If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the No's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie
Following the reunion on the Normandy, Garrus and Shepard had several more days of uneventful domesticity. They sparred and danced regularly, with Shepard improving at both. Beating Garrus wasn't ever easy, but she managed to do it almost as often as she used to now. They'd both attempted cooking more than once, but neither were very good at it, and they ended up eating out or ordering food delivery a large majority of the time.
They were on such an outing for dinner, tucked in the corner booth with Vrilakir in the next one over, when Shepard's demeanor betrayed her. She was slouched in her seat, showing little interest in her food, and her brow furrowed when Garrus finally questioned her.
"What's on your mind, Roxanne?" he asked casually, but his eyes drilled into her the way they always seemed to when he was reading her. She shrugged, but straightened in her seat as she answered.
"I just... I think I'm lacking an objective or something. I feel restless, without purpose... What are we doing every day? Where are we even going?" she gushed with a heavy exhale.
"Uh oh. Are you breaking up with me?" Garrus joked, tilting his head.
"You know what I mean," Shepard replied with a smirk.
"...Yes. I do," Garrus eventually murmured, looking down at his plate. "I feel it, too. The Citadel is not very... adventurous."
"So... what do we do?" she asked, frowning.
"Well... the main reasons we're still here are due to concerns about... unfinished business, mainly Hyatt," he said, lowering his voice. "And your own state."
"Right. Do you think that's even a concern anymore? Like... maybe that whole anti-syn movement just fizzled out?" she asked.
"Something tells me it hasn't," he grumbled, but didn't go into further details. He took a bite of his food and his mandibles twitched as he watched Shepard stare at hers. "We could always let that be someone else's problem," he pointed out. "There's not really anything that would stop us from setting out and finding adventure elsewhere. Maybe something to shoot at, even."
"No, I get it," she sighed. "Some of this is still my mess to clean up, even if no one else knows that, not even me sometimes... I just wish there was something I could do about it right now."
"I hear you," he agreed with a nod.
They took their time finishing and paying for their meal, in no rush to go no where. Shepard was just about to ask Garrus what they were going to do next as they exited the building when something gave her pause.
A wave of melancholy swept over her, and then it grew deeper into hopelessness. Typically such strong emotions would cause a headache, but this time it didn't, instead allowing the ache to seep further into her core. Her expression must have looked like she was about to cry, because Garrus suddenly looked alarmed and concerned.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I don't know, I just suddenly feel... really sad," she mumbled, wrapping her arms around herself.
"It's not you," Vrilakir said suddenly, stepping over to them. "Look."
A chill went down Shepard's spine as she turned and observed the faces of those around her. Here and there, others were also beginning to frown and look around in confusion. A few wiped at their eyes. Then her heart was suddenly pounding in her chest as a familiar droning became louder than it should have been. Garrus was looking up and about to say something, but Shepard darted away from his side. There was a park nearby, and she had a headstart against the skycar that was smoking and flying too low. Somehow, she instinctively knew it's trajectory without even looking. Panic began to rise up within the crowd as others looked upward, but Shepard just grabbed the arm of a nearby asari walking with two others.
"Biotics!" she shouted, and threw her arm behind her as the skycar barreled towards them.
They acted, but not as fast as Shepard would've hoped, not having years of combat experience to shave off the shock and reaction times from their system like Shepard would've expected of her crew. The vehicle groaned as it hit the resistance of the biotics fields, but only slowed and did not stop. Other observers must have stepped in to help the unprepared asari, and Shepard watched the vehicle jerk twice more as it neared. Finally, as it was only feet away, a stronger blast knocked it sideways and diverted it's momentum away from Shepard and the crowd around her. The skycar pitched, it's roof colliding with the thick base of a tree before it fell flat again and hissed, dark smoke rising from somewhere within.
"Get it open!" Shepard shouted, rushing to the nearest door and giving it a forceful pull. It was locked and didn't budge. Though it was stationary and clearly malfunctioning, it hadn't turned off, and the sounds coming from it were not encouraging. She turned to look at the people around her, once again delayed in their reaction times. "Get it open!" she repeated, stepping back and gesturing at the door.
