Fresh pair of eyes

by Alialka

Author's Note:

This is set just before the mission "Priority: Tuchanka" and written in something that would be Primarch Victus' perspective. No big spoilers what so ever, unless we count what happened to Lt. Victus as one.

Title taken straight from Brooke Waggoner's song, which is gorgeous and worth listening to at any time and place.

Thank you for reading!

The reports kept coming.

The deaths of his people… his people became numbers now, hundreds and thousands of them turning up on the datapad every passing minute. It took everything not to clench his talons around the blinking - constantly blinking - screen or not to throw it against one of the many stations installed in the room.

Dammit all, he should be there with his men! Fighting, resisting, dying…

The red and blue image of the Crucible flickered suddenly, caught his attention, caused him to draw a deep, forced breath. There was no use and no point in clawing at what used to be, at what he used to be. New responsibilities came with the new position and the Primarch rolled his shoulders, trying to ease even the smallest bit of the tension that have long since settled in.

It was in moments like these, when he found himself alone, accompanied by the hum of engines and the orange hue of the datapads scattered all around, that the reality became simply suffocating.

Because this time, the krogan – Urdnot Wrex, the famed Battlemaster himself - that usually accompanied him in the room, was gone for the night, Spirits only knew where exactly his bunk was. And even if it meant that his thoughts would be his only companion, the Primarch was seemingly glad for the solitude.

The death glares and muttered curses – thrown from both sides, just to be fair - weren't exactly what he needed right now. It was straining, causing his nerves to sizzle and he actually waited for the short moments when Commander Shepard made her way into the room, to report to her Admirals and then to spare a few words with both of them. She always did that, despite her own weariness and stiff neck. They were the times when the mutual krogan/turian tension seemed to dissolve, even if for a short moment, but it was a relief none the less.

She tried her earnest to get both of them on the right track, to keep them focused on the bigger picture, no matter if it meant using harsh, soldiery words at him or actually head-butting Wrex – she did that once already, taking both of them by surprise and the bruise on her forehead she sported later on was simply magnificent – into listening. His mandibles flared in a tired, turian grin at the memory.

Well, now he could understand why Garrus spoke so highly of the Commander. Despite all the mistrust between their two species, Shepard could only be respected and she was a force to be reckoned with. He also could almost understand what made the other turian willingly follow her into hell and back. Again. What was it, their third time now? The Primarch shook his head, feeling something coil inside of him all of the sudden.

Taking on the impossible.

Shepard knew how to pick her battles…

His eyes were sore now, from the constant onslaught of orange and blue light and he felt the overwhelming need to get out. Leave the room, change the surroundings, just… move. It was late into the night, if he remembered correctly the passage of the cycles, as they all were the same right now, divided only by Shepard's fast steps and incoming reports. The Alliance soldier's surely have gone to their quarters, and the ship was quiet, the hum and buzz of its electronics the only sound.

And with his heart hammering against his chest, the Primarch left the all too familiar war room.

It felt like he was at the point of dragging his feet by then, as he made his way towards the mess, throat suddenly dry and tight and he knew there was a hefty supply dextro-amino drinks in there. Shepard made sure the aliens aboard her ship would feel as welcomed as possible.

Considering that he himself managed to walk in on Garrus and that asari doctor, Liara T'Soni, lounging around with drinks in hand, she managed do achieve just that. The corridor that led from the elevator to the mess was short and dark and strangely cool.

It felt nice.

"There's beer for you somewhere in there." It was the Commander's voice, just around the corner and it made Victus stop in his tracks.

He didn't expect her.

He felt stretched long and thin and needed a breather, a moment of peace and meeting with first human Spectre right now felt like a task he would gladly postpone. Until, let's say, next morning.

"Now, why weren't these here when we hit the Collectors' base? I sure could use a few back then."


Victus didn't expect Garrus as well and something gnawed at the back of his mind.

He should leave, his own drink forgotten. Leave the two soldiers to their own. Because there were whispers, hushed voices that reached even down to the war room, rumors he paid no attention to. And Spirits, it was below a man of his position to eavesdrop!

A sigh left him before he even realized the heaviness of his heart.

But it was too deep into the night to care about social graces and he was so tired, so … so sick of the constant news flash about deaths and causalities and despair.

He closed his eyes at the soft tss! sound of bottle being opened, at the wave of weariness that crashed all over him and told himself it was just for a moment. Just to claw at something that was, that had to be normal.

Even if it was normal for someone else.

"Leading my second team piss drunk? I hope that's not your idea of doing things stylishly!" There was a strange, smooth quality in the Commander's voice, one that came only accompanied by a small smile, Victus knew that by now.

In these dark and desperate times, she smiled rarely enough and everyone had no option but to notice what changed when she actually did.

Garrus chuckled and it drowned out the soft clicks of armored feet against the metal floor. Something rattled, clanked lightly then – he took his seat, Victus was sure of that – and another two clicks followed.

"Really, Vakarian?" Shepard kept her voice light, almost teasing and it made him wonder, "Feet on the table? More and more classy."

"Well, I couldn't do anything less than that, could I? Would hate to disappoint you."

Their banter seemed so out of place, so painfully ... ordinary it made Victus' chest constrict in a sudden pain. It was as if they weren't trying to save the Galaxy from imminent destruction, as if they weren't standing up against forces that wiped out grand civilizations that flourished before theirs.

But that was what he wanted, just moments ago…right? A grasp on something normal.

