This is an emergency broadcast. Enemy ships spotted near Trebia Relay. Attack imminent. Arm yourselves. This is not a test. Stand by for further instruction. This is an emergency broadcast. Enemy ships spotted near Trebia Relay. Attack imminent. Arm yourselves. This is not a test. Stand by for further instruction. This is an emergency broadcast. Enemy ships spotted near Trebia Relay. Attack imminent. Arm yourselves. This is not a test. Stand by for further instruction. This is an emer—


"Sir? Advisor Vakarian, sir?"

Garrus didn't look up. His map was a mess—the red of battles lost across the planet and battles in the process of being lost across the galaxy; dark spots where whole colonies, whole planets, whole systems had gone silent—and he didn't know what to do about it. In the brief moments when they were able to have their comms up and running, reports came in faster than he could keep up. None of them good. He'd done what he could, organized what he could, bolstered defenses and shored up tactics where he could, and it was still falling apart. The Reapers weren't playing by any known set of rules, and they were using tactics no organic would ever have attempted. They could move without supply lines, without rest, evidently without refueling. Even thinking fast, Garrus simply couldn't anticipate what they might do next. No one could. Turian forces were three moves behind, defending tooth and talon in a battle that always, always meant the difference between survival and obliteration.

Maybe it was foolish, maybe she'd be just as helpless as the rest of them, but he couldn't help thinking Shepard might've known how to turn the fight around to bring it to the invading forces instead of constantly running, running, and leaving the slow behind to die.

She'd done the impossible before. It wasn't like he believed in her without evidence to back that conviction up.

But Shepard wasn't here. His messages to Anderson—the few he'd managed to send; the ones that hadn't bounced back or remained undeliverable in his outbox—went unanswered. Maybe she was out there. Hell, maybe she was already on her way, but he had a planet to mourn and a moon to save and no time to waste on maybes and uncertain variables. He had a map. And determination. And for now that had to be enough.

It had begun with Taetrus. For the turians, at least. The batarians had taken the first blow, and even that slight advance warning had been enough to start the mobilization of the turian armada. Garrus had prepared them well enough for that. But while the ships gathered around Palaven, waiting for the inevitable strike, the Reapers took another route. A crueler one. No one had anticipated an attack against Taetrus. In the scheme of things, it was a small world, a mere colony. Small, but oh, it hurt. Which was, Garrus privately believed, one of the oddities of the Reapers. For beings claiming to be unconcerned with the matters of organics, except to destroy them (to help them ascend), they showed an alarming ability to strike where it most hurt. Not physically, but psychologically. Emotionally, even. Even Harbinger's taunts had so often seemed designed to dig at Shepard where they might do the most damage. When it wasn't going off about bacteria and ascendance and assuming direct control, of course.

To the observant, a weakness is an opportunity. And the Reapers knew how to observe. They knew how to make the most of an opportunity. The terrorist attack on Taetrus, so fresh and so devastating, had been an open wound, but broadcasting the second fall of Taetrus to the entirety of turian space? It was almost like they enjoyed it.

Wherever they'd got their observations, they'd missed something important. Taetrus hurt. But the blow had only galvanized them, uniting every turian in the galaxy against those that would dare kick at the fallen just as they were attempting to right themselves again.

That, Garrus thought, was a hell of a Spirit. Not one he'd want to pit himself against.

The fall of Taetrus had led to the Battle of Palaven and Coronati's Fifteen-Minute Plan. There hadn't been time to bring Garrus in on that one, so what he knew he'd learned after the fact. It'd been a hell of a risk. Broke most of the rules poor Laetus had been so keen on obeying. Clever. Garrus certainly had to grant Coronati that. But still not enough. Oh, they'd managed to take some of the Reaper capital ships; that counted for something. But the turian losses were staggering, and the red on Garrus' map kept spreading. So did the dark.

