I see your face in blurry shades and I reach out for your hand
All your ways I can't explain but I want to understand
My love, I only want you next to me
Sweet love, how long before you hurt for me?
Hurt for me, do you hurt for me?
I sedate my mind with hope of your return
Just enough to weigh me down
I can fake my heart and I love to watch it burn
But it knows you ain't around
Hurt for Me by SYML
The night cycle on the New Presidium was exactly the kind of comfort Garrus needed. He breathed in the cool air and let the muted sounds of residents far below him create a white noise to get lost in.
For a moment, he had peace.
His omnitool beeped repeatedly. Garrus set it in front of him and answered the call. Kaidan, Vega, and Joker were on the other side. They'd done these group calls a few times and were beginning to make it a tradition. The plan was for Kaidan, Vega, and Garrus to call Joker from a bar somewhere (as these calls always involved getting drunk), but after the events at Spectre Status, Garrus felt he needed a little more space. Joker was in what appeared to be a cabin on board a ship, and Kaidan and Vega were sitting at an outdoor seating area of a bar.
"Garrus, where are you? Are you at the Penthouse or something?" Joker asked, confused by the backdrop of nothing but sky.
"No. I'm at my favorite spot on the Citadel," he replied quietly.
There was one area where those who made the reconstruction decisions opted to closely replicate the old Citadel structure. It was nowhere near where Garrus's real favorite spot on the Citadel used to be, but it looked the same, and he could trick himself into making it feel the same. The "restricted" beam was the same size and dimension as the one he and Shepard had shot bottles off of, and the open space suited him perfectly.
"Here's the important question: is there booze there?" Vega asked, showing off his own bottle on camera.
"Mmm, there's about to be," Garrus answered, looking up as a skycar pulled in close. It hovered above him and the door opened, a young female human looking down with concern.
"Um, Garrus Vakarian?" she asked.
"That's me," he answered as he stood.
"I don't think I'm really supposed to park anywhere up here..."
"Just toss it down. I'm a good catch, I promise," he assured her.
"Erm, okay," she said, and reached into the car for a box. She maneuvered the skycar as best she could, then dropped the package down to him. Garrus caught it with a grunt, thanked the delivery girl and then sat back down, waving his own bottle in front of his omnitool.
"And I didn't even have to make small talk with a bartender," he bragged. He opened it up and took a swig as Joker laughed.
"I'm glad you've got that since it sounds like you need it," the pilot commented. After enough pause to gain a look from Garrus, he added, "Heard you lost it on some virtual reality nerds today."
"Heard you broke your pelvis today," Garrus fired back.
"Almost, actually. I'm pretty sure it was close," Joker said, not missing a beat. Vega snickered and Kaidan was smirking; even Garrus allowed a smile.
"Let's not talk about my demons," he sighed, shaking his head.
"Hey, the Commander is not a demon," Kaidan insisted, already slightly slurring his words. He and Vega must have been at the bar for a while before the call.
"I know," Garrus grumbled. "But something's haunting me, and it's not a disarmingly dainty little girl."
"What if the Commander really is still around? Like part of the Citadel or something, and she made the game glitch?" Kaidan wondered.
"We've played around with that idea a lot," Vega admitted.
"She's gone," Garrus snapped, finishing off his first bottle and pulling out another one.
"That's a different tune than you were singing before," Vega pointed out.
"Yeah, well, the song has changed," Garrus shrugged.
"So, what, you're just going loco and hallucinating and crap?" Vega challenged.
"Have you even heard about the crazy things that can happen since the synthesis? Why would Shepard stop doing the impossible now, when it's easier than ever to--"
"I'm telling you now, stop," Garrus cut Joker off harshly, grimacing. The only thing he could see when he thought about Shepard was the video from the Citadel terminal, her bruised and bloodied face so close, inches from death.
"...if she wasn't gone... what could we really do about it?" Kaidan wondered.
"Just trust her to figure it out," Joker shrugged. "That's what we did before, until she told us something different."
They all fell silent for a moment, staring down at their drinks or throwing back some more. Garrus just felt more haunted than ever.
"...speaking of crazy, we've determined that even if EDI keeps her metallic form, we could probably have a baby if we wanted to," Joker commented. Vega choked on his drink, causing Kaidan to nearly fall over trying to dodge the spray.
"Okay, I'll say it: um, what?" Garrus said incredulously.
"I know, right?" Joker laughed, shrugging and taking off his hat to run his hand through his hair. "I mean, we'd need a human female to carry the pregnancy... but we were thinking, if we can supposedly make a flesh body from EDI's code, couldn't we also make a embryo with my DNA and hers?"
"That almost seems like it would be easier... I think," Vega said, his face scrunching up as he tried to wrap his head around the idea.
"Is that something that you guys want?" Kaidan asked.