There was a sudden sigh and a clank of bottle.

"They really are fading…" Shepard's voice trailed off and there was something different in it.

Human voices were hard to read, flat and unable to carry the whole spectrum of emotions like turian voices did and so Victus was unable to pinpoint what changed exactly. Yet, he knew something did.

"Oh? So should I really get out and get some new ones? I'm sure I'll have more than one opportunity to do so."

She gave a watery kind of laugh and took a deep breath.

"I'm sure you will." Silence barely managed to stretch over the mess when she spoke again. "Don't… don't do that. It was bad enough back on Omega and I don't think I …"

"Shepard…", he tried to interrupt her but Shepard stubbornly continued, voice strangely unsteady and Victus' curiosity spiked.

"I mean… half of your face is bad enough, and if I see you trying to stop another missile…"

Garrus' scars were indeed a painful sight, but the turian seemed to no longer mind. But the reason of Shepard's concern was beyond him and why would she bring that subject up any…

"Shepard, stop. You couldn't save Tarquin."

The Primarch's eyes snapped open, his chest heavy and burning. His son… Shepard was cool and strangely understanding when she told him of his son's death, of how he sacrificed himself for the greater good. How he did what was expected of him, as a turian and as a general's son.

She averted her eyes quicker then, faster than usual and her step was heavier as she left him alone.

His breath seemed to rip through him as he tried to wrap his mind over the strange conversation he listened to and what it implied.

Around the corner, Shepard sighed heavily and Victus could literally see the way her shoulders had to be slumped right now, head hanging low and that impossibly red hair obscuring her face.

"But I wanted to."

He should leave, he knew that, but with such a heavy heart the only thing he could do was remember to breathe in and out, in and out. But this was no time for mourning, not with thousands of lives gone with each passing minute and who was he to selfishly suffer of his own loss…?

"We're about to save a whole race," Garrus' voice turned both hard and soft, the duality rare but not uncommon, "And he died to do the same, Shepard. Don't take that away from him."

"I know, I know. I just… wanted this to go right," she muttered and Victus heard the other turian chuckle again.

"Are you quoting your Gunnery Chief, Commander? Always knew my speeches were inspirational."

The teasing was back in his voice, a sudden bark of a laugh escaped her and Victus suddenly breathed easier. Still, he felt horrible, listening on a conversation that surely was never meant for anyone but the two of companions.

"Very," another clank of bottles and she seemed lighter, and he wondered if he could too, and then much softly she added, "Thank you, Garrus."

He pushed himself off the goddamn wall, making just enough sound to alert the two that someone was coming. Why should he alert them in the first place, he couldn't really comprehend.

They sat on the long bench next to the double refrigerators, Garrus' legs stretched out comfortably on the table and Shepard's equally comfortable underneath it. Two bottles of beer – two brands, suitable and safe for each of their kind – and more than little of space between them.

"Primarch," they both said in greeting and Garrus moved to sit properly, his moves slow and strained and the Primarch raised one hand.

"Commander, Garrus. At ease."

The younger turian deserved a break during his off duty time, so who was he to take it from him. It was not his place to do so. Not his ship to do so.

He heard Shepard sigh again – much lighter than just moments ago - as he opened the fridge with dextro-food and in the peripheral of his eye he saw her rest her head tiredly against the shoulder pad of the turian's armor. Her movement was fluid, sure and so casual that it boggled him, as his mind wrapped itself around the hushed whispers he ignored up to this moment.

Their friendship was solid and strong and never wavering, everyone knew that, but was she not aware of … gossip around her ship?

"There's turian beer in there," Shepard said after a while, eyes closed and her fingers curling around the cool bottle, "Help yourself, we all need it at one point or the other."

"Better than most of the food, too." Garrus added and she scoffed lightly, elbowing him. He couldn't have felt it, not with the thick of his armor and the softness of her strange, human clothing, but the flare of mandibles was perfectly visible and the Patriarch stared at them for a moment.

Because there was a certain fondness in that grin.

He grabbed a bottle and tore the cap away, his hands suddenly shaking and a growl raising deep within him. He wondered if they were still aware that he was there with them.

The beer was cold and felt so good against his constricted throat.

"It's good to have you watching my six again, Garrus," Shepard said, downing the rest of the beer and the Primarch's stomach twisted suddenly.

The answer to his own question, it seemed, would be that they weren't. Or they simply didn't care.

She still had her head against Garrus' shoulder and the turian himself shifted ever so. He took a swing of his own drink and carefully leaned his head against the wall.

"Wouldn't have it any other way, Commander."

Victus muttered a quick good bye, one that fell on deaf ears it seemed, as the urge to get away from this strange… thing became too overwhelming. He might have craved normal, even if not his sort of normal, but this? This was anything but. It was layers of comfort and pain and trust and death threats and it was all too much to comprehend on a regular day.

What to make of it amidst war and destruction…?

The elevator's door hissed open and before the Primarch could block everything out he heard Garrus sigh, but then he spoke – quiet and soft, flanging and resonating through the empty mess - and it caused Victus to halt his steps for another second.

"I think you've pretty much ruined me for the turians, Shepard."

He had to be grinning, had to be, because there was that complexity, that double edge that was only heard when…

Victus' mind came to screeching halt and he slammed the console.

"Wouldn't have it any other way, Garrus." Shepard's voice was barely above a lazy whisper and for the first time, Victus had no problems in understanding what was she saying.

What they both were, with no words at all.

He should have taken more beer.