Turians don’t cry, but that didn’t stop Garrus from understanding the concept.
He’d been around enough people from different races to know that the lack of tear ducts was not a common thing. Asari, salarians, humans, even elcor all seemed to shed tears and even his time in C-Sec dealing with the hurt and desperate had failed to desensitize him to it. Oh sure, turians could keen, a pitiful thread of sound with any quality of subvocals to accompany it, but there was something about a creature not being able to stop their eyes from spilling over that got to him every time.
Later, after Saren, after the Normandy was gone, when the urge to keen became all too common for him and he decided it needed to stop, he moved to Omega, and there he discovered that crying was something vorcha and batarians did as well, profusely. Krogans didn’t seem to, no matter how many he killed or how painfully, but Garrus surmised it had less to do with them not being able to cry and more to do with them flat out refusing to.
One night, as he returned to the base from one of those solo missions his squad disapproved of, he found what could only be a quarian slumped against a wall in a dark alleyway. He’d never seen one out of their suits before. This one had been stripped and left to die. A morbid curiosity got hold of him and he approached cautiously, pulse pounding in his ears. The helmet of his suit filtered out worst of the awful smell from the festering wounds and where the quarian had been sick, but it hit him like a wall all the same. Before he realized what he was doing, Garrus had reached out and grasped the quarian by the bare, violently purple skin of a shoulder.
The quarian wasn’t dead.
They gasped and turned startled, lambent eyes on Garrus, and even through the lank hair, he could see the tears streaming down their face. He almost backed away, almost ran like hell towards home, but he didn’t. Instead, he offered his hand and the quarian took it in a feeble but urgent grip. Archangel stayed there, eyes not leaving the quarian’s face, their fevered skin burning through his gauntlet, until tears were replaced by blood, until the last ragged breath had stuttered in their chest.
It wasn’t until he stumbled around a corner three blocks away that Garrus thought of Tali, and he had to scramble to get his helmet off so he could retch into the ground. Thinking of Tali unfailingly led him to think of the Normandy, of the sound of Liara’s sobbing after Noveria, of Kaidan’s tears, silent but for the occasional sniffle, as he tried to work the memories of Virmire away. And of course, as always, his thoughts turned to Shepard, to her straight back and her resigned expression, to the tightness around her mouth. To her dry, steely eyes.
A few weeks later he saw her again, even when he thought he never would, and she was even more severe, colder and the slightest bit more jaded than the woman he remembered. He wondered sometimes if she was brittle, if she would break, but perhaps he should have known better. The straight back held through Horizon, through revisiting the wreckage of the first Normandy and all the other hoops Cerberus and the Alliance had her jump through. It was still Shepard though, dazzling, kind through her fierceness, quick to smile at him, and even quicker to challenge everything he thought he knew about her time and time again.
It took them nearly another year, a paradigm shift and a war before she let him find her in her cabin, slumped like he’d never seen her, surrounded by data pads, wet tracks down her cheeks. She didn’t sob and her breathing was even. If one were going by her face she looked merely cross, and yet her posture was so impossibly defeated it rooted him to the spot.
He didn’t dare ask. He also didn’t dare fill the air with platitudes or empty attempts at comfort. Instead he wordlessly marched back up the stairs and ran a hot bath while he willed his subvocals into silence. She only looked up when he took her hands and tugged her gently towards the shower. He didn’t join her, for which he was rewarded with a quirk of her lips he'd long come to recognize as gratitude. While the water ran, Garrus took the time to clear the plans and schematics from her bed and dim the lights.
She looked more like herself when she climbed into bed next to him and curled into his side. Her hair dripped and her skin was a bit too warm, but her eyes were dry and leaden with steel again. Shepard held onto his carapace and he let his larynx thrum out love and comfort and trust and confidence until she relaxed her grip and her breathing evened out. Hours later, she was back to work, and so was he.
Not long after, too soon and not soon enough, the war was over. London and the Citadel lay in ruins and countless homes were trapped on the other side of broken relays and piles of unresponsive synthetics. The Normandy was mostly whole, though, and found its stuttering way back to Earth by the time repairs were underway.
It took Garrus entirely too long to be released from care, to find the right hospital in Greenwich, and slip past the staff when threatening and cajoling failed to make them budge. Maybe it was because of his reduced bulk, or the lack of armor, or the fresh scars and pieces of him missing, but then again he’d never been the charmer Shepard was.
Finally, he found her, stretched out and hooked up to what machines still worked. Every inch of her was covered in bruises and bandages, even after all this time, and they had shaved her head just the way Cerberus had done, but there she was, alive. Again. Still. Impossibly. Defiantly. Garrus stumbled forwards, ignoring the protests in his tired joints. He took her small hand in both of his larger ones and found it just as warm as he remembered.
Turians don’t cry, but that didn’t stop Garrus from sinking to his knees and heaving out sob after choked sob into the cracked tiled floor.