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The Quarian

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The adrenaline had worn off hours ago, around the same time a doctor had told him Shepard made it out of surgery. What he was left with was a battered body and frazzled mind.  If there was ever a night that Vakarian missed living planetside, it was the night a piece of shit criminal shot Shepard in a dirty alley. He would give anything to sit out in a backyard, let his exhaustion settle in, recline back in a giant chair, and just stare at the night sky, patiently waiting for his succor. 

The journey from Huerta to his apartment existed in a realm he wasn’t quite connected to. His body floated along as if something flowed beneath his feet, a wave pulling him towards his destination. Not home — he never really thought of his apartment as home. Featureless faces and nondescript bodies traveled the same sidewalks as him, he was certain of that, but whether they drifted around him at the same sedate pace or darted past him, he couldn’t tell. 

Something about the flashing light in the elevator snapped him back to the realm that he existed in. He made it to his apartment building — his apartment floor, even. The elevator doors hung wide open, waiting for him like an impatient old woman. Mildly surprised, he stared out into the hall for a moment while the light pulsed, insisting that he leave with every uniform beat. 

From the moment he set foot on his floor, he felt the ground shaking. He ambled on, reasoning that it must be the crappy HVAC struggling that turned the entire floor into unsteady ground. As he turned a corner, the quaking grew so violent he nearly sank to the floor. That’s when he realized it wasn’t the long-failing HVAC that shook beneath his feet, but that his legs themselves were shaking. His buckling knee snapped him back to reality. He braced a hand against the wall, taking a few steadying breaths (each one a chore because his carapace felt like it had been jackhammered to the point of cracking) until he felt balanced again. With the pathetic thought of passing out in the hall stuck in his head, he forced himself to get to his apartment, where he could crumble to the ground in peace. The path wasn’t an easy one, though — it was a maze of corridors that he had to weave through before he could finally collapse.

Not that he was excited to get there, though, because it was always dark and lonely, and once again, in the short span of a week, he was too distraught to be alone. This time he couldn't escape to his best friend’s apartment, though, because she was sedated and hopefully peacefully sleeping in a hospital bed. He had cursed the nurse for refusing to let him sit with her until she woke, but a quick look at himself at the hospital had convinced him to leave Shepard, to go home. His jacket was missing an arm, crisp white shirt soaked in blood across the abdomen. Staring down at the ground as he walked, he noticed that his shoes were so scruffed and smashed they might as well have been through a trash compactor. 

Still, it tore him up to leave Shepard alone. Maybe he’d get a message from her soon letting him know she was okay. Maybe she’d say that getting shot wasn't so bad. She’d make a little joke about it, and he’d promise to visit as soon as he could. 

The possibility that Shepard woke up after he left sent a tickle of agitation through him. Maybe she was sitting up in her bed now, in a hospital room just as dark and lonely as his apartment. 

With that uneasy thought nagging at him he took a shuddering breath and, uncertain how far he’d made it, lifted his heavy head to figure out where the hell he was. His apartment door was just a few steps away, but that wasn’t what surprised him. Just next to his door was a figure, arms crossed and hips cocked, her estimating eyes filled with something he could only interpret as displeasure. He paused, their eyes locking. It had been a week since he talked to his mate. Brilliant damned timing, Livia. Never around when I need you, and lingering when I can’t manage anything but myself. 

He lifted his heavy feet to step forward. 

“Spirits,” she said with a tight breath. Her eyes traveled from his feet to his fringe, making him wish he could hide himself from her hard look.  

He bit back his anger because his body ached to feel a comforting touch. His hurt feelings weren’t as important as moving on. And he didn’t have the energy to hold a grudge. 

As if to make a point, her eyes looked him up and down again and before he could muster up the energy to say a single word to explain the state he was in, she spoke. “You look horrible.” Her voice wasn’t unkind, and her subvocals were soothing, but the look on her face was disgust. To be fair, he couldn’t blame her — blood and gore had always made her sick. Seeing his reflection at the hospital had made him sick, too.  

