First off a huge apology for dropping off the edge of the earth and not updating for so very long. Life and the end of the academic year got in the way to a rather big extent. As always, Bioware owns nearly everything, and reviews are always welcome.

Chapter Forty-One: Reclamation

The arc of the flashlight cut the stifling press of the darkness, blurred with tumbling motes. The air was stale, Shepard noted, stale and unmoving and she wondered how long it'd been since anything had breathed it, this suffocating silence. She turned, the light moving with her, slicing across high pitted walls and sand, gritty where it was heaped up against pillars and the angles of archways.

"Clear?"

"Reading clear," Garrus answered. "So what was that, ten minutes until our exactingly laid plans got torn apart?"

"Fifteen. And I thought we were calling this a detour."

"Yeah," he responded drily. "I've always wanted to see the inside of a long-lost krogan city."

"You know," Vega said, his boots scraping through the dust. "I'm a little less worried about the long-lost krogan city and more worried about the giant fucking Reaper that's apparently parked its ass at the Shroud."

Shepard grinned lopsidedly. "Yeah. Giant fucking Reapers have a way of putting things in perspective."

"Nice, Commander."

"Okay. Moving forward. Steady as we can, but let's not assume we have these tunnels to ourselves."

She crossed the rough expanse of stone, following the narrow line of a walkway as it lifted up into shadow. Carvings ran the length of the walls, some of them sunken and missing chunks, figures unraveling across the surface. She saw slanting towers and dizzyingly tall archways, scribed in the stone and rubbed uneven by too many years. Spires and archways and always the krogan, figures stamped in the rock.

Ten terse minutes delved them deeper into the city, sometimes marching, sometimes wading through dust and broken bits of stone. Another ten and she motioned the others on faster, pushing down and then up huge, roughly hewn steps. She cleared the rise, the flashlight picking out gaping fractures, webbing through the floor. She eased around the first, jumped the next two and paused, her gaze snapping downwards.

The stone was shaking, she thought, whispering somewhere far below. She held up one hand and waited, shoulders stiff. Somewhere beneath, she felt it, the marrow-deep rumbling that meant the earth was shifting, buckling, moving.

Into her comm, she said, "Wrex. You feeling any tremors up there?"

"No. Road's uneven but staying put. You through yet?"

"Still in darkness down here."

"Pick up the pace," he said, thick with static. "We wait around for you too long, we'll get swarmed by Reaper troops."

"I hear you."

They'd crested another set of dust-cloaked steps when the floor trembled again. Shepard paused, scanning the stairs, the treacherous gaps in the rocks, the empty darkness above.

"Yeah," she said, when she saw Garrus, and the vaguely resigned way he was staring at the floor. "I reckon I'm thinking what you're thinking."

"Yeah," he said. "But last time that damn thresher maw was at least above the surface."

"We have all the luck, you know that." Shepard flicked her comm on again and added, "Wrex. Eve. What are the chances that we're about to be eaten by thresher maws down here?"

"Where you are," Wrex answered. "If you're that deep, and that damn close to the Shroud? If you're hearing a maw, I'd be betting you're hearing Kalros."

"Kalros?" Half-listening, she gestured the others forward again, weaving between toppled pillars, heading for a time-scabbed stone ramp. She heard Eve's voice cut across Wrex's, calm and modulated and something about old stories, the pathways around the Shroud, the pathways beneath the ancient city, caverns that belonged to a maw that might as well have been part of Tuchanka's stubborn, vicious deserts itself. "Say again? We're down here in the dark with the biggest fucking thresher maw this place has to offer?"

"The mother of all thresher maws, apparently, if you want to get technical."

"Stow it, Vakarian."

The stone ramp lifted higher, and higher again, until she was striding out into the sudden, shocking flood of the sunlight. Harsh and the air all full of grit against her mouth but god it felt so much better, so much easier than the enclosing press of the darkness. She heard the surge and splash of running water, and followed Garrus' startled look to where it fell, tipping over old ledges, edged with white foam and clear. Bridges spanned deep crevasses, dipping sickeningly at the sides, stone blocks halfway to tumbling loose. Others arched higher, cutting the haze of the yellow sky. Trailing vines chased the lines of the stone, bristling thick and bright and green.

"Commander, we got incoming movement," Vega said briskly. "Closing slow."

