I'm so glad that you've decided to return! Here's a small gift for you: bit. ly /enJzDX

This story is a sequel to my story Worth All the World Without a Price, so if you haven't read it already, please go do so! The title is pulled from The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles.

When there's nothing left you burn, you've got to set yourself on fire. - Torquil Campbell

Prologue: Spring

When Garrus entered the apartment it was empty. The other men were gone, out to drink, or see family, to pretend they were normal for just one evening. He was, he had to admit, more than a bit jealous. There was no semblance of normalcy in his life anymore. His life was dictated by the constant burning red of Omega's perpetual, violent twilight. It was enough to drive a person mad. No wonder everyone on this shit hole was crazy.

The kitchen was a mess when he stumbled in, but he was not in the mindset to clean it. Grasping at the cupboard doors, he dug through them until he found the heaviest cast iron pan he could, slamming it down on the stove and turning the burner on to high. He searched the drawers, the cupboards and every other corner of that kitchen to gather what he needed. His foot slipped, briefly, on a small pool of blood, a wordless signal to hurry.

Clippers, a little rusty at the hinge but still sharp. A clean towel, some tape and whiskey. Oh, yes, whiskey.

He placed them on the floor in front of the stove, his leg almost giving out as he lowered himself to the ground.

Other leg, he thought, put weight on your other leg.

He carefully removed his boot, making sure to move slowly around the calf. He stripped off his spats, hissing as it tore off a small line of partially healed skin along with it. Blue blood ran freely from the fresh wound as he positioned his leg to see the damage more clearly.

He swore freely. The sight of it made him more than a little light headed. Or maybe it was all the blood loss.

He swore again. It wouldn't have happened if he had been paying attention. If he hadn't been thinking about her.

He took a swig of whiskey, then poured some on the clippers. Large ones, meant for hedges, likely. Why anyone had hedge clippers on Omega was beyond him- there were no damn plants here.

Then it occurred to him- they had probably been purchased to clip limbs, not hedges. He poured some more alcohol over the blades.

He took another look at his spur, touched it delicately. What had subsided to a dull throb suddenly turned into fire at contact. He sucked in his breath and forced himself to pull his leg up, to position it where he could keep it steady. Lightning shot through his muscles as he confirmed what was expected- his poor spur, a genetic leftover from before turians were at the top of the food chain, was barely hanging on. Only skin and one measly piece of bone kept it connected to his leg.

He picked up the whiskey, poured some onto the area to disinfect it as best he could, then drank a bit. He poured some onto his hand and reached back, over his shoulder, flicking it onto the pan. He listened- silence. Not time yet.

It would probably heal, he thought. With time and care, the skin would grow again, the bones would knit. It might be a bit lopsided but it would be there still.

But time he didn't have. He couldn't be hobbling around on a bum leg, careful of any movement that might disturb the wound, even for a few days. It would have to go.

He thought back to the incident. He hadn't been paying attention and wandered into Talons territory with only a sidearm. The little buggers were just a small gang but they were definitely a nuisance. Petty theft, moving red sand, small-scale stuff in comparison to Eclipse or the Blue Suns, but large enough to fall onto his radar. And now they were using animal traps, one of which he'd stepped into after jumping over some debris.

The thing about animal traps was that you were supposed to use them against creatures that didn't know how to get back out of them again. It'd only taken him a few seconds to figure out how to unlock it, then another to reset it and throw it at the head of the nearest turian in gang colours. The momentary confusion allowed him to pull himself up a nearby fire escape to safety.

The oven door was uncomfortable but he leaned against it while he waited anyway. He closed his eyes.

/-/

One Year Earlier.

"If you could have anything in the universe right now, what would it be?"

Liara posed the question as the crew sat around the mess of the SR-1. They had finished work for the day and were waiting on one more shipment before they did final inspections and headed out to the Terminus systems.

"Another beer," Garrus responded as he eyed his empty bottle.

Adams, who was closest to the fridge, grinned and tossed him another bottle. Garrus caught it mid-air.

"So now that Garrus' deepest desires have been satisfied-" Liara eyed the turian as he opened the new bottle.

He shrugged, "I'm easy to please."

