She couldn't remember the last time she saw sunshine.
Shepard sat leaned against her pillows, breathing a sigh of contentment, as the sunlight streamed through the picture window of her hospital room. Dust floated throw the air, dancing through the rays that couldn't yet reach her. It was early evening, the day following her surgery to attach this prosthetic arm… this robotic appendage.
How much of her now was actually synthetic?
More than you care to admit… More than you care to even know…
Synthetic… she snorted… Destroy the Reapers… destroy the geth and AI… destroy herself… And yet, here she was… as right as rain, if not a little worse for wear, but still kicking it.
She flexed her new hand, each individual finger waving back and forth, then balling it into a fist. It was smooth, elegant… strong.
Dr. Wolffe had voiced his excitement with how well the surgery had gone, bouncing on the balls of his feet as she came out of her anesthetic slumber. Granted, she was a bit sore. Her back felt stiff where they had drilled into her spine to anchor the two new ribs. In her shoulder, she could feel where organic ended and synthetic began. It was a strange sensation; one she was unsure of, as it made her feel… perhaps a bit too akin to the Reapers, leaving a sickening taste in her mouth. A taste that was too reminiscent of bile.
Synthesis was your destiny…
And not the failure you chose… No, not Destroy…
Synthesis will forever be your fate…
Stupid, ridiculous voices…
Speaking of which… Chakwas had informed Shepard the doctors were unable to remove that damn mind control chip implanted in her head because it was buried too far into her brain to retrieve it safely. Chakwas had concluded the control chip was where the voices were coming from. Whispers being sent over some sort of communication line to undermine and destabilize Shepard, to drive her to the brink of madness, thus allowing her no option but to go back to Cerberus.
She had every intention of returning to Cerberus, but on her own terms.
Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she rested her elbows on her knees, and ground the heels of her hands into her shut eyes, groaning from mental exhaustion. Oh, how she dreamed and fantasized about her future. Every single fucking moment she thought she could see it looming in front of her, every time she had it within her grasp and could see the light at the end of the tunnel, something else crept up to divert her. God, was she ready to take back control of her life.
The door to her room creaked open, and Shepard didn't need to look up to see who it was.
"Hey Garrus," she said wearily. She felt him bend low, his breath warm against her cheek. He nuzzled the crook of her neck, his subvocals purring as he did so.
Shepard giggled and buried her head into his cowl. Garrus' rumbling sent chills down her spine and made her hair stand on end in arousal and excitement.
"And what do you think you're doing, Vakarian?" she said, laughing, tracing her fingers delicately along his mandible. She could barely stand without her knees quaking; she didn't think she'd be able to last even a minute if things turned sexual.
"Mmm, I want you, Shepard…," He said in a low voice, nipping at her ear. "I want you so damn bad."
Stroking the back of his neck, she moaned, "You have no idea how much I want… need to fuck you… as Jack so elegantly puts it."
Garrus pulled away, attempting to scowl, trying to hide his twitching faceplates, his amusement betraying him, "You just had to ruin it by bringing Jack into this, didn't you?"
"You have the single worst poker face," she said, still laughing. "You know that, right?"
"One of my more endearing qualities," he said, striving to pout and failing miserably.
Shepard couldn't help but snort.
Holding out his hands, Garrus said, "Ready for our hourly stroll?"
Grumbling under her breath, Shepard allowed him to tug her up from the bed and into an upright position. Without adrenaline or a large dosage of drugs coursing through her veins, she could feel her legs trembling beneath the weight of her body.
Every hour, on the hour, barring sleep of course, since her surgery, Garrus came to collect her and insisted she walk with him up and down the hallway, between both guard postings. He was insistent when she complained, but even over the course of the last 24 hours, she could feel herself becoming less weak.
The road to recovery, he said. Gathering her numerous wires and tubes, Garrus draped all of them over the wheeled IV pole. With her synth hand, Shepard grabbed hold of its length, and with her organic hand, she laced her fingers between his talons.
Out of the room they went and made a left. Shepard preferred taking the left turn first as there was a window at the end of the hall before a flight of stairs… a different view than the one from her room, albeit a landscape consisting of a half dismantled Reaper… but a change of scenery nonetheless.
Two Alliance guards stood in the doorway at the top of landing, speaking in hushed voices and playing a game of Skyillian Five. When Shepard and Garrus approached, they both stood, saluted and said, "Commander! Primarch!"
Leaning against the window sill to catch her breath, Shepard replied, "Privates, do you think you could allow the Primarch and myself to speak in private?"
Both soldiers glanced at one another, with one shaking his head, "Sorry Commander, but we have orders to stand watch at this end of the hall…"
"I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be disobeying any orders," Garrus said authoritatively. "If, say one of you were to stand watch at the stairs going down, while the other one kept an eye on those going up…"
Seeing it unwise to argue with a Primarch of Palaven, they simply shrugged, closing the landing door behind them. Shepard watched as one went up and the other went down. Sure that they were both out of eyesight and earshot, she turned to Garrus.
"So when's Hackett gonna make the announcement?" Shepard asked, eyeing the fallen Reaper corpse through the glass. Even dead, they left her with a feeling of dread and misery.
Garrus must have sensed her fear and pulled her back around, to face him, steering her mind away from the destruction of her enemies.
"He's already spoken with the media at a press conference a few hours ago,"
Shepard merely nodded, thoughtful. The media was probably having a field day with this. She knew her survival would be the icing on the cake for reporters, and her return to the limelight was inevitable, even if she didn't particularly enjoy it.