He hummed in agreement. “Bad day.”  

“Apparently,” she said, averting her gaze as he stepped up to his door, opening it with a wave of his omni-tool. The speed of the doors opening almost startled him, but he settled his nerves to enter his apartment, Livia following close behind. 

He made no attempt to turn the lights on, but Livia took care of that, weak illumination falling over his empty couch, perfectly tidy workbench, and the art piece his mother gave to him that always filled him with regret but he couldn’t hurt her by refusing to display it. 

It was a cheap apartment, lacking possessions and comforts. All of his spare money, alongside any desire for a life deserving of a mate and family, were put to the side with the faint idea that someday, something would compel him to build a home.

But for now, it was just him. And one sad, lone male didn’t need anything more than a box where he could sleep, shower, and eat. 

Before anything else, he stepped into the kitchen and stiffly shimmied out of his jacket, stuffing it in the trash. As quickly as his fingers could manage he tore at the fasteners of his blood-soaked shirt, peeling it from his shoulders that were too stiff to move any more than a slight shrug. With fingers only pinching the edges, as if touching it more intimately would leave permanent stains on his skin, he threw the shirt in the trash along with the jacket. It had to be out of his sight — permanently. He’d never dig the image of Shepard standing, hands pressed to her body as crimson bled across her stomach, out of his head — but getting rid of that shirt made him feel like he was at least putting some distance between himself and the horrible thoughts and emotions swarming his mind. 

Livia stood in his kitchen, focused on her omi-tool at her wrist and absolutely oblivious to his exhaustion and spiraling mind. 

“I need a shower,” he told her, already headed in that direction.  

She caught his armspur, keeping him by her side. He made sure to keep his back facing her so she wouldn’t have to see the dried blood caked on his keel and stomach. “Of course. Are you hungry?” Her eyes were on a menu she pulled up on her omni-tool. 

He shook his head. “I should probably eat, though.”

“I’ll order something. I’d like to spend some time with you tonight. And you look like you could use some taking care of.” 

He nodded, trying to ignore the prickling across his skin when she brushed her hand along his. His nerves were still frazzled, making every touch and sound overstimulating. He yearned to be held, though, and couldn’t bear to turn her away. 

“Are you going to tell me what happened? I didn’t see any of your blood, so you must be ok.”

“Shepard got shot. She’s in the hospital.”

“Thank the spirits it wasn’t you. What in the hell were you two doing?” She placed a hand on his shoulder and soothed him with a tender touch that immediately made his muscles tense instead of relax. Maybe letting go of his resentment for being ignored wasn’t so easy. 

“Stumbled on our suspects,” he answered. “She’ll be ok, though.” 

While Livia’s fingers scrolled through menu items, her nose scrunched. “You reek of blood. I’m not sure how you can stand it.” 

He nodded again. He had spent hours in that wretched state, sitting in a too-bright waiting room at Huerta, and had grown immune to the sharp scent of Shepard’s blood. “I’ll shower.”

He slinked into the seclusion of his bathroom and into the tiny, dark shower stall. Instead of feeling crowded, the walls that surrounded him provided protection —  he was safe and secure from the sad, sick, world that lurked outside. Walls offered an embrace when arms were absent. When the hot water burst from the noisy pipes, spilling over him, he closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see Shepard’s blood washing from his skin and down the drain. With his crest pressed against the cool metal wall, he wrapped his hands around the back of his neck and finally let out a keen that had been stuck in his throat since he first saw crimson crawling along her abdomen. Fear had sharpened her eyes — that’s what stuck in his mind as water splashed and trickled over his plates and skin. Not bright, sparkling, emerald eyes. Sharp, vacant eyes darkened by fear. The sound of his keens echoing off the crushing shower walls turned his stomach, but he couldn’t hold in his fear or the way his loss of control made him feel desperate and crazy.

