Violence, Voyeurism and Vigilantes
Disclaimer: mass effect and all characters belong to Bioware and EA. I'm only playing with them.
Apologies if my wording seems a little backwards (French immersion student). Also, some of this story has been converted from Canadian spelling to American, so there may be some back and forth.
SPOILERS for all games (just to be safe), DLC, some references to novel and comics but nothing critical
This story takes place during the beginning of Mass Effect 2 and bridges the gap between that game and the third, referencing ME1. It combines present elements (not italicized) and past events (italicized).
Rated MA for graphic sex, violence, language, more violence, etc, etc...
Wonderfully beta'd in part by rebel666 and entirely by Spyke1985. Completed and posted due entirely to the support and coaxing of my readers.
"Officer Vakarian, could you come to my office?"
Deft gloved hands paused over the main battery console. The soft cradle of monotonous work that had been numbing him to the world had been irrevocably interrupted. The voice on the comm was not one the gunnery officer normally had to answer to, and truth be told, he wasn't going to start now.
"Can it wait? I'm in the middle of some calibrations," the turian drawled out, his mandibles flaring momentarily in amusement. It was a line he took great pleasure in tossing around, though he was always careful to revealed nothing but complete seriousness.
Calibrations - a convenient word that everyone on-board the ship now understood meant 'busy'.
"Of course," the woman's icy voice grated out with forced pleasantness. "Please, come see me at your earliest convenience. I need to speak to you regarding the Commander." Miranda always sounded cool and professional, but the hint of smugness that clung to Shepard's title easily betrayed her severe and calculating nature.
The turian's hands paused, and when he spoke again his voice came out gruff, flanging to an almost growl; "Understood."
Unfortunately there were a few people on board who had discovered the antidote for calibration.
Jaw clenching, he ground his teeth to stave off the practically unbearable desire to ask a slew of questions as he walked away from his post - what was wrong? Had something happened? His need to know was suddenly consuming him. Nagging slivers of panic began to inexplicably travel up his spine.
Get a grip Vakarian, he scolded himself.
Garrus had been back on-board the Normandy SR-2 for a little more than a week. He huffed to himself as he thought about it. It was true, he hadn't thought in human time increments for a while... two years in fact. In so many ways, it had been easy to fall back into the old routines of a human operated vessel. Though the ship had changed, it still somehow felt like home. Despite it being full of Cerberus uniforms, he was surprised to discover the crew was polite and professional. It also helped that Shepard had been down to speak with him several times since his arrival. She was characteristically polite and concerned, always checking on him.
On the surface she was just as he had remembered – but at the same time he couldn't help but feel as though she were completely different. There was a distance in her words. Each time she stepped through the main battery doors he had found himself distracted, hyper aware of her every nuance - each movement and expression bringing her more clearly into focus. It was impossible for his mind not to desperately attempt to commit it all to memory. Just in case it happened again.
More than once he had caught himself staring hard at the graceful angle of her jaw, the feminine curve of her shoulder, the intense look in her green eyes as she considered him.
His arms and legs ached. The hide on his trigger finger was raw below the talon, the joints stiff. Bolts of pain shot through his neck every time he bent over to look through the scope of his rifle. His visor had been keeping track of the body count and the hours, but the steadily climbing numbers were causing his empty stomach to knot, so he'd turned the display off.
Another wave of mercs started over the barricade and Omega's Archangel grunted as he once again looked through his scope. He picked off one, then another. Poor talonless fools, what a waste of life. No, it didn't matter – they were just another part of the poison rotting the station from the inside. A soft voice in his head reminded him that these hired guns were just kids and people with debts to pay. Always the voice of reason, she was. He shook off the thought. "They're scum," he muttered aloud in a vain attempt to justify the slaughter. Archangel had committed himself to go out fighting, and he was prepared to kill anything that came at him, until he either died by the gun or from exhaustion.
'Sounds like suicide' the same voice whispered in his mind before his military training urged his focus back onto the battle field. His tired, blood shot eyes narrowed as he pressed the cold metal of the scope to his face. Three mercs bringing up the rear, suspiciously well armed, working as a well coordinated unit. He frowned. These three looked organized, possibly even dangerous adversaries instead of just the usual bullet fodder.
His endurance had been waning; the chemical stimulants he'd once sworn never to use had run out several hours earlier, leaving his mind foggy with exhaustion. In his current state, as he watched the approaching mercs, he had a sudden moment of clarity as he realized he was most likely living his final moments. It hit him hard in a rush of adrenaline and like a cornered animal his heart began to race and his muscles tensed for action.
