Part 1: If You're Still Alive
There's a moment when he first locks eyes on her through the scope, this vision in blood-splattered armor that he has yearned to see for two years, when Garrus thinks that his subtle flirtation with insanity and his blatant courtship with death have finally borne fruit. His finger freezes on the trigger as he watches her hop over a low wall, snag a merc and put him down with a punch that looks like it snapped his neck.
The action takes his breath away.
He shakes his head, blinks; certain that when he looks back again she'll be gone. But no. No she's still there, moving methodically forward. Her pace slow, careful. Precise.
It's taking too damn long.
She doesn't hear him of course. Doesn't even look his way, too focused on the battle around her - as well she should be. But more than anything, he wants to see her eyes. Needs to see her eyes, because if he really has lost it, if these are really his last few minutes alive, then he wants to be sure her eyes looking back at him are the last thing that he sees. He thinks that he could greet death willingly if he only has that.
Without taking his gaze from the scope, he fumbles with his ammo pack. Digs out a concussive round and reloads. On an exhale he lets the weight of his finger overcome the resistance of the trigger. A split-second later he watches as her shoulder jolts backwards and her mouth moves in a curse that he can't hear but that he knows she says all the same. She whips her head around, scanning the balcony that has been his bunker and his prison for too many hours to count, until she finally spots him. A frown on her face and eyes narrowed in anger.
He can't remember ever having seen a more beautiful sight.
It takes her longer than he would like to make her way to him. Fear and anticipation duel for dominance in his gut as he cuts down enemies alongside of her, clearing a path for her and her team as best as he can.
He's afraid that she won't be real. That she'll make it to his position, and he'll find that it was never her, just some desperate hallucination. There have been a few of those since she died, a lot of them have happened recently. He's equally afraid that it is her, and that all the emotions he's kept bottled up since her death will pour out of him, unable to be contained by her proximity.
He knows which reality he'd choose, if given the option. But he also knows which one is more likely.
The tap of armored feet echo off the walls all around him as she makes her way into the room. Garrus keeps his gaze steadily facing forward, eyeing one last enemy through the scope - not willing to look back yet. Not willing to relinquish the fantasy of her swooping in to rescue him like the guardian angel everyone on this Spirits forsaken rock claim that he himself is.
The pace of his heart doubles, threatening to beat free of his chest. The voice caressing those syllables one that he hears every night in his sleep. One that he never thought he'd hear again. One that he'll never forget. He holds up a hand, using the enemy in his scope as an excuse to avoid turning around and facing her yet, still certain that she'll dissolve away the moment he does. He's proud when the limb doesn't tremble.
The merc down, he sucks in a breath of air and turns. His joints hurt, but he manages to put the pain aside and rise, peeling his helmet off as he settles back onto some crates. He holds his breath as her gaze locks on his. The exhaustion that settles over him like a shroud doesn't help him at all in determining if she's real. "Shepard. I thought you were dead."
"Garrus! What are you doing here?"
The sound of honest joy in her voice as she throws her arms wide, looking as if she is about to embrace him, loosens the knot constricting his soul.
It's her. It's really her.
"You okay?" Even as she asks it, she knows what the answer is. It's carved in the set of his shoulders, in the way that he had to lean on the rifle in order to stand from his sniping crouch. It's in the almost palpable waves of exhaustion flowing off of him. She knows the answer, but she can't not ask.
"Been better. But it sure is good to see a friendly face. Killing mercs is hard work. Especially on my own."
She asks questions, prods him for answers as to the how what and why of him being here on Omega. Last she knew (before she went and died) was that he was in line for Spectre training. Finding him here, a masked vigilante for all intents and purposes, is surprising to say the least.
The Q&A is all just a distraction from the almost overwhelming happiness she feels at having found him, however. It's clear that whatever has gone down here has taken its toll on him, and it wouldn't be right for her to shout out in glee at the moment, no matter how much she might want to. Hell, she barely managed to resist throwing her arms around him when he pulled that helmet off.
They were always close, from almost the very beginning, but they were never that close, and she has no idea if he would even welcome such a display of affection.
She thinks that she might just have to find out later, when they've cleared out the mercs and made it back to the Normandy. She hadn't quite realized how much she'd missed him until he was standing in front of her again, and somehow she needs to make sure that he knows too.