"Find cover and be ready. Shout if you see a shadow you don't like the look of." She coiled herself behind the slant of a fallen slab and snapped, "Wrex, you got a mark on where we are?"

"You're close," he answered. "Move yourselves up north. Drop down into the sand and we can pick you up."

"What about the maw?"

"She's broken through the surface. She knows we're here."

"Wonderful," Shepard remarked wryly.

"Eve thinks we might have a shot at that Reaper."

"And what's that got to do with the maw?"

"We can talk about that later. You won't like it."

"As always you inspire me. Shepard out."

"Shepard," Garrus said, and she heard the whipcrack shot of his rifle. "Company."

Between heartbeats she had straightened up, leaning into the slab. Her gaze found the husks first as they ran, jostling against each other, winding between the pillars. The hulking heavy bastards she'd seen on Earth lumbered behind them, and the angular, ferocious things she knew had once been turians, and abruptly she wondered how much the Reapers might already know about the Shroud.

What it could do, what it had been designed to do.

What it would do, she thought fiercely, her finger curling and easing on the trigger in that familiar, relentless rhythm. Two husks toppled, and her next shot scythed the feet out from under another one. Another followed, crumpling, and she turned her attention to the big lumbering thing paces behind, the gun welded to its arm already flaring. She rolled sidewards, uncoiling upright in time to level her rifle at it. Throat opened, it staggered, and the follow-up shot sent it sprawling.

"Shepard," Garrus said, clipped. "Left."

Instinctively, she twisted until her vision was filled with another of them, its jaws dropping wide, too wide, and its claws locked around a rifle. "Yeah," she said. "I see him."


The hatch swung open, and Garrus vaulted out of the truck, one hand unthinkingly reaching for his rifle. As briskly, he scanned the terrain, all sand and grit and the spearing stone pillars that rose up, maybe two hundred metres of fast-marching distance away. Beyond, he could see the gleaming curves of the Reaper, scout, destroyer, whichever the hell it was, with its claws sunk into Tuchanka and its thoughts – thoughts, orders instincts, whatever it was that churned through its circuits – pinned on the Shroud.

"Pretty big," Shepard said mildly.

"And the closer you get, the bigger they seem," he replied, almost absently. "Lot of them back there."

"Yeah." She rubbed the back of one gloved hand across her forehead. "Seems like they certainly knew someone would want to use the Shroud. You know what really bothers me?"

"Can I give you a list?"

She grinned, and said, "Is it luck? Do they just swarm across the galaxy and dig their teeth in anywhere that seems good? Do they even know about the genophage?"

"And if they do, how do they," Garrus said. "And suddenly we're talking smart Reapers."

"Sovereign sounded smart," she responded lightly. "Sounded."

"He had to. He had to convince us that he was right at the forefront of our destruction."

"Vanguard."

He nudged her idly. "The things you remember scare me sometimes."

"Very funny."

"So," he said, his gaze straying to the haze of the dust and the implacable bulk of the Reaper. "What if it's finished before we get there?"

Poisoning the atmosphere, Solus had said, curdling the air and using the Shroud the way they meant to. Using the Shroud, Garrus thought, and part of him figured it was too damn close to be something as innocuous as coincidence.

"Then we blow it up for wasting our time."

"Yeah," he said. "Sorry. Don't know why I even asked."

"I was thinking it."

"And Eve's plan?"

"You know, since we're going to be coaxing a really big thresher maw to the place where we want to be, where there is also a Reaper, I'm not sure we should even be calling this a plan."

Garrus snorted. "Yeah, we're unlikely to find this one in the approved ground tactics manual."

"There's a manual?" she responded, and he heard the slight laugh under her words.

Footsteps struck the ground behind, and he turned in time to see Wrex, Vega and Liara trailing behind him.

"You ready?" Wrex asked.

"Yeah," Shepard said. Brusquely, she added, "It's going to get messy in there, so let's run through a few things now. Until we hit those maw hammers, the Reaper is not a priority target. Run, dodge or just plain fucking hide, but we are not chasing it down one-on-one."

"Kalros," Vega said, and shrugged. "We're sure about it?"

"She'll be there. She followed us. Liara," she added. "You'll stay with Eve and Mordin. Keep them covered and you'll stay right back until you hear that we've pushed through."

"Of course."

"Our problem, aside from the big bastard siphoning off the Shroud, is that we're doing two assignment runs in one," she said firmly.