What the hell was Livia doing there? Of all nights to just show up. He was a wreck. Just a week ago he found out his mom would be gone too soon. And now thoughts of his strong, fragile, funny, wonderful friend holding on to him with trembling hands and looking at him with fear in her eyes pushed him towards the edge. It was just too much. He needed a drink. He needed to drink until he passed out and then he could go see Shepard tomorrow and would know she was okay. If he could just see her awake and smiling, make sure that sunshine still filled her. The thought of her light and warmth fading sent another keen rattling through his battered and aching chest. When his knees shook his hands barely made it to the showerhead in time to keep him from crashing to the shower floor.  

Keening and crumbling. Alone in the shower. Every muscle screaming and shaking. Never before had he needed guidance so desperately. Something, anything, to help him look up and move forward. 

His keens quivered through his chest and throat as it dawned on him — there was nothing special about watching the stars at night. He was just chasing the feeling of being a kid, when perceived insurmountable problems were actually small and forgettable. When the world seemed static and sure. When the idea of stars possessing the ability to offer any sort of succor was still a preternatural possibility. 

How in the hell was he going to keep himself together enough to eat dinner and watch a vid with Livia? 

He had to try because that was his only option. If he told her he needed sleep, her feelings would be hurt. She’d refuse to talk to him for days. Again.  

Once he was sure he wouldn’t fall, he forced himself to pick up his bar of soap and run the fine grit over his chest, keel, and abdomen. Soft keens randomly erupted from his grated throat, but by the time he finished washing the rest of his body, the pathetic cries died out entirely. The hot water soothed his muscles enough for him to imagine walking back out to the living room instead of crawling to his bed. 

That was how he managed to gather himself together — hot water, the soothing herbal scent of his soap, and allowing his body to expel his despair rather than trying to hold it in.

Once out of the shower, he toweled off, threw on some workout pants and a shirt while resisting the urge to send Shepard a message, just to know she was okay. He’d probably wake her up, though, so he denied himself the relief of reaching out to her. 

When he finally forced himself from the bedroom to the living room, Livia was already relaxed on the couch with her legs tucked under her while she scrolled through vid stations. She looked up at him with a warm smile that made her mandibles flare. “There you are, looking as handsome as ever.” 

“I feel like shit, but thanks,” he said as he placed his hand on the back of the couch to sit at her side. His arm shook with the effort.  

Her gaze stayed on him through his entire journey — and carefully getting himself on the couch was a journey — from slumping his full weight upon that one arm, slowly lowering himself, then settling into the seat delicately to avoid jostling his legs or torso. 

“You’re moving like a skycar ran you over.”

“Nothing that dramatic.” He leaned his head back, allowing it to sink against the plush cushion. As his neck bent, spikes of pain shot from his nape to his fringe. “Just a krogan.”

Her browplates pinched with sincere concern, a comforting hum soothing him. “Spirits, Garrus, I have no idea how you’re still alive.”

Shepard,” he said simply while his unwatching eyes trained on the images that flashed across the vidscreen.  

She made a surprised, slightly impressed noise, but said nothing in reply. So, they watched whatever show she’d thrown on in silence.  

When the doorbell chimed, Livia eased off the couch (Vakarian couldn’t help but envy the way her rested, unbattered body moved without hindrance) to retrieve their food, which she carried to the kitchen to unpack. He closed his eyes and tuned out the sound of cabinets opening, dishes clanking, and water running. The sound of the trash bin lid opening followed by her gasp made his stomach clench.

Fuck , his shirt, she must not have seen the truly horrifying state of his clothes when he took it off because she’d been staring at the menu. 

His eyes opened and his neck snapped in her direction. To Vakarian’s absolute horror, she didn’t close the lid. Her arm dove right in and pulled out the blood-soaked shirt, held it up in an outstretched hand, and shook it at him.

Garrus ,” she chided, “I bought you this shirt as a gift. How could you just throw it away?”

His mandibles flared out wide, anger beating into his veins at the sight of his mate holding up the shirt he thought he’d discarded permanently. It took every ounce of control to remain calm. “Put it back,” he told her. “Can’t you see it’s soaked in Shepard’s blood?”

