Chapter 8 of The Suicide Mission
Garrus had to invest all his restraint into allowing the Illusive Man to keep talking from his omni. Shepard was listening. Why was Shepard listening? She was pacing around and Legion was following her movement there and back again, his visual unit beaming in the smoky air like a beacon of a lighthouse. A cluster of wires above his hip was cut and spilling sparks, but he showed no signs of discomfort. Garrus had minor injuries, and a vague nausea kept reminding him of the pending symptoms of the radiation sickness, but for the moment he was all right. Shepard wasn’t, though. Her left arm was dangling from her shoulder like a dead thing. The medigel had stopped the bleeding, but from the contorted expression on her face, smeared with blood and dirt, it was clear it didn’t stop the pain.
So why was she listening? This place was clearly an insult to everything they had been fighting for, even without that monstrosity, that abomination that they had just taken down. Human fucking reaper. Garrus thought he’d seen it all when Sovereign possessed Saren’s dead body in front of his unbelieving eyes, but no. The reapers were apparently capable of a much broader spectrum of perversions against nature. He blinked the blood trickling from the cracked browplate out of his right eye and glanced around, suddenly nervous. They should go and check if that thing was really dead instead of wasting time on pointless debates. Come on, Shepard. Tell the racist son of a bitch to fuck off already so we can fix you up and get the hell out of here.
“Shepard, you died fighting for what you believe,” the Illusive Man was saying. “I brought you back so you could keep fighting. Some would say that what we did to you was going too far. But look what you’ve accomplished! I didn’t discard you because I knew your value. Don’t be so quick to discard this facility. Think of the potential!”
Garrus absently noted that his hands were curled into fists so tight that they put the fabric of his suit to the test, and now they tightened even further. There had been a time when his feelings for Cebrerus were above the freezing point. For bringing Shepard back. For bringing him back. But damn, they came here to destroy the Collectors, not to steal their fucking tech. Had that been a part of the deal not a single non-human would have ever boarded the Normandy. Reaper technology in the hands of the Illusive Man was an idea so profoundly bad that Garrus couldn’t believe Shepard was considering it.
But of course she wasn’t; not really. It became clear the moment their eyes met, and just as he gave her a stern shake of the head, she gave him that diabolic little curl of her lips that never failed to make his mandibles twitch in response.
“We’ll fight and win without it,” she said to the Illusive Man. “I won’t let fear compromise who I am.”
“Shepard, think about what’s at stake, about everything Cerberus has done for you! You…”
Garrus cut him off and it felt like a trillion credits. “Come on, Shepard,” he said. “Let’s blow this thing.”
She was studying the controls already. All they needed to do was set up a timed overload of the main reactor. Shepard looked at Garrus and indicated with her chin: she couldn’t do it with one hand. “Ten minutes should be enough.”
He dropped on one knee and got to work. His hands were shaking. It had nothing to do with the excitement and he bit into his tongue to try and steady them before she noticed. But now that he had the idea, he realized he was sweating as well. Shit.
With the overload ticking and the control panel locked, he started to get up, but then he heard the sound. His first thought was that he’d made it ten seconds instead of ten minutes by mistake, but they were still alive, so it wasn’t that.
“Let’s move,” Shepard said, and her voice was too calm. She couldn’t hear. Neither could Legion, or so it seemed. But before Garrus could warn them, the platform shook and they reached one for the other in the attempts to regain balance. He knew it. He fucking knew it. Of course the reaper wasn’t dead: that would have been too damn easy.
A giant five-fingered hand appeared on the far edge of the platform and they darted for cover to the right, with Legion rolling away to the left, already extending his strange sniper rifle that Garrus would have to look at some day, if they survived. Shepard was aiming with her heavy pistol and her shot went straight for the humongous read eye, but it did nothing, nothing! It didn’t even tickle it!
“Garrus, the Cain! Use the Cain!”
Right, right. His mind wasn’t as clear it should have been. The platform wobbled again as the monster slammed a hand in the general direction of Legion’s hiding place, but he managed to dodge and take another shot at the eye. Shepard was firing one confident round after another, and all the while, Garrus was fumbling with the magnetic claps on her armor, thinking, of all things, how he’d have been so much faster if only he’d had some experience. When the damn thing finally came off, its weight surprised him despite the countless hours Tali and he spent implementing the modifications from Mordin’s chaotic schematics. He sure wished they’d had the time to test it but he wouldn’t allow Shepard to detect his reluctance.
They were crouching with their backs to the sturdy control panel, shoulder pressed to shoulder. He said, “Cover me, Shepard,” but she must have heard something else, because her face was suddenly in his face as she landed a fierce kiss on his mouth, licking away the sweat and the blood. His eyes shut on pure instinct and a bolt of unbearable longing underwent his entire body like electricity. Everything faded away for a blissful second… then returned in full force as the reaper’s arm slammed just to the right of their position. Shepard went out of cover and started shooting with her good hand to attract the attention of the mechanic beast and Garrus started charging the Cain, praying to the spirit of the Normandy to bless the weapon into working without unpleasant surprises.
