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to drink from the well of your grave

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The funeral is very somber, very stoic, and very military.

Garrus had seen a hundred in his day, even before meeting Shepard; Turian military service, even without a war, held dangers, and all those in the surrounding areas were expected to come to each service if they were able. Ships held their own moment for each fallen, and then moved onto their duties. Stiff upper lip, Joker used to sneer; but it was true, after a fashion.

There was a gunnery chief Garrus once knew while he was still serving his first commission; died in an accident suddenly and without fault. His mate wasn't serving on the same ship, but they were in the same squadron, and Garrus had been in engineering with her when the news came through. His mate hadn't even blinked through that moment of silence, and then quietly, she had gone back to their interrupted repair as if they'd heard a weather bulletin instead of her whole life being torn apart.

C-Sec had been similar, in its own way, each off-duty officer expected to show to every wake for every fallen cop. Garrus hadn't minded so much, mostly, but in the back of his mind he'd suspected it was because he was slowly, surely, being inured to loss. The anger, the simmering anger that fuelled his investigations was useless at the wakes, and so he shut it all out; and without it, there was nothing. 

He had suspected he didn't mind the funerals anymore because he didn't feel them.

One of the good things, Garrus learned, about working with a Spectre was that he didn't have to go to any goddamned services unless he wanted to. Williams was xenophobic, but a good soldier; he'd gone for a few minutes, thinking to check on Shepard and those who knew Ash better, since it hadn't been an easy death, either. Instead of being a support for anyone, Garrus had ducked out almost immediately to go back to work, tinkering on autopilot while he ran through the last ten years of his life, the last fifteen years of his service, wondering where it all went wrong. The only upside, that time, had been that none of the crew blamed him, judged him, for leaving.

Shepard's first funeral was over and done so quickly that he almost hadn't got to attend, missed entirely the informal service for her friends, missed the wake. At the time it rankled, and he'd drunk himself into a stupor for four days out of spite, still half-blitzed in the back of the room as the formal suits recited the circumstances of the Normandy's destruction over Alchera. He made sure not to be visible to any of his superiors or the press, stayed pressed against the back wall, just to hear Anderson as Councillor announce Shepard missing in action after an unknown assault in the Omega Nebula, assignment classified.

The voice and noise of the press had drowned out all else for a few minutes, and when Garrus had come back into himself, he had been staring at his spurs like they held the answers to everything.

Garrus watched Hackett speak this second time, his tone gruff, military parade-rest a second skin like armor, describing Anderson's accomplishments, and remembered Wrex nodding to him down in the cargo hold when he showed up, just walking out of Ash's memorial. Wrex hadn't even pretended to show (not willing to feign concern when he had none), and the two of them had gone about their respective tasks in silence.

Up on stage, Hackett was detailing Anderson's heroic efforts in the war, his unfailing optimism, his dedication and faith. Garrus considered turning his translator implant off, and then swallowed, wondering if he even could.

The Primarch probably would have even let him off the hook for this one, even if the press loved her former crew and his face in the media was good for those back home; Victus wasn't heartless, though, and while duty and honour were all-important to Turians, by now Garrus and Victus both knew exactly how bad a Turian Garrus was. It wasn't that; no, Garrus hadn't even considered staying home, it hadn't even occurred to him, that maybe he didn't have to be here, forcing himself to focus so intently on anything but the truth so he could keep standing.

The memory of the Mako's internal shock absorbers, maintenance routines soothing even in his head, kept his mind occupied until out of nowhere, Hackett's voice broke through with, "Commander Shepard, a woman we all know, was declared missing in action after--"

and right there, missing in action, Spirits, again; Garrus's vision went hazy, he stopped breathing, and his muscles seized, his chest caved in, a hole through the centre of him as gaping as if a sniper had pierced his armor with a round from a Black Widow, right between the lungs.

-

Watching footage of himself later, drinking in the forward command post that Victus had set up to coordinate Turian activity on Earth, Garrus watched himself in that moment, and he hadn't even flinched. "Fuck," he said out loud.

"What?" It was Victus; snuck up on him like a goddamned varren, only -- okay, not at all like a varren, because varren didn't sneak, they either tore your limbs off or rolled around waiting to be fed, but only if you were Shep--

"Didn't even flinch," Garrus said. He stared at his beer; beer, because last time she'd died (last time she'd died, Spirits, what was the use--) he'd learned his lesson about the hard stuff. In public.

