“Shepard, look out!”
It was already too late. Garrus watched as Elijah went down hard. The brutes’ enormous arm smashed into the human’s chest and threw him across the field as though he was a toy rather than a fully grown soldier. He crashed into the rocks before falling to the ground, unconscious. Garrus’ omnitool blared warnings about the Commander’s condition before the dust even had a chance to settle.
“Shit,” Garrus swore to himself as he reloaded his rifle and vaulted over the crates he’d been using as cover. It was times like this he hated how close Shepard liked to fight. With Reaper husks, there was something to be said for keeping your distance. Speaking of, the Brute advanced on Shepard, ignoring Jimmy as the man continued to pepper it’s back with bullets. This mission was supposed to be a supply run, not a Spirits damned death sentence. He had to get the beast’s attention before it tore Shepard to pieces.
“Come pick on someone your own size!” he shouted as the first round tore through its misshapen jaw, making it screech.
The tactic worked though, no sooner than he fired the first round did the brute turn it’s attention on Garrus instead. It jerked back when the next shot from the Black Widow hit the soft, unarmoured part of its shoulder. A roar was the only warning Garrus got before the beast charged and barely gave him enough time to get clear. He even had to drop his rifle in the combat roll.
A barrage of bullets from Vega’s assault rifle hit the beast as it thundered by Garrus. The turian pulled his back-up weapon from its holster to pump round after round into the brute’s backside. It was lumbering now, weakened and dying from the squad’s efforts.
Garrus had to back himself into a corner, barely managing to keep out claw range before he and James brought it to its knees.
The ensuing silence as it went down was nearly as deafening as the fight itself. Garrus left his Widow where it lay as he sprinted to Shepard’s side. He skidded to a stop, already pulling up his omnitool interface to deliver a dose of medigel to his injured friend.
The mission could wait; they had more important things to worry about than one of Shepard’s errands. He was trying to save the whole damn galaxy, one favour at a time.
“Vega! Get us an evac!” the turian snapped without looking up.
“On it!” he called back while clearing the field of the few remaining human husks.
Garrus stabilized the Commander as best he could. His arm was sitting at an odd angle, and even across species, Garrus knew it wasn’t supposed to bend that way. The readings weren’t ideal, and while he wasn’t a doctor, Garrus knew his field medicine as well as any other turian soldier. It didn’t matter the species-- pump someone full of enough medigel and keep the airway clear. He could manage that until they could get him back to Chakwas.
Vega appeared at Garrus’ side with the Widow Garrus dropped. “Esteban is on the way,” he said. “Just have to get out of this valley.”
“Right,” Garrus chuffed as he attached his assault rifle to his lower back. It was only twenty metres up a cliff. No big deal. “I’ve got Shepard if you can carry my Widow.”
Jimmy nodded-- all business. “You got it, Scars. Let’s go.”
At least there were no spinal injuries, according to Shepard’s armour interface. It made this next part easier. As gently as he could, Garrus hoisted the man off the ground and over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
A tiny groan was the Commander’s only complaint.
Garrus felt bad for manhandling him, but in this situation, it was necessary. They needed to get clear. He brandished his service pistol one-handed while Vega led the way to their evac point. Resistance was less now they’d killed the brute. Reapers tended to travel in packs, or that’s what they appeared to do since he began encountering them in numbers on Menae.
The sound of the shuttle was almost like music to Garrus’ ears as they crested the ridge. Vega lit up a handful of husks with a grenade and some incendiary ammunition to clear the landing pad. Cortez brought the shuttle down fast, sending a cloud of dust into the air when he killed the engines at the last possible second. The man could fly nearly as well as Joker, and he liked to show off. After boarding, Garrus put Shepard down as carefully as he could. They didn’t have a stretcher, so he had to use the floor. They could remove the heavy armour plates from his chest and make it easier for Shepard to breathe, at least in the safety of the speeding shuttle.
Vega went to check on Cortez while Garrus worked.
“Hang in there,” Garrus murmured as he sat on the floor beside Elijah. There wasn’t much else he could do, but he wasn’t going anywhere and that had to count for something.