Closing his eyes briefly, Archangel took a deep breath, trying to calm the shaking in his hands. As his nostrils wrinkled he paused. There was something in the air; a scent on the stale Omega breeze like a long forgotten memory. So familiar, it sliced through his cloudy mind like a razor.
It was almost like...
It was all in his head, he told himself, just the illusions of a tired mind in a hopeless situation. He felt his muscles relax in acceptance. "Come to see me off?" he whispered to the empty room and swathed body bags. He couldn't help the slight waver in his voice as he addressed his ethereal companion. As always, she listened quietly.
Composing himself, his eyes opened and he discharged the rifle's heat sink.
"I will be with you again soon," he mumbled quietly as he rammed home a new thermal clip. There would be no galactic wide headlines announcing his death as there had been for her. No yearly memorial, or raised glasses or monuments. But it didn't matter. He would make her proud; he would die fighting just as she had.
Garrus was already making his way past the Mess Hall, ignoring the curious glances from the crew mulling about. His confident strides took him past them, giving them an unconcerned look. He was well beyond giving a pyjak's ass about what these Cerberus assholes thought. Besides, if he were a human walking around a turian ship, he'd be getting the same treatment – in fact probably worse.
When he stepped through the doors to Miranda's office, he found Shepard's XO seated casually at her desk, not in the least surprised that Garrus was already at her door. She motioned to the chair in front of her to which he hesitated momentarily before forcing himself to relax and sit. He had been in enough interrogation rooms to know that he should keep a cool demeanour, but the calculating gaze of the Cerberus woman in front of him was making him uncomfortable.
Damn he was out of practice.
"Officer Vakarian," Miranda began, her gaze piercingly cool, "I need your help."
Surprise registered on Garrus' face for just a moment, despite his efforts to not reveal anything, it was enough for her to notice.
"I know you don't trust me, and I understand that. But I need you to do something that may affect the success of the mission."
Garrus' arms crossed in a deliberate show of defiance, "I thought you said you wanted to speak to me about the Commander."
Someone with experience reading turian facial expressions would have recognized his immense displeasure at having been manipulated into rushing to her office. It really didn't seem like a good way to earn someone's trust... And it irked him that just mentioning Shepard's name had made him jump like an obedient varren.
"That's exactly what I need your help with. Look, I don't know how much she's told you about what's happened in the past two years, but-"
"She was dead. That's what happened," he responded mater-of-factly.
Miranda ignored his indignant remark and continued. "When we received the Commander's body, it wasn't much more than bones, meat and carnage." Garrus felt his stomach tighten, and he opened his mouth but Miranda held up her hand to silence him. "We spent two years putting her back together, piece by piece, exactly as she was. When she was ready to be re-awakened there was supposed to be several weeks of psychological testing and counselling." Miranda's hard eyes softened infinitesimally and she sighed, running a wiry hand through her black hair. "When the compound came under attack, I had to wake Shepard early. With Taylor's help, we fought our way out. The result - several weeks of planned psychological testing were reduced to a few questions on the shuttle."
"I'm following," Garrus grunted out.
"There just wasn't enough time."
Archangel looked again at the leader of the three determined mercs. Female, human judging by her helmet... armour and weapons screamed military, maybe N7... His rifle let out a casual pop as a poorly armoured merc farther ahead stumbled and fell in a shower of his own blood. Returning his eyes to follow the leader of the squad, a shuddering breath escaped the exhausted turian. So familiar... that gait, the movement of her hands as she signalled her companions. Without much attention, the turian picked off another mindless merc, before returning his gaze to this curious squad. They were making quick time. Soon they would be inside.
Another adversary stepped out from behind a nearby crate and Archangel swung his sniper rifle to take out the threat. Just as his finger squeezed the trigger, the merc collapsed to the side and toppled over the edge of the bridge. His hollow shot rang out a miss as he stared at the space the body had once been.
That human female was killing the other mercs.
He couldn't be sure, after all he'd been awake and holding his rifle for how long, he didn't even know anymore. Instinct told him to nail her with a concussive shot instead of a live round as the three approached the compound. When he did, she stumbled, but quickly regained her footing before leading the team through the entrance beneath.
Listening to the commotion below, he heard gunfire, yells... now steps on the stairs. Voices at the sealed door...
