Disclaimer: Bioware owns all.
Chapter 15: Goodbye, For Now
"So...this is Palaven."
Shepard stood in awe as her eyes combed over the landscape. It was beautiful. The clouds set against the dark land and plant life. The dirt wasn't brown, but more a twisted color of gray and blue.
Garrus nodded his head. "This is where Nihlus was born. His family thought it best to bury him in his favorite childhood spot."
Shepard brushed her hand across her lips as she thought of her friend. It had been difficult since that terrible day. She had been rushed all across the galaxy. They first returned to the Citadel to report the mission's success and of the tragedies that occurred.
She and Zaeed were honored for their actions against the traitor. Zaeed returned to the Alliance, he promised not to let on where Shepard had been all this time. That would be dealt with soon- now, she just wanted to lay her friend to rest.
Shepard knew this fight wasn't over though. She'd have to return to the Alliance, end this war and help with humanity's expansion. The galaxy would need their help. Vitani hadn't been the leader- someone pulled her in and Shepard had to find out who and put an end to it.
This involved the galaxy in it's entirety; it was no longer humans, turians, asari- it was every galactic civilizations duty to the survival of every living organic species to fight together. And Shepard would ensure that happened.
She breathed in the sweet air, admiring her surroundings. Garrus spoke softly, "We need to get to the funeral service. You're not welcome here, and it would be a shame to have to fight off a riot."
Shepard gave him a lopsided smile. "It would be such a shame."
Garrus gave a low rumble, his talons threaded through her hair as he gave her a nudge. "Come on."
It didn't take long to approach the site. Nihlus' body was adorned in ceremonial armor. He lay on a pedestal, surrounded by plant life. His assault rifle was laid parallel to his body. His talons were crossed at the barrel over his chest.
Garrus spoke softly, "We do not bury our people. We do a form of cremation, to free them of their body so they can return to what you call heaven among the other spirits."
"What about the gun and the armor?"
"We never send a turian anywhere without proper equipment, the afterlife is no different. When he gets there, he'll be well armored. We believe that the better he is sent off, the better he will be received."
"So, it's like an afterlife hierarchy kind of thing?"
Shepard's eyes ran up the bark of the tree-like plant that shadowed over the ceremony. It was very similar to a weeping willow- except it appeared to be weeping. It's limbs swayed back and forth; and the bark structure cracked and shed. Garrus followed her gaze.
"Our foliage is much different to Earth's. It feels the aura's of the people surrounding it. It remembers, and it can mourn, feel happiness, and feel loneliness. Nihlus grew up here, and it remembers him- you are seeing it mourn."
Shepard stared in awe. "That's incredible."
Garrus smiled gently. "The plant life has sculpted our society into what it is. We are very careful in our actions because it can effect the life of Palaven as a whole. You cut down a tree, and you are killing another's friend, family- it's everything. They rely on each other for survival. This tree is by itself because the turian's here offer it companionship and life."
He paused as his eyes combed the mourning tree. His voice softer and deeper rumbled, "I don't know if it'll survive with Nihlus dead. They essentially grew up together."
Shepard looked at him, her eyes wide with wonder. "Garrus...I-I can't even fathom-"
He smiled, "I know. It's a lot to take in."
A turian stepped up before Nihlus and cleared his throat. "Who is this?" Shepard whispered. Garrus bent down to reply, "Primarch Fedorian, he is like a president to your people. It took a lot of convincing of him to allow you to come here."
She nodded her head gently.
"Only a week ago today we lost a member to our civilization. An upstanding soldier and Spectre. It was the greatest pleasure to have known him personally, and even greater to have had the opportunity to work with him. Nihlus Kryik was the best of us. He was kind when it mattered and fierce when the time called for it. He defended countless civilians with his life and with a sort of determination that isn't lost to us. May the afterlife serve you well, my friend."