"-What about the rest of you?"

There were uncomfortable murmurs from around the table. Garrus looked at Shepard, seated to his left. She shrugged, he chuckled.

"And why is this important?" one of the bridge crew, Emerson, asked.

"I'm curious," Liara argued. "I enjoy learning these things about people."

"Does it have to be an object, or can it be an abstract concept?" Alenko piped up from where he was seated, directly across from Shepard.

Liara thought a moment, "something physical, that you can use."

"So I can't say universal peace and a swift death to the reapers?"

"Boring." Garrus scoffed.

"At least I'm thinking of others and not just myself." Kaiden shot back.

Ugh, Garrus thought, here we go.

"But you see, if there were universal peace and no more threat of reaper attack, we would all find ourselves very suddenly out of a job." he motioned around the room.

"So you think that war is a good thing? Just because you wouldn't be able to find another job?" Alenko furrowed his eyebrows at the turian. "And what gives you-"

"Okay," Shepard called, raising her voice above the lieutenant's. "Let's not turn this into an argument, you two."

"But, Commander-"

"Alenko, I said stand down," she ordered.

An uncomfortable silence fell as Alenko shut his mouth and sat back in his chair, eyeing Garrus with disdain. Garrus knew what he was thinking- the biotic had been extremely vocal in the past about his dislike for the friendship between him and Shepard, despite being told, several times, that it spanned several years and had started well before Kaiden and Shepard had even met.

Funny, Kaiden didn't seem to mind that Shepard and Liara had grown close, or Shepard and Tali. Hell, even Shepard and Wrex didn't bother Kaiden.

Just Garrus.

He smirked, just a bit.

Jealous prick.

When Garrus first boarded the Normandy, it had been easy to hide the details of their friendship, and just how close they had been. During missions, the two of them were completely focused on the task at hand. But when the crew had started going out as a group, cooking up lunch together, and having the morning coffee together, the inside jokes and old stories started to slip. It was about the time Garrus mentioned when Lina had crane-kicked his asari stalker in the crotch protectively that the rest of the ship realized that they had been more than passing acquaintances in the past. Some details were divulged (although the more… complicated moments were not), and surprisingly their comrades took it rather well.

Most of the crew members anyway, the lieutenant was not among them.

And now there he was, sitting across from the commander staring down his turian rival.

Garrus lifted his bottle to him, stupid smirk planted on his face.

Liara attempted to save the conversation, and by proxy, the previously light atmosphere in the room.

"What about you, Commander?" the young asari turned to her. "Anything in the universe?"

"Honestly?" Shepard played with her drink- some icy blue concoction that Chakwas had brought out from the med bay to share with the small crew. "A bath."

The room fell into silence again, then a few people chuckled.

"I'm serious," she smiled. "I've been surviving on showers for far too long. I would like to be selfish in this scenario and say that I want a nice, long, relaxing bath."

She waited a moment before adding, "with bubbles."

Liara hummed as she thought.

"But it's the act of bathing that you desire, not the bath itself."

"I desire a bath tub, full of water, in which to bathe," Shepard parried. "An object to use as I see fit."

"Just as I don't desire the bottle of beer for its aesthetic qualities," Garrus added. "I want to drink it."

Liara shrugged, "I suppose, yes, you're right."

Shepard smirked and made a few quips about always being right. Garrus kicked her under the table. She kicked him back.

The group continued to talk for a few minutes longer, revealing some personal details about the crew that Garrus didn't exactly want to know, when Shepard's omni-tool beeped. She checked the message.

"Final shipment's ready," she shot back the last of her drink and stood. "Garrus, come help me bring it to the ship?"

"Sure," he replied, pushing his newly empty bottle away and standing from the table. He caught the look on Alenko's face as he stood and couldn't help but smile to himself as he followed Shepard to the airlock.

Shepard did a small dance to the muzak in the docks elevator, occasionally bumping her hip to his. He chuckled. She was a bit tipsy, he could tell.

He loved her like this. She was relaxed, more fun, more like…

… More like Lina. Less Shepard.

