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Similar Deviations
Mass Effect
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In which Garrus listens to Joker and tries to find the perfect Valentine's Day present for Shepard.
~*~*~

It was one of the stranger sights Garrus Vakarian had seen on the Citadel.  Odd enough to make him stop in place and wonder if he should be in amazed, confused, or slightly intimidated.   Probably all three at once, he decided at last.

He had never seen so much pink in his life.  Well, pink mixed with plenty of reds, whites, and the occasional smattering of purple.  This was the third human shop he had seen with those decorations (although this was the gaudiest one to date),and if the crowds around it were any indication, he was going to have to admit  that maybe Joker had actually been serious when he insisted that Valentines Day was one of the most important of human holidays.

When the pilot had first mentioned Valentines Day to him, Garrus had been more than a little skeptical.  It sounds exactly like the kind of joke the man would try to play on a helpless turian.  A holiday focused around love?  Granted humans did seem to be slightly obsessed with the concept, but even asari didn’t go that far.   Then the rest of the human crew had started to agree with Joker, and Garrus had done a bit of his own research.   It hadn’t really been comforting to realize that yes, humans had a holiday that existed just to show appreciation for your partner.    Still, he hadn’t been sure the human media was exaggerating until he saw the evidence with his own eyes.

Now it was the day, and he had to figure out what he was going to do, and fast.  

He crept closer to the store, fully aware that he was the only turian there.  Not the only alien thankfully, he could see a couple of asari and a salarain inside, but he still stuck out a little.  This he tried very had to ignore as he studied the advertisements the store had put up.   There was a bewildering variety of…stuff on display when you took in the store all up and down the area.  Jewelry, flowers, cards, and chocolates all promising they would be ‘The perfect Valentines gift!’. Actually, if he looked closer, it became clear there were more chocolate advertisements in the stores than anything else.  

A quick extranet search on him omnitool confirmed the yes, chocolate was considered traditional for humans on Valentines.  He realized something as he shut down the interface.  Chocolate was a traditional good on a human romantic holiday.  Chocolate therefore, must have some sort of romantic meaning to humans as whole.

“..Crap.” Now Shepard’s odd reaction to finding out Dr. Michel had given him chocolate made a hell of a lot of sense.  Granted it didn’t explain Tali’s reaction to it, but that wasn’t what he was concerned about right now.   Garrus rubbed the back of his neck.  Damn, this had just gotten complicated.  Joker had said Shepard was probably looking forward to getting something from him, and now he really had to make up for his mistake. Talk about pressure.

“Focus Vakarian,” he muttered to himself, and started to take a deep breath to prepare to enter the shop.  Then one of the pictures scrolling by on the advertisements caught his eye.  It was a picture of a bunch of chocolates crammed in a box the same shape as the one Dr. Michle had given him a month ago. Two lumps at the top that lead down to a narrow point.  He hadn’t known what to call it at the time, but the sign was proclaiming it a heart-shaped box of chocolates.  

His mandibles flickered into a frown as he opened his omnitool again, and proceeded to lookup what a human heart looked like.  A tiny voice in the back of his mind noted that he was just trying avoid setting foot in the store, but he chose to ignore it.  Instead, he compared the picture on his screen to the one on the advertisement.  

“That,” he said to no one, “looks nothing like a human heart.  Or the heart of any other species.”  The last he was only half-way sure of.  Given how big the galaxy was, there might be something out there with a heart that looked like that.  

It still wouldn’t explain why humans were using it.

“Spirits,” a flanging voice said from behind it.  “That’s what it’s supposed to be?  I’ve been seeing it up and down this strip but I wouldn’t have thought to name it a heart.”

“It’s humans,” Garrus said, “I’ve given up trying to explain why they do half the things they do.”  He turned to see who the other turian was.  It took him only a second to recognize the individual behind him. “General Oraka,” he said, trying to keep his voice even despite the fact that his stomach was squirming.  Shepard had said he was on the Citadel but the General had still been the last person he expected to see. He was also one of the people that Garrus had hoped to avoid seeing.  At least for a little while longer, until he could figure out a way to give something of an apology to the General.  “What brings you out here?”

Oraka dipped his head in greeting. “Vakarian.  Although I hear it’s Advisor now.  Congratulations.  That’s impressive for someone was young as you.”

“Yeah..ah, thanks,” Garrus scratched at the back of his neck again nervously.  “Although I think I owe most of it to the Reapers. It kind of says how desperate everyone is if they’re shoving me into a spot with this much responsibility.”

“War shows what a person is really made of, Vakarian.  I would think you of all people would know that,” Oraka’s subvocals were vibrating with silent laughter.  “I’ve heard the reports of what you were doing before the Reapers struck, and of your efforts in the refugee camps here.  Your actions are very commendable.  I think the promotion was well-placed.”  

“Ah, thanks,” Garrus was caught slightly off guard by that sort of confidence.  Even after all this he still wasn’t used to people just assuming that he was up to the task.

“Although I assumed the refugee camps would be your goal this time around.  Seeing you in the human quarters was unexpected.”  

“Yeah, I guess it is,” Garrus said quickly.  “I just had…stuff to do here.  You were the one that was the real surprise.  Shepard said you were trying to organize more of the Citadel’s defenses. Didn’t expect to see you in a human ward either.”  

“That is what I’m doing yes,” Oraka locked his hands behind his back. “This human…romance festival has brought in a sudden surge of black market trafficking.  Mostly of flowers of all things, but I had heard from a contact there might be a few weapons smuggled in as well.  I had hoped to get my hands on them before everyone else did.”  The General gave him a curious look.   “I was waiting for my contact and noticed you arrive.  You’ve been in front of the same shops for at least ten minuets.  Are you waiting for someone?”

“Umm..well,” Garrus stammered, searching for an answer that wouldn’t make it seem like he was avoiding going into a human store because he had no idea what he was going.  Because that wasn’t the case at all.  Seriously.  “I just got…distracted.”  He settled on at last. “I mean, I knew the humans had an important holiday coming up but I didn’t think it would be so colorful.  Or, you know, involve twisted versions of organs somehow factoring into the whole ‘romance’ thing.  And that’s only what I’ve figure out so far!” He flicked a talon toward another advertisement.  There was a thing there that looked something like a human infant with fluffy little wings pasted on it, holding a bow and arrow that had a “heart” shaped tip.  “I’m honestly not sure I want to know why it’s there.”

Oraka, perhaps out of a sense of disbelief, or just curiosity, came up beside the younger turian and leaned over to examine the picture.  “That is certainly…interesting.  This wasn’t the first I’ve heard about this human holiday, but since there are more important things in the galaxy I didn’t pay it any mind.  I’m amazed humans are still this enthusiastic about it with a war going on.”

“The war is probably why they’re so enthusiastic about it,” the younger turian commented as he turned to watch a pair of human women talking animatedly as they exited a shop.  “With death so close, everyone wants a reminder of the few good things we have left in the galaxy,” He shrugged. “Of course that still doesn’t mean it has to make sense.”

Oraka was looking at him in something like consideration. “You sound like you’ve given this a lot of thought.”

The words caught the younger turian off-guard for a moment then he shrugged.  A more human gesture than turian, but he thought it would fit with his words. “I’m serving on a human ship, remember?  This is a major holiday for them, so I couldn’t avoid hearing about it.”

“And Commander Shepard allows this?” Oraka gave him a curious look. “I would have thought she needed her crew to be more focused than that.”

“She knows she has to let them let loose once in a while.  She even arranged for her crew to have shore leave on the Citadel on today of all days.  I doubt that was just a coincidence.”  Although he didn’t mention that, according to Joker at least, it was because Shepard herself had wanted to celebrate the holiday herself.   With her boyfriend, the pilot had suggested with an over exaggerated raising of his eyebrows that Garrus thought meant something in human culture.  At first Garrus had dismissed that thought, but after doing something thinking of his own had started to doubt that it really was just coincidence.   Shepard never did anything without a reason behind it.  She was also very bad about asking anything for herself.  Outright stating that she might want something like a present might seem selfish to her.  So, he would do something just for her for once.

