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The Green Wave

Chapter Text

Let the fire surround us, let it all cave in, let it all burn wild
We are leaving it all behind, we are leaving it all behind
Heaven is here

We are tangled and brave
We are leaking and saved
When heaven's not waiting, it's spilling its secrets
It's right here between us, and we've no other choice but believe

Heaven Here by Dashboard Confessional

*****

It did not take Garrus long to realize he was going to go absolutely crazy if he didn't get off the station soon.  It was about the same size as the Normandy, but the size didn't bother him; it was that he had no idea what to do with himself.  There wasn't really any active contribution he needed to be making and he hated it.  On the Normandy at least he could tinker with things, but he didn't have any way to help the equipment here.  He knew numbers and tech better than most, but nothing about what they were messing with.
He did find a kind of lounge and hung out there for a while, but there wasn't much socializing to be done.  Even though there were people he knew on the station, he didn't feel like he really knew what to say to any of them.  He'd communicated briefly with Liara, as well as Vega who was about to go into the N7 program and only have sporadic opportunities to connect.
He didn't know if he just had terrible timing or if she was avoiding him, but he'd had no luck catching Xanossi for an actual conversation.  Other than talking to Brant for a while and managing to lose track of time watching a comedy vid in the lounge, he'd spent most of the time bored out of his mind.
About 30 hours after arriving at the research station, he sat on his cot reading the excerpts Lyric had sent him.  He'd probably gone through them at least fifteen times already, trying to create a connection with this entity he was struggling to understand.  He finished it and closed the file with a heavy sigh, and that was when he realized something he'd been too preoccupied to focus on before.
He sent a comm to David on a channel he'd gotten access to shortly after arriving.


"David, I have a question," he began.
"I'm listening," came the cheerful reply.
"Is this entity... she... in danger?  There's mentions of being lost, or being weak, or hurt...  What does that mean?"
"Mmm, I don't think she's comfortable there anyway, but something else has found her," David said grimly.  "Something dangerous."
"What is it?  Can we stop it?" Garrus asked urgently.
"It will no longer be a threat when we have her.  Good news!  We're done!"  David's tone became cheery again.  "Nasa, tell him about it!"
"Hello Garrus," Nasa began.  Garrus could hear David muttering excitedly in the background still.  "I've just realized that what we've been working on is almost like a reverse-function of the Crucible.  The Crucible gathered a large amount of energy and sent it throughout the universe in the form of the Cynosure, creating the synthesis.  This process will take a smaller amount of energy and concentrate it into one single point.  We may see some power spikes on the station when the process occurs, but it won't be of the magnitude the Cynosure was, and won't interfere with synthesis effects."
"What happens if we lose power as this is happening?" he asked.
"That would not be ideal," Nasa admitted.  "Councilor Lyric ordered some hefty backup generators and they're being installed as we speak.  We're not sure exactly what we'll need, but we estimated very generously."


"So now... we wait?  For someone to show up?" he asked uneasily.
"Yes.  I'll send you a code for the room with access to the server.  We're keeping it very well secured.  Other than David, myself, and Councilor Lyric, the other staff don't even know where it is."
"Got it."
"Are you feeling tired, Garrus?" David suddenly asked.
"Er, why?" he questioned.
"We're ready.  Maybe if you dream, we will know if Shepard's ready," he replied, sounding eager.
"Ah... well, I'll see what I can do," Garrus mumbled.
They disconnected and Garrus paused for just a moment.  There probably wasn't much else he'd rather be doing, so he carefully placed his omnitool and visor on the floor next to the cot and reclined, getting as comfortable as he could.  He closed his eyes.
"What, no 'get ready to roll'?" he mumbled with a terse laugh.
There was no reply, and soon he resigned himself to sleep.


