This is a one-shot that I was commissioned to do. The story idea, and much of the content, was inspired by Divadevi8808 for whom this story was written.
Thank you to my beta, KimDemon13 and another thank you to Banjelerp who inked and colored the icon for the story and also co-beta'd.
This story runs in parallel to my main Shakarian story: Sense and Flexibility (meaning that the Sidonis, Garrus, and Shepard in this one-shot are the same characters from that other story). If you have not read that story, this one may seem rushed because I did not include scenes that happened in the main story in detail. I hope you like it!
The Many Deaths of Lantar Sidonis
"A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once."
"You're sure you want to do this, Son?" Drakin Sidonis asked, watching his son fill out the military exemption forms.
"I'm sure, Dad," he said. "I just want to help people."
Help people, he thought. More like help myself.
Lantar knew exactly why he wanted to be a nurse: the military exemption. For hundreds of years, turians of all genders were forced to join the military at the age of sixteen. It wasn't until the last fifty years, after the first contact war, that the government started giving exceptions to those who wanted to join the medical field.
That was all Lantar had to hear before he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
He signed his name on the military exemption the day after his sixteenth birthday. He knew his dad was going to be disappointed, but that didn't matter anymore. He didn't care about honor or about glory. He just wanted to live, safe and sound on Palaven, without ever having to pick up a gun.
His peers called it 'cowardice'.
He called it 'security'.
Lantar was already a doctor at Strix United Medical when he met Arillia. He had been talking to a patient in the lobby when she walked in his hospital. He would never forget it. She had her uniform folded neatly and was holding it against her chest as she entered, looking back and forth across the room for some kind of direction. She was about his age, but six years behind him in practice because she hadn't taken the military exemption. Her shoulders were broad and straight, but there was tepidness in her expression that endeared her to him.
They made brief eye contact as she walked passed him, and he was determined to meet her. Her scent, the bright white of her face, everything about her was beautiful.
It took a good eight weeks before she agreed to go out with him.
"So," she said, putting her fork down to look at him across the table. "You became a doctor because you're afraid?"
"You're damn right," he said, sinking back in the chair. "It would be easy for me to lie to you — like I've lied to everyone else — and say that I just wanted to live a life where I could help people. But I am not going to lie to you. I was terrified of joining the military, and I would have done anything to avoid it when I was a kid."
"So, what happened?"
He tilted his head and hoped the gesture conveyed his confusion.
"I... I don't understand the question."
She leaned an elbow on the table and tilted her head to observe him.
"What happened to you when you were young that the thought of joining the military was so crippling? You don't grow up on Palaven and think guns are scary without reason."
His mandibles clicked unconsciously before he narrowed his eyes.
"Did you minor in psychology?"
She grinned. "Yes."
"Well, shit. I don't think this is going to work out."
They both laughed, but he could tell she wasn't going to talk until he spilled. He sighed and threw his napkin on the table.
"I don't actually remember much," he admitted. "Most of this was told to me by the police and my dad later. I was only six at the time."
He told her the story of how his mother was murdered. He relayed every detail he could recall and searched the very depths of his subconscious for images, but the only memory he could see was the one that had always haunted him: the face of his mother, cold and lifeless, hanging over him as she tried to protect him. The hole in her head had pieces of brain matter and tissue dripping out of it with her blood. He stared up at her cold, lifeless eyes, shivering and terrified until the police came and took her away.
He had been stuck there for six hours.
"After that it was just anger," he admitted. "Anger at my dad for being on active duty and not being there to protect us. Anger at the police for not getting there in time.I don't know, I was just angry."
"I get it," she said, reaching across the table to take his hand. "And I don't think you're a coward."
He gave her a humorless laugh. "You'd be the first."
"Bravery isn't acting brave in the face of what everyone thinks is scary. Bravery is facing what you're actually afraid of. You're not afraid of bullets or guns or even dying; you're afraid of death."
"What I'm afraid of doesn't matter," he snapped. "What matters is that I ran from it."
"How do you figure?"
"I became a doctor strictly to avoid it. That's not cowardly to you?"