Listening, Garrus could hear his own impatience in her voice, leashed and measured and he knew how she'd be wanting to be already out there, to be dragging them inches closer to the cure, to get something done that didn't involve running away, didn't involve the ragged pieces of somebody else's plan coming apart around them.

"That means we pace ourselves," Shepard said. "We run ourselves to the wire getting the maw hammers up and working, and we'll stumble later. This is not going to be quick. Questions?"

"Asking anything else just means I have to think some more about what we're apparently going to do," Vega muttered.

"Okay," she said, and smiled, an edged, terse kind of smile. "Let's go play tag with a thresher maw."


The stone shook, and Shepard righted herself long enough to swear before she was vaulting up the steps again, each rock slab huge and pitted. Another heaving leap took her higher, one hand grasping for the next step, her rifle jostling loose in its harness. Furiously, she kicked higher again, sharply aware of the clamour somewhere below.

They'd come pouring down the steps, Reaper ground troops, and four grenades in brutal succession had done little to stem them. Skidding through grit and clambering between stone spars, they'd kept coming, clawing over each other, clawing over their own dead as they toppled. Hurtling and stampeding, and she could hear them beneath the rhythmic rattle of gunfire. The temple – arena, enclosed circles of stone, all statues and carved serpent-shapes, whatever it was – was a damn bottleneck, ground terrain hemmed in on both sides by sloping steps and wind-winnowed sand, close on knee deep and treacherous where it spilled up against the walls.

Above her head, the air hummed. A fraction too late, she sank into a desperate crouch, teeth gritted while the Reaper's beam weapon sliced into the stone. She waited out another heartbeat while it swung back.

"Shepard," Garrus snapped, breathless, his voice uneven with distance and exertion.

"Okay," she answered. "Just making friends."

"Artimec Wing's on their way back in."

"Good. They can distract this bastard."

The beam curved up and across the edge of the steps and before she could think herself out of it, she wrenched herself up, heels sliding. Another frantic heave pulled her over the lip of the steps and onto flat stone. Somewhere below, she heard the rush and roar of combat. The low rumble of the beam weapon filled her head – marrow-deep and how quickly she'd learned it, learned how it swallowed sound and thought and locked the breath up in her lungs – and frantically she threw herself forward. She heard the buzz of her shields flickering before the surge of pressure flung her further. The edge, she knew, just the very edge of the damn beam, and it'd barely brushed her, and now she was on her knees and knocked close to winded.

She scrabbled for purchase, dragged herself upright, and gauged the distance to the maw hammer.

"Wrex," she snarled into her comm. "I'm looking at the maw hammer. Where are you?"

"Across from you," he answered.

"Okay. Raising the maw hammer."

She had to wrestle with it, had to grapple with the sweat inside her gloves and the way her hands kept glancing against it. Behind, she heard the thrum of the Reaper, the heavy thundering noise as it moved. The crackle of the beam weapon followed.

"Dropping mine," Wrex said gruffly.

"Right with you."

She wrangled it an inch higher, aware of the Reaper, the way the din of it seemed to wrap around her. The beam weapon arced down, scything across dry stone. Furiously, Shepard ignored it. Part of her mind registered the sudden growl of engines, and Garrus' half-startled shout of recognition, and finally, mercifully, the rattle of ship fire.

The maw hammer fell. She dropped flat beside it, her hands flattening against the ground. The sound – not even a sound, she thought, a vibration, a swell – jarred through the stone.

"Wrex," she snapped. "You hear that? Feel that?"

"Yeah. Keep yourself back. She's on her way."

The stone was trembling. In pulsing ripples, the stone was trembling, or breathing, or both. Clawing her way backwards, away from the lip of the steps, Shepard wondered how it'd feel on the ground, all those metres below, with the maw close to the surface, with the maw on its way to the Reaper.

"Garrus," she said. "Get clear. You and Vega. Get yourselves clear."

"On our way," he answered, his voice as uneven as hers had been.

Her shoulders were flat against the low stone wall when she heard it, the roar and rush of the maw as it sheared through broken rock and up and out into empty air. Its heaving coils rose and fell as it plunged through the temple. Relentless, the maw surged on, breaching the sand again and again. Halfway to elation, Shepard stared as it surfaced again.

