damalur: (sw • sword)
no, use my SPACE name! ([personal profile] damalur) wrote2014-12-31 09:20 pm

the soft rain (mass effect, garrus)

Title: The Soft Rain
Characters: Shepard/Vakarian, Wrex
Wordcount: 2.5k
Notes: Written for [tumblr.com profile] itsmyfreakin as part of the 2014 Mass Effect Holiday Cheer Exchange! She requested Shepard/Garrus, Grunt, Wrex, and no sad endings. I didn't quite manage to wrangle Grunt, but I hope this satisfies anyway. Many thanks to my beta, and Happy Holidays!
Summary: Garrus, the war, and what happens after.



But that's the hell of it—the war is over, yet here he is, boots on the ground as he slogs through mud and rubble and rain.

He gets a lot of hard stares from the krogan in the encampment; whatever goodwill the Primarch's directives fostered, the krogan have long memories to go with their long lives—and he's wearing a helmet, armor, low-reflective matte stuff that blends into the environment even without the benefit of a holographic ghillie suit. Here he isn't Garrus Vakarian, war hero, just another faceless grunt doing a favor for the Battlemaster.

It feels...appropriate.

If Shepard were here, she'd read the self-recrimination in the set of his shoulders, the slant of his head. She'd knock her arm against his and say—and say—he didn't know what she would say; she wasn't here to say it. Something cocky, maybe. Something sharp; something funny or something bleak. Shepard wasn't all things to all people, but she was many things to many people, and she was certainly everything to Garrus. But he can't find her voice; that's one of the other things he was forced to leave behind and replace with blood and rubble and rain.

Wrex is waiting up ahead under an overhang, the lucky bastard; he's got a couple of his kids with him, and Bakara's probably somewhere nearby. They aren't monogamous, krogan, and Garrus will never quite understand the complicated hierarchy of the clans, but Bakara and Wrex have something between them Garrus recognizes. It goes beyond the sympathy of the body, beyond love, beyond the deep camaraderie of the battlefield; on Palaven they have a word for it, armonae, 'unity of purpose.' He never expected a krogan to understand the sense of the feeling, but Wrex and Bakara are always there, at each others' backs, even as they bicker and argue and bear their teeth.

He starts the long trudge up the slope to Wrex; still the rain comes.

"Hey!" Wrex bellows. "You're moving like you're old just to make me feel good about myself?"

Garrus replies with the most universally rude gesture he knows, making sure to hold it over his head so Wrex can really get the full impact. One of the kids copies Garrus, and Wrex's lips peel back as he chuckles.

"Teaching my family bad habits already," he says. Garrus is close enough now that neither of them have to shout. "Guess I shouldn't expect anything else from a turian."

"You mean krogan children aren't born with bad habits?"

"Heh. Mine definitely are," says Wrex. "Leave the helmet on until we're inside. I had the area swept for surveillance, but the salarians are in on this, and that means all kinds of fancy gadgets."

There's a pause that Garrus would usually fill in: some crack about the krogans discovering indoors, or about—about—

Instead, he finds himself staring past Wrex. Tuchanka is a wasteland; it's the ugliest piece-of-crap planet Garrus has ever personally seen, and he's seen a lot of crappy planets. Tuchanka has them all beat. There's the nuclear waste, sure, and maybe the natural landscape isn't anything special, but what really makes the place ugly—not scarred or well-used, not homely or rough or alien, but deep-down mean-as-sin ugly—is the scale of the devastation. The krogan wrought this on themselves, those crumpled towers and wrecked bridges, those blackened fields and yards of bone, and it's like looking into the past, like seeing what the future might have been. First the Reapers, and then this: rain falling gently, relentlessly, on the face of a ruin.

"Specialist? You fall asleep under there?"

Garrus jerks. "Sorry," he says. "Long trip."

"...Yeah," says Wrex. "Come inside, kid. We'll go over the intel."

It takes him entirely too long to form a response, and he has to cock a brow under the helmet to get himself in character. "Krogan intel?" Garrus says.

"Kind of an oxymoron," Wrex agrees. "Sort of like 'turian innovation,' am I right?" He turns and plods inside, a kid attached to each leg. What a weight to haul around.

Here's what Shepard would say if she were here:

Vakarian, she'd say, get your head out of your ass.

"Whatever you want, Commander," Garrus says to himself, and then he goes inside, out of the rain.

-

He pops the seals on his helmet as soon as the door slides shut behind him. One of the kids has squirmed its way up onto the command table; Wrex settles a big hand idly over his progeny's head as he pulls up the holography display. The map starts as a pinprick and then fans over the table, casting lines of blue light over the kid, who ignores everything in favor of examining its toes.

