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Either Die a Hero

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Not five minutes ago he’d been on the edge of slamming his latest report on Pallin’s desk, and walking out of C-Sec for good. Not exactly a wise career move considering he had less than a year on the force. Still, it was a choice the sniper had been severely tempted to make and damn the consequences… but now?

Now he could breathe, and maybe not walk out on his job.

Garrus shook his head slowly, mandibles splaying outward in disbelief. A big case from last month had gotten mired in red tape and forcibly shut down, but it had just been solved unexpectedly… though not by C-Sec.

Vicious satisfaction rolled from his subvocals as steel blue eyes skimmed the news article he’d stumbled over on a work terminal. It was hemmed in on all sides with news links and advertisements, but he only had eyes for the great- no, magnificent story unfolding on screen.

The media-sensationalized recounting of a declassified ST&R operation lay before him like a name day present. A crime ring based on Talos IV, -a pit of slime but not usually blatant villainy-, had been devastated by a Council agent. The warehouse compound had been full of slave labor and tainted Hallex that connected to drug dealers on five planets, two lunar colonies, and the Citadel itself.

All of it was now gone, wiped out from the roots up.

He leaned back in his desk chair, relieved beyond words. Garrus had known the slimy Krogan drug dealer Menir had been selling tainted Hallex to idiotic kids wanting an extra kick for clubbing. Unfortunately his evidence had been obtained before receiving permission to investigate, and using appropriate channels to obtain a warrant. Not exactly his fault, as the lead had come at a moment’s notice, and he’d done nothing more obtrusive than slip in a back door and set his visor to record… but still, the hard evidence had been flat out dismissed.

Dis -spirit's damned- missed! 

His superiors even had the audacity to deny his request to launch a proper investigation to follow-up on the obvious lead. Maybe save a couple of kids before it happened again.... but no. Red light, full stop, ‘leave it alone, Vakarian’.

The light grey torin suspected it was meant as a punishment specifically for him, and that wouldn't be so bad if eighteen young adults hadn't been rushed to various emergency rooms in Zakera Ward, seizing and hallucinating with the exact same symptoms as all the others. Most of them were brain damaged for life.

Garrus shook his head as he sighed, letting go of his frustration at having witnessed those young lives be preventably ruined because of a single careless choice. One that should have resulted in a bad headache and a mild case of dehydration and nothing more.

Red tape had gotten in the way, again. But for right now? That didn't matter, because Menir’s suppliers had been obliterated by Saren Arterius. He scrolled up to reread his favorite bit: colorful descriptions for the ragged remains of the slaver compound that had been providing the poor quality street drug. There were accompanying holos of wide eyed slaves newly freed, just coming out of the medical ship that had removed their control chips. Images of the drug making slavers, dead and discarded like so much refuse, left to rot in the system’s blue sun. Last, but not least, small mountains of tainted Hallex being incinerated by the bucket full.

He laughed, breathy and a little overwhelmed.

‘I can’t believe it… case-closed.

As he pulled up the files to enter the new information in, -to make sure the full scope of it was on the record-, Garrus decided that even if his pari had forbidden him from the Spectre program it didn't mean he couldn't appreciate his might-have-been colleague's exploits. In a moment of mild rebellion, riding on the high of second-hand victory, he also decided that Arterius was his new personal hero. The Spectre did damn fine work, never mind what the critics said about his methods.

“ -as per Council authority, reported by… dated… signed. That’s it. Case closed. Spirits bless.”

 

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

 

“Feet. Off. The Console.” Saren ground out, striding into the CIC of his ship.

Nihlus looked up at him with his best attempt at a convincing pout, but the stolid male’s only reply was narrowed eyes as he came to a sudden stop a meter away. Silence filled the room as he made increasingly overdone attempts at pleading with his subvocals and expression, asking Saren to let him leave his feet kicked up on the bank of consoles.

The silver-grey torin stood firm, glaring.

Eventually the younger male gave up, and the stalemate broke with an accepting huff. Dark brown feet were moved to the floor, followed by a beleaguered sigh; defeat expected after having lost that exact same battle countless times before. His former mentor was naturally fastidious and rarely put up with his lackadaisical ways, not even when they were on Nihlus' own vessel.

Oddly though, Saren continued to stand there after he’d won, tense and glaring at nothing in particular. Nihlus leaned sideways, chin coming to rest on a palm as he gave in and just asked, “...something wrong?”

His small, muscular partner let out a quiet huff, finally sitting down at a nearby terminal, arms crossed under his keel. “Our mission here may have been a success, regardless of the poor intel, but it was unaccountably disorganized.”

Nihlus nodded thoughtfully, gesturing in agreement of the observation. There really wasn't another way to put it. The mission had been accomplished though: all targets eliminated, all Spectres alive. Though their third, Jondum, was passed out in medbay, but he wasn’t exactly in bad shape. The other Spectre’s clotting augments and medical weave had kept him in the game until they’d made it to safety anyway. 

Thankfully Saren’s ship had enough cutting edge tech in it’s medbay that they hadn't needed to blaze a trail for a spaceport. Nihlus found himself regularly rolling his eyes at all the fancy, swanky toys that his unpersonable friend had, though he still made use of them from time to time. His own ship had a somewhat ancient autodoc he’d picked up on the cheap since it was broken at the time, just a few thousand credits. Nihlus was content with it. His medical bay could administer painkillers, stop bleeding, and knock him out. Good enough for him. The carmine plated torin didn't feel like he really needed a VI assisted tissue printer with six robotic arms and a triple loader microfab.

He’d heard of hospitals that fought bidding wars to have one of those. 

