So it's here I stand
As a broken man
But I've found my friend
At the curtains of the waterfall
Now I'm falling down
Through the crashing sound
And you've come around
At the curtains of the waterfall
And you rushed to me
And it sets us free
So I fall to my knees
At the curtains of the waterfall
Geronimo by Sheppard
A few more days of calm, domestic bliss passed before it was time for something far more eventful: a visit at Spectre Status and finally reuniting with some of the Normandy Elect.
Garrus had sent Wigort and his staff an extravagant assortment of fruit and pastries before reaching out, to apologize further for his behavior during his last visit. When he did call Wigort, the salarian was was plenty happy to hear from him and set another date for an appearance. Kaidan would be coming along and promised he had a good enough poker face to call Shepard Roxanne and pretend he was meeting her for the first time. Vega also happened to be in between his N-training levels and while Garrus was less confident in Vega's stoicness, he was optimistic he could at least keep it in until they got to the Normandy.
Garrus had briefly considered renting out a ballroom at a restaurant somewhere instead of going to the Normandy, but he wanted the rest of the crew to have a chance to truly treat Shepard as Shepard, and their old ship seemed the only place secure enough to do that. And, if they were lucky, perhaps being back there would spark some more memories within her.
After mentally preparing themselves for being the center of attention, Shepard, Garrus, and Vrilakir made their way to Spectre Status. Kaidan and Vega were waiting on the street outside, making their ability to act all the more important, as crowds were already gathering for the show and had their eyes on them. Kaidan made his way over first, and before Garrus could even pretend to introduce them, he offered his hand with a warm smile. Shepard returned the gesture.
"Roxanne, nice to meet you. I'm glad you're here with us," he said pointedly. His smile was just a little larger than it needed to be, but not so much as to be suspicious. Vega's grin, however, was about as big as it could possibly be. He quickly stepped forward when Kaidan created an opening.
"I made it to N6," he blurted out. Garrus's mandibles twitched as a warning for Vega to calm down a bit. While not an entirely odd thing to share with someone, Vega was definitely viewing this as a moment of returning to his mentor to report progress, brimming with pride.
"Of course you did," Shepard replied smoothly, sharing in just the right amount of pride herself. She flinched as a stab of pain went through her head, and her warm expression faded into one of stoicism.
"Let's get inside," Garrus said, clearing his throat before any further conversation could occur. He placed a hand on the small of Shepard's back and guided her inside. They all headed for the staff room and Normandy Elect entrance, but paused as they reached the door.
"We'll meet you in there after. For now, Roxanne and I will head up to the VIP spectator box," Vrilakir said.
"Oh," Garrus mumbled. "I suppose that makes sense." He and Shepard had barely been apart since she stepped out of the light on the research station, and he'd be lying if he said the idea didn't give him any apprehension. Shepard sensed this and stepped close to him, gently patting the scarred side of his face. Unable to resist, Garrus reciprocated by briefly running a hand through her hair.
"Have fun," she said with a wink, then turned to follow Vrilakir. Garrus took the time to watch her go before following Kaidan and Vega into the staff room. They both were grinning at him.
"This is cool," Vega declared.
"It is quite amazing," Kaidan agreed.
They had been communicating through messages for the past several days, so luckily they didn't feel the urge to ask questions about Shepard or how she was doing, but it was clear both of them were still coming to terms with the fact that she was there.
"It took me some time to get used to, too," Garrus chuckled, and they all left it at that as they began prepping for the games.
It only took the end of the first round (which they'd lost) for Garrus to realize the commentators were going to be the trickiest part of this outing. They may not be reporters, but Dolph and Sillonia knew that half the reason people came to watch the Normandy Elect was to get inside information. While they didn't bring up his encounter with Hyatt before the Cynoversary, they did ask him about his visit to Palaven.
"It was a great trip. Turians love to honor their own," he told them carefully. "My father and sister are doing very well."
"And you've brought a couple guests with you today," Sillonia pointed out.
"Yes... I did," he replied simply as he finished configuring his weapons. "They're both associates of Councilor Lyric."
The next round began to load, which would buy them some time.
"Well, your human friend especially seems to be enjoying the show," Dolph said. Garrus glanced up; one of the screens was showing Shepard, at the edge of her seat, her hands clenched into fists. Her jaw was set and she was watching intently. It was probably driving her crazy to sit on the sidelines. He didn't have a reply, but luckily the next round was initiated within seconds. This time they won, and after the usual celebrations with Kaidan and Vega, and acknowledgements of the audience, Dolph was quick to ask questions again.
"How did you and your new girlfriend meet?"
"I bet that story is better told when we've got more than a brief intermission to enjoy it," Kaidan interjected, coming to Garrus's rescue.