"But you didn't avoid it, did you? You're a doctor; you are surrounded by more death in a day than anyone on active duty. You make a living trying to keep everyone alive. No, I don't think you're a coward at all. I think you're very brave."
He had never thought of it that way, why would he have? He had spent his entire adult life being called a coward for his voluntary exemption from the turian military. This girl... Arillia. She had managed to take the thing he was most ashamed of and turn it into something positive.
They were married three years later, and they were some of the happiest years of his life.
"Arillia!" He struggled against the restraints the batarians were putting on his shoulders as he watched his wife be dragged away. "No," he said. "Please, don't do this!"
"Shut your yap," the batarian said, whipping him across the face with his pistol. "Our boss is hurt, and you're going to fix him up or we're going to make you watch as we each take turns with that pretty wife of yours."
"Okay, alright, I'll do whatever you want. Please, just don't hurt her."
He was forced onto his feet and dragged into the next room where another batarian was on a gurney with a hole through his shoulder and chest.
"Spirits, this is bad," Sidonis said, his hands shaking. "Isn't this Rhi'hesh Shurta? The gang leader?"
"Never you mind who it is."
"You expect me to help this guy? He's murdered hundreds, maybe thousands of innocent people!"
"You bet your ass I expect you to help him. He dies and we're all going to watch your wife get pulled to pieces. Then we're going to kill you."
Lantar stared down at the man. No doubt Arillia would want him to refuse. She hated gangs, mercs, killers. She hated them all. She would probably die gratefully if it meant they could put this psychopath down.
But Sidonis wasn't brave like his wife, and the thought of losing her only to die himself,— it frightened him. He had spent his whole life being a coward, he wasn't going to stop now.
"I uh... I'm going to need gauze. An— And stim packs. What wounded him?"
"He was shot," the batarian spat. "And that's all you need to know."
"Alright, alright. I'm going to need... uh... needles. And something to remove the pieces with."
They provided him with rather high-end medical equipment, probably none of which was acquired through legal means. He worked through the night to ensure the leader of their group survived. By the time he was finished it was already early morning, but the murderer's vitals were stable.
"Alright," he said, wiping his head with a cloth. "I've done all I can. He's going to be down for a few weeks so his muscles can grow back, but he'll survive."
"Good job, Doc," the batarian said, swatting him on the back.
"Yeah, thanks," he said. "Can I have my wife back, now? Can we go home?"
"What, are you stupid? After a show like that, we're going to keep you two around for a long time."
"What?" Lantar shouted before being restrained again. "That's not what you said. You said you'd let us go if I helped you!"
"That's the thing about criminals," the batarian said, throwing Sidonis into the room with his wife. "We say a lot of things."
Sidonis felt the tears streaming down his face as he sat against the wall. He didn't hear the gunshots. He didn't see the corpses. He only heard her voice as she called out for him, only saw her body fall to the floor: limp and lifeless.
He pulled his knees to his chest, and wrapped his arms around the back of his head and cried. He didn't care that he was in the middle of a shootout, and he didn't care that these bastards were dying all around him. Arillia was dead. She was dead. He just... stood there and watched her die... just like his mother.
His stomach turned upside down. His whole world was spinning; nothing mattered anymore.
It seemed like he sat there for hours. When the room had finally become silent again, he looked up slowly to see a room full of corpses. Glorious knew a lot of them had run, and a lot of them hadn't been in the warehouse for the shoot-out, but it didn't matter. He reveled in the sight of the cooling corpses. Even if the leaders didn't die, at least they would suffer a loss. Nothing as great as the loss Sidonis had suffered, but a loss nonetheless.
"Well, this is a mess," said a salarian entering the room.
"Not as clean as I usually like," said a turian, "but it got the job done."
"Hey, now," a batarian said. "We got a live one."
Sidonis turned his head, and his blurred vision barely managed to focus on the faces in front of him.
"You," he said. "You're the ones who killed them all?"
"A turian?" the salarian said. "I thought this was a batarian syndicate."
"I suppose they could have been branching out," the turian said.
"Just go ahead and kill me," Sidonis pleaded. "I don't want to live like this anymore." He wasn't ashamed of the sob that shook his shoulders. He was defeated. All this time running from death, and now here he was, welcoming it.