"I don't know," Joker admitted. "I never imagined being a dad. I don't really know anything about kids. I had a younger sister, but I couldn't really do much with her because of my bones. Between that and EDI's titanium hardware, neither of us would be well equipped."
"But your bones have gotten stronger, right?" Garrus asked.
"Exactly. Maybe not as strong as everyone else's, but maybe strong enough to handle wrestling with a toddler."
"I can't decide if that makes the joke about you and combat with Alliance marines less funny, or more," Garrus mused, and Joker and Kaidan snickered.
"Ha, ha," Vega said, rolling his eyes. "You could always practice with some krogan babies, Joker. I bet they'd be a good trial run."
"Pretty sure they'd eat me," Joker said, and they all shared a laugh imagining it. "Anyway, I never thought I'd be the first to consider becoming that domestic. You guys better catch up or I'm gonna feel even more weird about it."
"Vega flirted with Sillonia today," Kaidan offered with a smirk.
"The turian commentator?"
"What? She seems cool enough for a date or two," Vega shrugged, then looked at Garrus pointedly. "Although I might need some insight on female turians..."
"There are much better resources on that than me," he replied firmly. "Good luck getting by without Mordin's interspecies-intercourse lecture though."
"You might be able to find some logs of his somewhere. I could ask EDI," Joker suggested as he laughed.
"Geez, I just said a date or two, not gettin' it on," Vega chuckled, gesturing for them to calm down. "Are any of us ever really going to settle down anyway?"
"I think I will, someday," Kaidan said. "I enjoy military and being a Spectre, but I don't see myself struggling to put it down when the time comes. Not like some people, anyway..."
"I'll always be flying, that's for sure," Joker insisted. "You can take the cockpit out of me, but you can't take me out of the cockpit." His brow furrowed and he looked at his bottle as if it would translate what he just said and the rest of them couldn't help laughing. "Or... something like that."
"I've still got the N7 program to get through. I'm scheduled to start not too long after Cyno-versary," Vega explained. "Too young and restless to settle down now."
"Hm, yeah, what he said," Garrus grunted, lamely trying to dodge having to give a real answer.
"Psh, please, you were basically settled down with Shepard, Mr. Family Man," Joker challenged.
"If you could really call our antics settling down," he replied, rolling his eyes.
"It might have been as settled as Shepard could get," Kaidan speculated with a shrug.
"You don't know that," Garrus nearly whispered, but it was loud enough to be heard. The others blinked at him.
"Did you... talk about it?" Joker dared to ask.
"Er, well..." Garrus rubbed the back of his neck, unsure what to say. For once it wasn't Shepard's hurt and weak expression that came to mind, but instead a smile that was mixed with skepticism, intrigue, and amusement at the ideas Garrus shared, only half-jokingly, of adopting baby krogans.
"We weren't to the point of actually making plans," he finally began awkwardly, "but we had discussed hypotheticals."
"I can't say I can picture the Commander raising kids," Vega admitted thoughtfully.
"Whether there's kids or not, settling down is more about the commitment, right?" Kaidan said. "And that could happen anywhere, even in the high-risk lifestyle Shepard had."
"I was planning to be there for it either way," Garrus mumbled, his mandibles twitching as he fought the emotion threatening to surface.
"If EDI and I have a kid, you can babysit and be the favorite uncle," Joker offered in a drunken attempt to cheer the turian up. It somewhat worked.
"You hear that?" Garrus laughed, then quickly finished off his drink. "I'll be the favorite uncle," he taunted Kaidan and Vega.
They all had a good laugh and soon moved on to other, lighter topics. After a couple hours and plenty of drinking, they bid each other fond farewells, "until the next boozy call".
Garrus picked up his omnitool and stood, letting himself get a good stretch after sitting for so long. He looked at the empty bottles and wished someone was there to throw them for target practice. Pondering the night's conversation, he walked over towards the edge of the beam. The lights below brought to mind the time he dreamt of Shepard jumping off.
If I jumped, would I find you?
He couldn't help thinking it, and then he couldn't help entertaining the thought for another moment longer. Perhaps too long for his drunken state.
His omnitool rang.
Confused, he glanced down at it. It was Xanossi. Without much thought, he answered it.
"Garrus! Oh, I'm so glad you answered," she said, sounding relieved. She was frowning.
"Is something wrong?" he asked urgently, immediately feeling more sober.
"Um, well, not really..." she muttered, looking down. "Where are you?"
"Out," he answered, clearing his throat.
"Oh. Well, I just felt like I needed to call you... I heard about the new items you added to the Normandy's display. And the Cynosure research team got some new material..." she drifted off, watching Garrus's reaction closely. When he just huffed and looked away, mandibles flaring, she asked, "You saw it, didn't you?"
"I'm the one who found it," he choked out.
"Oh, Garrus... I'm so sorry," Xanossi murmured. Garrus didn't want to see the pity in her eyes and switched the call to audio only and began gathering the bottles as she continued. "It was hard for me to watch, I can't even imagine what it would have been like for you. Especially since you had been with her just moments before."
