Chapter Thirty-Eight – The Morning After
At the crack of dawn, Shepard was the first to get out of bed. She was feeling tired and even had it in mind to just lay there surrounded by her blankets. Unfortunately, mother nature had other things in mind.
Slowly, she got herself out of bed. Behind her, she didn't even have to turn to see that Garrus was still asleep... his snoring gave him away. I still need to record him snoring. Even after all this time, he still denies that he snores. Soon Shepard was on her feet and she slowly made her way towards the bathroom door, which was just a few steps away.
Oh thank goodness! Shepard cried out in her head as soon as she entered the small area. Javik didn't end up in the master bathroom like last time on the Citadel. That was WAY too awkward!
A few minutes later, Shepard stepped out and back into the bedroom, seeing that Garrus was still asleep. She decided in that moment to check up on the rest of her friends, who were surely still sleeping.
Stepping out of her own bedroom, Shepard immediately got a view of Garrus's art room. The door was wide open and she saw that there were too occupants. Liara had fall asleep leaning back against the left wall and it was clear that at some point during the night, she slumped to her right and was now also leaning against one of the storage shelves in the room. In the middle of the room, Javik had fallen asleep on the floor. Shepard raised an eyebrow when she immediately noticed a large, dried puddle of hot pink paint that definitely spilled some time during the night. She then attempt to suppress a laugh when she noticed that some drops of the pink paint somehow ended up on Javik's forehead.
She was definitely not going to ask what happened there.
"Hrm... primitives..." Javik mumbled in his sleep before he resumed snoring.
Shepard then moved a few feet and looked into the third room, which served as the guest room. On the full-size bed, Joker laid on his left side with one arm drapped around EDI's waist. EDI's eyes were open, but there was a good chance that she was focused on some program – or game – as the AI didn't greet her once in view.
Miranda, Vega, Jacob, and Jack also fell asleep in the same room. Vega and Jacob were on sleeping bags laid out on each side of the bed while Jack laid on her own at the foot of the bed on the floor. Somehow, Miranda fell asleep on the desk chair. She was slumped back, her arms dangling over each side, and her head was leaned back and a little off to the left. A thin line of what was definitely drool managed to make its way out of the side of her mouth.
Glad to know she's not the perfect sleeper, Shepard bemused to herself. But damn if she's not gonna feel sore the seconds she wakes up from that chair.
She then chose to walk forward, going through the hallway before ending up in the living room. It wasn't hard to miss the heavy snores coming from both Wrex and Grunt, who slept on the floor behind the large couch. Zaeed was also snoring on the recliner. Remembering a previous conversation from a while back, she realized that Zaeed wasn't kidding when he compared his snoring to a buzzsaw.
How anyone else can sleep through all that noise is beyond me, Shepard thought with some amazement. She was just lucky she only had Garrus to deal with, let alone two krogans and an old, grizzled mercenary.
She then noticed everyone else in the living room; Traynor fell asleep on the two-seater loveseat while Kaidan and Cortez shared the big couch. The two leaned on their right side with Cortez leaning his head against Kaidan's shoulder. Kaidan had his own arm around Cortez's shoulder, a small contented smile on her face. The sight alone made Shepard smile, happy for the two of them.
Shepard then moved to the kitchen and was amused to see the state of both Kasumi and Tali. Kasumi had fallen asleep at the table, the side of her head resting on top of her folded arms. Tali fell asleep on the floor and was currently laying halfway between her right side and her stomach. Amusingly, she was clutching onto the volus plush doll Shepard had won in a claw game back in the Castle Arcade on the Citadel; like a child clutching onto a teddy bear.
I thought I packed that away, Shepard thought concerning the volus plush.
That was when Shepard spotted a handwritten note on the table in front of Kasumi, something that wasn't there last night. Curious, Shepard carefully lifted the paper off the table before reading the words -
Thank you for inviting me to your reunion. It had been a wonderful evening and it was nice to see everyone again.
I apologize for leaving before you woke up, but I must head out. Always remember, if you ever need my help, know that I will always answer your call.
Shepard smiled after reading the note. "Thank you, Samara," she whispered as she folded the paper and placed it in her pocket. It was then that Shepard decided to walk outside and onto the front porch, careful to remain as quiet as possible as she reached the handle of the front door. Just as she turned the knob, a loud snort was heard and it was enough to cause Shepard to nearly jump out of her skin. She turned her head and saw Grunt moving a bit on the floor and she thought for sure that the young krogan was going to wake up.
