The command panel lit up under Garrus' talons. He hesitated for a moment, and then switched the control to manual, instead of typing in the destination in the auto-pilot software. Maybe being focused on the traffic would help him in keeping his mind off of what awaited him today.

With its engine whining, the skycar took off and joined the similarly endless stream of its peers. Garrus focused on the skylane, taking deep breaths. He wished for solid controls of the old cars he saw in the vids. It would be something to hold on to.

The grey-haired human in the co-pilot's seat touched his arm. As much as Garrus usually liked Dr. Chakwas and appreciated her support, he had to struggle with the urge to shake her off. He was just too tense.

"It'll go fine," she assured. "Trust me."

Oh, he trusted her. There was no chance he'd let her visit Shepard in the… in the… mental hospital otherwise. Even after eight months he still had trouble saying it in his mind. And this wasn't an ordinary visit, either.

"Yeah," he replied, not taking his eyes off the traffic. He was aware that he didn't sound convincing at all.

Will this finally be the day?

The bed was so cold and empty without her. The frozen meals he lived on now tasted worse than the guilt-coated rations on the Normandy, although he couldn't believe it possible until now. The loneliness opened a big gaping hole in his chest, and not even his newfound diligence for the primarch duties could keep it filled. No amount of calls and visits when he was allowed to make them were enough. He missed her. He missed the hum of her non-flanged voice. He missed the strands of her hair getting stuck in his mandibles at night. He missed the scars and markings on her face. He missed… He nearly missed a skycar that popped up in front of him out of nowhere.

Garrus shook his head and focused on the traffic again. It would be very bad for Shep to pass her psych eval and find out that her mate died in a skycar accident, wouldn't it? Just a little more and he could breathe in her scent, feel the warmth of her soft skin and her lips on…

Damn it. This was getting ridiculous.

Dr. Chakwas gripped his arm tighter. When she gave him a call two days ago and suggested to accompany him on the way to the hospital, he had assumed it was to make it easier for Shepard. Now, he wasn't so sure, and was actually glad to have her here. He wasn't alone in this fight. And it was his fight, too, although Shepard was taking the brunt of it.

Garrus took a deep breath and pushed everything aside, like he was in the middle of a battle, facing endless Reaper forces dropping from the sky. For the rest of the ride he was focused and calm. With a corner of his eye he caught a smile on the good doctor's face.

The sight of the hospital and its white, sterile walls shook his determination once again. Hospitals were pretty low on his personal list of places where he liked to be. Especially mental hospitals holding his bondmate captive—uh, taking care of her.

When they arrived to the waiting room (where at least some effort was put in bringing more color, Garrus noted), he couldn't sit still. The overly polite nurse (or was it just his paranoia?) told them they would have to wait for ten minutes, and it took exactly twenty-three seconds over that already. How much longer would he have to wait? Were they hiding something? If only the time would move faster.

As he paced the waiting room for the hundredth time, Chakwas grabbed his wrist when he walked past. He stopped and sighed, and then sat down next to her. Shepard will win this last battle, he told himself, like she always did.

He didn't know what happened in that room eight months ago, when all hope seemed lost, but she emerged victorious. Again, like she always did. Even when her enemy was her own failing sanity. When private sessions with the psychotherapist Chakwas recommended proved to be not enough, Shepard suggested this solution herself, despite her previous fear of getting locked away. She wanted to get better. And when Shepard wanted something, she would go to great lengths to achieve it, doing whatever it takes. Garrus knew this very well by now, as did the rest of the galaxy.

Some will always judge what she did, not understanding the pressure of making decisions for everyone. Some of them had lost their loved ones in the aftermath of the Crucible and the wounds were still fresh. Garrus remembered the warm flood of relief that washed over him when he heard his Dad and sister's voice over the comm for the first time after the war, and realized he couldn't even imagine how he would feel if that call never came. They – he and Shepard and the entire galaxy – have won the war and lived to tell the tale to the future generations. By turian standards, that was more than worth it.

Of course, for Shepard who was not raised as a turian, it was much more difficult to accept. He should have realized it earlier, not take for granted that she would see it their way like he did. He knew her idealistic views, and – spirits help him – argued about them enough times during the war.

The door opened, snapping Garrus out of his thoughts that were going down the dangerous paths of blame. Feeling his heartbeat rising, he jumped to his feet. The suspense was killing him.

Shepard sat atop of a piece of rubble fallen from the collapsed tower next to her. There were many more collapsed structures and wrecked vehicles around her, adding to the desolate landscape. Above it all, high in the sky, was the weirdest looking sun she had ever seen. But something was wrong. There was snow falling from the mostly clear sky… and it was glowing. As she extended her palm to catch the snowflakes, they disappeared in a puff of smoke as they touched her skin.

No. This wasn't wrong. It was right. Very right.

The sound of several small children laughing drew her attention. Looking down, she noticed them playing in the shade of a large green tree – there were trees around, she noticed, they were popping out of the ground where the glowing snowflakes touched it – along with a salarian in a lab coat.


Shepard watched the scene with warmth in her heart. The entire jungle has popped out of the ground by now, along with ancient towers of stone that were magically fixing themselves under the glowing snow. There was so much hope in this scene, she could almost touch it. She looked at the sky… but instead saw the white bright light of the hospital room.

Damn, she sighed. This was such a good dream and a fond memory.

