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By the time it became clear to him that something was wrong, the Reapers had hit Palaven and there had been no time to dwell on it. It was only when Shepard appeared like a mirage made real on Menae that the full weight of his condition had settled on him and he began to dread what was to come. Although he hadn’t been there to watch her deteriorate, he had seen his mother in the end stages of Corpalis and it had torn his heart out a piece at a time. She couldn’t remember her own children, couldn’t remember what she’d eaten right after the nurses took her tray away. She’d died alone, surrounded by her family. That was not a future he wanted for himself, or for Shepard.

Out of pure selfishness, he’d asked to continue the budding relationship they’d begun back when Shepard was working for Cerberus and, miracle of miracles, she’d said yes. For the next few months, he’d insisted on recording everything: talking in her cabin, hanging out on shore leave with Tali and Liara, the two of them up on the top of the Presidium when she’d told him she loved him and it made his heart swell and break at the same time. She’d looked at him funny the first time he’d asked to make those videos, but had taken to it with gusto and had even made her own. He didn’t know about that one until later, though.

He’d always meant to tell her what was wrong with him, but there had never been a good time. Between the Reapers, negotiating peace treaties, and losing friends left and right, Garrus reasoned that she didn’t need to shoulder his burden as well. A selfish part of him wanted to pretend, as long as possible, that there could be a future for them free of hospitals. A future with a house and children.

But then she’d died, and it was too late for words.

Garrus spent a lot of time, while crash-landed on a distant jungle planet, looking at those old vids. Shepard ducking down into frame to kiss his mandible, a small smile on her lips. The two of them with their feet hung out over the Presidium lake, talking about nothing important for a change. Always her, always back to Shepard, and Spirits how he missed her.

He found the vid she’d made for him a week after the Normandy had crashed, maybe four days before she was ready to fly again. Shepard was in her N7 jacket and her hair was down, framing her face in dark red strands. The lights in her cabin were muted and he thought he could hear snoring in the background—his own. She kept her voice low and held the camera loosely in her hand, and her hair kept falling in her eye. Garrus reached out unconsciously to brush it out of the way, and made a soft keening sound as his heart broke again.

“Garrus, I . . . I just wanted to make this for you so I could tell you this without fumbling for words. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to just say it to you, but . . . anyway, here goes.” She took a deep breath, and smiled. “When I found you on Omega, I can’t tell you how much I wanted to just run up and hug you. Between Project Lazarus and working for Cerberus, I was having a hard time making sense of anything. Nothing was the same as I’d left it, and I was sort of . . . drifting with nowhere to anchor.” She smiled a little wider and he saw the shimmer or tears in her eyes. “And then there you were, big and solid as ever, and I knew everything would be okay. I think it was right then that I started to fall in love with you.”

“Shepard,” he choked out past the growing lump in his throat and lightly grazed his fingers across her face on the screen, the only thing he had left of her.

“I just wanted to tell you, in case I never get the chance, to say that you mean more to me than anything. Just knowing you’re here, fighting with me again, gives me the strength to do this. To be Commander Shepard, the symbol of the rebellion that everyone needs.” The tears finally spilled over, and she glanced out of frame to where his past self was still sleeping. Her eyes met his in the here and now, and he was struck again by how beautiful she was. “I love you so much, Garrus. When this is all over . . . I think I’d like to marry you. If you’ll have me, that is.” She sighed and sat up a little straighter and he knew she was almost done. “Now, if I could just get up the guts to say that in person. I think you know anyway, though.”

“Yeah, Shepard, I did,” he answered, and wondered if that bar in heaven was real, and if she was looking down at him right now.

“I better go, it looks like you’re waking up. Don’t you ever doubt, and don’t ever forget that I love you, no matter what happens.” With one last smile, the vid cut off and Garrus was left in the darkness of the main battery again. That night was the first night he let himself grieve for her, for what could have been and for the emptiness that was his future.

Don’t ever forget . . .

