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Garrus bent over the disassembled pieces of the Kovalyov, searching for the small telltale flaw in the metal that would explain its timing issue. He was focusing so sharply on the gun that he didn't hear Shepard come up behind him. It was iffy whether he would have heard her anyway—she moved lightly even in armor. In her fatigues she was practically silent. When he finally noticed her out of the corner of his eye, her gaze on him as intently as his had been on the gun, he jerked his hands in surprise and gun parts scattered all over the floor.
"Damn," he muttered.
"My fault," Shepard said. "Let me help."
Together they got down on the ground hunting for the pieces of the gun.
Without looking up from the floor, Shepard asked, "You always so jumpy, Garrus?"
"I am when people sneak up on me."
"I didn't sneak."
"You could have fooled me."
She smiled. "I suppose I do walk softly. You'll get used to it."
"Or you could say, 'Hey, Garrus, what are you up to?'"
At that her brown eyes crinkled, warming with humor. "But then how would I sneak up on you?"
He chuckled. "Caught you, Commander."
"I just wanted to see how you're settling in. You miss the Citadel?"
"Oh, yes. Paperwork and regulations and routines—I live for them, didn't I tell you that?"
"I can arrange for you to have paperwork to do, if you really need some."
"Perish the thought."
They laughed together. Garrus picked up a piece of the Kovalyov and blew the dust off it, scrutinizing it carefully. No, this wasn't the problem.
"You could ask Ashley to help you," Shepard suggested. "She's good with guns."
"With all due respect, Commander, a person should be familiar with their own weapons." He glanced at her with curiosity. "You maintain your guns?"
Shepard nodded. "I try to. Sometimes … well, there's a lot to do aboard ship, and I can't take the Normandy apart piece by piece, so I have to learn to trust other people to do their jobs and keep the equipment in its proper condition."
"Good point," Garrus conceded. He looked at the parts of the gun and sighed. "I'm going to have to start all over; I can't find the timing problem."
"Why not take a break and come back to it later, with fresh eyes?" Shepard suggested. "That often works for me."
"Yeah, all right." He carefully moved all the pieces into a box so they wouldn't be lost while he was gone, and glanced down at Shepard. "You have someplace you wanted to talk, Commander?"
She laughed outright, her brown eyes twinkling. "Very perceptive. I did want to have a brief talk and make sure you're settling into the ship all right."
They walked toward the elevator together. "I'm settling in fine, Commander," he told her. "I knew I would. Working with a Spectre had to be better than C-Sec."
"How did you know that? Have you worked with a Spectre before?"
He shook his head. "No, never had the pleasure. But I know what they're like."
"Oh? We're all the same?" She looked up at him. Judging from her expression, she wasn't sure if that was a compliment or an insult.
"Well, you're all free to handle things your own way, make your own rules. In my experience, people who aim for that kind of command are the type who like it."
A frown crossed Shepard's face. "Not always," she said quietly, almost as if she were talking to herself—or afraid to admit it. "Sometimes things are put into your hands that you have to take, because if you didn't they would fall and shatter."
So she hadn't been angling for the position. That was interesting to Garrus. He felt a kinship with her—he had washed out of Spectre training and ended up in C-Sec. But that was out of a lack of confidence in himself. He didn't sense that Shepard lacked confidence in her abilities, so her reluctance to take on the role of Spectre must be something else.
"But it does have its advantages," she continued, in a stronger voice.
"Exactly. If I'm trying to take down a suspect, it shouldn't matter how I do it, as long as it gets done."
"I suppose … to a limited extent."
"C-Sec takes it to the extreme," he pointed out. "Protocol and procedure should never be allowed to get in the way of doing your job."
Shepard nodded reluctantly. "Again, to a limited extent. Protocol exists for a reason—but the larger the bureaucracy, the more people there are in it who are likely to see the protocol as the job and not as what facilitates it."
"So no regrets about leaving?"
Garrus opened his mouth to say blithely that he had none, but … she had been honest with him, didn't he owe her the same? "Some," he admitted. "Cases I didn't quite close, a sense of … having let down those who counted on me. But I'm working for those people now still, just in a different way. And when was another opportunity like this one going to land in my lap?"
Shepard smiled. "So much of life is about knowing when to leap for the rope as it goes by."
"Not quite the way I would have put it, but … yeah, I suppose that's it."
The elevator doors slid open in front of them and they stepped in.
Shepard leaned back against the wall and looked up at Garrus with curiosity. "So, if you hate red tape and procedure, how did you end up a C-Sec officer in the first place?"
"Oh, I guess the same as most officers—I wanted to fight injustice, to help people."
"Cut the crap, Garrus. You're not a cliché, so why are you spouting them at me?" Their eyes met across the elevator. The doors slid open, and Shepard punched a button to close them again.
"What if I told you it was personal?"
"Is that what you're telling me?"
He held her gaze a moment longer, then dropped his, shaking his head. "It's the old story. At least, it's old for turians, and I imagine it's the same all over the galaxy. My father was C-Sec. One of the best."
"Now, that I understand," Shepard said in a heartfelt tone.
"Your mother, so I hear?"
"Yes. She's … something."
Garrus nodded, understanding. "And nothing you do is ever enough."
"Not so much that as just … there's always the expectation that every step is just preparation for the next step." Her cheeks pinkened faintly. "It sounds the same, but … she never criticizes, you know? Just sets the bar another notch higher."
"My father criticizes."
"That's hard to live with." Shepard let go of the elevator button, the doors sliding open. "Coffee? Or, the turian version of it?"
"Sure." He followed her off the elevator toward the mess. Several uniformed crewmembers sat there, but they all got up as Shepard approached and made an attempt to look like they were just hurrying off on important business.
She smiled, watching them go. "I wish they weren't afraid of me … but I'm glad they are."
"Spoken like a Commander."
Shepard chuckled. "I suppose. So, your father?"
"Yes. Growing up, I constantly heard about his accomplishments and saw his picture on the vids, and it was always accompanied by some relative putting their hand on my shoulder and saying, 'Bet you can't wait to follow in your father's footsteps' … or words to that effect."
"I'm sure he's thrilled you've left C-Sec."
"Absolutely. Leaving my post to join a human and chase after a highly respected turian Spectre was just what he wanted from me."
"He doesn't believe Saren's dirty?"
"He doesn't believe chasing him down is the right way to find out; he thinks launching out on my own and leaving the rules and regs behind me will make me just as bad as I think Saren is." Garrus picked up his mug and carried it to the table. He was developing a taste for human coffee, but he had to cut it heavily with a pink milk from Palaven to counteract his body's reaction to it. "Or, to put it another way—one rogue Spectre is as bad as another rogue Spectre."
"I'm a rogue, now?" Shepard lifted her eyebrows. "I suppose that's one way to look at the situation."
"It's my father's way. I … When I was younger, I wanted to be a Spectre, but—I let my father talk me out of it." He didn't know why he was telling her this. He rarely spoke of it. But he felt she ought to know.
"Really? You were going to be a Spectre?"
"Well … I was targeted as a potential candidate. Along with about a thousand other turian military recruits. Not a big deal, really."
"But your father didn't want you to be?"
"No. Rules and regs, remember? He thinks Spectres are dangerous. And maybe they are—look at Saren. But he's not going to play by C-Sec's rules, or anyone else's, so if we're going to get him, we have to be able to think like him."
Shepard nodded. "I'm afraid that's true. We'll have to beat him at his own game if we have any hope of stopping him."
"We will, Commander. I know we will."
"Thanks, Garrus. I'm glad to have you with me."
"I'm glad to be here."
They smiled at each other over the rims of their mugs.