They stand on the edge of the yawning abyss, and all he can see is her face, the memories they have shared, and the path they have walked, side by side. Garrus/FemShep
Mass Effect and all of its characters are the intellectual property of Bioware and Electronic Arts, and are used in a non-profit manner for the purpose of entertainment. I own no rights to their creations.
This is a work of fiction. All unique characters, organizations and factions are either from the imagination of the author or, if real, are represented in a fictitious manner without the intent to represent actual conduct. Any similarities to any existing persons, alive or dead, are purely coincidental and not the intention of the author.
Warning: Infrequent coarse language.
Chapter last edited: 17/11/11
A Mass Effect 2 Fanfiction
Rated M for violence, frequent coarse language and adult themes. Each chapter will have a warning header to indicate what is to follow. Please read at your discretion.
My World Died With You
"L'amour est aveugle; l'amité ferme les yeux."
Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes
~French proverbial saying
He dropped from the wreckage of the Normandy, feeling the weight of an entire world on his shoulders and seeing the yawning mouth of a beast directly before him. His eyes strayed to the side as his feet picked their way down the slope of rubble and debris.
She was also making her way down from the Normandy, flanked by Legion and Thane. Her utterly confident steps and impressive arsenal of weapons bespoke of the ruthless warrior that she was, uncompromising and undefeatable.
No… that wasn't exactly true anymore, was it? The Collectors had killed her once, done what even a being considered a god could not do.
But here she was, charging into the home of her murderers, prepared to shove her rifle down their throats in retaliation. Anyone might have hesitated, anyone might have looked at the vessel that epitomized the reason she had suffered such a hideous death, but she walked forward unerringly, prepared to mete out death as readily as they had delivered it to her.
Perhaps with a little more glee, however.
Her feet came to a halt and he did the same, watching her lift her Death Mask and prepare to put it on. Just before she slid it over her russet-coloured hair, she glanced over her shoulder and her brilliant, cat-like green eyes met his blue ones.
A single thought jumped between the two of them, conveyed from gaze to gaze, soul to soul.
A command from her. A plea from him.
He was only one she would trust in a position of leader when she wasn't there. But that meant that he wasn't at her side. That he couldn't watch her back. That she couldn't watch his. That knowledge hurt more than any wound they had ever taken. Terrified them more than any impossible odds they may face.
They were entering hell with the knowledge that they would likely never return… and still they walked forward.
He watched as she put her Death Mask on and sealed the gorgot. Turning to Thane and Legion, she waved for them to move out. He turned to his own team, catching up with Grunt and Jack. Their infiltrator had already gone into the vents and was waiting for orders.
"In position," he said into his commlink. "See you on the other side of those doors." He nodded at his team. "Lets go."
Even as they moved off, he felt his mind wander momentarily, remembering another time when they had parted ways. A time when danger had loomed, but death had not quite been so certain. He had simply had faith that Elrika was untouchable, immortal, unkillable.
That event changed that belief forever.
The death of his whole world and everything he believed in began with Joker's voice.
SSV Normandy, two years previously
+Brace for evasive manoeuvres!+
Garrus shot upright from where he had been working on the Mako, facing Ashley across the hold, "What did he say?"
Ashley opened her mouth but before she could speak the Normandy was jarred hard to one side. The inertia dampeners and artificial gravity went into spasms just long enough to send the turian sprawling against the Mako. Ashley was thrown off her feet, sliding into the raised driveway that normally discharged the Mako into open air. An explosion rocked engineering and screams rang through the metal door.
Ashley clambered back to her feet. "We're under attack!"
"You think?" roared Garrus, staggering to the elevator. The inertia dampeners weren't coming back online. They must have been damaged. Which meant the ship was hit-
His mind came to a sharp halt as, just as he was about to call the elevator, the doors hissed open and Elrika Shepard stepped out, wearing a standard, N7 issue gear instead of her customized armour. The N7 standard was faster to put on.
"Ashley. Garrus. Suit up. Helmets on. Upstairs is a fucking nightmare. In the elevator. Now!" She turned to head to engineering, but Tali was already running out, supporting a burned, screaming technician. The quarian reached out and grabbed Elrika's shoulder when the Commander would have gone past her and shook her head. Acknowledging and trusting Tali's judgement, Shepard grabbed a man that was half crawling, hoisting him up, and pointing at the elevator.