"You had a choice," the batarian said, pointing his gun at him.
"Everyone has a choice," the turian said.
"I didn't," Sidonis defended, his head sinking to his chest. "Not at the time. They were going to kill my bond mate if I didn't help them. They... needed me for medical knowledge and I... I needed Arillia to survive. Spirits, she was my whole world." His face fell into his hands and he sobbed. She was gone. He still couldn't wrap his head around it. "I—I don't have any combat skills I could have protected her with, or to fight off the mercs with. But it didn't matter. They killed her anyway, those sons of bitches." He fell back against the wall. "Just... get it over with."
He stared down the barrel of the batarian's gun, but the turian grabbed his wrist.
"We don't have a medic," the turian said. The man turned and kneeled down next to Sidonis, and he tried to focus on the turian's face through the blue light of his visor. "Do you want to avenge her?" he asked simply.
Lantar looked back and forth between the turian's eyes. Who was this man? Why was he trying to help him? A hope ignited in Sidonis. Maybe he wasn't going to die, maybe he could still survive. He thought about Arillia and how he always thought he wouldn't be able to live without her. But here, faced with the choice of death with her or living on alone, the coward in him still held sway.
"You bet your ass, I do," he said.
The man stood and offered a hand to help him up.
"My name's Sidonis," he said. "Lantar Sidonis."
"Ripper," the batarian said.
"Melanis," the salarian said.
"And I'm Archangel," said the turian, shaking Lantar's hand. "Welcome aboard."
Sidonis sat in his new quarters on the other side of the Omega bridge, staring out into the city from his balcony. The last few days all finally started to settle in. Arillia was dead, he was stranded on this shit-hole station, and he had joined a band of vigilantes to try and protect himself. They weren't bad people, as far as Sidonis could tell, but it wasn't the life he had signed up for. He had become a doctor to avoid gunfire. Now he was going to be exposed to it daily? How had he gotten himself into this mess? How had his life gone so astray?
"Hey," Archangel said, entering Sidonis' new room. "Settling in okay?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." He cleared his throat and turned around to lean his back on the railing. "Kinda, just letting everything sink in, you know?"
"Yeah, I get that." Archangel sighed and leaned on the door frame. "So you're a doctor, then?"
"I am. Worked at Strix United on Palaven until a few years ago. My wife and I moved here to... I don't know... make a difference or something."
"And the Blue Sun's got you?"
"Yeah. Made me stitch up their boss; then held us hostage when I'd succeeded."
The moment turned somber quickly and the silence hung in the air around them.
"I'm sorry about your bond mate," Archangel said, looking off to the side. "What was her name? Arillia?"
"Yeah... Thanks. You, uh, you married?"
"Hah, no. I'll be surprised if that ever happens."
"So, why Omega? Why take on the entire underworld?"
"Same as you," he said. "To make a difference. Or at least to tell myself that's what I'm doing."
"Don't think it's working?"
"I don't know. I guess I have to believe it is. It helps me hold onto my sanity."
Sidonis laughed. He knew the feeling.
"We'll find the rest of them," Archangel said, after a long silence.
"The rest of who?"
"The Blue Sun's that kept you hostage and killed your wife. We'll find them all."
Sidonis didn't say anything, just exhaled and nodded in the turian's direction.
Archangel nodded in return and stood to exit the room.
Months passed and Archangel was shouting down one of the newest members of their team. An asari by the name of Weaver, formerly Eclipse, had shot one of the civilians when they were taking down the slaver Kron Harga.
"You never hurt the civilians, Weaver! Damn it, I told you those were the rules."
"What's the big deal?" the asari said, arms crossed indignantly. "I got Kron, didn't I?"
"At what cost?"
"It was just one civilian!"
"That's one too many, Weaver. We don't hurt the civilians. If you can't understand that, then you need to get the hell out of here."
"What's going on?" Sidonis asked Ripper quietly.
"Archangel's tearing into Weaver over shooting through the civilian to get to Harga."
"Why are you so fixated on this?" Weaver shouted. "We did what we'd set out to do and it's over!"