“I understand why the human crew would come here then,” Oraka was saying, and Garrus had the uncomfortable sensation of being examined by the older turian. “It does not explain you, however.  Or why you’ve let it distract you so much.”

“That’s because I…” he scrambled for something to say to Oraka then just shook his head over it. “ Ah, what does it matter?  I mean, I’m sure you have more important things to be worrying about.”  He started to edge his way toward the shop.  At least that would be easier than answering questions about why he wanted to celebrate a human romantic holiday.  Especially when those questions would be coming from a very high-ranking turian that he had been…less than polite too.  It might have been a few years ago, and Garrus wasn’t even sure the General even remembered what his words, but they were still stuck in his mind.   Admitting that he really understood what had gotten into the General back then? That was going to be a bit embarrassing.
“I have…business, so I’ll just get on that. Excuse me, General Oraka.”

He slipped into the store hoping that the General wouldn’t want to fight through the crowds.  Unfortunately head forgotten that part of Oraka’s reputation had been from him not backing down in the face of a challenge.  “You aren’t very good at hiding your feelings, Vakarian,” the General said as they made their way up to the counter. “You’ve been avoiding my questions and somehow I doubt the reason has anything to do with operations against the Reapers.”

“I don’t see why it’s any of your business.” Garrus growled. “Don’t you have something far more important to do than bugging an honest, hardworking, advisor to the Primarch?”

“My contact called to say they had been delayed,” Oraka said conversationally as the younger turian started to flick through the purchase terminal. “Keeping you company seems like a good way to eat up time.  Besides,” and there was amusement hidden under the subvocals there. “I’m a bit curious about this human custom myself.”

Garrus had absolutely brilliant and whitty reply to that, but before he could voice it human woman appeared across the counter from him.

“Hi!” she said brightly, “Can I help you?”  Her eyes flickered to where he was messing with the purchasing terminal, and it was only then that he realized he had been aimlessly scrolling up and down on the terminal while talking with the General.  

“Ah..” he dropped his hand and glanced at Oraka out of the corner of his eye.  This was really something he would rather not be doing in front of anyone else, let alone a turian general, but he didn’t see what choice he had.   He had told Shepard he would meet her later, and needed to get her a gift now before it got to late.   Even if it meant Oraka would find out. When it came down to a choice between his own pride and Shepard, the choice was easy enough to make.  “I, ah, yeah, I might need a little help,” he admitted.  “It’s Valentines Day so I was told that I should get my friend a gift.”   At the curious look the saleswoman was giving on him, he cleared his throats.  “Ah, she’s human,” he said quickly and heard Oraka chuckle.  Damn him.  “We’re…close.”

“Close?” the saleswoman gave him an openly curious look.

Garrus heaved a sigh. “Very close,” he admitted, “Ah…that kind of close.”

“That kind of…?” The saleswoman looked confused for a split second then her eyes widened and her hands flew up to cover her mouth. “Oh!  Really?”  The saleswoman peered closer at him, and suddenly Garrus found himself hoping she didn’t recognize him.  Some humans had a problem telling turians apart, but if she recognized him as Garrus Vakarian then it wouldn’t be that great of a leap to assume she would think of Shepard.  They’re been rumors that the two of them were more than friends for years, but very few actually took said rumors seriously.  If even one person managed to make the connection then well, things would get complicated. Not that he was ashamed of it, but it was simpler to keep things quiet at the moment.  He wasn’t sure how Shepard was going to react if she found out he’d blared their relationship to the whole galaxy while buying her a gift of all things.  Somehow he didn’t think that would match the sentiments of the holiday.

This was a bad idea.  Listening to Joker at all was a bad idea.  If Oraka wasn’t here then maybe he would have cut and run by now, done some research before coming back so he didn’t feel quiet so clueless about this whole thing..

“Oh, I’m sorry!” The saleswoman said, interrupting this train of thought.  “I didn’t mean to be rude, but I think you’re the first turian we’ve had come in here.”  

Really?” He couldn’t help drawling. “Such a surprise.”

“Well, human/turian couples are really rare. I don’t think I’ve even seen one on the Citadel before,” the saleswoman said, and Garrus tried to avoid sighing.  Sarcasm was apparently a dying art, and it Oraka evidently found it amusing, although he was positive the saleswoman couldn’t hear the subvocal chuckling coming from the older turian.
“Anyway, what can I help you with?” she continued. “What sort of gift were you thinking of?”

“Ah, that’s where I need help actually,” he admitted after a pause. “I’m not sure what to get her.  I want this to be perfect.  What sort of things are traditional for the holiday?”  He looked at her expectancy.

“Traditional?” she blinked then smiled. “For Valentines Day, it’s usually things like jewelry or flowers, or you can never go wrong with chocolate!  You should get her a card too.  A Valentines Day card is a must have no matter the gift.  Luckily we stock a wide variety of all gifts for you to choose from.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that’s perfect for you.”

Garrus, meanwhile, barely noticed the sales-pitch lines.  “Chocolates,” he repeated, heart dropping to somewhere down around his stomach.  Damn it.  Chocolates, even turian chocolates had never been his favorite sweets but now it seemed like the damn things were plaguing him. “Yeah, no chocolates.”  At the looks he got from both Oraka and the saleswoman he cleared his throats.  “Long story.”  Well, not long but he really didn’t think that reminding Shepard of Dr. Michel was a good idea.

“Now, I’m curious,” Oraka said mandibles flaring out into a grin.  “Care to share that story?  I have time.”

“It’s classified,”  Admitting that he didn’t want to give Shepard chocolate and inevitably remind her of the fact that he accidentally accepted chocolate from another human woman and that apparently meant something to them…yeah, that was something Garrus was had no intention of doing.

“Okay, if you don’t want to give her chocolate,” the saleswoman said quickly, “then there’s still plenty of options available.  We have other sweet treats available for Valentines.  Conversation hearts are always popular!”

Even though Garrus was fairly sure that the ‘conversation hearts’ were connected to the odd shape the humans liked, it still called to mind Shepard eating a very bloody heart and that was not an image he wanted in his head.

“Ah, no, let’s go for something besides food,” he said quickly. “Something a little longer lasting maybe?”  Because now that he looked around, there were a lot of advertisements for sweet things, and half of them had that weird ‘heart’ shape.  Also red, which considering the color of human blood was more than a bit strange.  He wondered about this holiday, he really did.  

“Oh, well then,” the saleswoman flickered through a datapad she picked up from behind the counter. “We did just get in a new selection of jewelry just for today! There’s bound to be something there your girlfriend will like!”

“Ah, she doesn’t wear much jewelry,” that one he didn’t even have to think about.  The times he had actually seen Shepard wearing anything fancy would be counted on one turian hand.  Always when she had been forced to dress up, and she had never seemed particularly fond of whatever jewelry she had chosen to wear.  It had seemed like just another piece of armor for her to wear into that particular sort of combat scenario.  

“Are you sure?” the saleswoman peered at him urgently. “It might be something you haven’t noticed about her.  Maybe some piece she wears so often that you don’t even notice anymore. Does she have pierced ears?  Humans sometimes do that you know,” she added the last in a rush. “Put holes in the bottom of our earlobes.  It probably sounds strange to you but..”

“I know what it is,” he said, cutting her off as gently as she could. “And no she doesn’t.  I’m sure of that. I, ah, know her pretty well. Jewelry would only get in her way on the battlefield.”

“A battle..field,” the saleswoman repeated faintly. “I..see.  I suppose that would be…odd if you wore jewelry to fight.”

Garrus just nodded, allowing a small smile to form on his face.  Well, that is until he heard Oraka speak up.

“Just who is this woman you’re buying for?” The general asked. “I realized that I haven’t even heard a name from you yet.  I would think that knowing who you were buying for that would help in figuring out what she would like.”

“I don’t see how that would help…” Garrus growled.

