Interspecies Awkwardness--Chapter 11
Jane + Garrus Vakarian
Betas: IllusionsFire76 and BurningRayn
Garrus groaned and rolled on to his side, swatting his hand out toward the bedside table where his omni-tool normally rested while he slept. His hand met air and he grumbled. Leaning further over the edge of the bed, he stretched; trying to reach the table, which had obviously been moved, though he couldn’t fathom why. He batted his hand, putting more force behind the move in hopes of catching the edge of the table.
“Son of a bitch!” Garrus snarled into the cement below his face as he remembered where he was. He couldn’t reach the bedside table because he wasn’t sleeping in his bed. Three days earlier, Jane had locked him out of their room and refused to allow him entry leaving him no choice but to sleep on the cot in his basement workroom.
Ping! Ping! His omni-tool chirped again, reminding him that he had an incoming call still waiting to be answered. He rolled until he was sitting up, his back against the side of the cot, retrieved his omni-tool from the floor next to the head of his cot, and accepted the call.
“Good morning,” Alitus Vakarian chirped cheerfully as his son’s face hovered over his wrist.
“’Mornin’,” Garrus muttered, rubbing his face with his other hand.
“You look exhausted,” Alitus observed as Garrus yawned, his mandibles flaring wide and his jaw popping as he stretched the muscles.
“I am exhausted,” Garrus answered.
“Is Jane not letting you sleep?” Alitus asked. His subharmonics rang with humor as he took in his son’s disheveled appearance. “Your mother was insatiable when she was carrying you and your sister.”
“Dad!” Garrus snapped, suddenly wide awake. “I did not need to know that!”
“What?” Alitus asked innocently, though his subharmonics said otherwise. “I’m not asking for details, nor am I giving any. I’m just sympathizing with your plight, if it could be called that. Some would say it can’t, though the guys in C-sec claim I was walking with a limp a week before you arrived.”
“Please,” Garrus groaned, covering his face again. “Stop talking now or I’m going to disconnect this call.”
Alitus chuckled, his head tossed back slightly as he enjoyed his son’s embarrassment. Ever since they’d reunited and accepted their differences, their relationship had shown improvement. He enjoyed teasing Garrus, knowing now that he could get away with it without his son cutting ties with their family. He also enjoyed being able to be there for Garrus when he needed someone to talk to. From what he’d heard through the grape vine, that was exactly what Garrus needed.
“Okay, okay,” Alitus chuckled one last time before calming down. “Don’t hang up. I’ll behave.”
“I don’t buy that for a second,” Garrus rumbled.
“How are you?” Alitus continued as though his son hadn’t spoken. “How’s Jane? How’s my grandson?”
“Fine,” Garrus answered. “We’re all fine.”
Alitus stared at his son through the vid-call. He wasn’t sure about Jane or the baby, but he knew for a fact that Garrus was not fine. Garrus’ subharmonics were too quiet. It wasn’t uncommon for them to be quiet if nothing was happening, but there is a difference between the volume being turned down and them being completely muted. There wasn’t anything for Alitus to hear.
“Is that so?” Alitus asked, skeptical. “Are you sure about that?”
“Yes,” Garrus answered quickly, almost too quickly. “We’re fine.”
Alitus continued to stare at his son, barely blinking. He’d been a fine interrogator in his time with C-sec because of his patience. He was willing to wait a suspect out, to give them time to get lost in their brain while they tried to figure out what he was thinking. Eventually, they’d tell him everything he wanted to know. The only hiccup in this plan was that his ‘suspect’, as it were, was his son. Garrus had his mother’s stubborn streak and Alitus’ patience—it’s why he was a renowned sniper. Just as Alitus was beginning to think that Garrus wouldn’t be swayed into talking, Garrus spoke up.
“We saw the doctor Friday,” He began. “She said the baby is doing fine and released Jane from bed rest.”
“That’s wonderful,” Alitus smiled. “I bet Jane was excited.”
“Extremely,” Garrus nodded. “We had another ultrasound done. I have some pictures I can send to you if you’d like to see them.”
“Of course I’d like to see them,” Alitus scoffed. “They’re of my grandson. I’ll take anything you’re willing to share.”
Garrus pressed a few keys on his omni-tool and a few seconds later Alitus’ own device pinged to announce the arrival of a message. He opened the message to find five photos attached.
“The first is of his…” Garrus began but Alitus finished the sentence for him.
“…his feet,” Alitus said over Garrus. “I’ve seen my share of human ultrasounds. We didn’t have a lot of humans in c-sec while I was there, but the ones we had shared everything with anyone who’d listen. I think it’s a human trait.”
After that, Garrus sat quietly as Alitus looked through the photos.
“Oh, he got that habit from you,” Alitus chuckled.
“What are you talking about?” Garrus asked.