Garrus pushed Shepard towards the memorial. She looked at him her eyes wide, he whispered, "Go. It's your turn to say something. Don't start a riot."
She gave a soft hiccup of a laugh. Her teeth ground into her lower lip nervously as she neared the front of the large service. A soft uproar began to erupt as their eyes laid on her. A human. At a service for a dead turian.
Fedorian called for silence as his arms crossed behind his back and nodded to her to begin. Shepard straightened up in her newly shined coal black armor. The red stripe glistened brightly under the ray of the sun setting on the horizon.
"I am Commander Shepard and I had the honor of fighting alongside Nihlus during the fight against a traitor."
She paused, her tongue ran across her lips as her gaze settled on the body of her friend. He was so peaceful- and it hurt her to know he had died in such pain.
"I fought for a long time in this war against the turian race- and during my time as a captive I got to know Nihlus quite well. Every day I was amazed by your race, the heroism and duty to self and beyond, the discipline...It is so incredible."
Her eyes lifted to the silenced crowd. They scrutinized her, she nodded her head and began again.
"I had the honor to learn about your race from this man. His kindness and loyalty and bravery- it hurts me that he died at the hands of a traitor. If there had been anyway to save him, I would have given my life without a second thought. The galaxy is a lesser place without him and I feel blessed to have gotten to meet him and befriend him. I have learned many things in the time I spent as a captive and I just hope that I can return the friendship your race has extended to me, and I hope that in time I can help heal the wound of Nihlus' death. Thank you."
Before she left, her head fell, and her voice fell to a hoarse and faint whisper as the pain knotted in her throat. She left a deep breath, "Give em' hell, buddy."
Shepard returned to Garrus' side, a few turians nodded their heads to each other. Scrutiny had been lifted and a tentative curiosity replaced it. Garrus nodded his head to her as flames burst up around Nihlus.
The fire crackled in the sunset. The tree swept back and forth, mourning the loss of a friend.
Shepard took a deep breath as she neared the shuttle. Victus smiled gently. He extended a hand to her and she gripped it firmly.
"It was a pleasure fighting with you, Commander."
"The pleasure is mine, General." She smiled sadly. "I'm going to miss this ship, and all of you." She gestured to the turian's surrounding her. Victus gave another smile, "We'll meet again someday, and I look forward to it."
He pat her on the back and left the bay. Several of the crew said their goodbyes. Shepard smiled and nodded her head, shaking their hands and patting backs. As the last one left, her steely gray eyes connected with the deep blue ones of Garrus Vakarian.
He smiled weakly. "I- uh, guess this goodbye."
Shepard nodded her head. "Yes, it is."
The turian looked down at his feet, "I hate to see you go, sure you can't stay?"
The small woman laughed. "I wish I could. I really do."
She approached him carefully, her hands wrapped around his talons. Garrus leaned his head into her hair, nuzzling and breathing in her scent. Shepard ran a hand along his mandible, a soft smile crossed her face as she took in the sight of him one last time.
"Stay alive for me."
"Only if you promise the same."
Garrus laughed, "Deal." His smile faded as she drew away.
"I better get going, or I'll never leave."
The turian nodded his head, "Goodbye Athena."
Shepard's smile brightened at his use of her first name. "Goodbye, for now, Garrus."
He watched her small form enter the shuttle. She gave a last wave before the doors shut and it lifted up off the bay floor. The hum of the engines grew distant as it exited the ship. He stood at the doors, at a loss.
The shuttle disappeared from view, along with a woman he wanted by his side forever as a mate. He sighed sadly and rubbed a hand on the back of his neck. His omni-tool pinged with a message.
Message encrypted. Deletion immediate upon reading.
Saren is the traitor.
Whoo! Story is done for now, maybe I'll continue it in a second part through the mass effect series later, maybe not. But this story itself is done and I thank allllll of you for reading and reviewing! I REALLY appreciate all the feedback I've gotten from y'all! You guys are the best! Thank you SO much!