"Hey, Garrus."
Those words in that voice and that tone were enough to make his heart leap into his throat as he sucked in a breath.  She sounded equal parts exhausted and relieved, as if he'd just found her in the middle of trouble or after pulling off something 'impossible' and life-threatening.  He could hear her smile and contentment.  He imagined himself reaching down to help her up, about to make some light banter despite how battered they felt.  Something about it felt like it put his pieces back together.
Garrus involuntarily let out a whimper as he turned around, searching for her, but he could see nothing distinguishable around him.
"Where are you?" he called out against the emptiness.
"I don't know where she is."
He turned one more time and Shepard was behind him, jaw set as her eyes studied him closely.  She was once again in simple, casual clothes, her hair pulled back into a pony tail.  It was so much easier to be sure he was talking to Shepard when he was in the moment, but the uncertainty on her face threatened to confuse him as well.  Still, something told him he needed to be a solid foundation for her.
"Maybe you are her," he insisted, his tone pleading, stepping towards her form.  "Who else would you be?"
"...I don't know," she admitted.
"You have her shape, her eyes, her voice..."  Garrus was close enough to reach her and gently grasped her hand.  It felt more real than ever.
"I know how to find her DNA," she grumbled, as if admitting to stealing a candy bar from a store.  Garrus paused, unsure exactly what that meant.  He brought his free hand to the wrist he was holding and swept it up, pushing up the sleeve.
"You have her scars," he told her.  On the top of her forearm was a subtle, broad stroke of lightened skin from getting flanked by a pyrotechnic.  Shepard stared at it as if it were a puzzle.  "I know them.  Your DNA doesn't."  He released her hand and gently tugged on the collar of her shirt.  A deeper scar just above her right collarbone, from a fall out of a tree during N7 training.  "Shepard's body knows them too."  As much as Garrus craved every part of her, he forced his eyes to meet her gaze again.  "Do you have these when you're in other people's dreams?"
"...I think I do," she whispered, then shook her head.  "But I don't remember.  Why don't I remember these scars, that life?  All I remember is you."  She looked down and Garrus moved forward, pressing his forehead on hers and letting out a comforting purr.


"Do you remember saving my life on Omega?  Do you remember finding me on Menae?  Do you remember swimming alone on a remote corner of Aite?" he asked.
"I remember those moments, but I don't know they're my memories," she said, beginning to sound exasperated.  Garrus paused, trying to think of some way to untangle her.
"...the necklace.  You said you loved it," he said, gently lifting her chin to look at him.  "How did you know you loved the nacklace?"
Shepard's brow furrowed as she thought, then her eyes widened slightly.  She had just begun to smile when another voice spoke.
"It's now or never."
Garrus went rigid.
"Xanossi?"  He looked around, but couldn't see anyone else.
"Oh no--" Shepard gasped and recoiled away from Garrus.
"Then now it is."
Suddenly it was like a thousand voices, booming and echoing and crashing through like a cacophonous ambush.  The ground seemed to be shaking and lights flashed sporadically from no where.  Garrus grimaced and he heard someone crying out.  He focused again and saw that it wasn't coming from Shepard.
"I'm used to it... but I have to go.  I don't know what will happen if they get me," she told him, somehow able to get her concerned voice through the onslaught.  Garrus was cringing, the noise beginning to hurt, but suddenly remembered what he needed to say.
"Here, on the station.  It's ready for you.  David made... something, somewhere for you to go," he grunted.
"He hasn't told you what it does," Shepard hissed.  "I'm afraid of it."
"We can trust David, can't we?" he asked.  "And we can trust each other."
"You--"  The voices thundered and this time Shepard winced.  "I have no other choice.  Please be there."


With a jolt Garrus woke, his heart beating fast, tears he didn't know he was producing in his eyes.  But something was wrong; the flashing was coming from an alert in the station, and his room was rumbling.  He could hear voices on his omnitool and quickly swiped it and his visor off the ground, equipping them as he got to his feet.
"Can we get there?  Why is it locked?" Lyric was asking in alarm.  Garrus continued to listen as he rushed down the halls to the room where Shepard's new server was supposed to be.  The station was certainly struggling to keep up with the power demands and Garrus didn't know how much more to expect, or even what it was really doing.
"--coming!  She's coming!"  David sounded the opposite of concerned; Garrus could even hear him clapping his hands.
"Oh, Goddess...  David, how did you--" Nasa didn't finish the thought.
"It's perfect, it's perfect.  She'll be perfect."
"Garrus, are you listening?" Nasa asked.
"Yes, I'm headed to the server room," he said.
"Good.  I know what he's done, but I--"
A loud droning noise began and made Garrus stagger as the entire station groaned and shifted.  He didn't know if Nasa had stopped talking or if he could no longer hear her.  He reached the server door and before he even attempted to enter a code, it swung open.  Garrus winced against the sudden blinding light coming from inside, and the figure he'd glimpsed in front of it grabbed his arm and yanked him into the room, down onto the floor and under a desk that shielded them both from the light.
"Do you have your gun?"
Garrus blinked as his eyes focused on Xanossi before him, her expression serious and expectant.
"Yes-- why?  What's happening?" he asked, raising his voice over the electric roar.
"This isn't stable.  You need to destroy the server," she told him.