“He has his thumb in his mouth,” Alitus explained, a smile still on his face. “Your mother and I had the hardest time breaking you of that habit. You were always gnawing on your thumbs. We were afraid your thumb talons would never grow properly because of it.”
“Dad, he’s human. Completely human,” Garrus explained. “There is no way he received any of my bad habits because there’s nothing of me in him.”
Alitus raised a brow plate at his son, shocked to hear him say such a thing. Through all of Jane’s pregnancy, Garrus had vehemently defended his rights as the child’s father. The little boy that Jane carried was Garrus’ child, and he would brook no speculation otherwise. It was very odd to hear him now stating that the child was in no part his. While it was true—biologically the child was not his—it was still very odd to hear Garrus say it. Something was very wrong.
“He’s gnawing on his thumb,” Alitus reminded his own son, pointed toward the picture hovering in front of him as though Garrus could see it.
“A lot of human children suck their thumbs,” Garrus explained. “It’s completely normal.”
“I bet it’s a hard habit to break with them, too,” Alitus shot back. “How do you take a thumb away? You can take a teether away, but you can’t take a thumb away. It’s attached.” Again, he held his own digit up as explanation.
“Just because he’s sucking his thumb in that ultrasound doesn’t mean it’ll become a habit,” Garrus defending the unborn child. “And if it does, we’ll deal with it then. Right now, I’m just happy he’s healthy.”
“We all are,” Alitus agreed. “So how much longer does Jane have?”
“So soon,” Alitus gasped.
“Human pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, dad,” Garrus explained.
“Are you prepared?” Alitus asked.
“We’ve bought everything we should need in the beginning, I’ve put the crib and bassinet together,” Garrus explained. “We’re as ready as we can be, I guess.”
Alitus nodded, a small smile tugging at his lips.
“It’s hard to feel prepared when it’s your first child. Your mother fretted about every small detail before Solana arrived.”
“Nesting,” Garrus nodded. “Jane has been doing that, as well. Making sure the overnight bag is packed for when we have to go to the hospital and double and triple checking the parenting and birthing books we purchased. She’s been a little possessed.”
“It’s completely normal,” Alitus explained, hoping to put his son at ease. Something was still bothering Garrus, he could tell. It was there in his son’s gaze whenever their eyes met. If only he could find the right words that would allow Garrus to tell him what was bothering him. If only he could get his son to talk.
“I know,” Garrus nodded. “I’m not too worried about it. I just try to help whenever she’ll allow me to.”
“She doesn’t want your help?”
“Not always,” Garrus shrugged. “She’s very adamant that she’s still able to do things on her own.”
Alitus hummed in the back of his throat, acknowledging Garrus’ comment and agreeing with it. Mialyn had been the same way, very stubborn. She refused to be coddled and looked after while she was pregnant. More than once, she shut him out of their room or sent him away because she felt he was smothering her and treating her like a weakling.
“And I’m sure she is,” Alitus reminded Garrus. “Pregnancy doesn’t make a female weak.”
“But the baby’s so large,” Garrus began. “How can she even bend to tie her shoes with him in her way?”
“Females are stubborn,” Alitus chuckled.
There was a pause in the call and Alitus watched as Garrus fidgeted. After a few more moments of silence, Alitus spoke up.
“Is there anything else going on? You seem pre-occupied.”
“Sorry, dad,” Garrus turned his attention back to the vid-call. “No, there’s nothing else going on. I should get going, though.”
“Alright,” Alitus sighed, resigning to the fact that he wouldn’t get any more information from Garrus over the vid-call. “I’m always a vid-call away if you need to talk.”
“I know,” Garrus smiled, but again his subharmonics were quiet and the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Thanks, dad.”
Alitus bowed his head once, acknowledging Garrus before he said his good byes and disconnected from the call. He sat a moment after the call had disconnected, mulling over the conversation with Garrus while looking through the ultrasound pictures again. His grandson really was quite handsome, for a human, now they’d just have to get his thumb out of his mouth.
Garrus had Alitus worried. His subharmonics were off, when they were coming through at all, which was very odd for his son. Garrus was hot headed, known for not holding back. He was always chewing on boot leather because he’d put his foot in his mouth with some or other subharmonic snipe made toward a superior. If Garrus’ subharmonics were screaming, Alitus knew he was okay and he’d make it out of whatever he was going through, but if they were quiet it was a sign to start worrying. Garrus’ had been basically nonexistent. No doubt about it, something was wrong.
Eight hours later, Alitus stepped off the shuttle and was greeted by Admiral Hackett.
“Ambassador,” The Admiral spoke, bowing his head in respect to Alitus’ position within the turian government.
“ Steven,” Alitus acknowledged the Admiral’s bow with a downward tilt of his own chin. “No need for titles.”
