So Long And Goodnight
Commander Helena Shepard is dead.
A week after the Reapers were destroyed, the Alliance Military had several people search the wreckage of the Crucible to find her. Admiral Hackett gave the order himself… find the body of Commander Shepard.
And they did. She was found in a rubble of what used to be the Citadel, bloodied, broken and cold. She had died because of blood loss and multiple injuries… the worst of it was the bleeding in her brain.
It took a few days for the Normandy to head back to Earth. With the Mass Relays destroyed, it took a while longer to travel back. But they all persisted. They all wanted to attend the funeral.
Pretty soon, the word spread out. The Savior of the Galaxy is dead, her body recovered. Council species began pouring back to Earth to pay their respects, and soon a program was set for the funeral of Commander Shepard.
It was the most extravagant funeral Garrus had ever been to. Shepard's body was in a black coffin, the lower part of it closed so that people can't see how broken her legs were. The upper part was open though, showing off her hands to her chest, holding a red rose, and her face… which was heavily made up. He knew that it was because of the dark splotches of bruising that she had. The person who made sure she was still… presentable, did a good job. She looked like she was just sleeping, her head on a silk pillow, her shockingly red hair spread out around her.
The coffin was centered into a stage with several steps in what seemed to be an indoor stadium that human's used for sporting events. A massive audience of different species now sat in different seats, a mixed audience of krogans, turians, asari, quarians, volus, drell, hanar, elcor and humans. But the Normandy crew were given seats directly in front of Shepard's coffin. Massive flower arrangements… acquired by several volus merchants, lined the area behind the coffin, and in front of them were candles lit on several stands. Her guns were arranged on display cases by the turian military, which included her favorite M920 Cain, which Garrus found in her cabin in the Normandy.
The crew sat in front a few meters in front of the coffin, with Tali, Liara, Garrus, Wrex, Kaidan, Joker, Dr. Chakwas, and Admiral Hackett in the front, being the closest people to Shepard, way back during her time in the Normandy SR1. Behind them sat the others… the people who had worked with her from the suicide mission on the Collector base. Samara, Grunt, Kasumi, Zaeed, Miranda, Jacob, Jack, Kelly… even Kolyat made an appearance, who stood for his father, who had died a few months ago. Behind them sat the newer members of the Normandy, James, Javik, Steve and Traynor, as well as Engineers Greg, Ken, Gabby, Mess Sergeant Gardner, Ensign Copeland and Captain Kirrahe, who was there as the representation for the Salarian Dalatress. All of them wore suits of black, with armbands of thick red silk, signifying Shepard's bravery, and the blood she has split and lost to ensure the safety of the galaxy.
A group of quarians came forward, bringing what looked like three-stringed instruments of various sizes, and began to play. Garrus looked up at them. The song was hauntingly beautiful.
"It's a traditional quarian mourning song." Tali said from beside Liara, "We can't exactly sing… because of our EnviroSuits, so we thought this might be appropriate."
"It sounds beautiful." Liara said, and Tali nodded, "It was the best I could come up with for Shepard. I suggested it to Admiral Raan, and she agreed."
Garrus' nodded in agreement, watching the quarians play, and five minutes later, their song of mourning finally ended.
The quarian players moved off to the left, only to be replaced by a group of turian soldiers, holding their rifles on their shoulders. They marched in perfect synchronization, and Garrus blinked when he recognized what it was.
"A turian sehkzenth." He said, and Wrex and Liara looked at him. "A funeral march, as others call them. The turian military doesn't really give these to just anyone. Usually, we just incinerate our dead and give them back to the ground. But this… I haven't seen one of these… not since Nihlus was brought back to Palaven when he died." He pointed at the soldiers, who were now twirling their guns, throwing them up in the air and catching them in precise movements. "This is what we consider as tribute for fallen soldiers… but… how are they supposed to shoot the rifles?"
"Shoot the rifles?" Tali asked bending over Liara to get closer to Garrus, "What do you mean, Garrus?"
"Well, at the end of a sehkzenth, we're supposed to shoot our rifles to the sky as a sign of thanks for their bravery." Garrus continued to watch as the turians fell back in line and took their rifles, "But since we're indoors, I was wondering how… oh."
