This story (in two chapters) is my attempt to explain how Shepard went from "my buddy Garrus" in ME1 to "want to ease some tension?" in ME2.
Crammed full of spoilers for ME1 and ME2. Game universe and characters belong to BioWare.
I have deliberately avoided giving Shepard a first name or physical description. However, for story purposes, this Shepard is one of the classes that can use biotic powers, and leans towards Paragon, though with noticeable Renegade traits as well.
This story is based on a dream I had after starting to play ME2 and before I knew that Garrus was actually a romance option in the game.
Where Angels Fear To Tread
Chapter the First: Fools Rush In
Garrus Vakarian was not certain how, exactly, he'd expected to die, but given the choice it wouldn't have been here, holed up in this deserted building on Omega, the stinking armpit of the galaxy.
Another band of mercenaries was making a run across the bridge that was the only entranceway to his bolthole. Three shots, three kills. Over the last few days the slaughter had become automatic.
He was thinning their numbers, no doubt about that, but in the rare moments of quiet when the mercenaries were rallying, Garrus knew that he would not be able to hold out forever. He'd blocked the tunnels, but if the mercs had one brain in their collective heads, they'd be digging those tunnels out right now. When that happened, they would simply overwhelm him, and the last thing he'd be able to do was take as many as he could down with him. In the meantime, he kept himself busy during those rare pauses in battle, stuffing some more food into his mouth, checking his weapon, listening to the contraband comm scanner he had set up to follow the mercenaries' movements as best he could.
Anything to keep from wishing he were back on the Normandy with Shepard.
Anything to keep from dwelling on how badly he'd screwed up.
He'd reduced the criminal population on Omega. He had to be content with that. And he'd helped defeat Saren and Sovereign. His life hadn't been a waste.
But it shouldn't have had to end like this, alone in this rathole, just Garrus Vakarian against the world. He'd been trying to do something good. Why had it all fallen apart? When?
He had a terrible feeling that he'd never really recovered from the loss of…the loss of the Normandy.
Oh, he'd put himself back together again and tried to change his life for the better. He'd given up on C-Sec and all its frustrations, headed to Omega, and assembled a team just like Shepard had, fighting to guarding the innocent and weak from the cruel and strong who would prey upon them. For a while, he'd been proud of himself. Then his team got killed, and like a ship patched together with rivets and plates, he'd started coming apart piece by piece. One stupid mistake led to another and finally he'd wound up here, in this building, trapped in his last desperate stand, trying to put off his inevitable death.
His violent, lonely, inevitable death.
Garrus snapped out of his morbid thoughts, almost too late. One of the mercs had almost made it to the other side. He awoke just in time to put a bullet in the guy's brain.
But…too late. He heard footsteps on the stairs. The mercs were in the building, coming up behind him. By the time he took them out, more would surely be over the bridge. The endgame was upon him.
So be it, then.
He would go down fighting and make Shepard proud.
By the Spirits, he could hear her voice already Calling him home.
But he pushed the hallucination away, just long enough to take one more shot, one more kill.
The Turian known to Omega's residents only as Archangel turned to greet his killers. He rose slowly, leaning on his sniper rifle, his whole body aching as he turned his head. The hallucination was back.
He took off his helmet slowly, as though its visor was projecting the hallucination. It wasn't. He could still see her standing there before him.
Commander Shepard wasn't sure what she was going to find at the head of the stairs. She'd heard that Archangel was a turian, and she'd been told that his vigilante behaviour and uncompromising pursuit of justice had finally succeeded in uniting three of Omega's biggest mercenary gangs in the attempt to kill him, but she'd also seen the body count outside. Archangel was a badass, no two ways about it, and while she'd walked a narrow line during her time as a Spectre, she had a suspicion that this Archangel had changed his focus from protecting the innocent to inflicting retribution upon those he personally judged to be guilty.
She'd been bracing herself for a vigilante turian who might well squeeze off a few shots at her after she'd introduced herself, depending on whether he was smart enough to appreciate the rescue or fanatical enough to consider her an impediment to his mercenary-removal service.
What she hadn't expected was to see Garrus Vakarian under Archangel's helmet.
Garrus. Even Cerberus hadn't been able to track him down. Her other old friends were otherwise occupied, having moved on with their lives; Garrus had simply vanished, and she'd been more than worried. She'd felt sick. What could have happened to him?
And here he was.
She'd barely had time to think about it before the mercs attacked in force. At that point she was too busy trying to get herself, Garrus, Miranda and Mordin out of there alive.
Then the gunship arrived. Shepard shot it down, but before she did, it had left Garrus lying in an ever-spreading pool of blue blood.