“Of course,” Hackett agreed. “How was the flight?”
“Long and boring, exactly as I expected it to be,” Alitus answered as he fell into step next to Hackett. They crossed the short tarmac, heading toward the lone sky car parked nearby.
“You weren’t given any trouble were you?” Hackett asked.
“Of course not,” Alitus assured him. “The Admiral of the Fifth fleet approved my travel papers.” Alitus chuckled. “Those poor sods were all but wetting themselves as they processed everything and made space on a shuttle for me.”
Hackett’s laugh joined Alitus’ as they came to a halt next to the sky car.
“Alitus Vakarian this is Private First Class Nathan Page,” Hackett introduced him to the young Marine standing next to the vehicle. “PFC Page, this is Ambassador Alitus Vakarian. Page will deliver you to your son’s home.”
The young man saluted Admiral Hackett before reaching for the carry-on bag slung over Alitus’ shoulder. He handed the bag over slowly, finding it hard to relinquish what he knew was encased in the worn leather.
“I’ll put this in the back seat so that it will be near you,” PFC Page suggested in response to Alitus’ reluctance to give the bag up.
“I will sit in the front seat,” Alitus corrected the marine. “You are not my chauffeur.”
“Aye aye, sir,” Page answered. He set the leather bag gently on the front passenger seat before walking around to the driver’s side of the sky car.
“It seems it’s time for me to depart,” Alitus said with a grin to Hackett.
“Indeed. Good luck,” Hackett chuckled as he wished luck upon Alitus. “I think you’re going to need it.”
Alitus returned the older human’s chuckle with a wry smile of his own before picking up his bag and taking his seat in the car.
“James and I are going grocery shopping. Is there anything you need me to pick up while we’re out?”
Liara stilled in the overstuffed arm chair she was sitting in while reading over reports from her agents. She waited, barely breathing, trying to make herself smaller or invisible while Garrus spoke to Jane.
“No, thank you,” Jane responded coldly.
“I noticed you were out of that tea you like,” Garrus spoke again, his voice level and calm though his mandibles were flickering nervously. “I can stop at the local tea shop and pick up more.”
“Whatever,” Jane shrugged, not looking up from the data pad she was reading. “Do whatever you want.”
Garrus cringed at Jane’s cool, detached tone. He stood in the doorway, his mouth moving as though he were trying out different words, possibly trying to put together a sentence, before he finally gave up. With a barely audible click, his jaws snapped closed; mandibles falling into place against his face plates before he turned on his heel and walked out of the room.
“Jane,” Liara spoke quietly after she heard the front door close behind Garrus. “Don’t you think you’re being a little hard on Garrus?”
The one word was a gunshot in the room, clipped and loud compared to the quiet tone used by Liara.
“He made a mistake,” Liara tried again.
“Indeed,” Jane cut Liara off to agree.
“…Granted it was a very large mistake…”
“Heh!” Jane scoffed as she finally looked up from her data pad.
“…But how can you justify this sort of reaction?” Liara finally finished.
“He lied.” Her tone made it clear she refused to accept any other reasoning for Garrus’ behavior. She had tried and condemned him already.
“You’ve lied to him before,” Liara pointed out, trying another tactic. Perhaps it wasn’t the best line of reasoning, but it was the only idea Liara could come up with.
Jane had built a wall around herself. She’d begun building it soon after waking up in the med bay on the Normandy. At first, they’d all thought it was a coping mechanism for handling the questions fired at her by reporters and officials all demanding to know what happened on the Citadel. Now, though, watching the way Jane had cut Garrus out of her life, refusing to listen to him or spend any time near him, Liara wondered just how high those walls were. What were the criteria Jane used to allow people behind them? What had Garrus really done that caused Jane to react like this? What had caused this behavior?
Jane arched an eyebrow at Liara, her lips pursing as she stared at the asari. Her hard emerald glare bore into Liara's soft blue gaze; challenging her to continue down the path she'd started.
“Omega…” Liara spoke clearly but no louder than she had earlier. Jane’s eyes flickered away from her own for a moment. Liara allowed her own gaze to follow where Jane’s had gone though she couldn’t find anything interesting in the trees and grass outside the patio door so she looked back to Jane.
“London,” Liara spoke again. She’d found a chink in Jane’s armor and she was going to continue to pound at it until she made a dent. At the mention of London, Jane’s green eyes snapped back to Liara.
“What do you know about London?” Jane hissed.
“I’m the Shadow Broker,” Liara bluffed. She knew very little about what happened on the ground in London as she’d been on the Normandy the whole time.
“The decisions I made during the London mission are not open for discussion,” Jane snapped as she shoved herself up from the couch and marched out of the living room. Liara set the data pad she’d been using down on the coffee table and followed Jane.