The Reaper's beam weapon sliced down. Still moving, the maw twisted, the heavy length of it rolling into the sand. As fast, its coils surged up and out and locked around the Reaper's hull. The maw tipped sideways and down, the punishing weight of it hauling the Reaper along with it. Hands locked over the edge of the wall, Shepard watched as it fought the Reaper under the surface, the coils lashing and tightening.

She watched until the sand settled, the Reaper drowned somewhere beneath.

"Holy shit," she said, eventually, the breath leaving her chest in a shuddering rush. "That look as terrifying from down there?"

"Let's see," Garrus answered. "There was that part where the maw came bolting past us. So, yeah."

"Anything else I need to know?"

"Got shot by a Reaper."

"Keep bragging, Vega."

"Not something that happens every day," he protested.

"The way the galaxy's going at the moment? Consider that practice." She pushed away from the wall. "Okay. Coming down."

She picked her way back down the high stone steps, aware of the twinging ache that ran between her shoulders. One awkward tumble too many, she supposed, or else when that thing that had once been a turian had side-swiped her hard into the wall.

She discovered Wrex at the base of the steps, Garrus and Vega beside him, all of them filthy with sand and grit.

"Nice view?" Garrus asked, drily.

"Yeah, though not one I necessarily want to repeat." She paused long enough to scrub one hand across the back of her neck, the muscles there still stiff with tension. "Wrex, you ready to get this finished?"

His gaze pinned her, shrewd and raking. "You're really asking that?"


Tuchanka was dry and barren and too damn dusty, Garrus considered, but at least the place was warm. He shifted the weight of his rifle again and tried to stop himself from looking at the Shroud again, at the thin needle of metal and glass where it rose up into the grey bowl of the sky.

She'd been gone seven minutes, the last he'd checked, and the seconds were crawling. She'd ordered Solus following behind her, and the rest of them to wait, eyes on the horizon and watching for movement.

The Shroud was already wreathed in smoke, its walls smudged dark. Garrus had listened, minutes ago, while Solus had rattled off something about one last sample from Eve and how he'd been wondering if the original strain might still be sitting there in the ground-level lab complex. The salarian's words lingered, whipcrack fast, how the Shroud might well have absorbed the shattering impact of the maw and her prey, how he couldn't be sure how the tech systems inside might be holding, how he couldn't be sure what he'd find, what he might be able to piece together.

Despite himself, Garrus' thoughts flitted to the maw again, to the way she'd come thundering through the temple, the whole dizzying size of her coiling and looping through sand and broken stone as if it was air. The thudding sound of her, of the Reaper, of them both as they'd shuddered under the sand.

"Anything?" Vega muttered.

"Clear." He turned slightly, almost glad of the distraction. "Don't tell me you want to make more Reaper friends?"

"Right now? Give me something to do."

"I know what you mean."

"You ever see a thresher maw up close before?"

"Yeah," he answered, absently. "Big one. Not as big as Kalros."

Head still tilted towards the open stretches of sand, Vega said, "Story in that?"

"You remember Grunt?"

"Your enthusiastic krogan commando buddy."

Garrus laughed. "Him. He went through an initiation ritual down here which ended up involving us running around like hell after a maw. Took it down eventually."

"Right," Vega said. "I'm just going to go with hey, krogan, crazy, best not ask."

Garrus scanned the horizon again, his gaze dipping between sloping dunes and past the ragged jut of rocks. The wind howled out here, slicing brisk and loud and turning every surveying motion into a fight with the roar of it. Beneath his feet, he felt it, the sand shifting.

"You feeling that?"

"Yeah," Vega replied. "Another maw? The same maw?"

He waited through another listening moment, head turned away from the scream of the wind. "Feels different," Garrus said brusquely. "The Shroud. Let's move."

The sand clung to his boots until he cleared the low rise. Four more strides had him through and staring at the Shroud, at the flames that plumed through its walls, the glass splitting. For half a heartbeat he halted, automatically noting the details, the spread of the fire thick at the top of the tower, the air there blurred with heat. It was pulling itself apart, he saw, its metal struts buckling beneath the flames.

"Shepard," Garrus snarled. "Shepard? You reading me? You hear me?"

"Okay," she answered, breathing too hard. "I'm okay. Nearly to you."

Briskly, he scrutinized the smoke until he saw her, hauling herself around the edge of the wall. She was wrung through, and he could see it in the way she was walking, her hands slipping too fast against the stone, the almost clumsy way she yanked her helmet off.

