Citadel November 3, 2179

The trail of destruction in the Wards wasn't her fault.

It wasn't entirely her fault anyway. There had been other factors involved, the krogan, for example, and the salarian.

The ever-familiar C-Sec glowed a dim blue as she was escorted through it. She passed more than a few familiar faces on her way to the officer in charge of her case.

"Vakarian will be along shortly," the asari leading her nodded to her usual chair in the office. "I trust you know better than to cause a scene, Shepard."

"C-sec has always been off-limits to my antics, officer Mara. I'll be good, promise."

She snorted a laugh, waving Shepard into the office

There were new pictures on the desk, more of the Vakarian family. There were a few of Castis's children entering service, family dinners, military events... Normal things. The one that stood out was of Pallaven, a lush green field with a city in the background. In the foreground was his son, as happy as a turian could be, resting with a familiar rifle.

Shepard smiled at the photo. He looked young, barely fourteen from the looks of it.

She sank into the chair in front of the desk and sighed. Castis Vakarian. She promised him that she'd stay out of trouble on the Citadel, and she'd broken it within hours of returning. She blew a stray strand of hair off her face.

It wasn't even her fault. The krogan had picked a fight with her.

She heard the hiss of the door opening behind her. Her body went rigid as a familiar twang filled the office.

"Soooo, how exactly did you manage to get a salarian and a krogan to kiss?" The turian slid into his seat in front of her. His face betrayed his amusement, his mandibles twitching with held back laughter. "Because this is probably the most interesting case that's crossed my desk in the history of... Ever."

She could practically hear her mind failing to start as it got stuck in a loop of 'wrong Vakarian'. The young turian from the photo waited patiently in front of her for an answer. Garrus, her memory supplied. He looked better in person.

She opened her mouth to reply like an idiot. "I'm almost considering getting arrested more often." He quirked a brow, confused. "But there's no guarantee I'll get you again. I mean, you're the only one with a sense of humour here." She briefly considered tossing herself out the nearest airlock as she scrambled to salvage her dignity.

He snorted a laugh. "There's a few of us. So, about that krogan and the salarian…"

"I tripped." She cleared her throat. "That's the short version, anyway."

He eyed her skeptically. "And the long story?"

"I tripped... And in my usual fashion, I set off a chain of events that ended with a krogan getting angry." She ran a hand through her hair. "You know how generally when you piss off a krogan you're supposed to run. Well, I wasn't looking where I was leading him, and that's where the salarian comes in. Because when the big guy tried to stop… Well, you know." She coughed into her hand, omitting the part where she'd failed to contain her laughter and had accidentally escalated the situation. From the amusement in his eyes, he'd caught on to that anyway. Perceptive bastard.

"And so you just casually took down this krogan after." He waved a hand, picking up his tablet again. "The reports say he continued to go after you and that you incapacitated him."

"While my squad laughed at me. Not the first time I've had to take out a krogan on my own. Doesn't usually happen on the Citadel, though."

She cleared her throat. "Soooo, uh." He raised a brow looking up from the paperwork. "This… Isn't going to end up on Castis' desk, is it? Because if it does, not only do I owe my brother fifty credits, but I'm going to get another two-hour lecture on 'Citadel laws and obeying them'…"

"Another…?" His eyes widened before he burst out laughing. "Oh, you're that Shepard. I thought your name sounded familiar."

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. I used to end up in his office every other week." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "It was a pain in the ass. I don't know if he drew the short straw or if he chose to take my case, but arresting me for breaking into my own house was a bit much."

He snorted. "Sounds like my father." He shook his head. "Look, I'll let this go..."

Shepard frowned at his pause. "I'm sensing a condition on this."

"If you tell me how you managed the human ice-cream riot." He finished. "I read the reports, but they were really vague, and dad won't talk about it."

"I didn't... Wait, no. That one was actually my fault. Not that Castis or anyone else could prove it." She sighed. "I'll buy you a drink if you don't arrest me for it?"

░░░░ ░░░░ ░░, ░░░░

The shore was rarely calm, but when it was, he was near. He had a way of quieting the hurricane on the horizon and drowning the water's whispers with his near-endless chatter. His voice pulled her away from the raging pacific, if only for a moment.