“Why is that, Jane?” Liara questioned as she followed her down the hall. “Are you ashamed of the decisions you made?”
“Liara,” Jane stopped short in the hallway, turning to face Liara as she spoke through clenched teeth, a sure sign she was fighting to hold her emotions at bay. She took a moment to calm herself before continuing normally. “London has nothing to do with this. He lied to me. He made a decision that could change our whole lives based off what he thinks other people want him to do, not what he wants to do.”
“And how is this different than what you did during the war?”
Liara knew she was pushing Jane, but someone had to. There was something more going on in Jane’s mind than just Garrus’ lie. If that was all it was she would’ve blown up on him, maybe ignored him for a few hours, but eventually would’ve gotten past it and allowed him to explain himself. Jane was stalled at being angry, she hadn’t gotten past it and she definitely hadn’t allowed Garrus to explain himself.
“What did you just say?!” Jane gasped; shock evident on her face.
Finally! Liara gave a mental fist pump as she watched the emotions playing across Jane’s face. She was finally cracking the wall Jane had built around herself.
“You’ve lied to every member of your teams more times than any of us can count. The decisions you made were colored with the wants of others. Those decisions dictated the orders you gave and we always followed them,” Liara hammered on now that she’d found a way to get under Jane’s skin.
Jane gasped, the glare she’d fixed on Liara faltered as tears came to the surface making her eyes shine. She tore her gaze from Liara’s as she turned her back on her friend. Her arms wrapped around her middle, hugging herself as her shoulders buckled. She quickened her pace down the hall, attempting to flee Liara.
“Don’t you dare!” Liara called as she followed Jane down the hall. “You’re done running, Jane.”
“Liara,” Jane begged as she got to her office door. “Leave me be, please?”
“No,” Liara spoke forcefully, stepping up to box Jane in and stop her from fleeing again. “I think we need to talk.”
“I don’t want to,” Jane shook her head. “I’m not ready.”
“That’s what you tell your therapist every week,” Liara countered, shoving her shoulder against the office door, stopping Jane from slamming it shut. “When will you be ready to face what happened in London? When will you be ready to face that you made a decision that is directly responsible for killing every Geth in the universe? Legion fought for their lives, fought so they could continue to live and you killed them all.”
It hurt to hear Jane cry as Liara brought up London and the battle for the Citadel. However, Liara now knew that they had to tackle that before they could go forward. Then Jane would be ready to face what had happened with Garrus.
“You brought Tali and Ashley with on the ground in London,” Liara continued. “Tali died.”
Jane’s knees buckled as she sobbed, grabbing the edge of the desk in front of her as she fell to her knees on the floor. Liara followed her down, staying close but not touching her.
“Tali’s dead,” she whispered. “Legion is dead. Thane is dead. They were your team, they followed your orders, they trusted you, and now they’re dead.” Liara stopped to take a deep breath and gather her own emotions. She couldn’t let Jane know that this was hurting her. Jane needed to face this and no one else seemed to be willing to make her. “Anderson is dead. The bullet pulled from his abdomen came from the gun they found with you.”
“Stop,” Jane begged her voice barely audible.
“No,” Liara answered. “They trusted you. They believed in you. They accepted the decisions you made no matter what they thought because of the belief they had in you, and now they’re gone. What do you have to say about that?”
Jane sat on the floor, holding herself as she cried, her face turned away from Liara.
“What will you tell their families? Will you give them the same answers you gave the officials? What will you tell their loved ones? Some stock answer thought up by a Public Relations representative employed by the Alliance?” Liara pressed further.
“I watched Tali die,” Liara continued, her voice wavering with her own barely contained anguish. “I held her hand as she took her last breath. Chakwas couldn’t save her. What do you have to say to me? What can you possibly say to make the pain any less?” Liara let the tears fall now. “Why did you have to take her? Why didn’t you take me then? Why did you send for me after? She would still be alive if I had been with you the whole time.”
“It was my choice to make,” Jane whispered through her tears. “And I needed a tech specialist.”
“Then why didn’t you take EDI?” Liara demanded.
“EDI needed to stay with the ship. I needed her to stay with Joker and help with Sword,” Jane tried to explain.
“And Garrus? Why couldn’t you take Garrus? You’d taken him on every other mission,” Liara continued to demand, crying now as she relived her final moments with Tali. “Why not London?”
Jane knelt on the ground in front of Liara, her face in her hands as she shook her head from side to side, refusing to answer the questions Liara asked.
“I’m waiting for an answer Jane,” Liara prompted. “And I won’t leave until I get one.”
They sat like that for long moments. The tears running down Liara’s cheeks; a silent twin to the sobs that wracked Jane’s body. Finally, Jane broke the silence.