Archangel knew this was it. He had let in his executioners. Years of searching, of fighting, of long nights looking into the darkness. It was all about it end.
The door lock beeped and protested as it was overridden. The smooth swish of the door opening brought three other heavy breaths to mix with his own in the heavy silence. The muscles in his shoulders tensed as he anticipated the bullet in his back.
But there was none.
He held up his hand without turning, taking the chance to catch the last merc with a single shot.
That voice - exactly as he remembered. Spirits, it sounded so real. Was he losing his mind? He closed his eyes. All those nights with that unshakable feeling that she was with him... standing behind him. That heady smell that was only hers, that had haunted him for all those months, now flooded his dull senses.
What if I turn around and it's only shadows?
The three visitors were waiting patiently behind him. The turian's heart raced, his breath shallow from excitement and fear. Cautiously he pulled off his helmet and turned to face them.
"Garrus!" her arms were wide, eyes bright, standing before him like some beautiful mirage on the Palaven horizon, beckoning him farther out into the burning light from a place that had been dark and cold for so long.
"Shepard." His voice sounded stale and flat, even to his own ears. "I thought you were dead," he admitted, his shock cancelling out the emotion that should have been heavy in his voice. Instead his statement sounded as though derived from the most basic logic, rationally explaining why she was having to discover him there, alone, surrounded by piles of bodies - enemies and allies.
All he knew for sure was that she stood before him, flesh and blood, talking to him, her face alive and animated.
How was it even possible?
She was happy to see him, and on some level he knew he was answering her questions. In the fog of disbelief, his dark mood was vanishing, like he hadn't been nursing it for so many long months. But he was so tired, his adrenaline strained mind was having trouble merging the ghost in his mind with this living, breathing vision in front of him.
Dying here was no longer an option.
"So what does this mean?" It sounded more like a statement. Garrus' taloned fingers had curled up into fists as he waited for the XO's response.
"I need you to speak with Shepard. You were her friend before she died and she trusts you. I have already tried to speak with her, but she stonewalls me at every turn. I had asked Dr. Chakwas to talk to her, but unfortunately the Commander is quite skilled at guarding her mental state..."
"I'm not a psychologist," Garrus scoffed, folding his arms and hoping that the woman would get the message that he wasn't interested in playing Cerberus spy.
"Exactly, you're not a doctor and you're not Cerberus. I know I can't force you to do this, but I - everyone needs to know that Commander Shepard is mentally sound. She was two years of my life, and I don't like doing anything half-assed. She wears her Commander mask quite well, but if she isn't mentally stable then lives could be at risk. I'm only asking that you speak with her, and then let me or the doctor know what her condition is."
Of course they would make it sound so easy.
He was out of the med bay as soon as he was conscious. Dr Chakwas and to his surprise, a salarian doctor he recognized from Omega, had tried and failed to prevent him from diving into his equipment, which had been stacked in the corner.
"Where is Shepard?" he grunted, wincing at the terrific pain in his face and neck as he shrugged on the pieces of charred armour and slid his eyepiece back on.
"She's in the comm. room - Garrus wait-" the med bay doors cut off Chakwas' protest. He became vaguely aware of the hush that fell upon his audience in the Mess Hall. Several pairs of big human eyes watched him as he came to a sudden halt. They were frozen, as if a large predator had just stumbled into their camp as they were licking the remains of their lunch off their fingers. Typical prey response.
Trying to ignore them, his visor picked up on the large human script across the walls which declared his location as the Normandy. But that couldn't be right... that ship had been destroyed... hadn't it? If this was the Normandy, why did everything look as though it had been rearranged?
New ship, new crew, new Shepard; what else had changed?
Disorientation from the after effects of his sedation and his unfamiliar surroundings, Garrys was stalled just outside the med bay doors. He glanced back at the speechless humans still sitting, still watching intently.
'Elevator' his visor highlighted in red and he quickly left the crew to their meal, their quiet murmurs following him into the lift.
When the doors opened at deck two, a startled human female turned to him and seemed to read the confusion on his face. She pointed him towards the door on his right. "Two doors, then hang a right and a left." He didn't ask questions... just nodded absently.
His abilities in judging human facial expressions had jumped leaps and bounds since his years at C-Sec, but now, as the Comm. Room doors opened and he met his Commander's eyes, he felt uncertainty blossom within him.
Relief? Surprise? Something else in her eyes as she stood, arms crossed, facing him from across the room.
