damalur: (happy squid!)
no, use my SPACE name! ([personal profile] damalur) wrote2017-01-29 09:51 am

limit of the flesh (8)



He didn't creep around her black mood, didn't treat her delicately, didn't draw her out: Garrus knew her better than that, or at least he knew her as well as she allowed herself to be known. He left her to her stoicism, and it was there, in the cage she had built for herself, that Shepard rotted.

They hit their final stop before the last leg of the trip to Suru early in the day, or at least early according to the Citadel Standard Time they still used for reckoning. The Citadel was gone, and the Council had revived itself on New Eden Prime, but no one had yet bothered to establish a new galactic standard, and CST was close enough to both human and turian diurnal rhythms that neither of them suffered a noticeable loss in operational efficiency by following it.

What Shepard hadn't said was that allowing their sleep cycles to sync was almost intolerably indulgent. Ideally, with only two of them on board the Valkyrie, they'd be running four five-hour shifts, two on and two off, with one of them always on watch while the other was sleeping; but there hadn't seemed to be any point to it, not when they were no longer running a military operation, not when they had so many long days of travel with only each other for company, not when Shepard felt so keenly the waste of sleeping when Garrus was awake.

At any rate, her sleep cycle had slipped so far past controllable that it no longer resembled a cycle — in the service, she'd slept whenever she had the time, and fallen into a solid five hours a night whenever she had the luxury, but now she went days without resting and made up for the deficit by binging. Six hours became ten became fourteen, until she slept through an entire day and woke panting and restless and as tired as if she'd never slept at all.

It was easier to sleep in deep space. On Illium she had fasted, sleeping only when her body had forced her hand, but from Osun to Suru was a twelve-day cruise, and on the first day she went to bed exhausted and woke exhausted again. For an hour she sat, numb, in the chair beside her bunk, and then she fell into it again. It was easier to sleep in deep space, but deep space brought the grimmest dreams, and her anticipation meant she would jerk back to consciousness every time she felt slumber crawl over her. She focused on the pain in her hands to distract herself. The knuckles were swollen and scabbed from boxing, the sinews tight and tender from shooting; her pain was sharp and clean or a dull ache by turns, and the molten constancy of it grounded her…

Shepard dreamed in black, the dark caverns of Torfan and the deeper void between stars, and in red, the stain beneath her father's head and the terrible light of the Reapers; she dreamed of being buried, and those were the best dreams, when weight crushed her down on all sides, suffocated her until she slipped away gently, not to an afterlife but to simple nonexistence. She never dreamed in green. She dreamed in the great gray grief of failure and in the glaring white nova of exposure; and where most people were spectators in their dreams, canvas rather than painter, she was never granted the absolution of responsibility. In Shepard's dreams, people did not die. In Shepard's dreams, people were killed.

And sometimes she dreamed in blue, and those were the worst dreams of all; nothing made her loathe herself like dreaming in blue...