“Oh, that is a good idea,” the saleswoman interrupted him eagerly  “Knowing your..girlfriends tastes would go along way towards picking the perfect present for her.”

Garrus was tempted for a moment.  Shepard was famous enough that if he said her name, the saleswoman would recognize it and might be able to come up with something worthy of her.  On the other hand, if he said her name, and the saleswoman recognized then it would be all over the extranet in a few hours.  Right now, that was more stress than she deserved to deal with.

“I don’t see how that would help,” he said instead. “Let’s just get on with it and I’ll tell you if anything sounds right for her.”

Oraka just snorted, and the saleswoman sighed a little. “If you’re sure, we can do it that way,” she said sounding disappointed.  Maybe she was just after simple gossip, wanting to know the name of the woman who would be willing to date a turian.  All the more reason not to tell her it was Shepard then.  “Even if she doesn’t wear it much she probably wears some jewelry.  What sort of styles does she like?  You could get her something for a special occasion.”

“Uh yeah, I’m not sure about that,” Garrus rubbed the back of his neck.  All the jewelry Sheaprd had been worn had been simple but elegant.  No frills but perfectly capable of getting the job done.  Rather like hear, now that he thought about it.  He had considered getting her something fancy, something slightly expensive to show he cared, but he wasn’t sure what she would like.  Even if she didn’t really like it, she would probably wear it because he gave it to her and he didn’t want her to be something she felt obligated to keep.
“Let’s just look at something else, all right?”

“If you’re sure,” the saleswoman gave him a look. “You know, most human appreciate jewelry. It’s nice to know someone’s willing to spend that much on you.”

Most human women maybe, but not mine.  She’s..not normal.”  

Oraka outright laughed at that. “Really, Vakarian.  Would the lady in question really be happy to learn you were referring to her as ‘not normal’?”

“Actually,” he replied after a moment. “She would probably think it was hilarious.”

The saleswoman had been glancing back and forth between them as they talked and finally swallowed.  “Um, well, if you’re sure about the jewelry thing, you could always go with flowers.  And make sure you get her a card.”

“Flowers?” Garrus tried to picture Shepard with a bunch of flowers, and the image was…interesting.  Not bad, but he seeing her with something like that would be a bit hilarious. Then he looked around the shop and the number of people in it, several of whom were either staring at the two turians at the counter.   “Just how much is that going to cost?  I doubt the Citadel is going to let humans strip it’s gardens just for a holiday and, I imagine importing plants is the last thing most people are worried about.”

“Oh, don’t worry, we have plenty of synthetic varieties available,” The saleswoman said hurriedly. “They’re much cheaper, and our customers tell us that it’s impossible to tell them from the real thing!  They come with the added bonus of not fading over time like real flowers would! It’s a token of your love that will last forever.” The last was said with an overly bright smile.

“Not that the war has stopped people from trying to get their hands on the real thing,” Oraka observed. “That would explain why smugglers have been trying so hard to get flowers into the Citadel.  If they’re that important to this human holiday I imagine they’re making a killing selling the real thing.  Reapers are shutting down most regular shipping routes so it’s become risky to bring anything in.”

“I can assure you that this shop does not stock anything of an illegal nature,” their saleswoman drew herself up straight. “Everything we have here has been approved by Citadel law and we have all the required permits.”

“And even if you didn’t, I doubt you would be the one to handle the…backroom merchandise,” Oraka said smoothly, and the saleswoman start sputtering. Garrus shot a glare at the General, who simply responded with a shrug of his own.  “It’s probably the truth.”

“Let’s just ignore him for now,” Garrus said quickly and leaned forward onto the counter.  “So.  Flowers.  Synthetic ones.  They’re….traditional?”

“Oh yes very!” the saleswoman said a little too enthusiastically after a glance at Oraka. “Roes especially are considered the most romantic flowers.  They’ve been the symbol of love for hundreds of years.”   She looked so enthusiastic about it that Garrus almost regretted his need to ask the next question.

“And a rose is…what exactly?”  

“Oh,” she blinked, “I suppose you wouldn’t know, would you?”  She tapped something on her omnitool and the picture on the purchase terminal changed to that of a deep red flower.  “There, that’s a rose!”
Garrus looked closer at the picture, and felt Oraka shift so he had a better view, as the saleswoman continued on. “We sell them in groups of two or twelve depending on your preference.  Normally we don’t carry merchandise like this, but this is part of our Valentines special!”

“Wait, two or…twelve.  That’s…interesting.”  Garrus said flatly.  He tried to picture Shepard with a  dozen of the red flowers and failed.  Two maybe, at least to show he had done a bit of research on the subject, but again he couldn’t really picture Shepard as being a flowers kind of woman.  At least she’d never seem interested in plants before, even if she had gotten defensive about the ones in her apartment.  Then again, that had been after he’d almost blown then up, so he supposed there was a reason behind it.

“The number are…symbolic,” the saleswoman said hesitantly, almost as if she wasn’t quiet sure of the reason herself.

“Yeah, I’ll think about the flowers,” he said straightening up. “You said something about a card? Is there anything else that goes along with this Valentines Day thing?”

“Weeeell,” the saleswoman drew the word out as she looked thoughtful, “you have to understand that Valentines Day is mostly about showing affection for your sweetheart. You don’t have to go traditional for it, although a lot of people do.  You could just buy her a present that you know she would enjoy. As long as the sentiment is there, that’s all that matters!”

“That…is both a good thing and a bad thing,” he said, scratching distractedly at his neck. “Now I have no idea what to get her.”

“So she’s hard to shop for?” the saleswoman said, not without sympathy.  “I have an aunt like that.  Never know what to get her.”  

“Yeah, somehow I think it’s probably a little…different,” he said at last. “Just a tiny bit.”  He was pretty sure her aunt was a galaxy-wide heroine Oraka chuckled and he glared at the General.

“Hmm,” the saleswoman was tapping her lip with one slender finger, and action that Garrus watched in fascination. “Why don’t we start with the gifts you’ve given her that she did like and work from there?”

“Ah, gifts,” he fidgeted for a moment before finally getting up the courage to reply.  “I really haven’t gotten her anything like a gift yet.  That’s why this,” he gestured around the decorations at the shop, “is such a big deal to me.”  He didn’t mention that Joker had brought that up to him when mentioning the holiday.  Shepard was always buying things for everyone on her squad, but barely any of them had thought to get her something in return.  After all she had done, with all the pressure she had on her, the least he could do was make sure she could celebrate today.

“You haven’t gotten her anything at all?” That made the saleswoman’s eyes go wide. “How long have the two of you been together?” she paused for a second. “Or do turians give gifts to each other?  I mean, it’s pretty important to humans, but I understand..”

“Oh we do that,” Oraka answered. “Or at least most of us do.  Vakarian is just…special.”

“I’ve been planning a war,” he snapped at the General.  “It’s not like I haven’t wanted too, I just haven’t been able to find the time to run out and go gift shopping.”  He shook his head. “And it’s not like I’ve never bought her anything.  I bought her a weapon mod she’d been eyeing.  Although that didn’t turn out too well.”

“You got her a weapon’s mod?” the saleswoman said in a faint voice.  She sounded like she couldn’t even begin to contemplate something like that.

“Yeah,” Garrus wondered what could have caused that sort of reaction from her. “She’d wanted it, and she’d bought some for me before so I thought it was only fair that I return the favor.”

“Then what went wrong?” Oraka asked the question. “If she wanted it I fail to see how she couldn’t have been happy with it.”

“Because when I got back to the Normandy, I found she’d already bought the mod for herself,” he admitted. “Giving it to her after that seemed a little weird, so I just kept it.  Not that I have much use for a stunner mod, but I didn’t want to let it go to waste.”

“A stunner mod?”  Oraka made a disapproving clicking noise.  “I still fail to see the use in that. You would have been much better off getting her something to extend her clip size.”

“She already had that, I installed it on her shotgun myself,” Garrus said. “And it works for her, since she’s a crazy vanguard who seems to like punching people as much as shoot them.  Nothing I say can convince her that bullets are a little more useful than her fists.”

