Note: If you're reading this and haven't read The Fall of Normandy, I suggest you head there now and read it. You'll be super out of the loop otherwise.
-The End of Dawn
|Location: Serpent Nebula/Citadel/Kithoi Ward/Yovaan Hotel Complex/2nd floor/Room B-12|
Tali took a steady breath, one that barely had any composure in it, and sighed. "Hi Garrus."
"Look. We uh... Liara wants us to get together. To grab something to eat. You should come along."
There was a long pause over the phone and Garrus had to make sure he hadn't been disconnected.
Garrus himself took a breath. "There's a sit-down place a couple blocks from you. Ever heard of Fauner's?"
"It's a good place. Caters to everyone. We'll be meeting in four hours."
Tali glanced at her at her clock. "So at five."
The quarian sniffled. "Alright. I'll be there."
"Want me to pick you up?"
"I'll be fine."
"Okay," He murmured, "Just call if you need anything."
Tali didn't say good-bye. Nor did she thank him for his thoughtfulness. She simply ended the call and let her arm fall loosely back down to her side.
John Shepard really was gone. And she'd spent these last few hours staring blankly at nothing.
She could spend an eternity in this dingy little room, she thought numbly to herself. If it weren't for the pilgrimage, she probably would have.
John's funeral was earlier this morning. She'd paid her respects to his empty casket and retired for the day back to her hotel room to think it all over and grieve. Tali guessed that it wasn't healthy to measure her loss alone, and sitting here with only her thoughts to keep her company was, as she saw it, steering her way to insanity.
She felt like she was being smothered. Like she was drowning almost. And, as anyone would suppose, she went over everything that'd transpired that fateful week again in her head.
The Normandy and her crew. The planet they'd been stranded on. The collectors. And then finally John.
Her eyes squeeze shut at the mere mention of his name.
She tucked her knees in and wrapped her arms around them. It was regret, she supposed. All of it. Regretful that she hadn't stayed with him before the Denmark had been gutted from bottom to top, muttering one last painful breath before exploding into an unsteady miasma of lights. Regretful that she hadn't gone down with him against the vacuum of space. And most of all, regretful that she'd watched it all helplessly from a distance.
She cried a little longer and the minutes roll by. She should've went down that elevator with him. But she didn't. And now he's dead.
And she was here.
Three hours forty minutes had passed. Never once did she feel that going over to Fauner's was going to be a good idea.
But it was best if she made an appearance. And, with any luck, she'd feel some release from her unyielding vise of depression, and quell, even for a moment, her grief.
A heavy sigh passed through her lips as she heaved herself from bed. Her eyes were heavy and swollen. From sobbing, obviously.
She came up to the door and didn't bother checking herself in the mirror.
Having someone you loved so intensely gone would tend to make you not care about the way you looked anymore. She stepped out into the hallway, went down an elevator, out through the foyer, and into the streets to the rendezvous point Liara had picked. Passerby's would occasionally glance at the quarian, while others would stare at her blankly. She ignored them all and absently put one foot in front of the other.
She took a left.
Unlike the Presidium and the local ward surrounding it, the extremities that made up the Citadel were analogous to that of the city floors of Illium or Omega even.
There were undesirables strewn about the alleyways. Most of them sleeping or searching through trash, others smoking some weird herb, or getting high off red sand.
Then there were the thieves and gangs and criminals. All of them "incognito" in the midst of the homeless ready to feed off any unsuspecting middle-class idiot who'd accidentally wandered off too far into these parts.
As Tali walked, it wasn't a surprise to come across some pugnacious looking group of people standing on the opposite end of the street.
If it were her guess, they were probably a part of some lame gang with a little 'territory' here.
She watched them from the corner of her eye and mentally sighed.
Assholes like the ones she was looking at tended to disillusion themselves with the idea that quarian girls like her were helpless and naive about the inner workings of what lay stuffed under the Citadel's silver lining.
She counted them.
Two batarians, a turian, and what looked to be a drell.
One of the batarian's pointed in her direction following the suit of three new pairs of eyes (or four if Tali was being nitpicky) turning to stare at her as she strolled by.
They discuss something quickly and came to a stupid decision. Before the group could begin their idiotically aggressive stride, the drell stopped them all with the extension of an arm.
"You're all signing yourselves up for a funeral." The drell informed, "It'd probably be smart not to jump her."
"Oh, shut the fuck up," sneered the turian, "It's a dumb fucking quarian. What she gonna do, cough?"