The crew watched as the turians turned to face Shepard's coffin, and slowly, sank down to a knee, and bowed their heads. Garrus blinked. Turians never kneeled, much less bowed in front of the dead. He instantly knew that it was because the turian hierarchy had owed a lot to Shepard, and shooting their rifles for the sekhzenth wasn't enough. They bowed to her because the Hierarchy knew that Shepard was their savior, and bowing to her meant that she was the greatest hero the turians ever knew.
He felt a lump in his throat as he watched his fellow turians put their fists over their chest and bowed to his lover in a sign of respect.
The turians finally stood and marched over to the left in a straight line, and two krogans stood in front. Wrex smiled smugly as the two bowed in front of the coffin, and then faced each other. They let out ferocious growls, before head-butting each other.
"Wrex!" Kaidan said, looking shocked as the two krogans drew apart again, before head-butting again with such ferocity. "What are these two doing?"
"It's not a fight, if that's what you're thinking." Wrex said as he watched his two underlings, "It's a krogan ritual of strength, our honor for Shepard. Don't worry, it won't last long… nor will it be bloody."
The two krogans finally stopped and bowed to the coffin again, before kneeling down like the turians. When they straightened up, they thumped their chests and bowed again, before moving to the side.
An asari dancer flitted into the front, wearing a dress of black, with a red and white stripe on her sleeve. Soon, other asari dancer moved with her, this time wearing black and blue. They danced gracefully around the stage, and were soon followed by other dancers wearing purple, a lighter shade of blue, white and green, and red. Liara blinked as they moved.
"Ahh… a dance interpretation." Liara said as she watched, as other dancers seem to converge in the front, each hanging on to the first asari. "If you notice, some of the dancers are wearing our colors. They're depicting our journey with her."
Garrus watched as the second asari, the one wearing blue and black, seemed to dance with the one depicting Shepard. He swallowed and watched as several others… wearing the same colors or the same designs on their clothes as the SR2 crew, dance around with the previous crew. They held on to the 'Shepard' dancer, helping her up, lifting her and twirling her around the stage. He understood. The asari were showing how much the whole crew had loved her and adored her, how they helped her go through their adventures, and how it was them who had pushed her forward all along.
He watched as the 'Shepard' asari spun, and seemed to suddenly stand alone… the 'crew' lying down behind her as if they weren't around. The 'Shepard' raised her hand, and took a step forward, before bending over as if in pain. The other asari, the one that had Garrus' colors, stepped forward, and helped her up, and she stepped forward again. The one with red, which he guessed represented Wrex, came forward and helped as well. One by one, the 'crew' helped the 'Shepard', moving into the unknown. Liara's face became wet with tears, and Tali sniffed under her helmet. "They… they're depicting that our influence had helped her in her final push."
Finally, when all the 'crew' had been behind the 'Shepard', she collapsed, and the crew gently lifted her body way over their heads, before slowly walking off to the left. Garrus felt the hurt bubble up his chest, and he coughed to try and force the feeling out.
But he couldn't.
He bent his head, and huffed, and Liara placed a hand on his shoulder as Wrex gave a soft punch on his other side. He wanted to shout in his despair, but there were too many people around. He took a deep breath and straightened. He was thankful that turians couldn't shed tears.
The humans came out next, a mixture of men and women of different colors and heights and sizes, clad in white robes as they formed two lines. And elderly woman stood before them, holding a small baton, and she raised her hands as the music started.
The crew watched as the humans started to sing, and Garrus noticed that Joker had bowed his head, his cap hiding his face. Tears fell from the man's eyes.
"They're singing 'Ave Maria' by Schubert…" Kaidan said, and Garrus looked at him to see that his eyes were watering, too. "Shepard… Shepard loved that song. She used to sing it on the first Normandy." The man chuckled, "Shepard can't dance for shit… but her voice… her voice was like an angel's."
And then Garrus remembered...
He sighed in his sleep, reaching in front of him, trying to find the warmth of his mate. But his arm found an empty space beside him. It woke him fully, and he sat up.
