So I know this is a bit of a surprise update, but after finally completing Mass Effect 3 I felt like I needed to give myself and the characters in Where You Belong some proper closure, and ended up writing this post-ME3 epilogue. As you can probably already tell, I wasn't much of a fan of ME3's end. I want to be absolutely clear though, I have no problem with anyone who did like it. We're all entitled to our own opinions; variety is the spice of life, etc, etc.
Also, despite not enjoying the ending much, this story does pretty much follow on from the destroy option (Teagan simply wouldn't have considered control or synthesis - not that I have anything against people whose Shep's did). I have, however, been deliberately vague about a few things, like whether the geth are alive or not. Even though a part of me wanted to, I chose not to totally break from canon since I've always tried my best to stick to it up until this point.
I feel pretty nervous adding to this after such a long break, but once I had the chapter written anyway (as a sort of necessary therapy for myself!) I thought I may as well share it here in case anyone wanted to know more about how I now see Teagan and Garrus' story ending. However, if you prefer your endings to remain more open, then I'd actually advise you not to read this and to still take Chapter 12 as the end of Where You Belong cos if there's one thing this epilogue isn't, it's open ended.
Edit 01/07/12: After playing through the extended cut of ME3's end – which, though not perfect, was in my opinion a vast improvement on the original - I've made a few changes to this epilogue. Basically, I've taken into account the fact that the Normandy appears not to have been stranded for long, and that the relays and the Citadel are now repairable instead ending up as piles of smouldering space rubble
Spending time at home with his wife had become Garrus Vakarian's greatest pleasure in life. He'd just endured two days away from her, but now only had to complete a short walk through the outskirts of the Brazillian town they lived in to return to her and their little house.
The sun was encouraging him on his way, sharing some of its warmth with him and bathing the trees and jungle plants that lined the dirt road he was following in a cheery orange glow. For the most part, the vegetation was thick, its upper stories occasionally seeming to move of their own accord as hidden birds and other animals made their way through them. But there was a large patch of ground to Garrus' left that had been scorched bare of life by a Reaper's beam
Like everywhere else on Earth, the town and the area around it still bore scars from the war with the Reapers even though the fighting had been over for more than three years. However, it had been left in much better condition than other places like London where whole streets were lying as dead ruins, still waiting to be renewed. That was part of why he and his wife had chosen to settle here. That and the fact that the town was tropical enough for him and green enough for her. Oh, and pretty damn beautiful all round, with laidback inhabitants, none of whom had yet said anything if they minded having an unusual couple living in such close proximity to them.
Some people might have gone as far as to call it idyllic, though Garrus wasn't actually one of them. In his eyes, nowhere was perfect. Everywhere had some problems. He'd seen far too much during the years he'd spent fighting to protect the innocent as a cop, vigilante and soldier to think otherwise. At the very least though, the town undeniably was a nice place to live and he was very, very glad to be back.
If it was possible, his mood became even cheerier when their house came into sight. He couldn't help smiling as he made his way down the garden that surrounded it, taking in the purple flowers that peppered the grass with colour as he went. Neither he nor his wife were gardeners so it was all a bit of a brightly coloured mess, but it was their mess and he liked it anyway. The house itself was pretty great too. Simple and on the small side, but not without a certain charm. Truth be told though, he probably would have even come to like a shack as long as he got to live in it with her.
He found the house's front door unlocked when he came to it and, half-expecting his wife to run into arms, passed through it into the hall. But she wasn't there. Nor was she anywhere else inside. The living room and dining room were populated only by their usual furnishings. The kitchen, though it showed evidence of recent activity with dishes piled high in the sink and cans of food left on the sideboard, was vacant. And when he called upstairs, he received no answer.
Finally, he located her out back. Commander Teagan Shepard-Vakarian, the galaxy renowned hero, the scourge of evil-doers everywhere, was asleep in a hammock with her mouth hanging open. Her mass of dark hair, which he knew she only kept so long because he liked it, had fallen over her face and was swaying with each new breath she took.
Moving purposely and quickly, he closed the distance between them. Upon reaching her, however, he simply watched her sleep for a moment before beginning to stroke her right cheek in a gentle attempt to wake her, caressing skin there that had once been smooth but was now marred by a scar just like the one he had on the side of his own face.
