A/N: I'm back (with a nod to Where the Wild Things Are to boot).
Shepard expected a headlong fall into nightmare, a fishhook in her belly dragging her down. She had to brace herself against the invading memories before they rose up to drink her blood. An anchor was all she needed, a line to tie her to Haestrom, its sun, and its heat, even the broken stones under her boots. But everything was wrong: her armor too heavy, her gun too small, even her skin was too slick and new to help. She stumbled, crashed to her knees, and the hands on her legs moved to her waist, clutching for purchase.
The hands on her legs groped higher, toward her thighs and hips. Its fingers were steel-hard even through her armor. The thing was climbing her, like a vine, like a weed. Like ivy choking a tree. Shepard shuddered, the spasm through her muscles only making the thing tighten its grasp around her.
It's crushing me, she thought, as the dark behind her eyelids filled with milky white flashes. It's going to happen again, it's going to make me remember and I — oh God.
Sticky panic rose in her gut and sank under the thing's weight as it clawed up her back, legs coiling bonelessly around her waist. Dry, slender hands wrapped around her throat, tracing hot lines over her jaw and toward her lips.
No. No! She curled inward, around the last bright spark of her mind, and tried to shield it from the greedy fingers scratching at her skin. Shepard saw Hamato's face, blurred by agony and then by fire, washed away in the acid flood. She felt the blue sky, arching over her head and pressing down on her shoulders. Then Phillips slipped from her arms, boneless, breathless, and dead, dead, dead.
I couldn't save any of them. Who am I if I can't fight? What does it mean if I can't even beat this?
She curled tighter around the tiny spark, the one remaining bastion of self and now, and screamed as the fingers gouged lines into her cheeks. One of them. One of my crew. Just one.
She could save Tali, because as long as she kept fighting, the thing's focus was on her and nowhere else. She grit her teeth and twisted, trying to throw herself forward against the weight on her back.
The fingers paused, their control slipped, and Shepard's hand twitched on reflex. Her nerves recognized the mnemonic when her mind couldn't, and fed the dark energy into a web around her fingers. The Shockwave sliced out of her, driving itself into the wall with a dull roar, and the impact threw Shepard to the side. She had a moment to think oh thank God and savor the dew-sweet relief of free before a heavy weight slammed into her, pinning her down as a hand covered her mouth.
"Such a will, you have such a will, it tastes like thunder," whispered a clotted voice, close to her ear. She felt the flicker of a cold tongue against her neck and howled. The sound broke against the palm covering her mouth. "You taste like thunder and water oh like sweet living water lovely water you are the water, we'll drink you up, tell us, tell us what you are, what are you that you have such a will?" The tongue flicked again, and then cold teeth scraped at the thin skin under her ear, as a low, miserable grinding sound — a familiar sound, like ground glass against her eyes— working its way out of the thing's chest.
When her mouth opened, the thing plunged its fingers down her throat.
we'll eat you up
The problem with making a career of the impossible — surviving when any other body would have locked down and gone silent, refusing to bend for the voice of a monster — was that the impossible became the expected, and every cry for help came with a name attached. Her name.
Shepard heard the cries calling for her, and shut her eyes.
we love you so
This isn't the nightmare she expected. She's high above the plain, and she can't do anything but watch as one by one, her squad dies.
Distance always tells a new story. From here, she can see how hopeless it is. She barely hears their cries and the sharp gunfire. Everything echoes back to her through the younger Shepard, as she tries to gather her squad into something like a unit.
Shepard read the reports until she carried them in her heart, lead weights in the valves. She could see the attack from every angle: how there had been two maws, one from the east, one from the south, blocking all paths of escape, and how the last of the squad had made a break for the safety of the mountains.
It doesn't prepare her for watching them die, and not even having the chance to try to pull them back together for one last try at defense. They die, and she has to watch, until she's the only one left, a slim, dark-armored figure alone among the stones.
Pity moves through her in a heavy flood. The other Shepard, is making her way to the Mako, and in her legs, Shepard feels exhaustion poison her muscles. Her own lungs ache for air, and even though her heart keeps beating slow and sure, she can feel it racing, too.