"Hey," he said, softly, as if it hadn't been a bare handful of minutes since he'd seen her stride into the Shroud. "You okay?"

"Mordin's dead."

"I'm sorry," he said. Words, he thought, words that you had to say, words to say to fill the silence, and he hoped she'd know what he meant.

"He went up. Into the tower. He reckons we'll see the dispersal if it worked."

"He had to go up?"

"He had to," Shepard said heavily. She swiped at the sweat that lined her forehead. "Come on. Let's go tell Wrex it might've worked."

"Shepard."

"I'll be okay," she said, gentler. "You see anything?"

"Sand and dust and nothing else."

He looked past her, at the roiling smoke, and something else – probably half in his fucking mind, given the day and the Reaper and the way they'd been running for hours - something else above the point of the tower. Something soft and maybe like rain and pattering through the smoke, and when he tipped his head back, he saw the high, spreading arcs of it.

"You reckon that's it?"

"Yeah," she said, eventually, as if she'd been hunting for the right words. Her gaze followed his, marveling. "I think that's it."

Later in the truck, she stayed quiet, leaning into his shoulder, and he could smell the exhaustion on her, sweat and battered armour and the acrid rasp of the sand. At the Hollows, Garrus swung himself onto the ground and found himself staring up at the sky again, eyes narrowing when he tried to see it, whatever Solus had done.

What he had done to the air itself and what it would do for the krogan.

"Hey," Wrex said gruffly. "We'll have combat units on their way to Palaven soon as they're able."

"Wasn't going to ask," Shepard said. "Well, maybe."

He snorted. "Right."

"You'll be okay?"

"Yes," Eve answered, her voice burred rough. "We will. You saw the city, Commander. Not the tunnels. The city where things still grow."

Garrus remembered the rich shining arches of leaves, tumbling through deep canyons. The air had tasted different there, something else under the choking cling of dust and broken stone, something fresh and alive and green.

"Yes," Shepard said. "I did."

"Then you have seen that we might rebuild. That we can make this place great again. Perhaps beautiful." Eve's gaze sharpened. "Not today, but one day."

"Shepard," Wrex said. "Just wanted to – well, thank you. For standing with us. Standing beside us."

"Running around getting shot at is what we do best." Her grin softened. "You're welcome."

Wrex clapped her across the shoulder. "Let me know how it goes with saving the rest of the galaxy."

"Your confidence overwhelms me. So," she added. "Stupid question. How will we actually know if the cure's worked?"

Wrex laughed. "I'll give you all the detail you want."

"No. No, thank you. Sometimes I am happy living in ignorance."


The shuttle settled onto the floor of the landing bay with practiced ease. Garrus waited, half-listening to the fading hiss of the engines. He trailed Shepard out and down, vaguely aware of Vega behind him, saying something to Liara about the heat and the maw. He was reaching for the keypad beside the door when Joker's voice crackled over the comm.

"You all breathing down there?"

"Still standing," Shepard answered. "What have we missed and am I going to like it?"

"You're not," Joker said ruefully. "I've got Hackett waiting for you on the comm."

"Tell him I'm taking a nap. Details?"

"Fleet info and something about something he wants you to do."

"That clarifies so much." She sighed. "Tell him I'll take it in the briefing room, two minutes."

"Sure, Commander."

Shepard glanced up at him, tired and resigned beneath the sweat-damp whorls of her hair. "I'll find you later?"

"Of course."

She caught the back of his wrist, squeezing hard. "You always know the right thing to say."

"You're just easy to please," he responded, and was rewarded when she laughed.

"Still looking for the compliment in that one," she flung over her shoulder at him.

They'd talk it through – they'd need to, he thought - and he could see it in her face, Tuchanka and the Shroud and Solus. He thought of Menae, and how he'd been yanked away from debriefing to go back out and up on the surface again, whether he'd wanted to or otherwise – often he had, often he'd demanded it, snarled for it – and how sometimes he'd come back down with the knowledge of it all simmering, and nowhere to piece it all together.

Hackett snapping his fingers for her attention and he knew why, knew how it worked, knew how assignments were farmed out when combat zones were broadened. Ship spread, location, speed, too many finicky variables and he knew damn well that it was numbers and resources, plain and brutal.

He wove his way up to the loft deck and into their quarters and peeled his armour off piece by filthy piece. He went over most of it, smoothing out nicks and dents and that one long ugly scrape that crossed one of the shoulder pieces. He ducked into the shower afterwards, tipping his head into the scalding heat of the spray until he could taste nothing but the water.