Helena sat cross-legged at the foot of the bed, running a hair brush through her red hair, a towel on her shoulders. She was wearing her Alliance pants again, her upper body bare. The shreds of the leather dress she wore during their date in the Silver Coast Casino was piled up into the corner of her bed. She was singing softly in an Earth language he didn't know, but it sounded beautiful to him.
He scooted over behind her and hugged her, her back pressed against his chest as he nuzzled her shoulder. Helena chuckled huskily, "You owe me a dress, turian."
He groaned as she shifted, so that she had settled between his thighs, her bottom pressed against his groin plates. She reached back and stroked his mandible, and he laid little kisses on her fingers. "I'll buy you a whole damn closet full of leather dresses, Shepard."
She chuckled again, and he bit on her shoulder lightly, earning a moan from her. He smiled a little his mandibles flaring, "So… what was that… singing you just doing?"
She shrugged, settling into Garrus further, "It was an Earth song that I loved called Ave Maria, I heard it from a church on Earth… while I wandered the streets." She smiled fondly, "A… priest found me, trying to get warm by the steps of a church. He took me in and fed me, and taught me the song. Since then he had me sing at the church in return for a place to sleep in and food."
"You sing it so beautifully." Garrus said as he tightened his embrace, and she chuckled, "Can't say the same for my dancing though."
His mandibles flared out in amusement as he laughed, "Yeah. Figures you'd be better at singing than dancing." He took the brush from her hand and pushed her away a little, "Tell you what, I'll brush your hair for you, and you sing it to me."
Helena blinked, and Garrus moved to her back to take the strands of her hair in his talons and run a brush through it. She sighed in pleasure and took a breath, slowly letting the lyrics of the song roll through her tongue as she sang…
Garrus closed his eyes, his throat constricting. The humans sang her song quite beautifully, but he still preferred it when she sang it to him.
The humans finished the song, and he heard Dr. Chakwas sniff as she cried into her handkerchief. The doctor had been very close to Shepard, ever since they were in the first Normandy. Granted, Helena could've picked Dr. Michel to accompany her during the Reaper Wars, but she loved Chakwas like the mother she never had, so she recruited her.
A group of drell priests came forward then, and Admiral Hackett stood up from the pew and headed to the front, standing with his hands behind his back. The drells had started humming, and Hackett started to speak.
"I…" Admiral Hackett hesitated, and Garrus saw the tears forming in the elder man's eyes, "Shepard… was almost like a daughter to us… me and Anderson. He was the one who had discovered her." He swallowed, "She was just 16 when he met her, one night at a church in Vancouver. She was a choir girl… but she had a mean streak. The priest there was the one who took her in. She saw Anderson in his Alliance uniform, looked up to him and asked 'Are you a soldier?'. He nodded and said he was from the Alliance Military. She said, 'I want to be a soldier, too.' When he asked why, she simply said that 'being a choir girl didn't fit her'."
Garrus chuckled under his breath along with the crew. He imagined a young Shepard, wearing a dress with her red hair and green eyes, her face scrunched in dislike. Yes, being a choir girl didn't fit Shepard.
"He brought her in for recruitment, and I understood why she didn't want to be a choir girl." Hackett continued, "She was a vivacious child, slightly ruthless… but her heart was in the right place. We watched her as she trained to be the perfect soldier. She fought so valiantly during missions, follow her instincts and her wisdom when it came to solving problems, and even when she's busy, she found the time to help people. She was willing to do anything and everything if somebody needed her, and as we all know, that is what she did for us. She gave up her own life… so that galaxy would be saved."
Hackett blinked again, and the man's tears fell down, "All of you will remember Shepard. No species in this galaxy will ever forget her. You will remember her as a soldier, the savior of the galaxy. But for me… and for Anderson, if he had lived… she would always be that brave little choir girl, who sang hymns while she polished her gun." He stopped speaking, and he stood straight as he saluted Shepard's casket. "Goodbye… Helena."