She sees the other Shepard run, long legs eating the ground up almost a meter at a time, hands outstretched and grasping for the Mako's doors. There's no grace to the other Shepard's movements as she swings herself inside, no economy of effort. It's a sprint for a last hope — not for survival, but for a chance at taking out whatever has killed her. The other Shepard thinks she's a dead woman
She knows exactly when the other Shepard gets to the controls, because she feels it in her hands: the tough plastic grip, worn thin by dead men's hands, the resistance as she blindly aims, and the heavy cough as the grenade launcher fires. She feels it, when the other Shepard collapses, hidden inside the Mako, her body twitching. Each spasm echoes in her body.
"Why are you showing me this?" Shepard asks no one at all, as the thresher maw writhes, its death-stink thick in the air. The Mako shudders as the maw's body crashes to the ground, its last burst of acid hissing against the stones."I know what happened. I lived it." Her head aches, right over her amp, and her throat is sore.
Fingers in my throat —
She pushes the memory away, along with the surge in panic that comes with it. Instead, she watches the Mako, sick to her stomach for what comes next.
Time is elastic here, at once stretching out and compressing, so Shepard feels every agonized heartbeat, every scorched breath, that the other Shepard takes. Two days. Two days of swimming back to consciousness long enough to scream her throat raw while she tried to fight another medi-gel pack into the dispenser.
Then the shuttles land, the logo familiar, yellow and white and black, and the medics pour out, their voices dull and methodical until they find her, half-dead in the skeleton of the Mako. Shepard feels the moth-wing flutter of awareness in the other Shepard's mind, weak and fading, as the medics start their work. Their voices are clearer now: something interesting has happened.
They find Toombs not long after, buried under a rockfall, and they flip a coin to see who they'll save, and who they'll take for study.
That's all it was: heads or tails, as impersonal as turning the page in a magazine, and Toombs loses. They carry him to a shuttle with a blanket draped over his head.
Whatever they did to him had driven him mad, past the edge of what a human being can tolerate, and after they had squeezed out every last drop from him, they let him go. And years later, Shepard killed him, one shot to the head — and she finally became what the news vids had always called her: the sole survivor.
Shepard wants to look away, but her body is locked in place as the other Shepard seizes. She feels the other Shepard's heart stop, for thirty-seven seconds. Then there's relief, the sensation of weight tumbling from her shoulders. And the other Shepard exhales into the silence, peaceful, because now she can rest. Why had she been fighting to begin with? This is quiet. This is rest. This is —
Her scream as they force it to start beating again is furious, a desperate animal cry, unbearable even at this distance. And it doesn't stop. Shepard feels the weight of the scream on her shoulders, dragging her down toward the Mako, toward pain and fire and the smell of metal mixed with burned flesh. An instant passes when the distance between them is gone, and it's Shepard's back that burns, her bones that are ash, and her mouth that screams.
Rough, gentle fingers cradle the curve of her skull, and Shepard jolts back to herself, the pain flushed out of her muscles. The scream keeps going, but distance insulates her, and she is just a spectator in the memory again.
"Shepard," says Nor. "I am sorry."
Shepard resists the urge to press into the comfort of the touch and licks her lips. "It's like Horizon, isn't it?" she says, her eyes still on the Mako, the medics' voices hissing in her ears. "Whatever touched me there — your obscenity — it's trying to do the same thing here. Getting into my head, showing me the worst day of my life. So why are you here? Come to watch the show?" She waits for Nor to respond, but Nor stays silent, her fingers never pausing in their slow circles. "Why aren't I down there?" she asks. "I lived it before. What's different about this time?"
"It is all I could do," Nor answers. "I am too far away to help, but I can soften it. I can…use this."
Shepard smiles, hard and cold. "How many times have I said that in my life? But it doesn't always work." She lifts her head, straining against the pull toward the other Shepard. "I couldn't even save one," she says, as Shepard's scream echoing in her throat "Not even Toombs. And if I stop and look back, that's all I'll see. Everyone I couldn't save. Benezia. Toombs. Ash. Give me enough time and I'll figure out everyone who's died on my watch. It's in the thousands. And they still keep asking me to try. Save them, Shepard. You're the only one who can."
"You are." Nor's voice, gentle as a mother's, floats toward Shepard from over her shoulder. "This formed you, just like your memories form me. And I remember everything." Her fingers go still on Shepard's neck. "You did all you could. When will you believe it? You did what was best."
The other Shepard finally stops screaming, and Shepard feels her gasp in one ragged breath before the sedatives kick in and she shudders into unconsciousness. I don't envy you. What comes next makes you wish you'd died. The first thing you say when you wake up is why.
"Let it go," says Nor. She strokes the back of Shepard's head. "It will choke you. Remember the ones you've saved."