They took a taxi to the port where their shipment was to arrive. All they had to do was inspect the articles and approve them before allowing them to move onto the docks. Out the window, they could see the damage from their last fight, only a few weeks earlier. What the locals were now calling 'The Battle for the Citadel'. What Lina referred to as 'the day she wished she could see the look on the turian councillor's face when he realized that yes Saren was evil and she had kicked his ass from here to the Perseus Veil'.

The Battle for the Citadel was shorter.

The extent of the damage was hard to judge from how fast they passed through the wards, but the effect was still strong. The Citadel was devastated, and it was Shepard's job to stop the reapers before they did the same to Earth.

"I'm sorry if you misunderstood," the volus shopkeep took a large breath between sentences. "I said your shipment is nearly ready. It will take another hour or so until it is ready for inspection."

Shepard strained to keep herself from hitting the small alien in front of her. She felt a taloned hand on her shoulder and calmed herself, crossing her fingers as she stood a little more straight.

"If all of the parts are here, why can't we inspect them now?" she asked.

"We must verify they are authentic, of course," the volus responded. "And check the serial numbers against our orders. It's all for stock control, Commander."

"Of course," Shepard gave him an annoyed look and checked the time on her omni-tool. "I'll be back in one hour. If my shipment isn't ready by then, so help you, I'll-"

"One hour," Garrus repeated as he grabbed his commander by the elbow and pulled her away.

She was swearing under her breath as they stepped back onto the public walk.

"Not ready, my ass," she muttered. "Crooked volus probably saw something he liked and wanted to play with it."

"Now, now," Garrus mused along next to her. "Just because he's volus doesn't mean he's crooked. Even though we can't see the faces he's making at us behind the mask."

Shepard chuckled, shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket. In casual clothes, the two of them blended easily into the crowds. Passersby didn't give her a second glance, despite her recent title of 'Hero of the Citadel'. No one recognized her, and that suited him just fine.

"So back to the ship then?"

"What's the rush?" he asked. "It's half an hour there and back, we might as well stay here."

"And where would we go?" she raised an eyebrow. "We aren't twenty-something with a bottle of booze anymore, so the park's out of the question."

"Well," he started, slowing his pace. "My apartment is near here. We could go there."

"Oh?" she smirked and slowed in time with him. "What's your motivation to getting me alone at your apartment, hm? What's your place got that mine don't?"

He grinned.

"A bath tub."

\-\

Lina sunk back into the tub, the foamy water enveloping her skin as she attempted to escape the cold. The apartment, though far more swanky than their old home, was cold, and the air stale from months of disuse. Luckily, there was still hot water, so as Garrus worked on getting his home to a bearable temperature, Shepard relaxed in the tub.

She pushed one leg up in the air, partially to admire the way it magically disappeared into the bubbles, partially to check that the scented water wasn't doing any damage to the healing wound on her calf. She gingerly swatted away a few suds and furrowed her eyebrows.

"Hey, Garrus?" she called, her voice echoing against the walls. "Do you have any medigel?"

"Uh," his voice came from behind the door. "I think so, but-"

"But?"

"It's, er, in there," he replied.

Shepard eyed the cabinet across the room. The bathroom was small but the cabinet doors were still just out of reach from the tub. She threw her head back and laughed.

"Well then come in here and get it for me," she called back. "I am not getting out of the tub."

Some uncomfortable groaning came from the other side of the door and Shepard rolled her eyes. She ducked further beneath the bubbles.

"I'm covered up, and even if I wasn't, it's nothing you haven't seen before," she said. "Remember those two years we lived together? My bras hanging everywhere?"

There was silence for a moment before he replied.

"I do remember the bras," he replied. "And you showing me your boobs once when you were drunk."

"See? It's nothing new," she smirked.

With a hiss, the door opened, and the turian's head peeked around the corner. Shepard waggled her eyebrows, visible just over the bubbles. He grinned, shook his head with a chuckle, and opened the cabinet. He pulled out a medigel pack and passed it to her.

"Hey, I'm all slippery, you do it," she lifted her leg out of the water again. "That's an order, soldier."

He sighed and ripped the lid off of the canister. Kneeling down, he grabbed her leg, wiping off the bubbles before he lightly pressed the injector into her skin. She inhaled sharply as the needle pierced her, but sighed when he pressed down on the plunger and the gel worked its magic on her sore leg.

