Does she know that we bleed the same?
Don't wanna cry but I break that way
Did she run away?
Did she run away? I don't know
If she ran away
If she ran away, come back home
Just come home
I got a fear, oh, in my blood
She was carried up into the clouds, high above
If you bled, I'll bleed the same
If you're scared, I'm on my way
Did you run away?
Did you run away? I don't need to know
If you ran away
If you ran away, come back home
Just come home
Where's My Love by SYML
Garrus had been lying on his cot in the main battery for an hour. The lights were dimmed but the silence was far too harsh. Having the Normandy barely online for so long was driving him crazy; even when it was docked, in most places there was the hum of a station or other traffic. The more he failed at falling asleep, the angrier he felt, and finally he darted back to his feet.
But then, there was nowhere to go. Nowhere he wanted to go. There was not a single enticing destination available to him.
He walked to his terminal and jabbed at it to call Liara. He hadn't attempted to reach her outside of the comm room before, but it wasn't long before he heard her voice.
"Hello, Garrus," she greeted him gently. "Are you in the main battery?"
"Yeah. It's too quiet here," he replied gruffly.
"I can tell from here," she said, then there was a pause. Garrus was about to say he didn't know why he called and hang up, but she continued. "Have you been sleeping?"
"...I've been dreaming of Shepard."
"It seems many of the crew have," he grunted, turning halfway, as if unable to meet even the direction of her voice.
"Yourself included?" she asked.
"My dreams are always about her. But she's never there... The Normandy is like a prison, isolated here, without her." Garrus's eyes scanned the battery. It was still so familiar and a part of him recalled how much it felt like home... but he didn't know what to make of it now.
"Have you been off the ship at all? EDI has told me you're in a jungle. It sounds beautiful," Liara said, trying to lighten her tone.
"No. What if there's an update while I'm away?" he answered quickly.
"It will still be there when you get back," she pointed out.
"Do you think she's there in some secret corner of the Citadel, waiting for the rest of us to get back?" he asked. His tone was sincere and thoughtful.
"I don't know where I think she is," Liara sighed. "Some of the team studying the Cynosure speculate she underwent some kind of apotheosis, and now exists in each one of us."
"It's been almost two weeks," Garrus breathed, shaking his head. "Under normal circumstances she'd have been declared dead by now."
"Circumstances are far from normal, and many even unknown," Liara admitted.
"Yeah." He gave a heavy sigh, thinking of all the unknown possibilities. The Cynosure (the name they gave whatever it was that Shepard did with the Catalyst to trigger the synthesis) was still mostly a mystery to everyone. He knew many were working to try and understand it, but it wasn't at a point that he could comprehend. Regardless, he wished he could listen in to those conversations; studies of the end of the Reaper War were also considered studies of "Shepard's Gift". Who knows what would be discovered in the coming weeks, months, years...?
"...she beat death once already," he murmured.
"Garrus, I don't know if it's wise to set your hopes on--"
"I'm not setting my hopes on anything yet," he interjected firmly. "But I do know... that I once wrote her off as never coming back. I tried to form a life without her, and then she literally charged back into my life and saved it, more than once." He heard Liara sigh, but she didn't say anything. He turned back to the terminal. "I don't know what to expect, Liara. But I know better than I did then."
"You should go outside, Garrus. Get someplace unfamiliar and see what thoughts come then," she said, soft but encouraging.
"...okay," he conceded.
"Take a picture for me. Or paint one, or something," she requested.
"Yeah. Talk to you later, Liara."
"See you soon."
The rustling of foliage with every movement was somewhat unnerving; Garrus was more used to moving undetected. Long, fine tendrils stretched up from the ground and nearly reached his hips everywhere he went. Trees just twice as tall as him with broad leaves became more common the further away from the Normandy he got.
He'd made it off the ship without anyone asking questions, though he was sure EDI took note of his departure. His omnitool and visor had only very basic functions, but he had one set to track his movements so that he could trek out in whatever direction he pleased and not be concerned with knowing how to get back.
The sun above was smoldering, and Garrus could see one large moon close to the horizon. It felt like Palaven, except far more humid and colorful. His casual clothes weren't ideal for the humidity and soon were clinging to him uncomfortably, but there was enough on his mind for it to barely phase him.
It was beautiful here. A spectrum of greens surrounded him, with only small patches of ruddy stems and delicate white blossoms. Though he couldn't see any wildlife, he was fairly sure he heard trills and rumbling calls from far away. The sky above had a shade of lavender within the royal blue. He took a deep breath and wondered if it was perhaps the freshest breath of air he'd ever drawn in.
Shepard would love it here.
He pressed on, heading for the more forested areas to find as much shade as possible. The further he got from the Normandy, the clearer his mind became. It was a lot easier to think about the present when he didn't feel so suffocated by the past.
