AN: This is a direct continuation to my other fic, "The Edge of the Void" but it's not necessary to read that one first. Also, for those of you who have played the Shadow Broker DLC, this has some elements of that but it's definitely not a narration of what happened.
Disclaimer: I don't own Mass Effect. Bioware owns Mass Effect!
A Promise Made
Commander Shepard sat on the edge of her seat, biting her lip. It was a rare occasion that she revealed any hint that of her true emotion, but at the moment, she would just have to make an exception. She was anxious as hell, and she didn't care who knew.
A hand on her shoulder made her jump. "Shepard, relax. Everything's under control." Liara T'Soni, the only other person in the room, smiled at her, leading by example and taking a deep breath. Shepard didn't follow suit, stubbornly holding on to the air that was already in her lungs.
The screen they were both fixated on was divided into five sections. The four outermost sections were security camera footage, hacked by Liara herself. The center section was linked to Garrus's visor, providing her a view of everything that was going on as he saw it.
"I'm relaxed," Shepard said, even though both of them knew that was a lie.
How could she be relaxed? She'd sent half her team on a dangerous mission without her. Well, not exactly half. Along with Garrus, there were six others on the mission: Grunt, Legion, Mordin, Samara, Tali, and Thane. All the non-human crew members.
Shepard had a good reason for keeping the others out of the action on this mission. Their target, a clandestine shipment of Somnex Four, was an airborn sedative that only affected humans. It was created by a group of scientists, and distributed by the Collectors to be sold to alien mercenaries, who would then use the drug to instantly subdue humans and trade them back to the Collectors. Mordin didn't have the time to create a counter-measure, so Shepard wasn't taking any risks. Jack, Jacob, Kasumi, Miranda, and Zaeed had all been sidelined for this one, in order to protect them.
Garrus pointed out to her that she was also human. Therefore, she wasn't allowed on the mission.
Once on Illium, Shepard had contacted her friend and former teammate, Dr. Liara T'Soni, for information regarding shipments of Somnex Four. Together, they'd planned an attack on an Eclipse base near a shipping dock that apparently had several crates of the stuff. At the moment, they were sitting in Liara's office and monitoring the mission's progress.
"Tell Tali to stay behind Grunt," Shepard said tersely into her headset. Garrus, the leader of the mission, relayed her order to his quarian teammate, who obliged and moved into line behind the massive krogan. Shepard hated being so removed from the action. Even though Garrus made an excellent stand-in, watching the mission from afar was pure torture. The time it took for the images from Garrus's visor feed to process in Shepard's mind, then for her to give him the order, then for him to tell the others, was far too long for Shepard's taste. It was the most efficient way they could come up with, but still. It wasn't the same as actually being there. Her team was competent. Way, way beyond competent. They were the best of the best. Shepard told herself that repeatedly, but it didn't make her feel any better.
"See, Shepard?" Liara said, still trying to get her commander to ease up. "There's nothing to be concerned about." It was true. They were making their way down a hallway, towards the docks. No hostiles in sight. Liara tried to distract her for a second. "Garrus is faring quite well. He's come so far from the man I knew on the first Normandy."
That was something they could agree on. Shepard visibly relaxed, her shoulders loosening as she leaned back in her chair. "I couldn't do this without him," Shepard said, the flickering light from the screens reflected in her clear gray eyes. Liara got the impression that she was referring to more than just his skills as a team leader.
Liara nodded. "No doubt, he's an invaluable asset. He's handling things impressively," the asari said. She looked over at her friend, noticing something strange. "Shepard, what's that on your neck?"
"There's nothing on my neck," Shepard said dismissively. Liara leaned in to get a better look. There were small, purplish marks, like bruises, leading from just beneath her ear all the way down to her collarbone. Shepard popped up the collar of her jacket, shirking away from her.
All at once, Liara realized what they were. Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. "Have you been -"
"Whatever you're thinking is probably right. Just... don't ask me so I don't have to lie, okay?"
Still, her curiousity overcame her. She was about to ask her how long her relationship with the turian had been going on when Shepard jumped to her feet.
"Hostiles, dead ahead!" she barked into the headset.
They saw Eclipse mercenaries flooding the four outside screens, most of them from the docks. From Garrus's visor, they saw Grunt and Tali attack the first wave of Vanguards. Grunt barrelled forward, charging into the first of the Eclipse sisters with all the force of a runaway train. Tali followed close behind him, shotgun booming as she cleaned up after the krogan, finishing off the fallen asari.