With as much contact as the disruptions to the comm buoys would allow, Garrus was trying to adapt, trying to guide the turian defense as best he knew how. He'd been observing, too, after all. The Reapers were cocky. They believed themselves invincible. But Garrus had been there when Sovereign fell. They had flaws. They could be overcome.

The galaxy would lose millions, billions, but if anyone survived, anyone, he'd count it a win. Every turian would.

Which left him here, at his map, determined to hold Menae. They had to. Palaven was burning beneath them—don't think about it, don't think about them, Dad will make sure they get out, don't think about how you haven't heard from them in days, don't think about—and if Menae fell?

Menae couldn't fall.

Menae could not fall.


"Spit it out, Laetus," he barked, stealing one of Shepard's phrases ("Spit what out?" he'd asked the first time he'd heard her use it. "Words, dumb-ass," she'd replied, grinning. "What do you think?") to cover his own wandering attention. He couldn't afford to let his attention wander. Not now. Not with so much at stake.

The lieutenant looked momentarily baffled. Then he blinked, puffed up his chest ever so slightly and said, "Ahh, we've… sir, communications are down all over the place and the buoys are going down again almost as soon as we get them up, but we're finally picking up chatter on Systems Alliance channels. Or. Uh, we were. Sir."

Suddenly he understood why all the 'sir's. His gut twisted. He tried not to let it show on his face. The map could wait. For a minute. Its sea of red and dark would still be waiting for him once he heard what he didn't want to hear. "Report."

The soldier didn't squirm. His voice was crisp around the pauses, and if a faint tremor altered his subharmonics, Garrus pretended not to notice. He'd known they were coming and the Reapers still scared him shitless. It was a wonder the uninitiated could keep it together at all. Especially the uninitiated who'd held to their doubts until it was almost too late. "They've lost Earth, sir."

Four words. Four words and he was standing in his apartment in the Citadel years ago now, while Anderson said I thought you should hear it from me. A shiver of cold ran the length of his spine, but Garrus held himself straight, stiff, and allowed no hint of his feelings to pass over his face or lurk in his body language. The Turian Hierarchy's Expert Reaper Advisor couldn't fall to pieces because of one unsubstantiated report. Garrus made himself nod once, sharply. Perfectly composed.

Try not to die this time, he hadn't said.

"Status of the Alliance fleets?" he asked. Solana—don't think about it, don't think about them, they'll get out, they'll be fine—would have known what his subvocals were saying, but the lieutenant only took a breath and launched into the last known coordinates of the major Alliance players. Garrus took it in distantly, already calculating, reducing lives to numbers and numbers to pieces on his map. With their own homeworld under attack, he knew they couldn't count on aid from humanity. No last minute miracles this time. It wasn't going to be like looking down his scope and seeing Shepard shooting her way across the bridge on Omega.

Only then did he admit to himself how much he'd been hoping for just such a reprieve.

An alarming ability to strike where it hurt.

This time the damned Reapers didn't even know how accurate their aim had been.

When the soldier was finished his report, Garrus nodded again.

He turned back to his map. Tapped the panel that brought up the Sol system.

Earth burned red. Red as Palaven, as Taetrus, as Khar'Shan.

One talon hovered over the command to turn the planet dark.

He couldn't press it.

Come on, Shepard. Do what you do best. Prove them all wrong.

And in the meantime, Menae couldn't fall.

He wasn't going to let it.


Message sent: 7 OCT 86


Undeliverable message returned to sender.

Message sent: 7 OCT 86


Undeliverable message returned to sender.

Message sent: 8 OCT 86

Dammit, Shepard, tell me you got out.

Undeliverable message returned to sender.

Message sent: 9 OCT 86

They're saying comms are blown across the galaxy. They're saying Earth got hit hard. They're saying Vancouver's a smoldering wreck, few survivors, better not to hope. Screw that, Shepard. You'd better be looking me up.

Undeliverable message returned to sender.

Message sent: 10 OCT 86

Well, you bastards, I bet you wish you'd listened now.