He finishes explaining the situation, sketching out a plan, tentative though it may be, in a subdued voice and she has to hold back a grin at the idea of fighting by his side again. "I didn't like sneaking anyway. Time to spill a little merc blood."
"Glad to see you haven't changed." His gaze, dark and hooded as it is, doesn't waver from her. She feels a pang in her heart at the reality that she can't say the same about him. The idealistic young turian that she knew is gone, and in his place is a battle hardened man. Then again, it's been two years for everyone but her. It shouldn't surprise her that the galaxy went on without her. But seeing the proof of it in her good friend's face really brings it home. "Let's see what they're up to..."
When he passes her the rifle so that she can see the scouts, his hand coasts over the back of her arm, lingering a moment at her elbow. She can't feel the heat of him through the layers of armor that they both wear, but the pressure - the presence - of him sends a jolt through her system.
It's the first time anyone has touched her just to touch her since she woke up in that lab. Not so that they can perform a medical scan, not to pull her into cover or assist her into a hovering shuttle. Not for any reason that she can see except that she's there, and he can. It makes her aware of him in a way that she's never consciously been before. Maybe he wouldn't be adverse to that hug after all...
The whole thing makes her hands shake enough that she doesn't take the opportunity to pick off one of the mechs with a headshot when the chance presents itself.
She doesn't have time to dwell on it though, as moments later they are deep in a firefight. Whatever Garrus did to piss off these mercs, it must have been damn impressive. Shepard's just glad that she took the time to sabotage the heavy mechs. There's enough heat on them without having to deal with that too. It makes things a whole hell of a lot easier. And it's a hell of a bonus when they manage to take out Jaroth at the same time.
Of course since nothing is ever easy for long, while they're regrouping after the first barrage - discussing exit strategies - a base shaking rattle announces that the lower levels have been breached. Something inside Shepard recoils from the idea of leaving Garrus alone so that they can go down below to deal with the invading threat, despite his suggestion that they do just that.
She looks at him. Really looks. And she finds that she doesn't like what she sees. He's tired, too tired, with obvious injuries that he tries to cover up with little success. Then there's the slump of his shoulders, the way that he appears... not defeated, but damn close. It scares her a little. To the point that the thought of leaving him - even for a second - isn't something she's willing to contemplate. Her eyes don't leave his as she makes the call. "Miranda, Jacob, get to work on those shutters. Keep in radio contact. I want constant updates, understood?"
"Of course, Commander."
"We're on it, Shepard."
After that it's a whirlwind firefight, with her and Garrus falling into that familiar rhythm that they perfected in the hunt for Saren. They take turns lining up shots, one of them up while the other one reloads. The smile that has been threatening to bloom since the start finally wins its battle when he presses a fresh heat sink into her hand without her even having to ask. She glances back at him in thanks, and finds him staring at her with an unreadable expression before he turns away to take his turn at the ledge.
They go on like that for what seems like ages, but is probably less than fifteen minutes. Up, down. Him, her. Rinse, repeat. The scent of blood and burning metal wafting up from the killing field down below is invigorating. Reminding her that she's alive. That Garrus is alive. It's like all of the pieces of her broken kaleidoscope of a life are coming back together.
It feels right.
Shepard lines up a final shot as her comm crackles to life: "Last shutter down, Commander. Returning to your location." She drops her shoulder a hair, and squeezes the trigger. The last visible bastard falls to the ground in a spray of blood. Shepard pulls back from the ledge, dropping onto the ground with her back to the wall as she reloads. No one's coming down the bridge at the moment, but better safe than sorry. Next to her - almost impossibly close - she can feel Garrus doing the same. His armor tapping against hers with his movements.
"Roger that, Lawson. Make sure to do a full sweep of the compound on your way back. We're running low on heat sinks up here. Last thing we need is to get caught with our pants around our ankles and the last sink popped."
"That metaphor was awful, Commander, but understood. Miranda out."
Shepard huffs out a breath, and settles her gun against the wall to the side of her that isn't pressed against Garrus. A whoop of laughter finally escaping as she settles back down, adrenaline still pumping through her system. "Hah! Just like old times, huh, Garr-"
Her sentence dies a premature death at the feeling of talons carding through her hair, a tug on the tendrils so slight that it could be accidental if it wasn't for the way that it lingers. She closes her mouth with a snap and tilts her head to the side in order to look at him. His gloved talons move with her, still playing with the loose strands of hair. He looks...mesmerized. "Garrus?"