"They're flanking you!" Shepard said. Soon, her team would be overtaken by asari commandos on all sides. "Get everyone -"
But Garrus had already begun giving orders. Tali and Grunt pulled back, falling into formation with the other five. The two of them plus Mordin fended off the shotgun wielding biotics that came charging down the hallway, while Legion knelt behind cover methodically picking off the engineers that were posted further back on the docks. Samara and Thane were each guarding a door in the hallway, killing any mercs that tried to get around their frontal defenses through the side passages and stairwells.
"Find peace in the embrace of the Goddess," Samara said, throwing a fellow asari down a long flight of stairs. She tumbled all the way to the bottom, her neck cracking on a step as her momentum and another push from Samara carried her faster.
One of them charged at Thane, shotgun aimed at his heart. He sidestepped her wild advance. His leg swept under her feet, and as she fell forward, Thane grabbed the back of her neck and slammed her head into a wall, his strength intensified by his biotics. She collapsed in a dead heap.
Garrus slid into cover near the front, assault rifle thundering as he took out an approaching hostile. His omni-tool lit up as he overloaded a nearby drone. It exploded in a burst of electricity, crackling over his shields as it drained them. He was without defenses.
"Stay down," Shepard commanded. One shotgun blast to the face would be all that was needed to kill him. A gunship roared over head, machine gun raining bullets on her team below. And Garrus wasn't listening to her. Maybe he hadn't heard. "Take cover!" she shouted, even louder this time.
"Gunship, twelve o'clock!" Garrus alerted his team. The focus of their fire immediately shifted to the gunship, splattering its shields. To her relief, Garrus ducked down just before the gunship turned its cannon to his cover. He took the opportunity to change weapons, trading his assault rifle for the grenade launcher Shepard had lent him for the mission. She didn't think he would actually need it.
"Don't do anything stupid!" Shepard yelled, sensing a reckless plan forming in Garrus's mind.
She knew him too well. "Sorry, Shepard," he apologized under his breath before launching out of cover.
He ran at a diagonal to the gunship, moving quickly to avoid its fire. The gunner had a hard time keeping track of him, the cannon swerving as it tried to keep him in its sights. Bullets clattered into the ground near his feet, trailing him but not quite hitting him. It was a good incentive to run faster. He vaulted over a blocky crate that was directly underneath the gunship, then took cover behind it, giving him decent protection from the dangerous end of it as well as a nice view of the vulnerable part. Barely sparing a moment to aim, Garrus pointed the grenade launcher at the bottom of the gunship and let loose several rounds. The explosions penetrated through the armor. It began to smoke, and spiral down in flames.
"Yes!" Garrus shouted. It wouldn't be in the air for long.
The ship came down on top of the remaining mercenaries, crushing them as it careened forward. That takes care of that problem. But that wasn't the end of all the problems: the gunship was still sliding forward, straight towards him. Garrus realized this, and started sprinting back to the largest, closest cover he could find. Hopefully it would be enough.
Liara couldn't watch. Shepard was holding her breath, eyes glued to the screen. It felt like her heart was about to hammer out of her chest.
The gunship made an awful grating sound as its armor scraped against the metal ground, skidding towards him as sparks shot everywhere. But it wasn't the sound, or even the sparks, that Garrus was worried about. No, he was more concerned with the fact that he was about to be crushed. He dove towards cover, but it was too close. He wasn't going to make it.
Suddenly, everything turned a vivid ultramarine. He wondered for a moment if it wasn't his own blue blood spilling into his eyes, but then he realized he wasn't bleeding. He wasn't even the least bit hurt. He looked at his hands, then his legs. Every inch of him was pulsing in a glowing blue.
"Ah, good. You made it," Thane said. The blue faded, and Thane reached out to pull Garrus out from under the wreckage of the gunship.
Samara stood at his side. She picked up the grenade launcher from where it lay at her feet, and handed it to Garrus. "As I said he would," she said calmly. "My barriers do not fail."
So Samara had put a biotic barrier around him when she saw that the gunship was coming down on top of him. Without her, he would have been nothing more than a messy, dark blue smear on the ground. "Thank you," Garrus said.
Back in Liara's office, Shepard felt like yelling at him and punching him and kissing him all at the same time. However, she could only do one of those things over the headset. "I thought I told you to stay in cover, Vakarian!"
Garrus fiddled with his earpiece, putting it on a lower volume setting.
"Garrus! I think I've found something!" Tali called from the other end of the docks. They all went over to investigate.
Sure enough, there were stacks of crates of Somnex Four towards the back, several meters away from where the gunship had come down and killed the Eclipse sisters. A lot more than Liara had initially guessed.
"This looks like the stuff," Thane agreed.
"Shepard, we've located the shipment. Ready for pick-up," Garrus said.