"That's not how this works. You're the one who asked to join up with me; I didn't make you. I only gave you the option with the caveat that we do things my way."
Archangel exhaled a frustrated breath through his nose and rubbed the back of his neck. He turned away from the girl and went to lean on the balcony railing.
"If you don't care about the lives of the civilians then you're no better than the people you're hunting," was all he said. But he didn't say it organically; it was like he was repeating it from memory. "Why are you here, Weaver?"
"Why are any of us here?" She said. "My daughter was murdered and I wanted revenge."
"We've all lost somebody," Archangel said, turning around to look at them all. "Sidonis lost a wife, Melanis a son. Vortash and Sensat lost siblings. Erash lost his parents. Monteague and Ripper's whole families were killed. We're all here because we lost something and we're trying to fill that void or to make it right."
"What about you?" Sidonis asked, coming into the conversation. "You know all of our losses. What did you lose?"
He exhaled through his nose again and looked down at his feet before he answered.
"A hero," he said, before looking back up. "And a friend."
"That's it?" Weaver said with a scoff. "Not exactly worthy of revenge."
"I'm not after revenge," he interrupted. "I'm trying to do right by her because I failed her in the that's nothing compared to what you all lost, but it was enough to spur me into action. It was enough to make me want to do something, to stop pussy-footing around the Citadel pretending I was doing something."He lifted himself up to sit on the edge of the stone railing and leaned his elbows on his knees. "I thought I knew my place before I met her. I thought I was right where I was supposed to be; tied down by C-Sec's red tape, not really making any kind of difference until I had filled out the proper paperwork and bullshit politicking. But she saw something else in me and told me that I could be something so much greater than that. She taught me to believe in myself, and I did because she believed in me." He looked over at Weaver and exhaled. "She taught me that the good way isn't always the fast way. She made me a better man."
An awkward hush settled over the team before he started talking again.
"When I came to Omega I didn't see a corrupt station. Maybe a few years ago that would have been what I saw, but not anymore. Now I see people—innocent people in need of a champion. I see a station full of the strong kicking the weak and the helpless because no one stands up and tells them that they can't. People who need hope: that's what I saw. That's who I'm fighting for: those who can't fight for themselves." He let a few more moments of silence crawl over the room before he stood and walked out. "And if that's not what you're here for, Weaver, then you can get the hell out."
It didn't take long for the silence to fill the room.
"Heavy shit," Ripper said after he was sure Archangel was out of hearing distance.
"Yeah," Sidonis said, sticking his hands in his pockets, "but he has a point. If we're not fighting for the people... then who are we fighting for?"
"That's easy for you to say," Weaver said, waving a dismissive hand. "You're a medic; you haven't done any fighting since day one."
"I didn't hear you complaining when I stitched up your leg last week."
"Your doctoring is fine, it's your shooting that sucks."
Sidonis knocked on Archangel's door; well it would be more accurate to say he knocked on the door frame since it was already open.
"Yeah," he said from inside.
"Hey," Sidonis said, stepping into the room. "You good, man? Don't think I've seen you get that pissed."
Archangel leaned on his wall and looked out the window with a sigh.
"Yeah. Those memories... they're hard to fight."
"I know the feeling," Sidonis said, going to stand next to Archangel in front of the window. "She sounds like she was something."
"She certainly was. I guess I still haven't forgiven myself."
"For not being there to save her."
"How did she die?"
Archangel exhaled through his nose and shook his head. "Nobody knows."
"So, what, she just disappeared?"
"She was on active duty. The ship was attacked in the middle of the night by an 'unknown enemy'." He scoffed and crossed his arms. "The entire ship was disintegrated. She died making sure everyone got off the ship. Sacrificed herself for the damn crew like I was always afraid she would. Foolish human. She was just... too good, too damn benevolent."
"Forget forgiving yourself," Sidonis said with a laugh. "Sounds to me like you haven't forgiven her yet."
That made Archangel laugh. "You may have a point. I was angry at her for so long." He laughed again. "Our missions were always critical, but now, in hindsight, I can't help but think of all the fun we had together. At first I just thought it was an opportunity to follow a Spectre around and dodge all the bullshit red tape of the Citadel, but... I don't know. She became so much more important."