Shepard hoped Miranda hadn't been watching when she knelt over and threw up.
She'd just found Garrus and now, might well be about to lose him again.
There was no true night on the Normandy, but since the crew was largely human, the ship was set to a twenty-four hour clock in accordance with human biorhythms. It was now 2100 Zulu hours on Earth, time for those not working the night shift to rest, but in the captain's cabin, sleep was not coming for Commander Shepard. She kept thinking about Garrus, who'd been cleared out of the medical bay and installed in his own private quarters with strict instructions to take it easy.
What the hell would she have done if she'd lost him? She hadn't even been able to watch Chakwas and Mordin working on him. And when they'd finally told her that he was going to make it, she dared once again to hope there would finally be some warmth in this gaping vacuum that was her new life.
She wanted to see him again. As soon as possible. Now.
Logically, she knew she ought to leave him be. Sleep would speed his healing from here on out. But her mind kept replaying their conversation from earlier that day.
Nobody will give me a mirror.
Hell, Garrus, you were always ugly.
Some women find facial scars attractive. Mind you, most of those women are krogan.
And they'd laughed, as they always did, sharing that same morbid sense of humour that so many soldiers had.
But now, late at night, Shepard lay awake in her bed and wondered if any part of Garrus had actually thought she'd meant it.
Shepard sat up and examined herself in the mirror, running her hand over her ravaged cheek. Cerberus had rebuilt most of her, but she had scars of her own remaining, and her body was laced through with cybernetics, inside where no one could see. She and Garrus really were a matched pair.
This new Normandy was bigger and roomier and more powerful, but it also felt hollow. Its crew were strangers, it masters was untrustworthy, and even Shepard herself was a facsimile of what she used to be. Having Garrus back was like putting the soul back into the Normandy. Something good from her old life still remained.
She remembered all too well what she'd felt while she'd waited to find out if Garrus survived his surgery. It was much the same as when she'd found out he was missing—the things she wished she'd said before she'd ended up spaced. Had he ever figured out what it had meant to her to have him watching her back? Had he ever guessed how much seeing him again had brightened this shadowy life she was now leading?
And they were about to go on another suicidal mission to save the galaxy. She might well find herself in that position again, where it would be too late to tell Garrus anything.
She had already died once. She'd woken up in Cerberus' care and found herself with so many regrets. What was the point of a second chance if it went unused?
She would not make the same mistakes a second time.
Shepard got up and left her cabin.
Garrus stared at the ceiling, watching the lights blur and refocus, blur and refocus. Whatever drugs Mordin had given him, they were powerful stuff. He was alert enough to recognize that his face hurt, but too out of it to care, even though a small part of his brain was warning him that he really ought to be more concerned.
There was a knock on the door. He had to listen to the person rap several times before he realized that he wasn't imagining the sound.
Mordin? Chakwas? He hadn't even sobered up from the last round of drugs they'd given him.
A familiar voice on the other side of the door.
A brief image—hallucination? Vision?—flickered through his mind. Shepard, with blazing red wings, holding a fiery sword. Archangel.
He'd gotten the name from her. It had originated in a conversation on the Normandy years ago. Ashley Williams wore a guardian angel pin, given to her by one of her sisters, on the collar of the shirt she wore beneath her battle suit. Garrus had noticed it one night during their down time, and he had asked her to explain it.
Turian culture had no concept of angels. The Turian spirits could inspire the living, but did not directly intercede in the affairs of mortals.
Shepard had told him that she had never cared for the popular human idea of guardian angels either, but there had been one image that had stuck in her mind, and she had told him:
I was young, but already living on the streets. There was a place in the city where kids like me could go for food, shelter, a shower, a safe place to be. They ran it out of a church.
Pastor Cora ran the place. She was always trying to convince me to accept a foster home, but I'd heard too many bad stories from other street kids who'd escaped from theirs. That, and the lure of the gangs was just too strong at first. Cora was trying to give me people to look after me; the gangs were offering a chance for me to learn to look after myself. But by the time I turned seventeen, Pastor Cora had her way in the end. She was the one who helped me join the Alliance military.
There was a stained glass window in the church, off to one side, and on it there were no dying saviours or chubby cherubs. Instead there was a man, a man with red wings holding a flaming sword, alight with terrible beauty as the rising sun streamed through the glass.
I asked Pastor Cora who he was and she told me he was the Archangel Michael, the Warrior of God.