The orange glow of her omni-tool drew her attention. Wrex and Bakara sent her recent pictures of Tuchanka and she fell asleep while viewing them. She looked through them one more time, feeling her eyes watering again. Green trees. Construction cranes. Small reptilian children. Bustling cities. Hope.

Mordin's sacrifice wasn't in vain. Their cycle wasn't lost.

Switching the omni-tool off, Shepard got up and washed her face. So, today was the Big Day, but she wasn't nervous at all. Next time she falls asleep it will be in her bed with Garrus at her side. In fact, she has never felt as calm as she did now. It was time just for her – and Garrus – to sit back and enjoy their life. Nothing will stop them.

It was all a matter of perspective, she realized (and the meds she had to take until the hallucinations disappeared, she thought wryly, but she was off them now). Great victories have always come with a great cost. It was an ancient truth. Maybe all the hero worshipping she had received during the Reaper War did finally get to her head and made her think she was supposed and expected to save everyone, but now she could see things more clearly. She was free.

Every war left orphans and widows in its wake, and they were always bitter and full of questions with no hope for answers when it was over. This one was no exception. No matter what she did, there would always be those who wanted her to do more. This time, though, she won't let their misguided grief and anger to eat away at her. She did what she could, and she paid the price for it. She even did much more. Just like Garrus had told her countless times. It only took eight months of therapy to believe him.

Shepard chuckled lightly and sat back on the bed. If she could trivialize her imprisonment here, then she knew she was ready to get out. She felt ready. Just to get that piece of damn paperwork and she could go home. To Garrus. To their bed and to mess it up like they never did before. Not even like that night when she saw the evil version of him.

It all seemed so easy now that she reflected on it. In reality, though, it was a hard and long process, filled with many hurdles to overcome. It took three months to gather courage and watch the news from Rannoch. Much to her surprise, she wasn't loathed there. The quarians mourned the loss of their synthetic children, but she was remembered for their reunion and treated like a heroine. The same was on Tuchanka (Bakara said there were seventeen different battle songs composed in her honor already), Earth, Thessia, Sur'Kesh, everywhere really. Even Palaven, her new home. She was finally ready to accept it as such and go outside sometimes, even with the damn suit.

Despite Liara's best efforts, the news about her condition leaked eventually. Shepard was slightly angry at first, although most of that anger came from fear if she was to be honest with herself. There was no need to worry so much, though. Most people were sympathetic and sent their best wishes and hope everything works out for her. And now, at the end of her therapy, she could even believe they weren't lying.

Most people actually wanted to keep the peace she created. As for the loud minority, who still preferred to point fingers and frown (or possibly do something much worse)… she had to hope they would see the light eventually and overcome their fear of technology and synthetics. She had to, or face the long future of being locked away and talking to things that didn't exist.

That, she wouldn't allow. She made that decision while sobbing in her pillows, tortured by her own misguided grief and anger. The darkest hour of her life, but it made her see and appreciate the light.

Shepard smiled as she looked at the picture of Bakara holding little Mordin. Her friend was right. There was always a way out.

Garrus stared at the open door, feeling his heart thumping in his throat. This was the longest second of his life. Not even the moment between when he saw Sidonis' back and when he disappeared into the crowd lasted as long.

Shepard appeared in the doorway with a huge grin on her face and in the next moment she was in his arms. Garrus nearly crushed her against his body from hugging her so tight.

"I'm free and all yours," she whispered in his ear and their foreheads touched. He chuckled, not really aware of what he was doing. He was just too damn happy and was quite sure she felt the same.

They remained like that for maybe a minute, or maybe several hours. Garrus honestly couldn't tell. Ever since he entered this room, time lost its natural flow and went either too fast or too slow. Shepard finally pulled away a little, and her eyes were slightly wet. He tried not to fret about it. Not all tears were bad, he knew that now.

"Where's my suit?" Shepard asked casually. "I'm ready to get outta here."

Somebody cleared throat loudly and they both became aware of Dr. Chakwas and Shepard's doctor who were looking at them with a mildly amused expression on their faces.

"There was a reason I insisted to come with Garrus," Chakwas explained, "and it's not just to do your paperwork."

Garrus felt embarrassed. Were they really so lost in their embrace that they haven't noticed Chakwas finishing up Shepard's release? He guessed they were. And what was this other reason she mentioned? He had no idea.

"There is a joint Palaven-Earth scientific project that I know about," she continued, "and they've recently made a breakthrough." She pulled a small spray bottle out of her pocket and tossed it at Shepard who caught it deftly.

"You… you didn't," Shepard gasped. "An anti-radiation sunblock? Please tell me it's working."

Chakwas nodded. "Tested and reliable! No sunburn, fever or any bad effects!"

With a short yelp of happiness Shepard disappeared in the nearest bathroom to apply the spray. Garrus just watched her run, wondering for a moment if this was a setback or not. It wasn't, he decided and the pocket holding his breather mask suddenly felt heavier. He hated the damn thing because it restricted him, so how could he blame Shepard for feeling the same about the whole suit?

Shepard soon returned from the bathroom, with an even huger smile on her face and urged him to leave this place. He couldn't agree more. As they walked to his skycar, she leaned into him. It was so good to know she did so because she wanted to be closer to him, and not because she couldn't walk. He couldn't wait until they get home. If Chakwas wasn't with them, he'd be tempted to set the autopilot path and play exhibitionist in the busy traffic of Cipritine.

As the hospital disappeared behind them, Garrus had the feeling like it was more then a building they left behind.

That's it. No more updates. The end. Hope you liked it :)