Undeliverable message returned to sender.


When Garrus' commlink crackled after hours of the capricious radio silence of downed communications, and General Corinthus greeted him with, "Vakarian, sir, do you read? We've got Commander Shepard and her team here, looking for the primarch," Garrus nearly dropped his weapon. Luckily, he was alone, with only a far-off pair of husks to witness his embarrassing lack of composure, and within moments they were obliterated and his secret was safe.

"Say again?" Garrus replied, trusting the static of their unreliable connection to mask the upwelling of emotion. "Thought I heard Commander Shepard's on the ground? The Alliance's Commander Shepard?"

"Affirmative, sir."

"And… sorry, you say she's here for the primarch? This about the summit?"

"Councilor Sparatus sent her, but Primarch Fedorian's shuttle was shot down little over an hour ago. I've been trying to raise Palaven Command to find her the next in line. Thought I should give you a sitrep, sir."

In this new reality, where no one—not even the highly organized, highly regimented Turian Hierarchy—could possibly maintain an accurate death toll, Garrus felt only the briefest pang for Fedorian's loss. Another good man down. Another offense Garrus hoped to make the Reapers pay for one day. He resisted the instinct to look skyward, where Palaven fought for its life and Cipritine burned brighter than any of the spots on Garrus' situation map back at base. He tried not to think of his father, his sister. Apart from one broken message from Naxus at Palaven Command letting him know they hadn't been lost in the initial onslaught of destruction and death—three million lost the first day, his brain filled in traitorously before he could stop it, five the second—it had been days since he heard anything of either.

Days was a long time when the galaxy was dying faster than casualty lists could keep up.

He took a deep breath. Cold as it was, for now he had to keep his thoughts on the living.

Especially if the living was someone he'd been led to believe was lost. "Is the commander with you now, General? Can you patch her through?"

He'd believe it when he spoke to her. Like Omega all over again. It wasn't enough to look down his scope and see her N7 insignia. It wasn't enough to hear her name spoken. He needed to hear her voice for himself, needed to hear her speak his name in that way only she could.

If it came with one of her secret smiles, all the better.

"Negative, sir. She and her team are attempting to get the comm tower functional." Corinthus gave a low chuckle, though Garrus could tell mirth was not the driving force behind it. "Hell, sir, with things the way they are, you might be closer to the primarch's seat than we realize."

Garrus huffed an uncomfortable laugh. No mirth in this, either. "Take that back, Corinthus, you bastard."

The general chuckled again. "Fair enough, Vakarian. Not sure anyone wants that job right now. Still, you've worked with the commander. With what you've said, figured you'd want to know. Any chance you could head back to base? You'll make a better liaison than I."

Garrus almost laughed again. Instead, he shot three more encroaching hostiles. His aim didn't waver. The gun Solana'd modded for him was faultless. He spared a thought—a hopeful thought, almost a prayer—for her every time he pulled the trigger. Three pulpy heads exploded. Be okay. Be okay. Be alive. "On my way," he said, because somehow he thought a whoop of joy and just try and stop me might convey a certain lack of professional decorum.

Of course, his initial enthusiasm was tempered somewhat by the realization that he had not spoken to Shepard—not a word, not a message, nothing but Anderson's oblique references—for six months. He'd asked her once whether she wanted something closer to home, and though she'd said no then, it was by no means a guarantee that being closer to home hadn't made the prospect more palatable.

Professional, he thought. We're in a damned warzone.

Still, no matter what their—the—future held, he couldn't wait to see her. She was still his best damned friend in the galaxy. That wasn't going to change. He'd just play it cool. He could do that. Hell, it was what he did best.

"Then let me fill you in, sir," General Corinthus said, and though the comms were disrupted twice along the way, he managed.

Even with the planet above him—home—burning; even with the horrifying knowledge that he did not know where his family was, or if they were even alive for him to worry about; even with a sea of husks between him and base camp, Garrus began to feel something he hadn't felt since the hapless Lieutenant Laetus said they've lost Earth, sir.