I never had much use for guardian angels—mine hadn't been doing much of a job at the time—but when I looked up at that image, I knew the kind of person I wanted to be. The kind who isn't afraid to stand up for what's right. The kind who'll put themselves between a danger and those who can't survive it without help. The kind who guards the innocent and punishes the guilty. The kind who takes it on themselves to do what must be done, even if it's hard. Especially if it's hard.
The image had stayed in Garrus' mind ever since.
That was who he wanted to be, too.
"Garrus? Can I come in?"
"Come on in."
Garrus still sounded a bit out of it. Shepard opened the door just in time to see Garrus finish struggling into a seated position, legs hanging over the side of the bed. He really did look a mess, and she felt suddenly guilty for letting her emotions lead her here when he needed his rest.
"If I'm disturbing you, I can come back another time," she said quietly.
"No. I'm not sleeping anyway." Garrus managed a grin that was familiar despite the ravaging on one side of his mouth. "Please, come in."
Shepard looked around for somewhere to sit, but the cabin was just about bare. The only furniture it had was an end table holding a glass of water and some pills in a jar. Garrus' sniper rifle lay against the wall, next to his armour, stacked in a pile. She studied him and realized that the robe he was wearing must have been borrowed from someone aboard—the sleeves were too short and he'd had to cut slits in the elbows to accommodate his spurs.
Garrus shifted over and glanced at the space beside him, then back at her.
Well, if he was asking…
It was hard to have a friendly conversation when you were towering over someone, and she didn't want to talk to him as a commander right now. She sat next to him on the bed.
"It's good to have you back," she said. Simple. True.
"It's good to be back."
For a moment they just looked at one another, and the silence was comfortable. Shepard realized how much she'd missed that. They were so in tune with one another, often they didn't need to say anything. There was a great temptation to simply enjoy it now. She already felt safer, even if she did have to work for Cerberus. Garrus would be watching her six. It would be all right. That kind of security was worth savouring; she'd had precious little of it up till now.
But she'd come here for a purpose and she was not going to be a coward now. She licked her lips. Why was this harder than charging into battle? Why was it more difficult than giving an order that could get someone killed?
"What I said earlier…about you being ugly?"
"I didn't mean it. You know that, right?"
Vakarian inclined his head and continued to study her curiously.
"Maybe I'm part krogan"—god, the old habit of joking died hard—"but you still look fine to me. Besides, I'm not much to talk." She pointed at her own disfigurement.
The turian, for once, did not laugh.
"Maybe I'm part krogan too," he said softly, "but you look very good from where I'm sitting."
So he was happy to see her too. Already her life felt warmer. Fuller.
"I can't believe I missed two years," she whispered.
His gaze fell to the sheets. "It's not been easy without you."
She licked lips grown suddenly dry. "Are you angry?"
His gaze jerked to hers. His eyes were wide with shock. "Angry? Why would I be angry that I'm finally starting to feel all right again?"
There was something different about him. Shepard struggled to put her finger on it—it was more than just the scars. The old Garrus had, for all his military and C-Sec experience, seemed younger than she. Technically, he was, by two years, but their actual time in combat had been the same. Turians began military service at fifteen; humans were ineligible until they turned seventeen. As far as experience went, they were equals, but still Garrus had looked up to her and asked her for guidance. In return, she'd seen him as a junior—someone to mentor, someone to teach.
She'd been dead for two years and Garrus had changed.
This new Garrus Vakarian—the Archangel—was a harder, colder man. She'd seen the bodies of the mercenaries that proved it. Garrus had gone from a loyal subordinate and an impressive fighter to a leader in his own right. A commander—or a warlord. A killer.
She'd stopped a young, dumb kid on Omega from becoming one of those bodies. That kid hadn't been a hardened criminal; he'd just been naïve and foolish, the way she had been in her gang days. And yet that boy would have been destined for one of the Archangel's bullets. Where was the justice in that?
The Garrus she had known was passionate and driven, but never an extremist. What in the universe had possessed him to do what he'd done? Had the fight against Saren given him a desperation that had driven him to such drastic measures? Or…had she proved a poor role model in the end? Too much do as I say, not as I do?
And his choices hadn't made him happy. Shepard could tell. There was a weariness in his face that neither the drugs nor his wounds had put there. She had seen it in that very first glimpse of him on Omega.
It hurt, because under the bitterness she could see the old Garrus. If she'd let him down before, she would not do so again.
Shepard drew in breath. "So you're really okay with this. The Cerberus thing. The…back from the dead thing."
"About Cerberus: I trust you."
It was that simple.
He gave her a crooked grin. "And as for the back from the dead thing…that makes two of us."
"Hey now. You were only mostly dead. I was spaced, and when they put me back together, they used some extra parts."