Seeing her again sent his mind reeling. Without the stim and medigel induced haze clouding his judgment, he could finally confirm that yes, she really was alive. It hadn't all been a dream after all, and it took some effort for him not to choke on his own disbelief. The pain of his injuries was quickly fading in his sudden euphoria.
From the back of his mind, unexpected images flickered to the surface; closing the gap between them, pressing himself against her warm flesh, inhaling her scent, nibbling on the soft curve of her neck - wait, what?
This was Shepard - the real Shepard, not some fantasy. He needed to take a step back.
Surely what he was feeling now was just a primal, if not delayed, reaction to being so happy to see his Commander alive.
Of course it was.
Garrus nodded at Gardner as he entered the mess hall. The human nodded back as he poured the turian a glass of the usual – which for the past few days had been a rather bland fruit powder mixed with hot water.
"Looking a little frazzled there, Officer Vakarian."
"Turians don't get 'frazzled'," Garrus murmured as he leaned against the counter, sipping the hot liquid the mess sergeant had procured for him.
"Sure they don't. And I don't get my hands dirty when I clean toilets," Gardner responded sarcastically.
"Hey Garrus," a voice called out from behind him. The turian turned, steaming pitcher shaped mug in his talons. The lunchtime crowd was looking up at him from their seats at the table. "You and the Commander go way back, I bet you've got some great stories."
The crewmen at the table all hummed in agreement, supporting the brave individual who had dared address the rough looking, sole turian on-board. Garrus had to give the guy credit. He hadn't really been in the mood lately for jovial chit chat, even still Garrus gave them a dubious shake of his head as he considered indulging them.
"Oh come on Vakarian! You've seen her in action; can't you give us even an anecdote?" the crewman urged.
Garrus surveyed the eager faces looking up at him and realized that Miranda was right. All these people were here to help Shepard defeat this unknown enemy and they should at least be confident that their Commander had her head on straight, especially if they were expected to follow her through the gates of hell. He might be able to do it without question, but these people deserved some reassurance.
"The Commander is a remarkable woman..." he began, and instantly grins broke out on the faces of the human crew. Grins were followed quickly by whistles and other strange noises Garrus hadn't often heard human's make, but they almost seemed... suggestive. Ignoring them, he continued. "She can convince an enraged krogan warlord the benefits of peace, or just as easily cut off his quad. She is an outstanding leader. I am honoured to be her friend and to fight by her side." The crewmen nodded their agreement, and raised their mugs and glasses with a few 'here here's, and 'cheers to that'.
Garrus turned back to the mess sergeant.
"Never heard a turian make a toast before," Gardner remarked as he lazily wiped down the counter tops. "You going to be the new morale officer?"
Garrus read the joke in the creases around older man's eyes. "Hardly. Besides, toasts aren't really my strong point... that was more of an alternative to telling a long drawn out war story."
"Are you kidding? These guys love that stuff. You should stop eating in the middle of the night and join the crew at dinnertime. There's a pretty good crowd, and the crew is always looking for some entertainment... I bet you and the Commander could tell some really fantastic tales." He paused and eyed the turian curiously. "Joking aside, she speaks very highly of you."
"Oh?" Garrus put as much of a casual tone in his voice as he could muster.
"The few times she has joined the crew for dinner she is usually suckered into telling a story or two. You feature in a lot of them." The man winked as he tossed the dirtied rag into the recycle chute and continued, "I think she's giving you too much credit though."
"Yeah, probably," Garrus chuckled, offering the man his empty glass. Gardner took it absently, adding it to the other dishes waiting to be cleaned.
"She was talking about Agebinium a few nights ago. She did quite a good impression you when you uncovered that bomb. 'Orders Commander!'" The human yelled in a gruff voice before laughing. "I think she may have thought you doubted her ability to disarm that nuclear warhead." Gardner was still laughing, and Garrus just shook his head, still able to recall the relief he had felt as the antiquated human probe powered down years earlier.
"Well disarming nuclear devices isn't exactly standard Alliance training, is it?" Garrus sighed. "That all seems so long ago now."
"For you maybe, but she's just woken up from a long nap." The human planted his hands on the counter and shook his head. "Must be some strange waking up as the living dead."
"I'm sure it must."
News of the battle was on the lips of every sentient being within the known galaxy. It's was the topic in every elevator, every stairwell, and on every vid display in the Citadel. Information was vague at best, though one thing was certain... the Normandy, the Alliance's iconic ship and the vessel of the celebrated Commander Shepard, had been destroyed by an unknown vessel in the Terminus. Reports suggested most of the crew had survived.