Hope. The crazy kind. Shepard's favorite brand.


Message sent: 15 OCT 86

Come on, Sol. If anyone can hack a comm channel it's you. If this is your sweet revenge for that time I called your bluff, it's horrible. Let me know you're okay.

Undeliverable message returned to sender


Her face told him she was surprised to see him, but happy. It was subtle, a twitch of her expressive brows, the brief curve of her full lips, the way she blinked too rapidly and his visor alerted him to a sudden increase in her heart-rate. On another face, at a different time, one without Reapers shrieking in the distance and the smell of death and ash and weaponry filling the air, it would have been a grin, he thought. Maybe even a full-fledged laugh. Perhaps accompanied by an embrace.

Her voice, when she said his name, when she said, "You're alive," told him she still didn't quite believe the story her eyes were telling her. All the sharpness she'd used when speaking to Corinthus was gone, replaced by wonder, and a touch of incredulity.

He understood completely. The armor was right, red N7 bright against black ablative ceramic. Her cheeks were thinner and her hair longer. His eyes said Shepard, but his mind said maybe you're imagining things. You've been awake and under pressure for a long, long time.

She started to move her hand, hesitated, and then thrust her arm up decisively. He met her halfway, and didn't realize the full extent of his relief until he felt his fingers close around hers. Real. Alive. Before he could think better of it, he brought his left hand up to cover both of theirs, turning a professional greeting into one ever so slightly more intimate. The turians, unused to the human gesture, wouldn't know what it meant, but Shepard's team noticed. He saw the burly marine's gaze linger, the movement of his brows much more than a twitch, and Liara didn't turn away quickly enough to hide her smile.

"I'm hard to kill," he said, not wanting to let go but aware the moment had already lasted too long. "You should know that."

Her eyes never left his as she said, "I thought you'd be on Palaven," and he heard I thought you were dead. His own reply was a little rushed, a little unpolished, and said I thought you were dead too. The gaze, like the handshake, lasted too long, but then Shepard gave her head a little shake and introduced her lieutenant, whose furrowed eyebrows still hadn't quite returned to neutral.

Just as they finished discussing the merits of Victus as new primarch, momentary peace was disrupted by Joker's transmission from the Normandy and incoming Harvester. Shepard turned to him with her same old smile and said, "Coming, Garrus?"

And because he'd been devising contingency plans for when he inevitably left Menae since the moment Corinthus came over the comm and said we've got Commander Shepard and her team here, he replied instantly, "Are you kidding? I'm right behind you."

Into hell. Just like old times.

Falling into place at Shepard's six, right where he belonged, he already felt more like himself than he had in months.


Message sent: 15 OCT 86

Bad news about Fedorian, Dad. He was a good man. I'm sorry.

Looks like I'm headed back to the Normandy with Adrien Victus. He's primarch now. Hope he won't hold Mom's skota incident against me.

You'd better have evacuated.

Please, Dad. Get me a message. Keep trying.

Undeliverable message returned to sender


They were silent in the shuttle. He'd never been more aware of silence, or of the many other eyes all around them. Her knee knocked his. A moment later the shuttle shifted and he bumped his shoulder against hers. Accidentally, of course. James Vega's brow furrowed again, but Shepard only fixed her lieutenant with a mild look and said, "Something on your mind, James?"

"No, ma'am," he said, ducking his head to stare with forced concentration at the floor between his feet.

Shepard tilted a half-smile at Garrus and said, "So. When I said 'try not to be up to your neck in angry mercs' I suppose I should have specified that being up to your neck in angry husks was also an undesirable outcome."

"It's all in the details, Shepard."

"Isn't it just," she remarked. "Look, Garrus—"

"Commander Shepard," said Victus. "I wonder if I might have a moment of your time before we rendezvous with your ship. We have logistics to discuss."