Her immediate reward for the role she'd played in destroying the Reapers had been that injury and a host of others. His had been to somehow end up crashlanded on a planet alongside the rest of the Normandy crew, with no real idea of whether Teagan had even survived the final battle or not. But he'd soon made it back to Earth on the repaired Normandy, they'd reunited and then, once she'd healed, been married in a ceremony approved by what was left of planet's government and attended by their closest surviving friends. The pain they'd both felt in the aftermath of the final battle with the Reapers seemed very far away to him now. Something old and distant that couldn't touch them anymore.
And even with the scars she was beautiful to him. Always would be.
Hand still resting on her cheek, he leant forward and pressed his mouth against her forehead. It was a human, not a turian gesture, but it had become something of a habit. He knew she liked it and, in this instance, it was enough to finally rouse her from her slumber.
She opened her eyes, and though they remained hazy for a moment, they immediately came to life when they focused in on him.
"Hey, Teagan," he said softly.
"Yeah. I know I was only gone for two days, but it's damn good to be back."
"It's damn good to have you back. God, I wanted to greet you at the door when you came in, not fall asleep and have you come out here and find me drooling in the garden."
"That's alright. You weren't actually drooling anyway."
"And I know you need your rest right now, what with your delicate condition and all." He removed his hand from her cheek and laid it instead on the sizeable bump she'd gained from eight months of pregnancy. "How are the two of you feeling today?"
"I'm kind of tired; as I'm sure you've already noticed. I didn't get as much sleep as usual during the last couple of nights. She's doing just dandy though."
At the end of the sentence, as if to prove a point, he felt his daughter move underneath his hand. Well, maybe not his daughter in a strictly biological sense. Genetically, her father was a human sperm donor. A brown haired, blue eyed Alliance marine with an excellent service record to be exact, who had been declared MIA years ago and so would never know of the role he'd played in helping the two of them have a child.
His personal history didn't really matter all that much though. In every other sense, Garrus was the child's father. The decision to pursue artificial insemination had been his as much as Teagan's. Originally, they'd been planning to adopt, but once he'd realised just how much she liked idea of carrying their baby, and just how much he liked it too, he'd suggested they start looking into the alternatives.
He'd been the one supporting her during the year she'd spent struggling to conceive, and the day a pregnancy test finally, finally came out positive after so many others had stubbornly refused to, he'd been just as ecstatic as her. It was also him who'd been by her side throughout the months of pregnancy she'd had so far. He'd held her hair back when she'd been sick during the early weeks and rubbed her muscles when they'd ached from carrying the extra weight during the later ones, marvelling all the while at the quiet miracle of their child slowly growing inside her.
When she was finally ready to give birth, he was going to be the one in the delivery room with her. Then after, when they'd left the hospital and returned to their little home with their baby, he'd help to bring her up and be the only person called "dad" by her when she learned how to speak.
Beneath his hand, she shifted again, more forcefully than before.
Smiling lazily, Teagan sat up. "See? She's fine."
There was yet another movement. "I think she must have missed you, Garrus," she said. "She was pretty quiet the whole time you were away but now it feels like she's jumping all over the place."
"That…doesn't really make much sense. How would she even know I'm back? She's in there and I'm…out here."
"Sure, but I bet she recognises your voice by now. She's probably happy to hear it again."
"You think so?"
"Well, I know hearing your voice always cheers me up anyway."
"Even after almost three years of marriage?"
Smiling again - she smiled a lot in general nowadays - she placed her left hand over his, causing their silver wedding bands to knock together with a happy sounding clink. He'd had to have his specially made, and it'd been pretty damn expensive, but he'd been determined to respect human marriage traditions. She'd returned the favour and then some by having Vakarian-like markings tattooed all down her less-scarred left arm.
"So," she said, squeezing his hand tightly before letting go. "How was your trip? Was being at the Alliance HQ as exciting as ever?"
"Oh yeah," he replied with as much sarcasm as he could possibly force into the two words.
"At least you weren't incarcerated there for six whole months."
"And the meetings? Did they go well?"
"I guess so. Mostly, I was just stuck in cold, grey rooms with a bunch of turian and human officials discussing where their joint operations should search for resources next."
"Sounds…" She seemed to struggle to find a polite adjective, before giving up, "Well, really boring."