"Well, that's okay; it looks like Sillonia has made her way to the VIP box and your girlfriend is more than happy to talk while you work."
Garrus looked up again and saw Sillonia sitting next to Shepard, both of them smiling. Vrilakir looked slightly exasperated, as if she'd tried to talk Shepard out of it, but Shepard seemed completely comfortable. His mandibles twitched, hoping this wouldn't become a problem.
"So, what's the scoop?" Sillonia prompted, then placed a microphone in front of Shepard.
"I'm Roxanne, and yes, Garrus and I are in a relationship," she began. Garrus tried to look busy preparing for the next objective as she continued. "We met through Rabbit-- er, Councilor Lyric. My family and hers have known each other for a long time, and Garrus has become friends with her since her inauguration. We'd cross paths every now and then, and through small interactions I became drawn to him. I wanted to get to know him, but I had no idea what to say."
The simulation was ready and so combat began, but the conversation was still coming through Garrus's helmet. He did his best to split his attention between that and the battle before him.
"Understandable," Sillonia laughed. "What did you finally come up with?"
"Nothing, for a long time," she replied, also chuckling. "Then one day, Rabbit gifted me a new pair of glasses and I accidentally left my old ones there. For whatever reason, Garrus offered to bring them to me, so I suddenly had him on my doorstep returning a personal item."
"Lucky you!" Sillonia laughed. "Sounds like he was maybe looking for an excuse to get to know you, too?"
"Maybe," Shepard shrugged with a smirk. "But he sure seemed caught off guard when I bluntly invited him out for drinks right then and there." Much of the audience laughed and a smile found it's way onto Garrus's face as well.
"I bet a lot of people are wishing they had known it only took a little bluntness to get a date with Vakarian," Dolph chimed in with a laugh.
"Too late now," Shepard grinned, and more laughter followed.
"So the first date went well then?" Sillonia asked.
"He was a little quiet, and awkward... and I got a little more drunk than I should have," she said sheepishly. "But he was a perfect gentleman and escorted me home. We exchanged contact information and got together a few more times, and here we are."
"Did you have any concerns about all the extra attention you'd get?" Sillonia asked.
"Do I seem concerned?" Shepard retorted, and Sillonia chuckled and shook her head.
"Wow. She seems to be handling this well," Kaidan suddenly said on the comm that would only go to Vega and Garrus.
"She's downright masterful," Vega agreed. They both knew she was mostly making up the story as she went, but she wasn't even missing a beat.
"Yes, yes she is," Garrus mused.
Shepard and Sillonia touched on lighter topics for the rest of the round: Garrus's strong ties within the Alliance, Roxanne's Alliance history, the Spectre Status games, etc. Once the round was over, Vrilakir cleared her throat, and Sillonia took the hint.
"Well, thank you very much for the conversation! I'll let you get back to spectating," she said, politely dismissing herself. Shepard flashed another grin and waved as the camera left her. However, Sillonia had one last question as she made her way back to her usual station, this time for Garrus as he shifted the game armor.
"I think we know enough about you to think of some reasons why Roxanne may have pursued you," she began, "but we don't know Roxanne. Was there something specific about her that captivated you?"
Garrus's movements slowed until he was standing still as he tried to wrap his mind around an answer. What could he say about Shepard without it sounding like he was talking about Shepard? He didn't want to say anything too casual and give the idea that he was taking relationships lightly; who knows what kind of bold advances he may attract if some desperate singles got that into their head? After what seemed like far too long of a pause, he said the only thing that came to mind.
"She keeps me grounded," he said simply. "And I think everyone needs someone who can help them do that, for the times when life isn't so simple."
"Amen to that," Dolph agreed earnestly.
The rest of the many rounds were as exciting as ever. The boys put on a great show, but Garrus couldn't help feeling guilty that he got to play on the battlefield and Shepard didn't. They said their goodbyes to the audience and commentators and went into the staff room, where Vrilakir and Shepard were already waiting.
"That looked like way too much fun," Shepard said, stepping close to Garrus before he even had a chance to put away his gear. She was smiling, but did sound envious.
"Glad to know you missed me too," he purred, briefly nuzzling his face against her hair. "You were rather... open with Sillonia," he commented, tilting his head to one side. There were no staff members in the room with them, but he felt it a good idea to be careful with his words regardless. Shepard thought for a moment, considering her reply with a coy smile.
"There are lots of things I can keep to myself when I need to... but I'm not going to pretend you aren't mine."
"...Oh," Garrus said in a guttural purr, and couldn't resist closing the gap between them, one hand gently stroking the side of her face. He could only remember a few other times Shepard had gotten possessive of him, and it always drove him crazy.
