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If Not Now, When?

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While Johnny had to wrestle with his choice he kept his ground crew busy with some side tasks on the surface of Tachunka. Even on the krogan homeworld, Primarch Victus had some tasks, without warning Johnny ordered Garrus and Vega down with him. It was all kept quiet, the only thing they knew, was it was for Victus and to not mention anything to Wrex. Luckily the Krogan was too busy with Mordin and finishing Genophage cure tests to notice.

Whatever was happening had Victus on edge. Deciding to use a bribe to get information Jane brought up some of the favorite hot drink to the war room. The two young girls guarding the door to the war room waved her through, Jane always enjoyed hearing them gossip, though that was silent for a week after word of her own news made its way around Normandy, Jane guessed she was the topic of choice then. Today they were debating the krogans plight. After getting to know Eve and Wrex, Jane felt like the warrior race had bad timing, asking for a miracle while everything was being destroyed by the Reapers. But it was within their right, hopefully, they would at least learn the benefits of a fight with the rest of the galaxy instead of against once this was all over.

Walking down the stairs Jane found the Primarch staring intently at a vid feed from Johnny’s helmet. She tried not to wince when she saw a harvester attacking. Luckily Garrus was there and the two were focusing on whittling it down from a distance. If it was just Johnny and Vega, the two meat heads might try to charge the damn thing. Not that Jane didn’t like charging enemies while under the cover of her cloak, but never at something that was big enough to eat her shuttle.

Placing the drink at Victus’ elbow Jane remained quiet, focusing on her own. The thing she learned with this turian while on Menae, he hated making non battle decisions. If it wasn’t battle related he would pass it up the chain. Now he couldn’t, so given the chance he would try to talk it through without giving away details. Sometimes the frustration was entertaining when it was some pointless show of power, for the real stuff Jane could only feel empathy for Victus.

As if on schedule, Victus spoke, his gaze on the vid, “What do humans do when their children are in a rough spot?”

Jane felt her eyebrows lift to her hairline, when Victus heard of the pregnancy he voiced congratulations but left it at that. He hadn’t cared about the details, turians only wanted jobs to get done, no matter the private life which was refreshing. “Depends on the family. Some go all out to shelter them, others let them figure out their own way in a mess.”

Victus shook his head, “It is in our blood not to let any personal issues get in the way of duty. Even if family… Sometimes I wish we’d learn more from humans.”

After a couple more minutes of silence, Jane was about to turn to go to the Vakarian office when a name came over the comm, “... Lieutenant Victus…” Looking at the screen she saw a very young and pale turian. Way too young to be the one in charge of a unit. Turning her gaze to the Primarch she saw him shift, becoming tense. So the Primarch was conflicted, asking the great Commander Shepard to help a mission gone wrong and wondering if he was really doing it to help his son out of a tight spot.

Jane decided to remain in the main war room, skimming reports from Palven and making notes for Garrus and the Primarch. She was still there when the ground team radioed back saying they were staying with the squadron through the rest of mission. Something about a Cerberus bomb on the surface. It seemed like something the group would do, but the stiff posture of Victus screamed that there was more to this. First, he wasn’t surprised to hear about the bomb, but knowing they needed krogan help, why didn’t they pass the information along earlier? If anything a krogan-turian combined operation would help the distrust… Something wasn’t right.

This time Jane watched the feed in its entirety. She saw Victus swell with pride for his son, back in control of his command, acting like a true leader, but when the identity of the bomb maker was finally given it became clear.

With anger, she turned to the leader and hissed. “You would put the only people willing to help you in danger to save your own ass!”

Hunching his shoulders Victus didn’t look at her, “It wasn’t an issue until Cerberus go involved. And I couldn’t risk the krogan knowing…”

“Sure they’d be angry, anyone would. But they may appreciate the sign of respect and trust by telling them?” Jane couldn’t believe the Hierarchy would be so concerned about saving face with so much more at risk.

