So the first time I played through the trilogy, I attempted to romance Garrus and this happened (more or less). Just some thoughts as to what my Shepard went through. Hope you enjoy.
No Shepard Without Vakarian
She looked around at her fog-shrouded surroundings. The never-ending forest was entirely in shades of gray, every tree dead and populated by shadows. The shadows began to whisper unrelentingly around her in voices she knew all too well. Voices she had lost. As the grief began to grip her and claw at her heart, she saw something racing through the shadows between trees, the sole glimmer of light in the darkness. A lost child. Without taking a moment to think about it, she rushed off after the child, but something seemed to be weighing her down, trapping her in slow motion. She fought against the feeling of wading through tar and moved as fast as her invisible binds allowed. But as she moved, the whispers in the shadows took hold and began to grow louder and louder.
"…wanted you to know I'm willing to do what's necessary…"
That was the most recent scar. She had only just lost him today. The sharp pain in her heart almost brought her to stop moving, but she kept going. She was losing sight of the fleeing child and she had to catch him.
"…forget about us…we can handle ourselves…go back and Alenko…you know it's the right choice, LT…"
That one shouldn't have hurt as much as it did. It had been three years since that loss. But she had been robbed of two of those years. Still, she managed to push the grief back. Keep going. Don't lose him. Keep moving.
"…I like to expect the worst…there's a small chance I'll be pleasantly surprised…"
That was too much. The sound of the voice breaking through the darkness caused her feet to give way, dropping her against a nearby tree, and her eyes to overflow with tears. The forest around her blurred from the water over her vision and it became unbearably hard to breathe. …no…I'm sorry. It was my fault. I'm so sorry!
The sound of a distant cry broke through and brought her to keep moving. She quickly found the child kneeling down in a pile of dead leaves. She forced herself to her feet and moved as fast as she could to reach him, but she was still forced to move at a terrifyingly slow pace. It only grew worse when she finally came close enough to reach the child. When she was five feet away from him, a nightmarish howl echoed across the landscape and a horrific blood red light shined down on the boy, causing him to run off in fear. She instantly started to chase after him, but he was moving twice as fast as she was capable of. She had no chance of catching him now. Still, she kept running. Even as the shadows began to break through the silence to something truly painful.
"…Shepard…you're about the only friend I've got left in this screwed-up galaxy…"
She almost collapsed into another tree, but there wasn't one close enough to catch her when the grief broke her down this time. Instead, she fell to her knees and let the tears take over completely. I never meant for it happen. I never wanted any of this. I'd give anything to take it back. I'd trade my life for his. Once again, the distant, pleading tone of a weeping child brought her to keep moving. But, this time, she couldn't push the grief back. This time, she was running blind through the endless sea of dead trees, forced to follow the echoes of the young boy's cries as tears reduced her vision to blank shades of grey. Even that was difficult with the shadows incessantly giving off the calls of human, asari, salarian, and, most of all, turian voices, whispering her name so strongly that they might as well have been screaming for her.
"…I've seen so many things go wrong, Shepard…I want something to go right…just once…"
She didn't even stop at her knees this time. She dropped completely to the ground, curling up as the tears began to fall unendingly. Please make it stop. I can't take it anymore. Either make it stop or give him back to me! Even the crescendo of the boy's whimpering cries wasn't enough to return her to her chase this time. Not until she saw the boy curled up as well only ten feet away. It took all the strength she had to crawl over to him and reach for him.
But before she could take hold of him, he turned to face her. As soon as his eyes met hers, a fire ignited around him. She was forced to watch helplessly as she failed to save him. Again. Yet even that wasn't enough. Whatever force conjured this disastrous scenario had decided she had to be truly destroyed. So as the fire raged on and on, she saw the worst moment of her life replayed inside it. She tried desperately to look away but something had paralyzed her, turning what little hope she had left into sheer despair. Her tear-filled eyes were locked on the soul-shattering image of that moment when the biotic field shielding them from the monsters' assault collapsed, when one of her closest friends threw himself to the front to cover their escape…when she was forced to watch from the other side of the doors as the Seeker Swarms surrounded the love of her life and then overwhelmed him…
…when she closed her eyes in misery, using all the will she had left not to cry, so that she wouldn't have to watch him die but was powerless to avoid the sound of his dying screams.
