Jack saw Garv’s dubious glance at Urz and Eezo as they bounded into the apartment ahead of her. “Relax, Shepard,” she drawled. “They’re not going to eat the furniture.”
“It’s not the furniture I’m worried about,” Garv said, eyeing Eezo as the varren sniffed at his pants.
“God, you’re such a baby.”
Garv scowled. “It’s not fun to be bitten by one of those things, you know.”
“No, I don’t know,” came the flippant reply. “I don’t get bitten.” She headed into the kitchen and started digging around in the fridge.
Garv returned to his spot on the couch, stepping aside to let the pair of varren run past him. He only winced a little at the distant thumping as they careened up the stairs. “If I find them in my bathtub, you’re scrubbing it out with a toothbrush.”
“Shoulda thought of that before you got an apartment that doesn’t have any doors.” Jack plopped down next to him, handing him a beer before taking a long swing from her own bottle.
“You just missed James,” Garv told her. “He came by to show off his new tat.”
Jack snorted. “I heard about that. Not sure I would’ve gone with his choice of tattoo artist, but I’ve gotten inked in places worse than that.”
“I bet.” Garv flipped off his bottlecap. “Where’d you take the kids for theirs?”
“You’d think on a place as big as the Citadel, there’d be more than one decent tattoo artist.” She rolled her eyes. “Took me a while, but I found a chick in the wards that does good work.”
“Yeah, actually.” She gave him an appraising look. “Wouldn’t think you’d know stuff like that. Don’t tell me you’ve got a tat I don’t know about. Can’t imagine that a straight-up-and-down boy scout like you had any.”
Garv huffed. “For your information, I used to have one.”
“What was it, a big N7 stamped on your ass?”
“No.” Garv glared at her over the top of his beer bottle, but his playful ire faded quickly. Jack saw him thinking and bit back whatever sarcastic comment she’d been going to say. “It was, uh…” He smiled, the expression fond and a little sad. “Tarik’s dogtags. Here.” He gestured to the inside of his right arm, just below his bicep. “After Miranda brought me back, all my scars were gone, and so were they. I’ve meant to have it re-done, but I haven’t really had time.”
Jack took a careless swig. “You’ve got time now, don’t you? Get Carmela to do it.”
Garv gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Maybe. I sorta thought about it, but…I dunno, the guy who did it the first time knew Tarik, so…” He trailed off, unable to find the words to explain how it would feel to take his brother’s dogtags to an unfamiliar place and hand them to an ambivalent stranger. “I’ll think about it.”
Jack gave him a keen look, but she didn’t have a chance to comment, distracted as the two varren came pounding down the stairs. Urz tackled Eezo, who let out a biotic pulse, and the air filled with feathers as a throw pillow exploded.
The next day found Garv on his hands and knees, sweeping yet another cluster of stray feathers out from under the couch when the door buzzer rang.
Jack pushed her way inside when he opened the door, dragging a small suitcase behind her. “Okay, Shep,” she said, putting her fists on her hips. “Take off your shirt.”
Garv blinked, then gave her a look of wide-eyed innocence. “Well, this is sudden. I’m flattered, but you should know I’m old fashioned, and you haven’t even proposed to me yet.”
She rolled her eyes. “We’re re-doing your tattoo today, asshole.”
That wasn’t what he’d expected to hear. “Um. We’re what, now?”
“We’re re-doing your tattoo.” She nudged her suitcase with her foot. “I brought my gear.” Seeing his blank look, she said, “You didn’t think I got all this ink without learning how to do it myself, do you?”
“Uh…” Garv glanced down at the case before looking back at her. “I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Obviously.” She crossed her arms. “So do you wanna do this or not?”
Garv balked, still caught off guard. “Well…” He stood there, thinking of his lost brother; looking at Jack, who had surprised him by becoming his friend. His hesitation faded and he relaxed, giving her a quiet smile. “Yeah, okay. Where do you wanna set up?”
“We can use your extra room down here,” she said, tilting her head in the direction of the door. “If you’ve got anything for me to look at to use as a reference, bring it with you.”
“Sure. I’ll meet you in there.” Garv headed up the stairs to his room, leaving Jack to unpack her supplies in the downstairs guest room. He tossed his hoodie onto the bed, keeping his t-shirt on, before retrieving a small box from a drawer in the bedside table. Two pairs of dogtags intertwined inside. One set was slightly warped, half-melted, and still bore scorch marks despite Liara’s best efforts to clean them. The other had a few scratches and bore a few signs of wear, but otherwise they were undamaged. Garv had always been grateful that the thresher maw’s acid hadn’t touched them. He lifted the second set from the box and headed back downstairs.
Jack had unpacked her kit by the time Garv joined her. Her brows lifted a little as she saw the dogtags in his hand. He handed them over and she spent a few minutes studying them, turning them over with uncharacteristic gentleness. When she was ready, Garv stretched out on the bed with his right arm extended, t-shirt sleeve bunched up by his shoulder. Jack set the dogtags on the bedspread nearby, scooted her chair close to the edge of the bed, and bent over his arm.
She worked in silence for a while, gloved hands moving with careful, precise movements as she etched the outline of the ID tags on his skin. “I didn’t think you’d have his actual tags,” she said offhandedly.
“…I almost didn’t.” Garv curled his other arm up to tuck his hand behind his head. “I lost them for a little while. When the Collectors destroyed the SR-1.” He sighed. “But when Admiral Hackett asked me to go back to Alchera to place the memorial, I…well. I found the dogtags from the crew who’d died, and after I’d found them I looked for Tarik’s.”
Jack’s only reaction was a brief sideways glance. Garv knew she wouldn’t comment, but he could tell she remembered, even though at the time she’d only been a member of his crew for a handful of weeks. He’d turned off his comm while down on Alchera, muted even to EDI’s hails. He’d stayed down on the icy planet far longer than was wise, and returned half-frozen even in spite of his armor’s environmental controls, offering no explanation as to why he’d remained planetside for so long.
Neither of them spoke after that. Garv sighed and shut his eyes. He couldn’t fall asleep with the stop-and-start prickling burn against his arm, but he drifted into a gray haze, letting himself relax and lose track of time.
When she was finished, Jack had to call him twice and prod him in the side to get his attention. Garv blinked his eyes open and sat up, gingerly holding his arm away from his body as he inspected her work. His skin was red and a little swollen, but he could tell that Jack had done a good job. He could read Tarik’s name and number clearly, and the lines and shading were clean and smooth.
He looked up with a smile as she wound a light wrap around his arm. “It looks great, Jack. Thanks.”
She shrugged as she snapped off her gloves. “Someone had to make sure you quit procrastinating.” Garv’s smile grew, hearing You’re welcome in the offhand reply. She handed the dogtags back to him and started packing up her supplies.
Garv walked her to the door, smile turning wistful as he was left alone. He looked down at the worn dogtags in his hand, running his thumb lightly over Tarik’s name. Not a day had passed since his brother’s death that Garv hadn’t thought of him, but having his memory as part of him again made Tarik feel closer.
Always the sentimental one, Garvi.
Garv laughed softly. “Yeah, well. One of us had to be.”
He half expected to see Tarik standing there grinning at him when he lifted his head. The apartment was empty, of course, but as he headed back upstairs to put the dogtags back in their box, the warm echo of remembered laughter followed him.