Victus sat across the mess table from him. Most of the rest of the mess hall denizens gave them a wide berth; two younger Quarians (habitat engineers if Garrus could follow their conversation, which he could) sat at the table next to them, but everyone else was as far away as they could get. The quarians probably didn't recognize what an august personage sat beside them; the others, all Turian, probably saw the tension in him, judged it against his stance in the Meritocracy, and decided discretion was the better part of not getting punched in the face. 

"Didn't flinch," Victus repeated at him. 

Garrus didn't reply, but his eyes flicked up to the ANN report on Shepard's service (be fair, there were hundreds of dignitaries and soldiers honoured, it wasn't just her, it was never just--). 

"Ahh," Victus said, as if that one glimpse into Garrus's week held the keys to the universe. Maybe it did.

Garrus stared down at his claws, glowing faintly in the light. The patterns under them were almost pretty, almost beautiful. He pushed the beer away. "Where am I tomorrow?"

Victus took the change in topic with grace, replying, "I need you back with the Krogan contingent on logistics, it's still going to be dicey ferrying that many Krogan home again, even with the new... help."

They both glanced to the window of the mess hall. Off in the distance, they could see the faint red glow of a Reaper main cannon, near London Bridge; construction efforts were taking a fraction of the time they should, since the construction crews could interface with the massive ships, utilizing all that vast, unknowable power to build things instead of destroy.

A shudder, unbidden, rippled down Garrus's spine, and he looked back at his beer. "Krogan will be Krogan," he told Victus, "but eventually Wrex will get them in line. Last time I went down there we just played cards for three hours, and I lost us two weeks of shipping time in the pot."

Victus snorted, standing. "Small price to pay for interspecies cooperation."

Garrus looked out the window again, gaze drawn to the ship in the middle distance. He'd never told anyone, but the main guns kind of reminded him a bit of an eye, the eye of something malevolent come down to bear. 

So. Definitely too much beer tonight. Garrus stood too, answered, "Interspecies cooperation would be if Wrex stopped cheating. I wish she'd never taught him how to--" Garrus started, but then halted, stricken, frozen in place on the memory of Shepard laughing as she explained human poker to them one night down in the cargo bay -- head back and mouth wide open, ridiculous looking really, but carefree.

-

The truly bizarre thing was, it had been weeks and none of them -- not Hackett, not the Primarch, not Liara or Tali or the Council or even Garrus himself -- doubted that whatever else happened, Shepard had solved the riddle, fixed the pieces, and the Reapers were no longer a threat.

The fundamental change in, well, everything, could attest to that enough; the way Garrus ran a hand over the Thanix cannon and almost felt the hum of its circuitry in his claw. The way Liara put her hands on her consoles and closed her eyes and her biotic field glowed green, all around her, and if he squinted, Garrus could almost, almost make out her data feeds dancing on her skin. The way Tali, a league of the smartest scientists, and the new geth leadership now commanded the majority of the Reaper fleet, set on repairing the relays so all of them could finally, finally, traverse those vast and lonely distances between stars, to go home.

None of them doubted it could be done, because even though everything else had changed, even though no one knew what really happened, Garrus knew that Shepard had thrown herself into whichever solution would give that hope for peace, give the most people a chance to see home again. That one thing had not, would not, would never, he told himself fiercely, change. 

Even if now they had to do it for her.

-

EDI came to find him, after the formal ceremony but before too much of the wake had passed; he was sober (well, mostly), but in no mood to talk. "Garrus, may I ask you a question?"

Garrus sighed. He wasn't a very good Turian (liar, in her voice), but he was trying to be something of a better friend, so he told EDI, "it depends. This hasn't been a great day, so..."

EDI glanced around, then looked at him dead on. "Will you be all right?"

Garrus blinked. That was -- not what he expected to be asked. Truthfully, a question on cross-species grieving practices, or possibly about Joker's new suit, would have thrown him less, even though answering wouldn't have been pleasant. This was, unexpected. "Yes, I'll be fine."

"I--" EDI frowned, troubled. "Even with this new-- I am still the Normandy. I see more than I should."

"Ah." Well, it hadn't been a great few weeks, even after they'd put her name on the wall once Hackett had confirmed -- had, confirmed. That was supposed to be closure enough, but afterwards he'd just gone back to repairing systems, finding new ways this -- change -- made working on the Normandy systems faster, easier. More integrated, more machine. (Numb.)