"What?!"  Garrus already knew something was wrong, but now he could feel it in his gut.  Whatever was happening was too important; this might be the only chance they had.
"We can't risk it tearing the station apart!" she shouted.  Garrus looked at his omnitool and tried to see if it would connect with the others, but it was malfunctioning, probably from interference.  He didn't want to interrupt the process, but he also didn't want to risk everyone's lives...
"Are you telling me we'll all be spaced if I don't?" he asked.  The light pulsed and the station thundered again.
"What do you think?!" Xanossi fired back.  Garrus's mind was racing; what was truly at risk here?  Was it possible Lyric and all the researchers were so underprepared for this?  David seemed to have a secret; could he have pushed the limits and endangered everyone?  But what would destroying this device mean for Shepard?  It didn't feel right.
"I can't," he eventually said, barely able to make his voice heard over the buzzing.  Something flashed across Xanossi's face that he'd never seen there before: anger.  He wasn't given a chance to think about what to do next.  The brightness began to regulate, and dimmed enough that they no longer had to squint under the desk.
Garrus scrambled out and to his feet, daring to look at the source of the light.  He could now see some terminals and monitors throughout the room.  The beam was a wall of illumination in the corner, still humming loudly.  It reminded him of the smaller mass relays on Ilos and the Citadel, except even brighter and it seemed to have some sort of depth and dimension, like he was not just looking at the light, but somehow in to it.  He couldn't seem to look away.
Then he could feel something.  Tingling, buzzing, on his body in addition to the frequencies coming from the light.  But why couldn't he move...?  He didn't even realize it was a biotic stasis field until he felt someone remove his pistol and his stomach turned.


Xanossi stepped forward into view, one hand stretched out towards him, the other pointing the pistol at one of the terminals.  She fired three times.
Garrus wanted to roar and tackle her to the floor, and he tried.  Being unable to move with no outlet for his fury was almost physically painful.  The terminal sparked, burst, and smoked, but to both of their bewilderment, the beam of light remained unaffected.  Xanossi spoke, but Garrus didn't know to who.
"I... I don't know if--"
There was a flicker near-- no, in the light, and Xanossi snapped her attention, and her aim, back into focus.  Garrus could barely comprehend what happened next, and for a moment, thought he was losing his mind.  Despite the inconceivability, it appeared rather simple: Shepard stepped out of the light.
She was naked, unharmed, and her eyes were squeezed shut.  Her legs wavered and she fell to her knees, her chest heaving like she'd been holding her breath for almost too long.  Her eyes slowly opened, barely visible through the strands of blonde hair cascading down around her face.
Xanossi's mouth was hanging open and Garrus's heart was pounding louder than the droning from the light.
"Goddess," Xanossi finally whispered.  "She's here.  Literally in the flesh..."
Slowly and carefully, Shepard rose back to her feet.  She squared herself with Xanossi and the pistol, stance firm, jaw set, eyes narrowed.  Garrus's heart leapt into his chest.  Every inch of her skin was familiar, and he'd recognize the soul behind that stance anywhere.  Again he fought against the stasis and Xanossi flinched as she tightened her hold on him.
"I don't believe it.  Both of you here, together again..."  Xanossi's tone was incredulous, almost wistful.  Shepard's eyes narrowed and she shook her head slightly.
"I don't understand," she stated.
"Security's too tight for an evac," Xanossi said, and Garrus realized she was talking through some kind of comm.
"I don't understand what you're saying," Shepard repeated.
"Her translator's broken," Xanossi realized.
For the first time, Shepard looked past the asari and locked eyes with Garrus.  She went rigid and her eyes widened.
"...I'm on my own, then."  Xanossi's posture slightly slumped.


