The many men, so beautiful! And they all dead did lie: And a thousand, thousand slimy things Lived on; and so did I.
T. Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Garrus has no idea how long he’s been standing there, lost in thought. Lost, period. He can no longer see the sky-car up on the gallery. So Shepard’s gone. He did tell her that he needed time. How much time? He glances around but the fake daylight is no more of a clue than the cold shimmering of the holo-ads lining the promenade.
So many people down here, so much traffic… what the hell was he thinking? The clamor of the busy street rises and falls in his ears together with the waves of despair and self-loathing, alternating in a nauseating rhythm. Prepared to take revenge – his hand stayed by mercy that wasn’t his own. Or was it? The uncertainty is crippling, paralyzing. Does she really know him that well? Does she really know him better than he knows himself?
This isn’t like you, Garrus.
I don’t need your approval, Shepard. But I do need your help.
I’m here for you.
Yeah. Sure you were. Right there, standing in my fucking shot.
Already the memory is blurred, like a vision from some other life, though it can’t have been more than an hour. The anger welling up in him like a toxic tide, worse than ever before, because he knew, his head knew that she had nothing, nothing but his best interests at heart, that she was doing what she thought was right. Just like she always does, because that’s what defines her, and Spirits help him, that’s why he loves her. But she didn’t have the right. She didn’t have the right to lie to him, to tell him she’d support him and then betray him, betray him all over again.
He’d been so angry, he wasn’t sure his finger would remain steady on the trigger. The rage pulled a crimson curtain over his vision, and Spirits forgive him, had she been within his reach, he would have struck her. He would have growled and snarled like a caged animal, that was how he’d felt. Like a starved, tortured beast reaching out through the bars of its rusty prison for salvation – and missing it by half a tick mark in the scope of his sniper rifle.
So angry, he had barely listened. Only later did the words start coming back, and with them a devastating realization: Sidonis, the traitor, the enemy, the nemesis – was nothing but a scared little man. A pathetic sack of bone and plate, of fear and greed, misery and weakness. Hardly worth pity or disgust, let alone the bullet Garrus had intended to place between his eyes. The man he remembers, the proud, tall turian with a sharp tongue and a steady aim and a knack for coming up with unlikely strategies that had saved their asses a dozen times on Omega – there was nothing left of him. Garrus can’t help but wonder if he ever truly existed outside his own wishful thinking.
Perhaps that was true of all the men in his team, of all the friends he had lost. He had been so proud of them, so proud of what they had accomplished, and in his pride, he’d been blind to their vulnerabilities. To the fact that they were creatures of flesh and blood who needed more than old grievances and abstract ideals to sustain them. Garrus had failed them by mistaking them for something more than men.
A deathly chill creeps under his plates and when he lifts his gaze he can almost see them: the restless spirits of his comrades, lurking in dark corners, familiar faces appearing among the passing crowd, disappearing again. The dead weight of their stares threatens to suffocate him. He cannot breathe. He’s drowning in the sea of shadows and he has to blink to clear his vision. He’d been so bent on revenge that he’d never really allowed himself to face the fact that they were gone, all gone.
Too angry to mourn them.
Somehow he manages to turn around, facing the apparitions, one by one. I’m sorry, he thinks, or maybe says aloud. I’m so sorry. There is nothing else to say. Nothing else to offer. Before, he had vengeance to promise in his heated prayers. Now that his hate is spent, nothing remains. Nothing but sorrow.
And just like that, their ghastly eyes soften, and Garrus can breathe again. They’re dissolving in front of his waking eyes, saying their last goodbyes, giving him their last gift. Forgiveness.
As the fog lifts, his gaze becomes fixed on the one form that didn’t dissolve. It’s Sidonis, still leaning over the railing. Shepard was right: his wretched, continued existence is more fitting punishment than a quick death. And unbelievably, Garrus feels sorry for him. He takes a step forward, perhaps to approach him, perhaps to talk to him, but something makes him doubt his eyes. It could be just another apparition.
It turns to look at him, and Garrus freezes. In time, he will forgive himself; but can he forgive Sidonis?
He stares at the figure of his friend-enemy for the longest time, suspended between worlds, between now and yesterday, between now and tomorrow, and an unearthly calm descends on him. The noises subside, the people evaporate, the promenade fades away, leaving nothing but black outlines and white highlights. Everything is clear, except Sidonis, a whirl of hazy shades.
So much easier to see the world in black and white. Gray, I don’t know what to do with gray.