Of course, his thoughts were still with Shepard, but not about how empty the Normandy was without her. He thought about walking with her on the Presidium, how she always seemed to enjoy seeing a new part of the Citadel. Shuttle rides to missions, when her jaw was set and her blue eyes were full of resolve and confidence. The time they'd lingered at a club on Illium, when she laughed and actually appeared relaxed. Shuttle rides back from successful missions with her dusty armor, disheveled blonde hair, and proud but playful smile.
His breath caught and he swallowed hard, unprepared for the onslaught of memories. The synthesis seemed to bring them up faster, too. His pace slowed and he eventually stopped, bracing himself against a tree with one hand as he tried to reel his heart back in... But it was lightyears away, chasing the Cynosure and the last touch of Shepard to the end of the universe.
Movement ahead startled him and he jumped, his hand darting to the pistol at his hip. A bright marigold bird-like creature that was half as big as him swept down and landed on a branch unnaturally close to him, and seemed unbothered by his abrupt motion. It observed Garrus's shaky breaths with six emerald eyes, craning its neck. It had clearly powerful talons and its wings were disproportionately large to its body. Black ridges were lined from the top of its head down the spine to a flat, rounded tail.
Three more of the birds arrived and also landed nearby, communicating with soft trills, shows of their feathers, and tilts of their head. But the first never looked away from Garrus, and he felt his breathing steady and heart rate slow as he met it's gaze.
A flood of memories sparked within him.
He blinked and he was whisked away to years ago, his mother's sigh like a whisper before him. She was seated in the sunroom, painting these golden birds, her form relaxed but weak with her back to him. In the memory he stepped forward, and his mother turned to embrace him, but it was his sister's arms that fell around him. She was sobbing. He lifted his arms to comfort her but then she stepped away. Old sorrow was replaced with fresh heartache that tore through him as he realized he was at the Normandy's hangar bay and it wasn't his sister, but Shepard, backing away from him with her eyes full of tears.
"I always will."
He blinked and then he was back in the jungle, four golden birds watching him carefully as he sunk down onto his knees and stared at the delicate grass below him.
"...love you too."
Without any further warning, all four of the birds launched themselves off the branch and directly towards him. Garrus's arms flailed as he shouted and fell onto his back. The birds let out a series of shrieks as they veered back up and disappeared above the treeline. His chest heaved as he caught his breath and tried to catch up to his own thoughts and emotions.
"...when my mother passed away... my dad became even more stoic than normal." Garrus slowly rolled over and pushed himself back up to his knees, continuing to speak aloud. "I know I'm a little different than most turians when it comes to wearing my heart on my sleeve, but... my dad's grief was festering like a bad wound. Solana encouraged him to be open. She said if he didn't want to open up to us, he could just go somewhere quiet alone and start thinking of her, and start talking." His voice broke as he choked on the emotion.
"She didn't know it, but I tried it, too. I'd spent so much time away from her, I needed to feel close, one more time...
"Then one day, just before the Reapers arrived, my dad... He was sitting in his room, surrounded by her art, and just... I'd never heard him talk like that before. Ever. And I don't think he has since."
Garrus nearly crumpled onto the ground again, letting the heartache rise to the surface like a geyser. His hands shook and his mandibles flared as he sat with it for several minutes. Finally, his breathing calmed, he slowly set his shoulders just a little more square.
"I like to think I shared my feelings with you more freely than his example, Shepard, but I still ache to share them with you. You came back to me once when I never thought you would, and we're far more connected now. I felt you when synthesis happened... I need to know how to make it back together again, sooner rather than later. I was an idiot to leave you at all..."
He slowly stood and looked in front of him now, imagining Shepard was standing there, listening. He rubbed the back of his neck.
"Wherever you are, can you... meet me halfway, or something?" he asked, suddenly feeling sheepish. He intended to wait for a reply, but something caught his eye above him. Something was above the planet, but he couldn't make it out through the trees. Then in the distance, a familiar but misplaced hum burst into life. He gasped and immediately turned and darted out from under the canopy.
He looked up as he ran, and both of his suspicions were confirmed. Firstly, the Normandy was operational enough to be online. Secondly, the visitors who had located them were the Reapers.
"So... how exactly are we gonna play this? Is there going to be a welcoming party?"
The main Normandy crew was on the bridge, gathered around a comm connected to the Citadel. The ship was once again spaceworthy, and assumed space-travel-worthy. It hovered above the planet they'd crashed upon, making system checks and stabilizations as they prepared to attempt a return to the Citadel. Most of them were fidgety, Joker more than anyone. Garrus, however, was standing unnaturally still.
Three Reapers had entered the system three days ago. EDI wasn't exactly sure what had happened, but they'd done some kind of jumpstart to the Normandy's systems. The Citadel was giving similar reports, as if the Reapers were somehow tuning everything to a new frequency to get it back online. They'd just finished the mass relay and then used it to exit the system, presumably to go fix another relay.