“Here goes nothing,” Garrus muttered as the Cain spit out its deadly payload. The recoil almost toppled him on his ass. He had aimed it at the neck because it seemed to be the weakest structural point, but the damn thing was moving in an erratic pattern, and the missile was traveling so slowly that he had the idea it would have been quicker to sprint, holding it in his hands. With the corner of his eye, he saw that Shepard and Legion were standing frozen, watching, and the reaper was trying to prop its entire skeletal torso onto the platform. But it never made it. The missile struck true, exploding in a cloud of yellow, orange and red, blinding, deafening, but above all, beautiful.
Then it all went to hell. The platform slanted under his feet at an impossible angle and he lost footing, sliding on his belly into certain death in the unfathomable depths of the flyway. Shepard screamed and threw herself after him. There was no time to think about that, to think about anything. He was reaching for her, and she was reaching for him, and they were falling, falling together, going deeper, ever deeper towards the abyss. Her face was dark with terror. Her eyes were wet. Distress. Despair. It made perfect sense.
The touch of her hand brought him back to the present, the movement of her body sent his into a life-saving panic. She caught him. Somehow she caught him and broke the fall on the very edge. Hanging on her good arm, he blessed her cybernetic body again, for he had twice her mass even without the armor. He grabbed the edge to pull up, and she pushed back with her legs, dragging him over.
“Come on,” she panted. They sprinted for the other side and the relative safety of the dock. Legion was there already, pointing wildly with his arm at something to their left and up. They paused to look, but what were they to do about it? The explosion had sent several platforms dancing around the flyway in a chaotic choreography and the one flying towards them on a collision course wasn’t going to stop on account of their horrified, angry stares.
When Garrus awoke, it took him precious seconds to remember where he was. At first, he thought he was back on Omega: before him, there was a cavernous expanse glittering with stray lights and reflections; smoke in the air and a sense of immediate danger. He tried to move, but something heavy was resting on his back. Pushing up gave no results. He was weak. A moment of panic… but yeah, he could still wriggle his toes. Well, that was something.
Then he recalled the reactor and the ten minute timer and a fresh wave of panic washed over him. When he pushed up again, the weight came off easily, and he was surprised until he saw Shepard and Legion hovering over him.
“Can you walk?” said Shepard.
“Of course I can.”
But the legs betrayed him and he would have fallen if not for the lightning reflexes and the merciless strength of their strange geth friend. Now Garrus remembered the heat recycling plant as well and something worse than fear twisted his guts. He would not allow his weakness to endanger others. To endanger her.
“I’m fine,” he growled and brushed Legion’s hands aside, standing up. He wasn’t, not at all, and he knew it with a dreadful certainty which he hurriedly buried away. He was fine, he decided, and he was going to stay fine until she was safe. After a moment of agonizing reluctance, his body agreed to the deal and his legs held. “I’m fine,” he repeated with a bit more confidence. “Let’s get out of here.”
They raced through the tunnels, but it was all a blur. Collectors were on their heels, shooting, and then there were also swarms. “Don’t look back,” Shepard kept saying. “Just run, run!” He wasn’t entirely sure she was really saying that. Back on Omega, in the haze of his deep stim addiction and the nearly pleasant certainty of impending death, he used to hear her voice too. “Move it, mister,” she’d tell him, and he’d find the strength to turn around that corner once more, snipe another. But the voice was different now. When it said, “Faster, Garrus,” it said so in tones he hadn’t known before. He wanted to hear them again, though, and that thought propelled him forward.
The Normandy was humming in the flyway, waiting, and Joker was standing at the distant hangar doors, cutting their pursuers off with a rain of cover fire. Legion was the first to jump and he made it into the ship with surgical precision. Garrus sprinted past Shepard, which was wrong, so very wrong, but he knew that he couldn’t afford to lose momentum now. He threw himself over the edge with a roar and stumbled inside. By the time he stood up and shook the fog out of his senses, he expected Shepard to be inside already. Only she wasn’t.
Garrus turned back to the hangar door just in time to see her make the leap. But the Normandy’s inertial dampeners were still offline and the ship had drifted farther from the edge. He braced himself against the door, reaching as far out as he possibly could, but the ship kept moving and Garrus wasn’t sure she’d make it, he wasn’t sure!
He lost all sense of time. A couple of milliseconds or a couple of eons since she’d jumped? Didn’t matter, for all his experience in the battlefields across the Galaxy and the different, thought no less dangerous battlefields of his fucked up life, had already flashed in front of him, collapsing into a decision of pristine clarity: he would not lose her again. He would live or die with her.
The alarm in her voice was breaking his heart but now that the hangar doors were closed and she was safe, his body reminded him of the deal. He sat down with a heavy thud. “Tired,” he muttered, trying to sound normal.
“What’s wrong? Are you injured? Talk to me, god damn it!”
“Just gonna… take a nap.”
“Mordin, what’s wrong with him?”
“Can’t work here. Take him to med bay. Keep him awake.”
“Hear that? Doctor says, no sleeping. Garrus? Garrus. Look at me. Look at me! That’s an order, soldier!”
He opened his eyes and smiled at the fuzzy oval of her face. “Sorry, Shepard,” he said, or thought he said, and then he trailed away.