The dim light in Jack's subdeck cubbyhole cast stark reddish shadows across Moira Callahan's downturned face. Garrus couldn't help the swell of petty pleasure at finally seeing her ruffled. The perfectly styled hair hung limp around her face now, and since Jack had managed to plunk her precisely in the puddle left by Alenko's earlier show, her immaculate dress was stained and the scent of liquor clung to her, finally smothering the stink of her flowery perfume. The thought of that perfume made his gut twist, and pleasure—even the spiteful variety—disappeared as he recalled Shepard's empty killer's eyes and her unconscious body sliding to the floor. Too much remained uncertain. Like who she'd be when she woke. If she woke. He couldn't dwell on that now. One thing at a time. This, then that. He took a deep breath, held it, released it through his nose. First things first.
Moira's continuing state of unconsciousness wasn't ideal; Alenko wouldn't be able to stall forever, and Garrus wasn't quite ready to release her, lawyer or no lawyer. Running a hand along his fringe, Garrus offered up a silent curse at Jack's satisfying but ultimately counterproductive fit of temper. He contemplated whether he ought to go for stims—time was something he felt certain they no longer had in excess, even without the added annoyance of dogged legal counsel—when the woman gasped awake and raised her head, making them unnecessary.
Dark smudges of makeup streaked the skin beneath Moira's eyes and the blush on her cheeks was too bright against their unnatural paleness. A cut, deep enough to bleed but already clotting, slashed her brow, echoing the scar Shepard had lost when Cerberus remade her. Garrus crossed his arms over his chest. Tried not to think about Moira Callahan's supposed involvement in that, too. Failed, mostly. This, then that. Cerberus was, at least for now, the least of their problems. Far down the list, in any case. Moira's tongue darted out to moisten dry, cracked lips. Garrus could have offered her water and did not.
To her credit, Moira didn't play stupid. She didn't scream, and didn't make any futile attempt to rise or run. Perhaps she couldn't; Jack's attack had stopped just short of deadly force, as far as Garrus could tell. Moira winced as she turned her head, but her expression immediately closed as she took in the unfamiliar space around her. He kept his own mask firmly in place, giving her nothing. If she was startled by the change of locale, little of it showed on her face.
"Finally called off the dogs, did you?" Moira asked slowly, each word enunciated with care, as if it took a great deal of effort to speak at all. Probably did. A better person might've taken her to the medbay. Garrus, however, was not feeling particularly generous. Or particularly good, for that matter. And he was damned sure he didn't want this woman anywhere near Shepard.
Moira lifted a hand, probing at the side of her head. Her nose wrinkled, but whether it was from pain or her current state of untidiness, he couldn't tell and he didn't care. "Your pet Spectre talked a good talk, I must say, but this is rather closer to what I was anticipating from the outset."
Garrus, leaning against the wall opposite because he'd propped Moira in the hold's only chair, said nothing.
Her lips parted, halfway between a smile and baring her teeth. "Isn't this your usual modus operandi? Beat answers out of me and then hide the body down here where no one'll think to look for it? Or better, string me up as an example for others? You do have quite the reputation, Archangel." If she expected him to react to the old pseudonym, he was pleased to disappoint her. Even without the leaks and news stories from dogged, determined reporters desperate for a scoop that had started popping up the more attention Shepard and the Normandy got during wartime, the moment Moira had insinuated she had anything to do with Cerberus, with Brooks, Garrus had assumed she knew everything Brooks had known, and Brooks had been the one to put together Archangel's dossier. He tilted his head, sparing half a moment to wonder if she understood how contemptuous a gesture it was. Maybe not quite as severe a slight as the batarian version, but the closest human equivalent would've been spitting his derision at her feet.
Whether she understood the subtleties of turian body language or not, something about his silence, his posture, got under her skin, because she sat up straighter and clenched her hands against the edge of the desk in front of her until her knuckles whitened. "It is rather a shame your secret identity is no longer quite so secret, is it not? An enterprising person could unearth any number of ugly, embarrassing details with just that single word to go on." Still he held his tongue. Still he watched. She swallowed and the faint crease between her brows deepened as he remained staunchly unmoved. Relentless, she continued, "Were that knowledge entirely public, I daresay it could create no end of trouble for you. And for her."
His mandibles twitched a warning at the mention of Shepard, and the steadiness of his gaze backed that threat up with promised action, but otherwise he remained perfectly poised, perfectly still, and perfectly silent. He didn't have a sniper rifle trained on her, but facing Moira Callahan now was entirely akin to peering through a scope and waiting for the moment to strike. This, then that. She just wasn't quite lined up in his crosshairs yet, but she was doing a good job of walking herself into range.
Moira's mouth froze in its rictus and she dismissively swept her fingers aside, as if brushing unsightly wrinkles from the air. "You'd have killed me already if you meant to do so at all."
Garrus smiled, most certainly baring teeth, and voice low, said, "You sure?"