“What do you want me to say?” she asked, desperation in her voice. “I have no answer. I’ve never had an answer. Everyone wants to know why I did what I did, and I have no answer.”
Liara sat quietly as she watched Jane continue to cry. She’d moved from kneeling to sitting on the floor, her back pressed against the back of her desk. She pressed her head against the wood, looking up toward the ceiling.
“I did what I thought was best,” Jane continued, speaking slowly and quietly. “I chose who I thought would best help me. Tali and Ashley have been with me since the beginning. Though so have you and Garrus. I needed someone who could lay down a lot of damage, that’s why I chose Ashley.”
“But why Tali?” Liara asked, moving so she was sitting next to Jane now.
Jane didn’t answer; instead she started to sob harder, her chin dropping to her chest as she covered her face again. Obviously, this was a very tender spot for Jane, but something that she had to come to terms with. Liara wrapped her arm around Jane’s shoulders, pulling her close as Jane continued to cry.
“Jane,” Liara prompted after Jane had calmed down again, her sobs slowing to sniffles. “You need to talk about this. I have the sinking feeling that this is part of why you’re so angry with Garrus. Please, why Tali?”
“You’ll hate me,” Jane whispered into Liara’s shirt. “I can’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t hate you,” Liara promised. “And you need to tell someone. You can’t keep this bottled up.”
“I couldn’t bear to lose you,” Jane spoke quietly. “Either of you. You’re my best friend, Liara. He’s my mate. I knew someone could be killed on that mission,” Jane stopped and took a deep breath, straightening up so she wasn’t leaning against Liara. She kept her eyes focused on her hands, her fingers twisted together tightly in her lap. “I hoped no one would die, I prayed no one would be hurt, but I’m a soldier, born and raised a soldier. The harsh reality in a situation like that is someone could and probably would die.”
“But why Tali,” Liara pressed.
“You and Garrus were out of the picture. I chose Ashley because she requested to be with me in London and she would be able to lay down a lot of fire power quickly. She’s proficient in both a sniper rifle and an assault rifle. All I needed was a tech expert to round out the group. That left EDI or Tali. I needed EDI to stay with the ship and help Joker if Sword was going to have any chance of pulling off the battle up there and keeping the Crucible safe. All that left me was Tali,” Jane yanked her hands apart, throwing them out and then down onto her knees.
“I hated having to chose,” Jane’s words were warped by an escaping sob. “Tali was the baby sister I never had. I sent her back as soon as I realized she’d been injured. Ashley wasn’t going to make the run to the beam either. I had no idea what that run would entail which is why I had you and James rendezvous with me.”
They sat quietly as Jane’s confession sunk in. Liara didn’t know what to say. On one hand she was shocked that the decision had been one made by such a simple process of elimination, on the other she knew that was the only way Jane could’ve come to such a decision.
“I hate that damn war!” Jane’s shout broke the silence, causing Liara to jump next to her. “I hate what it turned me into. I hate that that’s all I’ll be remembered for.” Jane continued to shout to the walls. “I hate that I’ll only be known as the Savior of the Galaxy. What I’m doing now; my attempts to help rebuild what was lost, every program I’ve tried to put in place, every suggestion I make. The only reason they’re even considered is because they came from me. Why didn’t I die that day? I wish I’d died that day,” Jane’s tirade ended on another sob as she crumpled and Liara leaned over quickly, wrapping her arms around Jane’s shoulders, pulling the sobbing woman into her embrace.
“Why wouldn’t they just let me die?” Jane sobbed against Liara’s shoulder. “Why was I the one Miranda brought back? Why was I the one that mattered? I’m nobody. I’m just a Navy brat who had nothing better to do when she came of age so she joined the Alliance. I don’t deserve the fame or medals. I did nothing special but everyone says I did. I didn’t save everyone. I failed!”
“Shh,” Liara cradled Jane, rocking her as she rubbed her back. “You didn’t fail, Jane.”
“Yes, I did!” Jane cried. “I failed over and over again. I failed Kaidan on Virmire, Mordin on Tuchanka, Thane on the Citadel, Legion on Rannoch and then again in London when I killed his entire race. But what was I supposed to do?” she gasped, sobbing harder against Liara as she poured out the pain she’d been carrying for too many years. “I had choices. I could have controlled the reapers, but then I would’ve been no different than them. I could’ve destroyed all synthetic life in the galaxy, guaranteeing the reapers would be gone. Or I could have melded my organic DNA with synthetic programming across the galaxy, making us all organic and synthetic. And I chose to destroy all synthetics…”
“Why?” Liara prompted.
“Because I’m selfish,” Jane sobbed.
“You’re not selfish,” Liara contradicted her quickly. “You saved us all, that’s not selfish.”