He stepped down as the drell continued humming, and he looked over to his left to see Joker stand, and he limped his way to the podium. He had his hat lowered to his eyes, and Garrus knew he was hiding his face so that people wouldn't see his crying face.
"It's strange." Joker said, his normally boisterous demeanor quiet, "It's strange to think that… even if you've only known people for a few days, you already feel like they're part of your family. That was what I felt with Shepard… the moment she came into the Normandy." He swallowed, "Anderson brought her in after she had served with him, and the moment she came aboard, she smiled… so brightly at me. Like she was pleased that I was there with her even though we never met. It was the first time… in a long time, that somebody looked at me like I wasn't… crippled. She trusted me, my judgment, my skill… nobody trusted me like that in a long time."
"When the first Normandy exploded, and she… died, I couldn't take it." Joker said, his voice constricting. "It was like I lost a sister… more than I lost a Commanding Officer. She… protected me and made sure that I escaped, at the cost of her life. I wanted to get her back so badly, not because she's Commander Shepard, but because she's like my family."
Joker took a deep breath, and his tone finally faltered, he raised a hand to his face and covered his eyes as his voice became anguished. "I just found out that… my family had died in Triptree. EDI is gone, too. And now Helena… the person who saved me more than once, is right there and she's gone, too. I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to do." The people in the pews grew quiet as the man cried in his hands for a while, before sniffing loudly and straightening again. He coughed, "I'm sorry. I know I'm not the only one who has lost something during the War. But I know, like everyone here, that we all wouldn't have this life if it weren't for her. So yeah, I'm going to honor her sacrifice and live, even though… even though it's going to hurt more than breaking my bones."
The pilot went back to his seat, and he was helped by Dr. Chakwas, who was crying torrents beside him. Tali and Liara looked at him, and touched his hand.
"Garrus." Tali said, "I think you should be the one to speak for us… the Normandy crew."
Garrus blinked down at her, and Liara nodded. He swallowed and looked at her sadly, "Tali… I can't… I shouldn't…"
"Why not, Garrus?" Liara said, "You are the one she loved the most. You know her the most."
"We'll be right behind you, Garrus." Tali said, squeezing his hand.
Garrus swallowed again, before standing, and Liara and Tali stood up as they went to the front. Suddenly Wrex, Kaidan and Joker stood as well and went in front. And the others finally understood. The whole Normandy crew stood up from their seats and went forward to stand behind Garrus' back, lifting their head proudly as they looked at the thousands of audience before them. Garrus watched as all of them took each other's hands as he held on to Tali and Liara. He swallowed as the sight gave him comfort.
"I… I'm not very good with words." Garrus started, "I've always been a turian of action. Even now, as I stand here, I can't think of anything to say."
"Shepard… was like me in some ways. She was a woman of action, rather than words. If she wanted something, she acted on it. When she wanted to help somebody, she'd do it… sometimes with no questions asked. She was… an orphan, raised by priest and yet became a soldier. And from the moment she entered the Normandy, her crew became something more. They… we… became her family."
Talis squeezed his hand, and he continued, "All of us here owe our lives to her. Not only because she saved the galaxy… but because she saved… our spirits."
He swallowed again, "She helped us mend broken ties to our families…" , and he looked at Miranda, Kolyat, Jacob and Samara, who nodded back at him.
"She helped us find a place where we belong…" He squeezed the hands of Tali and Liara, and he looked at Grunt, Javik, James and Steve.
"She even helped some us to exact our revenge", and he looked at Jack, Zaeed and Kasumi, who smiled back at him. But he lowered his head.
"And… and she helped some of us… to find the good inside ourselves." He blinked, and Liara laid a hand on his shoulder.
"I…" His throat constricted, "It's not going to be easy, living without her. We loved her. We all did. I love her, until now when she's gone. And I always will… I…"
But Garrus stopped. He stared at the doors of the stadium, where it was shining in light. A shadow of a person stood on it, watching him, and he blinked, his vision clearing at the sight.
Helena stood by the doors exiting the stadium, her arms crossed across her armored chest, her weight leaning on one leg, smiling at him. Her bright green eyes were full of pride and love as she looked at him and the crew. He felt his mandibles grow slack at the sight of her, her bright red hair fanning behind her from some invisible wind.
