What If I Lost Myself?

Shepard leaned against the elevator wall in dejection. Defeat. Losing Earth had been difficult to say the least. But what she'd just witnessed… This time, there actually was something she could do about it. And she'd failed. When the elevator door finally opened on deck 1, she had to all but drag herself out to her cabin. With every step she took, she could still hear the sound of the asari soldiers crying out through her COMM, unable to hear her…unable to stand against the Reapers alone.

Thessia was gone. An entire world, billions of innocent people, taken by the synthetic monsters planning total galactic extinction. And here she was, still alive. That much might give anyone else a sense of relief, that they lived to tell about it. But selfless Shepard would never let herself feel that way. Not with the fate of an entire species falling less than a light-year away. Sighing with the devastation brought by that thought, she stepped over to her bed, feeling the weight of her armor far more than ever before. The hopes of an entire galaxy bearing down on her. …and she was letting them down.

"Don't tell me you're beating yourself up about this."

Shepard stopped moving when she heard that voice. "Shouldn't you be in the med bay?"

"I just came out. I should be asking you that."

She cast a brief glance at the doorway.

Garrus stood there, patched up from the fight, his armor already traded for civvies. He seemed like his normal self, which was quite a feat considering he'd been limping and trying not to bleed out from a wound in his left side only an hour ago.

Not that Shepard was doing much better. Almost falling to her death had shaken her to the point of dizziness, her right hip was sore, she was bleeding from several small wounds where her armor had almost cracked, her right arm was aching as if it'd been on the verge of dislocation after Liara grabbed it, and, worst of all, she could feel a crack in the left side of her ribcage, shrieking at her nerves with every breath. Still, she kept herself standing straight and turned to her armor locker, pulling off her gloves. "I'm fine."

Garrus simply looked at her. He knew that all too well. Her "Commander" act, covering up her "Shepard" side. The soldier was unbreakable, a beacon of hope that could never be extinguished, with strength enough to face the entire galaxy. The human beneath it all, though, was even more vulnerable because of this. Every civilian lost on her watch, every friend injured or even killed during a battle she led them through—it all got to her. He knew just from his run on Omega what that could do to a person. This war was those whole two years crammed into every single day. And Commander Shepard was carrying all of it.

Yet she still yanked off the gloves of her armor and tossed them into her locker as if she was nothing more than frustrated at the loss of an entire planet. Like this was only a minor inconvenience and not a galaxy-shaking failure. For that matter, had she ever actually failed a mission before?

No. She couldn't hide it. Not from him. This was killing her inside. That couldn't stand.

"Shepard, Thessia was already gone when we got there," Garrus said, "You can't blame yourself. You did everything you could—"

"I said I'm fine!" Shepard finally snapped. Of course, the argument was lost when her attempts at prying off the rest of her armor finally caused her to lose her balance and catch herself on the wall. To make this worse, she still didn't get herself any closer to actually removing it. She sighed, dropping her head against the wall as she gave in. "Can you help me with this?"

Garrus took a second to watch her before stepping over to her. Crestfallen and turning to a wall just for the strength to stay on her feet, she seemed more helpless than he'd ever seen her before. It wasn't right. So when he took her side and carefully removed the shoulder guards from her armor, he took a second afterwards to place his hand on her shoulder and use the other to bring her to meet his eyes. "You're not alone in this, Shepard. We're all here with you. You don't have to carry this by yourself." His hands fell to wrap around her waist, holding her closer to him as she kept her eyes on his. "We only lost one battle. We can still win this war." Only after she looked down at her feet and nodded that she understood did he release his hold on her enough to return to his current task, shifting his hands' position around her waist to pull off the belt tied around it.

Shepard watched him as he knelt down to take off her boots. Suddenly, she couldn't imagine how she ever lived without him. Whenever this war grew to be too much for her, he was there in a minute. Whenever he started to worry for the sake of his people, she was there for him, too. But while he could put his faith in her, she had to rely on him. If he hadn't been here with her these past few weeks, she'd have utterly fallen apart by now. Instead, he was the reason she found the hope to keep fighting. Perhaps that was her weakness, though. If one of these days, something were to happen to him…she'd never survive it. She couldn't face this without him. The fact that she needed him now was proof. She certainly couldn't deny that he seemed to be lifting the crushing weight she'd dragged herself in here under. Or that the pain of her relatively minor injuries seemed to fade away when his touch reached her again.

When the last of the plating was off of her legs, Garrus got back on his feet and carefully took off the rest, exposing the Alliance under-armor beneath it. The uniform itself hugged her body perfectly. But that just meant every hit she took in the fateful battle with Kai Leng and the fall through the floor that succeeded it was openly displayed. Needless to say, it appeared worse than she'd initially let on. Concern flooding through him, he let his hands drift over her most visible injuries, gently pressing against them. The brief responding wince crossing her face as well as the way she clutched the wall just a little tighter were plain enough that he eased off. But he still made it clear that he was worried about her.