And that was his curse now. To forget everything, and eventually her, and he couldn’t stand it. As much as it hurt to remember, it was a welcome hurt. It meant she’d been real, and that he still loved her, and still remembered. He made a promise to himself then and there that he’d watch these vids every day to drill her firmly into his mind. He refused to forget her.
__________

They’d finally gotten the ship up and running and he was back on Palaven helping the rebuilding efforts. He’d met up with his father and sister again, but Solana had been watching him with a strange look on her face since his return. He suspected it was because, for a long minute, he was genuinely confused as to why a younger female turian was hugging him as he disembarked at the Cipritine port, until he remembered that she was his sister. He had tried so hard to hide his condition, but he was starting to unravel at an alarming rate and it scared the shit out of him.

He watched his vids every single day, once when he woke up and once before going to sleep so he’d dream of her. There had been two mornings, ones he remembered despite everything, when he’d woken up reaching for her and wondering where she could be—she usually slept later than he did—until he remembered that she was dead. Those mornings he’d spent a lot longer than usual watching the vids, memorizing her face, trying to hold onto those words: I love you, don’t ever forget, I love you.

It was the little things that told him how fast he was degrading. He’d put down a cup of kava and ten minutes later was making another cup until he found the first one and couldn’t remember making it. Someone would tell him to do something, then have to come find him and ask why he hadn’t done it yet. He did a lot of smiling and nodding as he wandered through his own life with only half an idea what was going on.

He’d managed to keep the extent of his dissolving mind a secret until one day about a month after he’d arrived he suddenly burst into the living room looking for Shepard, startling his father and making Solana drop a glass in the kitchen. He had to find Shepard to tell her not to go to London, he didn’t know why, just that she couldn’t go because something bad would happen. His father’s jaw had been set in a hard line, but his eyes held a shocked sorrow that Garrus had never seen on his face before. Solana had touched his arm and explained that Shepard was dead, she’d been killed in London, and the tsunami of loss that hit him was just as bad as it had been the first time and he’d keened and wept like a broken man, kneeling on the floor until his legs fell asleep.

There were no hospitals that could take him, and Solana wouldn’t allow it anyway. She refused to let her brother waste away in a hospice when she could take care of him, and had to shout down the elder Vakarian several times before he finally gave in. Helos Institute had been in large part destroyed, along with most of the salarians’ research into Corpalis Syndrome, so even if they’d been close to a cure after Garrus’ donations so long ago there was nothing they could do now. He was resigned to his fate, but it frightened him nonetheless. Even as everything else fell away, he clung to Shepard’s memory. He sometimes imagined he could smell her hair, or hear her calling to him, and Solana had to lock the doors at night now so he wouldn’t go wandering around by himself in the middle of the night, looking for her. His human, his mate, the woman he was lost without.
__________

Solana woke up early one morning and started to set up the vids that Garrus had insisted she make him watch. He’d forgotten a few times and it had crushed him when he realized his mistake; any pain he felt from watching Shepard on the screen was nothing compared to that. She started cycling through the vids, looking for one he hadn’t watched in a while, and the sight of her brother looking so happy and content and sure of himself almost made her start crying again. She cried a lot these days. She stumbled across one near the end, a new one with a time stamp that meant it was made after the Reapers were defeated. Solana brought it up and watched as Garrus seated himself in the frame and sighed, his head hung low.

“Solana, if you’re watching this then I’ve gotten worse than I expected to so soon. I know this is a lot to ask of you, and you’ve done so much already . . . damn, I wish this was easier.” His eyes were clear and lucid and there, he was there and she realized then how much she missed him. He was in the next room, but he was still absent most of the time now. In random moments of lucidity he’d call her name and they’d talk for a bit, but then he’d start asking about Shepard, wondering where she was. She’d stopped reminding him long ago; every time she told him what happened he mourned her all over again, and she couldn’t stand watching it anymore.

“I can’t remember much anymore but I remember you now, and mom and dad, and Shepard. But I can feel it slipping away, and no matter how hard I try to hold on I just can’t anymore.” He clenched his fists and shut his eyes tight. “I can’t live like this. It’s not fair to you to have to take care of me, and I don’t want to forget. Please . . . if there ever comes a day when I forget her, I don’t want to live anymore. It would be too cruel.” He gazed into the camera, right into her eyes. “If you can’t do it, I understand, though. I love you Sol, I really do, even if I don’t say it anymore. Your brother loves you.” He looked like he was going to say something else, but couldn’t. Then the vid ended and Solana stared at the blank screen. That day she’d gone to the hospital and convinced one of the nurses to give her a bottle of pills. The nurse had looked at her with about a dozen questions at the ready, but whatever she saw in Solana’s face stopped her. She’d taken them home and hidden them away, giving the label one last look before shutting the cabinet door with a little more force than was strictly necessary.

