If I could find assurance to leave you behind

I know my better half would fade…

The battle for Earth was rapidly becoming a catastrophe. The Reaper ground forces were slaughtering nearly everyone they overwhelmed. Reaper capital ships and destroyers landed by the dozens, shooting their red beams at anything even remotely organic. Humans, turains, salarians, asari, and krogans were being slaughtered where they stood. In essence, it was the annihilation they all feared since learning of these "old machines" several years ago. The organics were losing this war quickly.

The SSV Normandy SR-2 was in total and complete disarray. Joker was in the cockpit, frantically maneuvering the controls in an attempt to pull the Alliance ship from the battlefield as EDI shouted status reports to him every few seconds. Engineers were running to and from stations, yelling readings to one another. The Prothean, Javik had taken position in the main battery, working with James Vega to keep the Thannix Cannon at operable functioning capacity, in order for the Alliance ship to shoot its way out of Earth's atmosphere. Tali'Zorah was on the engineering deck with Adams, Donnelly, and Daniels desperately struggling to stabilize the drive core. Alliance marines and alien soldiers were being rushed into the already over capacitated medbay, spilling out into the mess hall.

Dr. Chakwas was presently shouting at Major Kaidan Alenko to put pressure on the exit wound of an asari commando. Kaidan nodded, pale faced and nauseous, watching the asari's blood spill from the injury into his shaking hands. Her cries rattled Kaidan to the bone, every time he shifted to get a better hold. Steve Cortez bandaged his own leg, beside Kaidan, wincing every few moments. In the midst of the commotion, the screaming and the clatter of surgical equipment, Garrus Vakarian lay on a metal slab, staring wordlessly at the ceiling. The sounds around him were muffled by his own heart, pounding deafeningly in his ears.

Liara T'Soni was quickly stripping off his armor, attempting to find the source of his bleeding. When she pulled away the last piece of armor, his blue blood surged around a large piece of shrapnel jutting from the side of his lower abdomen. Garrus hardly moved, the pain was a dull throb and he was numb to it, if only for the time being.

The Normandy had just landed into the firefight to pick up an injured Liara and Garrus, among a number of soldiers who hadn't been blown to pieces by Harbinger. They were both wounded when a Mako was flung into the air by Harbinger's inferno during the final push towards the beam that was to take them and Shepard to the Citadel to activate the Catalyst.

Shepard had half dragged, half carried Garrus to the Normandy, Liara limping behind them. Once to the ship, Shepard signaled for Liara to take him, under Marine cover fire. He had protested of course, insisted that he could make it. Garrus begged her, pleaded with her… they were in this together… She had said so herself… "No Shepard without Vakarian"... They were a team.

In the moment before the Normandy took off, time had ceased to exist altogether. She looked akin to an angel of fire upon the battlefield, a warrior angel, fierce in wrath… Siha, as Thane had once called her. Only now did Garrus fully comprehend and appreciate the meaning of the drell word. Her short, fiery red hair was windswept and blown across her face. Her armor was scorched, burned, and pitted from years of battle. She approached him tenderly, her defiant blue eyes full of silent concern. For a singular moment, they were the only two people in the galaxy. There was no gunfire, there were no Reapers, no battle for Earth, no death, or loss, or hate. Just two individuals brought together through a series of unusual circumstances. She had pledged herself to him and his heart would never belong to another as long as he lived. It was the first time Garrus had uttered "I love you" to Shepard, and right now he feared it might have been the last.

In a whirlwind of emotion and pain, he bolted into an upright position, adrenaline searing through him like Shepard's omni blade through Lieutenant Bastard Kai Leng's chest. Every sound, every smell, every sense came flooding back in one fell swoop, reality hitting him as brutally as the Mako did. His wounds had gone almost completely disregarded until his heart rate had slowed and the adrenaline ceased coursing through his veins. The pain was beginning to return in excruciating waves.

"Damnit Joker!" Garrus shouted from his metal slab. "You can't just leave her down there!"

"I don't like it either, but she gave me an order to get the hell out of here," the flight lieutenant barked over the intercom.

"Just like you did when you left her over Alchera!?" Garrus roared.

There was a hesitation before- "Don't you dare-," Joker started. Dr. Chakwas leaned over one of her medical carts, punching off the intercom, cutting the argument short.

"Garrus, I need you to calm yourself!" she interjected.

He swung his feet over the side of table, clearly furious, and made a beeline straight for the medbay's door. At that very same moment, James Vega stepped back over the threshold, blocking Garrus' path.

"Get out of my way Vega," he said in a low, threatening voice. The large soldier crossed his tattooed arms and stood up at full height, daring to stare down a six and a half foot, enraged turian. Their eyes met, and for the briefest of moments, the two shared the same thought. She may not make it.

Vega puffed out his chest, put on a brave face, and placed a reassuring hand lightly on his shoulder, "She'll make it, Scars. Lola always makes it." Garrus hung his head in defeat, brow plates furrowing, muttering, "Alright", then turned on heal to walk back to the medbay table.

Just as Garrus lifted his arms to allow Chakwas and Liara to clean out the shrapnel, he noticed he had been clutching something cold and metallic in his hand. When he glanced down to have a better look, he realized, with a heavy heart, it was Shepard's Alliance dog tags. She must have pushed them into his hands before she raced off towards the beam.

He turned them over in his hands, memorizing every detail. The N7 inscribed on the front was flaked with red. Blood, he thought. More than likely hers, considering the amount of times she had been shot at over the years. The other side was engraved with an ID number as well as the wording "Systems Alliance Navy", "Council Spectre" and "CMDR".