It was almost bearable. The hail whipping against her, the biting wind… the green sky feeding dark clouds into a distant funnel. The water crashed at her feet, soaking her further with ice water.

This calm wouldn't last.

He would leave eventually, taking with him this uneasy peace.

Even now, she could hear the whispering waters calling her into the deep blue, but he was near.

He was near.

She didn't have to go today.

She stood on the stony shore, letting the water lap at her feet. The saltwater seeped through her clothes, forcing her to shiver, but it was safe enough.

For now.

Citadel November 4, 2179

Shepard should have been listening to the lecture on not breaking Citadel laws, but she hadn't been for a while. Her mind was elsewhere, her mind lingering on the easy laughter of last night and her warm familiarity with Garrus.

Anderson had been the only other person that had felt like Garrus, that left the same sense of familiarity, had been Anderson. That had been different, though. Where Anderson had felt like an old friend, Garrus had felt like home.

Garrus Vakarian.

He'd been important to her. She'd loved him, and he… What he had felt wasn't as certain.

She flipped her dog tags over in her hands, frowning at them as Darius yelled about the law.

Shepard cursed. She felt like a girl, chasing half-remembered affection.

She wanted to see him again.

"Are you even listening to me, Lils?" She could hear the frustration tingeing Darrius's voice as he continued.

"Not really," She flipped the tags over again before looking up at him. "And before you say anything, no, I don't enjoy getting arrested, Dare."

"But?"

"I'm debating going back."

"To the C-Sec holding cells."

"To see Vakarian." She rolled her shoulders. "He has decent taste when it comes to booze."

"The cop has good taste… when it comes to booze." Darius stared at her incredulously. "Lils, are you seriously thinking about getting arrested for a guy? Isn't he a turian?"

"Maybe?" She stared at the ceiling. "He's pretty hot for a turian."

He opened his mouth then shut it. "I'm never going to understand your type, am I?"

Citadel October 5, 2181

"Sheeeepard," The turian drawled, dropping in front of her. "Shepard, Shepard, Shepard."

"You know, if you keep saying my name like that, a girl's going to get ideas, Garrus." She looked up from her nails to grin at him. "It's probably best if we don't do anything in your office. Unless you're into that kind of thing?" She winked.

He took a moment to process her words before he snorted a laugh. "Honestly, Shepard. You can call me if you want to see me. I'd prefer it to all the paperwork." He flicked through her file. "What did you even do this time?"

"Convinced a hanar to start a brawl." She hummed, eyeing the photograph of Pallaven on his desk. No matter how many times she saw it, it always made her smile. It was unapologetically him.

"I'm sorry. I don't think I heard you right, Lila." He leaned forward. "A hanar?"

"Who knew Blasto wasn't the only renegade jellyfish on the station." Shepard looked up at him, trying to keep a straight face. She failed when he quirked a brow in response.

"There wasn't actually an incident this time. I just asked someone to let me in," Shepard grinned at him. "I figured, I'm off duty, and I have C-Sec's handsomest turian as a friend..."

"You don't need to flatter me every time you're in my office." He snorted another laugh.

Shepard glanced at the doorway, gesturing for him to continue.

"We can get dinner after I'm finished. Or now. You had Chellick finish my reports for the day." His mandibles fluttered.

"I may or may not have given him a lead on his current investigation in exchange for a favour. You know the one he's been working on for a week or something," She offered him a lopsided smile. "You coming or not? Cuz I have a reservation at The Turnpike I can't miss."

Garrus shook his head, rolling his shoulders. "Last I checked, The Galactic Turnpike doesn't take reservations."

"Details." Shepard caught his wrist as he stood, all but pulling him out the door with her.

The Galactic Turnpike wasn't the best bar on the Citadel, but it was Shepard's favourite. It's particular brand shitty decor reminded her of the club near her old home on Earth. The pounding music, the neon lights, and laughter of drunk people was weirdly comforting to her. Not to mention its stubborn owner, Keith. The man had enough stories to last centuries. Not that she'd come for them this time.