"Elevator. Everybody in! Get in!" She grabbed Adams and hurled him the rest of the way when she found he was moving too slowly, and they all loaded into the car together, pressed against one another in the suddenly tiny confines.
Ashley took the man that Shepard was supporting, another one practically thrown over the Gunnery Chief's shoulder. Shepard obviously intended to be busy when they stepped out of the elevator.
Garrus cut off the stench of burning flesh with his helmet, the seals pressurizing and replacing it with the sterile scent of environmental containment. But the screams, moans and sobs penetrated his helmet and bored their way into his soul. He knew these humans. Knew their faces.
More specifically, he knew the faces that had not emerged from engineering.
The car moved with painstaking slowness and Garrus shifted from foot to foot anxiously. It was one thing to be facing impossible odds with a gun in your hand, staring death defiantly in the face as you prepared to fight to the bitter end. It was another thing entirely to be trapped in a tiny metal box as a ship was torn apart around you, deep in the uncompromising expanse of space. The ship rocked around them violently and he was half afraid that they would be trapped inside the elevator, just waiting to die.
A hand touched his wrist and he glanced over. Shepard's head was cocked towards him slightly and he turned his hand over, squeezing her arm, appreciating her silent reassurance. But the confidence that touch gave him faded into nothingness when the doors to the elevator opened and revealed the conflagration that was the main deck. Crew were running every which way, desperate to get to the escape pods, desperate to get away from the flames. There were screams and explosions and Joker's frantic voice over the intercom.
+Shepard! You have to manually send the distress beacon! Something got fried and I can't send it off!+
Elrika swore vilely as she practically lunged from the elevator. "That'd be right." She grabbed one man as he staggered and hauling him around to face the other way, "That way, you idiot! That way!"
Garrus looked over at the medical bay, seeing that it was empty and hoping that Liara and Chakwas had already been evacuated. His attention was drawn back to Elrika when she began shouting, seeing that Ashley and Tali had likewise not moved. But while he was appraising the situation, they appeared to be waiting for orders.
"What the hell are you waiting for? Go! GO!" Tali hesitated for a moment, before she helped two injured humans off to the pods without a protest. Ashley opened her mouth but Elrika thrust a finger in her face. "That's a goddamn order, Williams!" Something exploded off to one side and Shepard didn't flinch as burning debris bounced off her shoulder. "Williams!"
"I'm going!" Ashley turned and helped her injured charges to the escape pods.
"Elrika." Garrus grabbed her arm as she turned to bolt towards the sleep pods, which were all but consumed with fire and small explosions. "Where the hell are you going?"
"I have to make sure the distress beacon goes out," she said as she tugged at her arm. "Get as many people as you can to the pods, Garrus."
"I'll help you!"
"No. Only one person needs to get the beacon."
"Then let me do it!"
"This is not the time to be a fucking hero, Vakarian! Someone has to do it and it's going to be me. Now fucking go!" Shepard physically grabbed him, hauled him around and shoved him towards the pods. "Go!"
Garrus stumbled forward, then again as someone smashed into him, frantically fleeing towards the pods. By the time he turned back, Elrika had vanished beyond the flames that were consuming the sleep pod bay, heading towards the console that housed the manual controls for the distress beacon.
Garrus took one step back, watching her stagger at the console, and then turned to obey his commander. Liara smashed into his chest and would have fallen had he not grabbed her wrist. Her Phoenix armour reflected the lights, bathing her in garish red and brilliant gold, and her wide, wide eyes stared up at Garrus, her helmet hanging from her other hand.
"Shepard?" She looked around like she expected their Commander to just be there.
"She's gone to get the distress beacon. Why are you still here?"
"Joker won't leave!" Liara cried, as if she had suddenly recalled why she was looking for the Commander in the first place. "Nothing I say will convince him to go!" Before he could blink, she darted past him and called over her shoulder, "Go to the pods! I'll get Shepard and we'll get Joker out of here!"
Garrus watched her vanish into the flames after Shepard, heading towards her at the other end of the sleep pod bay. Several people, stragglers, ran past him and Garrus swept the area with a practiced eye. Aside from Elrika and Liara, he was the only one remaining.
With a vile turian curse, he turned and bolted for the pods.
For the next two years, he would loathe himself for that decision.
Citadel, ten months later
"This cannot continue, Vakarian."