"Oh it was. One debate lasted for five hours. I tried to give them good advice, but staying awake in itself did become quite the challenge."
"God. Who knew hanging up our guns would just turn as both into advisors."
"I know, Teagan. So much for living off the proceeds from the vids."
She chuckled. "It was such a nice, if short lived dream."
Rarely two days went by without some government minister or military official contacting them for advice. Despite their jokes though, they'd both made a conscious decision not to walk away from their duties completely after the war and, in a way, remaining on Earth had sealed their fate. The planet had become a major galactic-hub because so many ships had been left temporarily stranded in the Sol system while they waited for the relays to be repaired. It also still had the now almost completely restored citadel, and therefore the Council, in its orbit.
For the most part, Garrus was glad that he and Teagan still helped out but, at the same time, he was also very glad they were nowhere near as involved as they used to be. Other, smaller things had become almost as important to them as the fate of the whole galaxy. Maybe that was selfish. He wasn't sure if he cared. Most people got to have normal lives and start families. Why should they be so different?
"At least I can use being pregnant as a reason not to go anywhere for a while," Teagan said.
"I wish I had a similar excuse after that trip."
She patted his arm. "Poor, poor, Garrus. I feel so awful for you. But then you don't have to deal with all the pregnancy related problems like swollen ankles and becoming as big as a hippo."
"You still look good, Teagan."
"You always say that."
"I always mean it." He paused to run his eyes over her form appreciatively. "Anyway," he continued, "Now you've heard about my enthralling time away, what did you get up to while I was gone?"
"I'm not sure where to start."
"That exciting, huh?"
"Yeah. Let's see…" She frowned in mock concentration. "Yesterday I spent a few hours getting caught up on my correspondence. It tends to build up a bit since I have no Kelly or Samantha to remind me to check it."
"There was a message from Tali just saying hi, and reminding us to send baby photos as soon as we can. Kaidan's invited us to come stay with him and his wife in Vancouver sometime. And I sent a message through to Kasumi, though you know what she's like at responding. Oh, and I received a long vid-call from Sol and your father yesterday evening."
"How are they doing?" he asked, even though he'd spoken to them both at length only four days before and very little was likely to have changed since then.
"They're fine. The conversation was all very friendly and nice. Your father even asked how my pregnancy is going, albeit in his own awkward way." Her already gentle tone softened further as she continued on. "He said that he's very much looking forward to formally being introduced to his granddaughter for the first time."
Somewhere deep inside of him, Garrus felt a twinge of happiness; an emotion he once would have rarely associated with his father. For far too long, all his thoughts of him had been tinged by anger, resentment and other ugly sentiments. Thankfully, it was not so now. "He really said that to you?" he said. "I think I'm almost touched."
"He did. And he asked if he and Sol could come visit us shortly after the birth."
"Well, I guess I'm fine with that, if you are."
"Good, because I may have already said yes to him. I mean, we haven't seen them face to face for a long time and now the relays between Palaven and Earth are running again I just thought it could be, well...nice to meet up. You don't mind, do you?"
He chuckled. "No. That's okay. We'll have to watch him around her though. He'll be trying to teach her ancient turian languages and arguing with her about quantum mechanics in no time if we're not careful."
"He's not quite that bad, Garrus. He even calls me Teagan now instead of just saying Shepard in a pained voice."
"I suppose you have a point. I'll probably call them up myself in a couple of days. Give them another update. Were there any other messages I need to know about? Anyone desperately beseeching us for help?"
"Nah, for once that was it. But I do have something I want to show you upstairs."
He smirked at her. "What sort of thing?"
"Nothing like what you're thinking about right now anyway," she said, smirking back. "I finished painting the nursery this morning and I really feel that you should admire my handiwork since it's the most useful thing I've done all week. Hell, maybe all month."
"Sure. Do you need help getting up?"
Her left leg, which had been extensively rebuilt with plates, pins and who knew what other medical tech, still gave her a lot of trouble and even though she hadn't said anything to him and had been trying to complete her physiotherapy exercises as usual, he could tell her pregnancy had made it worse.
"Well...since you're offering, Garrus," she replied.
