Author's Note: This is late, this is sooo late, I'm sorry! Work has been super busy. This is the last one, day seven: celebrate good times, come on! (This is as close to a happy/good time fic as you'll get out of me LOL). This was a really fun challenge, glad that I made it to the end (though late). Thank you so, so much for your support, I really hope you all enjoyed this. Keep writing!

The Citadel is in ruins, and all he can do is smile.

Saren: dead by his own hand, restoring his race's honour. Sovereign: annihilated, protecting the galaxy. The Council: saved, a guiding light for what is to come. There is fear of the Reapers returning, yes; but all Garrus can do right now is smile.

The hazy fog of battle evaporates from his mind, granting him clarity. Piercing blue eyes sweep across the damage, serious but not catastrophic, all fixable. Nearby, Tali nods at Anderson, as she's pulled up from the ground. She clutches her shoulder, a high hiss of pain seeping through her mask. His joints ache and shake beneath the weight of his cracked armour, and his jaw, damn, it feels like it could be broken. But it is worth pushing through the pain for this moment, it is worth putting up with the ache to smile at the pile of debris behind them. Anderson's shocked face; Tali's curious hum.

Shepard rising from the wreckage.

I knew it.

She limps towards them all, her arm pressed closed against her body; her steps are mostly steady, though they waver a little, like a banner in the breeze. Shepard's face harbours a cautious optimism. The closer she gets to them, the more he sees the corners of her lips pulling upward. Her eyes dart from person to person; when they settle on him, her eyes appear glittery by the waning flames.

In this afterglow of war, he thinks she is the most beautiful sight he's seen.

Tali reaches out a hand and weakly chokes, "Shepard, y-you're alive!"

The Commander nods, her smile growing; she gently grabs Tali's hand and gives it a fleeting, reassuring squeeze, before doing the same to Anderson, and then to him. Her touch feels like a brand through their gloves, one that leaves a pleasant burn, like a tingle. He pretends not to notice it. Garrus forces himself to speak, "Figured you'd come out at the last possible moment."

"You know it, Vakarian."

Anderson releases a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, "You are a remarkable soldier, Shepard."

But she is not just any soldier.

It is a sight that won't fade from his memory any time soon: she, bursting from the rubble –

– she is the Commander.

The Collector Base is ablaze, and all he can do is run.

The Human-Reaper: eradicated, ending a haunting horror. The Collectors: sundered, scrambling to save what's left of ancient bones. The Illusive Man: presumably frustrated, watching his schemes fall through. There is nausea at the confirmation of the Reapers returning, yes; but all Garrus can do right now is run.

Adrenaline feeds through his body, gifting him speed. Determined blue eyes pass over his shoulder, watching his Commander following, though far behind. In front of him, Tali nods at Joker and steps onto the plate, safely crossing onto the Normandy. She turns to wave them in, a high screech of encouragement bursting from her mask. He feels sick and haunted by the experience; but he keeps going, boarding the Normandy even as the platform behind him collapses. But it is worth persevering for this moment, it is worth the gut-turning feeling when he turns and sees her approaching the ship. Joker's relentless defence; Tali's steadfast gaze.

Shepard launching across the wide gap.

I thought so.

Her fingers clasp the edge, hanging on for her life; the ship pulls away as he and Tali drag her up to safety. Once she's onboard, Shepard's face clearly reads relief. The four of them move away from the door as it closes. Joker heads towards the cockpit, aware their lives are still in jeopardy. But two pairs of blue eyes simply settle on each other, and they quickly embrace.

In this afterglow of combat, he knows she is the most beautiful sight he's ever seen.

Tali pats her on the back as the embrace is broken, "Don't ever scare me like that again!"

The Commander nods, pulling away and following Joker; the two dextros follow after. He reaches out for her hand, and she lets him take it, ignoring EDI's countdown, watching the screens as the Normandy veers away from the Collector Base to a much safer distance. Her hand in his feels right, reminding him of the concept of home. Garrus hums and comments, "You sure know how to make an escape, huh?"

"You know it, Vakarian."

Joker snorts, his voice rising above the sound of the explosion, "You're a goddamn warrior, Shepard."

But she is not just any warrior.

It is a sight he will always remember: she, leaping through the air –

– she is Shepard.

The Crucible fires, and all he can do is hope.

The husks: dissolving, into dust and then atoms. Harbinger: frozen, crackling with electricity and breaking down. The Reapers: ceasing, their purpose and their existence ending entirely as they fall from the sky and onto the ground. There is disbelief at the death of them, yes; but all Garrus can do right now is hope.

Exhaustion buries itself into his bones, weighing him down. Drained blue eyes settle on the burning Citadel, having landed on Earth, as he takes shaky steps towards it. Behind him, Tali slowly picks up his dropped sniper rifle, holding it for safekeeping. They remained, standing on her homeworld to bolster friendly foreign forces, breathing her air – and she has not returned. He feels he's lived a dozen lifetimes, surely; every step towards the ruins takes forever, but he keeps going, chasing that last thread of hope. But it is worth what he finds, it is worth the anxiety. His caged breath; Tali's too.

Shepard gasping for air beneath broken bones.

Thank the Spirits.

She has no strength or energy to free herself; he bolts and crashes to his knees, throwing off whatever rubble he can. And when he sees Shepard's face, though bloodied and bruised, he is reminded of her cautious optimism from two years ago, right here in the Citadel's clutches. She is the leader the galaxy needed; he is her shoulder to lean on.

In this afterglow of victory, he knows she will always be the most beautiful sight he's ever seen.

Tali's speaks from several paces away, her tone coloured with joyous tears, "Keelah…"

The Commander weakly smiles up at him as he slips his arms underneath her upper body, as she raises one good arm to throw it across his carapace. He holds her close, revelling in her every breath, allowing his hope to transform into delight. An impossible future – and now, it has arrived. Garrus chokes, his voice thick with emotion, "I thought I lost you… You survived."

"You know it, Vakarian."

The turian buries his face into the crook of her neck, "You are our saviour."

But she is not just any saviour.

It is a sight he will never forget: she, erupting from the ashes –

– like volcanic, molten rock.