She blinked several times, betraying a sudden rush of fear or adrenaline. Almost lazily, knowing damned well how predatory he looked, Garrus unfolded, pushing away from the wall and drawing himself to his full height. Even before joining Shepard's crew he'd had a tendency to slouch a little around humans, to round his shoulders and make himself less imposing. Moira Callahan rated none of this thoughtfulness. He took a step toward the desk, loomed to the best of his ability, and was gratified when her aloof veneer cracked and she pushed herself back only to find the chair braced against an immovable bulkhead.
"Was Shepard ever in the presence of the artifact?"
Her breath hitched and her brows dipped in momentary confusion before she could school them. Also gratifying. But not actually an answer to his question. "I haven't the slightest idea what—"
He raised a hand and her mouth shut hard enough the click of her teeth meeting echoed in the sudden silence. "Are you a death by cough, or gunshot wounds to all extremities? I can guarantee you're not the mercy of a headshot when you least expect it." He stared down at her, his own gaze unblinking. "Do I dangle you over the brink of death time after time, only to bring you back and force you to keep on living? Do I drop you in the lap of your enemy with a mandate to kill for them or watch innocents dying? Do I find a way to raise questions about you, about your identity, about your very humanity? Do I find a way to spin those questions so even those nearest and dearest to you can't help doubting? Tell me, Moira Callahan, what does justice look like, after what you've done?"
He lifted his browplates, mimicking the way humans so often asked questions with their expressive brows. "If you know I'm Archangel, and I know I'm Archangel, there's really nothing stopping me from treating you the way he'd do, is there?" His subharmonics thrummed with the kind of dangerous warning even a human ear couldn't fail to detect. If the past was any indication, it was a tone that could make a hardened merc shit himself. A tone Garrus had, in truth, learned from his father. But he wasn't playing good cop now. He wasn't playing at all. He watched understanding play out behind Moira's eyes clear as a vid, and yet her reaction troubled him, setting his plates itching. Even if she had nerves of steel, something about the blind defiance wasn't quite right. It was almost, almost as though she was actively goading him. "If you're going to blackmail someone, you'd better be sure they give a damn about whatever it is you're using as a lever. I'm not ashamed of the work I did on Omega. I'm not embarrassed. And the only person who matters already knows every one of those deep, dark secrets you're so proud of uncovering. Frankly, Moira, I'd be more concerned about what I might find to use against you." He flared his mandibles, all teeth and menace, and repeated, "Was Shepard ever in the presence of the artifact?"
Again with the lifted chin, again with the defiance. He stomped on the prickle of rage he couldn't afford to give in to. This, then that. This. This. "I'm not afraid of you."
"I hated suspects like you when I was in C-Sec," Garrus said conversationally, though his posture never gave up even an iota of its threat. "Not for any of the reasons you think. Certainly not because you've got powerful friends or lofty connections or enough money to pay off anyone who might tell the truth about you." He narrowed his eyes, leaning forward, casually invading her personal space and leaving her precisely nowhere to hide. "It's because you're just smart enough to think—to really believe—you're smarter than I am."
This time it was definitely distaste in the wrinkle of her nose and the mulish turn of her mouth.
"I don't care why you did it," Garrus said, before she could give voice to whatever protest he saw forming. Her eyes widened and she looked stung, as though this had, indeed, been the track she intended to take. "I don't give a damn about all the reasons you've told yourself are valid, even admirable. I'm sure it's a thrilling fiction, but Shepard's earned my—"
Here she did jerk forward, jabbing a finger toward him that had no hope of finding a target. Pain brought feathery, fine lines to her too-smooth skin, hinting at her genuine age. "Don't you see?" she hissed. The harsh sibilance of the final word sent spittle flying. "That loyalty she inspires. That devotion." She spoke the words as if they held poison. "It's why Cerberus wanted her. It's why the Alliance refuses to let her go. It's why they—It's why she's ultimately wasted as a soldier." Moira flung herself backward, glaring, as though Garrus were solely to blame for the entirety of Shepard's decisions. "A soldier fixes individual problems, one at a time. A politician—a politician changes everything. Have you any idea what I could have done with a fraction—just a fraction—of that charisma? Have you any idea what she could have done?" She laughed, sharp and bitter, and even holding himself aloof, Garrus felt the cut of it. "And she always had it. Sixteen and sad and shy, and all she ever had to do was turn those honest, earnest eyes on someone and they practically fell over their feet to do whatever she wanted." She lifted a hand, pinching the bridge of her nose in another of those gestures so eerily reminiscent of Shepard's. "The… creature Maya Brooks brought me never had it. That spark. She looked right and sounded right, but those eyes were wrong. They were hard and they were empty and no one would ever have died for her."
Moira released a sigh of a breath and shook her head, sinking down against the back of the chair and folding her arms around herself. "Kill me or don't. Our conversation is at an end."