The saleswoman had been looking back and forth between them in utter confusion. “Well,” she started to say, but someone from the other shop called out to her.  She paused, nodded at her coworker, then turned back to them. “I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.  Try to look though the terminal while I’m gone, you might find something that would be perfect.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Garrus watched her walk off and shook his head. “That’s not very effective salesmanship.”

“I think you just scared her off,” Okara said, chuckling. “You were proving to be a bit of a challenge to her.  Or is Commander Shepard just that much of a challenge to you?

Garrus sucked in a breath, glanced around hurriedly, then turned back to the General and growled. “how the hell did you know that?”

That got a laugh from the older turian. “Vakarian, you’re all but transparent.  I’ve had my suspicions since Shepard helped me with securing weapons.  The tone of voice she spoke of you with was one I know well.” He flared into a grin. “Besides, she is the only vanguard currently in serving on the Normandy.  It wasn’t that great a trial to figure out who it was.”

The younger turian groan and dropped his head into his hand. “..Don’t mention it to anyone else.  Things are complicated enough without having the media swarming over us.”

“Don’t worry,” Oraka pushed away from the counter. “I’m not here for idle gossip.  I was genuinely curious about a turian who was willing to go so far for a human.  Particularly a high ranking turian who has so much to lose by being with one.”

“Shepard is more than worth the risk,” he thought about asking Oraka if this was all some strange form of revenge for years ago, then decided that it was best not to know.

“I think I would agree with that,” the General said after a moment of thought.  “I will also admit to being a bit envious. Having something like that, especially now of all time, that is something precious.”

“I know,” Garrus responded quietly then shook his head. “Although knowing that doesn’t make finding a gift any less…difficult.  How the hell do you find a present for the savior of the galaxy anyway?”

Suddenly there was a slight electric ‘pop’ next to him and a black clad human suddenly appeared. “I think you’re making this way more complicated than it has to be.”

Garrus took a deep breath and prided himself on not jump, growling or otherwise reacting to the thief.  It was a struggle though, and one Oraka had clearly lost since he gave a startled hiss at her appearance.

“Not funny Kasumi,” he said to the thief. “You scared General Oraka.”

“Just me?” came quietly from the General’s direction.  Kasumi flashed the older turian a grin.

“Sorry, but I had to say something before poor Garrus gave himself an aneurysm.  Can that even happen to turians anyway?”  She shrugged, “at least it means I get to spare that poor little shop girl having to deal with indecisive turians.”

“Why thank you Kasumi.  You truly have my best interest at heart,” Garrus drawled. “Now just what did you mean by ‘over thinking’?  I’m trying to find something for Shepard…”

“….and completely overthinking it,” the thief finished for him. “I know, I’ve been watching you since you walked in here.  Like the nice lady you were talking to said, Valentines Day is more about the emotions than the gifts itself.  Believe me, as long as you try Shepard is going to love whatever you get her.”

“I know that,” Garrus said patiently. “But I want to get her something perfect. Something that she’ll love no matter what, not just because it’s a sentimental gift for her.”

“You never do anything halfway, do you Vakarian?” The comment came from Oraka.  Garrus chose to ignore it.

Kasumi sighed slightly. “Okay, fine, you’re one of those guys that has to make everything perfect for Valentines.  I get it.  Just…what’s with all this ‘traditional’ stuff?  I mean it’s sweet and all but you seem just a tad stuck on it.”

Garrus gave the human a blank look. “But it’s Valentines.  I wanted to make it something that Shepard would..”

“Uh, Garrus?” Kasumi shook her head, “You’re a sweetheart and all, but this is Shepard.  She’s dating a turian. I don’t think traditional is exactly a word that would be used to describe her.”

“Her service record hasn’t been remotely traditional either,” Oraka said from his post.  “I believe stealing an entire ship only to return and just in time to save the council would be considered just a bit irregular.”

“All right, all right, I get it.” He glanced around nervously at the humans, some of whom were looking at their odd little group curiously. “Do you have anything like, I don’t know, actual suggestions or are you just here to mock me?”

“Touchy,” Kasumi all but sang teasingly. “If you keep that up then I won’t give you any advice at all.”

“I could point out that I’ll owe you if you do help,” he said, although he was fairly sure that the thief would have helped anyway. He just didn’t want to take the chance.  Not with this.

“You really are the desperate, aren’t you?” Oraka said and Garrus growled in reply.

“Aww, how can I say ‘no’ to you when you’re like this?”  Kasumi grinned at him. “So, let’s ignore all this traditional stuff.  What do you know Shepard likes?  And no,” she added quickly, “gun mods don’t count.”

Garrus didn’t even have to think about the answer to that. “Her ship models,” he said, “She’s always messing with them when she’s off duty.  They had to move her old ones when they retrofitted the ship and she dragged me all over the Normandy so I could help her find out what they did with them.”  

“For some reason that’s not the first image that comes to mind when I think of the great Commander Shepard,” Oraka said. “Although the thought of the galaxy’s greatest hero fiddling with tiny model ships is rather amusing. Perhaps I’ll bring it up the next time I see her.”  

“Please don’t,” Garrus said quickly at the exact moment Kasumi spoke up.

“I remember those things!  She was obsessed with them, and always had to buy a new one whenever we docked.”

“She hasn’t gotten any better,” he had to admit. “She’s still buying every new one she can.  I think she even has a Reaper model for some reason the spirits only know.”  Garrus shook his head. “It’s either messing with her models or her fish when she’s off duty.”

“Fish?” Oraka said.

“You mean she’s still killing fish?” Kasumi sounded surprised. “Or has she gotten better about the whole fish death count thing?”

“She got a VI for her aquarium,” Garrus admitted. “That seemed to have helped. A lot.  She adores the fish, and that space hamster of hers.”

“Okay, fish and model ships,” Kasumi said and laughed. “Okay, now, I think I have an idea of where we can start.” Then she held up a finger. “Just one question first.  Why won’t you get her chocolates? I don’t remember Shepard having anything against chocolate the last time I ran into her.”

“That’s..” he fiddled with his claws for a moment. “There was someone I helped a few years back, a doctor named Chloe Michel. She turned up with a box of chocolates the other day and..”

“Oh, so that’s what Tali was talking about,” Kasumi was grinning. “Seriously, you’re actually worried about something like that?”

He looked at the thief in confusion. When had she had time to talk to Tali? “But I took them.  I didn’t know chocolates had romantic significance to humans. I wouldn’t have touched them if I had known! I don’t want Shepard to…”

“Okay, look, did Shepard even say anything about it?” Kasumi crossed her arms. “Because somehow I can’t see her as being petty enough to worry about something like that.  It’s really not that important.  Friends give each other chocolates all the time. It doesn’t mean anything at all.”

“Ah, no, she hasn’t brought it up at all,” he was forced to admit.  Look back now, he remember her giving him a searching look when he handed the chocolates over to Tali, but nothing beyond that.  Maybe getting rid of them had helped a bit.  Or maybe Kasumi was right and he was just overthinking things.  Again.

“Then stop worrying about it,” the thief said. Then she clapped her hands together and looked gleeful. “Now, let’s get started!”

~*~*~**~

Hours later, Garrus stood in Shepard’s apartment, adjusting the placement of flowers in the dinner setting he had just finished carefully putting together.  This has been partially Oraka’s idea, although Kasumi had backed him up in the end.  The older turian had suggested taking Shepard out to dinner if he really wanted to be romantic.  The way Oraka had gone all wistful had as he talked about it made Garrus wonder if it was something the General had been planning for the consort before well…before everything had happened.  He had very carefully decided not to ask about that, but said that he would consider the possibility.  Kasumi had even said it might be a good idea.  Apparently it was another popular thing to do on Valentines Day.

