Chapter 2

I don't know how long I've been standing by the memorial, my hand pressed sadly against her name. I only know that Ashley has returned from giving me my moment alone. I barely understand what she says. But I step back when I hear her voice. I turn away from the memorial to follow her back to our transport, ignoring the faint pain in my heart at leaving…and how it jumped when I heard the voice of a human female and, for a split second, hoped with all my being that it was her again.

I sigh as Ashley leads me to the transport that will take us back to where we were less than an hour ago. "Sometimes, Ash, I wonder if it might be better to leave the memories behind somehow. To forget all of it and go back if I can."

"Believe me, Garrus, it wouldn't help at all," Ashley says, "If anything, it'll just be worse. We humans have a saying: ''Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'"

I immediately know the truth behind her words. This whole time, I've been willing to trade the pain away. But doing that would take away every happy memory of my time with her. If I lost all memory of love in the hope of getting it back, what would be the point?

I'll never stop missing her. Because I'll never stop loving her. But I'll never let go. No matter what.

"…I'll be looking down. You'll never be alone."

"Never."

I still walk through London with a mist over my mind, but the memories are not overflowing like they were not long ago. Now I've consummated the broken feelings, letting the memories fade for a short while. But the pain hasn't lessened. I still don't have the will to act like the military turian I'm supposed to be. In fact, when the day is over, the only thing I really remember after Ashley and I parted ways is overhearing the pilots' discussion on the ride back to Palaven.

"Garrus doesn't really seem like himself, does he? You'd think he'd be happier. It was a year ago today that he helped stop the Reapers."

"Didn't you hear? He lost a really good friend that day. He took it hard."

"Oh. You mean Shepard? I heard about that. Never thought I'd see a turian grieve so hard for a human."

"She wasn't just some human to him."

Oddly, those words echo in my head for hours. It seems like it's all I can hear until we land on my home-world. I go through the camp to my personal cabin, only interacting with the other soldiers passively. It occurs to me that I'm…what's that creature Vega talked about from human mythology? Like a Husk? …a zombie, that's it. He told me about how when people are under certain kinds of stress that they go through life mindlessly, "like a zombie." I guess I can equate myself to that now.

I keep that up for a few minutes, still trying to block out the emotions tearing me apart. Now I know how Thane felt after losing his wife. No wonder he lost it.

Ashley, Kaidan, James, Mordin, Thane, Legion—old friends are really going through my mind today. As well they should. Maybe I should call one of them. Today's the best day for it. They're the only people who would understand. She wouldn't want me to be alone.

There's just one problem: they're all busy. Obviously, I can't call Kaidan, Mordin, Thane, or Legion. I might as well try talking with Shepard again. The others would certainly not mind hearing from me, but I can't prove that.

Ashley gave me all the time she had today as is. She's overseeing the human military like I'm overseeing the turian forces. Those soldiers get all her attention. She's proven herself the right person to call, but I can't afford to do it. I should let her be.

Liara is the best option by far. She's always been the one to talk to, no matter the problem. But she's busy with her scientific exploration and her work as the Shadow Broker. And she's been hurting almost as much as I have since the war ended. She felt she had a very personal connection to Shepard. She was the hero that saved her from her Prothean prison and abduction by Saren's soldiers. The human touched by working Prothean technology that piqued her scientific interest and touched her mind. The soldier that helped her rescue an old friend and guided her. The shoulder she cried on when Thessia fell. And the friend she embraced in eternity before losing her to the void. Yes, Liara would be the perfect choice for comfort, but all it would do is put her in the same pain I have. I can't do that to her.

Wrex, on the other hand, is not a good choice. He's never in his 300-year-long life been one for emotion. He can't hide that it hit him when we lost Shepard, but he recovered a lot faster than most of us. Surely, this day holds great significance to him as well, but, in any case, he's more than preoccupied with the situation on Tuchanka and his newborn family. He doesn't need to hear from me at all.

Tali would be ideal. We've always had a special kind of relationship, probably a bond formed from being the only two dextros on the Normandy but especially a friendship forged in fire. A couple people actually joked that if Shepard hadn't been around, I'd have ended up with Tali. Well, while the quarian mechanic is undoubtedly hurting today, she has way too much to deal with on Rannoch as is. There's not much chance of getting the company I need out of her at the moment.

Miranda could probably help. In her own way. But she's completely out of reach by now. She's dedicated her life to the Alliance and Oriana, getting rid of what remains of Cerberus along the way. Even if I could get in touch with her, she wouldn't spare me near enough time.

Jacob? Not a chance. All of his time belongs to his wife and child. He has talked about going back to the Alliance military eventually, but for now he deserves as much time with his family as he can get. I, of all people, know how important that is. He's not the person I need to talk to.

