Bullet in the Brain
After Omega, Ceberus put a lot more than cybernetics into Garrus' head.
Garrus knows something is wrong, but he can't think about it. He can only think around it, circling the wrong thing in his head at a satellite around a dark moon. It's like a pocket of negative space in his skull. The turian can't look there or think there and when he tries to talk about it his words dissolve and blur and he says others things, says every other thing than what he means to say: "Shepard, there is something in my head. Help me."
He gets used to it. Garrus gets used to thinking around the thing in his head, gets good at focusing on other things, on fighting, on Shepard, on the crew, on stripping Cerberus software out and recalibrating the hardware with turian firing algorithms. He stops talking to other people. He focuses on optimizing firing solutions and code because then he doesn't have to think around that thing in his head. When he's doing math and tweaking systems, it's quiet. Even when Shepard comes to talk to him, he tells her he's busy, in the middle of things, just to make her leave so that thing in his head will stop making his thoughts ache.
Garrus hopes it will go away when the mission ends. He doesn't expect to survive and part of him is alright with that. Tali dies instead and takes part of Garrus with her. Thane loses an eye. Shepard gets another scar. They win. The thing in Garrus head is still there, like a chuck of shrapnel in his skull. Garrus knows that something is deeply wrong and he can't think about it. It won't let him. He can't tell his commander to run.
Before they jumped the Omega 4 Relay, Shepard asked him up to the captain's quarters and if anyone had something to say about it, they kept their mouths shut. One frantic, terrified fuck on the eve of battle. It should have ended there, days of desperation and despair fought off for an hour with something that was more bruises, scraped palms, and hard breathing than sex. Shepard swore in the dark, both of them needing it so badly that even if it hurt neither of them cared.
After the battle, Shepard tells Cerberus to fuck off.
Life goes on.
He thinks about leaving to start Spectre training again, about going home, but his head starts to hurt, to really just... He decides against Spectre training. He stays on Shepard's squad. Stays her shadow. Stays hers and Garrus can't remember that he ever wanted that. When Shepard comes to him, half-jokingly after a mission, he means to fondly turn her down, but then the thing his head goes blisteringly hot and she snaps the first clasp on his armor and... It doesn't feel good. It bothers him intensely how Shepard can fuck him weekly – climax shaking and gasping, spine bending, hands on every inch of him – and still not see. (I don't want this.) But the thing in his head won't let him say this. He can't leave Shepard.
It won't let him.
Garrus wakes sick with dread, gutted by the feeling that something is reaching into his brain and even when Shepard assures him he is imagining it – "I'vegotyouyou'refineIloveyoushhh'…" – he knows what's coming. He's certain. He's paralyzed by the realization that every time he closes his eyes, he comes back more exhausted than before and if this goes on, soon, he won't be able to tell where his thoughts end and the ones generated by the slug in his brain begin.
It's the dead of night, the Normandy in orbit over Illium. Shepard's asleep in the bed beside him.
"There's something wrong with me."
She breathes deep and even. He can only ever talk to her this way. It takes everything he has and he's still whispering.
"I can feel it watching. All the time. Making me watch you so they can too. I'm… I'm afraid. They did something and I need you to see. I need your help. Commander…"The thing in his head pulses hot. He can't speak. He can't move. It's unbearable. Garrus sits there praying the static in his head will stop, prays the agony mounting the tower of his spine will stop, that the chatter in his brain will just stop, please, please, stop… The thing quiets when Shepard suddenly sits up in bed.
"Garrus?" Her eyes widen in the dark, flashing soft cybernetic blue. "What's wrong?" She touches his neck and hisses. "Jesus,you're shaking. You're cold. What's happening? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he hears himself say. He didn't want to say that. "It was just a nightmare." He's not saying that! That's not him! Garrus brushes the back of his talons against Shepard's cheek, an involuntary move, and he hears himself say, "Go back to sleep." Terror crushes him. He tries to speak but he can't. Jane! Commander? Oh fuck I can't speak! They're making me speak! Please someone –! Anyone –!" But he hears himself say. "I'll be here in the morning."
Garrus Vakarian sits quietly all night long. He relaxes in the dark, watching Shepard like a sentinel, that thing in the back of his head humming like a small, dark engine, an illusive grip on his thoughts. He cries out and no one hears him from the middle of his own head. Shepard goes back to sleep.