"You're real." His voice is guttural, the sub-vocals deeper than she has ever heard them before. She watches his mandibles flare out to the side as he takes a breath. Disbelief is written in every line of his face. The fact that she is the cause of such a reaction chills her at the same time that it stirs something in the pit of her soul. She swallows, unable to find her voice, so she just nods instead.
"You're real. You're here. And you're alive. How?'
"It's a...a long story."
He hums, the low-pitched vibration making her shiver. The hand that's been playing with her hair slides down, next to her cheek; one talon skimming across the marks of her resurrection. "You're scars, they're...different."
She nods again. Suppressing a shudder as the movement causes his glove to scratch against her face. "I know. Cerberus - they, they rebuilt me. All new skin. All new scars. These ones, these ones haven't had a chance to heal."
Now it's his turn to nod. Like what she said actually made sense. His fingers skate across her cheek then follow the line of her jaw down to her chin. Her breath goes shallow at his proximity. He's leaning closer to her than she can ever recall him having been before. The moment hangs in the air, breath caught between them, before he seems to snap back to attention, and starts to pull away, talons curling into his palm. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to - that was inappropriate of-"
"No!" She grabs for his wrist and pulls his hand back towards her face, holding his palm to her cheek and leaning into the touch. "No, I - I don't mind." She closes her eyes, releasing a broken breath. Shepard revels in the sensation of being touched, even through the armor; the thought of losing this tentative connection too horrible to bear.
After a moment, the hand at her cheek slides back into her hair, cupping her head in its grasp, his voice impossibly close when he releases her name on a sigh. Unexpectedly, his other arm wraps around her body and hauls her up and onto his lap, her legs splayed out on either side of his hips as he pulls her to him in a vice-like embrace. The position is intimate, but not obscene.
His head drops down to the junction between her neck and shoulder, the hard angles of him pressing into her much softer ones. The edges of his armor clank against hers as her arms flail out to her sides, unsure of the best place to land. After a moment she settles them on his cowl and lets her head rest against his as best she can, mindful of his fringe. It's awkward, and a little uncomfortable, but she doesn't care. She needs this. She hadn't known how much.
And judging by the way that he clings to her, so does he.
A minute, or an eternity passes - she doesn't know which - before she feels his shoulders hitch. His knees lifting behind her, cradling her to his body as he curls closer. A low, plaintive sound issues forth from his chest; his whole frame rocking almost rhythmically in time. The realization that he is crying - or the turian equivalent - shocks her to her core. She never would have imagined such an emotional display from him. In the past, he'd always been so composed, so controlled. His willingness to display himself this way - or maybe it's his inability to hold back any longer - speaks volumes as to his current mental state.
Just what the hell has he been through?
The need to soothe him is too strong to ignore, so she doesn't even bother trying. Instead, she lifts a hand from his cowl and drags it along to the nape of his neck, below the fringe. She massages the tender hide there while making soft sounds of reassurance that she hadn't before known she was capable of - though in this time, and in this place, and with him, they feel completely natural.
Eventually, the shaking stops. In its place there is a deep rumbling. She feels his hand tighten at her waist, his knees at her back pressing her closer to him. His mouth caresses the skin of her neck. She gasps at the sensation of stiff lips nipping gently at the skin there, her fingers at his neck digging into him involuntarily in response. She presses her body as close to his as she can, given the obstacle that is their armor.
It's not close enough.
The reaction from him is immediate, and intense. He growls, a loud vibrato that sends heat spiking through her body. The talons in her hair curl tight, grabbing hold of the strands so that he can tug her head to the side. There is a flash of pain at the abrupt movement, but it is almost instantly replaced with a wash of pleasure as his rough tongue laves the skin of her neck in an alien sort of kiss. His hot breath fanning over the moistened skin as he moves higher, nuzzling the space by her ear, then the underside of her jaw.
She scratches her gloved fingers against his neck once more, thrilling in the way his body bucks slightly beneath hers. Her heart is beating like a hammer against her ribs, the whole world falling away until nothing but the two of them remains. "Garrus..."