He had spoken to Shepard only hours earlier, about nothing of any real consequence. Now he was pushing his way through the crowds in C-Sec. Reporters, onlookers, family and friends, medical personnel and officers created a mass of flesh between him and the dock entrance. Recognizing the guard at the elevator, he gave him a wave. It took him a moment, but as soon as the officer caught sight of him, he nodded and waved Garrus over.
Clawing his way through the swelling mass of people, he had to lean in close to his co-worker to hear him speak. "The MSV Ulysses picked up the escape pods," the distracted turian was yelling over the shouts of the crowd. "It is total chaos back there... the Ulysses didn't have the facilities to treat the wounded, so the dock is a damn triage mess, complicated with Ulysses' crew, alliance officials and traumatized survivors."
Garrus felt his anxiety rise as the security officer helped him slip through the door. A few tense moments in the elevator and he was suddenly faced with the scene at the space dock.
The already cramped space was filled with a sea of people. Diving into the chaos, he searched for familiar faces... anyone who could tell him what had happened. Out of the jumble of voices, disturbing snippets of information reached his ears. "I don't think she made it...", "Joker is hysterical...", "I just can't believe it..." He was sifting through the masses of humans, the smells polluting his senses. The salty, strong tang of human sweat and fear mixed with the metallic stench of charred wires and melted polymers stung his nostrils.
Where was her scent? Why couldn't he find her?
"Garrus!" Liara's voice carried over the milieu and Garrus found her blue face easily in the sea of earthy hues. He could read the bad news in her expression and he was sure his heart was imploding. Pushing his way towards her, the desperation in his movements caused him to bump against people in his path.
"Where...?" The question wasn't even out of his mouth before she was shaking her head at him, her hands coming up to embrace him. His arms hung limply at his sides in confusion.
"I'm sorry Garrus, she didn't make it." Liara pulled back, her hands still holding his upper arm. His mandibles were tight against his face, his whole body held rigid. "She went back for Joker...got him to an escape pod," Liara explained gently, but Garrus was already stepping away from her.
"No... no, no, no," his eyes were looking past the asari, searching the crowd. She had to be wrong.
Liara caught his wandering attention, her eyes were tearing up. "There was an explosion before she could get into the escape pod and it knocked her into space. By the time help arrived..." As she tried to blink away the tears he pulled his arms out of her gasp. "Garrus, wait!" she pleaded, but her voice fell on deaf ears as he disappeared back into the mob.
The turian's mind was numb with anger and complete disbelief. This was Shepard... she didn't just die. She couldn't.
As he stumbled blindly through the crowd he spotted Kaidan sitting with Tali. Neither one saw Garrus storming towards them. The biotic's head was in his hands and the quarian seemed to be perpetually running her clenched fists along her thighs.
"What were you doing?" His voice flanged heavily with anger as he stood over the crouched human. Tali gave Garrus what must have been a sympathetic look before glancing over at the lieutenant. Kaidan raised his swollen eyes and shook his head.
"What are you talking-"
Garrus grabbed the limp human by the arms, pulling him to his feet and giving him a rough shake. "What the hell were you doing?" he asked again, and Kaidan went on the defensive, hands coming up to the turian's chest and pushing him away. An accusing taloned finger came up between them. "Where were you? How could you have let this happen?"
"The ship was burning up! She ordered me into the escape pod!
"Some orders you don't follow," Garrus growled.
"Fuck you Vakarian! You weren't even there!" The lieutenant yelled as a blue biotic glow appeared along his arms... and then just as suddenly disappeared as a shaky breath rushed out of his lungs. Kaidan seemed to deflate, his anger bleeding out of him. "The Commander knew the risks... she knew!" His arms came up in defeat. "I... couldn't save her."
'You couldn't protect your mate!' Garrus' mind yelled through the noise of his heart pounding in his head.
There was no use unleashing his rage on the biotic. It was obvious in how his entire body already sagged with exhaustion that his final moments on board the Normandy were probably replaying like mind numbing elevator music over and over in his head. And it was clear he wasn't getting off the lift anytime soon.
Garrus' talons dug into the palms of his clenched hands as he held back the irrational violence that was filling his thoughts. Looking down at the miserable lieutenant, he bit out his next words."Shepard was a protector. She watched everyone's back - but apparently there was NO ONE watching hers."