"I don't really want to talk about it," he told her, loading empty and full bottles into the skycar he'd rented for the evening.
"I know, I just..." Xanossi took a deep breath and let it out heavily. "At least now you know what happened to her. You can put her to rest in your mind a little more easily."
"If only," Garrus grumbled, getting into the skycar and programming the autopilot to take him to Normandy Plaza.
"What do you mean?"
"Uh, well... I told you about the dreams. I had something worse happen at Spectre Status. I could swear I was fighting her," he explained, and finally was talking enough for Xanossi to hear him slurring a little.
"...are you drunk right now?" she asked.
"Very much so," he replied. "But I wasn't then."
"I did hear about a bit of drama there today..." Garrus cringed.
"How much is being publicized?" he asked.
"Just that you left the match seeming to be bothered. The official statement is that some glitches interfered and are being worked out," she explained.
"Good." Garrus was relieved that Wigort and his staff were keeping things low-key. He'd need to send them a gift or something in gratitude... maybe some booze and a basket of pastries.
"But you saw Shepard? In the game?" Xanossi asked, going back to his previous statement.
"I didn't see her face, but... my gear was detecting hits just like her sparring rhythm. And I could see the VI moving like her, even though no one else could. I heard her again, and it said things only she would've known to say," he admitted.
"What did it say?"
"...nothing," he replied, suddenly sober enough to realize he was about to share more than he wanted to, but not sober enough to handle it gracefully.
"Alright, I won't ask," Xanossi conceded. "I think you need something else to focus on for a while."
"Too bad the whole Citadel is about to be filled with Cyno-versary festivites," he grumbled, borrowing Vega's nickname for the event.
"Ah, you're right... What are you going to do?"
"Lay low as much as possible. Councilor Lyric might have another party."
Garrus had reached the outside of the security checkpoint for the plaza. He gathered the leftovers of his booze and left the skycar, which would return itself to the rental facility. The checkpoint worked solely from facial identification and would flag you for additional screening if necessary, but it was very efficient. He passed it and boarded a tram that would take him to his housing.
"You had fun at her last party, right? She's briefly visited the lab a few times and seems like a good person," Xanossi said.
"Yeah, she knows how to set up a good time, and is very... unique. She has a salarian boyfriend," Garrus commented, unable to help himself. Xanossi giggled.
"I know exactly who you're talking about! He's been with her every time I've seen her. Is he really her boyfriend?" she asked incredulously.
"Well, I can't say I know that their relationship is... um, sensual... but they're definitely very close," he stammered.
"So if she has any kind of romantic relationship, it's either him, or he at least knows everything about it?" Xanossi snickered.
"I would bet on it," he shrugged as the tram reached his stop. He stood up and stepped out onto the platform, looking ahead at the Normandy as he walked towards his building.
"Did you know she has five kids? And like fifty grandkids? That's a lot for a human lifespan," Xanossi commented.
"I didn't know that," Garrus replied. "She told me her husband got spaced in the earlier days of human spaceflight. I think he's the only one she's ever been paired with. Well, except for Brant."
"Except for Brant," she laughed. "To be fair, he seems like a good person, too. He's just so quiet and... compliant."
"Like your partners with a little more bark and bite, do you?" he teased, giving the Normandy a casual salute as he entered his building.
"Like you?" she fired back smoothly.
"Yes, I've been known to-- hey, that's not where I was going with this," Garrus cut himself off, shaking his head.
"You started it," Xanossi laughed.
"Are you trying to take advantage of me while I'm drunk?" he questioned.
"Well it hasn't worked when you're sober yet," she teased.
"Then you should be used to disappointment."
"Ouch!" Her tone feigned hurt, but she giggled after. Garrus had reached his apartment and hefted the box of booze onto the counter in the kitchen, thoroughly ready to crash in bed.
"I just got home, so it's time for me to sleep off my vulnerable state," he said, feeling more tired by the second.
"Okay, well... hey, I understand now why you hadn't talked to me for a while... there's been a lot to process," she began. "But I'd like to help distract you during the Cyno-versary. Let's find some obscure things to do in some new corner of the Citadel and keep you busy away from the action as much as possible."
"Well, I don't know..." he drifted off, unsure he wanted to commit to so much at once.
"You don't have to decide now, just think about it," she urged. "I'll do some research and let you know what I come up with. I promise I'll think of something to get your mind off of... everything else."
"I'll think about it," he agreed, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
"Yay! Trust me, you won't regret it," she celebrated.
Just moments later, they'd ended the call and Garrus was settled into bed, his whole body feeling heavier than normal. He was hoping for a soothing rest, but judging by the echoes in his mind as he tried to fall asleep, it wasn't likely.
I trust you.
There's no Shepard without Vakarian...