"Alright, get a room," Vega teased after a few moments. Shepard chuckled and stepped back, but Garrus kept his eyes and a hand on her.
"Actually... do I get to play?" she asked hopefully.
"Let's see what we can do," Kaidan said with a shrug.
They managed to track down Wigort and Mey, the asari technician who had been there when Shepard had hacked into the game, and they agreed to two rounds with no cameras or spectator access. Kaidan offered to sit it out so that they could have the traditional three-man team.
Garrus watched Shepard carefully as they prepared, eager to see how she would react to the opportunity, and the shift was immediately noticeable. As soon as she had a weapon (even a highly modified one) in her hands, her expression changed. The excitement was still evident in her eyes, but her jaw hardened as though there was an actual mission at stake ahead of them. The last thing she did was leave her glasses with Vrilakir, and then secure her helmet on her head. She nodded to Garrus and Vega, and they could hear the grin in her voice when she addressed them.
"Get ready to roll."
She gestured forward and led the way into the arena, and Garrus had to take a moment to calm the flurry of emotions those words set off for him. Vega gave him a solid pat on the back to get him moving again and he stumbled into the arena after his Commander. The landscape loaded up and the three of them set into position like the well-oiled machine they used to be as the enemies met them.
"Vega, grenades, by the railing."
"Garrus, fry the heavies."
"Don't push, just take them as they come."
"Watch the goal."
Garrus could barely focus on the mission simply because he was so captivated by her. It wasn't that she was saying anything particularly unique, but the effect her commands had on them was clear. Even her voice seemed deeper, stronger, more resolute than it had been even before London's Crux. He was almost certain that, were this open to spectators, more than a handful of people would notice the difference between Roxanne off and on the battlefield, and even begin to see Shepard's traits within her. Despite choosing the objective that is more complex and usually takes the longest, they completed it in record time, and the next one went even faster.
"...that's it?" Shepard asked as the second round closed down.
"Not exciting enough for you?" Vega asked with a chuckle.
She didn't sound underwhelmed, in fact Garrus could hear her breathing harder than normal from the rush, but surely she could go for several more hours. He removed his helmet and approached her.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"Fantastic!" she replied, removing her helmet and revealing a wide grin. "I feel alive, I feel--"
Shepard's words cut short as pain seared through her head and suddenly the room was spinning. Her eyes glazed over and her knees gave out. Garrus had to keep himself from calling out "Shepard" as he rushed forward and caught her, but she wouldn't have heard him anyway. She squeezed her eyes shut as she felt Garrus carry her back into the staff room, the voices around her muted.
"What's going on?" Vega asked.
"Do we need to call some medics?" Mey said urgently.
Garrus knelt down with Shepard and took off a part of his armor to access his pocket. He pulled out a small vial Chakwas had given him specifically for severe migraines. He had another one for seizures, but Shepard wasn't spasming, so he didn't get that one yet.
"No, this is a pre-existing condition and it's being managed," Vrilakir told Mey, gesturing with her hands to try and calm her down. Garrus carefully applied the liquid to Shepard's temples. While he hadn't had to use it yet, he felt rather confident in the remedy. Shepard's muscles relaxed as the throbbing and the vertigo began to subside. She felt Garrus's finger stroke her cheek as his words slowly became more clear.
"...hey, hey there... Can you hear me? Come on back," he was saying gently. She groaned and her eyelids fluttered as she tried to focus.
"I can hear you," she grumbled.
"Good, good." Garrus gave the others a nod and Vrilakir encouraged Mey to give them some privacy. "How are you feeling now?"
"A lot less fantastic," she managed to reply.
"Do you need some water?" Vega asked.
"Let's get that gear out of the way," Kaidan offered. With help from all three of them, Shepard was soon sitting at one of the tables and sipping some water, Garrus's hands resting carefully on her shoulders. Vrilakir offered her the glasses and she put them back on with a deep breath.
"I don't know what happened," she mumbled, barely able to meet the concerned gazes around her. "I really was feeling amazing, and then... it hurt so bad I was dizzy."
"We can sit here until you're feeling ready to get back to the apartment," Garrus told her.
"But we're still on for the Normandy party tonight, right?" Vega asked.
"Absolutely," Shepard answered, determined, but then groaned and rested her head on the palm of her hand. "I might throw up." With a frantic expression Vega darted for a trash can and swung it over next to her, and she managed a chuckle. "Thanks."
"Will this happen again on the Normandy? Is it safe?" Kaidan asked.
"We're going," Shepard insisted. "It will be worth it. These migraines are terrible, but I've been through worse."
"Do you remember being through worse?" Garrus inquired gently. Shepard's face twisted into a grimace and she didn't answer.
"It's fine," she snapped.