“I didn’t know that for sure,” he bit out. “Don’t forget, I sent my son down there. Your family isn't the only ones down there.”

That shut Jane up. She didn’t know his whole story, maybe there was more to it, or maybe he just made a bad call.

Soon they saw his son die, all the anger left her, leaving a pit of dread. Jane couldn’t help but imagine what he was feeling. Would she feel it one day? Gently Jane placed a hand on Victus’ shoulder, he leaned toward her not really see the screen anymore.

With a sudden bunching of muscle, Victus brought his fist down on the edge of the ring of the holo center with a loud bang and left a dent in the metal. The room got quiet watching the deathly still turian regain his breath. After a moment he stepped away from the middle of the war room up to a private terminal. Only pausing long enough to gently grip her comforting hand.

It wasn’t long before the ground team was back, and first thing Johnny did was run off to Hackett. That was one part of being a soldier she could never do, they needed to trust Johnny to handle it, hell knows how he'd been doing it on his own for this long.

Jane was about to leave to find Garrus when Wrex stomped in looking like he was searching for a fight. Focusing on the Primarch he marched over bellowing, “This is how you try to gain my people’s support? A bomb!”

“We couldn’t risk another galactic war with the krogan!”

Jane approached the two, ready to step in if it came fist to cuffs.

“The genophage wasn’t enough? You needed another way to keep your pets chained?” Demanded Wrex.

Victus tried to explain, “The decision was made hundreds of years ago. So much has changed!”

“Wrex, wait…” Jane hissed, trying to push the large krogan back.

Wrex fixed his eyes on the Primarch, ignoring Jane. “You still didn’t tell us about the bomb, coward!” On the last word, he charged forward, flaring biotics and knocking Jane down in the process. With a rush fear, she cartwheeled her arms and trying to catch herself as she felt Johnny’s strong arms reach out to support her.

“Hey,” the commander yelled, with enough force and authority to get the attention of everyone in the room. “Watch yourself Wrex. The reapers are out destroying the galaxy and you want to fight about this!”

Johnny steadied Jane on her feet, making sure she was alright before turning to the others. “Primarch you had a bomb on Tuchanka! And Wrex, you would’ve done the same damned thing.”

“Shepard --” Wrex started.

But Jane stepped in this time, her heart still fluttering with the fear of falling, she glared at the clan leader, “It’s over, his own son died today making this right!”

Victus shook his head, “Please, Jane, it’s alright.”

“Alright Shepard, I agree. We have stronger enemies to face.” Wrex conceded finally gaining some control.

Johnny looked at both with hard blue eyes, “We do.”

Leaving the Primarch to speak with Johnny, Jane followed Wrex out. “Under normal circumstances, we can bicker about this shit Wrex. But now, with the Reapers, none of us can afford to.” He only grunted so Jane grabbed his arm making him pause in the conference room. “Don’t you ever forget what he gave up to save your people. There are a lot of them down in that valley, they would be dead now. And if you ever hurt my children or family because of another damn tantrum, being in the sights of Garrus’ rifle is the least of your worries…”

That made the krogan’s temper diminish. Looking at the floor, “I… am sorry. After centuries of not being trusted, I’m not ready to take anyone but Shepard for their word. This just proves that I can’t.” Turning he left, probably to go talk to Eve, she seemed to be the only one on board that could get him to think rationally. Hell, if she had learned how he behaved in the war room, Garrus wouldn’t be the only one out for blood. Krogan females were protective of all young and those carrying them.

-

The next transport to the Tachunkan surface was just as rough as the first, Garrus decided just to sit it out instead of pacing, it made the wait worse but at least he wouldn’t fall over. They barely had time to deal with the loss of the younger Victus, before they were throwing themselves into the fray again, this time with Mordin and his precious cargo to protect.

Landing in the middle of a hus infestation, Wrex charged out roaring, “They’ll sing battle songs about this some day.” He used his own body as a deadly battering ram along with his shot gun and was soon covered in blood. “Reaper blood has finally soaked our soil,” he cheered, sounding happy to be in the middle of battle again.