Down below, the medics pull the other Shepard, limp-bodied, out of the Mako, and ease her onto the last of the shuttles. The care they take with her is at odds with how they treated Toombs. She has to be presentable for the cameras.
Shepard laughs, the sound as brittle and ice-stricken as her smile."A weapon doesn't save anyone. It wins or loses." Her throat is raw, and her shoulders are still curved under the weight of the other Shepard's scream. Her scream. "I know I promised to live, but this — maybe I wasn't supposed to. Maybe I was never supposed to come back."
"Look at me, Shepard."
She closes her eyes, shakes her head. This isn't a memory; her presence outside the other Shepard's body proves that, but just because she isn't reliving this nightmare doesn't mean that it's any less poisonous. It doesn't mean she should trust Nor's voice and turn around. Shepard remembers Lot's wife, turned to a pillar of salt, for the crime of looking behind at a burning city. She knows how the story ends: if you turn around, you're lost. And she still has so much work for to do.
"Open your eyes, or I will open them for you."
"No." Shepard's stomach swoops as the shuttle breaks through the atmosphere. "You've got nothing I want to see."
Nor makes a dark, clotted sound, and her fingers tighten on the back of Shepard's head. "What you want is irrelevant, Shepard. It is time to let it go." She pauses.
In the split-second silence, Shepard tries to turn around, but Nor's hand tightens again and she's frozen in place.
"I am sorry, Shepard," Nor whispers. Her voice is an echo, blown by a cold wind from a world that was never born. "You will not enjoy this either — but you are out of time." She twists her wrist, her scream slams into Shepard's head, and Shepard slips away, down into the quiet well and the inky currents inside it.
It's the beacon all over again. Images and sounds and smells, too many for one human mind to process, and Shepard's bones quiver under the deluge. She smells clean earth and burnt plastic; she hears a child singing and a woman screaming; she sees black rock and a blood-red sunrise. None of it makes sense. She knows better than to snatch at the sensations as they flow through her, but holding herself at a distance is impossible. She is the flood, and that means she's the child singing, and the earth, and the rock. Her head aches with the strain. There's only so much she's built to hold, and her poor mind doesn't have much space left.
The rock shows up again and again, flashing between brief glimpses of sand and dark rivers, and despite her own warnings, Shepard tries to focus on it. She sees thick veins of iridescent color, like oil on water, spread over the surface of the rock — colors that make her eyes water, colors that leave the taste of bile in her mouth.
A word rises out of the flood, buoyant despite the way it sits heavy on her tongue.
Shepard cradles the word close, and begins her slow ascent.
— too long she has clawed at her body like rats in the walls, she keeps her body like a gnarled branch, no roots to speak of, but once she had them, once she had roots like hair in the soil, once her roots grew thick and green on the air from his mouth, now they must do so again
I am coming
I will break myself open, if not me then who, I am made for this
and he shall wake —
Garrus stared down at his hands. In one world, he saw the fine grey sand ground into the joints of his armor, each movement a rasp and slither of tiny particles against metal. And he felt heat — blasted, forsaken heat that left his tongue like a strip of leather in his mouth. From a few feet away, just on the other side of the door, he heard Shepard's voice call Tali's name, and his body lurched forward, toward the gap and the darkness behind it. He caught himself before he fell, stomach tipping in a seasick roll, and tried to push himself to his feet.
Then Omega slammed into him, a precision missile strike, and the smell of blood filled his nose. The walls around him slid away, grey stone replaced with smooth tile, and the air around him was clammy as it blew from unseen vents. He tried to fight his way to his feet, but the door was gone, and and the next step he took was on the bridge.
Melanis' mouth still hangs open, shaping her last shout. Maybe she tried to give an order at the end, maybe she tried to lead whoever was left. Or maybe, whispers the cold observer in his head, she was just trying to shriek as they beat her to death.
Garrus turns away, and stumbles into a table. He nearly goes down on one knee, but he steadies himself and keeps walking.
"Melanis," he says, and the air around him swallows up the name, leaving thick silence behind. The thought that every breath he takes was one of his squad's last makes him want to send the air out of his lungs and back into theirs where it belongs, but he stays quiet.