Poised to argue, to threaten, Garrus stopped at the last moment and frowned. It wasn't defeat in her shoulders. It wasn't even defiance. It was fear. And not, he thought, of him. His low chuckle made her flinch, and the prickling of his plates began to make a little more sense. "That's not the way this works. You're through calling the shots. If you were ever the one actually doing it at all."
Her answering glare burned, and he brushed it off.
"You see, Moira, I'm starting to think you want me to kill you."
"Why," she began, only to have her voice crack and break on the word. She cleared her throat, the fingers of one hand plucking uselessly at the fabric of her skirt. "Why on Earth would I want that?"
His huff of an exhale held no mirth. "You may have been instrumental in funding it and seeing it carried out, and maybe you even convinced yourself it was in your best interests, but that mess of murders you wanted Shepard to carry out wasn't about you." It was like watching ice crack beneath too heavy a weight. Her shoulders tried to straighten and failed, leaving her half-slumped. Drowning. "You're the pawn you always wanted Shepard to be, aren't you? Everyone knows how easy it is to sacrifice a pawn. They won't even hesitate, now that you've failed. But you have no idea what they'll do to you. So you're provoking the beast you know."
She didn't argue. Didn't disagree. Didn't look him in the eye. And Garrus felt the chill of certainty run the length of his spine.
"I may not be willing to kill you, but I am pretty damned close to giving you an object lesson in just how easy it would be to make you wish you were dead." Without warning, he slammed his palm flat against the desk. She jumped, jerking her chin up and meeting his gaze with a little answering fierceness of her own. "That orb you found or bought or were given. The artifact. Don't pretend you don't know what I mean. Was Shepard near it at any time?"
Moira bit down on her bottom lip and finally, finally, shook her head. "My husband bought it. Thought it was art. Displayed it rather publicly. Something beautiful to take his mind off the trouble—off the war. He would caress it as he passed, almost tenderly. Certainly with greater care than he'd bothered showing me in years. He began talking to it." A trickle of blood, coaxed from her lips by the biting teeth, ran down her chin and dripped onto her gown. She didn't appear to notice. "Then it began talking to me. A great deal of that time is… faded. Cold. Dark. They told me what they wanted. I made it happen. I am—I have some facility with making things happen. Years of entertaining, you know." Her lips twisted. "I can find roses in the middle of winter if the centerpiece requires them. I can find Miranda Lawson in the chaos of a battlefield. But no. She was never near the thrice-cursed thing. Never in our home at all. They didn't want her to be." Her bloody mouth sneered at him. "They will have their tribute. You must know that as well as I. Your interference won't stop them."
"Maybe mine won't," Garrus agreed. "But hers will. It's why they planned the whole murderous pantomime. It wasn't enough to kill her quietly—that they could have had you do easily enough. No. They needed to destroy her, to discredit her. To douse that spark you're so damned envious of." The tickle of laughter he felt at the back of his throat was a little hysterical and definitely inappropriate as he saw confirmation in her eyes. He swallowed it. "They held her once and they let her go, and I think they're not sure if it was because they wanted to, or because she did."
"Hey, Garrus?" Joker's voice crackled, sounding somehow even more disembodied and distant than usual.
Without looking away from Moira Callahan, Garrus replied, "Can it wait for a minute? Someone's got to be able to stall them a bit longer."
"Wouldn't interrupt if it weren't important, and it's not the lawyer. Kaidan's still reading her some kind of riot act outside. Lot of really intense hand gestures. Didn't know he had it in him. No. They want you in the medbay." Joker paused, and Garrus could hear the relief in his voice when he added, "The commander wants you in the medbay, Garrus. Shepard does."
He pushed aside the flutter of hope, replying, "Tell Alenko to keep her if he can, but if the lawyer insists, I've got what I wanted."
"Aye, aye, boss."
Moira gazed up at him with pleading eyes, strangely honest after the endless lies and half-truths and prevarications. "Please," she said. "You could do it. It would be so easy. You have every reason to hate me." She shuddered, and this honesty was even more disturbing. "I—it's so cold. It's so dark. Don't make me go back."
The unwitting echo of Shepard's desperate words—those words she'd sobbed because of what this woman had done—nearly pushed him over that edge. He stared down at her, breathing deeply, slowly, thinking about how little effort it would take to snap her fragile human neck, how satisfying it would be. Taking a step backward, he shook his head. "You're Shepard's to deal with. Maybe I'm the one standing between you and a bullet. Maybe I'm the one stepping aside so that bullet finds the back of your skull. But hers is the finger that pulls the trigger or doesn't, and I'm not taking that away from her. Not after everything you've already stolen."
"You can't understand. You can't understand what it's like to have them whispering and whispering and to find yourself helpless against their wishes. My mind isn't my own. Please." She reached for him, but her hand fell short, helpless in the empty space between them.
His smile was slow, frightening, and this time he didn't bother hiding the satisfaction it held. "You know, Moira? That sounds suspiciously like just the justice I was looking for."