Somewhere beyond the thunderdome,
Someday we just might find a home,
Worth all the world without a price,
And we could all be happy there,
Eat soylent green, breathe soylent air,
And never rest our weary heads,
We'll all sleep when we're dead.
(Star Fucking Hipsters)
Chapter 7: Black Gives Way to Blue
She never wrote, Garrus thought as he looked over his notes. He was going through the information he'd gathered on Saren Arterius, the council Spectre supposedly gone rogue. New information had come in regarding his crimes, and Garrus had to shake a few people to get it (merely stretching his powers, not going past them), and one name kept coming up.
Commander Lina Shepard.
It had been five years since they sat on the kitchen counter together, spending their last night in the apartment by staring out the window talking. He told her he loved her. She kissed him in response. They watched the station shift and fell asleep together. When he woke up, she was gone.
He didn't let himself mourn. He got up, went to work. By the end of the week he had a new apartment. By the end of the month he was made Investigator.
He stared at her name a little longer, Commander Lina Shepard, then realized that she had written, once. She wrote a short letter to him almost a year after she left, apologizing for not getting in touch sooner, they hardly had stable extranet access near the Terminus Systems. She would write again when she got the chance.
He read the letter three or four times before deleting it. It would be too easy to get lost in his memories if he were to hear from her again.
And now here she was, so close he could almost smell her. Part of him longed to run his talons through her curls. Part of him longed to delete her name from his notes.
He shook his head, trying to get back to reality. It was time to be a professional. He finished his reports and gathered the necessary information then pushed all of his paperwork into the brown leather satchel he still used. He stuck the satchel under his desk and grabbed the datapad that held his case file. Taking one last sip of coffee, he stood, jogged out of his office (smacking Chellick on the back of the head on the way, just because) and went in search of Executor Pallin.
Over ten years of service. She'd fought batarian raiders, helped evacuate colonies during natural disasters, taken down petty criminals and mercs alike, and all she was known for was living.
Everywhere she went, if someone recognized her, it was because she managed to not die while she was on Akuze.
Shepard sighed. She really needed to get a new schtick. Something really worth being remembered for. And judging by the recent mission to Eden Prime, this was most likely it.
She was anxious. She hadn't been on the Citadel in so long, she wondered if she would still know her way around. She wondered if her favourite bars were still in business. She wondered if she'd run into him again. She pushed the thought from her mind- the Citadel was a big place, and her business was on the Presidium, where he never spent time. The likelihood of seeing him again was slim, unless she wanted to go into creepy stalker mode and take a walk around their old neighbourhood.
She stood on the rarely used observation deck and looked down at the Serpent Nebula and the space station hidden within its gases. A small but important part of her past was still down there, waiting for her to return.
Her Garrus, she thought and sighed. She missed him. She'd written him once, determined to stop the damned habit she had of losing contact with people and not caring. She did care about him. He was her best friend.
But she'd waited too long. He had probably moved on, changed his address. What if he didn't want to hear from her? It didn't seem like him. She checked her messages daily for the first week, but when she didn't hear back, she could only assume that he either didn't get it or didn't want to respond to it.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Lieutenant Alenko standing next to her.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he asked.
Lina nodded, not responding.
Alenko was... nice. A little too nice. Too eager to please everyone. She could tell that he was attracted to her but she did not reciprocate those feelings. He was handsome, sure. Unique, being an early human biotic. But he was also her subordinate and there was no fraternizing allowed on her ship.
Plus, he had no sense of humour.
She brushed his hand off of her shoulder, hoping he would get the hint, and stood a little taller.
"Get suited up, you and Williams are coming down with me to meet with the Council," Commander Shepard spoke, while Lina still let her thoughts race around in her head.
"Yes, Commander," he saluted before he left the room.
The door shut behind her and she relaxed again. She took a step forward and leaned her forehead on the tempered glass of the observation window and sighed, her breath showing on the glass.
Plan for today, she made a list in her mind: Go to Citadel, talk to Council, face likely possibility of rejection by Council, disable comm on Omni-tool to avoid any possible humiliating drunk dials, drown in bottle of tequila.
She took a deep breath and nodded.