Quiet until he sees Erash's body, and the sound that gets punched out of him isn't a scream. It's not a sob, or a sigh. It's a sound he didn't know he could make, a loose, bone-churned rattle that seems to climb out of his throat on its own power. There are teeth marks in —
"Erash," says Garrus, forcing himself to look, to remember. He takes another step and stumbles over a loose boot. It's Mierin's. He can tell because she always wore them for watch, preferring the old soft leather to the heavier models she wore for patrol. The laces are broken and tied back together in a half-dozen places, and the heel is worn to a scrap, but she loved them. She'd never give them up. She yelled at Ripper once for teasing her about them, her broken-down boots that were older than Weaver.
How she lost it doesn't bear thinking about. So Garrus doesn't, and picks up the boot instead.
He slowly pivots back to Mierin, where she lies in Vortash's arms. Now that Vortash is still too, Garrus can see how Mierin's hands are fisted in the joints of Vortash's armor.
Her bare foot is the one part of her body that isn't streaked with blood. Garrus hates that he has to cover it, but she loved her boots, she should have a matching pair. So he tugs the boot over her stiff foot and up her legs, doing up the laces as best he can until his fingers start to shake. He stops and knots the laces, and for a long, bleary moment, he lets his hand rest on her calf.
No words. Just names. He's already said hers, so he stands, listing to one side.
Butler and Sensat by the door. Ripper and Monteague in the kitchen. Vortash holding Mierin next to the stairs. Grundan Krul, Erash, and Melanis thrown over the couches like trash. That leaves one.
He hears Weaver, but not before he sees the bloody handprint on her stool. By the time he kneels down and finds her under her workbench, wide-eyed and shaking, he knows he can't save any of them. He tries — Spirits, he tries, but there isn't a thing, not one thing, in any of his pouches or pockets that can save Weaver.
She calls him boss, and then she starts to cry.
Garrus pulled himself out of the memory, heart pounding, a fierce ache building behind his eyes and the taste of blood coating the inside of his mouth. I bit my tongue, he thought, muzzy-headed and bemused.
His omni-tool whined and crackled at his wrist, and threw off a weak flicker of sparks before going dead. At least his shields hadn't fried in the sun. He had that much. The panic he'd felt when the sound began had faded, and he could stand — unsteadily, and he didn't trust himself to throw rocks, much less aim his rifle — but standing meant bearing the weight of Omega. And that, he knew he could do. He was the only one left to do it.
Get moving. Shepard needs you — even if she'll kill you for thinking it.
What laid behind the door didn't matter. Garrus knew what it had done to him, and by the panic on Shepard's face — panic that had driven her pale under her sunburn — it had done the same to her.
What had she seen?
Questions later, he told himself, and bit his tongue again when one of the doors slid back farther than he expected and he fell to one side. The door tried to lurch back into place, and Garrus shoved back against it to hold it open, grunting with the effort as some slow force pushed the door closed. He gritted his teeth, still tasting blood, and shoved again. With an effort that made the new-healed skin on his shoulder cry out, he shoved the doors open and fell in through the gap. He reached for his rifle as he fell, tucking into a clumsy combat roll that left him dizzy but on his feet, and out of the path of the sunlight. Being thankful for the sun felt perverse, after all the frustration it had caused since they had landed, but now the slanted rays were an ally. He needed one, badly.
He took two second to assess his surroundings. One inhale, one exhale: the time it took to raise his rifle, check the clip, and sight. Two seconds: all the time it took for him to see Tali crumple gracefully with a weak sigh against her terminal and go still, her back rising slightly with each breath.
Two seconds: long enough to see Shepard on her back, arms splayed at her sides and her head thrown back, blood on her chin, as a long-fingered hand peeled her mouth open. The hand, the arm, everything the fingers were attached to blurred in the light, a jumble of limbs and torso — and a heavy, white mask-like face, that turned toward him slowly.
"You," it hissed, drawing out the word into a groan, and then into a noise like glass being ground into sand. Garrus cringed away from it as it drove deep into his head, aiming unerringly for the bitterest moment.
"They were so good," says Weaver. The fingernails on the hand gripping his have turned blue.
He shook himself, revulsion warring with grief in a sick heave, and sighted again. The thing's face was turned back to Shepard, and its obscured body curled over hers, fingers prying at her lips and nose. And Shepard did nothing. She just let herself be lifted, face empty, as the thing reached into her mouth.
Not Shepard, not now.
His voice cracked through the room with all the old force of command. Garrus barely recognized it. That voice had been buried under the sharp teeth of grief for two months, while he played with numbers and tried not to think about his squad. Or Shepard. But that voice, and the conviction to go with it, had survived intact. Shepard's gift to him: faith, in his squad, in himself, in her, whatever she was. As long as she was here, they could fight. Shepard and Vakarian.