Garrus was the only one near enough to hear her soft exhale of a sigh, but when she turned to give the primarch her attention, no hint of frustration or annoyance at the interruption remained. She was entirely Commander Shepard, model of professionalism and undivided attention. "I'm all yours, Primarch."

Later, Garrus thought. Vega was squinting at him again. Better to have that conversation later.

While Shepard talked numbers and deployment and strategy with Victus, Garrus kept one ear on their conversation in case he was required to give input later, and spent the rest of the time staring, unblinking, at the bulky marine, just to see him squirm under the attention.

He had to hand it to the kid; he held his own.

As soon as the Kodiak doors opened, Shepard leapt out into the hold—different, Garrus noted, much more like the hold of the SR-1 even if it was bigger and brighter. He almost expected to see a Mako lurking in the shadows. Instead of a tank, however, a woman Garrus didn't recognize stood near, and she handed over a stack of datapads as soon as Shepard extended her hand. Whatever she saw on the top one brought a frown to Shepard's lips and a crease to her brow.

Garrus expected he'd see a lot of that. Good news was the rarest of commodities these days. Eezo had nothing on it.

"Primarch," Shepard said, shifting the datapads to the crook of her arm and rearranging her features back into a more neutral expression, hiding her concern behind a faint, vague smile, and her most professional mask, "Specialist Traynor will see you and your staff settled. Please, if there's anything the Normandy can do, let her know and she'll do her utmost to make it happen." Her gaze shifted momentarily to Garrus', and he knew her next words were intended for him and Victus both. "I've got to update the Council, see whether we can get the asari to join us, and deal with whatever craziness Joker messaged me about, but I'll check in with you later. Make yourselves at home."

By the time Garrus nodded, she was already gone.

Garrus left Victus in the war room, poring over situation maps—as red as the ones he'd left behind on Menae, he noted—and headed for the familiarity of the battery. Most of the faces Garrus saw were new, and though he was no more a part of the Alliance than of Cerberus, it was somehow still a relief to see the Normandy once more filled with blue uniforms instead of black and white and yellow ones.

The main battery looked different, of course. He'd expected that from Anderson's messages. In some ways it was an entirely new ship, a strange hybrid of the SR-1 and the SR-2. Cerberus' bright lights and extravagant finishes were gone, replaced by gritty, serviceable Alliance standards. Garrus ran his hand along the console.

"Welcome back, Garrus," EDI said.

"EDI," he greeted, surprised how glad he was to hear her voice. "Not sure I was expecting you. Thought you might've had trouble when they overhauled the ship. The Alliance isn't known for its friendly relationship with artificial intelligence."

EDI sounded pleased with herself when she replied, "The retrofit team believed I was a VI. I did not correct this assumption."

He chuckled. "I bet you didn't."

"Also, I was able to retain a number of files, unbeknownst to the retrofit crew."

This time Garrus laughed outright. "I bet you were."

"I have returned your personal files to the directory where you left them. Also, I have done what I can to return the Thanix to the condition you left it, but it is not running at optimal efficiency. I have begun your usual diagnostic. It will be complete in fifteen minutes."

"Someday you'll have to meet my sister," Garrus said. "She'd like you."

"Then I am sure I would… like her too."

Gripping the edge of the console, Garrus bowed his head. He'd been running so long—juggling responsibilities and pushing down emotion and trying to keep things together not just for himself but for everyone relying on him—that the sudden fist of terror and loss hit him hard. Come on, G, he imagined Solana chiding. Pull yourself together. Now's not the time.

Come on yourself, Sol. Now's never going to be the time.

"Garrus," EDI said, "I surmise from your sudden silence and the jump in your heart-rate that you are concerned for the family you just mentioned. Although I cannot guarantee its efficacy, given the current state of communications relays galaxy-wide, I can set a program to attempt a connection. I require only the frequencies used by their communication devices."