And Jack is the absolute last person in the galaxy I need right now. She probably has the spare time while dealing with her biotic students, but she would never in a million years give the kind of company I'm needing. If anything, she'd find a way to insult me every few seconds, possibly restraining herself a couple times because she knows I'm still grieving for Shepard. But she wouldn't care in the least if I called her and I don't care in the least to try.

Grunt is not much better than Wrex. He doesn't just owe her the fertility of his people but also his own life. If not for her, he would never have made it out of his tank, let alone become one of the top krogan military leaders. But he's just as cold to emotions as Wrex is and wouldn't be the person to talk to right now. He's likely grieving in his own way for the loss of his battle-master, but he would pay little attention to a call from his one turian friend.

Samara would not be the best choice. She's as kindhearted as Liara but…well, misty is really the best word for it. She doesn't spare emotion. Sometimes I wonder if part of the Justicar's Code is to keep from displaying any emotion whatsoever when possible. She would understand my pain and do her part to help, but that's not the kind of help I need.

And if I'm looking for friendship, I can't guarantee it from James Vega. He proved he could cross that threshold when we were working together during the war, but I doubt he's the type to show the kind of support I need. He's the kind to call after a hard fight, not after a loss like this. I don't even know if he would really understand.

I could always call Joker and EDI. I can always count on them, they said. I'm tempted to follow through. But something keeps me from sending for them. Something tells me they're not the people I need to talk to.

Finally, I realize the one person I can talk to right now. Even if she never knew Shepard personally, she's known me my whole life and knows what I'm going through and what I need.

So I turn on the videophone and send the call to Solana Vakarian. Because if there's anyone I can rely on, it's my sister.

That night…

"Shepard. Thought you might be in here. You know what the best part is about a battle that decides the whole fate of the galaxy?"

"Winning it?"

"I was thinking it's a good excuse to remind the people you care about that…well, you care about them. Want some company?"

"Ha. You read my mind."

"Guess I'm getting pretty good at this. But some more practice wouldn't hurt…"

I revel in the feel of my skin against hers, relish every moment in her arms and every second that we kiss. I watch in wonder as she falls asleep, gently running my fingers through her hair. It feels like hours that I stay at her side, only to step away when I get a call on the datapad. As soon as I'm done with it, she wakes up. One look at her and I know something is wrong. So I toss the datapad aside and take her side again.

"Bad dream?"

"You ever get them?"

"I tend to expect the worst anyway, so dreaming about it is just a waste of good sleep."

"What about now?"

"…I'm expecting a tough fight. What's bothering you?"

"…can we ever be ready for a battle like this? Everything we've ever known…it's all hanging by a thread, Garrus."

"Yeah, but the truth is, when hasn't it? Every fight we've ever seen could've been our last. Every bullet we've ever dodged could've been the one."

"There have been a lot of bullets."

"And this time around, they're just a little bigger."

"…I don't know what I'd do without you…"

Those words echo in my mind as I fade into awareness. I ache to return to the dream, to stay in that memory forever. I wish I could spend the rest of my days lying beside her. But it's not meant to be.

Suddenly, I hear something from the shadows. I scan my surroundings without even moving. Something I've learned over the years is how to sneak around and surprise people. If someone is sneaking up on you, you don't let on that you're aware of it until they're close enough for you to make a move in response.

And I am almost certain that someone is sneaking up on me.

I move as little as possible, keep my breathing steady, do everything in my power to make the intruder believe I'm still asleep. Secretly, I look around through narrowed eyes for a glimpse of them, listen for another sign of their location.

I don't receive one until they're right on top of me.

Almost instantly, I make my move. I see a weapon over me, probably a knife, and deflect it, jumping at my attacker. We tumble to the floor together and begin to fight through the shadows.

The intruder moves to hit me and I roll out of the way, taking the chance to reach up for my sidearm (or at least turn on the lights). I don't make it far before the would-be assassin grabs my leg, pulling me back down. I respond by kicking them in the face. But they don't let go of me and recover remarkably fast, grabbing their own gun. I have to do something now!

I can't reach my weapon or even the lights from here. But I can reach the bed sheets. So I tear them off and throw them at my attacker. While they're blinded, they're forced to release me to pull themselves out. That gives me just enough time to grab my gun.

I don't get to take a shot before I feel cold metal wedged in my gut. I look down and see that the assassin had another knife, one they used to tear through the sheets around them and then stabbed me with. I quickly kick them again, pushing them back long enough for me to remove the blade.

As soon as I do, my vision blurs and I begin to lose my balance. "…you…you poisoned…"

The silent killer finally pulls themselves to their feet, preparing to strike again.

I quickly pull myself together, just enough to hold up my weapon and aim.

Two bullets later, the intruder has jumped through the window and run off into the night.

I stumble over to open the door and, leaning against it, fire from here. But they're already out of range. The battle over, there's nothing to distract my body from the venom inside it. I drop my gun and fall to the floor. I blindly crawl to grab my datapad, desperate to call someone. I don't know if I made the call or ever reached the table before the world goes black around me.