It was a good thing they had one on hand though. Jon had put himself into medical right when they got back, and the swanky robot had sedated the wounded Salarian before stabilizing his vitals. The automated medical suite probably had all the microgram bullet shavings picked out by now, though it was likely still mending the finer points of damage, and slowly dripping some freshly synthesized replacement blood into Jon's veins. By the time they arrived on the Citadel he expected the wily Salarian would be fighting fit without any further treatment.

Jondam was a scrappy one anyways, didn't flinch under pain or stress out under fire. A good agent to have at one's back...

"Mmmng."

Another quiet sound of frustration from Saren pulled his attention back to the other torin.  For lack of anything else to say, he hummed soothingly. The mission hadn’t been that bad, really. Just a bit messy.

Nihlus estimated that there were over a hundred dead Blood Pack mercenaries between the three of them. And that? Was some fine work by any standard. His only injuries were a pair of sore feet and a moderate burn down his left arm from a crafty Vorcha with incendiary ammo. Saren himself was, as per usual, mildly dusty and extremely hungry, but that was about it. Most enemies found it hard to hit someone who could shift time-space around at a whim. 

“We nearly lost the data from the second server.”

The green eyed torin nodded left and right in lukewarm agreement. “True, and it mighta been easier with Tela or Riaz along, but we got the job done.”

Saren grunted absently and continued to stare off into space, likely re-re-rethinking every decision and choice that had led to the mission being more impromptu and less efficient than his preference. The biotic Spectre could wing it with the best of them but he favored the well planned mission, precision and efficiency above all else. Saren had a code of minimum risk for maximum efficacy, one that he’d lectured on during more than a few occasions of their time training together. Nihlus wouldn’t say that methodology had gone in one aural canal and out the other, but...

‘ ...well, at least the glaring’s eased off, and hey, the chaos wasn’t my fault this time.’

Nihlus smiled wistfully at his thoroughly preoccupied colleague. After years of the other male’s hyper-attentive perfectionism he just found the grumpiness and obsessive nitpicking endearing.

“Let's head back to the Citadel, report in, and take a week or two of down time, yeah? Been awhile since our last break.”

Saren's electric gaze turned to bear down on him, the pale ridge of his right browplate lifting incredulously.

“Okaaaay...” Nihlus drew out the word, mandible quirking to the left in consideration. “One week of down time? Stop by a bathhouse for some nice... ”

It really was unnerving sometimes how perfectly still and focused Saren could be. His former mentor did 'nonplussed' like a professional.

“... Four days?”

“...”

Not to mention the electricity in that steady stare.

“Threeeee?”

The silence went back and forth for several moments before, -surprisingly-, Saren was the one to give with a blink-and-you-miss-it glance at his burned arm.

“Two days,” was all his partner said, striding over to the pilot's console suite to adjust their course. Nihlus' smile turned cock-sure and pleased. Getting the other torin to take two days of down time was in fact a small miracle.

'score one more point for the handsome spectre in black and red. heh.'

Nihlus went to make an imaginary slash in a tally book he kept no track of, but the twinge of pain from his burned hide made him flinch instead. He looked down at the mottled, medi-gel slathered arm with consideration...

‘mmmph. ow. ah well... worth it.’

 

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

 

Following the news report that had brightened his day… week… month … and kept him from doing something potentially very stupid, Garrus developed a system. A sort of self care to keep his spirits up when things got rough at work. Every time one of his cases hit a wall, he would add fifty credits to a chit he kept in a kitchen drawer.

A two week delay for a case of domestic abuse due to paperwork processing issues? Add fifty.

Some sleazy politician buys off a security guard before he can get his hands on the video surveillance he needs to solve the case? Another Fifty.

A murderer walks because he couldn’t legally follow them around for a few days to catch them at it? Spirits damn it, fifty.

Whenever the higher ups forced him to drop a case because it was 'politically sensitive'? Fifty. Sometimes double. Those made him mad.

The tall sniper stashed those credits away, not for his savings account, not for his clan dues, and not for bills. No, they were for him to use to stay sane.

Whenever news hit that Arterius specifically or the Spectres in general, blew up, gunned down, or somehow ended another criminal enterprise he would nab his secret chit, possibly his Viper, and go out for a night of wish fulfillment.

If there were enough credits he’d buy an upgrade for his rifle, install it, and fine tune the new addition at the range. Garrus liked to imagine each shot landing between the eyes of the monsters constantly slipping through his talons. If he was in the mood for technical shooting, that was. Sometimes he wasn’t. Occasionally the itch in his trigger finger just needed to be scratched before he did something stupid.

Those nights he just fired... and fired... and fired.

Sometimes there were so many credits sitting on the card that he would take shots until his shoulder ached from the recoil, just to forget. One for every single confirmed kill by a Spectre agent since the last time he'd gone out for a night. One for every murderer coming up for parole. One for every body where they never found the killer. On the bad days Garrus is there pretty damn late. On one memorable night the ‘open late’ range staff had kicked him out when it hit two hours past closing time and he still hadn’t run out of anger or thermal clips.

It wasn’t always a bad day though.

When he solved a case and if the chit didn’t have much in it, Garrus would just go out for drinks instead. It was always a good day when he headed out looking to unwind with a lighter wallet. Carrying a near empty chit always meant that something, somewhere was going right, and well... if he follows someone home that night? All the better, since he knows it'll put him in a great mood for his next shift. One more criminal behind glass, a few drinks, and a decent lay? It was usually enough to restore his will to stay the course his clan had set him on. C-Sec Detective, born and bred, just like his pari.

…but if the one time partners he charms often have silver-grey plates and no colony markings, well... that's merely a coincidence.