Above all of this, her name. Garrus ran his thumb over it. On the night before the assault on Cronos Station, she had whispered her given name to him, in the silence of her quarters.

"Aurora Shepard," she said quietly in the glowing light of her oversized fish tank. She was straddled across his lap, delicately tracing his collar bone with one her many fingers. She wore nothing but her dog tags.

Garrus tilted his head slightly to the side, his mandibles twitching as he regarded her.

"What?" she asked, a brief grin flashing across her face as he beheld at her. His eyes moved over her pale skin and defined muscles beneath it, to her red hair he combed through his hands. She had cut it again while on shore leave. Garrus recalled he had once found it bizarre humans could cut their strange, soft crests and it would grow back. He preferred it this length.

He suddenly wrapped his hand around the back of her neck and gently pulled her towards him. He kissed her hard on her soft lips the best he could. He had come to adore human gestures of affection, this being his favorite. She kissed him back with just as much passion and intensity, caressing the underside of his fringe. He drew her in even closer, their chests pressed hard against one another. He ran his hands down the side of her thighs, resting his forehead against hers. She shuddered against him.

It took several moments to realize that she was choking back sobs.

"Damnit! Did I hurt you?" he panicked. It certainly wouldn't have been the first time. Their intimacy had been known to be clumsy and sometimes a bit awkward, especially more towards the beginning of their relationship. She use to feign being hurt, maybe pout a little before bursting into laughter.

But this? This was the first time he had seen her cry. She was always so calm and rational. Rarely did she let her emotions rule her, except when she was angry… and that was a whole different story.

She shook her head, wiping her eyes resentfully with the back of her hand. He took her head in both his hands, lifting her eyes to his. They were bloodshot and wet with tears. He had a difficult time understanding why humans cry. Turians usually wound up punching something… or someone when they were upset. But it intrigued him.

She had never been as vulnerable as she was in this instant. He wanted to hold her close, tell her how he really felt about her, tell her she was everything to him, and how he never wanted to let go. Tell her that everything would be alright.

"I can't do this Garrus," she sobbed.

"Do what?" he asked gently. She threw her hands in the air saying, "This! I can't be the fucking hero they want me to be," she paused. "The hero they expect me to be."

"Shepard, you already are a hero to every species in this galaxy! The Hero of the Skyllian Blitz, the First Human Spectre, The Savior of the Citadel, you brought us back from a suicide mission that no one believed we would return from. Spirits, you've single handedly united the turians and the krogan, the geth and the quarians, cured the genophage and brought the might of the galaxy to bear upon Cerberus and the Reapers. If anyone can do this, it's you," he said, striving to reassure her.

"I never wanted any of this," she said quietly, seemingly ignoring him. She tilted her head towards the ceiling and the large window that opened into the vastness of the stars.

A hot, searing pain jerked Garrus back to reality. Liara and Chakwas had just removed the large piece of shrapnel from his abdomen.

"If we don't get you to a medical facility soon Garrus, you'll be at risk for an infection," Chakwas said. Garrus watched as Liara placed the large chunk of metal stained with his blood onto a tray. "There's only so much I can do with medigel, and our dextro supplies are running low."

"Until she comes walking through that door and I know she's ok, I don't give a damn if I live or not," he sneered, thrusting a finger at the medbay door, his subharmonics trembling.

"Garrus, we can't even-" Liara began. He rounded on her angrily, "Don't Liara."

"We have to be realistic," Chakwas said harshly. "This. Is. War." Garrus opened his mouth to retort but the doctor continued, "No! Listen to me. We have all lost people. Hell most of us have lost colonies… planets even. She wouldn't want you to give up simply because she's not here to hold your hand."

Just as Garrus was about to retort, the Normandy shuddered around them. There were a number of surprised gasps and a few cries of shock and fear from those present in the medbay.

"Alright people, hang on to your asses; things might get a bit rough," Joker said over the intercom.

Liara turned from Garrus and sprinted out the door without saying a word, with Vega in tow, presumably rushing to the cockpit to comprehend what was happening.

Garrus groaned in pain as he reached over to punch the button of the intercom, "Talk to me Joker."

"The Citadel! I'll be a son of a-" the pilot's voice trailed off in awe.

"What the hell was that?" Garrus demanded.

"She did it! I don't know how but.. but shit, I think she did it!" Joker said incredulously.

"Oh goddess!" came Liara's astonished voice. "She did do it! Look! The Reapers stop dead when that energy surge reaches them!"

Garrus was becoming even more frustrated because he couldn't tell what was happening with the Citadel and the Crucible, with the Reapers.

"Uhh- Joker… I think we better get our asses moving." Vega said earnestly over the laughter and the cheers coming over the intercom.

"I believe the Lieutenant is correct, Jeff. That energy is focusing on the machines, including all these ships," EDI commented.

"But I- I can't leave her, not this time. Not like this-" Joker's words reflected what Garrus was thinking.

Hackett's voice came over the loud speaker, announcing to every ship in the system, "All fleets. The Crucible is armed. Disengage and head to the rendezvous point." A pause and a weary sigh. "I repeat. Disengage and get the hell out of here."

The broadcast terminated and Liara could be heard saying, "Jeff, we need to go." The despair and regret in her voice cut Garrus to the bone.

Joker exhaled, saying directly into Garrus' earpiece, "We'll come back for her, big guy. I promise."

Garrus reared up, batted Chakwas' prying hands away, overturned a medical stand, and stalked off furiously.

Updated 6/6/14