Shepard sighed and leaned against the doorframe as the girl left. When Liara said the batarian was young, Shepard hadn't realized she meant barely legal. She couldn't have been more than a child during the war. The sun had sunk to the tops of the cliffs, and Shepard had to shield her eyes as she watched the girl go.
Garrus left off working on the car's engine and came over, wiping his hands on a rag. He'd offered to talk too, something he rarely did, but the girl had looked so alarmed at the prospect that he retreated after a surreptitious scan for weapons. Tali would have already checked, but a botched assassination attempt a few years back had left Garrus paranoid on the issue. Shepard too, but she figured if a tech genius and a former cop didn't find anything, she wasn't going to either.
"How'd it go?" he asked
"She turned off the camera about about fifteen minutes in."
"Not interested in hearing about my charms after all?"
Shepard smiled, but her eyes stayed steady on the girl as she made her way back up the path.
"Hey." Garrus tapped her artificial foot with his own. "You okay?"
Shepard shrugged the shoulder that wasn't pressed to the door and lowered her hand. "That ruthless calculus feels a little more ruthless every year," she said.
Garrus examined his talons for a moment. "Aratoht?"
"Family, yeah." Shepard took the rag from him and shook it out. "She was off-world visiting an uncle." She folded it in half, and then in half again, pulling each crease tight before repeating the action. "An early nameday treat for her," she sighed. "I told her about the times I had to make similar decisions with human lives. Tried to show her it wasn't personal animosity towards her kind."
"Think it helped?" he asked.
"Hell if I know. Half the time I thought she wanted me to be the monster she grew up with, the other half it was like she wanted to be convinced that I wasn't." The rag couldn't be folded any further, so she settled for squeezing it instead.
"I don't know." Garrus put his hands over hers to still them. "You scare the shit out of me on a regular basis."
"Such a romantic."
"Too bad the rest of the galaxy will never know now."
Shepard looked at him curiously. "She's still doing the documentary."
"Surprised me too, but she really was interested in a relationship between two people who – how did she put it – 'who were born in the aftermath of war and mutual hatred.'"
Garrus's mandibles dipped in amusement. "Damn, now I'm impressed by us. So when do we get a copy?"
"She wants to to release it to the batarian networks first. I'll have Liara keep an eye out."
Garrus turned to look at the small figure silhouetted on the top of the ridge. "Brave kid."
"Yeah." Shepard thought about the way the girl had tried to hide her fear behind a too-steady mask of professional inquiry. "She is." Then Shepard laughed. "Listen to us. We sound like a couple of old fogies evaluating the next generation."
"Speak for yourself." Garrus pulled her out of the doorway and into a loose embrace. "I think the next generation is doing just fine," he added, smiling down at her in the way that still made her heart beat faster, even after a decade together.
She smiled back, a little tired, but sincere. "I guess we'll see."
On our next show, we'll discuss the newest documentary about the most famous soldier in Alliance history. Batarian reactions are mixed and the young filmmaker is being hailed as both a prodigy and a traitor to her culture. Do the critics have a point, or are old grudges affecting the film's reception? I'll be breaking it down and taking viewers' calls. Until then, this is Diana Allers on Battlespace.