"He didn't say much though," Garrus continued. "He stated that you had been found, alive, and that you were being held in an Alliance hospital, under 24 hour surveillance."
"Still feels like I'm imprisoned, and that room and this hall are my cell…" Shepard muttered.
Garrus sighed, "Shepard, you know you're only here to recover. Your nanites are doing an excellent job of healing your body, and you'll be out of here in no time."
"Not soon enough, Garrus," she said. "I have unfinished business to attend to…"
No matter how long it takes… We'll be here…
"Like getting this stupid chip out of my head, for one!" said Shepard miserably.
Garrus shook his head and chuckled, "You do realize that you can take a breather for a little while, right?"
"Ugh, I'm sorry, Garrus. You're right," she felt the corners of her mouth turn upward slightly. "Leading Palaven has allowed you to become the more level headed one in this relationship, and me, the more psychotic, unhinged one."
He grunted, "Try telling that to my father and Aria…"
Shepard frowned, "Aria?"
She watched as Garrus rubbed the back of his neck and shifted his feet nervously before he spoke, "Yeah… we sort of…uhh… activated a bomb on Omega, while searching for you…"
We watched it happen… it was a glorious sight to behold, Shepard… you should have been there…
Blinking several times with incredulity, she thought she hadn't heard him correctly, "A bomb?"
Garrus sighed, "I suppose I'll have to tell you sooner or later, but I'm willing to bet your alliance with Aria is off. Also… we have a lifetime ban from Omega."
He then spent the next ten minutes describing the events that had transpired on the space station, everything from shooting Aria in the leg, to going to the Gozu District and searching in complete darkness, to finding her omni-tool and Maelon showing up, to the adjutants and the bomb, Tali getting hurt and the Normandy blasting a hole for them to escape.
Shepard listened in utter disbelief as he recalled his tale. Her chest began to swell with pride, realizing, once again, that her friends would risk life and limb for her. They would stick by her to the deepest reaches of space, to the ending of the universe, and into the fiery pits of hell, if she asked them, or even she didn't. Her crew, the Normandy's crew, had a certain amount of courage, strength and kinship that not even death could break. And Shepard had no idea why… why they would follow her lead… why they would jeopardize and endanger their own lives.
Mulling it over in her head, she began to answer her own questions. Because they believed in her… not just to get the job done… but because she went to great lengths to do the right thing. They respected her, and in return, she treated everyone with the same amount of reverence and admiration they deserved.
They weren't just a crew anymore… No… they were a family… A family, that no matter how many star systems and light years separated them, their lives… their experiences… their life forces, would always be entwined.
As Garrus finished, Shepard quickly wiped the tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. She looked down and saw him holding something small cupped in his hands. It was her omni-tool.
"Oh Garrus!" she sighed, relieved. "I never thought I'd see this again!"
"I- I don't know why it was on Omega. We're not sure if Cerberus hid you there first, or if Maelon somehow got his hands on it… but you do need it back…"
She was so ecstatic that she could hardly contain herself. All her memories: photos, mission reports, vid shots, were all stored on that tiny bracelet. She had long since given up of ever finding it.
Securing it around her prosthetic wrist with a snap, the omni-tool sprang to life as if it had never even left.
"Does the inscription on the inside still ring true?" Garrus asked, his vocal cords trembling with an apprehension that almost never presented itself.
Without looking at him, and while flicking through her vast collection of files, she replied, "Don't be stupid… of course it does. Now when did you say Liara was going to be here with the info she's collected?"
"Uhh… soon… very soon…,"
"Garrus… you seem nervous… what the hell is wrong?" Shepard asked, flicking off the omni-tool screen.
"We need to talk…"
She gulped a large amount of air into her lungs, and placed a hand on the window sill to steady herself.
"I… What? That usually means something bad is about to happen…," she said, stunned by his words.
Garrus exhaled, his hands jammed forcefully into his pockets, "We've know each other for almost four years. Four years that I wouldn't trade for the world. And those four years have been one hell of a ride… material that will go down into history books and the Codex, we've done things that people a hundred years from now will question, because of how outlandish and impossible they sound…
"There's no one in this entire universe that I would have rather shared it with more than you, Shepard…," he grabbed her right hand, with both of his and stepped closer to her. "The first time I saw you on Omega, on that bridge, I thought I was hallucinating, in some twisted and sick nightmare that I would never wake up from…
"But I was so wrong… Spirits, was I wrong… you were my saving grace that day. I looked at you, and I saw you, and for an instant, the galaxy exploded into this brilliant and never ending, white light..."
What the hell is he getting at? Shepard thought, her mind buzzing.
"When you dragged me back to the Normandy, during the race to the beam… When you said to get out of there, my world splintered. And when you told me you loved me and turned to run, my entire heart shattered into so many fragmented pieces… but in that moment… with the war raging around us and the Reapers bearing down… in that moment, Shepard, I swear we were as endless as the stars…"
And in one swift movement, Garrus pulled his other hand from his pocket, something clutched tightly in his palm, and dropped to one knee.
"Will you be my salvation? My eternity? My infinite? Aurora Dawn Shepard… will you marry me?"
Apologies for the wait... These next few chapters are going to take a little while longer because I want to make sure it turns out right. So thank you for bearing with me... and once again, thank you for sticking this through and all the kind words!