Suddenly there was a thud from behind Garrus, and Xanossi whipped her head around to look at the door.  After that, everything happened very fast.
Garrus took advantage of her distraction and fought against the stasis with everything he had, and at the same time Shepard quickly gripped Xanossi's wrist and the pistol, effortlessly retrieving the weapon and taking a step back, pointing it at the asari.  Garrus staggered as the stasis released him and Brant darted past, attaching some kind of device to Xanossi's wrist and restraining her.  Shepard watched as Brant moved Xanossi away from her without too much of a struggle, then dropped her hand with the pistol back down to her side.
Garrus only had eyes for Shepard.  He removed his top and stepped closer, moving slowly and still unsure what to expect.
"Shepard...?" he mumbled, almost not getting his hopes up for a response out of habit.  She looked at him and gave a tired smile that made all the tension melt out of him.  He couldn't help but purr as he placed his shirt over her shoulders like a robe.  Shepard pulled the sides together, then held up the pistol, looking it over.
"This is yours, isn't it?" she said, and offered it to him.
"Yes."  Garrus carefully took it and placed it back in the holster at his waist.
"I'm sorry, I still don't understand what anyone is saying... but I trust you," she told him, and brought herself closer.  Garrus put one arm around her, then another, and closed his eyes as he rested his head next to hers.  He took in a deep breath of her scent, trying to convince himself this was really happening.  The more he touched her, the more he felt whole.
Then his eyes snapped open, suddenly hyper-aware of the attention focused on them.  Lyric had also entered the room and was giving them a lot of space, but staring at Shepard and Garrus, looking completely dumb-founded but also elated.  Nasa had a similar expression, and David was giggling but covering his eyes at Shepard's state of undress.  Garrus's gaze bounced between all of them.  A sitrep was the last thing on his mind at the moment, but he knew that's what the circumstances were calling for.  He cleared his throat.
"Xanossi was talking to someone.  Brief tech and physical security," he began, not sure why he was suddenly the one in charge, but he was.  Lyric gave a nod to Brant and he escorted Xanossi out of the room.  The asari didn't meet anyone's gaze, resigned and compliant.  "Shepard's translator doesn't seem to be functioning.  She can't understand us.  And... I think my omnitool is broken," he finished lamely.


"Her translator wasn't organic.  It didn't come with her," David explained simply.  "She'll need a new one placed."  Lyric stepped forward to address Garrus, but made sure to still give them a wide berth.  She must know a thing or two about turian's territorial tendencies.
"She... emerged from that?" she asked, gesturing to the beam of light still loudly humming beside them.
"Just... walked out," Garrus replied incredulously with a small nod.  "She sounded like she was catching her breath at first, and stumbled... but I don't think she's hurt or uncomfortable."
"I had no idea David's plan to isolate her included creating a physical body..." Nasa said, shaking her head and laughing.  "I don't know exactly how he did it, but could probably figure it out eventually."
"Shepard helped.  She had to work on her side," David said, then grinned.  "I thought it would be best as a surprise."
"What do we do with it now?" Lyric asked.
"...I don't know," David replied.
"We should probably deactivate whatever it is," Nasa commented.  "I think you can uncover your eyes, David."  David slowly spread his fingers, saw Shepard was covered (at least mostly), and dropped his hands.  He grinned wide.
"Hello, Shepard.  Welcome back.  I'm so glad you made it," he said.  Shepard smiled at him, understanding his tone at the very least.  Brant came back into the room without Xanossi.
"Miss Jannure is with station security.  They've been told to be on high alert just in case, though I don't think she'll be trouble," he told Lyric, who thanked him.
Just when Garrus thought things were ready to settle down, he felt Shepard flinch in his arms before leaning more of her weight against him.  He looked down at her as his mandibles flared; something felt off.


"I don't... feel good," she murmured, and Garrus watched as her eyes rolled back and her legs buckled underneath her.
"Shepard?  Shepard!"  He swiftly adjusted his arms to support her as she went completely limp.  Then spasms shook through her and Garrus knelt down as he struggled to keep her within his arms.
"What's happening?!" he demanded of those around him.  Lyric and Nasa both crouched down nearby as David's hands once again went to his eyes.
"I think she's having a seizure," Lyric said urgently.
"What do we do?!" Garrus exclaimed.
"This isn't a medical station, our resources are limited," Lyric replied.  Nasa turned to David.
"Go get Jeucrae, Salvador, and Tika.  Tell them we need to stabilize and monitor brain activity in a human female," she ordered.  David nodded, turned, and rushed out of the room.
"Is she--"
"I have a granddaughter who has had seizures," Lyric interrupted Garrus's concern with a tone of comfort.  "They are worrisome but can be managed.  You are not going to lose her," she said firmly.  Garrus forced his breathing to steady and drew from the surety in Lyric's eyes as he fought to keep Shepard from falling out of his arms.
"Security has just told me someone is trying to dock," Brant said suddenly.
"Hostile?" she asked.
"No, Rabbit, they say they're a medical crew that got assignment here.  Dr. Chakwas is among them."
For a moment everyone just stared at each other.
"...well let them through!" Garrus said, the first to come to his senses.
"Did you assign that?" Lyric asked, turning to Nasa.
"No, I had no idea we might even have need for... something like this," she admitted, shaking her head.  "Maybe David...?"
"Well let's get them on the station and get Shepard somewhere else," Lyric said, standing and stepping back.  "What room can we make space in and secure quickly?"
"Come with me," Nasa replied, and stood and led the way out of the room.  Lyric followed.  Carefully, Garrus got a secure grip on Shepard's twitching body and lifted her back up.  Brant rushed forward to support, but Garrus instinctively growled at him.  Brant held up his hands passively, showing him he wasn't touching, but stayed close by and spotting just in case as Garrus moved out of the room.