"Thanks, EDI," he said softly, raising his head to stare hard at the gun. It was something concrete to do. Maximize efficiency. Prepare for inevitable combat. Fix something small because he couldn't begin to touch all the big things that were wrong. "Wouldn't want to take up valuable resources, though. Not for personal matters. Too much at stake."

"It is no trouble. The Normandy's efficiency will not be compromised. I will alert you if contact is made."

He swallowed hard and nodded, even though of course EDI wasn't a physical presence in the room to see it. "Thanks," he repeated.

"I am… sorry, Garrus," she said. And the weird thing was, he believed her. He believed that in whatever strange way an artificial intelligence looked at the organic world of life and death and love and loss around her, she was, in fact, sorry. Before he could say anything, though, EDI added, as crisp as ever, "Diagnostic 53% complete, and I believe Shepard is on her way to the main battery, now that she has finished in the AI core."

Garrus straightened and rolled his shoulders, once more pushing the "In the AI core? Problems?"

"No, I do not think so. I have obtained a new platform. A… body."

"A—a what? Now you're joking."

"No, Garrus. That would not be funny."

"A body."

EDI managed to sound vaguely amused. "It will be on the bridge, if you wish to meet it later. In the meantime, Primarch Victus would like a word. Patching him through and logging you out, Garrus."

"Don't think this is the last you'll hear about this, EDI," Garrus warned, as the AI's pleasant voice was replaced by the primarch talking strategy and numbers and the grim business of war.

His visor alerted him to Shepard's arrival, but Garrus ignored the streaming input of new information, focusing instead on his conversation with Victus, waiting for her to make the first move.

Also, he supposed, just like old times.

He'd already decided he wasn't going to… wait. They both had too many responsibilities, too much going on, to waste time dancing around the issue. If she wanted an out, he'd give her one, and if she took it, he'd be professional. Completely and utterly professional.

And heartbroken, his sister's voice said. Don't forget heartbroken.

You be quiet.

He imagined Solana laughing—a sad laugh; he could hear it clear as anything—and knew she probably had the right of it.

Not that he'd ever, ever let Shepard see it, if she turned him away now.

He'd be whatever she needed him to be. He was good at that, too.

He kept his cool while Shepard shifted slightly from foot to foot and they traded inane conversation about the necessity of giant guns in the battle to come. It bought him time to really look at her. It was one thing to take a quick survey on the battlefield in order to make sure all limbs were attached and no blood was dripping from open wounds, and something else entirely to see her here, in what he thought of as her native environment. She'd taken the time to change out of her armor, and scrub the worst of the dirt and sweat from her skin. The Cerberus officer's uniform had been replaced by Alliance dress blues. She'd always looked vaguely uncomfortable in black and white; blue suited her much better. The color brought out the undertone of green in her grey eyes, but also highlighted the purple smudges of exhaustion beneath them.

Even tired, even worn, even with red-rimmed eyes and cheeks paler and far more gaunt than they'd been six months earlier, he still thought she was beautiful.

And he knew, for all his deflections and all his denials, his damned sister had been right all along.

He wanted to ask Shepard about the asari Councilor, about what she intended as far as the krogan were concerned, about what he could do to help. He knew he couldn't lift the whole burden of responsibility from her shoulders, but he'd be damned if he was going to let her suffer under the weight alone.

He just had to get this… other thing out of the way first. Protocol on reunions. It would have sounded clever, if his subharmonics weren't giving him away at every warble. He followed it up with a deflective joke about his scars, and was relieved to see her smile. Hell. There was even a laugh.

Dismissively? In a gotta-let-you-down-easy-big-guy kind of way? Or is it fond? In the right light it could look fond.

He didn't realize how much he'd been dreading a rejection until it didn't come, until it was all her "I haven't forgotten our time together" and him stammering about research (again, he groaned inwardly, even as his mouth kept running away without his brain, again with the research, because babbling about watching vids wasn't embarrassing enough the first time you have to do it again?) and Shepard stopping him with a kiss.