She shrugged, and she turned the shirt in her hands to inspect it. “It’s not that bad. It can be cleaned, I’m sure. I’ll take care of it for you.”

Vakarian leaped off the couch, twisting his ankle and growling out in pain. Charging Livia, he snatched the shirt from her hands and ripped it out of her hands so violently that she stumbled forward. He ignored the shock in her eyes and her protesting trill to throw the shirt back into the bin, letting the lid slam closed to make his point clear. 

“Don’t, Livia,” he said through gritted teeth. “It’s not about a damn shirt. My best friend’s blood is all over it.”

“Best friend? Your partner gets shot, and all of a sudden she’s your best friend?” Her soft, patronizing laugh only strengthened his anger. “You’re acting sentimentally. I admire that about you, really, but you’re so broody sometimes.”

“Are you actually trying to tell me who my best friend is?”

“Your best friend is Nihlus,” she insisted as if just by her saying it that meant it was true. “I know you.”

“I’m not arguing with you over who my best friend is.”

Feeling crazy, he stared at her, stunned and speechless. 

“We don’t need to argue at all.” she finally said, wrapping her arms around him. Her subvocals vibrated and soothed his nerves slightly. Countless times before, he’d sought out comfort from her after a bad day. If there was ever a day that he needed a soothing touch and some comforting words, it was that one. Maybe today would be that day. Maybe he’d fall into her arms, and she’d hold him. Maybe their relationship would change, she’d learn to be comforting, and he’d lower his walls long enough to let this work.  

“I’m trying here. Meet me halfway, hm?” His subvocals trilled, pleading with her to relent. He felt rejected. He felt ashamed. For some reason, at that moment, he realized he had never told her about his mom. But if he said something to her then, he might just keen again, and it just didn’t feel safe to break down in front of her. Sentimental and broody. What would she think of him if he keened in front of her?

“I am, too,” she whispered, nuzzling her mandible against his keel. 

Her arms wound around him in the embrace he’d been yearning for all night, but instead of soothing him, the urge to shrug her off and crawl away itched at him. He fought it though. He told himself to calm down and let her in.

Try. Spirits, just try.

After a moment, he convinced himself to enjoy being held. He wanted so badly to feel that comfort and care, and if he tried hard enough he’d allow this to feel good. Why couldn’t he just enjoy being held by her, when he yearned so badly to feel the pressure of a warm body against his? 

Shepard had to be awake. His mind conjured an image… her sitting in the passenger seat of a skycar with him, deep in some asinine conversation, a soft laugh swelling her cheeks and quaking her chest. He felt lighter. They’d be back to normal soon.  

“Come on,” Livia’s voice startled him. “Sit down with me, and eat some dinner. Your nerves will calm once you’ve eaten. I already picked a vid, too.”

He allowed her to lead him back to the couch and help him recline to avoid minimal discomfort. She curled up at his side. Once the vid started, he forced down as much food as he could muster without making himself sick. The story was a ridiculous militaristic romance — just the type Livia adored. Throughout the first half, he kept checking his omni-tool, just in case Shepard reached out. If he missed a message from her, he would never forgive himself. 

At one point, Livia noticed the glance he gave his omni-tool and made a little chastising noise. “This won awards, you know. I’m sorry it’s not some mindless buddy comedy.”

He was too. A melodramatic story about sacrifice and death was the opposite of his ideal relaxation device that night. “This vid sucks,” he mumbled as the main character stood proudly of their mate’s pyre. “Who cares about honor if you’ve lost the love of your life?”

“Sentimental and you don’t care about honor. You are such a bad turian.” Her eyes locked on his while she shook her head. There was a fine line between teasing and mocking, and the look in Livia’s eyes made it clear which side of the line her grin was on. “I should be dating a good turian, someone I can proudly take home.” 

He scoffed but said nothing. If being a good turian meant you cared more about a shirt than someone’s feelings, he was proud to be a bad turian. And suddenly the fact that he still hadn’t met her family made a lot more sense. And it fucking stung. 