It groaned again as the nearby biotics users worked together to rip open the door. The first thing Shepard saw was the wide green eyes of a young human boy, a small trickle of blood trailing down the side of his face, but otherwise appearing unharmed.
"I told him to get out," he said, his voice quiet but urgent as Shepard reached in to unstrap his harness. "He won't get out."
Shepard lifted the boy out of the hissing car and passed him off to a civilian standing behind her. Finally, she locked eyes with the driver, a male turian, older than Garrus, and also a little banged up.
"Leave," he growled under his breath.
That was when she saw it; an omnitool on his right arm was primed for a tech sabotaging function, similar to the kind Garrus used. Without any further thought, Shepard lunged across the seat at the turian, and began wrestling his other hand away from his omnitool. He fought back, trying to detonate it, and Shepard even got her legs involved as she kept his arms apart from each other.
But the skycar was already smoking more furiously, and Shepard heard something spark. Risking diverting her strength, she let go of his arm with one hand and instead ripped the omnitool off of him and tossed it out of the skycar behind her. With her fist she punched the turian in the side of the head as hard as she could, and he stopped battling her. She crawled backwards out of the vehicle and then heaved the turian out, who simply covered his face and went limp.
Shepard got him out with a tug that brought her to the ground as well just as the skycar burst into flames. She quickly sat up, her chest heaving, but saw C-Sec personnel already on the scene and on their way with fire extinguishers. She allowed her adrenaline to subside slightly, feeling her heart pounding in her head. She heard a sob break out from the turian at her side and turned on him, getting to her knees.
"What did you do?! Who is the boy?" she demanded.
"He's my dad," the boy said, darting over and kneeling next to the turian. Shepard's brow furrowed at them both, the turian still unresponsive to his surroundings.
"How? Where's your mom?" she asked, taking the edge off her tone.
"He adopted me after the war. Mom's in the hospital. He said she'll get to play with me again soon," the child responded, and the turian let out a sorrowful groan that Shepard felt within her just as strongly as she had outside of the restaurant, causing her heart to break.
A C-Sec officer approached and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, trying to determine what the situation was. He looked at Shepard quizzically, but she didn't have it in her to deliver a full sitrep.
"He needs a psych eval," she grumbled, gesturing to the turian as she slowly got to her feet. "And constant surveillance while you're holding him. Look for another guardian for the boy."
Garrus, who had not initially seen what direction she'd taken off in, finally made his way through the crowd and towards her side. She froze in her movements of dusting herself off and slowly turned to look at him, her expression neutral.
"Are you okay?" he asked, looking over her and the skycar.
He hadn't even realized his mistake, but others had. The C-Sec officer, other bystanders, and even the turian still lying on the ground were looking at both of them with furrowed brows and uncomfortable murmurs. Garrus's mandibles flared as it hit him, but the pause was already drawing out too long. Shepard gave a heavy sigh and let the tension leave her shoulders.
"I'll tell you when you can keep your girlfriend's names straight," she said, loud enough for those closest to them to overhear. She turned and gave him a dismissive shove as she walked past him and towards the crowd.
"Er, Roxanne--" he began, but she waved her hand without looking at him.
"Not now, Garrus."
She didn't look back, knowing that Garrus would understand. She scanned the crowd and spotted Vrilakir, and made her way towards her with relief.
"Will you come with me back to the apartment?" she asked.
"What about Garrus?" Vrilakir asked, looking unsure about what had just happened.
"He'll catch up later," she grumbled with a shrug, beginning to lead the way back home as Vrilakir fell into step behind her. "Also... I need to talk to Councilor Lyric."
Shepard had been home for about an hour before Garrus walked in the door. She turned in her spot on the couch, omnitool in hand, and watched him shut the door behind him. He was holding a vase of vibrant purple and yellow flowers that resembled lilies. She gave a curious smile.
"I wanted to make sure I looked properly remorseful in case our 'relationship drama' made the news," he explained, rubbing the back of his neck and shrugging.
"Have you... ever gotten me flowers before?" Shepard asked, frowning slightly as she realized she didn't know.