“That’s not why I did it!” Jane cried. “It was the only option that gave me a slim chance of coming back to Garrus. I didn’t choose to destroy them because I wanted to save the galaxy. In that moment, when I fired the Catalyst, the only thought in my mind was Garrus. I didn’t want to die; I wanted to come back to him. It was selfish!”
Liara held Jane as she cried. She kept chanting that she was selfish.
“I didn’t deserve to survive,” Jane whispered as she clutched Liara’s soaked shirt in her fist, clinging to her friend.
“Yes, you did,” Liara answered quietly as she ran her hand over Jane’s hair and back, trying to soothe her. “Yes, you did.”
“I made so many mistakes,” Jane mumbled, burying her face against Liara as she continued to cry.
“We all make mistakes,” Liara reminded Jane.
“But I’ve made so many,” Jane argued. “And now,” Jane stopped to sniffle. reaching her arm over her head and patting her hand along the desk top until she knocked a box of tissues down into her lap. She pulled one free of the box and wiped at her eyes as she sat up. “Now I’ve really screwed up.”
“He’s taken this position because everyone wants him to. Everyone, including me,” Jane explained. “After Callus’ call, Garrus and I talked about this decision. He told me it was something he used to dream about when he was a little boy and I encouraged him to go for it. I told him he would make a great leader.”
“And he will,” Liara agreed.
“But is that what he wants? Or is he doing it because he thinks I ordered him to do it? Is he taking this position because he thinks he has to?” Jane’s lips trembled as another wave of tears threatened to crash over her. “And if he takes it and fails will he blame me? Is this another bad decision I made? Another bad order I’ve given?”
“Jane,” Liara began, choosing her words carefully. “If Garrus really didn’t want to be Primarch he wouldn’t take the position. Encouraging him to do something he has dreamed about is not the same as giving an order.”
“How do you know?” Jane asked. “I mean, that’s what I thought too but then he gave me that line about how he had to take it or his father would be ashamed.”
“His father being ashamed of him has never stopped him before,” Liara reminded Jane.
“This is a little bigger than leaving Citadel Security to help me chase down Saren or rejoining Spectre training,” Jane shot back.
“True,” Liara agreed. “But I have faith that Garrus wouldn’t choose this unless he really wanted it. Deep down, I think he does really want it, he just wishes it had come at a different time.”
Jane gave a short laugh but said nothing else in response to Liara’s mention of the timing.
“He’s worried about you and the baby,” Liara reminded Jane.
“I know,” Jane nodded her agreement. “I wish he wouldn’t worry so much, though.”
Liara laughed at that.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” She chuckled. “It’s a well known fact that fathers-to-be always worry about their mates and their unborn children.”
“Do you think Aethyta worried about you and Benezia?” Jane asked.
“I know for a fact that she did. My dad was worse than Garrus,” Liara smiled.
“How can you be so sure?” Jane was skeptical.
“I’m the Shadow Broker, remember?” Liara smirked.
“That’s your answer to everything,” Jane smiled back.
Liara pushed herself up to standing and was reaching a hand down to help Jane up just as someone knocked at the front door.
“I’ll get it,” Liara offered as she helped Jane to her feet. “You just sit down and relax for a bit.”
“Liara,” Jane warned.
“What? Can’t a friend suggest her best friend relax after such an emotionally grueling ordeal?” Liara asked as she held her hands up to ward off Jane’s glare as she backed out of the office. “I swear this has nothing to do with you being pregnant.”
Liara was smiling as she headed down the hall way and toward the front door. She felt victorious that she’d helped Jane to open up about London. Recovery would be a long road, but at least Jane had finally taken the first step. Plus, Liara now had a better understanding as to why Jane was so upset with Garrus’ actions.
Alitus shifted his weight from one foot to the other while he waited for someone to answer his knock. Perhaps he should’ve called ahead and let them know he was on his way. Maybe a surprise visit wasn’t such a good idea after all. He was about to pick up his bag and start walking back toward London when the door opened. A young asari stood in the doorway, her gaze traveled from the top of his fringe to the tips of his boots and then back again before her lips parted into a smile.
“Hello Ambassador Vakarian,” she greeted him.
“Good day,” his mandibles spread in a turian version of a smile. “I know this is rather sudden, but are my son and his mate home?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Liara gasped, stepping aside and ushering him in. “Come on in! I shouldn’t have kept you standing on the porch. Sadly, Garrus is not home, but Jane is.”
“One out of two isn’t bad,” Alitus joked as he stepped into their home.
He remembered when Garrus had shown him the house almost a year earlier. It had been run down, beaten by the war that had come so close to it. He hadn’t thought that it would be ready for them to move into for quite a while.
“Jane is in the office,” Liara supplied. “If you’d like, I’ll take your bags and you can go visit with her. Garrus should be home soon.”