He'd forgotten. He'd forgotten what it felt like to be happy. And just for a moment, with the scent of her overwhelming him and the feel of her soft lips against his scarred mandible and her hands reaching for his, there it was. Happiness. Like a single point of light in the darkness. Like something lost found again. Like taking a breath when you'd been certain of dying.

Maybe she didn't know what the war would bring—who did? But it was enough. When they started speaking of the Reapers and the invasion and his preparations, they were themselves again: Shepard and Vakarian. Better, even, he hoped. Stronger. The best. They'd have to be the best.

"Shepard?" he asked, "Did Anderson…?"

She tilted her head, obviously confused. "He's heading up the resistance on Earth."

Relief made him sigh. "Best man for the job."

Her smile was fond and sad all at the same time. "My thoughts exactly. Still don't like it. Damned near impossible to get messages through."

"If you can… the next time you speak to him, tell him thanks, would you? From me."

"Thank Anderson? From you? Why?"

"He… did me a favor once. That's all. Kind of thing that deserves gratitude. Was starting to think I might not get the chance."

"Sure," she said, brows still furrowed. She didn't press, but the look she leveled his way asked questions he didn't want to answer. "I'll tell him. This about the new tactical cloak? He did sort of hint it might've originated with you. As much as he was ever able to let me know, anyway. He knew I wanted to keep you all away from scrutiny."

Garrus nodded, "Yeah," he said. "The tactical cloak. I notice you're using it."

"Using it," she scoffed. "This model puts my old one to shame, and I'm not afraid to admit it, even though the old one was my design. I suppose I have your task force to thank for the schematics?"

"Yeah," he said after too long a pause. "Something like that. I'll, uh, pass along your approval."

Shepard watched him carefully—too carefully—for too long, but instead of pushing, she only changed the subject, asking him about his task force and his family. The latter made his stomach drop, and he didn't linger on it. He almost spoke of his mother, then, but she already had the weight of the world—of the galaxy—on her shoulders, and he didn't want to add to the sorrow she carried. Someday, maybe, if they ever had the time to find out what normal looked like for them, he'd tell her. They'd trade stories the way they traded teasing barbs and headshot tallies.

Friends. Families. Histories.

But for now they had this, troops and deployments, Spectre and Reaper Advisor. She had smiles for him she gave no one else, and all the research in the world couldn't have prepared him for the strange surge of emotion such intimacy stirred in him.

"Oh, you'll never guess," she said, pausing as she turned toward the door. By the amusement in her voice he knew it was something good and not another lost planet or break in the front lines. "I went on a hunt to find my model ships, since for some reason they'd been left in strange places from one end of the Normandy to the other. And while I was down in the hold below engineering? I found my damned hamster."

"Odysseus decided the Normandy was home after all?"

She chuckled. "Or he wasn't ready to leave the excitement and head back to his boring hamster life? Either way. Safe and sound. No harm done. You should… come visit him later."

The pause was almost undetectable, and just enough to make his mandibles flutter into a brief smile.

"Definitely," he said. "Wouldn't want him to think he was alone in all of this."

"Yeah," she said, eyes shining in a way that might only have been the new, darker light of the Normandy, or that might have been the sheen of tears. "Wouldn't want that."

"Because he isn't," Garrus insisted. "Not now and not ever. I hope he knows that."

And as Shepard sauntered out of the battery, casting a last warm smile over her shoulder, Garrus let himself hope, just for a moment. For victory. For peace. For things he would never have admitted to hoping for.

For the opportunity to visit a damned hamster later.

First things first, though. The Thanix was a mess.

The old saying was wrong after all, he thought, bringing up the results of the diagnostic EDI had begun for him. Sometimes? Sometimes you could come home again.

Hell, sometimes you had to leave and come back to know it was ever home at all.


Message received: 15 OCT 86

Odysseus misses you. Dinner?

Message sent: 15 OCT 86

Can it wait for a minute? I'm in the middle of—no. Can't even joke about it. Be right up.