When the area had been cleared, Shepard called out, “We have to get to the shroud, the air strike is on its way.”

Mordin left the shuttle, helping Eve out, “Female is safe, Shepard. Vitals are strong.”

The landing party was met by the krogan’s ground forces. “Whats a salarian doing here? No one said anything about this,” one called out angrily.

Mordin paused and blinked at the group surrounding them, “Multiple krogan. Problematic.”

Shepard stepped in between Mordin and the krogan who’d voiced the question, “Who are you?”

This krogan was almost as large as Wrex and didn’t seem too impressed by Shepard. “Urdnot Wreave, Brood brother to our… illustrious leader.”

Wrex shot him an annoyed look, “Wreave and I shared the same mother, nothing more.”

“For which I am thankful for. I remember what it means to be a true krogan.” Wreave growled challengingly.

Wrex did not let the insult go unnoticed, and decided to headbutt Wreave into submission. He had the mass and power to cause the other krogan pain, unlike Jane who had only stunned her challenger by the fact she had tried it.

“Enough!” Eve called in a forceful voice, and all silent fell silent and focused on her, “You can stay here and let old wounds fester as krogan have always done. Or you can fight the enemy you were born to destroy and win a new future for our children. I chose to fight.”

Amazingly all the males shut up, and they followed the directions to get onto the tomka trucks that made up the convoy.

S “Copy that artamec, we are on our way. Trying to make up for lost time. Shepard out.”

Sitted again, Eve turned to Wrex, “Wreave isn’t the only one who wants revenge for the genophage, Wrex. You have to placate them somehow.”

Wrex didn’t sound worried and commented “I’ll command the Council return some of our old territory. We’ll need room to expand. Recapture the glory of the ancients.”

Mordin unable to stop himself, pointed out, “Glory of Ancients led to countless deaths. Creation of Genophage. Expansion plan. Problematic.” And Garrus had to agree, he didn’t want to have to live through a second rebellion war.

Shepard, remained standing and asked, ” What were the ancient Krogan like?”

Eve explained in a wistful voice, “Tuchanka wasn’t always a waste land. In the old times, the krogan were a proud people. We had dreams, a future to look forward to.”

“Until salarian interference,” commented quietly, like he took personal responsibility in something that he was not involved in until much later. He hadn’t made the first choice but was part of the reason it had continued.

“No we destroyed tuchanka ourselves.” Eve stated, squashing that line of thought. “Technology changed us, made life too easy. So we looked for new challenges, and found them in each other. Nuclear war was inevitable.”

“And now our planet is rubble. We’ll need a better place to live.” Wrex stated.

Shepard shrugged, “I’d say helping defeat the Reapers deserves a new planet.”

“Or ten. You haven’t seen how fast we repopulate.” Wrex chuckled at the implications.

“Wrex,” Eve snapped.

“What?” Wrex asked innocently, “With the genophage cured we’ll have a lot of catching up to do.” Looking at Garrus he added under his breath, “We can’t let Turian genes and weird Prothean tech show us up.”

Garrus shook his head, deciding not to answer the joke about his own children.

“Commander. On the shuttle was there something you were going to say?” Eve asked and everyone turned to Shepard expectantly.

He was unusually quiet as if weighing choices in his mind. With a grim look, Shepard got straight to the point. “The dalatrass tried to cut a secret deal with me.”

Wrex sat forward a little, angry in his voice, “What kind of deal?”

Shepard crossed his arms, looking just as annoyed “She said they sabotaged the shroud years ago.” He pulled up his omni tool, “The cure won’t work unless we fix it.” He played a recording of the salarian’s deal.

“And she thought we wouldn’t know better?” Wrex scoffed.

“Correct, probably would have fooled tests. Familiar with STG work. Can adjust. Did not come this far for nothing.” Mordin did not sound shocked, and as if it wouldn’t affect his work in the slightest.