He had actually thought about taking Shepard to a nice restaurant for once.  Dropping either of their names would likely get him a table at even the most high-end places on the Presidium at short notice, but he didn’t want to do that.   Both of them going to dinner would attract a lot more attention than he wanted at the moment.  Besides, he didn’t feel like putting on a lot of fancy clothing and being noticed tonight.  He wanted tonight to just be about him and Shepard.  The two of them having a few peaceful moments alone together in the middle of this war.  Moments like that were in very short supply at the moment.  Between their duties, and Shepard’s position as the forefront of the war, they sometimes didn’t even get to spend any time together.

So he had decided that they would eat in tonight.  Make it a romantic home cooked dinner.  Only to then realize that he was only a barely tolerable cook at best, and knew absolutely nothing about how to cook levo food.  The chances of even someone as skilled as he was being able to master cooking food he couldn’t even digest in a few hours was slim to none, and since he didn’t want to mess this up, he had swallowed his pride and ordered levo food for her.

At least he could make his part of the meal himself.  It didn’t matter if that was anything fancy.  Shepard wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

Once the food had come, he had ran into another problem.  The dining table didn’t have any chairs.  Or at least he assumed the table off to the side of the kitchen was supposed to be a dinning table. At least it was in a place where you would expect the dining table to be.  There was just a distinct lack of chairs and a model ship in the center of it (that Shepard had stubbornly insisted she didn’t put there) that said Anderson may have been using it more as a conference table than for it’s intended purpose.   Fine, he would improvise then.  The coffee table in the middle of the great room worked just as well.  It was even kind of cozy with the view of the fireplace and all.

He had changed into out of his armor and into regular clothing before the food had arrived.   Since then he had been busy making everything was perfectly arranged around the beautifully wrapped presents sitting in the middle of the table (The wrapping was something Kasumi had been forced to help with as well).    After a last check, he adjusted a single flower then stepped back to check the effect, just as the door to the apartment switched open.

“Shepard,” he purred as his lover walked through inside. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself,” she smiled tiredly and walked over to him.  He couldn’t resist grabbing her once she was close enough and leaned down to press their foreheads together. “What’s the big rush?” she asked. “You sounded pretty excited when you asked if you could meet me here.”

“Ah yeah, over here,” he tugged her the last few feet until they were around the couch and then he stepped aside with a flourish of his arm. “Happy Valentines Day, Shepard.”   He waited expectantly watching her face.

His heart fell when he realized there was nothing but confusion there.  Maybe a little confusion mixed in there but it was far, far from the normal reaction. “You don’t like it do you?  Crap, was this too soon?” he said suddenly realizing that something this extravagant on a human holiday devoted to romance might imply more than what Shepard was comfortable with.  “Look, if it’s too much just don’t worry about it.  It’s my fault, I should have done more research…” he was starting to babble and shift uncomfortably. Not quiet pacing yet, but it was coming.  This was stupid, he should have put more thought into this and not risked alienating the one person in the galaxy that meant this much to him.  

Shepard raised a hand and cut off his flow of words “Wait.” She said at last. “Valentines Day. That’s what you said, right?””

“Uh, yeah?” he said uncertainly, unsure what direction she was heading in. “Why are you even asking?”

She appeared to be only half listening to him and ran a hand through her hair. “Crap. I didn’t know that was today!”

“Wait, you didn’t know?” He asked as she brought up her omni-tool to check the date.

“I just said I didn’t,” she said as she shook her head and looked up at him. “I’ve been so busy running around for every damn politician in the galaxy that I lost track of the exact date.”  She sighed and dropped her arm. “It explains why everyone was so…bouncy up in the Presidium today.  I just didn’t think that you would have been affected too.”

“But I thought you knew,” Garrus couldn’t help blurting out. “Joker said that you’d arranged for the Normandy to be in dock on Valentines Day because it was such an important human holiday and that meant you were planning something or hope that I would be planning something…” he trailed off suddenly realizing how stupid that sounded.

“Garrus,” Shepard said and raised an eyebrow at him, “you were actually listening to Joker on this? You realize that he was the one who said we need more supplies right?  I just said to head over to the Citadel as soon as possible.”

“Okay, maybe that wasn’t my brightest moment,” Garrus admitted and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “I did do research on my own but..okay, yeah, that was stupid.  We can forget all about this if you want.  I just wanted…” he couldn’t figure out how to voice the rest.  Wanted to give her a chance to relax.  Wanted to show how much she meant to him.  It just sounded…sappy.  Weak.

She just shook her head and too a step closer to him, her hand coming up to rest on his cheek.  “I never said I didn’t like it, Garrus,” she said fondly. “Hell, I didn’t even know turians did Valentines Day.”

“We ah, mostly, don’t,” he admitted as he leaned into her touch. The feeling of her soft, slightly cooler, human skin against his place was a delicious sensation every time she laid a hand on him. “I just heard someone talking about it, and looked it up after Joker mentioned it.  Just to confirm things.”

“So, you went thought all that trouble over a holiday you don’t even normally celebrate.”  Shepard smile then, that softer smile that he was sure very few people ever had the privilege of seeing. “That’s probably one of the sweeter things anyone has ever done for me.”

“Hey,” he said and reached up to cover her hand for a moment. “Joker got one thing right, at least.  You do deserve something like this.”  Before she could respond to that, he pulled her hand away, still keeping his around it, and tugged her toward the couch.  “So on that note, why don’t you just enjoy it.”

“All right, all right,” she laughed, letting herself be pulled for once.  He sat down next to her when they reached the couch.  She looked at the spread on the table in front of them and shook her head.

“You really set all this up by yourself?”

“Hey, it’s our first Valentines Day, and you’re more than worth it,” he said flaring a grin at her.  At the knowing look and half smile she gave him, he sighed. “Kasumi may have helped with a bit of it.  But just a tiny bit.”

“Why am I not surprised Kasumi is involved in this somehow?”  Shepard chuckled and reached out to grab one of the packages off the table.  “She always did have a talent for finding gossip or other embarrassing personal stories.  Still, I suppose I should to thank her.”   Garrus watched as she turned the package around her hands before looking at him. “Can I..?” she sounded almost childishly eager, and that caught him off guard.  ‘Childish’ was the last word you would think would be associated with the great Commander Shepard.  Somehow he felt privileged that she could relax enough around him to show that part of herself.

“It does belong to you,” he drawled and settled back. “Unless of course you want to eat first…” the sound of ripping paper was all the answer he needed.  “Or you know, we could not.”

There was a moment of silence, then laughter came from the woman seated next to him.  She shook her head then raised the package at him.  “Fish, really?”

“They’re chocolates.”

Fish chocolates!”

“Fish-shaped chocolates,” he grumbled only then noticing the teasing grin. “But you knew that, didn’t you.”

“I’m just surprised you found any like this,” she said as she looked over the box. “And fish?  What possessed you to get me fish chocolates?” She was still smiling though so Garrus allowed himself to relax.

“Oh I don’t know….I just felt like it.  It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with your obsession over the aquarium in your quarters.  It’s not like I noticed that you come back with a new fish every time we dock, or anything.”

“Laugh all you want Vakarian,” she said and hit him lightly on the arm. “I noticed you never tried to stop me.”  She put the chocolate on the seat next to her and reached for the other package.

“That’s because I’m not insane. Even I know better than to deny Commander Shepard anything.”   That caused her to flash him a grin before she opened her other present.  “That’s a hanar diplomatic vessel,” he said nervously as she held the box. “I wasn’t sure if there was a specific type of model you were collecting, and you seemed to buy anything you came across so I wasn’t sure if you wanted…”

Her lips touched his mandible.  He stopped talking.  “Relax, Garrus.  I like it just fine.”

“I, ah, thought you might,” he rumbled as he relaxed again. “Those ships of yours are the only things you seem to love more than your fish.  Besides me, of course.”

“Of course,” she chuckled. “You have an awfully high opinion of yourself, don’t you Vakarian?”

“Only because I know I’m right.”

That brought out a quiet chuckle.  “Can’t really argue with that, even though it will give you a swelled head.”  She leaned against his shoulder, and he couldn’t resist putting an around her as he buried his nose in her hair.  He adored her scent.  “Still,” she continued, “it makes me guilty that I forgot about today.  Now I don’t have a present for you.”