“Thank you,” Alitus said as he relinquished his duffle bag and carry-on before heading toward the hall way which he hoped would lead him to the office.
“Second door on the right,” Liara called after him.
He turned to her, nodding his thanks for her directions before continuing on his way. He could hear her before he reached the office; the occasional sniffle followed by the honk of her blowing her nose. Her tears scented the air like a spring rain; fresh and sweet. What had caused her to cry? Perhaps it was something as simple as the pregnancy. He knocked against the door frame of the office doorway and waited for her to look up from the old picture frame she held in her hands.
“Oh!” Jane gasped, pushing the desk chair back so she could stand. She rounded the desk with a gasp, walking over to him and holding her hand out for a hand shake. “I didn’t know you were coming, Alitus.”
“I didn’t know, either,” he smiled, accepting her hand before pulling her close and leaning down to press his forehead to hers. “At least not until I spoke to Garrus this morning. I realized, while we were talking, that I hadn’t seen either of you in almost a year, and I decided it was time to visit.”
“It’s wonderful to have you,” Jane smiled, though it didn’t quite make it to her eyes.
“Thank you, you’re quite gracious,” Alitus returned her smile. Though she couldn’t hear them, his subharmonics hummed comforting tones in hopes to calm the tears that were still evident in her eyes.
“I don’t mean to be insensitive,” he spoke as he pulled away from their embrace. “But why are you crying?”
“Oh,” Jane looked away, her fingers twisting together as she fidgeted. Alitus watched her as she turned away from him and walked back around the desk to where she’d set the picture frame. “It’s nothing in particular. I was just reminiscing and my emotions got the better of me.”
Even without subharmonics to give her away, Alitus knew she wasn’t telling the whole truth. There was more that she wasn’t telling him, though he wouldn’t push her. He followed her to the desk and she turned the picture frame to show him the photo she had been admiring. What he saw almost sent him to his knees. Alitus gasped, his mandibles going slack as his subharmonics let out an uncontrolled scream. He knew the man in that picture. It may have been many years since he’d seen that face but he knew that man.
“Who is that?” Alitus asked on a whisper, tapping a talon against the glass protecting the old photograph.
“My parents,” Jane explained. “And the baby is me.”
“Your father?” Alitus gasped, putting a hand on the desk to steady himself as he grappled for a chair to sit down.
“Alitus, are you okay?” Jane asked putting a hand on his shoulder to steady him.
“Oh, that is a full question,” he sighed, hoping he got the human idiom correct in his state.
“Full?...Oh, you mean a loaded question?” Jane clarified.
“Yes,” Alitus sat back in his chair before beckoning for Jane to hand him the picture. “Would you like a story, Jane?”
“Will it explain why you look like you just saw a spirit?” Jane countered.
“I did just see a Spirit,” Alitus said before tapping his talon against the glass again. “That man saved my life thirty one years ago.”
“Thirty one years ago?” Jane gawked. “But that was…”
“Yes, that was during the occupation of Shanxi,” Alitus explained. “His name is Jericho.”
Jane gasped, her hand trembling as she covered her mouth with it. How could he know her father’s name? She’d never told him. She barely ever talked about her father. He’d died when she was a baby, she didn’t even remember him. Oh, sure, she knew what he looked like from pictures and she knew that she had his eyes and stubbornness because of the stories her mother told, but she had no memories of him.
“He was captured attempting to infiltrate our base during the Shanxi siege,” Alitus continued, never taking his eyes off the picture. He ran the pad of one finger down the edge of the frame as he told his story. “He was interrogated, though he said nothing, and then he was thrown into a cell. I was his guard.”
Jane stared as Alitus explained how her father had tried to befriend him.
“He had this picture in his pocket, it was of a small child,” Alitus looked up from the frame then, his gaze catching hers. “It was you. He would spend hours staring at it, he explained that your birthday was only a few months away and how he hoped he’d be home in time to celebrate it with you.”
Jane’s chin wobbled, her lips trembling as she tried to control the newest wave of emotion flooding her.
“He never made it,” she whispered.
“No,” Alitus shook his head, looking back down at the picture. “I’m so sorry, Jane. It’s my fault he never made it. He could’ve, he was free, but I got shot and he came back for me.” Alitus could feel the volume of his subharmonics rising as he relived the memory. “I told him to run. I screamed at him to run. We were overrun by Batarian raiders; bastards couldn’t resist the chance to catch us unprotected because of that stupid war—incident—I don’t care what they title it now, it was a war then.”
Jane pulled her chair closer to his, reaching over and wrapping her fingers around his talons; stopping them from worrying the fabric of his pants.