Garrus drew his gaze away from the picture hanging on the wall. Some sort of landscape that was supposed to be calming and soothing. As far as he was concerned, it might have been a picture of hanar copulating for all the effect it had on him.
He knew what Chellick was referring to, and he couldn't care. It was the reason he had been called to the Executor's office, the reason he had been called there numerous times. His last arrest had resulted in the suspect mysteriously getting a broken nose and two broken fingers. Anyone might call it a hate crime against humans on behalf of a turian, but everyone that was anyone knew that Garrus didn't care for race when it came to his job.
A crook was a crook was a crook.
"I understand that your methods might have worked when you were with Commander Shepard, but this is C-Sec and-" Chellick cut off when Garrus' stare became cold, hard and deadly.
Garrus' reaction to the mention of that name had not changed in the ten months since she was declared killed in action. Unless she was mentioned with the utmost reverence, Garrus tended to react… infamously. It was a warning whispered to the new recruits when they stepped into C-Sec for the first time.
Do not mention Elrika Shepard within earshot of Inspector Vakarian.
Inspector Vakarian. Thanks to his efforts to take down Saren. Being a simple C-Sec officer hadn't been enough for a hero. He could just imagine Shepard taking one look at 'Inspector Vakarian' on his desk and laughing her ass off.
'Inspector? That's all they gave you? Oh, God, you're so important, Vakarian.'
But that wasn't the reason that he didn't get higher. He could have, if he wanted to. But his vile temper and way of getting things done…
He wasn't sure if Elrika would have been proud or disappointed. She had been far more brutal than he, but she had always tried to temper his impulsiveness. Always tried to make him think.
'You can't predict what people will do, but you can tell how you'll respond. I just respond really, really violently.' Her smile, looking over her shoulder at him as she lifted her pistol. 'As far as I'm concerned, people get one chance to determine my response. After that?' She shrugged and glanced at her pistol. 'They can't complain.'
He had applied most of her lessons in his work at C-Sec, much to the disquiet of his superiors. No one wanted to say anything, of course. He was changed. He was damaged. Not that anyone would dare speak such things to his space, but it was the scuttlebutt around C-Sec, whispered as workers cleared debris and repaired the damage.
Garrus Vakarian had never been the same after Saren. After Shepard. After her death.
His chest tightened painfully, and he suddenly became aware that Chellick was speaking again. Opening his eyes, he glanced down at the Executor, promoted after his superior had been killed in the geth attack on the Citadel. Garrus wanted to say he mourned Pallin, but the turian had made no effort to like or be liked, so Garrus made no effort to pretend to care that he had died.
Elrika would be so proud of her badass little turian, as she had liked to call him.
"No one is arguing with your results, believe me." Garrus suppressed a spark of irritation as Chellick ripped him out of far more pleasant thoughts. "Crime rate has dropped exponentially since you came back. It's just the way you go about getting them that people are…" Chellick gave the turian equivalent of pursing his lips, mandibles fluttering, "questioning."
Garrus said nothing. He was both younger than Chellick and his subordinate. By turian social custom he should be showing Chellick the utmost respect deserved to one who had achieved a higher social rank. But Garrus had long since accepted that he wasn't a good turian. It was only now that everyone else was beginning to see it, too.
"I think you should take some leave. You came straight to C-Sec after… after the incident with the Normandy. Everyone else took time off, except the quarian-"
"Tali'Zorah," Garrus spoke her name in a clipped tone. "Her name is Tali'Zorah nar Rayya." Though it would be Tali'Zora vas something, now…
"Tali'Zorah," amended Chellick, "returned to the Migrant Fleet. Doctor T'Soni has moved on to other things. I heard Gunnery Chief Williams has been promoted and stayed with the Alliance. Even… even Councillor Anderson took a few days for mourning, apparently as is the human custom. Even we turians have mourning customs. But you… you came straight to C-Sec. So perhaps… maybe it would be best if you took some time…"
"Is this a recommendation, or is it mandatory?"
Chellick paused, mouth open, before he dropped his chin, "I am recommending very strongly, Vakarian."
They'd never fire him. He was a hero. A damaged hero, scarred by his experiences on the frontline. To fire him would have been… impolitic. Fucking bureaucratic bullshit. He hated the politics of it all, the 'correctness' that they all had to abide by.