As the fire faded away and the child completely disappeared, she found that she was still paralyzed. Rather than slowly creeping in as it had been for so long, the grief and despair and hopelessness came crashing down on her all at once and she was reduced to crying helplessly until her body gave out…
She woke up with a sharp gasp, jumping up in the bed and throwing the covers off the mattress completely. She found it increasingly difficult to breathe, her lungs shaking until it seemed she was choking on the only air sustaining her. She finally pressed her hands to her face, attempting to steady her erratic heart rate, but the only results of this method were floods of tears on her flesh. Unable to take any more, she forced herself to her feet and dragged herself to the bathroom across the cabin, practically drowning herself in cold water from the sink until she was physically stable. But nothing could help her emotional distress now. She could still hear the voices echoing inside her mind, still see that nightmare flashing behind her eyes—
The sound of a knock on her cabin door forced her to jump back to reality. "It's open," she said, attempting to bring her commander tone to her voice. She failed. The dry weakness of all those tears rushing past her vocal chords made sure of that.
She heard the door open and footsteps come through. "Shepard?" Liara's voice came from the cabin, steady enough to imply that she hadn't noticed the pain in her commander's words, "There's something you need to hear."
She looked at the mirror, straightening her hair and drying her eyes as she returned her focus to the war. "Alright."
This time, Liara heard it. She knew something was wrong. "…is this a bad time?"
She looked down at the hands clutching the sink. She didn't want to talk about it. But she didn't have the heart to do anything else and she couldn't lie to her best friend. "…thinking of some friends who aren't around thanks to this war."
"That's thanks to the Reapers, not you!" Liara quickly asserted. When Shepard didn't respond, she sighed, knowing there was more to it. "Are you thinking about anyone in particular?"
Before she could stop it, the memories and emotions breaking her down came racing through her again and she lost her hold on the tears she hadn't cried yet. She had to tell her. So she admitted it and said the name that had been breaking her heart for almost a year now: "Garrus." The sound of his name was enough to break her down all over again. The pain of her loss had never healed. Time was not healing this wound and seemingly never could. She tried to fight off the urge to cry but she didn't have the strength to. Commander Shepard, the Savior of the Citadel, defeater of the Collectors, killer of Reapers, didn't have the strength to stop the tears from falling. Because of him. "I miss his jokes, his attitude. …hard to think I'll never hear his voice again."
"I miss him, too," Liara said, all the sympathy she had laced within her words, "Garrus would be proud to see how far you've come."
She couldn't help but smile then. "Yeah. He would." She tried to let the assurance act as comfort, tried to chase her grief away if only for a moment. She could focus during a fight, but when it was just her…when it was just her, she ached to be with him again. She wanted nothing more than to be with the one turian who mattered most to her.
The one she failed.
Stop it, Shepard! she finally snapped at herself, forcing the tears away again, He wouldn't want this. So she ducked under the water once more, dried herself off, and went to speak with Liara. After attending to the matter at hand and setting their course for their next destination, she headed down to deck 3.
She came down here every day. Every time the doors opened and she stepped out, she had the urge to duck around and head back to the main battery. After the mission on Palaven, she had given in to the urge and gone back there. She had sealed the doors and run her hand over the console she had always found him hovering over. After ten seconds, she had burst into tears and dropped to her knees. EDI had attempted to check on her, but she chased the AI off and spent the next hour crying in grief. Every day after that, she had come down to this deck to look at the memorial wall and nothing else.
Now, she stepped over to the wall and looked at the names on it. Richard L. Jenkins, who died on Eden Prime. Ashley Williams, who died on Virmire. Twenty crewmen that died when the first Normandy was destroyed. Mordin Solus, who died only yesterday on Tuchanka. Then there were the friends she lost on the journey through the Omega-4 relay—Samara, Jack, Jacob Taylor, Miranda Lawson, Thane Krios…
…and Garrus Vakarian.
She fought the grief bearing down on her, attempting to break her down again, and began to lightly run her fingers over the plaque marked with his name. It was my fault. I should never have taken him through that hall with me. I should have left him with the others. I was selfish and stupid and careless and I paid for it with his life.