She crossed her arms and tapped her foot as the elevator slowly brought them up Citadel Tower. She likened its speed to that of continental drift, and could only ask "What is this, the dark ages?" as muzak played over the speakers, interrupted every couple minutes by a news report of something that she already knew had happened.
Mostly because she had been there on Eden Prime.
It was kind of fucked up.
The elevator doors finally opened and the three of them, herself, Lt. Alenko and Gunnery Chief Williams (a recent addition to the Normandy crew) stepped into the Council floors. Lina was surprised at how dark it was- she expected bright lights and birds flying and maybe some trumpets playing in the background. Instead she was greeted by a dim, quiet space, lined with trees and benches. It was rather soothing.
Some dignitaries of varying species were milling about, likely waiting for their turn to be audience to the Council, and directly in front of them were two turians in C-Sec armour, obviously arguing. Lina thought it pathetic how her heart skipped a beat at the sight of them. There were thousands of turian C-Sec officers, what are the chances that he would be-
And then the one on the left turned. Same facial tattoos, same blue eyes, same face.
"Oh, sweet Jesus," she muttered.
"Vakarian," Pallin practically shouted his name to draw the Investigator's attention back to him. "Forget about your investigation, the Council will never accept that one of their best Spectres has gone rogue. Your investigation is over."
Garrus growled as the executor walked away. He tried to get more time, to finish gathering the evidence he needed. He was given a paltry two days to put this together.
And then he'd come across her name. And he knew that if she had something to do with this, she'd likely be on the Citadel to answer to the Council. But he still felt frozen in place when he saw her, shocked.
She looked the same, but her hair was straight. The same old scars adorning her cheeks. The N7 logo blazing brightly on her armour, like a beacon. He'd seen one or two other N7 graduates in full armour in his time, but they didn't seem to wear it as proudly as she always had.
His mind went back to the time that he spent with her. How he'd polish her armour because she was too tired. He always took extra care around the logo.
But that was years ago. Sure she looked the same, but likely she was a different person. If he could get her to comment about the always perfect weather, he was sure he'd be happy, but he couldn't expect too much from a person that had grown and changed as much as he had.
He turned his head back to the group of humans standing a few feet away from him.
"Commander Shepard," he said, unable to meet her eyes. He looked at his datapad instead.
"Investigator Vakarian," Lina responded, eyeing the ranking on his armour. "What do you have there?" she asked, motioning towards the datapad.
"A fucking paperweight," he replied spitefully, passing it to her. "This assignment gets passed to me and I'm supposed to fight all of the red tape and classified information to bring down a Spectre in a matter of days? I don't think so."
He eyed the two other humans. One male, who looked defensive, standing almost protectively close to Shepard. One female, who looked more curious than anything.
Maybe she never told her new crew about their friendship, he thought. It would make sense. It didn't seem like something she would bring up in everyday conversation.
He turned back to her, her eyebrow cocked as she read his notes. What other chance would he have? There was only the problem of her minions...
"Looks like you've got quite a bit of information still..." she said, cutting off his thought process.
"Not that it matters," he growled, frustrated. He let out a yell and tore off his left boot, football kicking it across the room. It got caught in the higher branches of one of the trees.
"I think that's a field goal," Lina smirked.
"It's bullshit is what it is," he mumbled, then tore off his other boot and threw it in the opposite direction. It landed in a small pond with a splash.
He turned back and saw the two humans standing behind Lina gawking at him. He singled out the male and shouted, "What the fuck are you standing there for, skinny? Go get them!" and pointed towards the tree his first boot was stuck in.
Alenko opened and closed his mouth several times, shocked, before turning to Lina, "Commander, he can't be-"
"I recommend that you go get his boots, Alenko," Lina replied, not looking up from the datapad.
"Alenko, have you ever seen an angry turian?" she asked, now looking up at the frazzled lieutenant.
He shook his head.
"This is an annoyed turian," she said, pointing at Garrus. "Note the extended fringe and narrowed eyes. An angry turian is claws out, teeth bared, ready to tear your eyes out at a moment's notice. Do you want your eyes torn out, Lieutenant?"
Alenko shook his head again.
"Then I recommend that you retrieve the Investigator's boots," she finished, and turned to Ashley. "You should help him."