"So, tell me," she started as he lowered her leg back into the water. "Why is it that a grown turian male who has never been known to take a bath in his life, so conveniently keeps a bottle of bubble bath in his bathroom?"

"Truthfully?" Garrus sat on the ground next to the tub, leaning on the lip.

"Please," she replied.

"It's yours," he replied. "I never threw it out after you left."

"Bullshit," Shepard laughed. "You hate clutter!"

"Honestly," he chuckled. "It's been here for five years."

"How did you not go insane looking at it?" she leaned forward, eager to hear this. "We lived together for two years and it always drove you nuts having my things around. You not only left it in the bathroom to collect dust, but you also brought it with you when you moved to this place?"

"Twice," he corrected. "I moved twice after you left."

"Why twice?"

"Well, the second apartment wasn't much better than the first," he explained, dipping a talon into the bath water. "The neighbour apparently had a red sand lab in his kitchen, which was not good."

"So it was at that point that you decided to move out of the ghetto?" she asked, then raised an eyebrow as she added, "Of the Citadel? Which is actually much nicer than most places on Earth?"

He chuckled, "Basically. I'm not 20 anymore, and I had a decent job at one point."

"So you decided to grow up, hm?" she mused.

"Begrudgingly," he sighed.

Shepard smiled. Garrus smiled back.

"That still doesn't explain why you have five-year-old bubble bath kicking around." she grinned.

He gathered some bubbles on his wandering talon and pressed them onto the end of her nose.

"Let's just say that you never know when a pretty girl will need to take a bubble bath in your apartment," he smirked and stood. "Are you relaxed yet?"

"Very," she replied, wiping the bubbles from her nose.

"Alright, I'm going to tackle whatever is growing in my refrigerator," he said, heading toward the door. "There's an odd smell coming from that part of the apartment."

Shepard bit her lip, "Please stay? I feel like it's been so long since we've had a chance to talk like this."

He stopped, considered the now-sentient leftovers that had likely been conquering the fridge since he left almost four months earlier. Her face, however, convinced him otherwise. He sat back down.

The fridge could wait a while longer.

He placed a hand on the edge of the tub to steady himself and Shepard immediately intertwined her fingers with his.

"I'm glad to have you here," she said, squeezing his fingers.

He smirked and squeezed her fingers back. She leaned forward, brushing her forehead to his.

"With great sincerity," she mumbled, emulating the elcor habit of speaking their emotional tone. "I'm so very grateful to have you here with me."

He pushed his forehead into hers a bit more.

"Always."

/-/

The pan sizzled violently when he flicked the whiskey onto it- it was hot enough now. He took another shot to ready himself and paused momentarily to calm his breathing.

Funny, he hadn't realized how hard he'd been shaking.

He positioned his materials all around him, stopping momentarily to examine the injury once again, then poured some more alcohol on it. It wasn't a perfect setup but it would have to do, considering the time restraints he was under. The trap had been rusty, and he had to get the wound bandaged fast before infection set in.

What the hell were Talons doing using animal traps anyway? And just how the hell had he not noticed the damn thing? Not until it sliced through his boot and fractured his spur.

"Fuck," he muttered, straightening his leg slowly and positioning the blades of the clippers around the remaining bone and tendon.

He took a few deep breaths.

Stop living in the past, he thought. She's dead, and if you're not careful, you will be, too.

He checked the position of his materials once more, tested that he could reach the frying pan. He knew that he was moving about nervously just to put it off, but whenever he looked at the clippers again his stomach did flips.

He closed his eyes, imagined Shepard's voice giving him the order.

One more breath to steady himself.

He pushed the handle of the clippers down.

\-\

"You have got to be kidding me," Garrus muttered, running his hand over his fringe.

"I'm sorry Mr. Vakarian but it's a stipulation of your lease," the salarian on the vid screen responded. "If you're unemployed for more than six weeks and not collecting any sort of compensation or assistance, the tenant's association has the right to vote to evict you."

Garrus swore in his local dialect, cursing the uppity bourgeois he shared his apartment building with. He sat in his quarters, having finally responded to the message that his salarian lawyer, Cabel Takine, had sent to him weeks ago.