"Here we go," Wrex says. "This bastard's the one causing all the trouble. My guys have proven he's taking paybacks from the Dalatrass, but if we move against her openly, we'll have another war brewing."

"Won't she know you're the one who ordered the hit?" Garrus says.

"Nah, that's why you're here. Me and every warrior I've got capable of making that shot are going to be down at the bonfire. Festival night. Don't expect you to understand," Wrex adds. It isn't a slight. "And—you didn't hear this from me—I don't have anyone capable of making that shot, but they don't know that."

"Clan Graal is fortified?"

"The main encampment is, yeah. They've started reconstructing their lands, but for the most part their males hole up in an old—hell, I don't know what it was. Their base is carved into a mesa in the middle of a flat plain. Nothing for kilometers around. They'll see you coming from every direction."

"Great," Garrus drawls. "Just what I wanted to hear."

"Yeah, well, you can see why I needed someone I can trust for this job. Graal Khatok is a canny bastard, but his second-in-command is an idiot. Khatok dies, Spek takes over, and within a couple of years, Graal runs itself into the ground. No money sense." He rubs a couple of his fingers together. "Graal isn't a large clan, but Khatok knows how to make the most of what he has. He's got resources, and he knows who to pay off and who to take payment from."

"And you think he's aiming for trouble?"

"Oh, I know it." Wrex smirks. "He may be willing to work with the salarians right now, but only because he thinks Tuchanka should be moving against the asari republics while they're rebuilding. From there, he figures Earth and Palaven will be easy targets."

"And this is legal?" Garrus asks.

Wrex squints like he doesn't understand the question. "What do you mean, legal?"

Obviously things are done differently here than they are in the rest of the galaxy; Garrus can't complain. This is what he wanted for so long, after all, wasn't it? No oversight, no paper trails, just a simple job with a clean answer.

"You've sent out recon scouts?"

"Yeah, as much as I could without attracting attention. Khatok likes to walk the guard posts every evening. He's usually got a couple of his warriors with him, but they won't be a problem. Easy shot for you."

"Does he wear—" The kid perched on the table tumbles over from trying to reach its toes with its mouth. "Do we have to do this in front of them?" Garrus snaps.

"In front of—what, the kids?" Wrex says. "What's wrong? They aren't going to rat us out."

"They're children," Garrus says. "They shouldn't—"

"Shouldn't what? Shouldn't know what their dad does to keep them safe? Shouldn't know that sometimes people die? Shouldn't know that sometimes we're the ones who kill those people?"

Obviously things are done differently here.

Wrex braces his hands on the table and leans his bulk over to stare at Garrus. "What's this really about?" he says. "You okay, Garrus?"

Garrus mouths off; of course he does. "I didn't realize we were the kind of friends who shared our feelings, but sure, Wrex, if you want—"

"Don't bitch at me because you're worried about Shepard," Wrex says, still all deceptive mildness. "We're all worried about her."

Garrus has to bite back a reflexive snarl; he looks away, not down, not showing deference, but to the side.

"It's been six months," he says.

Wrex snorts. "She was gone for two years last time—"

"This is different. You know it. She's in a coma. Lawson's tried everything."

"She wiped out the Reapers. Give her time to recover. Shepard's not out of the fight yet, Garrus, not while she's breathing. Hell, she's almost krogan—slap another set of lungs in there and we could set her up with a clan of her own."

Garrus can hear the rain drumming on the roof; it sounds less like debris falling and more like a soft cascade, a piece of silk being drawn across concrete.

Shepard feels a million-light years away. He can remember the individual parts of her, the red hair, the brassy smirk, the eyes intent like some great hunting hawk's, but the whole is slipping from him; he remembers the color of her hair, but not the way it fell across her face; the angle of her smirk, but not how suddenly it would bloom when someone gave her shit; the sharpness of her gaze, but not how it felt when it locked with his across a boardroom or a battlefield.

"Clan Shepard," he says. "She'd have—she would like that."

"You come back when she's on her feet, we'll make it happen," says Wrex.

-

And here is Garrus and here is the hell of it: It is night, and the rain is falling, a thin particulate mist of rain the chill of which he can feel even though he bears arms and wears armor; it is night, and the rain is falling, and Garrus stalks slow and predatory across the flat land, every sense, every atom that comprises him, trained on the figure of the krogan on the battlements.

Every atom, every sense, except one—because even now, he's aware of the thread that ties him back, back, back across a million light-years and more, to the alien woman who lies still in her hospital bed. He's done this a hundred times before, though, and will do it a hundred more, even though the war is over. One thread of distraction will never be enough to keep him from his work.

