Episode 7: Way Out in the Water

Chapter Genre: General/Humor

Characters: Tali, Shepard, and Garrus

Chapter Summary: He was so tired that his mind felt like it was drifting through a mass relay.

"Shepard! Shepard! Can you come out for a minute?"

Shepard, as usual, was working endlessly on his prosthetic limb for the past few days. In fact, he had barely even eaten. Work was supplemented by substitute meals of a protein bar and bottled water. He would take showers and barely even put anything back on his way back. His scarred body was exposed, glistening with sweat; the lower half donned only a pair of beaten jeans cut into shorts out of pure frustration. "Maybe I need a break," Shepard mumbled to himself.

He got up and pushed himself off of his stool, crashing on the ground. Awhile, the ground kept him company. He began counting the specks in the concrete beneath him. It wasn't until he was halfway through fifty when he realized he was doing it. "What am I doing on the ground?" Shepard said, rolling on his back. "Oh…I don't have both of my legs." Quite frankly, he forgot. He's been working so hard…that he forgot.

Hopping to his feet, using his newly materialized crutch as leverage, he managed to get upright. Shepard continued to the door. Everything seemed really slow, he noticed. How long has he been up anyway? He tried to check the clock, but right now his vision just saw a blur of orange numbers. He chalked it up as a loss. Tali needed him, and he was keeping her waiting.

Shepard tried to open the door, failing a few times. He stared at it for what felts like hours—only a few seconds in actuality—confused. Where was the handle? He frowned, scratching the crown of his head. "Huh...oh.." Finally, he clicked the green button on the side, and the door slid open. "Shouldn't moths be flying out of the door?" he asked himself, hopping out. "Does Rannoch even have moths?"

Tali saw him in the doorway. She was beautiful as always, a little blurry from this distance, but definitely really pretty. He gave her a weak smile. She met him halfway, giving him a peck on the cheek, and he returned the favor. "You look like a red-sand addict, Shepard?"

"I do?" He said confused.

"You do," Tali responded, nodding.

"Should I change or something?" His words were coming out really slurred, he realized. How long was he in that workshop anyway? "Uh—how long was I in there? When did our house get so bright?" There were lights, everywhere. "Why do we need so many lights?"

"Two days. Shepard, I can't turn off the sun."

"That's the sun? Oh!" Shepard grinned again, which affirmed the fact that he appeared like a washed-up red sand addict. "You called, honey…?"

"We have a visitor!" Tali's face lit up with excitement. Shepard's did too. She was really pretty when she smiled, he couldn't help but smile. He held her hand, despite how tired he was. "I have someone that will help you relax! You've been working hard, too hard, way too hard…too hard that I was afraid that you would faint or something. I wouldn't know what to do if you fainted. You are rambling again, Tali."

"It's okay. You can ramble. I always liked you rambling. It's cute." In his right mind, he wouldn't have said that so…bluntly. Nor would he have said it like a hippie on hallex-laced weed.

Tali stared, blushing madly. "Shepard."

Shepard hummed his response.

"Are you okay? You look really tired? I could—"

"No. No. I'm fine." He really was. Or at least, he thought he was. A guest, no problem. Commander Shepard can handle a guest on a half-a-tank of energy. They might have traveled a long way. That would be waste of fuel. "Let's go see 'em. Are they outside? Tali, it's pretty hot outside. I don't want them hot."

Tali giggled. "Yeahhhh." She gave an assuring nod, patting him on the back like he did something glorious. He smirked, chuckling too like he was reduced to a school aged boy. "Let me go answer, stay right there."

"Okay, honey. Be back soon."

Some parts of Shepard's mind—the parts that wasn't completely fatigued—slowly realized how ridiculous he was sounding right now. However, he was too proud to admit that it was happening. Instead, he would poker face it. It's not like he hadn't been tired before. The N7 program was much tougher than this. Sleep was overrated. Besides, someone was here.

Tali walked over to the door, opening it effortlessly. For brief moment, Shepard envied her door-opening prowess, but then realized it was a normal thing. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes as she talked to the visitor. He heard him talk back. It was definitely a male. He sounded a bit weird, almost like…you know, those cool bird people…turian? Yeah. It sounded like a turian. But who?"

He opened his eyes, amazed. "V-Vakarian?"

Garrus stood in the door, leaning to keep it open. "Shepard."

"Are—are you real?"