He followed Nasa and Lyric to another wing of the research station, into a room that had much less equipment.  A lone salarian was working in there when they entered, but Lyric quickly dismissed him and told him not to come back without permission.  Garrus crouched again in a corner, holding Shepard tightly to him, and looking very much the protector.  Shortly after he sat down, her spasms stopped and she slumped against him.  Lyric knelt down close by and he once again looked to her in alarm.
"She's okay," she told him.  "Feel her breathing?  She's just unconscious."  Garrus focused hard on Shepard's breathing, the beating of her heart, and slowly nodded.  "Be ready.  Sometimes, they come and go in waves," she said gently.  Garrus nodded again and Lyric once again gave them some space.
David soon came in with the three technicians he had been sent to retrieve, but Lyric and Nasa caught them at the door.  They explained the situation in hushed tones, deciding it best to leave Shepard as she was for the time being.  A couple minutes later Shepard stirred again.
"...Garrus?" she mumbled, her eyes fighting to open.  "My head hurts again..."
"It's okay," Garrus hushed softly, stroking her hair with one hand.  "Councilor Lyric says you're going to be okay.  I don't know if you know who she is... but I say you're going to be okay."
"You sound funny," she grumbled.  Garrus started to chuckle, but Shepard suddenly tensed like an electric shock went through her and began spasming again.  Garrus adjusted his grip on her and looked up at Lyric and the others helplessly.
It felt like forever, but soon new faces were coming into the room, pushing a medical bed and many different monitors and equipment.  Garrus waited until he saw Chakwas.  The Normandy Elect doctor spoke briefly with Councilor Lyric, then caught sight of him with Shepard in the corner.  Even from the other side of the room, he could see the shock and bewilderment clearly on her face.  Garrus stood carefully and Chakwas rushed to him.


"Get her to the bed," she whispered, staring at Shepard in disbelief, tears in her eyes.  Just after she spoke Shepard calmed again, and getting her over to the monitors was a simpler task.  It was difficult for Garrus to turn her care over to the personnel, but he knew he had little choice.  They placed monitors over her heart and many on her head, then put a hospital robe over her and some blankets.  Garrus kept his shirt over her and didn't let go of her hand as they worked.  Most discussions were kept quiet despite the busyness, perhaps especially sensitive to Garrus's protective tendencies.  His eyes followed everyone who came close like a hawk, and no one forgot that he still had a pistol at his hip.
Shepard had another seizure.  It lasted longer despite being given some kind of medication to calm them.  The medical staff seemed to be mostly collecting data, but Garrus didn't bother asking questions.  He'd spent so much time trying to understand Shepard's position before, that now, seeing her in front of him and mostly stable, he no longer felt the need to know every detail.
He didn't know exactly how much time had passed, but enough had to lead Dr. Chakwas to believe that they were past the worst of it.  Shepard had stayed unconscious but seemed comfortable.
"I need to speak to you," Garrus eventually announced, standing but keeping hold of Shepard's hand.  "Without the other staff."
"I understand," Chakwas replied.  She dismissed the other assistants and only Lyric, Brant, David, and Nasa remained in the room, but were not in the immediate area.  Chakwas stood before him, and for a moment they both just stared at Shepard.  Chakwas began to sniffle, wrestling with all the emotions Garrus had spent time with over the past few days.  Garrus took his free hand and placed it on the doctor's shoulder, though truthfully felt just as vulnerable.
"...I know I can't hug her right now.  I'm just so happy to see her.  Can I hug you?" Chakwas choked out.  Garrus let out a chuckle and pulled her close to him, and she gave him a warm embrace.  Once Chakwas had composed herself, she stepped back and wiped at her eyes.
"Right.  Back to business," she said while clearing her throat.  "What do you need?"