"Are you questioning my orders, Chief?" Lina asked, fire in her eyes, challenge in her voice.
"Then hop to, skinny."
It was almost comical how quickly the two of them left. Lina chuckled and turned back to Garrus. He looked more relaxed, his fringe smoothed down, and stood next to her with his arms crossed. She smiled at him, he smiled back.
"You don't look surprised to see me," she said.
"I came across your name a lot in my investigation," he admitted. "I assumed you would be here at some point."
Silence descended as the two of them watched Alenko climb the tree in an attempt to retrieve Garrus' left boot. Williams was at the base of the tree, yelling instructions at him. Garrus laughed and shook his head.
"You know I only did it to get a moment with you," he said.
"I know," Lina smirked. "I remember what you're like when you're angry, and you don't throw things. You get quiet and you brood. You destroy things when you're in a good mood."
"How have you been?" he asked, chuckling at her. She still knew him so well.
"Busy," she replied. "This is the first time I've been to the Citadel in years. From what I've seen not much has changed."
"Nothing ever changes here, really," he sighed.
"Same shit, different year."
They watched the Lieutenant and Gunnery Chief again. Alenko had retrieved the first boot and was walking across the room to fish the second from where it landed in a pond.
"Who are they?" Garrus asked as he watched.
"He's no one special, she's new to the ship," Lina responded. "She calls me Skipper for some reason."
"Because you're Commander of a ship?"
"Is that what that means?"
"It sure is."
"Well what do you know."
"Clearly, I know more about your native language than you do."
Lina smacked his waist. He chuckled. She let out a laugh, a real laugh.
"It's good to see you, Garrus," she said.
"Likewise," he responded.
Kaiden and Ashley returned, victoriously thrusting the boots in Garrus' direction. He snatched the left one and put it on but only glared at the right.
"Am I looking for a home for my fish?" he asked, his voice annoyed and demanding once again.
Alenko only raised an eyebrow.
"It's wet. I'm not going to walk around in a wet shoe all damn day," Garrus glared at him. "Go dry that shit!"
"But, how-" Alenko shook his head in disbelief.
"Does it look like I give a fuck how?" Garrus demanded, cutting him off.
Alenko turned to Lina once again. She merely waved him off, her eyes telling him to do as the turian says. Kaiden merely let out a frustrated groan as he stalked off in search of some towels.
Ashley watched Kaiden run off, then turned to Shepard and Garrus and saw they were both pointing in the direction Alenko went, ordering her to follow. She sighed, saluted Shepard, and turned to run after the Lieutenant.
"I feel ridiculous standing here with one boot on," Garrus admitted.
"You're the one that threw them in the first place," Lina couldn't help but grin as Garrus threw up his hands and shook his fists at the sky.
"Damn my rash decisions!" he joked. "Always getting my boots wet!"
Shepard laughed. "I could turn that into a very dirty comment!"
"Listen," he said quietly, ignoring her last comment, leaning down so the approaching Normandy crew didn't overhear. "After you're finished with the Council, meet with me? I'll be running errands in the Upper wards by the markets, alright?"
"And..." he added, eyeing Kaiden and Ashley. "Don't bring your goons, please."
"I'll get rid of them before I come find you," Lina replied.
Kaiden approached, holding the now only slightly damp boot before him. Garrus took it and felt inside, mumbling about it still being cold as he slipped it on his foot.
"I think the Council's ready for us, Commander," Ashley said as she approached, cautiously eyeing the turian.
"Thanks Chief," Lina replied, and turned to Garrus, handing him back his datapad. "I'll see you later."
"Best of luck, Commander," he nodded at her.
"Likewise," she said back, smiling.
They parted ways. Garrus walked into the elevator. Lina walked up the steps towards the meeting platform, her crew in tow.
"Commander, if you don't mind my asking, who was that?" Ashley asked as Lina overtook the steps, two at a time.
"Someone very important to me," she replied. "And that's all you need to know. Now, eyes on the game, kiddo. We're here to work."
Lina had only ever seen Garrus shoot at a firing range before. She knew he was a good shot, but it wasn't until he nailed that merc right between the eyes, shot not even grazing the doctor's head, that she realized just how good he was.