Later, he discovered Primarch Victus sitting at his workstation, his gaze locked on the screen, and his hands busy at the keyboard.

"Vakarian, good," the Primarch said, without looking up. "You want to give me a brief run-down?"

He obeyed, listening to himself as the words fell into place, simple and brisk and absurd at the same time. The details he could recall, the furious scrappy pace of it on the ground, Vega half-veiled in the dust, Liara shielding Eve, Shepard somewhere up top and Reaper troops lumbering through the sand. The maw, and how she'd come bursting up through the ground and down again and taken the Reaper with her.

"We cleared the area around the Shroud, sir, but I'd be betting that the Reapers won't be leaving the planet alone."

"Understandable." Victus leaned back in his chair. "That was good work today."

"Thank you, sir."

"I've already received a preliminary outline from Wrex." Victus' expression shifted slightly, almost wry. "You think he'll follow through?"

"I do," Garrus said immediately. "He said he'll get krogan troops on Palaven if we get the cure to the Shroud."

"And what about any period of transition? Even if Solus' assumptions were correct, this is not going to change anything soon."

"I know. And Wrex knows. What he wanted was the start of it."

Victus nodded. "Alright, I'm prepared to go with your assessment. I'll deal with krogan support directly once I'm back with Palaven Command."

Garrus hesitated, his tongue dragging against the back of his teeth. "What's your plan for Palaven?"

"I won't know until I'm there." As sharply, Victus exhaled, his shoulders sinking. "I'm getting reports in, but they change by the hour."

"By the minute."

"Hah. Yes." Victus' eyes narrowed before he added, "If it works – if it even begins to work – that extra troop presence might give us the breathing space we need. Push the Reapers back and keep pushing."

"Yes, sir. Anything else?"

"No. Thank you, Vakarian."

He nodded, and five minutes later he'd taken himself through the CIC and down, into the half-deserted mess hall. He found Joker sitting stiffly at the small table in the corner, Liara seated beside him. Vega was poised across, his gaze on a half-full mug.

"Hey, Garrus." Joker's head lifted. "Guess all we need now is a giant gun that shoots thresher maws."

"Funny."

"Only stops being funny when you stop smiling."

"I'm not smiling."

"You're hiding it, desperately."

He tugged a chair out and sat. "Aren't you meant to be welded to that seat in the cockpit?"

"If I'm really good, I get to get up and do other stuff sometimes." Joker crossed his arms on the table. "I heard about Mordin. I'm sorry."

"Yeah," Garrus said heavily. "It worked, I guess. It just – yeah. Quiet up here?"

"Yeah. Mostly I was just wondering just who the hell thought it was a good idea to point the maw at the Reaper."

"Still can't believe that worked," Vega muttered.

"You'll get used to it."

"Getting there," Vega said. He reached for the mug again.

The silence returned, that exhausted wordlessness that Garrus knew meant they were all worn through, the day too long and too frantic and all you could do was wait it out, until the jolt of it bled away. Somewhere behind, he heard footsteps, light and measured. He turned in time to see Shepard, clad in neatly fastened fatigues, her hair glossy under the spill of the lights.

"Hey." She swung a chair out beside him, sitting close enough that he could smell clean skin and soap. "And here I thought I was the crazy one with too much rolling around in my head."

"You're still the crazy one," Garrus said mildly.

"Lovely," she retorted, and he saw the strain at the corners of her eyes ease slightly. "You want the errand list from Alliance HQ now or later?"

Joker snorted. "How much?"

"We'll get through it. Hackett's problem is Cerberus, and where they keep sticking their necks up. If we're in the area, we hit back at them."

"Nice," Joker muttered.

"Well," she said. "We always knew they'd never stay quiet."

"I was hoping."

"He say anything about Tuchanka?" Garrus asked.

"Briefly, we did well. Not so briefly, full report, ASAP."

"Logbooks and shit," Vega remarked. "Remind me to never want to get promoted."

"Shepard," Liara said. "You're alright?"

"Yeah," she answered, the word half a sigh. "I think so."

"You know," Garrus said, his gaze on Shepard's hands where they were locked a little too rigid over the edge of the table. "However it works out, Mordin really kicked history in the teeth today."

"Yeah," she said, softer. "That's certainly something."