She tried to push the thoughts away. He wouldn't want her blaming herself. But what else could she do? Her "strategy" was what had him right in the line of fire when that barrier went down. He made his move and saved her life. But that cost her the love of her life. After the mission was over, she spent days wondering how she was supposed to go on after that. She never got an answer. Which was probably why she ended up turning herself in to the Alliance.
She kept telling herself that she was honoring his memory by finishing the fight against the Reapers. But she had lost the will to fight without him at her side. He was always ready and willing if there was even the slightest chance she needed him. He was always watching her back when she went charging into the middle of the chaos. He was everything she ever wanted or needed and she cherished every second of her time with him. But every loss she took that day broke her.
None of them hurt like this. This was something you never recover from.
As she stood there, her hand pressed against his name, she found the memories rushing through her. From the moment they met to the moment he died. His eyes, his voice, their last night together—everything she fell so hard for—flowed through her mind until she fell to her knees again. Even as she hit the floor, her hand stayed in place, her fingers pressed to the inscription. She clenched her eyes shut, but that only made it worse. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his face. It was too much.
Sadly, she brought her hand down from where it was pressed to the wall and held it tight to her chest where her heart pounded sorrowfully, as if it couldn't find its rhythm without him. She wanted to cry again, but she had shed every tear she had. Instead, she leaned over and pressed her head to the wall, his name carving its way through her voice again. It took a minute to notice that she was whispering it at all, pleading for him to come back to her.
When she finally had enough strength to stand up again, she acted on it. She didn't have much time before she had to go back off to the fight anyway. She needed to get back to the CIC. But before she headed back to the elevator, she looked one last time at the plaque marked "Garrus Vakarian." She traced the letters with her fingers, not bothering to fight it as she once again lost her mind to the memory of the night they spent together. "…goodbye, Garrus." She then made her way into the elevator and hit the button for deck 2. As the doors closed, she kept her eyes on the plaque. The words she now realized she meant to say all along came through so strongly that she practically smiled as she voiced them: "I'll meet you up there as soon as I can. Stay somewhere I can find you, alright?" She leaned back against the wall as the elevator began its slow ascent. She closed her eyes one last time and let him take her over. "…I love you."
Two months later…
Shepard was dead. She was pretty convinced of that. So why did it feel like she had only just come alive?
She had watched Anderson and the Illusive Man both die of gunshot wounds. She had felt the injuries from Harbinger's attack become more than her body could handle. The Catalyst had played its hand, let her save the galaxy, but the "You will die." accompanying it made it pretty clear what would happen. She was dead. She knew it.
Before she could even bring herself to open her eyes and check where she was, she felt someone wrap their arms around her and stroke her hair. "Shepard."
The sound of his voice was all she needed. She quickly opened her eyes to see if it was true. She knew it was the moment she found that the first thing she saw was bright blue eyes she had loved to death. "Garrus!" Without giving a second to think about it, she threw herself at him, letting him hold her close as she kissed him for the first time in all too long. It seemed like a century before she let herself pull away. Maybe it was. She was pretty sure there was no such thing as time anymore. "I missed you so much."
"I know," he said, not letting go of her for anything.
She smiled and leaned into him. This was all she needed now. Him. Right at her side.
He reached up and began to gently run his talons through her hair. The steady motions were enough to make it feel like her heart was beating for the first time in forever. "You did it. You saved the galaxy."
"I wish you were with me. I couldn't take it when I lost you. I needed you there."
He pulled back enough to look in her eyes. "I'm here now. And I'm not going anywhere this time."
She knew it was true. That was enough to make her happiness so strong that she felt her eyes were watering.
"…hey…" He placed his hand against her face, chasing the tears away before they ever came. "…I think you've cried enough over me."
She snickered, shaking her head. "I'm not crying. Not anymore." She held onto him, never to let go again. Not when she could spend eternity in his arms. "I love you, Garrus Vakarian."
He smiled and kissed her. "I love you, too, Shepard."
She stayed close, letting everything fall away but this. This perfect embrace with the turian she loved, never to let go again… This was right where she wanted to be.