Chapter 14:

But she didn't. And wouldn't. Ever.

It had all gone so horribly wrong.

He stood in the rain as they laid the empty casket in the earth. They didn't even find her body. He knew he should feel something, pain, or rage. Rage'd be good. He could do with some rage right about now. Mostly, he was numb. Empty. Rain ran down his face and dripped into his hard suit. He wondered if this is what it felt like to weep. Not cathartic at all when it's not real.

He'd put the OSD with her family on it in the casket. They'd all put something in there. He could feel the pressure of their presences around him, but they were just shadows. Councillor Anderson read the eulogy, empty, flowery words to assuage the many reporters that showed up with their cameras and microphones. With words like 'savior' and 'hero' in it, bitterly, Garrus thought Shepard was the one who needed saving, there was no one watching her back to make sure she was alright. She was the only one worth saving. He felt a tiny flush of shame at the thought.

They let Kaiden shovel the first turn of dirt in the hole. Garrus didn't feel anything, she's not even in there. Symbolically, she was, maybe that was all she was to all of them. He didn't even know anymore. They left her nothing of herself, not even a legacy. He could already feel them drawing away from each other, cutting loose from her and the thing they had all sweat blood to accomplish. And he couldn't even feel enough to give a damn.

He wandered around Earth for a few hours, they'd buried her in some military cemetery in a place called Pendleton. A marine base, he was told. He wondered if she ever even set foot here. If she would have liked to be buried with soldiers or with her family on Mindoir. As dusk fell, he found himself drawn inexorably back to her grave. He didn't know where else to go.

He stood looking at the simple headstone they had carved for her, reading it over and over again. He bent to feel the fresh earth over her grave, trying to find some connection. There was just nothing for it, he supposed, reaching up to scratch his fringe. For the first time since setting foot on this planet, he spoke, "Uh, Jane..."

He swallowed before continuing, this just still felt so wrong, he shouldn't be here looking at Shepard's grave. She shouldn't be dead, "Was this part of the plan, Jane? Cause if you're faking, then I need you to pop up and say just kidding. Please? Spirits, you always were the most infuriating woman."

"I gave your song to my mother. She loved it, I could tell by the look in her eyes. I never said thank you for it. Well...thank you." He felt silly, talking to an empty grave, so he plopped down in the shade of a nearby tree, closing his eyes. He figured that wherever she was she would be able to hear him, "You were right, by the way. You'd been out in the Terminus for not even a week before they started downplaying the Reaper threat. You always were three steps ahead of everyone else. I tried so hard, Shepard, but I was just one voice shouting in a crowd of shouters. And then when you...died, it was like nothing you did mattered to anyone any more. I think they were relieved you were dead. If I could feel anything, I would hate them for that.

"A week from now, I would have been a Spectre, but I can't...do that now. Work for the same selfish assholes who killed someone I...admire. I think a newly minted Spectre murdering the council would be generally frowned upon, don't you?" He pinched the bridge of his nose, he felt a weak flame of anger flicker in his chest, then guilt when he realized who he was angry at, "You promised, Jane. You promised to come get me and now I'm all alone and I don't know what to do. You promised..."

He allowed himself this anger, almost petulantly, even though he knew how unfair it was. It felt good to feel something and he was tired of fighting. A shadow fell across his face and he opened his eyes. A familiar human face smiled grimly down at him...Anderson, saying, "I was wondering when you'd show up."

Anderson handed him a bottle from the brown bag he was carrying. Garrus tilted his head as the man sat next to him. Anderson popped the top of his bottle, "Don't worry, it's dextro-friendly. Tastes like ass, but it gets the job done. Anything to wash the taste of ashes out of my mouth."

Garrus gulped down the rancid liquid, relishing the burn as it rolled down his throat into his stomach. They drank in silence for a time. Anderson kicked off his shoes and socks, curling his toes in the grass, "Hell of a thing."

"Mmmm." Garrus replied, noncommitally. He watched those curious human feet for a moment before knocking back the remainder of his bottle. Anderson handed him another, "Service was nice."

"No it wasn't." Came the sharp rejoinder as Anderson scrubbed at his chin. There was silence again, each man painfully aware of the void in both their lives, "I wanted to thank you, Garrus."

"Why?" It came out bitter, but Garrus just couldn't bite it back.

"You know why. She was nearly a whole person at the end. Saner than I ever remember her being. Who should I thank for that, Alenko? You and I both know he doesn't have it in him to be what she needed." Anderson sighed, deeply, "Trust broken is hard as hell to regain. And all our hopes rested on those tiny shoulders. I saw so much potential in that broken little girl and I'm damned for the things I did to push her in the right direction."

Garrus absorbed the words like a sponge, the burn of the alcohol pleasant as it spread to his extremities. He watched the setting sun, thinking that he would have loved to watch it with her. And that just set off another round of pain, anger and guilt. For a moment, he smelled the soap she used to wash her hair. He looked around sharply before settling back against the tree.

"Oh, but she got me back, yes she did. Councillor Anderson. She volunteered me for it. How could I say no. I started out to use her and she ended up using me. She was one smart cookie." Anderson turned to look at him soberly, "She started writing music again, did she tell you?"

"Ah, no, I couldn't-we didn't-" Flustered, he stopped. Anderson patted his hand in understanding.

"3 piano concertos and the beginnings of a symphony. She sent them to me. Look." He pulled up some files on his omnitool. It looked like pages and pages, all with lines set in blocks of two sets of five, black dots and lines and squiggles flowed over them dizzyingly. "Any idea what this means?"

Anderson pointed out the title of one of the shorter pieces, which Garrus read aloud, "Rachni Queen in A minor...They, uh, the rachni, communicate through song."

"Huh...fancy that." Anderson snorted, looking at him askance, not quite willing to call him a liar. "Any idea what she might want done with them?"

"Uh, donate them maybe? To that school here on Earth. Julliard." Somehow, burying them in the dirt in front of them didn't seem proper and he was liking the idea of some piece of her floating around on the air, immortal...until the Reapers come. Ugh, he stifled that thought with another drink.

"Done. I'll keep it anonymous. No need to disturb the dead. She's done enough for them." Anderson waved his hand disgustedly, elegantly taking in the idiots running the damn galaxy. "Going back?"

"No." He clenched his hand tightly, palm aching where his talons cut in.

"Are you sure? You're a good man, Vakarian. God knows we need good men."

Garrus snorted, not good enough, "I can't. I'm...done with all that."

"Where will you go?" Anderson said quietly, taking a long draw from his bottle.

"Somewhere...I can find something worth doing." Keep it vague, he doesn't get to manipulate you like he did her, whispered an ugly little voice in him. He's not allowed.

Anderson grunted as he stood up, he lay one careworn hand on Garrus' shoulder, "She saw a brilliance in you, son. Don't let her die completely. We need some light for the dark times ahead. Keep the rest of what's in the bag, I think you need it more than me."

With that he walked away, leaving the turian to his thoughts in the shade of a tree millions of light years from home.