendered, and wasting so many men to do it?"
Shepard looked up, through Garrus, and said "Yes."
And rage flowed through Garrus, as if he were the one who had been drinking. He rose and advanced on Shepard, who made no move to defend. He grabbed the human's shoulder, and slammed him back into the wall.
"Why?!" he demanded, anger and confusion of the past days and years venting now. "Damn it Shepard, what gives you the right? You're no paragon of virtue, you're a renegade if I've ever seen one! How do you justify that, when you hold me to higher standards? You're a hypocrite, if you think it's alright for you to have revenge but not me! First you stayed my hand at Doctor Saleon, and now Sidonis? When you can justify killing freely yourself?"
Shepard raised on hand to firmly grip the hand on his own shoulder, and met his eyes.
"Do you think Torfan was about revenge?" he asked.
Garrus opened his mouth to say yes, to repeat what every alien knew was the reason, and then stopped.
"Torfan wasn't about revenge," Shepard said, honest frankness coming from his intoxication, "though that was satisfying. Torfan was about saving lives. Garrus, more lives were saved by my actions at Torfan than anything else that could have been done there." Seeing that Garrus didn't understand, he continued.
"Garrus, I didn't kill the Batarians at Torfan for personal revenge. I killed them to send a message. If I had spared them, the Alliance would have won the battle more cheaply, yes. But the Batarians would have seen it as the usual Alliance half-steps: to only do the bare minimum, and nothing more. That you could attack, could raid and slave as much as you want, but all you had to do was put up a tough enough fight and then you could get off with your life and spend the next decade fighting in an Alliance court with what lawyer you could afford."
"I changed that. I made them realize that there were those who wouldn't give them a chance to nicely lay their guns down after fighting. I made them realize that if they fought, they would die, brutally and painfully. And I made them believe that body counts wouldn't save them, that we would be willing to spend the lives to bring them to justice. I made them learn fear."
"Garrus, between Torfan and Eden Prime, I fought perhaps a half dozen battles, but brought an end to dozens of standoffs. I became the Alliance's ace in negotiations: surrender now, or we send in the Butcher of Torfan. And quite often, they surrendered. Straight to jail, no damn-fool trials. No lives lost charging defenses to force a surrender. No property destruction. No weeping mothers learning that their son did their duty in dying to kill some two-bit hostage taker. And I never had to set foot on those battle fields."
"I've saved more Alliance and Batarian lives by being ruthless than I lost at Torfan. I knew this at Torfan. What I did, Garrus, I did for the greater good. I brought those people to justice and I saved lives. If I spend lives to take down the worst monsters in the galaxy so that fewer others die, that's the cost I will pay."
Garrus looked back at Shepard, and realized he might well be the first person Shepard had ever admitted this to. Anyone else, anyone who might spread the truth, the effect, the legend, could be shattered beyond repair. And yet, Shepard was holding out on something.
"Doctor Saleon?" he asked again, but with less anger.
"More useful alive than dead. He could have told us things to help other people."
It was true. It was logical. And it was also a lie; they had recovered the data from Saleon's ship. There was something more.
"And Sidonis?" Garrus asked, broaching the question he had been fixated on since the mission.
And Shepard said nothing.
"And Sidonis?" Garrus asked again. "Why did you save him Commander? You knew I could have put rounds through your head to get to him, and yet you didn't move. You knew that if you had moved, I would have taken the shot and then happily gone on this suicide mission with you. So why?"
And still Shepard said nothing, just letting the shower continue to drench them both.
"Damn it, Shepard," Garrus exclaimed, shaking him again, "I have to know why. You claim to seek the greater good, and yet think of ways to kill friend and foe alike. You appeal to bringing justice, yet you forced me to hold my fire at two monsters." Garrus sighed, and put a hand to his forehead.
"Shepard," he confessed, "you are my friend, and you are my commander. I'm going to follow you. But if you want me to be loyal, I must know why."
He wondered if Shepard would respond, if Shepard even still cared. Before he gave up, though, Shepard's lips moved.
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Shepard said, repeating it. "Who watches the watchman?"
"Garrus, I've done a lot of horrible things in the name of the Greater Good. What's concerning is that I don't feel any guilt about it. What's alarming is that I don't care that I don't feel any guilt. I am a fanatic for the Bigger Picture stuff. Sometimes, when I'm drunk like this, I know that the difference between myself and Saren was that Saren found Sovereign first. I'm under no illusions: Sovereign could have twisted me through Indoctrination just like he did Saren, convince me that the best path was a bet towards marginal survival. And then I would have been the rogue, and Saren would have been the one on the right side of history."
He held up a hand to ward of Garrus's protest, that Shepard wouldn't have been used.
"Garrus, two self-righteous fanatics was bad enough. One almost destroyed the galaxy, and it took another to stop him. Three?" His raised hand turned into a finger pointing at the Turian in front of him.
"You are not allowed to become like me," Shepard said, dictating a rule. "You're a good man, Turian, whatever. You have a strong sense of right and wrong, and I respect that. In a lot of ways, we are so similar, it's not surprising you're inclined to adopt in my world view."
"But I need you to believe in rules and limitations, Garrus. I need you to realize that thinking you are right doesn't make you so. Because one day, I'm going to do something very wicked in the name of the what's best. And when that day comes, the galaxy will need you to stop me, not help me. If I become the threat to the greater good, I'm as expendable as everyone else. Oh, I'll hate it at the time. I'll ask you to help me, persuade you to join me, curse you for failing me. I certainly won't appreciate it. But it's not about what I want, and it's not about gratitude: it's about what's right."
Shepard was honest. Shepard was frank, possibly franker than he had been with anyone in years. And Garrus was the first in too long to get a glimpse of what went on in Shepard's head.
"That's it?" Garrus asked, almost incredulous. "That's why you wouldn't let me shoot them in anger? For the greater good, because you don't trust yourself and don't want me thinking like you?"
"I trust you," Commander Shepard admitted, and it was three words that meant more than all the accolades of C-SEC. "The galaxy needs Good, Garrus. But it also needs Justice. If you kill a hundred mercs because they're scumbags who terrorize innocents, that's a darker Justice than most, but you're doing it for something other than yourself. But if you kill just one bastard because it's personal… trust me, you can never go back."
Shepard rolled his head, giving a little laugh that made his red scars bend in unseemly ways. "I'm not saying I want you to be a by-the-book asshat. You do that, I'll drop you, simply because I do too many bad things for the right reason. But I need someone who can see the difference between the little and big picture when he's not drunk, and one willing to correct me when I go too far astray. And if that requires me to be a nice guy every once in a while… it's for the best, of everyone involved."
Shepard paused, visibly concentrated, and then concluded with "And if you tell anyone I told you this, I'll swear on my parents' grave that you're a damn liar. Have to protect the reputation, for the greater good you know."
"I… see," Garrus said, not bothering to hide a smile as he stood up. "I think I understand, but I definitely want to think about it."
Shepard gave a little wave. "Don't think too much on it, Garrus: it'll ruin it. Just be yourself, only a bit more so."
Garrus laughed. "Thank you for that wisdom, Commander. I'm glad we had this discussion."
"Any time I'm this drunk," Shepard said. "Though, Garrus, if you could do me a favor…?"
Garrus raised an eyebrow in question, and Shepard actually looked… sheepish.
"Could you get me some of those unopened bottles? I don't think I can stand up at the moment."
"Probably best you not drink anymore then, eh Commander?" Garrus said, a glimmer in his eye. "Wouldn't be for the best. Quis custodiet ipsos custodies, right?"
"Son of a bitch," Shepard swore, but he was laughing to.