Her gaze met his… warm green clashing with ice blue… and she smiled gently. Her mouth moved, and Garrus watched her lips as he tried to understand what she was saying…
She said, "Thank you, Garrus. I love you. Live for me."
She raised a hand and put her palm to her lips, before gesturing it to him. He remembered she did that whenever she left the Normandy without him. A "flying kiss", she called it. She grinned up at him again, before turning, her figure disappearing into the brightness behind her.
He looked down at Liara, who was looking strangely at him. He blinked and looked back at the doors of the stadium, only to see that it was closed.
He realized that he had just watched her spirit leave their world.
He swallowed and looked around the audience again, looking slightly confused at his silence. He coughed and continued his speech.
"It's going to be hard, living without her. But we will, because that is what she would've wanted. No…" His mandibles flared a little, "I'm pretty sure that's what she wants."
He looked down at the crew, who looked at him sadly, but understanding what he meant. All of them nodded to him.
Garrus let go of Tali and Liara, and headed down to the coffin. He bent over, and touched her hair. It was still soft and silky, but he knew she was gone. He bent over and whispered, "I'll see you up in that bar in a few years, Shepard. Just wait for me."
Some of the crew went back to their seats as the drell finished their humming, and started singing a song of mourning as James, Kaidan, Steve, Garrus, Wrex and Kolyat stood surrounding the coffin, and lifted it. Hackett led them in the front, and Joker followed them at the back, holding a bouquet of blood red roses… Shepard's favorite flowers. They proceeded to march down the aisle that the guests occupied, all of them standing from their seats… some of them saluting, most of them sobbing and crying. The rest of the crew followed behind Joker and the casket.
It was raining as they stepped out of the stadium, as if the heaven itself was crying with them. Thick water drops dripped down at them and the coffin, but they continued their procession to a funeral skycar outside the stadium. Hackett had said that they would be burying Shepard at a private location to prevent grave robbers who steal famous people's DNA, so the crew wasn't allowed to come with them, but he will be revealing the information soon.
Kaidan and Garrus, being the ones in front of the coffin, slowly slid it into the funeral skycar, and Wrex and Kolyat gently slid it inside. Joker laid the roses on top of the coffin before stepping back, his eyes watering again with tears. The others began laying similar red roses on the coffin, and Dr. Chakwas kissed her fingers before laying it on the steel before she was escorted away by Liara and Tali as she had started crying uncontrollably. The skycar became pretty much filled with flowers by the time the crew was done.
Captain Kirrahe laid down the last rose, and Garrus looked up to see Hackett nod. The crew backed up as Garrus closed the door of the funeral skycar. He bent over, peeking at the coffin one last time through its window, laying his hand on it. He straightened as the skycar's engine revved, and Hackett entered it. The crew watched as the skycar hovered a few feet, before flying away.
The crew held on to each other as they watched, the rain still pelting down at them. One by one, the visitors left, offering a pat, hug or word of comfort to Garrus, but he turned a deaf ear to them, his head bowed against the rain, the water slowly collecting on his cowl and rolling down his chest.
Turians couldn't cry. But when the crew looked at Garrus under the rain, the sadness in his eyes and the water rolling down the carapace on his face and on his mandibles… it looked like he was.
Finally, Tali and Liara gave his hand a final squeeze, before walking away from the stadium, leaving Garrus in the rain. He exhaled, he should go back to Palaven now. Shepard did tell him to live. His home planet was a wreck, and Solana and his father probably need him. Even though losing Shepard had hurt, he knew he had to move on. He just wished that Hackett would tell him where she was buried so that he could still visit her grave.
His OmniTool pinged, and he looked down in confusion at the contraption on his arm. He opened it only to find that it was a message from Hackett. Do they have a burial place for Shepard already? He opened up the message and read it.
His breath came out in a soft gasp, and he fell to his knees into the wet concrete. Garrus closed his eyes, his head straining as a keening cry of both sorrow and relief came up from his chest.
Shepard had requested in her Last Will that she would be buried in Palaven.