She didn't let it distract her. Three left. She turned the corner around the separating half-wall and crouched behind a container, peeking slightly around the corner to see where the mercs stood. One on the left, two on the right. She pulled out her Banshee II- not the greatest for accuracy but this close it wouldn't matter. She popped up quickly to fire at the lone gunman on the left, the crate she was kneeling behind blocking enemy fire. She fired a short burst of rounds to break through his kinetic barrier, then another to slice through his armour, practically liquifying the meat on his shoulder. He was down. Next to her, Garrus took out one on the right. That just left the one behind the crates near the back, too well hidden for either of them to get a shot.
She looked at Garrus, he was looking back at her. She grabbed an explosive charge from her belt, opening the clips and tossed it back, checking quickly to see that it adhered to the back wall. Garrus fired a few rounds at the back wall to assure that the poor bastard stayed behind the crate while the 10-second delay eased past. They crouched again, the clip went off. The two of them locked eyes again, standing up from behind their respective hiding places to quickly walk back, guns still drawn. They checked behind the crate. He was definitely dead, a great amount of blood spilling onto the floor from where the grenade had opened up his side.
"Eugh," Lina kicked at the corpse with her boot. "What a mess."
It felt good, really. Especially after her frustrating meeting with the Council. She wanted to release a few rounds in the ship's firing range, but remembered her promise to meet up with Garrus. She dismissed her crew, giving them a list of weapons and armour upgrades to pick up, and buggered off to the upper wards to find him. A haggard-looking C-Sec officer in Chora's Den pointed her in the right direction, and Shepard, happily leaving the shithole bar that her comrades used to frequent, went to find the medical centre she'd been pointed to.
And that's when she found the doctor being threatened by mercs, Garrus crouched behind the wall, waiting for his opportunity. Shepard provided him that window when she walked in, totally nonchalant, looking for him.
"Sorry, doctor," Garrus called to the frightened human doctor at the other end of the room. She was still crouching behind the crate where they had left her.
"Well this is a first for us," Lina collapsed her rifle and clipped it back onto her armour. Garrus did the same.
"First time we've seen the other in action?" Garrus questioned. "Real action, not bar fight action."
"Exactly," she smirked at him. She turned to the woman approaching them with a blood-stained towel in her hands. "I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced," she reached her hand out. "I'm Commander Shepard, and you are..."
"Dr. Michel," the woman reached out her right hand, the left still rubbing the blood off of her shirt.
"Sorry about the mess, Chloe," Garrus opened his omni-tool and typed a short message. "I'll get C-Sec down here to clean up."
Lina couldn't help but smirk as she eyed the other woman, who spoke briefly about the crooked owner of Chora's Den and the quarian that he was holding captive and the information the girl supposedly held. She listened carefully, taking in the info the doctor was giving her, as well as the way the other woman was looking at her old friend. Lina felt a twang of jealousy. Garrus was her turian, how dare that tall, slender, pretty, intelligent woman with a good job steal him...
She stopped herself there. Garrus hadn't been her turian for over five years. She knew that he had to move on, but it upset her to see that he actually had. She thanked the doctor and turned on her heel, walking quickly out of the clinic before anyone could stop her. Outside, she headed back towards the lower wards, determined to find the quarian before anything happened to them.
Garrus' mandibles clicked as he watched Shepard leave the medical centre in a hurry. Dr. Michel tried to give him some comforting words but he was far too distracted to hear them. He brushed off the doctor, telling her to take care of herself before following the CO out of the office.
She wasn't going after Fist by herself? He could be pretty brash sometimes, but he knew better than to take on a crime lord by himself. He quickened his pace, determined to catch up with her.
Shepard was focused on the task at hand- find the quarian, get her data, go back to the Council, drown yourself in tequila in celebration. She saw the lower wards hallway where the meeting was to be taking place and peeked in- only a few mercs at this point. No sign of the quarian.
She heard footsteps behind her, and someone grabbed her elbow.
"And just where do you think you're going?" Garrus' smooth voice entered her ear.
"To find the quarian," Lina responded, looking up at him only briefly, back in serious mode.