Shepard simply kept her lavender gaze on his dark blue eyes, one hand slowly rising to his scars. Within a few seconds, she drew closer, bringing them to kiss. Falling into each other, they both began to forget the hopelessness that had overtaken them for the past hour. As his right hand slid over her back and his left held tight to her hair, her left hand stayed pressed to his scars and her right reached for the clasps on his—

"Commander," Traynor's voice suddenly came over the COMM, an uncharacteristically sullen tone to it, "the asari Councilor is on the line."

Shepard audibly groaned as she stepped away from Garrus and threw on her uniform. "Next time, I'm telling EDI to shut off communications."

"Just remember what I said, alright?" Garrus asked as she did.

"Yeah. I get it."

Then he folded his arms at her. "And promise you'll head straight to the med bay once you're done with that call."

Shepard turned to look at him as if in protest. But the look in his eyes silenced her argument before she ever got a chance to form it. With a sigh, she finished stepping into the uniform and started out. "Deal."

Garrus watched her go. As the door closed behind her, he turned to sit down on her bed and wait for her.

An hour later…

When Shepard walked out of the med bay, she turned straight for the battery. But when the door opened, she found it empty. Curious, she stepped over to glance back at the bunk laid out for him in the back of the room. He wasn't there. With a sigh, she left the battery and headed straight for the elevator, going back up to deck 1. She stopped walking when she came to the fish tank, though.

Garrus was asleep on her bed.

She smirked, shaking her head as she went over to lie down beside him. Unable to contain herself, however, she still wrapped her arms around him and kissed his scars before even attempting to follow him under.

Which, unfortunately, caused him to take notice of her presence and wake up. He still smiled, turning to wrap his arms around her as well. "I take it you're feeling better."

"If by 'better,' you mean 'tired,'" she groaned even as she curled up against him.

He simply looked at her, sifting his talons through her auburn hair. When the gesture made her lavender eyes light up, he smiled. "I had a dream about you."

She smiled back. "Really?"

"Don't act so surprised. You know I can't stop thinking about you."

She let off a small laugh for him before bringing her hand up to his, taking hold of it. "What happened?"

He looked at the hand now wrapped around his, smiling again when their fingers interlocked. "You stole a kill from me, of course." That was answered with a playful nudge. "Easy. You saved my life doing it." When her gaze softened for him, he took hold of her again. "Then this happened…" And he kissed her.

She lit up in response, wrapping herself around him completely to keep him as close as possible until they broke apart. "Good dream."

He laughed. "Yeah. It's nice to think we're the only two people in the galaxy. Just for a minute."

She smiled briefly. Then a thought came over her and the smile faded away. Sadly, she pulled away from him and sat up on the bed, turning to look at the wall.

He quickly took her side. "What's wrong?"

"…we're going to win. I know that. But…what if the cost is too high? What if winning takes a price I'm not willing to pay?"

"Shepard, if you're worried about me—"

"No, I…" She sighed, considering how to put this to words. "…I'm actually worried about me."

Garrus looked at her in astonishment. When was the last time his selfless Shepard had ever worried about herself?

"You've seen me through all this. You know what it looks like when I start to lose hope. If that goes too far…if this war takes any more from me, I won't be the same person when it's over. And if I truly lose myself, I never will be again."

Garrus quickly took her hand and brought her to face him. "This isn't gonna break you. Nothing can."

Shepard scoffed, running her free hand through her hair. "Believe me, that much I get. But you have a lot more faith in me than I do in myself."

He reached over to place his hand against her face, watching as she leaned into it longingly. "Because I see you in a way you never could."

She simply looked at him.

"You're no ordinary soldier, Shepard. You're a hero. …especially to me. My family wouldn't be alive right now if it wasn't for you."

She brightened then. "They made it off Palaven?"

He nodded. "They made it. They're OK. Because the krogan were there. Because of you. Because you threw a thresher maw at a Reaper…" That made her laugh. "…and killed another one on foot—if you ask me, the Reapers should be afraid of you." Taking a moment to appreciate the smile that comment earned, he pulled his hand back slowly, letting her hair slide through his fingers. "You're stronger than they are. There's nothing this war could ask from you that you can't handle."

"If that's really how you see me, I probably wouldn't need you so much."

Garrus looked at her, unsure how to respond.

She finally wrapped her arms around him, laying her head against him like she did the first night they were together, the highest show of affection turians ever gave each other. "Just promise me that no matter what happens—"

"There's nothing that could happen that could make me leave your side."

She smiled at the reassurance. "So you do love me."

He flinched back at those words. "Uh…well, I—"

"It's fine," she smiled, "You don't have to tell me. I always knew."

He kept his eyes on her for a moment longer. Then he let a small smile through and wrapped his arms around her as well.

She smiled fully then, moving in to kiss him again.

And as they both lost themselves in the other, they knew it was true: there was nothing in the galaxy that could ever break them apart.