Garrus gave a deep sigh, looking over to Tali who just shook her head. "I owe you 200 credits," he said, in his usual drawl of a voice.

"Told you it was bad."

Shepard took a bit of rest in light of it all. He wrapped himself up in a blanket after his brief nap, welcomed with a cup of cocoa. He wanted coffee. Tali promptly refused. She had been doing a lot of research on humans, almost as much as she had on geth in the past. She knew that coffee was the thing that was keeping him awake. She'll probably take that away. He had been drinking it way too much lately. But, how else was he going to keep awake?

Grimly, Shepard settled for the cocoa. The group had settled in the living room. Tali sat at his feet. Garrus sat on the sofa. He was clad differently than usual. His normal blue and silver armor was far darker, adorned with some gold symbols near the plate upon his chest. Armed still with his trusty assault and sniper rifles, he almost seemed out of place in this very comfortable home. That would have been the case if he didn't seem so damn relaxed. The turian basically took up one half of the couch, arms stretched, and one foot relaxed on his knee.

"Looks like you are finally sane. Well…as sane as you can be, Shepard."

"Just overworked myself as all. I didn't think Tali would have to call back up." Shepard sipped his hot cocoa. Somehow, it was amazing. How did Tali even do that? "I've been working on a project."

"It does appear that you quite literally lost a step."

"Shut up, Vakarian."

"Tali didn't bring me here to shut up. Besides, you aren't my CO. I can talk to you however the hell I want."

Shepard laughed. "I'm guessing Miranda told all the crew."

"Yeah. I had to take up with Liara to make sure. Not that I don't trust Miranda, but she isn't top on my best friends forever list. Apparently, T'soni is a much better Shadow Broker now. It's a lot less, I don't know, Garrus. And a lot more I already know that, Garrus. I swear she never looks at anything besides that orange data pad anymore."

"Looks like you aren't the only one that over works," Tali chimed in.

"I'm sorry Tali for worrying you. I just got wrapped up and—uh…I just want to get back up right without hopping all over the place."

Garrus might have joked about it, but he knew how much it hurt. He could see it written all over his face. There were very few people that Shepard couldn't fool with his tough act. Two of such happen to share the room with him at the moment. "Shepard, you never really thought about something other than war, have you?"

"Can you say that you have Garrus?"

"No. No, not really. But, Primarch Victus is making me think twice about doing this all my life. They never tell you about the downsides of a promotion. Just dress it up to make it look like you'll be sitting on your ass all day. Can't say he's a bad leader, just a bit of a slave driver. Reminds me of you, no offense of course."

"I wasn't that bad."

"Oh, you were pretty bad," Tali and Garrus admitted at the same time.

"Okay, I was pretty bad, but I was not a slave driver."

Garrus lowered his gaze, a usual sign of his checkmate remarks. "If you weren't yelling, it was because you were too busy throwing people off buildings."

Shepard went back to his drink in defeat.

"I'm just saying. You've done so many things. Isn't it okay to unwind for a while? Take it slow. You've been there for the galaxy, time for you to sit back and let us be there for you for a while."

He tried to hide his face from both of them as Garrus said that. But he couldn't, he hadn't been happier in a long time. It might have been his remaining tiredness, but his fingers were shaking. Tears, happy tears, dripped down his face. "Not a word a Vakarian," Shepard managed to mutter as he looked down. Garrus just laughed, but respected the request all the same.

Tali and Garrus sat out on the porch as Shepard finally gave completely to his fatigue.

It had been a long time since the two had seen each other as well. Actually, it had been the first time since the war that they had completely talked at all. They had been there since the beginning. Now, things were different. They sat as friends, not people that were bound together by war. Honestly, neither of them completely expected it like this. It was nice, different, but good.

"How did you react to the news?"

"Oh, the Commander Shepard is alive and survived the whole ordeal on Earth news. I took it like a champion." It was also good to know that Garrus's sarcasm hadn't left. "But, really. Didn't believe it at first, but it made sense once I sat and thought about it."

"What? How?" Tali cocked her head.

"Did you really think that he was going to sit down and die, not coming back to you? It would be more likely that he'll punch the Reapers to death first."

Tali knew this to be true too. "He's been through a lot Garrus."

"So have we all. But he's not going to sit down. He might be a little crazy."

"A little crazy, Garrus?"

"Alright, a lot crazy," he corrected swiftly, "but he'll make it."