She still felt human, but…
"I wasn't a biotic before," she said quietly.
Garrus whistled. "No kidding. I got some cybernetics too, but nothing like that. I'm jealous." He studied her for a moment, then said, "Can you make my bed fly?"
She snorted laughter, and he did too, but then his grin became a grimace and his laughter died. Shepard sobered, watching him shake off his pain.
"Garrus, you're tired. You need to rest."
"I can't sleep," he muttered. "And…I don't…." He struggled for coherency. "Don't want you to…never mind."
Her throat clenched. "Would you like me to stay a while?"
"Not if you're busy, Commander," he replied, and then winced. "I'm sorry, Shepard, this just hurts too much. I think the pills are wearing off. I need to lie down."
Garrus lay down slowly, injured side up, his good cheek buried in his pillow. The way the bed was positioned in the room, it meant that his back was now to Shepard. "This isn't a very good way to have a conversation, is it?"
No, she didn't want to talk to Garrus' back.
She stood, circling to the foot of the bed. "Move over."
He sounded dazed. She didn't wait for him to figure it out. Shepard moved on all fours up the other side of the bed and lay down on her side, facing him. "How's this?"
"Shepard…are you sure…"
"What? I'm on top of the covers, wearing all my clothes. Get your mind out of the gutter."
Garrus blinked. "…sure no one else needs you?" he finished.
Shepard flushed. "Nothing that can't wait." Now whose mind was in the gutter?
It was kind of weird, being this close to him, on a bed, no less. She could smell the medicinal tang that clung to both med bays and everyone who spent too much time in them. But she could also smell Garrus, just a little, and it wasn't unpleasant, though it didn't resemble a human being's musk. Turians smelled like…the closest thing she could think of to describe it was a mixture of freshly cut grass and pennies.
She'd maybe flirted with him a little on the Normandy. He'd played back. It was all part of the normal banter between friends. If she and Garrus took it a little farther than most people, it was because they were closer friends than most people. But when it came to actually doing anything…Shepard turned to people like Kaiden Alenko.
Kaiden. He'd been cute. He'd been kind. He'd been interested in her.
He'd been human.
Shepard would have run the other way if Garrus had shown the slightest inkling of acting on any of his flirting and she was sure he would have done the same. They were friends. Best friends. Nothing more, nothing less.
Oh, God, that had been another old joke between them, born of an offhand query from Garrus about the nature of the evening's meal, soon after he'd come aboard the original Normandy. Shepard had described their immanent supper as a plate full of all the shit you could eat, nothing more and nothing less, and something in the way she'd said it had made it uproariously hilarious to the both of them. The catchphrase had stuck due to its simple truth: every soldier always wanted something more, be it more ammo, more time, more money, more leave, and every soldier knew he or she might need to make do with even less at some point in the future.
But if nothing more meant she ought not to be lying here thinking perverted thoughts, nothing less meant she damned well ought to let Garrus know what he meant to her. Maybe that would be enough to cut through that Archangel persona and the weight of years and bring back, if not the old Garrus, at least a happy Garrus.
"I'm falling out of bed here," Garrus muttered, shifting his weight to get away from the lip of the mattress. Shifting it towards her.
"Go ahead," she reassured him. "We're friends, right?"
He grinned back at her. "Nothing more and nothing less." Yes, he remembered the joke too.
"Especially nothing less," she added quietly.
Garrus said nothing as he closed his eyes and settled into a comfortable position. He was right next to her, barely an inch away. And it was as though that hole in her life was filled by the simple proximity of her best friend.
She looked at Garrus, not quite sure how to express just how much she was glad to see him again. Words were doing a miserable job of it. Maybe she should just shut her mouth and lie here and be grateful for the company. Maybe…
Dead is a long time.
The self-control that had served her so well during all her military service was not helping her now. Nothing she thought of was ever going to sound right in her head. This was a matter for emotions, not logic, and her emotions, so long under tight rein, would be stifled as long as she tried to discipline them into coherent phrases.
She could take the time to plan out what she intended to say, but she was afraid all of a sudden, that one or the other of them would wind up dead again and this time there would be no third chance.
Unwilling to wait and unable to plot a proper response, Shepard took the only path left to her.
There were moments in battle when there was no time to think. When bullets were flying in your direction, waiting to puzzle out solutions left you dead. Those were the times you had to trust your impulses, allow your training to take over, permit your body to do what had to be done.
It was that sort of time now. Shepard dropped her control completely, let herself act on instinct.
The next thing she knew, she was kissing Garrus Vakarian.