If EDI were privy to the crew's private moments of grief, she must be worried sick about everyone. Still, there was really nothing he could offer her other than the (eventual) truth he'd given. Garrus glanced around, looking for someone to come and rescue him from the conversation, distract EDI so he could go back to just focusing on breathing. When no one appeared, he tried for a humorous, "Well, I kind of liked you when you were a creepy AI programmed to spy on all of us, so I guess it's okay."

There was a long pause, in which Garrus uncharitably wondered if she were computing possible outcomes. No, she was thinking, in her way; she was wondering what to say next, giving him a moment. Finally, she replied with a quirk of her lips, "I like you as well. Even if you do keep poking through my redundant systems." 

EDI walked away, and belatedly Garrus wondered when her sense of humour had started outwardly leaning toward ribald. Joker was a bad influence. The moment had served its purpose, though, eased some of the surface tension running through him, and he relaxed a little bit. 

Garrus got a few minutes of peace, staring out at the crowd mingling but not really seeing anything in focus, before Liara came to stand next to him. "I am sorry," she said simply.

"Yeah," he replied. "Me too."

"Listen to us," Liara said after a moment, a hint of that darkness in her leaking out, "consoling each other as if this is another loss we have experienced. All this new -- we have gained so much, so much information that if -- there is so much now that we can't even fathom what--" and Liara cut herself off. Out of the corner of his eye, Garrus saw her fist glowing ever so faintly, green.

To distract himself from Liara's anger, Garrus studied the crowd in front of him again. Desperate to talk about anything else, he commented, "I don't see her mother anywhere."

"Over there," and Liara gestured with her glass of wine, "in the cluster of military contingent. She's the Rear Admiral with the short hair."

Still wearing his battered visor, though now the tech in it was outmoded, quaint compared to the tech under his skin, in his DNA -- Garrus focused on the woman, zooming in enough to look at her face. "Oh," he said. "Yeah."

"Did you ever meet her?"

All of a sudden, a sucker punch to his abdomen, like a Krogan headbutt; Garrus saw stars for three point eight seconds, then started to breathe again. He managed to shake his head. "No, but, I saw pictures. A picture."

Liara nodded; they both stared across the room at Shepard's mother, and neither of them moved.

--

Tali sent a message to Turian Command from the second relay. "Repairs are slow, but they're going," she said, voice clipped. "Though, Keelah, I will never get used to being -- to being here."

Garrus nodded, throat clogged and mandibles so tense they ached. In the backdrop of Tali's message, right behind her, was a scene he'd only seen in that thirty second clip of Saren, aboard Sovereign, and the background noise from the footage of that conversation still haunted the occasional nightmare. 

Victus, standing beside him, nodded sharply. He asked, "But it's doable? I don't mean to push, but well, the Krogan could really use some more room--"

"Oh, tell that boshtet Wrex to go learn to read or something, we're going as fast as we can," Tali interrupted. Victus blinked, and while she barely moved, Garrus got the feeling Tali was flushing under her helmet. "Sorry. I-- we are going as fast as we can. I think, you can probably have some ships through the first jump in a few weeks, but to get back to Tuchanka will take longer, probably at least another month." She paused, tilted her head. Her next words were sardonic. "Those are your options, just let me know if we should be shifting to another route before we start on the next relay."

Victus nodded again. "Understood, I'll pass it onto the Council and people here." He glanced at Garrus, and said, "you can have a few minutes, but I have to call Menae when I get back."

"Thanks," Garrus told him, and Victus left.

He and Tali stared at each other for a minute, across the QEC, before Tali let out a nervous laugh. "Sorry, Vakarian. And tell your Primarch I'm not usually hot-headed."

Garrus swallowed, forcibly relaxing his mandibles; even though the connection wasn't great, it was good enough she'd see the signs of his tension. "How are you doing? You seem a little stressed out."

"No, the repairs really are fine, as expected. It's--" she laughed again, and looked at something offscreen. Finally she looked back at him, and said, "I'm not sleeping well, though the rest of my team is okay. It's just. It's. Well."

Garrus realized his claws were wrapped around the edge of the console, gripped hard enough to scratch the surface. Insomnia. Stress. Flaring tempers. "I would imagine it would be difficult," he told her, softly, "even if the Reapers were hiding luxury suites on those tubs somewhere."

"Well it isn't the Norma--" and the QEC picked up an audible hiss, a sharp intake of breath, and then, silence. The lack of any background hum, any sub-aural indoctrination frequencies that his new DNA would (should, part of his mind whispered) pick up, was only slightly reassuring.