"Only twice," he admitted, placing the vase on the coffee table before taking a seat next to her on the couch. "The first time--"
"Don't tell me," Shepard interrupted, her voice low. "I want to know when I remember."
"...okay," he replied, his mandibles twitching as he paused. "So... what happened out there? Other than me being an idiot and you brilliantly saving the day, as usual?"
"Actually, you can thank Vega for the idea to play it off like you just called me the wrong name," she said with a chuckle, resting her head back on the couch cushion. "On the Normandy he told a story about when he called a girl his ex-girlfriend's name, and said I should use that if you ever forgot my cover and others were paying attention. He suggested I slap you, but I thought the shove was enough. I didn't think I'd have to use that so soon, though, so you better not do it again."
"Well you better not run off without me again," Garrus retorted, sounding serious despite having laughed at her explanation. Shepard lowered her eyes, looking at her hands in her lap.
"The driver caused the crash himself. I think he was hoping it would kill him," she murmured solemnly.
"How do you know?" he asked, frowning deeply.
"I think because of the synthesis. The boy said that turian adopted him, and his mom was in the hospital. But when he said that, the turian made a sound so sad... and I knew she wasn't there anymore," she explained.
"Mmm... I think I know what sound you're talking about. Turians know very well how to honor their dead, but... many of us seem to not know how to grieve," Garrus grumbled.
"But to attempt suicide? With a child with you?" Shepard asked incredulously. She knew Garrus didn't have an answer and so she went on. "I've been thinking about this since before I came back, after I watched Xanossi... Mental health isn't a new struggle for any part of the universe, but the synthesis may have exaggerated it."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, in Xanossi's case, she mistook her own insecurity and anxiety as feelings of judgment from her friends, and it only isolated her further and made her vulnerable to manipulation. She was in a downward spiral." Shepard stood and began pacing around the living room as she continued. "The synthesis essentially made our brains, our thoughts, stronger, right? We're smarter, faster, more intuitive, more sensitive to emotions, and all of these things makes us more powerful. But what if our faster, stronger thoughts are ones of loneliness, hopelessness, or heartbreak?"
"Our downward spiral is faster and stronger," Garrus answered, beginning to see what she was getting at. "But like you said, mental health isn't new. There are already lots of resources out there."
"But most are focused on catching things after someone is already headed for rock bottom," Shepard pointed out. "If the synthesis has aggravated things like this, there will need to be more resources that are about healthy coping or cultivating happiness, preventative."
"So... are you saying you've found your new calling as a motivational speaker?" Garrus asked, trying to be serious but also seeming slightly amused.
"I know I sound like a cheesy PSA right now," she admitted, allowing a light-hearted scoff. "I just... feel responsible. I don't remember exactly how or why I chose synthesis, but the assumption from everyone, even myself, is that I did. Maybe I didn't even know exactly what it meant." With a heavy sigh she fell back onto her spot on the couch. "I'm also worried about other bystanders. I felt that turian's hopelessness so strongly. I know what it was, now, but if others didn't figure it out, did they go home depressed? What kinds of things are they thinking as they lie in bed tonight? They'll find a thought to attach to the feeling and adopt it." She brought one hand up and began to rub at her temples.
"So what are you going to do?" Garrus eventually asked. He didn't say it, but they both knew he expected Shepard to have a plan.
"I've already told Councilor Lyric to put some extra awareness on this," she admitted, letting her hand drop back down to her lap. "There's been a lot of transition since the war; I'm not sure how soon we could get reliable data on whether mental health is a bigger issue than it was before or not. Maybe the anti-syns are right about some things."
"I wouldn't be listening to them," Garrus growled.
"But they are concerned we weren't ready, right? And maybe we weren't," she pointed out. Garrus kept his eyes narrowed but didn't dispute further as she added, "If it turns out this is a problem, then it would be a good idea to have even more resources to make us ready, since... the synthesis already happened, thanks to me."
"Thanks to you indeed," he insisted. "Even though we don't know exactly what went down, most people are glad you were the one working with the Crucible."
"I... don't know what to say to that. I can't imagine being trusted by so many," she admitted, then looked down at her lap again. "Right now I'd be happy if I knew how to trust myself."