Eve nodded gravely to Shepard and said, “You spared our race genocide commander.”

Wrex nodded, “Told you we could count on him.” Before he could add anything the tomka came to an abrupt halt. “Why are we stopping?”

The driver called to them in the back and explained the road was out and they would need time to clear it. The group got out but soon found themselves under attack again. Holding off the oncoming enemy they could only watch the turian fighters attack get swatted away from the reaper like it meant nothing. A ship crashed, barely missing their position and Shepard shut the vehicle door, ordering them to make a run for it, that they would meet up later. Garrus helped cover their retreat into some underground ruins.

The ruins gave him the creeps, everything was so dark and still compared to the surface. They found some murals depicting a giant thresher maw. Assuming the artist didn’t exaggerate it, the beast was massive and hopefully dead. It turned out to be the mythic thresher maw Kalros.

Finding an exit they were now even closer to the Shroud and the Reaper guarding it. Running across the sand they found a safe outcropping where the tomkas were able to pick them up. Barely missing the sudden ripple sand of a thresher maw following them. Only seconds after closing the door followed before the thing tried to attack and missed.

They lost it but were now faced with a Reaper big enough that Garrus had no idea how they could face it down on foot.

Groaning he made the observation similar to when he saw the Thorian all those years ago, “I don’t think we have a big enough gun to handle this”

Vega came along side him and spoke up, “Scars has a point. No cure if we kill ourselves.”

Wrex and announced, “We are procuring the genophage cure no matter what it takes. Everything my people will ever be depends on it.”

Shepard gave him a sharp look, “Then I hope this idea of yours, you talked about is a good one.”

Wrex almost looked worried, before pointing to Eve, “It wasn’t mine. It was her’s actually.”

In a confident voice, Eve only stated, “Kalros. We summon her to the Reaper.”

“Will that really work?” Shepard sounded as optimistic as Garrus felt.

Surprisingly it was Mordin who defended her idea, “Already discussed it. Just need to distract reaper, draw it from tower while cure is synthesized and released.”

“What makes you so sure she’ll come?” The commander asked, looking at the surrounding sand.

Eve sounded almost like she was giving a lesson like a shaman she was, “Legend says it is mother from which all other thresher maws spawn. This is much her home as ours.”

Wrex nodded, putting it into layman terms, “If Tuchanka has a temper, Kalros is it. Nobody has ever faced her and survived.”

“I’ve taken some risk in my time, but this seems crazy.” It wasn’t often Shepard took a risk on such a scale like this.

“And going head to head with Sovereign wasn’t?” Wrex asked, and not waiting for an answer pointed out. “This is the only way to get to that tower and release the cure, there is no other choice.”

Eve gave them the directions to summon the creature and Wrex took a moment to recognize Shepard as a brother in front of all his men. Garrus wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, but if Wrex were to fall, his men would know to treat Shepard with even more respect than the battlemaster’s own brood brother.

Before Wrex could continue, they were interrupted by attacking rachni reaper forces.

Roaring the massive krogan turned his back on them and yelled, “See you on the other side!” And he dove back into battle, seeming to enjoy every moment of it.

Running toward the Reaper, Garrus let out his own whoop of excitement as the turian airstrike returned for a second attack. “I knew they wouldn’t give up.” And they only had to focus on dodging the damn things legs and brutes, while the strike ships drew the laser beam off them.

Take a breather behind a barricade, Shepard looked over the area where the keystones were, which just happened to be where the Reaper was sitting. “Shit, Garrus, James. Fall back to the vehicles.”

“No can do sir,” Garrus said taking a pot shot at a husk. “I am not facing my wife's wrath if I let you get hurt.”

James laughed, “He has a point, Shepard, even I won’t face down the demon of a sister.”

The commander stared open mouthed for a moment, before smiling a little, “Point taken. Alright, we only fight enough to make a hole and making a run for it. Try not to get knocked on your ass.”

With that, the ground team took off for the goal.