“Shepard,” he rumbled letting his voice drop into the lower registers he knew she loved, “don’t.  I don’t want you to feel guilty or even think about anyone but yourself tonight.  You spend all your time worrying about everyone else.  Just let me worry about pampering you tonight.”

She still for a moment then turned, so quick he barely ever saw her move, and then her lips were against his.  When she finally broke the kiss he found himself staring into her eyes. “Trying to earn the ‘best boyfriend in the galaxy’ award, Vakarain?”

”What you mean I don’t already have that?  I must be slipping.” He tried to pull her back to him, but she twisted, and suddenly he found her on his lap, straddling his hips. “Shepard,” he said softly, letting his hands settling on that amazing waist of hers.  

“You know,” she said heavily, leaning forward to brush her lips over his mandible. “It occurred tome that even if I don’t have a present, there’s still something I can give you. Something very..memorable.”

She dragged the last word out in a tone that made him shudder, and was pressing against him in such a way that it was making it hard for him to even think clearly.  “Uh, Shepard, not that I would disagree with that at all but uh, I made dinner..”

“It can wait,” she said huskily, and then she was kissing him again. He found that he agreed with that statement.  Besides, like he had said, it was nearly impossible for him to deny Shepard anything. Especially in cases like this when he couldn’t figure out why he should stop it.

His last thought before he gave up thinking about anything but Shepard was that Joker might have been right in a way.  Even if the pilot had mean it as a well, a joke, it did mean something to some humans.  

And Garrus was pretty sure that somehow, he had managed to master this whole Valentine’s Day thing.
Oh god I got this done in time. This is my entry for the #ME-Xenophiles contest for comedic romance.
Yes, I know it's too late for Valentine's Day and White Day. I do not care.

Writing comedy is hard. Or at least it is for me when I'm trying to do it intentionally. This is actually the third idea I had for this contest. The first idea I was working on ended up being more drama than comedy, and the second idea I thought about using was more comedy than romance. So I ended up with this fic, which I originally wanted to get done for Valentine's Day but never finished.
I actually started this a couple of times, and cut out chunks of it because I wanted to make the story flow better. I'm happy with the way it turned out in the end.

~*~*
Blah, blah Mass Effect does not belong to me.
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A/N: This chapter's rather long by my general standards so I hope that makes up for the long wait. I've subscribed to theory presented by Greenmamba5 that turians have a subharmonic range used for a secondary communication which is denoted in italics in their conversation.


CHAPTER 19: BREAKFAST

Garrus let out a low growl of frustration as his hand slid down and away from the door. He turned to call the elevator and as the doors slid open he mentally went over what he planned for the day: breakfast with Solana, talk to Chakwas and maybe, if he was lucky, he could nail a few minutes with Anderson. He stepped off the elevator and turned toward the direction of the Crew's Quarters. He had a few minutes before he had to get ready to meet Solana and, knowing her, she would probably be late anyway. The doors slid open and his Turian nose immediately picked up the scent of booze, sweat and the stench of vomit. Apparently, the rest of the crew had continued the party after coming back from Purgatory. The hour was still early enough that most of them were taking advantage of the later-than-usual report time, sprawled out amongst the bunks and floor. Scanning the room for the doctor, he picked her out amongst the mess of humans in the room. She was examining one of the crewmen who was half hanging off a bunk.

"Doctor?"

Recognizing the familiar flange, she didn't look up as she reviewed the final scan of her patient on her omni-tool.

"Garrus," she replied evenly, absently nodding at the information the scan provided and closing the omni-tool.

"Do you have a minute?" he asked her hesitantly.

She rose, gathering her instruments and turning to face him.

"When will they learn?" she tsk'd in annoyance. "Yes, Garrus I have a few minutes. This lot won't be up for a while. Thankfully, none of them did anything stupid last night. They're going to all have a hell of a hangover though," she finished, shaking her head.

He looked around the room, scanning the snoring, grunting bunch, satisfied that none of them would ever repeat this conversation. He studied the doctor, trying to decide where to begin.

"Shepard told me what happened to her during her trial," he said bluntly, watching her face carefully for any reaction.

She blinked and crossed her arms.

"I see," she said simply, her face unreadable even by human standards.

The expertise of her profession had perfected her ability to mask her thoughts. He waited to see if she would say anything further, a frustrated growl building within him when he realized that she was waiting for him to continue. This conversation wasn't going to be an easy one.

"What happened to her?"

"Why would you think that I know what happened to her?" she shot back.

"Because you're human and Alliance. You've also known Shepard longer than any of us," he returned, thinking quickly.

Chakwas mulled that answer over for a second.

"Okay, but why not ask her? Why ask me?" She paused. "Unless….you don't want to her to know that you're asking," she concluded, locking eyes with him.

It was his turn to blink and cross his arms. Luckily for him, turian facial structure didn't leave much room for nuanced emotion. After serving with humans for so long, he had learned quickly that what someone said was not always necessarily what they were thinking. Turians' equivalent to this was in their subvocal range, which was as common as speaking among their species but generally outside of the human hearing range. He used this to his advantage now, unwilling to give the Doctor any more information than necessary.

Seeing that he wasn't going to say anything more, she stared blankly at him, her mind chewing on a variety of answers to give him. Finally, she decided on the most diplomatic and benign approach.  

"Alright," she said smoothly, "what exactly did she tell you and when was this?"

"Over drinks…last night….at Ted's," he replied, streamlining the explanation. "She said that she never completed her court martial because she blacked out in the middle of it."

"Is that all she said?"

"Yes," he admitted with a low growl, his frustration becoming apparent. He was still reluctant to tell her about the vid he'd seen. The last thing he wanted was for Shepard to find out he was doing his own research.

"Garrus, Alliance regulations prevent me from discussing anything related to the Commander's health with anyone unless they are also medically responsible for her as well. Since you are not, I'm sorry I cannot answer your questions," she said firmly, but the look in her eyes said something else entirely.

He said nothing, studying her face, trying to decipher what she was trying to tell him.

"I understand, Doctor. I'll let you get back to the crew," he said, conceding and turning toward the door.

He paused as the doors slid shut behind him, turning over the words she said over in his mind. She was trying to tell him something, he knew that for sure – but what? Slowly, he began to make his way to the Main Battery. As he rounded the corner of the Mess, he noticed that the conversation level of the few crew members seated at the tables had fallen into low murmurs and whispers. They all had heard the rumors about Shepard and Vakarian but none of them really paid that much attention until now. Not only had the turian not come from his usual Battery but he was also dressed in civilian clothing, an extreme rarity for Garrus, who preferred his armor above anything else. The situation looked very suspicious, especially given the early hour. His thinking slowed his pace when he noticed a movement from the Med Bay window out of the corner of his eye. He looked over confused for second since he had just talked to Chakwas in the Crew quarters but quickly realized that it was Mordin moving around in the lab.

As he watched the salarian work, he stopped, staring at the scientist. The turning pieces of information that preoccupied his walk gently clicked into place as realization dawned and his eyes grew wide.