By the time Karin finished with Shepard, it was late in the night cycle. Garrus had taken time to change out of his armour and shower while the Doctor worked. He would have stayed, but she’d shooed him away. “He’ll live, Vakarian. Now get out of my medical bay!” she admonished. Under her breath, she muttered some choice words too, but Garrus would choose to ignore those for his own benefit.
He returned clean and ready to watch over Shepard until his human companion woke up. Someone had to, and while EDI was more than capable of the task, he felt better doing it himself. Shepard deserved at least that much.
A broken arm and two busted ribs were among the damage he’d sustained on the battlefield that day. A concussion kept Shepard asleep long after Chakwas finished setting the bones in his arm. The medication she’d used for the surgery would burn off quick enough, the Cerberus augmentations would see to that.
In the quiet, Garrus propped his feet up at the foot of Shepard’s bed and leaned his chair on its two back feet while he settled in for the wait. His eyes drifted across the comfortably sleeping Commander, taking in the exhausted black circles under his eyes. He needed a break that didn’t involve a stint in the med-bay, but Garrus supposed Shepard would have to take what he could get. Since picking him up on Menae, they’d been going non-stop.
As the evening wore on, Garrus’ reluctance to leave the medical bay warred with his need for sleep. More than once, he caught himself nodding off. His head swayed to the side on one of those bobs, and he nearly fell out of his chair. He righted himself and shook off the sleepiness. Breaking himself on the floor of the medical bay would be in poor form. Chakwas didn’t need to fix him up too. He finally had all the bandages from Omega removed, and he didn’t care to replace them.
“Fallin’ asleep on the job?”
Garrus’ head shot up to see Shepard looking at him with hooded eyes. “Not quite yet,” he replied, sounding sheepish. He’d been caught. “How’re you feeling?”
“Like I got hit by a krogan,” Elijah mumbled, looking down his chest to take stock of himself. The hand on his unbroken arm rose to his brow, pinching the skin between his eyes to stave off a headache. “A big one.”
“Well, you’re not exactly wrong, Shepard,” he couldn’t help but chuckle. “A brute threw you clean across the field. They’re sort-of krogan.”
Shepard rolled his eyes, then groaned regretting it. “Right.”
“Want me to grab Chakwas?” he asked tentatively. He knew Shepard didn’t like anyone fussing over him, but sometimes it was necessary. “She said to wake her.”
Garrus sighed. “You’re stubborn. You know that?”
“Hi, Pot. My name is Kettle.” Shepard let out a laugh at the confused expression on Garrus’ face. “It means you’re stubborn too.”
“Oh. Well, yes,” Garrus admitted with a single armed shrug. “But that’s not the point here, is it?”
He huffed and carefully sat up, groaning as he did so. Garrus passed him an extra pillow to put behind his back. “Suppose it’s not. But how about you give me a few minutes, and if I’m not better, you can get the good Doctor. Yeah?”
“All right,” Garrus acquiesced. He watched Shepard through his visor, his heart rate was showing steady, and he didn’t appear to be running a temperature. If anything began to worsen, he’d know, and then he could have EDI ping the Doctor.
Shepard situated himself comfortably against the wall behind his bed. His broken arm cradled to his chest in a sling, and the stark white bandages contrasted with his sun-tanned skin. In the dim light of the medical bay, shadows cast dark circles under his eyes more profound than those from exhaustion. The war was taking too much out of the human. It was only now that Garrus was starting to realize it.
“So,” Shepard began. He sounded more alert now like the sedatives were wearing off quicker than before. “Want to tell me what happened?”
Leaning back in his chair again, Garrus crossed his arms over his keel. “Well, not a whole lot after you got knocked out to be fair. Vega called evac, I threw you over my shoulder, and we got out of there. You broke your arm, a few ribs too, and the concussion is going to keep you ship bound for a few days.”
It was Shepard’s turn to sigh. He scrubbed his face with his free hand. “Thought you might say that. We didn’t get the artifact, did we?”
