She spent a meditative afternoon in the boxing ring, loving the high and hating it. Shepard was so numbed to horror that few things genuinely rattled her anymore, but what she did still fear was that she was not only good at hurting people but enjoyed it. At Torfan she had drawn back from herself and started a long, slow crawl back to sanity and atonement, but she had never entirely rid herself of those darker impulses. There was a difference between being a soldier and being a killer, and Shepard sometimes found herself passing over that line without being aware of it.
Garrus found her at the gym some hours later. She was sitting on a bench, bent over with her elbows braced on her knees and her head down, when she felt him settle beside her. Instead of looking up, she kept studying her hands. There was some light surgical scarring there, of course, but her knuckles were worse off—thick gnarls of scar tissue braided over them, so old that not even Miranda Lawson had been able to eradicate them from Shepard's body.
Something wet landed on her upper lip, and she realized that her nose was bleeding sluggishly.
"Shepard—" Garrus said, and then he broke off and sighed heavily. Shepard half-expected him to stand up and leave; while she could be friendly, even jocular, with her crew, she'd never been particularly open, and she was growing more taciturn by the day. While he was used to her silences, she couldn't imagine that he enjoyed them.
Instead, though, he reached over, folded her hand in both of his, and drew it towards him. Shepard jerked, startled by the action, but instinctively yielded to his grip when he didn't release her. It said a lot that she let him touch her like this, and a lot that he was willing to touch someone who was, for better or worse, a legend in her own lifetime. When he flattened her fingers out and rubbed his thumb along her palm, the sensation of his bare skin against hers was so foreign in its decadence and so shockingly different from the sharp pain of her bruised knuckles that she sucked in a short, sharp gasp of air.
When had their partnership shifted? For so long Shepard had been his commander and mentor, the person he went to for comfort or advice, the woman who had dragged him back from the brink of self-destruction although she herself had not been long out of the grave. Now, though, she gave him almost nothing and was rewarded in turn with a loyalty so broad and deep that it humbled her when she wasn't too angry that she couldn't drive him away to fathom it.
She didn't say any of that. What the fuck was the point? Garrus was beside her and would be until he wised up; the problem was that he'd always been short on wisdom and long on stubbornness.
He had apparently finished with her palm, because he turned her hand over and begin tracing the backs of her fingers from the tips all the way down to her wrist, leaving little trails of light where he touched her. Shepard sighed, and all at once she felt the tension go out of her. Her shoulders lowered, her breath evened, and she felt her artificially-efficient pulse drop to its resting rate of forty beats per minute.
Only when her heart had slowed did Garrus return her hand to her.