"Sharks... lasers... awesome..." Grunt grumbled before he soon relaxed and resumed snoring. Shepard chuckled to herself before she slowly opened the front door and stepped outside.
By then, the sun was starting to rise over the horizon, though the trees, their branches and leave gently swaying in the light morning wind and blocking out some of the rays from shining onto the front of the cabin. Shepard was okay with that for right now since it meant that the sun wouldn't be blaring into her eyes at the moment. It would give her the chance to clear her mind and simply enjoy the view of the mostly empty field in front of her; the grass and leaves of the trees were a brilliant green against the clear, yellowish sky slowly turning light blue, and she breathed in the crisp, clean fresh air.
As of today, she couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
A few minutes later, Shepard heard the front door open. She turned her head and saw Garrus step outside before he closed the door behind him. He was still wearing the pajama pants he wore during the night, but he clearly had taken the time to put on a shirt before coming out of the bedroom.
"Hey, I was wondering where you were," Garrus said as he sat next to her on the other wicker chair.
Shepard smiled at him. "And I thought you'd be sleeping like the others for the rest of the morning."
"I would if it wasn't for the priority vid-call my Dad insisted I answer right away."
"What about?" she asked curiosly.
Garrus tapped a few commands on his omni-tool. Meanwhile, Shepard didn't miss the fact that Garrus's mandibles widened into a grin. He was definitely excited about something. Shepard smiled, having a feeling over what it was but decided to wait until Garrus told her.
"Our nephew decided to come a tad bit early, and apparently very quickly last night," Garrus chuckled as he showed Shepard the picture his dad sent him – Shepard figured the arms in the picture belonged to Solana, but of course, the main focus was the tiny turian infant she held, the little guy swaddled in a heavy green blanket. The little turian had the same colored plates as Solana did, but also possessed the brown gray hide and bright green eyes of his father, Xarius.
"I..." Shepard started to say. "...Have never seen a baby turian until now. Are all turian babies this adorable?"
Garrus laughed. "Well, they definitely don't come out looking wrinkly like you humans do."
"Uh huh," Shepard chuckled. "What's his name?"
"Lukus Vakarian," Garrus said proudly. "It's a good, strong name in turian culture. I'd say it's a good choice."
Shepard smiled. "Well... he's definitely a Vakarian. Considering how quick he apparently arrvied last night, he's already as impatient as his uncle."
"Har har," Garrus grumbled, though there was some mirth in his voice. "Just wait until I teach him how to use a sniper rifle. Of course, I can't teach him everything... can't let even my nephew upstage his uncle."
"As proud as ever," Shepard chuckled. "Either way, this event proves one thing for now... we're definitely going to book passage to Palaven very soon to see your nephew."
"Our nephew," Garrus corrected as he gently took her hand into his. "I know we're not married, but you're still family."
Shepard smiled as she gently squeezed his hand. "Thanks."
For a few minutes, the couple sat in silence, content in enjoying each other's company as the sun continued to rise above the horizon. It was funny... two years ago, Shepard couldn't even imagine the life she was living now. She always thought that the only life she would live was one as a soldier, bringing peace and fighting for the future of the galaxy wherever she went. She thought life would be filled with constant travels on a war ship and never staying in one place for more than a few days. If she was lucky, she would eventually find herself as an Admiral, and even then she would most likely be the type of Admiral her superior Hackett was now... still fighting the good fight. After all, this was the path she spent most of her life living.
Despite the circumstances of her recovery, it did do one good thing... slow her down enough to see what civilian life was like. For the past year, Shepard found herself staying in one place for more than a few days. There was only a little bit of traveling to other places like Palaven, but this time they were more of her choosing than wherever she was needed. She also got to know this little town in the middle of nowhere and the people who lived here, which was definitely nice. Plus, it was great being able to have a couple of pets around, including a cat (she still missed Vinny the Space Hamster very much).