Wrapping his arm around her, he gently hoisted her up. Even when she was standing steady on her feet beside him, he kept a hold on her. He just…liked reassuring the feel of her body against his and knowing he still had her six even though they'd left the chaotic battles with all their bright explosions and deafening sounds of gunfire behind them. Admittedly, he'd probably fussed over her a little too much lately. After all, she had just proved she could manage for two days without him at home even though she was heavily pregnant.
As usual though, she indulged him, seeming to find his fussing more amusing than anything else, and let him lead her through the house, then up the stairs and across the hall into the nursery.
Previously its walls had been a boring white, but now, thanks to her painting work, they were coloured pale yellow instead. The shade she'd used toned in perfectly with the fluffy yellow birds on the curtains and the multi-coloured rainbow rug in the centre of the floor, adding to the overall softness and, well, prettiness of the room. They'd both already spent hours in here, trying to get everything just right for their little girl. Even though the room was turning out very different from the traditional, more functional nurseries turian children usually had, he'd enjoyed each minute he'd spent working on it. Hell, he'd even happily gone on many baby-focused shopping trips with Teagan without her having to drag him by the fringe, all of which was probably further confirmation of his status as a bad turian.
"So what do you think?" she said, finally slipping out of his grip so she could wave her arms theatrically at the walls.
"I think you've done a fantastic job. The brushwork is just excellent for one thing," he replied and was rewarded with the rich sound of her laughter. "I'm sure she's going to love all of this."
She laughed again. "I really hope so."
Almost without meaning to, Garrus wandered over to the nursery's main focal point, a large wooden crib with various flowers painted on it, and began to run his hands across its surface. Only soft stuffed toys called teddy bears were lying in it now, but soon his squishy human daughter would be right in there with them, dependent on him and Teagan for love and, well, everything else.
It was amazing how a thought could be so great but so damn terrifying at the same time.
He was already planning to teach her so much as she grew, if she'd let him. Human matters would mostly have to be handled by Teagan since he was still a bumbling idiot when it came to so many of them. But he'd make sure she knew about turian culture, and, once she was old enough, he'd present her with her first rifle, line up some tin cans out in their messy backyard and show her how to use it.
"She'll actually be in here in just a month," Teagan said from behind him, as if she'd somehow looked in through the back of his head and read his thoughts. Maybe she had. Sometimes he could tell exactly what she was thinking from only a cursory glance at her.
She walked over to him, then in quick succession pressed her body against his, looped their arms together and placed her head on his shoulder.
"Little Phadra Anne Vakarian," she murmured, staring down into the cot with him.
A gentle smile formed on Garrus' face upon hearing her say their daughter's name. They'd agreed on it together, deciding to name her after the mothers they'd both lost so the two of them would always be a part of her life in some manner, even though the cold mechanisms of fate had already claimed them and they couldn't be there in the real, physical way they really should have been.
Despite the best efforts of the salarian doctors to save her, Phadra had died only a few months after Garrus and Teagan had visited Palaven together. That meant he'd had four years to get over her death, but he still missed her warmth, her vibrancy, her kindness every single day.
In Turian culture, naming a child after someone who'd passed on was seen as one of the most meaningful things you could do to honour and celebrate their memory. However, it was Teagan, not him, who'd first tentatively suggested the idea, and it was also her who'd insisted that Phadra be the child's first name, and her own mother's simply one of those middle names that humans often liked to give their children. He hoped that wherever his mother now was, sitting at the bar in heaven or hanging out somewhere a bit more stylish up there, she was aware of the gesture her daughter in law had made to her.
Garrus stroked Teagan's arm. "Don't you mean Phadra Anne Shepard-Vakarian?"
"That's pretty long. She'll be five before she can say her full-name. Ten before she can spell it."
"But there's no Shepard without Vakarian."
She looked at him warmly. "That is true."
"Of course it is."
"God, we've so much left to do before we're ready for her, Garrus. We have to finish decorating in here for one thing. And we better get safety locks put on all the cabinets, and make sure we have somewhere to store your rifle collection. If she loves guns anywhere as much as you, she'll be trying to use them as soon as she's able to walk." She paused for about half a second, only to start up again. "And we still have more shopping to do. We need to buy a changing mat and probably a gazillion other crucial things that I can't remember right now."
"We still have a whole month, Teagan. It'll all get done. We've faced far worse odds than this in the past and made it through."