Her hand reached for his. “You know I didn’t mean it like that. I’m teasing you.”

He looked away and folded his arms across his chest, ignoring her attempt to placate him with a comforting touch. “Sure, my mistake.”

“You’re trying to fight with me.”

He couldn’t stand even the idea of looking at her. “If I’m trying to fight with you, then you’re trying to make me feel bad about myself.”

“I think you’re wonderful. Why would I say things to hurt your feelings?” 

“Exactly.”

“Don’t play your stupid detective head games with me. Save it for work.” 

He paused to take a breath and bite back a response, choosing to stare at the vid instead of engaging in any additional rapid-fire with her. He was trying. Spirits he was trying

There was no peace, though. Her voice was bright and bitter when she continued. “You’re too confident to care what I say, whether it’s a compliment or a criticism, so it really doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it.”

Still unable to look at her, he stared straight forward. “If you think I’m confident, you have no idea who I am.”

She leaned to interject her presence in his line of sight, forcing him to look at her sad eyes. “Why do you keep saying I don’t know you? Are you that intent on pushing me away?”

“No,” he promised as he wrapped his hands around hers, pulling her closer. Something told him to think about her question a little harder because deep down in the recesses of his mind, he knew that he might just be a liar — maybe not to others, but certainly to himself. 

She curled up beside him, resting her head on his shoulder and laying her hand across his keel, right where Shepard’s forehead had rested as she shook and whimpered. He forced himself to focus on the dumb vid and just relax with his mate. 

Her hand stayed on his keel for only a short while before it began to wander to his neck, softly stroking the sensitive skin. Her subvocals rippled. Maybe it was because he needed it so much, but despite his anger, the sound and vibration soothed him when he thought he was incapable of relaxing. 

He barely heard the dialogue and music coming from the vid while her light touches along his neck and chest helped him forget his pain. She quickly lulled him with dulcet subvocals and tender touches into a sedate, dreamlike state. Need and exhaustion made her job easier. Every touch along his neck, chest, and stomach allayed his anger and worry. He was half-asleep when her hand slid from his stomach to his waist, and from his waist to his thigh. Dulcet tones turned to suggestive ripples against his neck. Her mandible slid against his.

He barely noticed when her hand left his thigh and began to tease him. The pulsing between his legs pulled him back from his soothed state. 

“I’m tired, Liv,” he said, hoping she’d go back to just touching him tenderly.   

“Just relax and let me touch you.” Her warm breath fell against his neck. Her hand never relented, stroking, teasing, dipping to tease him out. It felt good, and terrible at the same time. Something inside him wanted to just feel good, to just relax and embrace the distraction. But something closer to the surface sent a subtle wave of panic through him. He twitched within her grip and his whole body tensed, waking him out of his supplicant state. Realizing how turned on he’d grown, his skin crawled and his stomach turned. 

She had no clue, though, what he felt. He froze but she dove upon him eagerly, using her free hand to pull his face closer to hers. Her mandible barely touched his when he turned his head to avoid it. He used the opportunity to look at the time on his omni-tool.

She huffed in agitation. “ Spirits, Garrus, pay attention to me.”

“I’m sorry. I’m tired. And all I want to do is go check on Jane.”

“Really?” Her mandibles flicked, making him wonder why the hell he revealed that thought to her. “What kind of man would rather sit in a hospital creepily staring at his sleeping colleague than have sex?”

He stared at her for just a moment, at her tight mouth and cold eyes that revealed a selfish spirit, wondering how he had never seen how deeply inpatient and unkind she truly was. 

“You know, when we started this relationship you could have warned me that you enjoy crushing your mate’s soul with subtle attacks on their confidence.”

“I don’t do that,” she snapped. 

“I’m a bad turian that you’re too embarrassed to introduce to your family?”

Instead of looking regretful, her eyes burned with anger. “I told you I was joking.”

A wry laugh escaped past his guard. “If that’s true, then you’re not funny.”

She pulled her hand away, his erection falling against his stomach. He felt betrayed by his body for getting so turned on when he had no conscious interest. 