"I'm not unemployed," Garrus replied, switching back to the common language.

"The fact is that you hastily quit your job at C-Sec to take one at a much smaller pay," Takine picked up a datapad and perused it before continuing. "And frankly, the information you've given me is dubious at best. I'm not even sure of what you do on the ship."

"Elaborate."

"You've listed your main duties as 'fixing others' mistakes' and 'shooting shit'."

"Those are important tasks that I take very seriously," Garrus slammed his fist on the desk in mock anger. Inwardly, he wished he had responded to the message earlier, and maybe taken the paperwork a bit more seriously.

"This isn't a real job-" the salarian slammed the datapad down on his own desk.

"It isn't as though I don't have the money, if that's what they're concerned about," Garrus cut him off. "Why can't my accountant just write a letter of good standing?"

"That isn't the point," Takine sighed. "This building is for professionals. Having a renegade agent holding a lease is bad for value, and the work you're doing isn't exactly subtle. Your picture is plastered all over the news vids with that Shepard woman-"

"She's my boss," Garrus growled. "And she deserves your respect."

"Yes, yes, of course," Takine replied, waving his hand in resignation.

Garrus sighed, smoothing down his fringe once again. This is not how he wanted to start his day.

"Alright," he said finally. "What do I have to do?"

/-/

When she exited the elevator later that day, Shepard had a bounce in her step. Garrus watched her from under the Mako as her feet approached his workstation. She bent down and pulled out the trolly he was laying on.

"Hey," she grinned, waggling her eyebrows.

"Hey back," he replied in kind.

She sat on the ground next to him as he wiped his greasy hands with a rag. Her hair was clipped up and she still smelled lightly of the bubbles from her bath the night before. She hadn't bothered to straighten her hair, either, and her bangs fell into her eyes with a curl that she kept pushing behind her ear.

"So, everyone is going for dinner tonight," she said. "You know, celebrate the last night of shore leave before we take off again. Liara picked some swanky restaurant and made reservations."

"Will I be able to eat this time?" Garrus enquired, remembering the last time Liara had picked a restaurant. Garrus and Tali had resigned to drink together at the bar rather than poison themselves on the levi amino-only foods.

Shepard chuckled and rubbed the back of her neck, "Yes, and she does still feel bad about that."

"I had a grand time with Tali," he smirked. "Felt horrible the next day, but I'm sure our young quarian friend felt worse."

She smiled.

"Eighteen-hundred hours," she said. "And make sure you're prepared for tomorrow. We ship off first thing for the Terminus Systems!"

Garrus sighed, "About that."

Shepard gave him a quizzical look.

"I'm having some… legal complications with my apartment's tenant association," he explained. "I have to meet with them in a few days or they'll evict me and sell off my belongings."

"You can't have somebody represent you?"

"I tried, but my lawyer's useless and refuses to do it. Frankly I don't think he likes me," he squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I have to be there, and I can't cut and run or they'll make sure I'll never rent on the Citadel again."

"What do you mean?" she asked, wiping away the bit of motor oil he'd accidentally smeared on his face.

"If I attempt to break the lease, it will look horrible on my record," he replied. "And the same if I just let them evict me. Besides, there isn't enough time to get my things into storage before we leave, and I've got a lot of… priceless artifacts inside."

Shepard regarded him in silence as he sat up and fiddled about in his tool box.

"I should just let them," he said, annoyed. "This is such a pain."

"Don't say that," she said sternly. "I've never had a place to call my own, you know that? I'm almost thirty and I've never held a lease. I've lived on ships and in barracks since I was 17, except when I was with you. And I've always missed having that sense of stability."

He shuffled the trolly back and forth a bit while he thought, then chuckled.

"When did we get to our thirties?" he asked. "Spirits, I feel old."

"Garrus, fight for your home," she ignored his comment. "You never know when a pretty girl will need to use your bathtub."

He laughed a bit, then added, "That place isn't my home."

She looked confused, and he motioned to the area around them. Getting his meaning, she smiled, and leaned forward. She kissed him on the tip of his nose.