"I know," Garrus sighed.
"That must be what is most different about me now, isn't it?" she asked carefully.
"Yes," he replied, just as careful.
"You've been my confidence lately," she realized, a soft smile appearing on her face. She maneuvered forward to lean on his chest, wrapping her arms around him and feeling him purr as he returned the embrace. "Thank you."
"I admit it's not a way I ever expected you would need me to support you... but I imagine it's normal for long-lasting relationships to go through various different phases such as this," he replied.
"...we haven't been together very long, have we?" Shepard asked thoughtfully, scrunching her nose.
"Er, no..." he answered, fidgeting a bit. "Not yet, anyway."
"I admittedly don't remember a lot about my parents right now, but I don't think there was much to remember... they were both very independent and focused on the Alliance. I think they only had me because they wanted to try something new and different," Shepard mused. "Your parents had a strong relationship though, didn't they?"
"Well, I would say so," Garrus said, not entirely prepared for this line of questioning. "They were definitely devoted to each other. My father is fairly stoic, but to my knowledge my mother never felt underappreciated by him, and she was always a great support to him."
"It just occurred to me that I could maybe actually meet him," Shepard said with wide eyes as she straightened up, no longer leaning against him. Garrus kept one arm around her as he considered this.
"That's true... however, I think we ought to wait until I can tell him who you actually are. He's probably a bit confused about my new relationship, to be honest," he said, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Has he asked?" she questioned.
"No. During my last visit I may have said some things that led him to decide that my love life is none of his business," he admitted, clearing his throat.
"Fair enough," she chuckled. After a pause, she asked, "If we decided to announce that I'm still around... how should I do it?"
"If it were up to me?" he asked, and she nodded. "You record some kind of press release with Councilor Lyric. Maybe even get David and Nasa involved to explain some things, like a documentary... but then not release it until both you and I were off the Citadel, somewhere tropical and remote."
"Would people believe it then? I mean, someone could fake a press release like that," Shepard pointed out.
"Mm, don't give anyone ideas," he grumbled. "I suppose if we wanted to be as dramatic as possible, you could reveal yourself at Spectre Status after removing your gear or something."
"We'd need a shuttle evac," Shepard laughed.
"Speaking of going places..." Garrus began. "How long does it take Roxanne to forgive me? There's live music down in the plaza tonight, and I thought it'd be nice to spend some time enjoying it outside."
"Hmm..." Shepard let the moment draw out longer with a smirk as she considered the proposition. "How about we listen from the roof instead?"
Before their evening outside, they checked the usual gossip sites to see if there were reports of Garrus calling her Shepard. There was only one, but it was there, and even included an updated report about his flower purchase.
"I knew that was a smart idea," he boasted, seeming almost excited by the idea of leading the gossip columns on.
Later as they listened to the live music from their private perch, they tried to keep it casual. While they weren't necessarily "in public", it wouldn't be impossible for some very determined (or lucky) soul to catch sight of them and spread the word. However, Garrus truly couldn't help himself; he was lively and flirtatious and Shepard found him hard to resist. He even got her to dance to the upbeat melodies and then promptly made fun of her for it, once again confirming for them both that some things never changed.
Eventually they were dancing slowly together, and then it was Shepard who couldn't help herself. With one hand on the back of his head, she pulled him into a passionate kiss. His embrace deepened and she curved against him, but just as she thought to take it one tiny step further, a jolt of pain in her head caused the rest of her body to tense. Garrus cut off his purr by clearing his throat as their mouths separated, forcing himself to slowly relax his hold on her.
"I want you," she breathed sadly as their foreheads rested together.
"I know," he whispered.
"So badly it hurts and... I feel dizzy," she murmured.
"I'm flattered," he said with a small smirk.
"I wish I was saying it to be flattering," she replied with a terse laugh.
"I know. Why don't we sit?" he offered. They walked hand in hand over to a large outdoor lounge chair that belonged to the building's owner. Garrus sat himself in it and Shepard curled up on his lap, trying not to feel frustrated with herself as his comforting purrs vibrated through her own chest.