Garrus shook his head, and his mandibles pinched against his maxilla. “It wasn’t possible. Resistance was higher than anticipated, and with you unconscious, it wasn’t worth the risk.” Shepard made to argue, but Garrus cut him off with a wave of his hand. “You would have done the same thing if it was me on the ground, bleeding. Don’t complain.”
“Fair point,” Elijah said instead. “We can try again tomorrow.”
“Ah, no. Actually, we can’t.” Garrus rubbed the back of his neck, a little uncomfortable with the fact he had to explain himself now. “I’ve got the ship back on course for the Perseus Veil. With that level of resistance, it would take us days to penetrate the labs. Time, we don’t have.”
“So, we just left?” Shepard asked, and Garrus could hear the anger building in his tone. He could see the human’s heart rate start to climb on his visor too. He had to put a stop to that.
“You put me on as your XO, Shepard. I made the decision since you weren’t able to.” Shepard grit his teeth. Garrus knew his friend hated to leave anyone behind. The human mindset was different than a turian one. He wanted to save everyone. Garrus knew that wasn’t always possible. It was something they disagreed on, on a fundamental level. It wasn’t like Garrus didn’t want to save everyone. He did. It was more that he understood the practicality. Ten thousand people die over here so a million live over there, simple calculus-- Ruthless but simple.
“I made a call to other vessels in the area,” Garrus added, he knew it wasn’t likely, but at least it might inspire some hope in his friend. “If someone can stop to help. They will.”
“You know they won’t,” Shepard told him as he looked away. He sounded bitter, but the news had sunk in. He knew Garrus was in the right and wouldn’t make much more of an argument. The fight died out of him with a long exhale. “I guess it’s as much as we can do right now, isn’t it?”
Garrus nodded. It was like the Alpha relay situation; there was no winning, only less losing. He chose not to bring up that situation in his friend’s history for the moment. It wouldn’t make him feel any better.
Instead, they sat in relative silence with the Normandy’s engine humming in the background. The sound was so familiar yet so different this time around. The ship felt a little empty with less Alliance crew and members on the ground team alike.
“Feels a little weird,” he found himself speaking his thoughts aloud as if breaking the quiet would somehow make it less strange. “Without Kasumi slinging drinks in the lounge, we’ve had to make our own.”
Shepard chuffed. “You’re right. And without Zaeed, we have to tell our own stories.” That made Garrus laugh too. But once the amusement died off, a sombre tone took its place. “I miss Tali,” Shepard said. “What if--” he cut himself short.
“No, ‘what ifs,’ Shepard.” Garrus put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You told me that, remember? My dad and sister are going to be just fine, like Tali, and the rest are. If I’m not allowed to be a pessimist, neither are you.”
“Thanks, Garrus.” The smile that turned Shepard’s lips was small, but the turian counted it as a win. It was completely understandable that the human was having a hard time with this.
Garrus wished there was some way he could make it better. He could be a strong arm at the man’s side, but beyond that, he didn’t quite know what to do.
“We’ll find her,” he said as he withdrew his hand. “That’s a promise.”
Elijah blew out a long breath and pinched the bridge of his nose again. “I hope so. Promised her that we’d watch Fleet and Flotilla when we were chasing the Collectors. With everything that happened, we didn’t have the chance.”
“The vid’s not half bad,” Garrus admitted with a flick of his mandible as he sat back in his chair again and crossed his arms. “The soundtrack at the very least is decent.”
Laughing, Shepard let go of his nose. This time, it was a real grin-- one unhindered by the weight of war. That was the look he’d been trying to find in mentioning Kasumi. “Oh, is that why it’s on your playlist?”
Garrus’ hand moved unconsciously to his visor, where he stored his music. “Don’t judge,” he said in mock-affront. “Otherwise, I’ll have to drag out that Space Trek thing you like so much.”
“Star Trek,” Shepard corrected with a scowl. “It’s a classic.”
He laughed. “Right, a classic. From what Joker tells me, it’s campy as hell.”
“And Vaenia?” Elijah shot back.
“Ouch, straight to the heart.” Garrus grabbed his chest in an overblown display of pain. His love for cheesy romance movies dragged out for the sake of jokes but at least it seemed to get his friend out of his head. He’d take it. “That’s cruel, Shepard.”