"Eighteen-hundred hours," she said as she stood. "Be ready for dinner."

\-\

Shepard drank entirely too much red wine at dinner. By the end of the night she was leaning on him, grabbing his thigh, trying to whisper to him, which was drowned out by the ever-increasing rowdiness of the Normandy crew. Despite having a private area, their party was getting many disapproving looks from the other patrons, due in part to their generally bawdy behaviour.

It was easy to forget how many people worked on the ship when you never saw them all in one place. Now, both day and night crew seated together, Garrus counted almost 35 people in total crammed around the table. He didn't want to think about the bar tab, grateful that it was the Alliance paying it.

It was about the time that Shepard dropped her wine glass entirely that Garrus decided to drag her to bed. He ignored the catcalls as he pulled her by the arm to the exit.

In the taxi, the driver recognized her almost instantly, despite her civvies. He babbled on about the battle, snapping one or two pictures with his comm when given the chance, and Shepard, in her intoxicated state, happily posed and babbled back. By the time they'd reached the docks entrance, Garrus was annoyed. Before he let the cabbie take off, he made some threats about tracking him down and tearing out his spine if he found the pictures in any tabloids.

In the elevator to their dock, Shepard pressed herself to his chest and wrapped her arms around him.

"You didn't need to do that." she said.

"Yes, I did," he replied. "He could sell those pictures to any news agency for a good amount of credits."

"So?"

"You're the pinnacle of all that is good with humanity," he explained. "You're supposed to be flawless. So the moment you act like, well, a regular person, the media will be all over it, and the Council is already looking for any excuse to take your power away."

"The thanks I get," she shook her head. "That hardly seems fair. Of course I have flaws."

"Yes, but they don't need to know that," he motioned to the doors, referring to the city behind them.

Shepard sighed and leaned further into his chest. After a moment, she reached out and pressed the stop button on the elevator. Before he could ask, she cupped his face in her hands and looked him in the eye.

Aww, spirits, he thought. It's easy to forget how green they are.

"I realized something the other day," she said, not breaking contact. "When we were in your bathroom, remember?"

"That was yesterday-"

"Shut up, whatever," she cut him off, then took a breath. "I realized that even though you look older-"

"Gee, thanks."

"And you act older," she ignored him. "You're still that funny, somewhat immature, borderline drunk asshole that I loved years ago."

"Not borderline drunk anymore, thankfully."

"And I've always regretted missing that opportunity."

His heart skipped a beat.

"I beg your pardon?"

She dropped her hands, then pressed the start button, holding his hand in silence as they ascended to their dock once again.

Garrus' head was spinning.

Seriously?

Now?

He was so sure he'd been friend-zoned early on in the mission, and no opportunity to resolve that had been paraded before him, until now.

He squeezed her hand. She squeezed back.

/-/

Garrus wrapped the towel around his leg, securing it with the roll of tape. He knew there was a stash of medigel somewhere in the apartment, but it could wait for now.

He reached up, turned off the burner, and tried to rest as he leaned back against the cupboard. He was prepared to die here, that much he knew but not quite yet. He still had work to do.

He pulled himself up, hobbled over to the other room, and allowed himself to collapse on the couch.

For now, sleep. Then back to the fury tomorrow.

\-\

He could hardly sleep that night, his mind chasing thoughts of what she had said, what she had meant. Twice, he got up and almost walked to her quarters to demand an answer, but-

It was late, she was probably asleep. She was cranky when she was hungover.

Three weeks, he thought. You've got three weeks until the Normandy comes back to restock, then you can confront her after she's had time to think.

After you both have.

He was awake already when his alarm went off- 0600hrs. He switched it off and stood from his bed, already dressed, slinging his pack over his shoulder.

Instead of heading straight to the bridge, he stopped at the mess, hesitating only briefly before knocking on the CO's quarters. A muffled moan came from behind the door and he chuckled.

Still in bed, he thought as he let himself into the room.

It was dim, only the desk lamp was on, and he could see she was still tucked under her covers. He set down his pack and quietly moved over to the side of the bed. He squatted next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Shepard," he nudged her, eliciting a groan. "Shep, wake up."

She rolled over and continued to snore. He narrowed his eyes and flicked on the bedside lamp.