Good. She was ready for that awful mission to be over already. They'd been successful in achieving their goal, but honestly, she was just glad that Garrus hadn't died. "Shuttle's en route. ETA three minutes."
"See you on the Normandy, ground team." They cut the comm link, though the feed from Garrus's visor remained onscreen. Shepard gazed at it for a moment, watching him speak to the other six. They were all okay. They'd found the shipment, and no one was dead. Shepard smiled. Garrus had taken good care of them.
"Good work, Shepard," Liara said, getting to her feet and pulling Shepard into a hug.
Shepard didn't really feel like she'd done much work. It had been Liara that got the blueprints for the Eclipse docks, and Garrus was the one who led the team. "You, too. I really appreciate your help."
Liara released her. "It was a pleasure to be working alongside you again."
"Same here." She took a step towards the door. "I'll talk to you later, Liara."
"Have fun on your date!" Shepard froze.
"How do you know about -"
"I spoke to Kaidan upon his arrival in Illium." She was smiling. "He looked good."
"It's not a date." Shepard paused. "Did he call it a date?"
Liara's grin broadened. "Just... have fun. And a word of advice? Wear a scarf."
If Shepard had owned a scarf, she would have been wearing it. She'd have to make up an excuse if Kaidan asked about the marks, which she really hoped he didn't. Shepard was turning pink. Liara could barely stifle her giggles. "Ummm. Okay. See ya, Liara."
Shepard bumped into Liara's assistant just outside her office. "Will you be staying on Illium much longer, Commander Shepard?" the asari, Nyxeris, asked her.
Shepard took a step back from her, somewhat unnerved by her close proximity. Nyxeris was watching her like a vulture who had its eye on an animal that wasn't dead yet. Something about the woman set the hairs on the back of Shepard's neck on end. She didn't know why the asari was making her so uneasy, but she trusted her instincts. She gave her a clipped smile. "Nice weather here, isn't it?"
Nyxeris watched the commander go down the stairs two at a time, then disappear around the corner. Once out of earshot, she activated her stealth comm device.
"She's here. She doesn't suspect a thing."
"Good. Extraction will proceed as planned."
Nyxeris smiled. The Shadow Broker would be pleased to hear that. Very pleased indeed.
Back on the Normandy, Shepard could barely contain herself around her team. She tried to keep the mission debrief as short as possible. And honestly, there wasn't much to say. They'd gone in, killed some mercs, found the shipment, and got out. For once, things had gone pretty much exactly according to plan. Garrus wondered if it was coincidence that the mission where everything went well happened to be the only one that Shepard hadn't gone on. He decided not to mention anything about it to her.
"Okay. Good job, everyone. You're dismissed," Shepard said after a few minutes. Six of them left the debriefing room. One of them stayed.
"Hey," Garrus said.
"Hey," Shepard returned. He put his arm around her waist and kissed her forehead. Earlier, Shepard imagined herself sternly reprimanding him for disobeying one of her orders, but that idea went right out the window as soon as they were alone.
"Did you miss me?" he inquired.
"Hmm. Maybe a little." That was the biggest understatement of the year. The three and a half hour mission had seemed to drag on for ages.
"Well, can we finally relax for a bit? At least until we have to clean up some other mess?" Garrus asked. Sure, he and Shepard had taken a few hours to "relax" together not too long ago, but it had seemed so short. He was ready for some real down time.
"Can't," Shepard said, drawing back from him slightly. "I have a date, remember?"
"A date?" Oops. Had she really just called it that?
"Yeah. You know. A meeting, a rendez-vous. I'm going to see Alenko."
Garrus sighed. Oh, yeah. He'd forgotten about that. "Right. What about afterwards?"
She nodded. Her hair tickled his face. "Yep. We can watch movies. Or build a fort. It'll be fun."
"Okay," Garrus said. He didn't understand what the appeal in creating a fortified base was, but if that was what Shepard wanted to do, he was game. He leaned down and kissed her, softly at first, then more intensely when she pushed him up against the railing of the projection table. Her cool, slim fingers slid around his head, resting underneath his fringe and eliciting a low growl from the depths of his throat. "Come back soon," he said to her.
"I promise," she said, squeezing his hand and planting an airy kiss on his chin. He cleared his throat as he let her go. She ran a hand through her hair. "I'll tell Kaidan that you say hi."
"From me and Tali, both." Damn. He really, really did not want her to leave. He pulled out his omni-tool and glanced at the clock. "Okay. You have two hours."
Her lips brushed his one last time. "You won't even notice I'm gone."
Somehow, he doubted that. Two hours started to seem like a very long time.