Garrus swallowed again, and forced himself to reply, "Nothing is, I guess." He wished fiercely that there was something he could say to ease that pain, fill that eerie silence that reminded them both of the grave, and shake out the ghosts that resided in the command centre of the Reaper Tali currently called home and kept her up nights. But there wasn't, and with the hope and joy of new discovery her team got to experience, each touch of a panel a revelation in both hardware and software, organic and technological, he and Tali felt the ache of a missing limb, the loss of something far more finite and definable.

Tali was living inside one, Spirits protect them all, she was surrounded by that every day-- well. Garrus glanced down at his own carapace; he supposed they were all surrounded by it.

"They seemed to adjust so easily," she murmured, "they didn't need any-- and I'm so jealous of it."

At the funeral, the real funeral, not the funeral that the Council arranged for the press, Hackett handed Garrus a pair of Alliance Marine dog tags. They were battered and torn, scorched enough that not all the numbers were legible. "They were hers," Hackett had told him, gruffly. "Major Alenko said you should have them. Her official set went down with--" and on that, Garrus had whited out sound and sight so thoroughly that he missed the next few things Hackett said, until his vision cleared and he got, "--and if the Major says so, it's good enough for me. These were found on Alchera, I think Dr. T'Soni recovered them."

It was yet another thing that Garrus hadn't thought to ask, until it was too late: who'd found her first set of dog tags? Who'd recovered them, even though they were too damaged for use, and given them back to her as a sign she, too, could be whole? He'd seen them in her bedroom, sitting innocuous in the corner, hundreds of times. Clearly, Anderson had given her the new set -- the Alliance probably had had them on reserve for months and sat on them until it was too late (just like her, he hadn't said) -- but where had these come from?

Garrus couldn't manage to choke out a thank you, clutching the thin metal chain, but Hackett hadn't seemed to expect him to; instead, he saluted, Garrus managed the same, and Garrus spent the rest of the evening alternating between drinking beer and staring at the chain in his hand, the way the green code patterns wrapped themselves around the metal in his claw like ribboning. But with the beer, eventually his vision had been blurry enough that if he squinted just right, the pattern went away, and the chain vanished into thin air, and his claw had just looked empty.

"I guess," Garrus finally told Tali slowly, not un-bitterly, "being her crew always meant sacrifice. Now we just have to give her up, to get the world."

--

After the funeral, the real funeral; and after the official service, and the wake, too, Garrus set out to spend a full local day completely drunk. The locks in the Turian compound weren't a guarantee, but the door did say 'Vakarian'; so there were few people who'd risk barging in without asking, and most of those would respect the attempt at privacy.

He started out drinking beer, because he was an adult, and near the top of the chain of command, so even when he gave himself this day to grieve, he couldn't put away that sense of duty -- to her memory, to everything she would have done in his place -- but by the fifth beer, that determination was hazy, and the desire to forget, well, everything, was rapidly rising. 

After that, he switched to harder stuff.

It probably wasn't going to be the first or last time Garrus got drunk because she was-- but he was going to do this alone, because even with everything he'd given up, every smile he'd never see, every moment of her life that was gone, now, well. Even for that loss, Garrus couldn't for one fucking minute of any day wish, even in the most secret, selfish places of his heart, that it was different. He had to live with that, each day, that even though they lost her -- that, knowing Shepard, it was right. 

Everywhere around him was evidence that whatever she did to change the world, it was only decision that could be made, and so he couldn't want anything else. 

After the fifth glass of harder stuff, that knowledge hadn't changed at all.  Garrus stumbled to his cot, bleary, and figured if he couldn't even pretend things might have been different, he might as well go to bed. He fell asleep, afterimages of massive ships in the deep dancing behind his eyes, and always, always, the ticking of this new -- thing -- inside him, the constant information and integration of the whole, reminding him that there were vast oceans of possibilities opening up for the whole galaxy, the march forward of progress and time. A true chance for unity.

--

He woke, in the morning. Her dog tags had fallen behind the cot; Garrus panicked, heart racing and chills up and down his spine, when he couldn't find them, the loss of them felt more acutely than anything else, this last piece of her ripped away by carelessness.

When he picked them up off the floor, he expected to feel better to have the chain wrapped around his claw -- but it didn't help, and the view out his paltry little room still showed London, the battlefield, rubble and stone and everywhere a vista of the new world.