“Why do you wash my scent off?” Her gaze stayed locked on him, adamant that he answer her. When he couldn’t muster a reply or an apology, she continued. “You don’t care about my feelings, so I don’t care about yours.”

“I don’t wash your scent off to hurt you,” he finally said, though he was sure it was much too late. There were questions that centered around the heart, pride, and comfort that required an immediate response, and he’d just failed that little test. 

“Then why do you do it?”

He had no explanation that he could give her, at least not one that he could actually say out loud because he didn’t even want to acknowledge the truth himself. Because it hurt. Because sharing scent with someone was a reminder of loss and loneliness and abandonment despite trying your hardest to show your love. Because the intimate act didn’t make him think of a future with someone new, it only made him miss what he once shared with a woman who probably wouldn’t even look him in the eye if they crossed paths again. 

Livia watched him, waiting for a justifiable answer, but he had none. 

“You said you didn’t mind,” he finally managed the weak explanation. 

Her hands flew to his arm to shove him roughly against the back cushion. He winced, his entire carapace turning into an inferno of pain. “Of course I mind, you insensitive bastard.”

He stared dumbly, hissing in a breath to stifle the pain surging across his carapace. If she cared that much, she should have said something. Not that he would have been able to keep her scent, even if he knew washing it off hurt her feelings. But knowing the truth would have allowed him to navigate her feelings, maybe even address them. They could have discussed boundaries and needs. 

That was a downright lie — he would have run, fast and far away if she had insisted he retain her scent. He just wasn’t ready for that intimacy. 

Five years after Cama and he still wasn’t ready. Fuck. 

“You’re bad at scenting anyway,” she snapped.

“I don’t enjoy it,” he replied before he had the good sense to shut his mouth. 

He had no business being in a relationship; he was too broken, too hurt. His heart was still an open wound that he had kept prodding, refusing to let himself heal. What the fuck was he doing? This relationship was such a sad, terrible mistake. 

“I wasn’t ready for this.” The words tumbled from his mouth. They were true, but he wasn’t sure how he allowed them to escape the tight walls he kept all of his true feelings locked behind. 

As she looked him over a deep sinking feeling settled in his gut — fear and regret. Breaking up with her felt awful, especially now that he knew she’d been hurting and ached for more with him, but the idea of staying in a relationship with her, with anyone really, filled him with intense panic.

Something flashed in her eyes but he wasn’t sure if it was fear or anger or something else. Disappointment, that’s all he could read, but her hand landed on him again, moving slowly upwards despite his softened state. “Shh, relax. Let’s just start over.” 

His body shrank under her touch, begging to put distance between them. 

“No.” He tried to shift away, but he felt too heavy with guilt because she didn’t hear what he was trying to say. “I mean, I’m not ready for a relationship. I’m sorry.” 

Her expression was blank for only a moment before her mandibles snapped tight so quickly it had to hurt. “My hand is still on you and you’re breaking up with me?” 

His mouth opened but no words came out. 

“I came all the way over here to spend time with you, and you just break up with me?” Her scoff was downright venomous. “You’re pathetic .” The word rolled off her tongue like she’d been stifling it for days, weeks, even, and relished finally freeing it.

The insult caused his anger to surge up like a hot lash. “Sitting in this damned apartment with you was the last thing I wanted to do tonight.” 

After saying that she finally released him. “You selfish, brooding piece of shit.” She leaped up, recoiling from him as if he was diseased. He fastened his pants and tried to rise from the couch, but his back seized and a spark of pain flared along his spine. 

His anger fell when he saw her mandibles quiver. She scrambled to pick up her jacket from the back of the couch, her grip slipping in her haste, causing her to drop it. He didn’t want it to end like this, not with insults and accusations. He truly just wanted them to go their separate ways. They’d be happier apart.  

“I’m sorry,” he repeated as she picked her jacket off the floor. When he finally managed to peel himself off the couch he wobbled before catching his balance.   