Once again, Kaidan came to the rescue with some small talk about the evening; seeing Joker and EDI again, even Wrex and Liara. Vega soon got talking about his N training, and they learned that they'd started him as an N4 because of his record for the Transcendent War. However, seeing as that experience was mainly combat focused, he'd been sent on two missions that required a lot more specific strategy and also environmental hazards that you couldn't just shoot at. He made it to N6 through those types of trials, but failed the one attempt he made at N7.
"I think it would be really cool if Commander Shepard could be my trainer to get me to N7," he said casually, but gave Shepard a brief, pointed glance. "I like to dream about that." Shepard slowly gained a small smile, warmth returning to her expression.
"...that's a nice dream," she murmured.
Shepard stared at herself in the mirror of the bathroom. She had mixed feelings about the reflection that stared back, so familiar and foreign at the same time. She tucked her hair behind her ears and swept up her bangs, revealing her features further. She was definitely Shepard physically, at least. Exhaling, she ruffled her hair again to bring it back around her face. She couldn't help but wonder, was she actually making steps to become who she used to be, or would she be someone new entirely? Would it matter to Garrus either way?
Before her migraine, she'd been about to say that those battles felt "like coming home". She tried to hold on to how self-assured she felt during the simulation, but it threatened another headache. She scoffed at her reflection, getting more annoyed by the blocked memories than anything. She stepped back and took a moment to look over her clothes: stylish black jeans and a white buttoned top. They'd decided to not get too fancy for the Normandy reunion, but she wasn't about to show up in a tshirt and sweat pants.
"I love you."
She turned and saw Garrus watching her in the doorway, already dressed nicely. He was casually leaned against the doorframe, but his gaze was far more purposeful, carrying the weight of his words.
"I love you too," she said, giving him a smile before looking back in the mirror.
"What are you nervous about?" he asked, his mandibles twitching thoughtfully. She didn't bother to deny it.
"I'm nervous I won't remember anything new and it really will be more like you introducing a new girlfriend to your closest friends instead of... whatever else it could be," she admitted.
"You know they already love you," he pointed out.
"Yes, but..." she drifted off, looking down at her hands and wringing them together. "If this doesn't make me... be me again, what will?"
"Ah. Hmm." Garrus brought himself closer and carefully traced a finger up her shoulder and down her back. "Perhaps it won't be one single moment that brings you back. Perhaps it will be a combination of small moments over time. That's how we all evolve, after all."
"Hmm. Perhaps," she mused as she leaned into him. He playfully fluttered his mandibles in her hair.
"If you're ready," he purred, "we should get going. They'll be waiting for us."
"I'm ready," she assured him, meaning it as best she could.
Shadows cast by artificial dusk were scattered throughout the Citadel as they arrived within Normandy Plaza. Shepard had to remind herself that even her false identity had clearance here and not to look around like it was new to her. As soon as her eyes landed on the Normandy she couldn't look away. C-Sec had a wide perimeter around it, told only that it was closed for a "special occasion", which meant only those with the prestige of Normandy Elect, Citadel Council member, or Spectre could get close. Vrilakir would be staying outside of that range. The officers looked the two of them over, and Garrus almost forgot that they didn't know it was Shepard with him.
"Er, she's with me," he finally told them, earning a nod as they continued on their way.
Shepard reached out for Garrus's arm as they neared the entrance closest to the cockpit, balking. Her head already hurt but she wondered if perhaps it was just nerves. Garrus paused, tucked her arm through his, and then gently got her moving again. The doors whisked open as they neared and then closed behind them, but no one else was around.
The cockpit drew Shepard in, causing her to leave Garrus's side. She placed a hand on the back of one of the pilot seats and stared at the blank display, the endless possibilities of what it might show racing through her mind. She knew she was feeling something, but couldn't begin to identify it.
Finally, she turned and walked past Garrus towards the main CIC, and though they still couldn't see anyone else, EDI's voice played through the speakers nearest them.
"The Commander has the deck."
Shepard's face lit up, a wide grin spreading across it.
"Where are all of you?" she asked.
"Your crew are on deck 3."
She didn't hesitate, passing by all the added museum-like displays in the CIC to get to the elevator, Garrus on her heels.
"How is your head?" he asked, concerned she would fall unconscious the moment she joined their company.
"I don't know," she breathed, her eyes glancing to him with excitement but also the same fear. "I really hope this doesn't hurt."
"I'll be ready, just in case it does."
Shepard looked about to thank him, but the elevator doors opened first and her attention was stolen away.