"Hold on," he said, narrowing his eyes. " Spectre? That human Spectre that died last year, that's who you're talking about?"
Archangel sighed and looked down at the floor. "That'd be her."
"Wait, wait. Are you Garrus Vakarian?"
Garrus smiled and looked sideways at him. "So you've heard of me?"
"Heard of you? Holy shit, I can't believe I didn't recognize you. Arillia and I used to watch you on the vids after you killed Saren."
"I had no idea you and her got that close."
"No one did. It wasn't really anyone's business."
"Sounds like she was a little more than a friend, no?"
"You wouldn't be the first person to think that, but no, it wasn't like that with us. It was nothing more than a simple, profound respect for each other. We were just two people who didn't realize how alone we had been before we met. Well, maybe she realized it, but I sure didn't."
"She changed you that much?"
"Sidonis... she changed everything."
"No," Sidonis said, trying to bite down his coughing. "Come alone, or they'll see you coming."
"Are you sure?" Archangel said, his voice crackling over the omni-tool. "You're not exactly a crack shot."
"Hardy-har-har, man," he said. "Just get over here before you blow my damn cover."
"Where did you send him?" The vorcha screeched, pushing the gun deeper into Lantar's throat.
"To an empty medical clinic," he coughed out. His hand moved to hold the bullet wound in his side. "The nest will be unguarded."
"It had better be," the krogan growled before raising a foot and plunging it into Sidonis' face.
Then everything went dark.
When Sidonis next awoke, he was in the cargo bay of a shuttle, his hands and feet bound. He tried to pull against his restraints, but they were too tight. He didn't know where the shuttle was going, but he knew he was running out of time. He had to warn Garrus; he had to get the hell out of here.
But he never got the chance; it was days before the shuttle reached the Citadel. He was half starved and delirious by the time the dock workers pulled him out of the cargo. His injuries were chalked up to 'Omega', and he was rushed to the hospital.
He tried to entertain ideas that Garrus had gotten back in time, that he was able to get there just in time to save them all and defend the bridge. But he knew that wasn't what happened. Every time he closed his eyes, their faces haunted him. They were all dead—they had to be—and it was entirely his fault. He told himself that he would have warned them, that if the krogan hadn't sent him off-world he would have run back and helped them defend the position, but he knew better than that, too. He probably would have booked transport off because he wouldn't have been able to face Garrus when he found out what Sidonis had done; he'd sent Garrus on a fool's errand just because a vorcha had a gun to his head. Garrus had guns to his head on a weekly basis and never betrayed his people. But Garrus had training; he was a sniper and a fighter, so he always came back swinging. What would Sidonis do in a situation like that? Charm them with his stethoscope? No, Sidonis would have run, like the coward he was.
He was in the hospital for three days before news of Archangel's death reached him. When it was revealed that they never found his body, his stomach lurched. Garrus was alive, and if Garrus was alive, he was going to come for him. He had to get out of there. He had to hide.
He had to disappear.
It was tough locating Fade to get a new identity, especially since the Krogan had emptied out everything from his private accounts the day that he was forcibly booked on a shuttle to the Citadel. He ended up convincing Fade that he could pay him back for the services once he started working somewhere else, so the human agreed to offer his assistance in advance.
It was almost six months later when Sidonis got the call from Fade about his identity being compromised. Sidonis had just managed to settle into being "Drake Titchen" and now he was going to have to do it all over again?
Whatever. As long as he was safe, it didn't matter.
But he wasn't safe; everything went straight to hell.
"Listen to me, you insect. I am, literally, the only thing standing between you and a hole in the head."
"Wh... what?" Sidonis couldn't seem to process the information the woman was shouting at him. How had this gone so wrong? How had she found him? "I screwed Garrus over bad," he said. "How do I know he won't shoot through you to get to me?"
She laughed once at him, but it was an angry sound. "It's Garrus up there," she said, stabbing him in the chest with an iron finger. "Not you."
The conversation went on like that for a while. The woman asked questions and made sure to keep in step with him so Garrus never got a clear shot. He decided then that he might as well come clean. He would probably never get another chance.