Mordin.

~~~
 
Sera sighed softly, slowly pulling her hand away from the door, knowing that he wasn't coming back. She carefully walked down the steps toward the drawers that held her clothes and chose an appropriate outfit to wear. Given what the plans were for the day, she decided that her Alliance uniform was the best choice. She saw the time on the clock next to her bed and panicked, realizing that she needed to get moving or she was going to be very late and her mother would voice her disapproval. Approving her reflection in the mirror, she decided to put her hair up in a loose bun, leaving a few strands down to frame her face. A touch of make-up accentuated her sapphire blue eyes but the natural flush of her cheeks and lips were enough on their own.

As she rode the elevator the CIC, she clicked open her omni-tool, pulling up the information Traynor had sent about the florist. Searching for the right arrangement, she quickly thumbed through the images finally settling on small bouquet of calla lilies. They were rather expensive since Earth flowers were rather hard to come by but, for her father, the cost was unimportant. She placed the order as the elevators slid open and the chatter from the random crew members enjoying their final hours of shore leave greeted her. She smiled at them making her way to the airlock, absently noticing that Joker was not in the cockpit.

"EDI?"

[Yes, Commander?]

"Where's Joker?"

[Joker is 'sleeping it off.']

Shepard came to an abrupt halt.

"What?!"

[Joker became quite inebriated last night, Commander. I had to carry him back to the ship.]

Shepard held back a laugh and raised an eyebrow at EDI's explanation, waiting for her to continue.

[By the time we arrived, he had sufficiently expelled the alcohol from his system and has been sleeping ever since.]

"Are you okay, EDI?"

[Yes, Shepard, I am functional. I have cleaned the vomit from my mobile platform and it is currently being sterilized.]
Unable to hold back any longer, she barked out a laugh and chuckled as she imagined the sight of Joker throwing up on EDI as she carried him back to the Normandy. It must've been one hell of a party she missed out on.

[Commander?]

"Yes, EDI?" Sera replied through her laughter.

[What is so funny?]

"Nothing, EDI. Just remind me to tell you about it some other time. I'm kind of in a hurry at the moment," Shepard explained, collecting herself and doubling her pace to the airlock.

[Noted, Commander. Do you require anything else?]

"Uhmmm… no, not right now. Just make sure that everyone reports in and notify me if anyone's missing."

[Yes, Commander.]

~~~

After catching a transport, Shepard walked through the doors of the Phoenix restaurant once more. It certainly wasn't as she remembered it from the night before. The dark intimate ambiance was now replaced with an open, glowing airiness that still maintained the elegance that it exuded during its night cycle. The wait staff was now dressed in stark white, fashion forward uniforms and the early morning, urgent chatter of diplomats, politicians and high ranking military personnel filled the air. Sera quickly scanned the sea of tables, looking for her mother and Anderson. Spotting them near the back of the restaurant, she made her way toward the table, sitting with a small huff.

"Nice of you to join us," her mother greeted her drily.

Sera eyeballed her mother, biting her tongue as a turian waitress approached the table. She ordered a cup of coffee and then contemplated the plethora of offerings on the menu in silence. It was quite extensive, given all the races that occupied the Citadel, and there was a section for each one. After reviewing the menu and making her choice, she put the menu aside and sat back in her chair. She stared at her mother, absently chewing on a nail, trying to decide how to confront her about the events of last night.

"What, did I grow a third eye or something?" Hannah baited her daughter with a smirk.

Sera's brow furrowed and her eyes lit up with a fierce indignant blue flame.

"No, I just want to know what you thought you were doing last night," she said bluntly, confronting her mother.

"What do you mean? I didn't do anything that shouldn't have been done," Hannah shot back, meeting her daughter head-on.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sera challenged, not ready to back down.

"Really, Sera, do I need to draw you a map? It's so simple. The feelings you have for each other are more than obvious. All you needed was a push in the right direction."

"Push? More like a shove..." Sera retorted.

Hannah shrugged her shoulders while Anderson chuckled at the unfolding exchange between mother and daughter.

"Push…shove…six of one and half a dozen of another. Someone had to do it and it certainly wasn't going to be you!"

Sera glared at her mother and huffed crossing her arms over her chest, silently admitting defeat.

The turian waitress appeared again with the coffee Sera ordered and took her breakfast order. Once she left the table, Hannah took the opportunity to speak first.

"So, what happened last night?" she asked with a hopeful yet mischievous glint in her eye.

"Not what you're thinking," Sera snorted and then sighed, knowing that her mother wasn't going to let up until she got a satisfactory answer.  

"Damn," Hannah swore as Anderson barked out a laugh.

That got Sera to smile and she told them about the brief conversation she and Garrus had which led to a truce of sorts between them. Then she told them about the games of the pool and the two new holes in the Ted's wall. Hannah and Anderson promptly burst out laughing, causing a few of the patrons to turn heads and stare at the loud outburst.

"Oh yes, he's never going to live that down," Sera promised with an impish grin.

Once their chuckling had subsided, Anderson cleared his throat and took a sip of his coffee.

"Now that things have settled between you, are you going to tell him?" he asked cautiously.

"Yes," Sera said simply, "he knows that I need a little more time and he's willing to wait. Not only do I want to wait for the right time, I want to pull the data from the facility and read it myself."

"Are you sure you want to do that, Sera? I don't know if that's such a good idea," Hannah replied, looking at her daughter, worry and concern etched into her face.

"Why not? They're my records and I want to know all the details. The Dalatrass already blindsided me once. I'm sure as hell not letting that happen again," Sera said fiercely.

"That's my girl," Hannah said proudly.

~~~
Talking to Mordin was going to have to wait since he had spent whatever spare time he had talking to Chakwas.

Damn.

He turned and headed for the Battery for a quick change of clothes before heading out to meet Solana. After changing, he paused at the console and did a quick check of the calibrations he ran on a nightly cycle. Satisfied with the results, he called up his private messaging account. A quick search found the messages he had sent to Shepard all those months ago. He couldn't bring himself to permanently delete them then and now he was happy that he didn't.

There were only three messages, but the lack of response between each one had discouraged him from writing any more. He had had no idea what would happen to Sera when it came time for her to turn herself into the Alliance. As a turian, he more than understood the concepts of honor and justice, but knowing what she done for the galaxy, the consequences she faced went against the very grain of his turian spirit. He couldn't be sure if she wasn't responding because she didn't want to or because she had no choice. Now that he knew that it was latter rather than the former, he sent them to her again with a renewed yet reserved hope for their relationship, however it might turn out. In a few quick strokes they were gone and he left the Battery before he could reconsider anything.

~~~

A little while later, Garrus walked through the doors of the Phoenix restaurant and scanned the tables for his sister. Much to his chagrin, she was nowhere to be found. He knew that she was going to be late and didn't know why he bothered to try to be on time. He selected a table near the entrance and off to the side and settled himself into a chair. A young, pretty turian waitress approached the table with a menu.

"Good morning, sir," she purred, "would you like something to drink?"

He blinked; was she hitting on him? He couldn't be sure; it had been so long since he'd paid attention to any turian female.

"Uhmmmm… yes," he said roughly, "coffee, please."

"Of course," she replied, her tongue elongating the last syllable and her undertones trilling something he hadn't heard in a very long time.

Was that? Did she just….? Yes, she did, you idiot! That female just came on to you! Moron!

He sat back in his chair and watched her saunter away from the table. He cocked his head slightly to the left, giving her retreating form a once over, his gaze lingering on her waist. Suddenly, his view was obstructed by vibrant purple hue. He blinked and focused as he raised his eyes to meet a familiar ice blue pair.

"Brother," she said simply, her undertones trilling her disgust at his open gawking. Horny.

"Sol," he replied, "late as usual. Did you get your morning lay?"

"Yes, yes, I did," she said smugly, making herself comfortable in the opposite chair.

"How is Chellick these days?" Garrus hummed.

"Overwhelmed, stressed out trying to figure out what to do with all the incoming refugees," she said, her undertones laced with worry.

"Must've been a long night for you two then," he chided, I win.

"It was. We barely slept at all," she gloated, Fuck off. "At least I don't have to resort to leering because I can't remember the last time I got laid."

That one hurt and she saw it when his mandibles tightened against his jaw. She had crossed that invisible line. The unspoken one that said she had gone too far. She looked down at the table.

"Sorry," she said softly, her undertones reinforcing her apology.

He clicked his acceptance of her apology with a slight nod.

"Contrary to your belief, Sol, I do remember the last time and there's a reason why it's been that long," he began, finally telling his sister the whole truth. There was no sense in keeping it from her now. He knew that he had a made a promise to Shepard, but since she had told Liara, he didn't see the harm in telling his sister. Considering the chaos the galaxy was in, he didn't know when he would see her again anyway. "Do you remember when I came to visit you and Mom at Helos and told you about the Suicide Mission with Shepard?"