"We could get a start on some of it tonight though, if you want? Or first thing tomorrow?"
"It's getting pretty late so I guess tomorrow will have to do. And I'm feeling hungry after that nap. I better grab something to eat soon."
One of his brow ridges quirked upwards of its own volition.
"Oh shut up, Garrus. You'd think after all these years you would have gotten bored of making fun of my eating habits."
"I…didn't actually say anything."
"You thought it."
Apparently she really could read his mind sometimes. "Uh…okay I did, but …
"I knew it. But I'm getting more food anyway. Judge me all you want, big guy. I have a biotic amp and I'm eating for two."
"More like fifteen judging by the last couple of months."
"Hey! That's just mean." She punched him on the cowl, but then her touch became considerably softer and she laced her fingers with his. "Help me back downstairs?"
As soon as they'd made it to the kitchen, Teagan started to add to the mess she'd made earlier, pulling out a variety of pots, pans and ingredients from the cupboards and dumping them all on top of the stove.
She paused with a couple of human vegetables clutched in her hands. "Do you want me to make something dextro for you while I'm in here, Garrus?"
"Ah, no thanks, Teagan," he said quickly. "I think I'll make something for myself."
There were many, many things his wife was good at, many things she was better than him at, but, damn, she could not cook. He wasn't great at it either, though set things on fire with far less frequency than she did. Feeding their daughter when she was old enough to eat solids was certainly going to be interesting.
"You sure?" she asked. "I don't mind."
"Yes, but thanks for offering," he replied, as firmly as he could without his tone including any hint of rudeness, and then began to make a thick stew with ingredients grabbed from his side of the fridge.
Meanwhile, she prepared something truly awful for herself. He still didn't know all that much about levo food, but the little he did know suggested that it wasn't normal to mix olives, pickles and chocolate sauce together and then heat them on the stove as a side dish to accompany a large piece of meat.
Regardless, she dug into the horrible concoction she'd created as soon as they'd both placed themselves down with their meals on the large leather sofa in their living room. They sat with their bodies touching, his food resting on his lap, hers on her bump. A comfortable silence permeated the air around them, broken only by the sounds of metal cutlery hitting ceramic and their quiet chewing.
The very moment Garrus had finished his stew, one of his hands drifted to rest on Teagan's stomach. She was still eating, having prepared a far bigger meal than him to begin with, but didn't push him off, and when her plate was finally empty, she placed both of her hands snugly on top of his.
He smiled softly at her, and she mirrored the action. "I think she's gone to sleep," she said.
"Seems like it. What do you want to do this evening before we turn in as well?"
"Well, we could always finish watching those wonderful birthing videos Liara sent us," she suggested with her eyes trained on him. She was clearly waiting for his reaction and he didn't disappoint her, beginning to grimace at her words.
Liara, he was sure, had meant well by sending them a large data packet full of books, leaflets and vids about human pregnancy and labour. And most of it had been helpful, especially the interspecies version of What to Expect When You're Expecting. The vids showing human women giving birth, on the other hand, had definitely not been. They'd only made it through two before deciding that they'd seen enough.
One thing was clear from the little that they had watched; human labour was a lot messier than the turian version. Women of his species were lucky really. Not only did they not have to go through such a major ordeal to bring their children into the world, their pregnancies only lasted seven months.
"I think it's safe to say I'd rather watch anything else more than them," he said. "Including recordings of the meetings I took part in earlier."
"How about a movie then?" Her suggestion sounded considerably more serious this time.
"That's a much better idea. There's this one turian epic I've been meaning to watch with you for ages. It's been called the most realistic military film ever made. Some of the battle scenes involve thousands of extras."
"Sounds…wonderful, Garrus. But as much as I usually enjoy watching turians shooting each other in the head, how about something a bit more light-hearted tonight? I have a few Earth classics saved that you might like too."
A long discussion later, they finally selected a human film with the rather strange title of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was her choice to begin with of course, but he found it even harder to say no to her now than ever before. Not that he'd ever been particularly good at it. And, besides, they had agreed he'd get to choose next time.