"Lina," he said, a bit louder.

She woke up that time, rubbing her eyes and moaning. She looked over at him with one eye, furrowed her brow, and reached out to smack his shoulder.

"Why are you waking me up?" she asked, her voice no more than a groan.

"To let you know I'm leaving," he responded. "You get back in about three weeks, right? Give me a call and I'll be ready to do."

She nodded and forced a tired smile, then grabbed his hand and brought it to her face, planting a kiss on the palm.

"Take care of yourself," she said. "And good luck."

"Same to you," he replied, standing up after she dropped his hand.

He walked to the door, grabbed his pack from the floor and paused before exiting the room.

"And, umm…" he stopped and banged his head against the door frame a few times. "You, uhh… you haven't missed the opportunity."

/-/

Sitting in his lawyer's office, he couldn't help but wonder what he really expected. Would she have stopped the ship, run to find him, jump in his arms and express her undying love? Would they kiss in the rain and walk off hand in hand, happily ever after?

He groaned, of course not. It didn't even rain on the Citadel. She probably thought it foolish, if she even remembered what he was talking about.

Not that it mattered now.

"You know, you're my least favourite Vakarian child," Takine flicked quickly through his files. "Your siblings never give me this much trouble."

"I've heard that before." Garrus replied.

"You fought tooth and… talon to keep this place and now you want to break your lease?"

"That's right."

Garrus picked at the dead skin under his talons. He really should've showered before leaving the house that day. Not that he would've gone through any of the motions of showering, but the hot water would've felt nice, probably. He hadn't showered in several days, not since he received the news that the Normandy was taken down near Alchera.

He dropped his life for her, for that ship, and now they were gone and he was totally lost.

Takine sighed, "So where are you looking at renting next?"

"I'm not."

"Buying?" the salarian cocked his head slightly. "It's a terrible market right now-"

"No," Garrus interrupted. "I mean, I'm leaving."

"Leaving?"

"Leaving."

"To where?"

Garrus took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. "Home for a bit, then who knows?"

"I really must recommend that you keep your apartment for when you return…" Takine tried to argue, but Garrus had already stood.

"I don't know if I'll be coming back," he said over his shoulder as he walked out the door. "Take care of yourself, Cabel!"

The door swished shut behind the turian, and at his desk, Cabel Takine quickly checked the account one last time before closing it.

"Well, he just forfeited his retainer," he muttered to himself before hitting the button on his desk comm. "Send in the next client."

/-/

Time never seemed to pass on Omega, there was no night-day cycle to tell you the hour, no changing of the seasons to tell you the month. When he woke up on the couch, the room looked identical to when he fell asleep- dull, dreary, an ominous red light always peering through the windows.

Every day was the same. The temperature arid and the hurt still throbbed,.

He'd lost his best friend for a third and final time. Funny, he'd always assumed that it was the anticipation- of not knowing when she would be back, if at all- that hurt the worst. But knowing she wasn't ever returning was worse. Her absence felt like a black hole.

He lifted himself from the couch, careful of his injured leg, and grabbed his sniper rifle. He'd dismantled it for cleaning before going on the disastrous walk and felt the need to finish the task before heading out once again. He reached for the oil rag and-

Oh, there they were.

He grabbed the vial of medi-gel from its hiding spot behind his tools. His leg hurt less but just to be safe, to stave off infection, he punched the injector into his calf and pressed down on the plunger.

Much better.

His mind clearer, he began to reassemble the rifle. As he slid the pieces together, he thought about how he left the Citadel, did a brief stopover in Palaven. From there he gathered some weapons, organized his belongings, settled his accounts and headed straight to Omega. For a year, he had been a small piece of resistance in the growing unlawfulness of this dank hellhole.

Archangel, they called him.

He snorted. What the hell kind of a name was that?

His rifle back in one piece, he tested his leg by walking around the apartment a few times. Feeling confident in the healing powers of whiskey and medigel, he put his boot back on and gathered his crime fighting utensils.

Rifle? Check.

Heat sinks? Check.

Growing sense of rage? Check.

As he left, he locked the apartment door.

He was prepared. He had talons to kill.

\-\