The pair continued trading quips back and forth between them until the small hours of the morning began to grow. By the time they could hear the crew beyond the medical bay starting to get ready for the dayshift, Garrus was yawning in earnest.
“Go get some sleep,” Shepard told him.
Shrugging with one arm, Garrus shook his head. “I’ll catch a nap later. We won’t make it to the Perseus Veil today regardless. Chakwas will be here soon, too.”
Elijah made a noise of acknowledgement around a yawn of his own. “Well, at least get kava or something, you’re making me yawn.”
“When you put it that way,” Garrus said as he stood. “I guess I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“While you’re at it-” Shepard began as the door opened to admit the Doctor. “You can get me a coffee.”
“He most certainly will not,”
Karin said, garnering both men’s attention. She headed straight for her terminal and sat in her desk chair to begin going over the night’s readings as Garrus crossed to the door. He stopped at the exit and looked back just in time to see Elijah putting on his best pleading face. “Aw, come on, Doc. Just one.”
Garrus stifled his chuckle as he walked out into the crew deck, where the rest of the crew bustled away in their morning routines. Joker stood across from James at the island while the krogan-sized man was cooking something yellow with red and green vegetables in it. It smelled-- not terrible.
They greeted him in their usual fashions, James with a boisterous Scars! And Jeff with a more subdued grumble of good morning.
“Mornin’ Jimmy, Joker,” he greeted while joining Vega on the kitchen side of the island to grab himself a ration from the cupboard and begin heating the Kettle for kava. He leaned against the counter giving distance so he wouldn’t be in James’ way. “Any issues overnight?”
“Naw,” James replied while he moved the food around with a spatula. “Estaban has the shuttle in good shape again.”
“Same out front,” Jeff agreed.
“We’ll be drowning in geth in about thirty hours.”
Garrus hummed around the first bite of his ration bar, at least something was going well. He wasn’t too keen on fighting the geth again, but if it meant quarian support in the war, he’d just have to deal with it. “Shepard’s on the mend,” he offered as he continued eating. “Already wants to be boots on the ground.”
James shook his head. “Loco doesn’t know when to give up.”
“Tell me about it,” Garrus chuckled as he pushed himself off the counter to fetch supplies for his instant kava. It wasn’t as good as the freshly brewed kind, but they hadn’t managed to pick any up last time they’d been on the Citadel, and Garrus didn’t want to waste it. “He already wants a coffee, too.” “Just give him decaf,” Jeff said around the lip of his mug.
“Decaf?” Garrus asked, tilting his head to the side. He knew coffee came in different kinds-- “Chakwas said no coffee, is there a difference?”
“Mh-hm,” James hummed beside him as he portioned the food out onto two plates. “Take a plate of eggs in with some decaf, and maybe he won’t notice.”
Garrus looked skeptically between the two humans while James grabbed the supplies and a human-styled mug. The turian knew he was missing something. He just didn’t know what. “As long as it’s not going to bring the Doctor’s ire down on me, all right. I’ll give it a shot.”
“Good man, Scars.”
Laden with food for Shepard and both their drinks, Garrus headed back to the medical bay. When he arrived, Chakwas had just finished redressing Shepard’s scrapes and bruises. Shepard made grabby hands for the drink the moment Garrus walked in, and Karin rolled her eyes. He passed the mug over and let Shepard inhale the scent. “Just a sip, Commander,” Karin told him.
Blowing across the top of the mug, cooling the coffee, Shepard agreed. Though Garrus knew he was lying. He’d seen the man down more of the bitter smelling liquid than anyone else on the ship or hell, even more than he’d seen any of the officers drink it back atC-Sec. Garrus certainly hoped Joker was right when he said it would be okay.
He sat back down in his chair, leaving the food on a pop-up tray from the bedside so he could take pleasure in his kava. Just as he brought the drink to his mouth plates, he heard Shepard’s complaint. “Decaf?!”
Outside the medical bay windows, Garrus could see James and Joker watching through the windows with shit-eating grins on their faces. At her desk, Karin was chuckling to herself too. Garrus narrowed his eyes. He’d have to get those two back for that.