"Not without me you aren't," Garrus settled in step beside her, craning his neck to see into the darkened alley. His voice was quiet, and the mercs didn't appear to hear them over the hum of the alley.
"Don't you have work to do?" she asked.
"This is my work," he replied. "Protect the innocent! Smite the evil!"
Lina let out a small chuckle, "Smite, eh?"
"Like that?" he grinned, looking down at her. "I just discovered that word a couple weeks ago. I've been using it like crazy."
"But seriously," she turned and met his eye. "You're going to just walk down in there with me, in a blaze of glory, without knowing what's waiting for you?"
"Because I like taking risks," he replied. "And from what I felt back there, I like being with you when I take them."
Lina was at a loss for words. She took a step back and leaned against a wall as she stared down her old friend. He wasn't joking. There was a smile on his face but she could tell he was being completely serious.
"And who said anything about it just being Fist and his jackass mercs?" he asked, walking over to lean beside her. "I'm going to help you stop Saren."
"Because..." she pressed him.
"Because my investigation into him was half finished when it was thrown out the window," he turned to face the crowd walking obliviously past them. "And I don't like to leave things half finished."
He turned to meet her eye again with a smirk, and Lina couldn't help but feel as though he wasn't just talking about Saren.
"Point 'a' to point 'b', eh?" she smirked back. "That sounds familiar."
"So," he interrupted her thoughts. "What's the plan then?"
Lina pressed a gloved finger to her lips in thought, "Save the quarian, go to the Council, go to your place, pick up your shit, go to the Normandy, get some tequila."
Garrus nodded and pushed himself away from the wall. "After you, Commander."
They watched as a quarian approached the waiting mercs. Shepard didn't move towards the alley, instead walking towards Garrus and wrapping her arms around his waist. The act was awkward, seeing as they were both in full armour, but the gesture was something entirely different. Garrus leaned down, touching his forehead to hers, familiar smells overwhelming his sensitive nose.
"I'm glad to know that I still have you," she mumbled softly so only he could hear.
He responded in kind, his voice barely above a whisper, "Always."
They released, pulled their weapons, and stormed the alley together,
Garrus pondered the mechanics of the Mako, pouring over the technical manual and gathering as much info as he could on it through his omni-tool and by getting on his back to take a look himself. He sat by himself in the cargo bay, the humans that had glared at him nearly the entire time he spent tinkering through the vehicle's engines were gone to sleep in the crew quarters, and the krogan they picked up earlier in the day decided to go take a tour of the rest of the ship while it wasn't so busy.
He enjoyed being by himself down in the darkened hold, he decided. He streamed some music through the console next to him as he flipped the virtual pages of the ebook, sitting sideways on the driver's seat of the vehicle, door propped open above him. He was learning as much as he could about the machine he'd been assigned to, but so far, two things stuck out foremost in his mind:
One, he could not wait to drive this thing.
Two, knowing Lina's driving, he would be fixing it a lot.
The elevator doors opened and Garrus looked up, ready to greet the krogan again, when he was surprised by Lina's small frame exiting the lift. She smiled as she approached him, dressed in a pair of sweat pants and a beater tee.
"All by yourself down here?" she asked.
"Wrex went for a tour," he replied. "Shouldn't you be in bed? You had a long day."
"I couldn't sleep," she admitted, leaning on the vehicle next to him. "Thought I'd see who was still up. What are you reading?"
"Porn," he responded. "Really dirty stuff. Fornax devotees would be disgusted."
Lina laughed, crossing her arms across her chest. The two were silent for a bit, enjoying the familiar comfort of the others company as they listened to the music coming through the console. Lina let out a sigh, and walked over to turn it off before facing her friend head on.
"Garrus," she grabbed his hand and pulled him to her. He got up from the seat, standing directly before her, the two of them face to face.
"Garrus," she said again, looking at the ground between them. "I'm sorry that..." she forced herself to look up. "I'm sorry that I left without saying goodbye."