Luckily, the film turned out to be watchable. In particular, Garrus liked seeing all the old Earth weapons, including the thing called a whip that the hero kept brandishing at every opportunity. Three-quarters of the way through, however, Teagan suddenly collapsed against his chest and started to snore loudly into his shirt. An impressive action sequence had just begun, but, rather than keep watching, he switched off the screen and gathered his pregnant wife's exhausted form into his arms so he could put her to bed properly.
Carrying her up the stairs to their room took just a tad more effort that it had used to, but he was soon laying her down on the king size mattress. Using gentle movements and the moonlight that was streaming in through the window to guide his hands, he began to undress her, first removing her right shoe and sock.
The other shoe was about to join its partner on the floor when she stirred. Sitting up, she fixed him with a sleepy look, accompanied by a vaguely amused smile. "Garrus...did I miss something? Why are you stripping me?"
"I was putting you to bed," he said. "You fell asleep in the middle of the movie you were so desperate to see."
"Oh...sorry." Her expression turned contrite. "Like I said earlier, I've been tired all day. And, ah, thanks for the help with my shoes, big guy, but I'm pretty sure I can take it from here."
He took his hands off her, but not his eyes, watching as she slowly pulled the rest of her clothes from her body. The moonlight from the window fell over her, caressing each new bit of flesh she revealed; her legs, the swell of her stomach, her breasts.
Once naked, she pulled the sheets back and slipped under them. They pooled at her waist, leaving her upper body exposed to him and her engagement ring – which she still almost always wore on a chain around her neck – glinting in his direction. He'd kept a firm hold on the targeting visor he'd had inscribed with her name to mark their engagement too, but was glad to rarely have cause to use it now.
"Are you coming to bed as well, Garrus?" she asked.
He stared at her in the dim light. "Yeah..."
"You don't have to. It actually seemed like you were enjoying that movie so I don't mind if you finish it off, though it would be nice to have someone to snuggle with after being alone for a couple of nights…"
"I think I'm ready for bed too. We can finish the film tomorrow. Together. Besides, I'd just hate for you not to have someone to 'snuggle' with."
She smiled. "Hurry up and get over here then."
Just like she had done, he stripped naked in the moonlight. And just like he had done, she watched as he pulled every last piece of clothing from his body.
After dumping all his clothes on the floor so they mingled together with hers in a messy union, he crawled into bed beside her, pressing his chest against her back. His arms automatically wrapped around her so that one of his hands was again resting on her stomach.
"I really missed you the last couple of nights," she said softly. "That's probably why I had trouble sleeping."
"I missed you as well. I…actually woke up hugging my pillow this morning. I don't think I should go away again for a while now. It's just no fun if you can't come too."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. If anyone needs to talk to me desperately, they can just get me on vid chat. I want to be here with the two of you."
Turning her head to his, she placed a lingering kiss on his mouth. "I love you, big guy. So damn much."
"I love you too. Both of you."
"Night, Teagan," he said, nuzzling her neck.
Two or at most three minutes later she was asleep. Given that he wasn't particularly tired, Garrus had the feeling sleep was going to take a lot longer to come for him, but that was okay. He was perfectly content to lie awake with his arm curled around his wife and his unborn daughter.
Not all that long ago, he'd only been able to imagine having a life like this with Teagan. To idly fantasise about building a nest with her and starting to raise a family in it whenever he'd had some downtime. Against all the odds, his dreams had left his head and somehow become solid reality. They were even planning to adopt a couple more children once they'd proven they could handle this first one.
And, damn, he was happy. They both were. Couldn't have been happier.
Yes, yes, I know those last few lines are incredibly sappy - hell, the whole thing is - but I honestly feel this is the sort of end these characters deserve after everything they've been through. I also realise that not much actually happens in this epilogue, but that's sort of the point. All the drama and fighting, etc, is over for them now.
Anyho, I hope you enjoyed reading this! Writing it was actually a bit of a struggle because I'd become pretty rusty, but I'm glad I finished it. Comments are welcome and very much appreciated as always.
Thanks so much for all the reviews, favourites and alerts since this story originally ended. I never expected it to get anywhere near such a positive response so it means a lot to me :)
I'm not sure if I'll be back writing again since I have to finish my dissertation over the next few months, but if I do have some free time at any point then I would still love to write more Mass Effect stuff, even though Teagan and Garrus' story is over now.
Thank you for reading!
Best wishes to all of you :)