These are the same Shepard and Garrus from NSWV/Rhapsody in Green. In those two fics I often mentioned events from the first two games. I pretty much made up the entire story about them, but never put it to paper. This fic is here to correct that, and it will cover the events from ME1. No Shakarian yet, because in my headcanon they didn't get together until ME2 (there will be some Shenko, but it's not in the focus).
Chapter 1: A Meeting to Remember
If there was one thing that Garrus liked about his job, it was his private office. He got it when he was promoted to senior investigator. There were no prying eyes over his shoulder and inquisitive questions breaking his concentration. He could take the case at his own pace. And this was a difficult case with a very short deadline, demanding his fullest dedication.
When Pallin invited him to his office – much more spacious than his own – yesterday, offering the biggest case he worked on yet, Garrus had hoped it meant that his boss finally trusted him and his abilities. That he was giving him an opportunity to prove himself and leave behind his past transgressions, protocol breaches, and spirits only knew what kind of black spots existing on his record.
Instead, he was now convinced this case was a rock tied around his neck, and Pallin had thrown him in one of the Presidium's water tank lakes. He could feel water closing above him and entering his lungs.
Everywhere he turned, he saw only tripwires made from red tape. Everywhere he went, he kept bumping into glass walls left by classified files. Every contact he turned to didn't have anything for him, or at least claimed so. It was a frustrating mess.
A rogue Spectre could be hunted down only by another Spectre. Garrus had heard this tale many times since he was a kid, but always dismissed it as a fairytale. Now, staring at another report from Eden Prime – and he was almost sure that the word classified laughed at his C-Sec clearance – he was ready to admit that he was wrong. He was also ready to admit he never felt sorrier for not taking that special training offered to prospective turians as he did now.
Garrus closed the offending report and pulled up what he knew, and it wasn't much. The rogue Spectre in question was Saren Arterius, the Council's pride and joy. Of course everything he touched was classified. A C-Sec investigator, no matter how good he was, stood no chance. He stroked the back of his neck nervously. The gesture would usually help him relax, but all it did now was making him even more winded. The mere look of Saren's icy blue eyes made his plates itch.
It wasn't just his eyes. Saren was barefaced – literally. It wasn't just a figure of speech meaning he wasn't trustworthy. Garrus didn't think he was a really good turian, but he wore the markings of the Clan Vakarian with certain pride. His clan and family always stood with the Hierarchy, and he had an inborn dislike of separatists and other barefaced lot, Saren included. Especially Saren, in fact. The turian agent was the epitome of what a turian shouldn't be. He was cold and calculated, with dislike of humans bordering on hatred and had a complete and total absence of care for collateral damage.
As he thought about collateral damage, Garrus felt a shiver running down his spine and his father's scolding face appeared before his eyes briefly. He shook his head and focused back on the case. Contemplating Saren's obvious failure as a turian wouldn't help him.
In the mess of contradicting reports that he was able to access one name stood out: Teresa Shepard. Her file was significantly less classified. A rising star among the Alliance military's ranks, Shepard was promoted to Commander after distinguishing herself in the battle of Elysium. According to the report, she single-handedly held the defense of the colony. Garrus studied her picture intently for several moments. Her eyes were also blue, but unlike Saren's there was warmth and life in them, along with determination. She would make a fine human Spectre, if only the Council would see reason and pick her.
And that brought him to the point that bothered him about this case all the time: the Spectre candidacy for humans. The last time they attempted to get someone on board, Saren was also involved. The mission went horribly wrong, with lots of civilian casualties. All blame was placed on David Anderson, the human candidate. And Anderson was the captain of the ship used in the Eden Prime mission. Was it really a surprise that this mission ended horribly wrong, too?
No, it wasn't, Garrus decided. The coincidences were too great. Saren was responsible for Anderson not becoming a Spectre, and he was trying to ruin Shepard's chance, too. That had to be it.