All of them were standing right there, waiting, smiling. Liara, Joker, and EDI were at the front, with Tali and Wrex just behind. Kaidan and Vega were also there, just hanging back since they had already seen her previously. Before anything could be said, Liara launched herself at Shepard with an elated "oh!", throwing her arms around her. Garrus watched Shepard closely for signs of a headache, but she just smiled and laughed and returned embraces as Joker and EDI came forward next, everyone making remarks of amazement and delight.
"You're almost as hard to kill as a krogan," Wrex grunted as he gave her a slap on the back that nearly knocked her over.
"Actually, she's successfully been taken out twice," Joker pointed out.
"I guess I'm just easy to revive?" Shepard said with a smirk.
"And that's just as important," Tali said emphatically.
"Although probably not as fun," Shepard snickered.
"Maybe you should just try to almost die next time so you can compare," Joker suggested facetiously.
"Or, we can just decide she's immortal," Garrus offered with a shrug.
"Considering my estimated lifespan, it's not outside the realm of possibility," EDI pointed out.
"What is your estimated lifespan?" Joker asked curiously.
"My calculations fluctuate, but it averages somewhere around thirty thousand years," she answered casually.
"I can tell you that me consuming large amounts of booze tonight is not outside the realm of possibility," Wrex said, getting to the matter at hand.
"There's booze?" Kaidan asked.
"Of course there is," Vega grinned.
"I suppose that's what makes it a party," Shepard said, smirking and shrugging.
As a group, they all moved together into the mess hall. Most of this area was clear anyway, but a few informational displays had been carefully moved into the med bay and some smaller armchairs from the lounge brought in to make things even more accommodating. Garrus was thrilled Shepard was holding up well so far, but as she took a seat at the head of the table, it happened, and she felt it happen. Her cheerfulness faded, replaced by a zombie-like stare. She felt like she was in a fish bowl, somehow disconnected from everything around her. She missed the next interaction directed at her entirely.
"...I'm sorry, what?" she asked flatly, turning to Tali.
"I said I wish I could take you back to Rannoch," she repeated, sensing something was off.
"I checked in on it now and then while I observed. It's really thriving," Shepard said, but lacked any enthusiasm. "I'd like to visit sometime."
"Does your head hurt?" Garrus asked the Commander again, taking up position just behind her seat.
"No." She wasn't cringing, but she frowned at the confusion and concern on the faces around her, becoming even more self-conscious. "I'm sorry, I'm not... myself."
"We know, Shepard," Liara said gently, settling into the seat next to her. "It's okay." Garrus had already informed each of them of Shepard's limited emotional capacity. No one was surprised, but it was still understandably off-putting to witness firsthand.
"Would you like a drink, Commander?" Joker asked, extending a full glass towards her.
"Yes, I would." She had no idea if it would help and knew it may even make things worse, but she didn't care. She took a big swig as Wrex took the opportunity to brag.
"My old pile of rubble ain't doing so bad itself," he boasted, taking a large glass for himself.
"My planet doesn't have thresher maws," Tali taunted, and as they got more drunk, their back and forth playful taunting continued. Neither was truly trying to win the other over (as they knew that was an endless battle) but couldn't help themselves regardless.
It wasn't difficult for them to settle into comfortable chatter and banter. Vega went into more about his N-Training while Joker and EDI told some of their travel stories. Kaidan shared some Spectre adventures, and Liara divulged some of her juiciest Shadow Broker secrets. Shepard began to smile now and then, but always flinched after. For the most part, she let the others do the talking, despite getting more and more drunk.
"I'm guessing if you had anything helpful for Hackett or Councilor Lyric concerning the anti-syns, you'd be sending it their way?" Garrus asked Liara discreetly after Wrex had begun talking about reproductive care and regulations on Tuchanka.
"Yes," she confirmed, "but it's a lot more complicated than it sounds... which really just concerns me further, considering the anti-syns have been able to meddle as much as they have. On the surface they are just noisy radicals, but they've gotten into some very high-profile stuff. I'm eager to find out how deep the nest goes."
"I'm eager to exterminate it entirely," he grumbled.
Later on, EDI stepped close to Garrus and spoke to him without getting Shepard's attention.
"Admiral Hackett is asking for you in the comm room."
"Me?" he asked, blinking.
"Yes, just you. He says he has more details for you and the Normandy is a convenient secure channel," she explained.
"Oh... okay," he said with a nod. He squeezed Shepard's shoulder and knelt down close. "I'll be right back," he told her quietly. Shepard couldn't seem to get her eyes all the way open as she looked at him, but she didn't know if she was tired or drunk and relaxed. She just nodded and Garrus gave EDI and Liara a pointed look, counting on them to let him know if Shepard became uncomfortable.
He made his way to deck 2 and into the comm room, where Hackett flickered on the vidscreen. For a moment it brought Garrus back to just after the Cynosure, when the crew had stayed there for hours as they tried to connect to the Citadel. His mandibles fluttered and he dismissed the thought.