Shepard's reasons for inviting Garrus out had been a bit more selfish. There'd been a sinking feeling in her gut that had persisted since her deployment had docked on the Citadel. It was one that lingered in the back of her mind. She wouldn't be home for a while. Maybe never.

The feeling she'd had before the Blitz paled in comparison. It was funny how near-endless waves of pirates were nothing in the face of Alliance training. Shepard had heard passing N-6 training would be hard, but was it hard enough to justify her gut feeling?

Maybe it wasn't training itself, but what came after. Shepard was slated for Anderson's crew after she reached N-7. Anderson seemed to treat her like she'd already made it. Then again, he'd had an eye on Shepard for as long as she could remember.

Shepard held the shot glass in her hand carefully, taking a second to examine its contents before knocking it back. She felt Garrus bump into her shoulder for a fifth time that night.

Shepard had planned to say goodbye to him just in case her gut feeling was correct. That plan had gone out the window when they'd started drinking. Or had she thrown it out in his office?

"Ok, ok, ok. How exactly did you find that smuggling ring so quickly?" He slurred in her ear, tossing an arm over her shoulder. He muttered a few curses under his breath as his drink spilled.

"Easy there, G." She leaned into his touch, instinctively. "Someone might think you're drunk."

"No?" he frowned. "Just answer the question already, Lils."

"I modified a V.I. to look for patterns. Chellick knew who was getting the weapons, and I'm familiar enough with hidden money trails..." She laughed, rolling her eyes. "The Alliance uses a similar program to track pirates. Only it's worse because it isn't mine."

She could feel his answering laughter more than she could hear it with the bar's music blaring.

God, she loved him.

She'd known that since their first meeting, but it was harder to deny its as time passed. Each new thing she learned, each casual moment… they felt right. She was grateful that he too drunk to notice the dumb smile that crept on to her face. It didn't seem like the right time to tell him.

"After the war, maybe."

Garrus looked at her frowning. "Sorry, I didn't catch that."

"We should go home. You have work in the morning, right?"

"You're not wrong." He downed the rest of his drink and moved his arm around her waist.

Shepard didn't bother telling him she was still capable of walking. It wouldn't have amounted to anything anyway. Even if it did, she didn't mind.

It was nice to have him near for the short walk to her apartment. Or rather, it would be Darrius's after she deployed in the morning.

It was tempting to drop out of N-School, to keep her deployment local, but it wasn't an option. Anderson had all but ordered her to go and between Darrius and her squad… and the war... The one that hadn't started yet, or even shown itself. She was sure it was coming, though. It felt like an inevitability. Maybe it was why she was restless.

Shepard could feel herself grimace as she reached the apartment, all the wrong words on the tip of her tongue. She wasn't ready to leave Garrus yet. She wanted more. One more hour. One more day. Another month by his side. God, she wished she could have that.

"Shepard?" He frowned.

"Sorry, just…" She leaned against her door, taking a deep breath. She let her head fall back, watching the fake night sky of the Citadel. "I meant to tell you earlier, but I don't know… words aren't my strong suit."

"When has that ever stopped you?"

She snorted a laugh. "Yeah. Yeah, I… they want me to get my N-7, so I'm going back to N-School. It might be a while till I'm back."

She could see him shake his head out of the corner of her eye. "Shepard, you're always…"

"It's different this time, Garrus." I might die there, she left unsaid, but he was perceptive, of course, he noticed.

"Shep." His voice was soft.

"I wanted to say goodbye." She avoided his gaze, gripping the hem of her shirt.

"Shep, you'll make it back. You'll make it back because you're stubborn, and you're a damn good soldier." He reached for her shoulders, pulling her into a hug. She let her head fall on his shoulder. "And when you make it back, I'm going to have a report with your name on it on my desk, because you're actually going to cause a riot with a hanar one day, so it might as well be then."

She laughed. "Garrus, I'm not going to…"

"Make it back or cause a riot? Because my best friend has a knack for doing both." He joked.

She snorted, ignoring the pang in her chest. "I always have been trouble."

"The best kind of trouble." He grinned.