Three days later, Garrus came out of his room wearing a pair of baggy black pants and nothing else. He looked at Solana, his face full of confusion. “Who are you?”

“I’m your sister, Garrus. Solana. Remember?” They’d been through this dance before.

His shoulders slumped, but that look didn’t leave his face. “No. I don’t . . . I don’t remember.” His breathing sped up and he looked distressed.

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” She went to him and tried to touch his shoulder but he flinched away and covered his face. “You want to watch your vids now?”

“My what?” he asked, no trace of recognition in his face as he looked at her through his fingers.

“Your vids,” she prompted. “Of Shepard.”

“Who? Why?”

Spirits, not today. Please not today. “Because you asked me to play them for you.”

He still didn’t know why he’d do that, but he wasn’t sure of anything anymore. This female turian with the blue markings on her face seemed to want to help him, though, and there was a small part of him that said he could trust her. “Okay,” he said and sat on the couch.

As the video played, the one of Shepard confessing alone in the small hours of the night, Garrus watched with a blank look. Solana searched for any sign that he knew the woman on the screen, but he just stared like he was watching the news or something. She went to get the bottle of pills from the cabinet and a glass of water. “Garrus, it’s time for your medicine,” she said, and he took it obediently.

“Between Project Lazarus and working for Cerberus, I was having a hard time making sense of anything. Nothing was the same as I’d left it, and I was sort of . . . drifting with nowhere to anchor,” said Shepard, her voice tinny and small in the speakers.

“She’s pretty,” Garrus said, cocking his head to the side. “Who is she?”

“Just someone you met a long time ago,” Solana said, trying to keep her voice steady. “It’s time for your medicine.” He took it again, swallowing the unassuming white pills. She hated herself for doing this, but she found a little solace in the fact that, in a rare state of lucidity, he had asked for this. He had asked her to give him this one last shred of dignity, and she couldn’t keep that from him. Not after all he’d been through.

“I love you so much, Garrus. When this is all over . . . I think I’d like to marry you. If you’ll have me, that is,” said Shepard, and Garrus looked unsure again.

“How well did I know her? She just said she wanted to marry me.”

“You were close friends. Here, take your pills.” And he did. Spirits help her, he did.

“Don’t you ever doubt, and don’t ever forget that I love you, no matter what happens.”

That was one promise it didn’t look like he’d be keeping, though.

Solana wordlessly handed him two more pills and he stared at them in his hand for a moment before putting them in his mouth. He took the glass of water and looked up at Solana with such sadness in his eyes. He was there again, but she didn’t know for how much longer. He stood up slowly and pulled her into his arms, and Solana’s knees buckled under the weight of her grief.

“It’s okay, Sol, it’s okay,” he murmured, and she cried into his shoulder, helpless keening wails for the hand that fate had dealt them all. He pulled back and held out a trembling hand. “It’s time for my medicine.” She gave him two more and he took them, and the fact that this time he knew what he was doing made it worse somehow. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” she whispered.

“No, but I’m sorry anyway.” He cupped her cheek and nuzzled her forehead. “I think it’s starting to kick in now; I’m getting sleepy.” He looked into her eyes and Solana drank in the sight of his awareness. “Thank you for this. I love you, Sol.”

She knew she would have to live with her decision for the rest of her life, but knowing that he didn’t blame her took some of the sting out of it. He took the bottle and shook out five more pills, knocking them back quickly before he could think about it. She led him back to the bedroom and he lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. She sat with him as he fell into unconsciousness, held his hand as his muscles spasmed one last time, and the movement of his chest stilled, then stopped.

His last thought, before the fog covered him completely, was of a pretty redhead with green eyes, a girl he’d met a long time ago when they were younger and the world was still in front of them. Spirits, he missed her . . . if only he could remember her name.