"I'd rather she give me a handjob." One of the batarians added with a slur.
They pushed past the drell and made their way to her.
She was not in the mood for this.
"Hey bitch." The turian spat, his stride long and amped to make himself look bad-ass.
"Please. Kindly fuck off." Tali rebuked flatly.
Tali didn't generally swear. But there was always an exception.
"Well shit, bitch has got quite the mouth." The batarian who'd made the handjob comment said, "I'd love to see her use it for something else."
Oh. As if her life wasn't full enough of cliche moments. How long would it be they try to redeem whatever was left of their hyper-masculinity?
Not long at all. The distance closed and before long they surrounded her with the musky scents of cheap cologne and offensive amounts of alcohol.
Oh yeah. They were all drunk as shit.
Ordinarily, Tali would never have considered fighting three sober men. That was asking for a swift death. But judging just by their breath alone, this was going to be a cake-walk.
"What do you want?" Tali replied with a low growl.
"You." The handjob batarian said before placing his sweaty palm on her arm. He tried to pull her down on to the ground... but his elbow suddenly hung loose at an odd angle.
Then the quarian gave him a nasty cross face too before rolling to the side, pulling out her concealed weapon, and firing.
The bark of her pistol spat two rounds, both swallowed whole by the turian's arm and leg.
The turian, now with two extra holes, slipped and dropped his knife before hitting his bony head on the curb and bruising his brow.
The last batarian whirled around to get a bead on the quarian and realized the hot tip of Tali's pistol was tracing his forehead, laser and everything.
"Drop the gun. Now."
The batarian didn't have the heart to lower his weapon. Mainly out of fear, Tali assumed.
"You really wanna do this?" Tali said with a demanding murmur, "Put the damn gun down and you get to see tomorrow."
The gun fell from the batarian's loose hands and he fell to his knees.
"Please… d-don't shoot." The batarian pleaded as he covered his eyes with his hands.
"I removed the incendiary rounds this morning." Tali said evenly as she kicked his gun into the street, "Be glad your friend isn't cooking."
Tali glanced at the bleeding two-holed turian before tossing her spare parcel of medi-gel toward the guy's feet.
"Your friend's bleeding out." Tali said as she holstered her pistol, "Try this again, and I'll omit my exercise to use such selective marksmanship."
Before she turned and left, she saw the drell from earlier waving to her with a smirk on his face.
Just out of irony, she waved back, and went on her way.
Garrus tapped at the wooden finish of the bar inattentively while holding his Krolus Heineken in the other. He took another, rather large, gulp and lightly placed the ice-cold mug back on the counter before turning his attention to the vid placed before the small congregation of drinkers.
He came early, as always, to events like this, cheerless or joyful. It was routine, and not even the death of Shepard, as he saw it, could change that. For once, he decided to not wear his iconic visor; the occasion made the head piece an awkward accessory to his outfit. Hearing heavy footsteps come up from behind him, he turned around to see Wrex approach.
"How you doin'?" Wrex asked simply as he sat down at the bar with Garrus.
"Been better." His reply was crass and bitter. He took another swig of beer and put it back on the counter.
"Ryncol. Potent. Two limes." Wrex thumbed the counter for the salarian bartender.
A minute passed by and neither of them said anything.
When the bartender handed the krogan his drink, he snatched it, dumped whatever was in the mug into his open mouth (including the two limes) before setting the mug back down on the counter.
"Another, please." he said.
"So," Wrex shrugged as he faced Garrus, "What should we talk about?"
"Not sure, Wrex," The turian gave another glance at the vid behind them both and shook his head, "Not sure."
Thirty minutes passed before Tali came walking into the place.
Soon after was Ash, Joker, Liara, and several of the crew who were fortunate enough to survive their mishap.
They all moved to a private booth, sipped on alcohol, and chewed tasteless food before departing with little or no good-byes.
This was farewell to everyone mostly.
No one knew it yet, but she was leaving tomorrow. And she wouldn't say so until she was long and far gone from this place. Until then, all she had to worry about was getting back to her hotel.
Ash and Liara both insisted that Tali just get a ride in their car, but she refused. So Liara called a taxi instead before helping her in the air-car, paying for the fare, and saying their good-byes.
When she made it back, she passed the lobby, took the elevator back up to her floor, and weaved her way through the hotel's gray hallways before sliding in her card and entering her room.
Without much thought, she sat on the bed, wept for one last time, and fell asleep.
Though, even in her dreams, Tali wouldn't escape the agony.