The thing jolted at the sound of his voice, and tumbled away from Shepard, hissing as it backed into a shadowed corner and faded from his sight.
Shepard dropped, her head hitting the floor with a solid thud and bouncing once before she went still. One arm twisted under her body at a painful angle, and her hair tumbled loose from its knot. Garrus could still see the slick, too-red smear of blood on her mouth and chin. The only sounds in the room were Tali's low sighs and his own ragged breathing.
"Shepard," he called, voice hoarse, and moved as fast as his legs allowed to her side, kneeling next to her and rolling her to her side. "Shepard, Spirits, please." He knew he was begging, and that he should be ashamed of himself, but any shame would wait until he knew that she hadn't let herself be eaten alive. When he bent and leaned his cheek close to her mouth, the slow slide of air over his cheek made him shiver. Since she wasn't awake to know, he let himself thread his fingers through her hair, and wiped the blood away from her chin.
He barely noticed the low scrape of sand on metal as the doors began to close. It was only when the sunlight thinned to a stark sliver of gold that Garrus looked up, just in time to see the doors seal shut against the light.
Garrus froze with the tips of his fingers on Shepard's cheek.
Think, Vakarian, he told himself. Be smarter. What do you do?
Garrus asked, but Archangel answered, the old, lost authority spreading through him. And Spirits help him, he'd missed it: the simplicity, the joy, harsh righteousness, even the fury. Fury meant defense.
You have unknown hostiles and two squadmates down. Those are the facts. Light is your first priority, then securing the perimeter.
Doesn't matter. Now, light.
He fumbled for the flashlight on his rifle and flicked it on. The cold blue light reached Tali and fell over Shepard's face, where the trickle of blood from her nose had slowed but not stopped. But she was breathing, and so was Tali.
Get moving. The perimeter next.
The shadows fled from the beam of his flashlight, flooding back as soon as the light moved away. Garrus kept his gaze just ahead of the light, crouched over Shepard's body, and listened. Some instinct, a remnant from the time when turians had been the hunted on Palaven, made him wary of his sight. To survive, he needed more. He needed to listen.
For what? Claws in the sand, a hiss in the dark?
No, said the part of him that was still and always would be Archangel. You've heard it before. You've seen the mouth it comes out of. Stop thinking and pay attention.
Easier said than done; nothing moved in the dark, but Garrus felt pressure along his spine. Something beckoned, just beyond the reach of his senses. Time wanted to unravel. Counting the seconds or the beat of his heart didn't help. The dark had its seductive pull, a whisper over his skin, telling him to give in and let the silence smother him, like an insect in resin. And then there would be peace — for him, for Tali, for Shepard. No more throwing themselves against another impossible enemy. They could forget the fight and just breathe until the air ran out, and then the galaxy could forget them with the rest of the ruins on Haestrom.
No more time. No more wondering if he'd gone mad the day Shepard died, and dreamed elaborately, desperately, for two years. No more dry and unending mourning. He was so tired, his head so heavy. Who could blame him for wanting to lie down, with Shepard in reach, Shepard alive and breathing? What if the sound of air in her lungs was the last thing he heard? How horrible could resting be, if she was there?
No one could blame him, but forgetting was a betrayal: a monstrous, plausible betrayal. Omega may have begun as a way to forget, but it became more — a mission, a life, a family. His family. Garrus was the last of Archangel, and he couldn't leave that behind, no matter how tired he was. There was still work to do. One last fight, one last fire to kindle, and the galaxy would be bright and clean again.
Steel might be in his spine and shoulders, thanks to his father, but it had taken Shepard, living and dead, to forge that steel into a weapon.
No, said Archangel's voice. His voice. Into armor. She always called herself the weapon. You're the armor. So stand up. You can go a little further on your own.
He stood slowly, and turned to face the door. The exhaustion tugged at him, but the call was distant, easy to resist now. He had a purpose. An enemy.
Always did do better with something to fight.
His visor gave him only bad news, even without him touching the door. It had sealed, without even a seam to hint that it had been anything more than an inert sheet of metal. But he had the last of the demolition charges in his thigh pouch, and while he was no expert, he could blast their way out and not kill them.
Garrus started to laugh, but just out of arms'-reach, the air moved, a murmur-soft explosion. Garrus spun around, senses crackling as his blood sparked, bright and aware. He reached for his rifle, trying to pinpoint the sound's source with his flashlight.