There was the lingering question as to what use she would be to the galaxy with how slow she was recovering... and still recovering as it is. How long would her injuries keep her down and how would it be before she could get back into the thick of it? Then, she spoke to Dr. Chakwas and came to realize something that day, but only now was it sinking into her mind... even if she did fully recover tomorrow... would she even want to go back to being a soldier after fighting a high-scale war AND knowing peace afterwards? A year ago, the answer would've been easy; heck yeah, she definitely wanted to be back on the front lines. It was the life she had known since she became a marine all those years ago and, despite how she grew up prior to signing up, it was the only life she knew.
Now? The answer was more obvious than ever... it was time to put down her weapon for good. She had served honorably as a soldier and there were many other marines out there, like Vega, who were capable in carrying on with protecting the galaxy and helping those who need it the way any marine knew how. Her time was over... and that thought alone helped her make peace with that decision. Funny... a year ago, those words would've been met with despair. Not anymore.
Still, she wanted to serve the Alliance – let alone the galaxy - in some way. In that moment, Shepard made another decision about her future. "I'm going to take that N7 Advisor job," she said to Garrus. "Once everyone clears out, I'm going to give Hackett a call."
In response, Garrus leaned towards her before pressing his mouth to the side of her head. "I was wondering when you would take the opportunity to yell at new recruits like a drill sergeant."
Shepard laughed. "Only if I'm provoked enough."
"What made you decide to take the job?"
Shepard took a deep breath before she responded. "Because I still want to be part of the Alliance even with all the political bullshit. And even if that, and my injuries, wasn't the case, I think it's time for me to put down my gun, so to speak. The best place for me now is to help guide future N7 soldiers. This will be my way of helping to rebuild the galaxy to what it used to be, all while maintaining the peace and harmony of not just humanity, but of all species through these new recruits."
Garrus wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "You know I would've supported you in whatever decision you made."
Shepard smiled. "You always did have my six. And you know... I forgot to mention that Hackett sent me a data packet. Let's just say that the pay would afford us two more places... one on Palaven and maybe one somewhere that's actually warm and tropical."
Garrus raised his browplates at that. "You want to do that?"
"I'd be nice, though there's no rush," Shepard said. "We can also have them serve as timeshares for whenever we're not there. It's another way for us to make a little more money. Also... I decided once Zakera Ward is functioning again on the Citadel, I'm going to donate Anderson's apartment to a family in need. After everything, well... there's too many ghosts up there. And they'll need it more than I will."
Garrus leaned the side of his head into hers. "As I said... I support whatever decisions you make."
Shepard laughed as she reached out to grasp onto his free hand. "Well... we sure deserve a peaceful future after all the craziness we've been through."
Garrus chuckled. "That's for sure. Even with all its up and downs, it was surely a damn good ride."
Shepard smiled warmly as she gently squeezed his hand. "The best."
The two shared a brief kiss before turning their attention back towards the rising run, chosing to spend whatever alone time they have with each other in contented silence until their friends inside their beautiful cabin, the home they shared together, stirred awake.
After everything the galaxy threw at them, Shepard and Garrus could finally know a life, together, of happiness and tranquility.
A/N: After a four-year journey, I will quote what Garrus says in the end... it was a damn good ride! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, including this story.
I admit, I started this story four years ago after reading nothing but depressing Shepard/Garrus stories involving the aftermath of the Reaper War. Nothing against those stories, but one could only take so much sadness and wonder if there were any with a more happier and/or bittersweet aftermath. So I took it upon myself to write such a story.
Thank you everyone who have reviewed, favorited, followed, and read my first novel-length Mass Effect story from beginning to end. Every single one of them were very much appreciated! I'd like to write more Mass Effect fics and do have more ideas involving both the original trilogy and Andromeda, but I guess we'll see what happens. I do have an Andromeda-related short fic being posted next week, so if there are any readers reading this who are fans of the FemRyder/Reyes pairing, keep a lookout for that. It'll be called Meridian Sunrise.
And now for an announcement...
For those who wished for kids, I have great news... there will be a short sequel called A Family Twofold coming soon! Aside from giving everyone the choice of whether they want to read the story or not, I do have a couple of other reasons for separating it from Tranquility; 1) There's a time gap between this chapter and the upcoming story. 2) The origin of the kids (yes, that's a plural there) in question is a bit on the dark side compared to the more lighthearted chapters here. I'm not sure exactly when I'll get it posted, but I'm aiming for 'some time this summer.'
All I can say at this point is, 'stay tuned!'