Still, his trusty gut feeling wasn't satisfied with this. It kept telling him there was more to this case. A lot more. The reports of geth following Saren and squid-shaped dreadnoughts emitting untraceable signals, while sounding like fabrications, struck an unpleasant chord within his mind. He had learned to rely his own gut feeling by now, and it was telling him not to dismiss this.
Garrus sighed and stroked the plates on his neck again. This case was a lost cause. In less than an hour he was supposed to present his findings to the Council, and all he had was his gut feeling. It didn't matter that Saren's guilt was as obvious as if it was written on a wall. Pallin and the Council were going to ignore it, demanding hard evidence. Saren was going to get away.
Garrus felt anger rising within him at the thought. He was in the mood for smashing through walls.
Standing up from his desk, Garrus gathered what little evidence he could. It was time to move. Suddenly, his omni-tool beeped. It was Dr. Michel, one of his contacts. By pure stroke of luck, a quarian on her pilgrimage arrived in her clinic, holding evidence about geth and their possible link to Saren.
Garrus let out a stream of turian obscenities. His mother would cringe if she could hear him, not to mention berate him. Why couldn't this quarian get shot several hours earlier? He had to leave and meet Pallin. Maybe he could convince him to let him pursue this lead. Garrus chuckled to himself. As if that would actually happen.
As he reached the doorway, the feeling of sinking to the bottom of the water tank returned. He paused and looked back. The office was cramped, holding almost nothing of personal significance. Still, he was going to miss it. It was certainly better than his father's scolding face that appeared before his eyes again.
As the skycar took him to the council building, Garrus composed his resignation in his mind. If he would need one. More likely, Pallin was going to kick his ass down the fabled stairs of the Council Hall and that was going to be it. Garrus was also sure that Pallin wanted to do so for a long time.
The elevator to the Hall took forever to ascend. Garrus started to fidget. If this piece of junk was going to be the reason for him arriving late… Luckily, the elevator slowed down and pinged at that moment. Garrus looked at his hands, and forced them to become perfectly still. If this was going to be his fall, he was going down with dignity.
Pallin waited for him at the top of the first set of stairs. It was perfect for receiving that kick in the ass. His expression held contempt before Garrus even reached him.
Keeping rigidly still, Garrus handed his boss the datapad containing the results of the investigation. Pallin twitched his mandibles as he glanced over it.
"As expected, there is nothing that proves Arterius' guilt," Pallin smiled. He smiled.
Garrus had expected glass walls and red tape. He had expected this to be an excuse to get him kicked out of C-Sec. But he had expected his boss to at least pretend he wanted to catch Saren. He hadn't expected this farce.
"You mean, it's expected for Saren to show up and screw up a human Spectre candidate's chance." Garrus found himself speaking. "We all know what happened to Anderson."
"It's not Saren's fault." Pallin's voice was dangerously low. "Humans are incapable of doing a job right. That's what happened to Anderson. That's what happened to Shepard on Eden Prime."
"Don't you think it's an amazing coincidence, at least?" Garrus asked sweetly. "Humans get another chance at joining Spectres and Saren shows up uninvited. Surprisingly, the mission goes to hell."
Pallin's mandibles went stiff and his eyes glinted hard. "I'd be careful about accusing the best Spectre without proof. Even if it was true we need evidence, and your investigation turned up none."
"If you gave me more time—"
"Don't accuse me for your own incompetence, Vakarian!" Pallin downright growled.
"What was I supposed to do with all the red tape blocking me?" Garrus snapped, crossing his arms over his chest. "Still, I got a good lead, just a moment before I got here!" With a corner of his eye he caught a group of humans exiting the elevator. Two were dark-haired, one was blonde. In the back of his mind something clicked, but he couldn't afford to turn his attention away from Pallin. "If you could stall them—"
"Stall them?" Pallin echoed. His subharmonics ringed with surprise, and it sounded genuine. So much about convincing. His boss wouldn't even consider it. "That's it, Vakarian. You're off the case. I'm going to get this to the Council."
Garrus opened his mouth to protest, but Pallin was already gone. He didn't get his ass kicked out of C-Sec… but this was somehow even worse. He was really in the mood for smashing through walls.