Garrus rocked back in the chair, looking at the Rannoch sun. "We never had a real chance to celebrate."

A long silence slithered its way between them.

"I guess we didn't."

The team had drifted apart when the Reapers fell, they needed to get back to their planets. At least, that is what they told themselves. The truth was that it was too painful to be together. Shepard wasn't there. Two things kept them together, the war and him. With the war and him gone at the same time, contact had dropped. They were almost strangers that happened to be on a ship, not crewmates. It had hurt Garrus, Joker, Kaidan, Liara, and herself the most. They had been through a lot with him. In the end, restoring what was wrong was the only thing that they could do.

"I really wish Liara told us sooner; I would have brought presents."

"She probably couldn't get in contact. Also, she probably wasn't sure if Shepard was back to normal."

Garrus agreed, appreciatively. "Well, he's not. He might not ever be. But he's still Shepard."

"He just hasn't had the chance to be normal yet. Or in his life." After hearing the story about his past, he probably never had the chance to be normal.

"Does he even have a hobby? You know, other than shooting things or setting it on fire."

Tali opened her mouth, but words just fell back into her throat. She never really asked. She knew that he would often buy model ships and magazines. Comics were usually something he was into. The adamant commander would often go up to the cabin with a box full of visage comics. The first Normandy had held his first collection, and after the second one. Maybe...she grinned.

"Humans like to draw things, right?"

"That's a broad generalization, Tali."

"But, I—" Tali blew her hair from her face. "Shepard is nuts for those things, and he drew his own blueprint for the leg he is working on. Maybe, he could do something like that to unwind when I'm gone!"

"Getting him NOT to work is a lot harder than you think." Garrus crossed his arms. Anyone who knew Shepard knew that when he had something in mind, derailing him was impossible. You had a better chance playing a contact sport with a krogan.

"True. But you are going to help me convince him."

"I'm going to do what?!"

Before Garrus even had a chance to react, Tali had taken him by the wrist and taken him back into house.

Author Notes: I'm so sorry for my recent absence guys. Things have been really crazy for me lately and I had to get myself together. Bad news, life punched me in the gut. Good news, it's over and I've finished my first novel (or at least I've finished the first draft). So I had to get into a happier place for this chapter. So, it's back to business as normal. So that's where everything has been these past few weeks. Back to thank the reviews!

Thanks to my reviewers.

Falconaiur: Thanks for the review. I was hoping to make a Shepard the feels a lot like a human, not like the super man that you see in the game. It's fun exploring that, you know!

TW6464: As usual, thanks for the review, TW. Sorry I've been away for so long!

kill-phil: Hehehe. That's the reaction I wanted. It's nothing like a writer kicking you in the teeth sometimes. But, I promise, these chapters are very few and in between. Just be prepared. Thanks for your review!

tom80 bsn: You will find out later! It's actually really intense on how it happened. I'm glad I got you asking. So, thanks for asking.

Avenger13579: It was sad, but I think that is what made it really fun to write for you guys. Thanks for reviewing!

Bud89: I like that it was kind of sad, but everyone has them points in their lives, you know. Thanks for reviewing again!

ChainzOfThePast: You will definitely get that chance to see a Kronos/Tali time. At least one squadmate is going to take away Shepard for bro time. So look forward to that.

Gilmaxter: Earthborn Shepard, particularly one that becomes Paragon is my favorite characterization. I'm glad that you love it. Thanks for reviewing.

Viktorbane: Thanks for keeping me company for past few weeks, Viktor. I'm really glad that you like my story as much as you do. Thanks for the motivation. Keep up the good work.

Way of the Sheikah: You quoted my favorite line to write in the whole chapter. It was really painful even to put it down. A friend of mine called me and threatened to slap me for that quote in particular. It was glorious. Thanks for being so loyal. And I couldn't help myself from writing Garrus first, he's my bro, man! Thanks for reviewing.

Whew. This has been a really good ride. Currently I'm at 45 reviews, 6,639 views, 19 favorites, and 46 alerts!

Again sorry for the long time away. At least, I got a chapter out in July! Thanks for being really supportive. You guys have looked out for me and even PMed me to check if everything is okay. Life has gotten better. Thank each and every one of you.

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Forsworn Maverick


Song of the Episode: Where is My Mind by The Pixies (covers by Allison Scagliotti or Yoav and Emily Browning)

See you next chapter.