"I see you found a secure line," he said, greeting the Admiral with a nod.
"Yes. How is she?" Hackett asked, and for a moment Garrus was surprised that he didn't get straight to business. The Admiral's expression held as much sincere care as Garrus had ever seen in it.
"It changes by the moment," he grumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. "One second she's taking down enemies in a battle simulator, the next she's nearly unconscious... And even when she's okay physically, it's like she's still struggling. Most of the time, she's confident in her new alter-ego, but if you can imagine a Commander Shepard without her confidence... that's who she is now."
"It's good that she can take this time to regroup," Hackett said, though didn't sound or look particularly optimistic. Then again, he never did. Garrus sighed and nodded.
"The energy signature... you have concerns about it being gone?" Garrus prompted.
"Yes. It continued to read as Shepard's DNA within the O.L.F. database. Her DNA is also there with you now, but they aren't one and the same... the energy here didn't dissipate until days after she returned," he explained.
"So we don't know why her DNA was in two different places and is now, potentially, missing?" he deduced.
"Exactly. I sent our data to David and Nasa, now that they can focus on other priorities. David thinks it may be similar to a Prothean beacon... like a download of some information that we weren't able to access, but someone else was able to move or shut down," he explained.
"Are we sure someone else has it? It didn't just... fade away?" he asked, his mandibles twitching.
"Unfortunately it looks like hijacking is what happened," Hackett grumbled, crossing his arms. "What we could see was only part of it, like the difference between a VI display and the actual terminal. We couldn't decode it to get to the terminal before it was just... gone. We're scrubbing our team, but so far haven't found any evidence of a mole. I'm just being extra careful."
"It has to be the anti-syns. We've been underestimating them technologically," he pointed out.
"I hate to agree about that mistake, but you're right," the Admiral grunted.
"I'm guessing you've tried using the DNA scanners to find the energy again?" Garrus asked.
"Yes. Nothing shows up anywhere on the Citadel. We've done a few scans in surrounding space, and even combed the Keeper's lairs further, but so far we've got nothing."
"Is there some way David could locate it?" he suggested. "I don't know how, but he was able to pick Shepard out of the data hive she was in. If we could get him plugged into anything that would detect any kind of anomaly, he may be able to isolate the signal off of something other than her DNA like the scanner did."
"Hmm... I'm not sure how we could create a scanner for something we can't truly identify, but I'll propose it to the team," he said, stroking his beard thoughtfully. "I've heard talk we can make DNA out of code, and code out of DNA these days... maybe instead of looking for Shepard's DNA, we should be looking for her code."
"It's worth looking in to," Garrus agreed with a nod. After a pause, he asked, "Has there been unusual activity with the anti-syns?"
"Hyatt and his close associates haven't been seen much since you got back to the Citadel," Hackett told him. "Hyatt has a large estate and they're staying there. They don't come out often and we don't know what they're doing."
"But they aren't suspicious enough for us to barge in and find out," Garrus sighed, and Hackett nodded. "Well... maybe have David or whatever scanner you can get up aimed there, first."
"That I can do. For now, I'll let you get back to Shepard. I didn't want to make her feel obligated to do something about this situation, so you can share with her as you see appropriate. And I know where to find you with updates," the Admiral said, giving him a pointed look.
"Of course. I look forward to them. I can always come back here, too, for the comm room," he pointed out.
"I'll have EDI coordinate it if necessary," Hackett nodded. The two respectfully bid each other farewell and Garrus made his way back to deck 3. As soon as the elevator doors opened he heard laughter from several of the crew, and quickly picked out Shepard's among them. Her laugh was always unique; strong but quiet, like a deep chortle. His mandibles spread in an ecstatic grin as he realized he hadn't heard her laugh like that since returning. Her eyes found him as soon as he stepped into view, bright with amusement. Her laugh cut off with a breath but she kept her smile as the others also quieted down.
"Sounds like I missed something good," he commented.
"You did, but I'll tell you later," Shepard told him. She pushed herself up from the table, taking a little extra care as her balance faltered. "I want to see what they've done with the rest of the Normandy. I hope you all don't mind if I step away for a while."
They all shrugged and looked a little bewildered.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's still your ship, so you can come and go as you please," Joker pointed out, and the others seemed to feel the same way. "You should definitely check out your medals in the hangar bay."
"Well, okay then," she said, and stepped over to Garrus, linking her arm through his. "Will you give me a tour of my ship and show me my medals?"
"Of course," he purred, dismissing them from the group with a nod. They stepped into the elevator and Garrus chose to take them down first. When the doors closed, Shepard's breathing deepened and she rested more of her weight against him, turning her forehead to his shoulder.