-

Jane paced the cargo hold, waiting. Joker had been feeding her reports of the teams progress to get the Genophage cure to the Shroud, and it hadn’t gone as planned. A Reapers arrival, and Mordin dead. At least there were reports of it being taken down, by a thresher maw. It sounded much larger than the one she helped kill. Now they were on their way back but there wasn’t many words coming from the shuttle or the status of those on board.

She couldn’t stop the flutter in her stomach as she watched the approach, nor the chill when she saw Johnny helping a limping Garrus off the shuttle. They all looked miserable, but at least they were alive.

Jane ran up, taking her brother’s place supporting her husband. “Sorry Janey, he got plowed by a Brute down there while I was trying to set off the keystones.”

“You got him back alive, that’s all I can ask for. Go deal with your politicians and admirals. I’ll take him to the medbay.”

Garrus sucked in a breath as he tried to pull himself straight, “I can still hear you know.”

“Oh shut it, quicker we get there the sooner you get food,” Jane muttered, relieved she could breathe again.

All through Garrus’ checkup, Jane’s stomach kept doing flips. It looked like he got away with only a few bruised ribs and would be back in the field after a week’s light duty, thank the spirits they weren’t broken, else he’d be laid up much longer and possibly hooked up to a respirator. Lung tissue in the bones was a stupid evolutionary design.

The downside was that Garrus would have to remain in the med bay overnight. Jane wanted to stay with him, but her mate urged her to see Johnny. Once Garrus’ was diagnosed her brother had left, Garrus was worried about him, he had been strangely quiet when they returned.

Jane agreed, feeling embarrassed that she hadn’t thought of it herself.

Upstairs in Johnny’s cabin, she found it only lit by the glow of the fish tank. Johnny was sitting in the dark corner of the couch. He had changed and showered but didn’t seem to have the energy to do anything else.

Glancing up he simply said, “Janey.”

“Hey, Johnny. Looks like you kept up the Shepard name by doing the impossible again.” She tried to joke.

“But at what cost? I saw how they krogan reaction to Mordin. The damn doctor was going against his own government's wishes to correct the wrong his people did, and they still wanted to kill him. What if they do go to war.”

Jane sat down next to him, rocking slightly from the extra new weight. “Once they see his success, Mordin will probably be this new generation's most popular name. They were fighting the Reapers alongside the turian air support and will soon be fighting side by side on Palaven and earth.”

Johnny side and scrubbed at his newest dark stubble. “Hopefully, if Mordin died for nothing…”

Jane cut him off, “But he didn’t. You told them what the Dalatrass tried to pull, and we know Mordin is the only one who could have pulled it off.”

Johnny nodded and reached over to hold her hand, “Thanks, Janey, I just needed a minute to sulk. The person leading this army can’t be seen being weak.”

Gripping his hand back, Jane gave him a small smile, “You only have to be my brother when we are here.”

They spoke a little longer, before exhaustion of the past couple of days caught up to them. Leaving the cabin, Jane couldn’t bring herself to go to her cold and lonely bed. Going into the med bay she found Garrus already asleep on the small bed. Pulling up a chair she leaned over to place her head on his shoulder.

After a moment she felt a content rumble, as he woke up and looked down at her. “Hey you, sorry if I woke you.”

He brought up a hand to thread in her hair, “Couldn’t sleep anyway. Is Shepard alright.”

“He will be,” she sighed. “The stress is getting to him.”

“And my getting hurt didn’t help any I’m sure.”

Jane kissed a scarred mandible lightly, “We are just happy he brought you back to me. No one could expect me to raise your brats alone.”

Garrus started to chuckle, but it quickly turned to a grown. “Damn, don’t make me laugh, it hurts.”

“Which is why you are here tonight. Now go back to sleep, I’ll be here.”

Even though bedridden he reached down and pulled her up on the bed with him. There wasn’t much room, but they made it work without hurting him. It wasn’t long before sleep overtook their quiet murmurs.