"I want to know if there's anything else about her that's different...  She doesn't have a translator, and David said something about her translator not being organic, so it didn't come back with her," he said, speaking quietly as his mandibles twitched.  "We don't really know how this body was created.  It looks to be Shepard's DNA, and she has the same scars...  But does she still have her Cerberus upgrades?  What else is altered?"
"We can find out about the cybernetics easily enough," Chakwas said thoughtfully.  "But I can see this is bothering you.  Why?  Did she say anything that seemed off or unusual?"  She raised a brow at the turian.
"She didn't say a lot, but--... oh.  No..."
Garrus sunk back down into his chair, his mandibles flaring.  He stared at nothing, and then Shepard again, trying to swallow the lump that had risen his throat.
"What?  What's wrong?" Chakwas asked.
"She... I..."  Garrus covered his face with one hand and took a deep breath, collecting his thoughts enough to speak.  "The version of her that I've been talking to doesn't know that she is Shepard.  I don't always know she's Shepard.  She knows about many parts of her life, and my memories, but she doesn't have ownership of it.  That... diluted version is what's familiar to me, so it didn't even register that she wasn't herself..."
"What do you mean?" Chakwas asked, clearly confused.  Garrus paused as he tried to think of the best way to explain it.
"...when she first appeared, someone was pointing a gun at her.  She knew how to be cautious and get the weapon away from the asari when she got distracted.  But Commander Shepard, a Shepard who knows who she is, would've had more to say, even if she couldn't understand us.  It was like her physical and combat skills are all here, but... Shepard's personal touch is not."
"Perhaps she was just disoriented?" Chakwas offered.
"Maybe... she hasn't really been conscious enough to be sure.  Not to mention she can't understand us," Garrus admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.
"We'll get an omnitool to translate for us when she wakes up and then we can get some more answers," Chakwas said.  "The Councilor has told me she's already got some clothes in Shepard's size and an official translator on the way for us to install, but I think it would be smart to talk to Shepard first and make sure there's not anymore seizures."


"Do you know why she's having them?" Garrus asked.
"It's kind of like an electrical malfunction in the brain," she began.  "From what I understand, she was organic with synthetic upgrades, and then existed only energetically and synthetically, and is now purely organic again.  My hope is that her body will soon regulate on it's own.  Worst case scenario, seizure disorders are very manageable with treatment."
"Okay."  Garrus nodded, feeling assured by this explanation.  "There's one other thing I need to know.  How well do you know the assistants you brought with you?  Do you trust them?" he asked seriously.
"Dayton and Loretta are both Alliance blue with long tenures," Chakwas explained.  "I've only met them after the Cynosure.  Loretta and I occasionally go out for drinks and I know her quite well.  Dayton, less so, but I can't think of a time I've felt uneasy about him."
"We had someone stationed here that I think was trying to sabotage Shepard's safety," Garrus said simply.  "I don't know if we've even figured out why, but she... got close."
"An anti-syn, perhaps?" Chakwas asked.  Garrus just shrugged.  "If that's the case, I wouldn't worry about that.  Both Loretta and Dayton have been very opposed and uninterested in that propaganda."
"I'll be staying close, even so," he told her.
"Of course."


Councilor Lyric caught Garrus's eye and looked as if she had something she wanted to say.  He nodded and gestured for her and the others to join the conversation.
"What's our security situation?" he asked as they got close.
"Xanossi isn't speaking at all," Brant told him.  "Her biotics are neutralized, and we didn't find any kind of device she may have been communicating through...  We may be dealing with an internal transmitter, which speaks of a concerning level of dedication."
"I'll think of something to do with her later," Garrus sighed.  He honestly was not ready for that conversation.  "What about the light portal thing?"
"It's gone," Nasa replied.  "We deactivated it."
"It wouldn't have let anything else pass through anyway," David said.
"You knew Shepard would walk out, physically the same as she used to be?" Garrus asked.
"Were you surprised?" David asked with a grin.
"I was expecting something like an AI," he admitted.
"Shepard helped.  She worked on it from her side.  It was her surprise, too," David said proudly.
"And did you bring Dr. Chakwas here?" Lyric asked him.
"I didn't think Shepard might not be well..." David answered sheepishly, wringing his hands and looking away.  "I think Shepard sent them a message."
"Oh!  I hadn't considered that.  Perhaps we should ask," Lyric mumbled.
"Our summons was rather vague and uncoordinated," Chakwas informed them.