“Spirits,” He looked away from her. “I haven’t talked about this in years. The last time was when I gave my report. Oh sure, people have asked about the rumors, but I never recounted the whole story. When the alarms went off signaling the attack I released him. No one would notice him fleeing through the chaos. I told him how to get out and gave him my side arm. Solana is about your age. I couldn’t bear the thought of her growing up without her father because of this stupid war. I wouldn’t have the guilt of some other little girl growing up without hers on my conscious if I could do something about it. He was just barely out of the room when the Batarians came through the other door. I tried to hold them off, hoping he’d get out and make it back to the Alliance, but one of them got a lucky shot; nailed me in between the armor plates. I don’t know what made him come back, maybe I shouted or somehow made it known that I was hurt. All I know is suddenly he was next to me tearing open pockets in my armor and attempting to apply medi gel and a bandage. He didn’t even hear the Batarian that snuck up behind him and shot him.”
Alitus stopped, looking up from the picture and into Jane’s forest green eyes.
“You have his eyes,” he sighed. “They were so green, almost unnaturally so.”
“Unnatural for a turian,” Jane countered before sniffling and reaching for the box of tissues that were still on the floor from earlier.
“I’ve seen many humans in my life,” Alitus reminded her. “It seems quite unusual for them as well.” He looked back at the picture he still held. “Though you have your mother’s hair.”
Jane chuckled as she nodded then grabbed a section of her hair. “Yes, this mop came from her.”
“I think it’s quite beautiful, and again, very unique. That color,” Alitus admired her locks. “Unusual again.”
“Red heads seem to be rare now, though that was not the case 100 years ago,” Jane responded.
“Where is your mother? She’s in uniform in this picture. Is she still serving?” Alitus asked, hoping to change the subject to one that was happier.
“No,” Jane shook her head. “She died during the war.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Alitus vocalized what his subharmonics were already saying. “Do you know what happened?”
“She captained the Orizaba,” Jane said knowing that anyone who’d been alive during the war knew what happened to the Orizaba. Her mother’s tale was spoken like a legend. The way she captained the ship, fighting right to the very end when they rammed their disabled ship into the firing chamber of an attacking Reaper causing them both to explode. Jane’s head snapped around to stare at Alitus as his subharmonics screamed loud enough even she could hear them.
“Hannah?” he gasped, staring down at the picture in his hands. “No! This can’t be.”
He shook his head, staring between Jane and the picture.
“Alitus?” Jane asked, concern overshadowing the pain she felt at her most recent familial loss.
He shook his head in denial as he stared at the woman in the picture. Hannah had spoken of a daughter fighting in London, but who would’ve thought her daughter would be Commander Jane Shepard? She’d railed against being up there guarding the Crucible while her daughter was fighting for her life. Then she’d given her life and her ship to protect his ship and crew.
“Alitus?” Jane laid her hand on his forearm as she spoke his name again, suddenly much closer to him as she crouched next to his chair. “Are you alright?”
“Jane,” He whispered. “It would seem I owe you much more than I can ever repay.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’ve lost both your parents because of me,” he explained. “I captained the Tanilus during that fight. Your mother’s last attack saved my ship and my crew. She is a hero. Her last wish was for me to tell her daughter that she was sorry and that she loves you.”
Garrus paused outside their office door, stunned to see his father hunched over in his chair, his hands holding Jane’s face as he pressed his forehead against hers. His father’s subharmonics were vibrating loudly with grief and guilt as he vowed to protect Jane for the rest of his life. She would be one of his; he would be there for her as a parent was expected to be.
“Forgive me, Jane,” his father asked. “I have stolen both your parents. I owe you a debt I cannot repay.”
“You owe me nothing,” she whispered back, her own hand coming up to gently stroke his father’s mandible.
“It is a custom, an old one and mostly only enforced between turians,” his father explained. “If a turian child lost his or her clan, or in this case parents, to another clan—be it in battle or for whatever reason—the surviving clan would raise that child as their own. You’re grown and I know I do not need to raise you; however I still owe you this debt. Your parents died to protect me, neither knew what the other had done. Your father had every right to leave me to my fate thirty one years ago…”
“I’m very glad he didn’t,” Jane interrupted as her eyes cut over to Garrus’. “If he had, I never would’ve met Garrus.”
Garrus’ heart skipped a beat as their eyes met for the first time in three days. Was that a small smile tugging her lips up? He fought to catch his breath as hope clenched his chest that she may be willing to listen to him and give him a chance to explain his actions.
“…And your mother chose to sacrifice herself and her crew for me and mine,” Alitus finished.
“She died a soldier,” Jane reminded him.
“She died a hero,” Alitus corrected. “Let me be here for you,” he begged. “Accept this honor. Let my clan protect you.”
“I accept only because you’re so adamant,” Jane sighed. Garrus watched as she pressed her forehead against his father’s with more pressure, something he knew she did when she was trying to drill home what she was saying.
“But you still owe me nothing.”