"Unfortunately there's not really any way to be discreet," Liara replied to Joker. "There's not enough security resources available, and everyone will recognize the Normandy."
"Yeah, but, they know Shepard's not on it, right?" Joker asked, his brow furrowing.
"We've been carefully monitoring and controlling rumors," Hackett admitted grudgingly. "The truth is no one really knows how Shepard's last moments went down. The public simply knows she's considered MIA. I've already gotten word out that the return of the Normandy does not mean the return of Shepard, but... you'll likely still draw a crowd. For now we'll have you dock somewhere more secure and secluded. Before the memorial, we'll work out a resting place for the Normandy."
"So... what should we do?" Vega asked.
"I thought it might make sense to have me and the others come to you first," Liara suggested. "We can sit together on the Normandy for a while and then when crowds have died down, you can make your way out. Our crew has been assigned some fairly comfortable accommodations... relatively, anyway."
"And I don't want to hear any objections about special treatment," Hackett interjected. "You're not celebrities, even if the residents see you as such. We're just keeping you close as things get worked out, so consider it a favor to us."
"No objections here," Joker confirmed, and the others shrugged or nodded.
While many of the Normandy crew understood that they'd be going separate ways, no one had officially discussed it yet. Each of them agreed to be around for the memorial on the Citadel, whenever that happened, but that would signal the departure for many of them.
"Good. I'll send you the coordinates for the dock. Let us know when you're hitting the relay, I have a few operational escorts for you."
"We'll go get things ready now, right EDI?" Joker said cheerfully, turning to her and offering his hand.
"Ready when you are," she replied, and they walked hand in hand towards the cockpit.
"See you soon," Liara said with a smile, and disconnected.
"Vakarian, I'd like to discuss something privately with you," Hackett said, turning his attention to the stoic turian.
"I'll take the call to the battery," Garrus replied, squaring his shoulders. Hackett nodded then the vidcomm disappeared as everyone dispersed.
It was hard to tell from the outside, but Garrus was a bundle of nerves as he rode the elevator down. It wasn't likely this was about Shepard, or else Hackett would've shared it with everyone, or Liara would have. How much did he know about his relationship with Shepard, anyway? Maybe it was about the assignment he mentioned when he first met up with the others on the Citadel? What assignment could he offer those who weren't even Alliance military? Garrus supposed his official position with the turian military, at least as Reaper advisor, was probably retired. From his understanding, the Hierarchy was in contact with the Citadel, but Garrus hadn't personally spoken with any turian, official or otherwise, since the synthesis.
"I'm here, Admiral. Can you read me okay?" Garrus asked as the battery doors closed behind him.
"Not as well as the comm room, but it'll do," Hackett's voice came through the terminal.
"What can I do for you?"
"Well, I don't know the details, and I don't need to, but I understand you and Commander Shepard were in a relationship? And were for some time?" Hackett sounded awkward, which was unusual for him. Any other time Garrus might have found it amusing.
"As far as I'm concerned we still are," he insisted, his mandibles twitching. He fought to keep his tone professional, and almost overdid it. "If you're trying to put a timeline on it, we spent quite a bit of time together before Aratoht and the Viper Relay incident. What's this about?"
"I've received word that Rear Admiral Hannah Shepard did not survive the final moments of the war. It's unclear at what point or how her ship was destroyed, but there were no survivors."
"Oh." Shepard's mother. "I only ever spoke with her through vidcomm..." His mandibles flared and his posture fell. He knew what this was. "You're trying to determine next of kin," he said, his tone flat.
"Yes," Hackett confirmed. "You were high on the list not just because of your relationship, but your service record with the Commander. We're not organized enough for these decisions yet, but I can guarantee there will be commendations to deliver, perhaps one named after her. There's even been some discussion of a statue in her likeness in the future."
The Admiral waited as Garrus sighed, leaning on the terminal and trying to sort through his thoughts. He tried to imagine himself being handed medals meant for Shepard on a stage and swallowed a groan.
"Who else is being considered?" he finally asked.
"Joker would likely be the next person I asked, then Liara. Any of the Normandy alumni will be invited to and honored at the memorial, but there will be other decisions that will need more specific input."
"I don't need that extra spotlight," Garrus mumbled. He heard Hackett give a heavy sigh of understanding.
"To be honest I was kind of hoping you'd say that," the Admiral admitted.
"You were?" Garrus asked, mandibles twitching in confusion.
"Yes. There's a task I'd like to give you, and it will require an extremely high level of discretion and subtlety," he explained.
"Does it involve locating Shepard?" he retorted.
"I can't guarantee that, Vakarian. You do realize, we'll be declaring her killed in action when the memorial takes place. This assignment could carry on long past that point," he said sternly.
Garrus huffed. He didn't know exactly what answer he expected. Wishing for good news was beginning to feel foolish.
"Good. Here's the rundown..."