He let out a breath and averted his eyes, clearly torn. She waited for him to forgive her, to hug her like he always did when she fucked things up, to crack a joke and say it was okay, but she knew it wouldn't happen. It had taken her almost a year to write after that and then he had never written back. She was more then happy to have a talented fighter with tech skill on her team, but a part of her wished that things could go back to how they were before. Closest friends with absolute comfort and trust in one another. It tore her heart in two to think about how badly she had managed to mess that up with one stupid kiss.
"Yeah," he finally responded. "That sucked."
"I did write," she said. "But you never responded. I assumed you didn't get it."
"Why didn't you write back?" she asked.
He ran his hands over his fringe, a nervous habit that he still had.
"Because I didn't want to fall back into my old habits," he responded. "After you left, I quit, everything. I quit drinking, I quit smoking, I quit putting my dependence all in one person. I threw myself into work like a good turian and stopped having a social life that could interfere with my job. As soon as I saw that message from you... I felt myself slipping. I knew I would fall back into my bad habits again if I let myself think about you."
Lina was silent. "How do you feel now?"
"Better," he replied. "I've been sober for a long time now. It's a great feeling."
"So no sneaking down here at night to drink ryncol and playfight?" she winked. He laughed and shook his head.
"Sorry," he gave her a lopsided grin. "Just not me anymore."
"Dang," she snapped her fingers. She took a step forward and leaned against him, letting herself soak in his warmth.
He wanted to wrap his arms around her, to nip her on the cheek and cuddle with her until she fell asleep in his arms, but he stopped himself. He opted to let his hand rest at her lower back instead.
"Lina," he mumbled quietly. "About what happened before you left..."
She shushed him, pressing a finger against his mouth.
"Not now," she said. "We've got plenty of time to talk about this in the next little while. Right now, I just want my best friend."
He chuckled. She was using his own words against him, the smarmy harpy.
"So," she stood back, leaning against the Mako again and crossed her arms over her chest. "Do you have a thing for redheads or what?"
He gave her a confused look. When she brought up Dr. Michel he couldn't help but groan.
"I helped her once," he pulled himself back up to the driver's seat, sitting sideways in it so his legs dangled out the open door. "Once, when she got in trouble. And since then, every time she felt threatened or scared of someone, she would call me, all 'Garrus, Garrus, please come to the med clinic and shower me with attention!'"
Lina laughed as he pantomimed the doctor's accent.
"Come on!" he let his face fall into his hands as he laughed. "If you're going to piss people off, learn to throw a punch!"
"Obviously she was hopelessly in love with you, Garrus," Lina smirked and cocked an eyebrow.
"Every woman is hopelessly in love with me, Shepard," he shot back. "But none of them know it yet."
Lina leaned over and waited for the giggles to subside before she stood again. She took a deep breath and pushed her hair back out of her face.
"It feels good to laugh again," she sighed.
"Alliance doesn't allow laughing?" Garrus joked as he reached for the datapad once again.
"Not like this," she took another deep breath. She relaxed as they fell into a comfortable silence once again, this time not permeated by music. There were a few clicks and Lina realized that Garrus had started reading the ebook again. She pushed herself up and touched his knee to get his attention.
"I'm going to head back up to bed," she said when he looked up. "It was good to talk to you like this."
He smiled and nodded, watching her as she turned to head back to the elevator.
She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, more to warm herself up than for comfort. She called back to him before getting into the elevator, "Aren't you supposed to be a turian? How can you stand the cold? I am freezing down here!"
A barking laugh stopped her from entering the lift totally, and she suddenly realized what he was laughing at. Despite five years apart and how much they had both changed in that amount of time, she still knew what his response would be. She turned to look back at him and saw that he was already standing, looking at her, arms reaching forward, waiting for her to run into them. She grinned and obliged, sprinting back in his direction.
"Get over here."
So you've made it to the end without stabbing me- congratulations!
I've been working on this for the last 6 months and am satisfied that I actually managed to finish something. I am, of course, working on a sequel, which will be posted in parts at... some point in the near future.
If you miss me between then and now, you can find me elsewhere on the internet! This includes Twitter, and Tumblr, both links are located in my profile.
Thanks, as always, to my lovely soul mate/editor Tara, my great love and space heater the Dude, my awesome room mate Rudiger, and to all of you for keeping up with it!
(And to the anonymous reviewer who picked up the Banksy reference- awesome!)