Tonight the long gun he carries is an anti-materiel rifle, overpowered and heavy, good for stopping tanks, better for stopping krogans. The rifle is gray, overlaid with the same technical camo holo as the rest of Garrus; he's invisible to sensors and nearly so to the naked eye, provided he—moves—slowly.

Down his scope Khatok and his soldiers look like green cut-outs, paper figures of people. Garrus has done this a hundred times, a thousand times, and he'll do it a thousand more, and he wishes he would say he hates it, he wishes he could say he kills with respect, with reverence, with calm dispassion. He does, sometimes, but sometimes there's this, the rising red, the tide of anger that sits like a knot behind his heart and tells him that the simplest way, the cleanest way, the best way to make things right is with a bullet to the head of anyone and everyone who gets in his way.

He knows the line between what he does and what murderers do; he was brought up turian, not human, and 'butcher' is never a term he would apply to a soldier doing her job in the middle of a military action. Salting the earth, that's how turians are taught. Total war is the only war. The motto of his platoon: 'We do not start; we finish.'

But there are lines; Shepard understood. She taught him that, about walking the fine edge, about the balancing act between justice and expediency, about seeing the long view without losing yourself to the immensity of it.

He looks down his scope at the paper figure of Graal Khatok, whose only crime is being what he was raised to be; Garrus looks down his scope, he thinks about the wind, he thinks about the rain that never fucking stops, he looks down his scope and he breathes and he stops breathing and he remembers that Khatok is a person, not a paper figure, and he remembers Shepard, and how she had looked the last time he'd seen her, small and still, and how she'd looked the time before that, blood seeping from her nose and her eyes blazing with the force of a spirit no flesh could contain, he remembers Shepard and he squeezes the trigger and—

He breathes—

And—

He breathes—

And—

Khatok jerks and topples away—

And—

The rain keeps falling.

-

He could stay out here; he could lose himself in it, in the mud and rubble and rain.

-

Three days. Three days have passed by the time he walks back into Wrex's camp, three days that he spent hiding or aiming or crawling meter by meter over the flat, scorched ground. He walks out of the wild with the rifle slung over his shoulder; they have to send someone to wake Wrex.

The Battlemaster takes his time. Garrus is up to his ankles in mud, too tired to be anxious but still fixated on the idea of a shower, a meal that isn't ration bars, and a dry place to sleep, but no, Wrex has to keep him waiting. Some gratitude. Garrus doesn't run missions like this for just anyone, at least not anymore.

And then, finally, Wrex ambles into the pool of light; rain beads along his crest and sluices off his face.

"Garrus," he says. "Took you long enough."

"Sorry to interrupt," Garrus says. "Were you in the middle of something important, or are you just taking more naps in your old age?"

"Ha! You'll wish you looked this good when you hit your first millennia." Wrex slaps Garrus on the back—Garrus rocks with the force of it—and ambles off. "Come on," he says. "Got someone you'll want to talk to."

Unless it's a hot cup of kava, Garrus really isn't interested; he hasn't been this tired since London. No, that's not right—he's been this tired since London, he's carried that exhaustion with him. Whatever interest he had in living died when they pulled Shepard's body from beneath mud and rubble and rain. All he wants is to dry off and go to sleep and wake up somewhere else, anywhere else, five years ago, five centuries from now, a universe to the left.

But Wrex, who is cradling a baby in one arm, walks inside; and Garrus follows, too tired even to argue, which is pretty damn tired, considering.

"This is why you had to wait," Wrex says. "You were out of range, or else I'd have dragged you back sooner. Hard to get a clear connection, there's something weird going on with our long-range communications systems, but—"

Garrus is too tired to argue, and far too tired to grasp what Wrex is saying. He takes up a place at the command table when Wrex shoves him forward, and he pops off his helmet when Wrex knocks him on the head; but then the world starts to fade out around the edges.

"Give it a minute," Wrex says. "Hey. Hey, you there?"

Static crackles; it still doesn't cut through the sound of the rain. The rain is going to drive Garrus mad, the rain and exhaustion and memories, all the things that make the best soldiers bug out. He can hear it drumming away on the roof, soft and breathy and relentless, relentless, relentless.

"Say that again," says Wrex. "I'm getting some interference."

"—Garrus there?"

"Yeah, he's here," says Wrex, and just—like—that—

Color seeps back into Garrus's world.

"Garrus? Are you there?"

"Never thought I'd see the day, Shepard, but it looks like Garrus is speechless." Wrex chuckles.

"Vakarian," Shepard snaps, all command and presence and swagger despite the rasp to her voice, and that drags him back from his shock enough to function.

"Shepard," he says. "You're—"

"Yeah," she says. "Yeah, Garrus, I am."

And there, in the mud and rubble and rain, Garrus is finally washed clean.

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