"I know you're going to ask how I'm feeling," she grumbled, wincing. "If I stuff down how I'm feeling, it's easier... it doesn't hurt so bad. It's... really hard to not let myself enjoy this." Her happiness began to sink and she felt Garrus's head on top of hers.
"You're strong, Shepard," he purred. "Would you like to go home after this?"
"Not right after, but I am getting tired fast," she replied.
The elevator doors opened into the hangar bay and Shepard turned her head, then stood up straight as her eyes widened. They stepped forward together at first, but then she let her arm drop as she scanned the room. Her head was spinning as she carefully walked through. Her face, the face with blonde hair pulled back that was less familiar to her now, flickered in several short vids among the displays. Not only did she see herself, but images of her greatest moments. Among them were her induction into the Spectres, a picture of a rachni queen signifying her choice on Noveria, Sovereign perched on the Citadel spire, historical reports of her death when the Normandy was destroyed, some of the earliest rumors of her return, opinion pieces on her association with Cerberus, her clash against the Collectors on Horizon, the Alpha Relay incident, curing the genophage and other highlights of the war, comments about London's Crux, the Cynosure, and excerpts from the memorial. The picture of Garrus, surrounded by people but standing alone as he gazed at the giant banner of her face, was displayed there. Lastly, she came upon her pistol, Anderson's hat, and the piece of her armor, accompanied by a video of Garrus. She pressed the button that turned on the audio.
"...first time she used it. I wondered... if she used the pistol as something to look forward to. Obviously everyone was looking forward to the end of the war, but what it would take to make it happen was... less than encouraging. The opportunity to use the pistol gave her something simple to anticipate, and something to focus on outside of the devastation. I never asked her about that, so I can't confirm those suspicions, but... that's what I would've done if I thought I wasn't making it out alive. Maybe she knew better than anyone what was coming for her."
The thick emotion in Garrus's voice brought her heart into her throat. She swallowed it down and bit her lip, struggling to even begin to know how to process everything, or if she even could without losing consciousness.
"It's a lot to take in," she mumbled as Garrus approached. She gestured to the image of him at the memorial. "I remember watching that event, watching you, as best I could. I felt you aching for Shepard, and I wished you were aching for me."
"Neither of us had much understanding then," he murmured.
"That's true... yet I remember being there and watching and feeling that, more than I remember being there, or there," she told him, then gesturing to the displays of the Alpha Relay incident and Horizon. "I know they happened, but I don't remember how it felt."
"Because feeling hurts?" he asked gently.
"...I guess so." She looked at the Galactic Unit Citation and Cynosure Banner and gently touched the transparent case they were in. "I don't know if I'll ever get to take these with me, but I'm glad they're here."
"We can share mine in the meantime," Garrus offered with a smile.
"You don't even display yours," she teased accusingly.
"Er, well..." he cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. "I can start."
"Neither of us are really strong interior decorators, are we?" she teased further.
"You did just fine with your cabin," he pointed out. "Do you want to go there now?"
She nodded, and after a few more lingering glances, they made their way to the elevator. She didn't say it, but she knew most of what she longed to remember had more to do with her cabin than all these grand achievements. It would be wonderful to feel invincible again, but what she really wanted was to know what life was like in those quiet, private moments. What did she do when no one was looking? What did she do with Garrus when no one was looking? Despite how comfortable she felt with him, and her surety that she loved him, her insecurity about herself continued to get in the way of exploring those parts of who she was. She wrapped her arms around herself in the elevator, not able to meet his gaze.
The doors swung open and she led the way forward, stepping into what used to be her personal quarters. It still had all the model figures and the same furniture, but it definitely didn't look lived in anymore. Her eyes were drawn to a spot on the corner of the desk, and suddenly she knew what it was missing.
"I kept a tissue box here, and an air plant," she muttered. Her eyes moved further down the desk. "I had a paper notepad and a few pens. And--" She stopped, catching sight of a bowl carved out of quartz that she'd used for various things, but was now empty. She skipped to the other side of the terminal. "I laid my headphones here, next to the pictures of Ashley and Mordin." She paused, then turned into the bathroom.
"I watched you packing up my stuff. It seems silly, but I remember everything that used to be in here... my favorite toothpaste, and where I used to store it. I haven't been using the shampoo or other things I used to."
"I noticed," Garrus mumbled, wringing his hands. "I didn't want to bring it up, and you still smell like you, but... the extra scents on you haven't been the same."
"They will be now," she said, her expression one of resolution as she stepped past him and then down into the lounge area. Garrus was almost taken aback by the seriousness of it.
"I remember the books I had... the music I listened to," she mumbled, almost in a trance. Then her eyes fell to the bed. "These pillows are different." Garrus chuckled and then cleared his throat.