The same bureaucracy that wrapped him so tightly in red tape that he was choking also couldn't handle the Reaper threat and the potential panic that it would cause. So they blamed the geth and shipped Shepard off to die.
And then they spat on her grave. That's what he hated the most. That her words would die with her, that the Council would bury the Reaper threat along with her body. Instead they labelled her a martyr and a hero and moved on.
Garrus seethed with ineffective hatred. At everyone. At everything.
He glanced at the data pad in his hand, the one he had brought with him to Chellick's office. "Alright…"
Chellick's head twitched with shock, "You accept?" Obviously he had expected to have to fight Garrus all the way.
"In a manner of speaking." It wasn't like he hadn't seen Chellick's 'recommendation' coming. He had been prepared. Flicking his wrist, he tossed the data pad to the older turian, who caught it easily.
She had tried to teach him in their time together. In many things she had succeeded, but one lesson in particular never stuck. Elrika had not been an impulsive person. Though many might think she made snap decisions, it was something that came with thinking under fire. In a few seconds she could adequately weigh up everything that could come from the decision and make the best possible choice.
Garrus had never lost his impulsiveness, but as he strode out of his office, he finally realized what it felt like to make those instantaneous decisions and own all of the consequences, good or bad.
It was liberating.
"What is this?" Chellick glanced at the data pad, then at Garrus, who was already leaving his office.
His head twitched to the side and he spoke without breaking his stride, "My resignation."
The door closed behind him.
Garrus wished that he had a holo of Elrika. Something to remember her by. But when they had been descending into hell, mementos had been the last thing on their mind. Afterwards, even in the ensuing celebration, such tokens had slipped from their minds.
They had survived the worst, after all. If death didn't come for them then, it would never come.
Spirits, how he rued that thought. Even though Elrika hadn't done more than drink as the rest of the Normandy partied uproariously following Saren's defeat, he wished he had gotten at least one holo of her. Everyone else had a thousand, and she had none.
When they proposed a group photo, she bitterly remarked that the group was missing one, and would be incomplete. Realizing she put a dampener on the party mentioning Kaiden's death, Elrika retired to her quarters.
Garrus went to find her soon after and the two of them shared drinks, talking into the wee hours of the morning. Garrus told her about how he was going to re-apply for Spectre candidacy and how he would also return to C-Sec. She had gone silent for a time, and then asked him why. He said that he thought he could do some good.
"You can't change the galaxy, Garrus," she had said quietly, running her finger around the rim of her half-empty glass. "You're only going to destroy yourself if you try."
"Some might say you have changed the galaxy," he countered. "You certainly saved it."
Her expression turned sombre and pensive, before she slipped behind her usual veneer of sarcasm, slyly offering he could wait out his Spectre candidacy processing time on the Normandy. Garrus was startled; he had assumed that he would leave the Normandy when it was all over, since there wasn't a reason to have non-humans on a human military vessel after Saren's death. Elrika just barked a laugh and asked him when she had ever cared what the higher ups thought. As far as she was concerned, Garrus would always have a place on her ship.
Then they had gotten good and drunk, laughing until they were too tired to stand. They both collapsed on her bed to sleep, and woke up with hangovers like ships colliding.
He wished he had taken a holo of her.
But now, all he had was his memories.
He closed his eyes inside his helmet, bending his head forward as he tried to burn the image of Elrika's sleeping face on his mind. Her lips slightly parted, her face peaceful, her human eyelashes fanned out against her slightly freckled cheeks. He splayed his hand over the chest plate of his heavy armour as his chest tightened in agony. So many regrets. He should have stayed behind. He should have helped her… He should have realized how much he cared for her before she died.
Her unguarded expression also floated to the fore, and he wondered – not for the first time – what saving the galaxy had cost her. He would find out, he supposed…
Drawing in a deep breath, he shoved off from the wall and approached the transport pilot that was loading up his ship. Clearing his throat, he drew the turian's attention, turning the other's unmarked face to him. Garrus stamped down the blood-deep prejudice against the clanless and exhaled into his helmet.
"Depends…" the turian rubbed his head fringe, which was short and stunted. Ugly. "Where you headed?"
"Where are you?"
"Omega. Non-stop, all the way."
Omega. Garrus cocked his head slightly, thinking it over. Omega.
"How much?" he asked again, reaching for his chit.