After long minutes of explaining, telling her about how he had lost Arillia, and how Garrus was never going to trust any of them the way he trusted her, he could hear Garrus concede through her earpiece.
"Just... go..." he heard Garrus say. "Tell him to go."
"He's giving you another chance, Sidonis. Don't waste it."
"I won't, Garrus. I'll try," he said, relief filling his chest at being forgiven. Maybe not forgiven, but understood. He reached out and grabbed Shepard's shoulder to stop her from walking away. "Thank you," he said, "for helping me."
He quickly regretted saying anything as fury that filled the human's vivid green eyes. He watched as she slowly reached up and turned her communicator off before reeling on him. She gripped his shirt in both of her armored hands, and he crumbled under the force of her rage.
"Don't you dare thank me, you son-of-a-bitch, I don't give a good-god-damn about your worthless life. If I had things my way, I would beat you until you were just a puddle of cartilage and tissue on the Citadel floor. I didn't do it for you, I did it for Garrus. I won't let him go down a path as dark as revenge, because he's a better man than you in every way you could imagine! As much as I'd love to see you wallowing in a pool of your own blood, that fantasy is not worth Garrus' peace of mind, do you understand? Your life is being spared so that Garrus can forgive himself and no other reason. You caused a rift in him that I'm not sure will ever be repaired, and if I were you I would dedicate my immediate future to finding a way to make it up to him in a way that involves staying away from him. Mark my words, Sidonis— if I catch you within fifty meters of him, I will drown you in the Presidium fountain with my bare hands, and I will laugh as the life drains out of your stupid, cowardly face."
With that she shoved him away from her, and he stumbled over his own feet as he sprinted down the bridge.
Spirits, she was insane.
He couldn't get off of that bridge fast enough. He didn't look back or slow down, he just ran. He had to turn three corners before he felt like he was safe. He buckled over, putting his hands on his knees to help catch his breath, and just stood there for a while.
If I were you I would dedicate my immediate future to finding a way to make it up to him.
Her words echoed through his head for three days. He didn't need to hide anymore, since it was obvious that Garrus had more important things to worry about. Sidonis had his second chance... his chance to do right.
His next step was obvious.
He was invaluable to the clinic on Omega. Besides David, the human, there really wasn't anyone else with real medical knowledge, so he quickly became an important player. He used everything he learned while working for Garrus and helped any and all that asked for it. Money was never an issue, nor was the persons allegiance or their history. As long as they were asking for help, Sidonis was glad to give it.
Every night, he went to bed hoping that he was making a difference.
It didn't stay that way for long. He had only been there for a year before disaster struck. Of all the things Garrus had been right about in the past, of all the warnings and all the lessons, Sidonis never imagined that the Reapers were real.
They all watched as the machines tore through Earth's atmosphere. He remembered what Garrus had said about Saren and the fleet of machines barreling toward them from dark space. He remembered laughing them off as myths like everyone else. After all this time, Garrus continued proved him wrong.
If Garrus was right about these things, it meant no where would be safe soon. If there were already as close as Earth, soon Palaven, even Omega wouldn't be safe anymore.
It was an odd feeling that rose up in him. Sidonis had been fleeing from action his whole life, just trying to find somewhere he could survive without throwing himself into the fray and chaos the universe offered; but as he stood there in the lobby, watching the reports from Earth, he felt an overwhelming need to do something. People were already evacuating their home planets to make for safer, less populated worlds, so Sidonis ran to the docking hangar.
"I need a ticket on the next shuttle to Palaven."
"Palaven? There are no shuttles going to Palaven for days. I have a flight leaving in thirty minutes to the Citadel. You can get a flight to Palaven from there."
"I'll take it," he said, slamming his credit chit onto the window.
He didn't go back and get his belongings, and he didn't tell anyone he was leaving. There was no time.
For the first time in his life, Sidonis was chasing the action. People were going to die, people were going to be hurt, and, spirits be damned, he was going to help his people the only way he knew how.
This was going to get ugly, and, for the first time, Lantar Sidonis was determined to be right in the middle of it.