Lantar Sidonis was dead. And he had killed him.
Garrus sat in the main battery, back to the wall, cleaning the sniper rifle with care as he ran over the memory again. Emotions were rolling around in his head and chest like a storm, mixed and confusing. Satisfaction. Regret. Sadness. Anger. No, none of them really fit at all, though they fit into it. Why was he still angry? And at who? Sidonis, naturally, but it was pointless to be angry at a dead man. He had been angry at Shepard for interfering at first but then she had stepped aside, as asked. Who, then?
The metal creaked under his tightening grip. Sidonis had paid for his crime with his life. Justice had been served. It was supposed to end there. He sighed and placed the rifle against the corner before standing. There was, of course, the other person involved in this... And he didn't know her thoughts on it. For the whole thing, she had been near silent except when needed, allowing him to rant and fume over Harkin and Sidonis almost without comment until at the last moment. He had been surprised at her questions, whether or not he really wanted this, did he really think it was going to end there? She had been there to see the results of Sidonis' betrayal, hadn't she? How could she not understand? But she had stepped aside. And she hadn't said a word to him since leaving the port, or even since getting back onto the Normandy. Something was in the air, reeking of unspoken things and disguised feelings.
His head was beginning to hurt. Growling slightly, he rubbed at his forehead and stepped outside the door. Perhaps speaking with her would help clarify things. Yeah. He owed her that much, after all she had done for him... Approaching the mess sergeant, he asked the elder human, "You seen the commander?"
Gardner nodded his head towards other side of the ship. "Check the lounge; last I saw, she was in there."
"Ah." Damn. Which probably meant Kasumi was in there, too... But, then, maybe she wasn't. He'd take his chances. "Thanks," he said to Gardner and walked down the hall to the door. He pressed a finger to the bell, calling, "Hey, Kasumi, do you have company?" No response. "Kasumi?" Still none... Eying the door suspiciously, he keyed it open and stepped inside. It seemed empty at first until he noticed someone sitting on a stool at the little bar. Shepard, alone, no master thief in sight.
She was stooped over a glass and a datapad. When he carefully tapped her on the shoulder, she jumped and turned to face him with a raised fist. It was a solid few seconds before she sighed and relaxed, lowering her clenched hand. Garrus was almost amused at himself; he was still in full armor, and a blow from her bare hand wouldn't have hurt him as much as it would've hurt her, and he'd still been the one to back away. But his amusement faded when he saw the look on her face. She wasn't the easiest person to read, even for humans, a race who's expressions often seemed to be so wildly beyond their own control. But he had known her longer than three-fourths of the crew on board. He'd seen her rage, despair, joy, all of it.
So it was worrisome when the only word he could put to her face now was disappointment.
"Oh. Hey, Garrus." She waved a hand to the seat beside her. "Sorry, didn't mean to spook you."
"Funny, I feel like I should be saying that to you."
A bit of a smirk curled her lips but faded again as she looked back to her pad. "What's up."
"Not much... wondering why you're in here, though. Since when did you become a lush?"
"Since you started popping up behind me like a giant metal ninja," she shot back without pause, an amused snort at the end of her words. "Come on. Sit down."
He did so, sitting sideways so he leaned against the counter to better observe her. The dull light of the bar illuminated her face and front, and brought out the blue in her eyes. He always noticed their color, for some reason. She still had that odd look on her face, her eyes darting over his own face; it looked to him like she was looking for something. But he could also be completely misreading her, maybe. What was she thinking? He wanted to ask, but...
Mandibles wavering, he coughed and glanced away. "Just- sorry."
The human chuckled and gave him a pat on the shoulder. "It's no problem. It's... been a day."
"Yes, it has..." He paused in his words, a hush falling between them again, until he asked quietly, "Shepard, do you mind if I ask you something?"
"You can always ask me something, Garrus," she replied, though he saw the barest of tension set in her shoulders. She was readying herself.
"Back there, you asked me a lot of questions. Whether or not I really wanted to kill Sidonis, if I'd be satisfied." He shifted in his seat uncomfortably as she put down the pad, clearly giving him her full attention. Damn, the woman could stare you down like a krogan battlemaster and that was even outside of a fight. It always gave him mixed sensations; the need to make sure he didn't screw it up because she would sure as hell notice, the desire to impress while she still had his eye on him... and only him. "You asked a lot of questions, but now you don't say anything."
"Hm." Her eyes moved away then, glancing back to the drink in a moment of thought. "Yeah. I just... wanted some time to think myself. I was prying too much."
Garrus shook his head in disagreement, replying, "No. I don't mind."
Solona looked back up to him and straightened her posture. "Garrus. Do you mind if I'm frank."
He couldn't help but chuckle. "You're actually asking permission?"
The human rolled her eyes with a sigh, shaking her head. Oh, she was serious... "Garrus... I didn't want you to do it."
