damalur: (Default)
no, use my SPACE name! ([personal profile] damalur) wrote2015-12-02 06:27 pm

limit of the flesh (3)



They were laid up on Illium to restock and refuel before heading out to the deeper Terminus Systems on the trail of a war criminal that the Council wanted brought to trial. He wasn't Cerberus, the war criminal—this one had sold an entire colony out to the Reapers of his own free will, giving up the access codes to nuclear warheads that otherwise could have delayed the Reapers by weeks, and then he'd had the balls to abscond with several million government credits.

What Shepard hated about the Terminus was that it thrived. Council space was still crippled, perhaps fatally so; the asari might take a generation or more to recover from the damage done to their homeworlds, and humans were in a worse position still. She was short-tempered and had been for days. Garrus was patient with her, of course. His time as a cop had taught him that, she suspected, but it was the war that had tempered that patience into something immeasurable, and for a man who was a firebrand at heart, he held his temper well. He was so damn kind to her that it made Shepard sick.

What she hated more than the Terminus was being in debt, and she owed Garrus a debt so profound that if she lived another century, she still couldn't begin to repay it. There was more there than mere indebtedness, too; she wished in a very private corner of her soul that she could be kind to him back—not out of obligation, but because he deserved it, and because she wanted him to have kindness in his life. The seed of her resentment had come from that hidden, selfless flower of generosity.

And her nightmares were getting worse. There were good spells and bad spells; this was one of the bad.

"Did you talk to a mechanic about the inertial dampeners?" Garrus asked her. It was morning where they were docked, and Shepard was gulping down reconstituted eggs even though there were a dozen restaurants and food stands in walking distance of their berth.

"No," Shepard said.

"...All right," he said, even though this was the only thing he'd asked of her in days, even though he'd handled the purchase and delivery of all the dozens of things they needed to restock their ship, even though Shepard had spent most of those days either staring at a console or hiding in what had to be Illium's seediest gym. The residents of Illium rarely did 'seedy', since it was bad for business; she'd had to hunt hard to find a gym that disreputable, but it had a boxing ring and a line of people willing to fight, provided she signed the appropriate waivers beforehand.

"I'll take care of it on my way back today," Garrus was saying. "There's a cleaning crew coming to service our filtration system at 1400—think you'll be here?"

"No," Shepard said, without offering further explanation.

"I'll stick around until then," he said easily, although Shepard knew he had a tightbeam call scheduled with his sister at one of the local communications hubs around the same time; normally he'd have used the computer onboard the Valkyrie, but it was down for maintenance and wouldn't be back up until the specialist returned tomorrow.

"Fine," Shepard said. She dumped her dishes in the sink and turned on the water. When they seemed sufficiently rinsed, she stuck them in the dishwasher drawer, dried her hands on a rag, and snatched up her gym bag from where it sat beside the hatch. She was already dressed for a workout, but she took the time to drop her bag on the table and dig through it for a sweatshirt before leaving; as a young, dumb jarhead she'd gotten a tattoo that read 'ONE SHOT, ONE KILL' in a conspicuous place, and the last time she'd walked through Illium's market with bare arms, a woman had stopped her to tell her how very offensive that slogan was.

Shepard no longer disagreed, but neither could she stifle the immediate anger that rose at a civilian trying to demean what was an enormous part of the foundation of her identity. Before he died, Vega had given her shit about it. "What about a good ol' double-tap?" he'd asked, and Shepard, stone-faced but not without humor, had answered: "Insurance for people who can't aim."

Garrus watched her as she dragged the sweatshirt over her head and pulled the red tail of her hair out from under the collar. Sometimes, on the rare occasions she caught her own eye in the mirror, she thought that her own sniper's stare matched his, and then she would sneer at herself for imagining the similarities between Garrus and herself were more than superficial. Shepard's gaze was hard. Garrus, though, watched her with eyes that weren't cold but were rather the hot blue of a gas flame.

She hefted the strap of her duffle bag over her shoulder and ducked out of the galley. Garrus's voice followed her: "Know when you'll be back?"

Shepard paused but didn't turn around. "No," she said. "But don't wait up."