Shepard's fingers twitched in Garrus's hand.  Garrus squeezed them reflexively and looked down just as she was opening her eyes.  Her brow furrowed and she shifted uncomfortably as she saw all the eyes on her and felt the monitors on her head.
"What's going on?" she asked groggily.
"It's okay, we're just keeping an eye on you," Garrus said, leaning in closer and putting his other hand over hers as well.  Chakwas stepped forward with an omnitool and ear piece.  Shepard relaxed a little when she saw her and sat up straighter, taking the ear piece and omnitool.  She already knew what to do with them, quickly getting them set up and giving a nod.
"How are you feeling?" Chakwas asked.
"Tired," Shepard replied after thinking about it for a moment.  "And... hungry.  I had forgotten what hungry feels like."
"Brant, would you mind...?" Lyric asked over her shoulder.  Brant just nodded and then left the room to fetch some sustenance.
"It will likely take some time for all of us to understand what exactly you went through," Nasa commented.
"Do you know who we all are?" Lyric asked Shepard.
"I've... been watching, and following developments.  Introductions aren't necessary," Shepard replied.
"How much do you remember?" Nasa asked.  Garrus was glad he wasn't the one that had to ask.
"It's broken," she answered, frowning.  "Bits and pieces."


David darted forward and raised up his omnitool, distracting Shepard as Garrus turned his head away.  He kept holding her hand but he didn't want her to see his mandibles flaring in disappointment.  Just before David pressed a button, he paused.
"May I scan your brain?  You won't feel it," he said.  Shepard nodded and he did so.
"Ugh," David grumbled as he looked at the results.  He stepped away from the group and began pacing as he studied the image.  "No, no, no, no.  That's not right.  It didn't execute right!  Almost perfect again... almost perfect.  Ugh!"
"Er, please don't panic, sometimes David is very expressive," Nasa said, waving her hands to calm the alarm on the other's faces.  "I'll talk to him."  She stepped away and began directing David further from the group.  She calmed him down and they quietly discussed the scans.
The long pause that followed grated on Garrus's nerves more than any other silence ever had.  This was exactly the time that Shepard would normally have some light-hearted, sarcastic remark to address and diffuse the tension; but she was silent.  He still held her hand tightly but was scared to look at her and see the emptiness there.  He instead looked to Chakwas, who seemed to understand what was going through his mind.  Even Lyric was beginning to fidget.


Brant entered the room balancing two trays just as Garrus couldn't hold his breath any longer.  He set one down on a small table beside Shepard, within her reach, and she thanked him.
"It's just snacks, but I'm happy to bring more of whatever you prefer," Brant said.  "There's some for you too," he added to Garrus.
"Assuming the second tray is for the rest of us, why don't we give Shepard a bit more time to rest?  Her mind could use some quiet, I'm sure," Lyric suggested, gesturing that the rest of them go elsewhere.
"I'd like to be a bit more caught up on things as well," Chakwas admitted.
"I'd be happy to fill you in," Lyric said with a smile.  As they dismissed themselves, Chakwas gave Garrus a pointed look.  He knew what it meant: "stop being afraid and connect with her."
Finally, he brought his gaze back to Shepard.  She was looking at his hand gripping hers and seemed deep in thought.  He realized she probably needed that hand to eat, and yet couldn't bring himself to release it.


"...I am afraid to let go," she finally whispered, meeting his gaze with a small smile.  "It's silly, isn't it?"  Garrus managed a smile himself.
"Sometimes, I am afraid of silly things too," he admitted.  Shepard chuckled.
"Really?  Like what?" she challenged.
"Mostly calibrations," Garrus shrugged, clearing his throat and leaning back in his chair a bit.  Shepard laughed at that and Garrus let out a big breath, his shoulders relaxing.
"You know I like that about you," Shepard said with a grin.
"And I like that sometimes you're afraid to let go," he replied softly.  They shared a contented look as Shepard squeezed his hand, but the moment was interrupted by her stomach rumbling.
"...but I also think it's a good idea if you eat," Garrus added, and they both snickered.  Shepard finally let go of his hand and reached over the tray, passing a plate towards him as well and they shared the meal in quiet comfort.