"No," she said. Her voice had fallen, not quite a whisper, but softened. Soft. Not a word he typically associated with this woman. "I didn't. I think... I thought it wasn't right."
Confusion boiled up from Garrus' gut. Who was she to say what was right in this matter? What was needed to do? Didn't she see? "You saw what he did to my team," he replied calmly, though a growl reverberated through his tone.
"I did. And I saw what he did to you. When we first met, you were so... enthusiastic. Ready to just throw yourself at it for the best result of the galaxy. And... to be honest." She smiled a little with wry amusement as she reached over to the bar, for a dark green bottle labeled in big red letters as 'DEXTRO', and poured him a glass. "I liked it."
She... liked it? The idea of that gave him pause. The two of them were soldiers, it was common for her to sit and discuss the weapons and armor of the team, what could be improved, what was working well, how the hell did Operative Lawson even get around in a battle in those heels... She had commented with envy on his sniper skills and he'd never felt much of anything outside of pride. But to hear her comment on his actual personality, not just his usefulness in a fire fight, was... different. "Really?" he asked, not sure what else to respond with.
Solona laughed, a sharp but warm sound. "Yeah, yeah. Just... You have a drive. How many people would hear that a brand new Spectre, a human at that, was going to go hunt down a rogue turian with the geth at his command and offer themselves up to help? And how many of those people would be sane, really? And now..." She met his eyes evenly, with respect, but it was hard to miss the concern. She wasn't talking to him as a commander right then. "I worry about you. This whole time, you've been hung up on Sidonis."
"He nearly got me killed! He's- he's responsible for the death, the murders, of ten people!" he shouted before he could control his voice. His fist smashed down on the counter, rattling the cups and bottles.
"He is! Not you, him! But it's not going to stop there, is it? It doesn't change what happened. Your team died. And even with him dead, you're still going to blame yourself, aren't you?" she barked back defensively.
Garrus winced. Yes. That was the name to the feeling still stuck in the pit of his gut like tar. Sidonis' death had helped, but it was still there, festering. "It was my fault."
"For what? For trusting him? For assembling a team in the first place, thinking you could do better? For wanting the bad guys get what they had coming?" Solona shook her head. "No. It wasn't your fault, Garrus, and you can argue with me until your face is purple, but it's the damn truth. The people to blame, the mercs, the hitmen, and yes Sidonis. They're all dead. What happened to you was never your fault, but you blame yourself, and I'm seeing what it's doing to you. You wonder whether or not you did any good, whether it was worth it when they just died in the end, don't you?"
When her questions were met with silence, she continued. "Garrus. It was worth it. Fighting for what's right, for the people who can't help themselves, will always be worth it regardless of the cost. You put a dent in the system for however long. And you made the lives of at least a few people better. That's worth it. What's not worth it is... carrying those sort of grudges, letting someone else's guilt become your burden. Because then you just end up like Saren; he couldn't get past his brother dying, and look where his hate took him."
"Are you comparing me to Saren?"
"No," she said sternly. She paused and, to his surprised wonder, reached for his hand. "I don't want us to be like him. To be willing to go down the wrong paths for anger and hatred, and lose ourselves along the way."
"..." He looked down to her hand in his. Human fingers confused him. So small, so many, how did they keep a grip on anything? But she was holding his tight. She had a warm touch, even through his gloves. "If you thought all this, why did you let me take the shot?" he whispered.
"... You asked me to. You trusted me, and only me, to help you. It's not something I take lightly. I may not agree with you, but you've done more than enough for me. I wanted to... repay you. Somehow." Her fingers tightened around his, just a little. "And besides... Saren didn't have anyone around. Whether or not it was what you wanted, I want to be there for you."
Garrus' head jerked back up, and her eyes were already there to meet him. That blue. He always saw that first. His hand still held hers, palm to palm. She... "Shepard, I-"
"Solona." She offered him a small smile. Something prickled underneath his skin, hot but not uncomfortable. "I have another name, you know."
He paused only a moment before he relaxed. She was offering him a way out. "Solona," he said slowly, testing out the word. It felt like her. Strong, warm, fluid. "I-"
He was interrupted again, but this time, by a little Japanese woman. Kasumi was a master of stealth, but there was nothing she could do against the hissing of the door as it opened up and she stepped inside, blinking at the two of them. "Oh. Hey Shep. Birdie." Her bright eyes darted to their held hands. "...Interrupting something?"
"You. I wanted to talk to you," said Shepard - Solona - as she hopped off her seat and handed the datapad to the thief. "What's this about a dress being sent to my quarters?"
Kasumi grinned like a pyjax who'd found the food stash. "Walk with me. I'll tell you all about it."
The commander nodded and, with a glance to Garrus, followed her out of the door, leaving him alone at the bar with his untouched drink and her words in his head.
And his hand felt empty.