He already knew what he was going to do. That resignation he had composed earlier would come in handy, after all.
Garrus turned towards the elevator and found himself face-to-face with the blonde-haired human he saw earlier. This time he recognized her, and realized what had him confused earlier. In the picture he saw in her dossier, her hair was much shorter. Now it was longer, but pulled away from her face and held by some sort of elastic band. Her head looked like it had a tail growing from the back. It looked funny, but he had given up a long time ago on understanding humans and their customs.
He should at least give her a heads-up of the disaster that awaited her.
"Commander Shepard? Garrus Vakarian."
"I hate politicians." The newest addition to the Normandy stated, rolling her eyes.
Teresa Shepard shook her head, feeling her ponytail waving behind her. Ashley Williams seemed to have a lot of hate pent up. From her personal experience, it meant she was actually angry about something else, something that was out of her control.
Like, for example, seeing a prosperous colony wrecked before her inexperienced, innocent eyes.
Shepard sighed and shook her head again. Not here, and not now. Not when she was supposed to have a clear head while presenting their case to the Council. Still, it was hard to keep the images from resurfacing when she saw another prosperous colony wrecked.
History repeated itself in cycles, it seemed.
The annoyingly slow elevator finally stopped and pinged. Shepard wondered if it was designed to frustrate the visitors to the Council to the point of boiling over, making it easier to blunder when they finally reached the seat of the galactic government. She certainly felt like that now.
The Council Hall was very different from the Presidium below. It had a quiet air about it, accented by the soft murmur of the waterfalls. The stairs were, Shepard suspected, here to put the visitors in their right place before they approached the thrones, or whatever the Councilors sat on. It was certainly designed to impress, even to slightly intimidate. Behind her, she heard a quickly suppressed gasp coming from Kaidan Alenko. At least he kept his smart-ass comments for himself this time. Not like she minded them much, usually, but she was just feeling too tense right now.
At least he had a nice looking ass.
Shepard blinked, surprised at her own thoughts. She was never interested much in fraternization, and this was neither the time nor the place to start. What was happening to her? Nerves, she decided.
At the top of the first set of stairs were two turians, and at least one of them was with C-Sec, judging by his blue armor. Shepard sighed inwardly as she noted their species. Turians were never her favorite, with those alien bodies and unreadable faces, even less when they were cops. Some of them just enjoyed harassing humans for minor offenses. Saren did nothing to improve her opinion, either. That bastard was responsible for sacking a human colony!
"—supposed to do with all the red tape blocking me?" The turian to the left asked. Despite being taller than the one to the right, he looked younger. His posture was certainly defensive. "Still, I got a good lead, just before I got here!"
Was that her imagination, or did his eyes flicker towards her?
"If you could stall them—"
"Stall them?" The older turian repeated, sounding surprised with just a hint of disappointment. "That's it, Vakarian. You're off the case. I'm going to get this," he waved a datapad in the air vigorously, "to the Council."
And with that, the younger turian's boss was gone, leaving him confused. He stood frozen for several moments and then turned suddenly, nearly bumping into her. She got a good look of his eyes. They were icy blue, but weren't cold at all. There was warmth and life in them. And surprise as well, when he took in her face.
It didn't fit at all with his rigid, expressionless face.
The turian recovered in the next moment. "Commander Shepard?" he asked. She nodded. "Garrus Vakarian," he continued with a slight incline of his head. "I am—was the investigator in charge of Saren's case. You just saw how successful it went."
"What was your boss' problem?" Shepard inquired, not bothering to ask how he knew her name. Ever since Elysium she got slowly used to being recognized everywhere. Besides, he was investigating the Eden Prime fiasco. Of course he'd know who she was. "If you have a good lead, he should let you pursue it."
"I don't know," Vakarian shrugged. "There was something wrong with this case from the start. Like someone didn't want it solved. I know Saren's guilty, but can't prove it."
He sounded sincere. He really sounded sincere.