"Garrus –" Tali began to protest, rising from her seat, but he was already turning away in disgust. Through the weaving figures he caught sight of Joker yelling at some nameless trauma councillor. He still couldn't believe this was actually happening. His desperation was taking him closer to the pilot. Seeing the disparaging look on the pilot's face, Garrus felt his desire to break things and yell at people begin to ebb.
Joker's head was in his hands, his arms shaking, "I couldn't reach her, she pushed that god damn button and I couldn't reach her. God dammit! The galaxy needs her, not me! They need a saviour, not a cripple. She shouldn't have come for me..."
That was the moment Garrus felt it. Never could he have imagined how such a terrible emptiness could feel so unbearably heavy. He wasn't going to find her here. A sickening feeling settled deep within him, and the turian barely felt he had the energy to stand. He turned away from the devastated pilot without a word and headed for the exit without speaking to anyone else.
The walk back to his office was a dull blur as he carried his burden for the first of many days and nights.
"Enter" Her voice came through the comm and he took a hesitant step into the dark blue glow of her quarters. He supposed for the sake of efficiency it made sense that her office would be in her sleeping quarters, although it seemed to him a little too much like mixing business with pleasure.
Pleasure, the word repeated in his head.
His eyes closed for the briefest of moments. The sweet smell of her was overwhelming in this room. As he breathed in deeply, all his old memories of her, real and imagined, were being rewritten as the fresh aroma assaulted his senses. Looking down at where she was seated at her desk, he watched as she finished up a report or some other menial bit of bureaucratic record keeping.
It was impossible not to catalogue each small movement - the slight rise and fall of her shoulders, the almost imperceptible rustle of golden strands that framed her face, the way her bottom lip slid between her strange, square white teeth as she concentrated on her work. He appreciated each one like the fluid brushstrokes in a classic masterpiece.
What the hell had happened to him all those months ago?
Wrex was standing to his left. The red glaze on the metal of his battered family armour shone dully in the artificial light of the presidium. Garrus looked down at the gauntlets of his own family's clan armour, the parallel blue lines and angles danced up the dark grey metal. Both of them were dressed, not for battle, but for ceremony.
The krogan's jaw was clenched; pieces of his armour rubbing as he shifted his weight. Garrus' eyes saw no one in particular as he gazed across the motionless waves in the sea of faces seated in rows before him. The voice of the Alliance speaker sounded lost in the great hollowness of the presidium, his words seeming empty and meaningless in the bright artificial light. Widening his stance and swallowing, he felt himself sway as he tried to fight the reoccurring feeling of falling that had been hounding him for days.
Four chairs sat empty near the front. He wasn't sure if Shepard even had any distant relatives to fill them. She should have been buried on Mindoir, he thought to himself, but she had earned a Spectre's rites.
Again he looked over at the expensive wooden coffin. The Alliance flag was draped over the empty box; in front, a mass of earth flowers and a photo of his late Commander. Those flowers; large and white, with such a strong scent. He knew if he ever encountered the odour again he would be instantly smuggled back to this very moment.
It was difficult to contain the almost overwhelming desire to tear away the flag, knock off the lid and declare that Shepard couldn't be dead because the coffin was empty. Surely this obvious fact would cause everyone to stand up in agreement and for her to step out onto the stage and explain where she had been.
But his feet remained cemented to the floor.
The sea before him was moving now, but Garrus and Wrex remained. It had been decided that the coffin would be on display for the remainder of the day, as there were too many people who had requested a chance to pay their respects. The two of them had volunteered to stand guard for as long as was necessary. There was something terribly dark about guarding an empty coffin.
Through the fog in his mind, the turian became aware of the tedious approach of the Normandy's pilot. Step after agonizing step finally brought the cane weilding human within reach of the empty coffin.
"Garrus..." Joker looked as though a stiff breeze would blow him over, his one arm in a sling as he leaned heavily on a cane with the other. "This is my fault," he rasped, his eyes red, the dark circles underneath confessing more than he probably wanted about his guilt ridden days and sleepless nights. "She traded her life for mine... and it wasn't a fair trade."
Garrus' voice escaped him and he found he could only stare back at the fragile human, his eyes haunted and broken. Tali had quietly approached from behind and placed a gentle hand on the pilot's shoulder, but Joker held the turian's gaze. "It should have been me," he whispered before allowing the quarian to guide him away from the coffin and towards the exit.
So many things that had gone unsaid. So many wasted moments. How would he ever get them back?