"Not that way," said a cracked-stone voice that tightened his spine, a snarl building in his chest. The shadows at the edge of the flashlight's beam opened like the petals of a dying flower, and a face swam out of the darkness. "That way is closed to you."
He'd never seen the woman arrive. If she stitched herself together out of shadows on Omega, he hadn't been looking when it happened. Now he watched her rise out of the dark, arms following shoulders, down to black-armored hips that faded out of the light.
She held up her cracked hands, eyes blank and bright as ever, and opened her mouth.
"You," he snarled, a vast wave of hate carving through his fear and exhaustion. Even the grief he carried like a rock in his throat thinned to a sliver. "What do you want?"
The question — or the bitter hate woven through his voice — stunned the woman. She shut her mouth. A frown flickered across her face, the scars on her cheeks bunching, and she let her hands fall to her sides.
Garrus searched his mind for something to say to her — anything, any words to throw in her face like broken glass. "Nothing to say?" He heard the sneer in his voice, too loud, and couldn't bring himself to care. If the woman couldn't find a reply, he'd fill the silence on his own.
"More useless warnings?" he spat, the hate still rising in him — and Spirits, it felt good. He'd had so few pleasures in the past three months — hearing the shot that killed Garm, hearing Tali was on Haestrom, Shepard's wrist under his fingers — and the savage delight he took in being angry, in being cruel, made him light-headed. "You're late. At least last time you came before they all died."
The woman's face spasmed, and her lips opened on white teeth and a black, black throat. "I tried," she said, in a thin voice on the edge of a whisper. "There were — I am sorry."
"I don't care," Garrus shot back, still reveling in the heat in his gut. Finally, finally, a target for his fury. "Did you do this?" He swept an arm toward Tali and Shepard, and the woman shrank back into her armor. "The last time you touched Shepard, she was gone for hours. Is this what you do? Play with our minds for fun?" A horrible image filled his head: dirt under a man's fingernails, blood caked under his nose. "On Horizon —"
"No!" The woman's shout filled the room, and her teeth were bared when she looked up. "I am not like — I am not wrong." She held up her hands, where the deep cracks spread under her armor, and Garrus saw the thin black lines on her neck that ended just under her jaw. "I am yours," she said, still shouting. "I tried to warn Shepard, but these things are old, they have waited, they are hungry, and she — they taste her will and they want more. They want what she remembers." She shuddered. "They want your memories. Of Omega. It is sweet to them. They would fill their mouths on what you carry."
She knelt, the movement too fast for Garrus to follow with his flashlight. By the time he had her in sight again, the woman was bent over Tali, her hands hovering over Tali's mask. "There is no time, no time at all, we have such heavy loads and we have no way to carry them, so much to remember and already so much has been lost —"
"So you two do know each other," said a weak voice at his feet. "Good. Saves me an introduction."
Garrus and the woman went still, their eyes locked on Shepard as she twisted awkwardly in her armor and sat up.
Say something, he told himself, as relief swept over him. Shepard is awake. Ask her…
Ask her what? He didn't know where to start — he was ready to fight, not ask questions, and his hand fell away from his rifle to hang loose at his side. All he could do was watch as Shepard swiped a hand under her nose and stood. Something in her had changed — something had opened, or woken up, because now warmth spread under her skin, and her eyes were bright as they met his.
And she smiled, the old private smile. The smile that he would catch across the room during the evening meetings, or that greeted him when he woke for his watch. He'd longed for that smile, for the slow, rich curve of her mouth, and for everything it meant. Death and onward.
She might have been wearing new armor, with new, clean skin stretched over her rebuilt bones, but Garrus felt a shudder run through him as she lifted her eyes and met his gaze. Not of revulsion, not of fear, but recognition: this was Shepard. Not the bleak, cold woman who had saved him on Omega, but his Shepard, fierce-eyed and straight-backed, a hunter's smile on her mouth. The Commander, the woman who could face down a Reaper and not flinch, who could drag herself out of whatever nightmare memory had trapped her — the woman who could come back from the dead.
Shepard rolled her shoulders back and sucked in a breath, flaring her corona on the exhale. She hummed, satisfied, and turned her gaze toward the woman. In spite of his anger and confusion, Garrus found himself almost pitying the woman, who shrank under Shepard's gaze.
"You have till Tali wakes up to tell me what the sarcophagus is," Shepard said, her voice smooth and hard as obsidian.