"The Council wants to cover up for their pride and joy?" Shepard thought aloud. Vakarian's mandibles parted slightly at this. For some reason, she thought this was the turian equivalent of a smile. "Even humans know Saren is the most prominent Council agent."
"I thought the same," Vakarian replied smugly, "but Pallin, my boss, warned me not to go there without solid proof, and I had none. But something about Arterius just rubs me wrong!" He drew in a slow breath and his eyes turned in real ice for a moment. "I won't keep you anymore. You have a Council meeting to attend. Good luck, Shepard. Maybe you'll do a better job than I did."
He grinned again – at least she thought he did – and left towards the elevator. Shepard kept her gaze on him until he entered.
His ass was too skinny and not at all sexy like Kaidan's.
Shepard turned on her heels – a bit too quickly – and shook her head in disbelief. Her subconscious was trying to tell her to get laid and soon, if she started ogling turian asses, she decided. It had been too long since she had a boyfriend and she had never been the one for one night stands.
Not the time, not the place, she chanted to herself again. The Council was waiting at the top of all those stairs. Her heart sank as she noticed Udina and Anderson waiting for her. The game of politics was about to begin, and she had always been far too honest for it.
The meeting proceeded exactly as the turian investigator predicted. She tried to keep quiet for the most of it, afraid of adding something that would hurt their cause. It looked like the Councilors had made their decisions a long time ago, anyways. For God's sake, Saren wasn't even here in person! Even through the holo image his person radiated calculated coldness.
At one time their gazes locked. Shepard wasn't a coward, but something about the expression in his eyes – or lack of it – caused an uneasy feeling in her stomach. Maybe it was just because of the holo, but they looked… inhuman? Inturian? What would be the right word?
Shepard didn't know, but Vakarian was certainly right. There was something wrong about this turian.
"Do you have anything to add, Commander Shepard?" The asari councilor addressed her directly. It looked like she would have to play her part in this farce as much as she didn't like it.
"No," she replied curtly. "You made your decision already."
Both Udina and Anderson looked at her with a reprimanding expression. She couldn't care less about Udina, but Anderson… His disapproval stung, even after all these years.
It was Anderson who saw potential in the silent, hollow-eyed Mindoir orphan and persuaded her to enlist in the Alliance military. He was the sole reason she could look in the mirror again and feel pride. He was the closest thing she had to a father ever since her parents died.
But he should also know she wasn't meant to be a politician and play their games.
The Councilors exchanged glances. "Our decision is unanimous." The asari councilor spoke in the name of the others. "Saren Arterius is cleared of all charges. However, we will reopen the case if new evidence is found. This meeting of the Council is adjourned."
Saren's holo dissipated, and the Councilors left their pedestals. They weren't thrones, but her guess wasn't that far off.
The small group of humans was left alone in the middle of the Council Hall. They exchanged glances, clearly asking what now?
"It was a mistake bringing you here." Udina glared at Anderson angrily. "Your past with Saren affected the Council."
Anderson opened his mouth, and then closed it again. "We must focus on bringing in Saren," he said finally. "We must find new, convincing evidence."
Captain Anderson dodging an answer, and about Saren? That was a new one. Shepard made a mental note to address this issue later. Right now she was going to focus on the matter at hand and contribute something useful.
"I have an idea," she spoke. Everyone looked at her. "Five minutes before the meeting I bumped into Garrus Vakarian, the C-Sec investigator in charge of this case. His boss pulled him off it, but he had a good lead. Something tells me he was going to pursue it on his own. If we could find him…"
"Good idea," Udina nodded approvingly. That was a new one, too. "I've also heard about Barla Von, an information broker who could tell us more about Saren. His office is on the Presidium."
Well. Both leads were equally slim. Neither offered much hope. Still, she was looking forward to seeing that turian investigator again. There was something… likable about him. Even if his ass was alien and not sexy.
"You got your work cut out before you," Udina remarked and Shepard nodded.
Then she frowned. It meant riding that slow elevator from hell again.