A/N: Some EC Destroy spoilers.
Drabble that formed from Garrus finally saying those words!
No beta. Apologies for any typos or grammar errors.
As always: All things Mass Effect belong to Bioware.
He should have told her sooner. Not when he was battered and bleeding from a Mako exploding on top of him. Not when Harbinger loomed above them, raining death and destruction on the remnants of Hammer. Not when she made him leave her. Not when it comes down to the final moments of the war they've been fighting together for the past three years. The war that had already killed her once and probably will again.
Garrus stood in front of the memorial wall, gently holding her name plate. The crew stood behind him, silent. They had added two more names to the wall, Anderson and EDI. Now they were waiting for hers.
Joker was inconsolable. Losing EDI, Anderson and Shepard had made him as brittle as his bones and shattered him. No more jokes. No more Joker.
He should have told her sooner, in the base in London, where she says it again. Not the three words, not exactly, but "there's no Shepard without Vakarian" is just another way for her to say it. When her voice cracks, telling him he'll never be alone. On top of the presidium, when he asks her about their relationship. When she tells him how she feels and he makes on offhand quip about vids, of all things. Spirits, he was an idiot.
The Normandy had left Earth orbit on Hackett's orders. The plan was for the fleets to disengage and rendezvous in the Alpha Centauri system if the Crucible activated. If it worked, they would head back to Earth. If it didn't... well, no one knew what they would do. A conventional war with the Reapers was doomed to fail.
Joker wanted to stay. They all did. They wanted to stay in case Shepard needed them. It was only on the urging of Kaidan did Joker reluctantly turn the ship about and jumped to FTL. Garrus had wanted to hurt Kaidan before; on Horizon, after accusing Shepard of betrayal and on the Citadel, where his stubbornness nearly got the Council killed and Garrus' bullet through his head. As they fled, he wanted to tear Kaidan apart, to punch and kick and throttle him... but it wasn't Kaidan he was angry with, not really. Garrus was angry with himself; for leaving her, for getting hurt so she would send him away, for letting her send him away.
He endured the treatment of his injuries, which he refused at first, wanting to punish himself for leaving, to feel physical pain that matched his emotional pain for abandoning her. It was only until Dr Chakwas, in that haughty, superior tone of hers, simply asked "Would Shepard like to see you like this?" did he relent.
While in the med bay, the Normandy fell out of FTL on the edge of the Alpha Centauri system. A red wave of energy had overtaken them, moving faster than the Normandy. As the wave passed, nearly all of the Normandy's systems shut down. Tali, Adams, Donnelly and Daniels managed to get enough of the systems going to enable the ship to land on the surface of a hospitable world. It was only later, after they had been there a few days, that Garrus remembered something on the newsvids from months before about a lost human colony in the system.
EDI remained offline. Tali and Adams thought they could fix her but not here not with the limited supplies they had. They satisfied themselves with restoring the rest of the ship, bypassing EDI so they could get back to Earth. Traynor worked on the QEC, which didn't need much work, thankfully. There were no comm buoys in the AC system, so the QEC was the only way they could contact Earth. The other fleets had arrived without incident, with the exception of the Geth. It seemed that the red wave did not discriminate, it killed all synthetic life. But if they could fix EDI, maybe there was hope for the Geth. They sent down people and supplies to help.
Days passed as they made repairs. Garrus occupied himself with the main guns but they were undamaged and took little of his time. He stalked the ship, making it clear to the crew that he was losing patience. He would laugh, if the fear and anger he felt let him. Trained by the military as a sniper, patience was one thing he always had. The ability to sit and wait for the target, for the crosshairs to line up perfectly, for that moment when the gentle squeeze of his finger meant death to an enemy... Now his patience has deserted him. His stalking the ship became a hindrance to the crew. Poor Traynor became terrified when he entered the QEC room. He didn't sleep, hardly ate. He stalked. The ground team avoided him; too busy working, fixing the ship.
He should have told her sooner. When they met for the first time in months, when their worlds were burning and the only thing he could think of was her. When he grasped her small, oddly shaped hands in his, relishing her touch that he had missed so much. Was it months? It felt like years. No word from her and his attempts to contact her failed. Even the vaunted Shadow Broker couldn't help. Anderson either couldn't or wouldn't help either.
Liara confronted him about scaring the crew. "Things would proceed more quickly if you stopped pacing the ship," she told him. "You're not helping anyone. In fact, you're making things worse."
His first instinct was to snarl at her, demanding to know why she should be judging him but the sadness on her face stopped him. "What do you want me to do?" he asked, seeing sense for the first time in days.
"Help us," Liara pleaded. "If you can't do that, stay out of our way."
He helped. The work went quicker but didn't do much to ease his pain or his self-loathing.
A few confused reports had reached the Normandy via the QEC after Traynor finished repairing it. The Reapers are dead. Shepard succeeded. The Citadel was badly damaged. Crews were searching for survivors and finding some, surprisingly. A lot of people had died but the fact that there were survivors gave Garrus hope.
The rescue crews found Anderson in the ruins of the Citadel and the hole that occupied his chest became a chasm. A sliver of hope remained because they hadn't found her yet. She's not dead until she's found, he told himself.
He should have told her sooner. When they docked at the Citadel after what occurred in the Aratoht system so he could head back to Palaven. When she convinced him to go home and convince the Hierarchy of the Reaper threat. When he consoled her in the cabin they shared, her actions responsible for the deaths of 300,000 people, as much as they tried to convince themselves that it was necessary.
He should have told her sooner. After those few brief hours before they hit the Omega 4 relay. When "easing tension" and "blowing off steam" became something more than he could have imagined or hoped for. When he acted the bumbling fool, tripping over words, trying to compliment her on her beauty. When he told her that he wanted things to go right. That was the moment when he finally realised that those words were what he meant to say, wanted to say but didn't.
With the ship repaired and ready to return to Earth, the crew decided to hold one last ceremony. One final act while they were still together, before they were separated for debriefs and interviews and ceremonies. Before they went home.
Garrus didn't have a home, not without her. Here he stood in the only place that felt like home, holding her nameplate.
He ran his hand over her name, caressing it like he would caress her. He stepped forward, feeling his friends, her friends watching him. He reached up to place her name above Anderson's when he heard a voice come over the ship's intercom. He hesitated. He couldn't understand what was said, it came over in such a rush the words ran together.
"She's alive! They found her!" It was Ensign Copeland, monitoring the QEC. "They found her! She's alive!"
He'll tell her, as soon as he sees her. Every time he sees her.