"I, er, may have removed some of the extra ones and taken your softest one home," he admitted.
"Where is it now?" she asked, amusement clear on her face as she looked at him.
"I sent it to the storage unit Liara kept of your things just before I went to Palaven," he said, his smile fading. "She has some of your clothes there, too."
"I can't use those yet, but we should have her send the pillow back," Shepard told him.
"We can ask tonight," he offered.
Shepard nodded and looked back at the bed. All of these returning pieces of memory were only about her. She felt more whole, but still not as connected to her crew, or even Garrus, as she wanted to be. Normally, if anyone came up here on tour, there would be guards ensuring nothing was touched, but now there were no barriers. She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at it, trying to picture herself and Garrus there, the pillows strewn about, blankets tangled... but only these assumptions and a sharp headache came. Then, something different: Garrus sprawled across it, crooked, alone, dreaming of her. But she knew he wasn't just dreaming. She'd found him that way and asked him to show her his memories...
"I don't remember being here with you before the end of the war. I remember your first dream about me," she told him.
"It may not come all at once, but we have confirmed that some can come back," he assured her. She knew he was mostly optimistic, but picked up on an undertone of disappointment. She grimaced and mentally beat against the pain, willing her mind to find what she was looking for. Eventually she got dizzy and must have started to sway, because she felt Garrus's hand land on her shoulder firmly.
"You've had a taxing day, Shepard," he reminded her, his voice low.
"...you're right," she conceded. "Let's go back down to the crew for a little longer. I think I've gotten all I can out of this place for now."
They returned to deck 3 arm in arm, Shepard getting more and more tired with every step. Some of the crew had started up a card game while others were still cheerfully conversing. Garrus and Shepard settled into one of the larger chairs, Shepard resting her head on his shoulder. Not much time had passed before she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and began lightly snoring.
"Want to join us for a game while Shepard rests, Garrus?" Liara asked. Garrus considered it; he really did want to, and Shepard seemed to be sleeping deeper than normal. Carefully, he adjusted her weight and slipped out from under her, leaving her contentedly resting on the arm of the chair. He settled into a seat at the table next to Liara with a heavy sigh, realizing how much good it would do him to distract himself with a card game for a short time.
"She seems fairly comfortable," Tali commented as Kaidan dealt hands.
"This may be the best rest she's gotten in a while. Both of us have had trouble really relaxing," he replied.
"Does she have nightmares?" Liara asked.
"Mm, not like she used to," he said, picking up the cards in front of him and looking them over. "At least none that she's told me about."
"Kaidan and Vega told us about how well she can act like Roxanne," Joker said. "We should've sent her on more undercover missions."
"I'm sure her disguise is only so effective because no one expects to see her alive again," EDI pointed out.
"She's not as fun as she used to be," Wrex grunted. Garrus laid his cards flat on the table and a growl left him before he could even think about it, his eyes narrow and mandibles twitching. Wrex just shrugged, unbothered in any way by the display.
"We know now's not the time for any expectations to be placed on her," Liara said, placing a hand on Garrus's arm to calm him. "It's been quite a journey for her already, to just get here."
"Has she remembered anything more?" Joker asked. Garrus slowly calmed his threatening posture, taking the time to look over his cards and take his turn before answering.
"She felt good on the simulated battlefield at Spectre Status. You could tell she was naturally in her element. Although, it took her a long time to finally be able to beat me in sparring the other day. In her cabin just now she recalled details about the personal items she kept there. Nothing else," he said quietly.
"It's still early. Human's brains are more susceptible to this type of problem," Liara said gently.
"You calling us stupid?" Vega slurred as he feigned offense, then burped.
"No, just susceptible to it," Tali taunted.
To Garrus's relief, the subject moved away from Shepard and playful banter started up once again. After two lengthy rounds of the game, it was rather late and everybody began to head out. They considered waking Shepard to say goodbye, but collectively decided against it, with Garrus assuring them he would pass on their well wishes and that they could get together again soon, perhaps at an official venue sometime.
Once everyone was gone, Garrus spent several minutes just sitting in the quiet, listening to Shepard sleep, and letting his mind rest in the confidence that she was content. He knew, however, that if he sat still too long, he might begin to doze as well, and that wouldn't be ideal.
Grumbling against his own fatigue, he stood up and then knelt down near the chair Shepard was asleep on. Without attempting to wake her first, he very carefully brought her into his arms. She stirred and opened her eyes, glancing up at him as she tried to orient herself. Garrus simply made a comforting purr and nothing else needed to be said. Shepard rested her head and eyes again as he carried her out of the Normandy, across the plaza in the dark of night, and all the way back to their bed.