“What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re just a broken, depressed…” her mandibles jittered again, “You were just a waste of my time. You’re a waste of anyone’s time.” 

The insults she slung hurt, of course, but she wasn’t wrong. He’d been a fool. Selfish, too. “Yeah,” he solemnly agreed with her. 

A low, frustrated growl leaped out of her so suddenly he stepped back, his twisted ankle flaring. 

“I’m sorry,” he repeated. 

She growled again at his meaningless apology. “Stop saying you’re sorry.” She stalked towards the door, then stopped and looked back at him. “You know, I really hope for any woman stupid enough to love you that you fix yourself.”

The joke was on her if she thought he was capable of fixing himself; he’d always been like this — scared and stupid. Only one woman had been foolish enough to love him as is, and even she wised up eventually. 

Livia stood in his living room, glaring at him, as all those thoughts ticked away at his self-confidence. He wasn’t quite sure what else to say though. What else could he say, other than one more pathetic I’m sorry . He never meant to hurt her, but that wasn’t a helpful sentiment either. Finally looking fed up, she spun on her pedi-talons and marched away from him In a flash, disappearing through the doors that shut with a grinding lurch. He’d been meaning to fix that. The property management wouldn’t do it correctly. 

He sighed. 

It didn’t escape him that he just broke up with someone while her hand was wrapped around him. It was pretty much the dumbest and most embarrassing thing he’d ever done in a relationship. He stood there, preoccupied with a malfunctioning door instead of worrying about her, making him feel infinitely worse. 

A moment of harsh clarity fell over him — he worried more about the malfunctioning door than he was about the feelings of the woman he just broke up with, which had to be a clear sign that he was an absolute asshole.  

The door hadn’t called him names. 

Pathetic . Waste of time . Her words bit again.

Stunned, he tried to recall moments throughout their short time together when he tried to make ‘them’ work. He had tried, right? At least at first? He came up with absolutely zero evidence to accompany that claim, though. 

Turians are taught not to lie to others, there were ways around it, of course, but any good turian felt intense shame for the act. There were no lessons on lying to yourself, though — he could have used a few sessions on that topic.

All he could remember were moments when he tried to avoid her anger and disappointment. And in those moments he had only been trying to ignore her unhappiness and his failure. He had dodged and ignored, never really addressed the cause of their issues. 

He had put in some effort, but not the right kind and never enough. His walls had been too close, too thick.  

Living dishonestly with yourself was as destructive as lying to others, and because he had told himself throughout the entire relationship that he was ready to give to someone else, and that he was trying, he had broken her heart. He was intimately aware of the pain of a broken heart.   

Being a detective, he really should have spotted it sooner, but it occurred to him that there was an uncanny parallel between the last months of his relationship with Cama and his entire relationship with Livia — distance, hazy communication, and unspoken hurt feelings.

T’Saris was right when she said a week ago that Livia was a happy person before he came into her life. She hadn’t said it to be mean, it was just a joke, but damn was it the truth. How many little moments — sour comments and hurt feelings and subtle slights — had led up to what just transpired between them? Livia had done nothing wrong at first, other than start dating a man who was scared and guarded. She deserved better. He hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings, to make her feel undeserving and lonely, but inadvertently, he had. Everyone deserves to find the person who will love them, body and spirit, and hopefully, that day would come for Livia soon. 

He eventually peeled his eyes from the door and checked the time. Visiting hours were over, and Shepard never sent a message, which he couldn’t believe. There was no way that little ball of fire wasn’t awake, probably pestering the nurses with questions and jokes. Simply imagining her smiling face lightened his mood just a notch.

He could have lost her. The idea of her being out of his reach, out of his grasp, was unsettling in a way he knew wasn’t quite normal, even for two people as close as them. Life without his best friend felt so fragile and meaningless, though. Just three short years together, and she felt like a delicately engrained piece of him.

Because his arms felt empty, he hobbled to his bedroom, pulled a sweatshirt from the dresser, and delicately slid it over his aching arms and carapace — just to feel the comfort of something soft and heavy against his skin.