She nodded, recalling his surprise visit and how happy they were that he was alive. She also remembered their shock at his face. Looking at it now, she briefly wondered why he had never fixed the scars or his clan mark.

"Well," he paused, "there was something else that I didn't tell you."

Now she looked at him, her eyes glittering with curiosity. The turian waitress suddenly appeared between them, setting his requested cup of coffee on table. Sol asked her for the same and ordered something akin to an omelet with a heavily spiced meat filling. Garrus ordered the same but with a side of dough-like bread and a gel-like syrup. The waitress gave a curt nod at Solana and flared her mandibles suggestively at Garrus before leaving their table.

Sol clicked her disgust again, Whore.

Garrus chuckled, "A female hits on me and you think she's a whore. Am I that bad?"

"No, you're not. She doesn't have to throw herself at you though," she said. Some class would be nice. "Anyway, you were saying?"

He nodded, accepting what she said and cleared his throat before continuing the conversation.

"Shepard and I were uhmmm…" He struggled to think of what to call their current relationship. "…together," he finished weakly.

"Together?" she blinked.

Mated, he huffed. He should've known better than to use a human term.

"What?!?" she squeaked in surprise. Sol knew her brother but apparently not as well as she thought.

He simply nodded, confirming what he said and its implications. He braced himself for the coming onslaught of questions.

Sol was silent for a few minutes as what he said sank in and the implications began to unfold. There were a lot of questions she wanted to ask – what did it feel like, was it everything that others said, were human females the same as turian females, was this a phase, did he have a fetish now? She sat back in her chair and looked at her brother, suddenly seeing him in a new light. For as long as she could remember, he was just her brother. He cared for, protected, defended, harassed, pranked, fought with, picked on and most of all loved her. Now, they were adults with their own lives, rarely talking anymore except via messages or omni-tool calls. Had things changed so much? When did they grow up? Her mandibles slowly flared into a turian grin as she realized that those questions didn't matter.

Garrus quirked a brow plate at her silence. He picked up the hum in her subvocals as she mulled over what he just said and, though nearly imperceptible, the tiny movements in her features. He was fully prepared to answer her questions to a point. However, her silence mildly surprised him, so he slowly drank his coffee and waited.

"I'm happy for you," she said simply.

"Wait," he coughed on his coffee, "what??"

"I'm happy for you," she repeated, "are you still 'together'?" she asked, trying to use the human term correctly.

"Where are the questions? I know you; the questions should be pouring out of you like data-starved salarian. I mean I appreciate that you're happy for me, although that might be a little premature right now but come on, we both know you better than that, Sol…"

"You're right," she conceded, "I do have questions but I just realized that none of them matter. What do you mean 'premature'?"

"Things are … complicated at the moment," he vaguely explained, "but hopefully not for much longer. She's nothing like any other female I've ever known, Sol."

"Well, I hope it works out for you both. I can't think of anyone who deserves it more," she said sincerely. "I do have one question though. What about the chirality? Isn't that dangerous or are you both non-allergic?"

"Well," he started, "I was tested when I became part of the Normandy crew under Cerberus. Chakwas, the ship's doctor, insisted that everyone have a full medical work-up. She wanted no surprises. My allergy levels tested extremely low so that it wasn't concern for me. When things became serious between Shepard and me, Mordin tested Shepard. She never told me the results but I have to think that they weren't a concern considering what happened."

"Mordin?"

"Mordin Solus. He's a salarian scientist that we picked up on Omega. He was running a clinic and working a cure for a local plague," Garrus explained, giving her a quick bio.

"Did he work for STG?" she asked, recognizing the name.

"Yeah," he said slowly, "how did you know that?"

"He said that he recognized our family name and introduced himself. He said that I should be extremely grateful to have such a brother," she said, puzzled. "What did he mean, Garrus?"

"Uhmmm." Garrus cleared his throat. "Well, I may have sent them some Collector tissue samples they needed for their research from that suicide mission."

Solana's eyes grew wide and her mandibles hung slack from her jaws in surprise.

"You did what!!?" she yelped, Idiot! Mom will kill you!

"You better not tell her!" he snarled. "She doesn't need any more stress."

Solana knew he was right and said nothing more for a minute until she remembered.

"Garrus, I gave you so much crap about leaving me alone to take care of Mom. I wasn't alone, was I?" she said softly.

"Don't worry about it, Sol," he grunted. "I deserved some of that anyway. It's in the past, leave it there. So, where did you meet Mordin?" he asked, moving the conversation along.

"A couple months after you left for Palaven, Mom was improving at Helos and he recommended another medical research facility that was more specialized that could better maintain her treatments while conducting research. So, when she was stable enough to move, we transferred her there."

"Why didn't you tell me this before now?" he accused. How could you?

The turian waitress appeared once more setting their respective orders on the table. The siblings fell into an uncomfortable silence as the waitress placed everything before them and refilled their cups.

"Is there anything else you'd like?" she asked both of them, but only looking at Garrus.

"No thanks," hissed Sol. Back off!

The startled waitress nearly dropped her tray and stared at Solana, who only glared back. She shrank away from the table, leaving the two siblings alone once more. Solana could feel her brother's glare burning into her and composed herself to continue the conversation.

"Garrus, I'm sorry," she apologized, "things moved quickly and you were trying to get the Hierarchy to listen to you about the Reapers. I thought maybe Dad might have told you."

"Well, he didn't," Garrus growled, frustrated that his own family couldn't communicate with him. "So, what is the new facility that she's at now?"

"Actually it's on old Salarian Research Complex. They opened its use to all of the Council races. It's now an inter-galactic medical research headquarters of sorts. All of the top medical minds from across the galaxy collaborate their work for the benefit of each other. It's called Chimera."

"I see. Is it helping? How is mom doing?"

"She's doing quite well, all things considered. Moving her there was the best decision. They've been able to stall the degradation and she's much happier. They don't know if it's permanent or temporary but either way it gives them time to do more research," she paused for a moment. "Dad really didn't tell you anything?"

"No," he grumbled, "he didn't. Probably because we were too busy trying to the get the Hierarchy to pay attention. After he finally got the Primarch to listen, it still took a good amount of persuading and negotiating to get what resources he would give us, and even that wasn't enough." Idiots

They descended into a brooding silence as they finished their breakfast. Both worried about the war, knowing whatever the outcome, the galaxy would never be the same. Solana was proud that her brother was part of Shepard's crew, playing such a pivotal role in the survival of the galaxy. She silently prayed to the Spirits that they would all live to see the end of it. Garrus watched the worry gather in his sister's eyes and decided to change the subject.

"So now that Mom is well taken care of, what are you going to do?" he asked in between bites.

Solana quirked a brow at her brother, noting that he was trying to divert her attention, still trying to take care of her.

"Well, I finalized the paperwork already for Chimera. I was thinking that I would help with the research, since I already have medical training, and keep an eye on Mom, but after talking to Chell, I'm not so sure about that now…" she trailed off uncertainly.

"What did Chellick say?"

"There are so many injured soldiers and civilians flooding into the Citadel and the hospital is beginning to overflow with patients. I think it would be better if I stayed here to help where I can."

Garrus thought about her suggestion for a minute as he finished his coffee. He couldn't find anything wrong with what she was proposing. The Citadel itself was pretty removed from where the real fighting was taking place and he was relieved that she hadn't thought about going back to Palaven. Chellick would definitely protect her and keep her safe. Their mother was in good hands and, if something went wrong, Solana would have a multitude of ways to get to her as quickly as possible if needed.

"I think that's a very good idea," he nodded, "when are you going to start?"

"As soon as I get the things Mom needs…" Sol began.

Garrus didn't hear the rest of what she said, his focus shifting to a familiar trio of Alliance uniforms exiting the restaurant behind her. How could he have not seen them when he entered? Solana noticed her brother's attention shift and followed his line of sight.

"Isn't that…" she started.

"Shepard," he finished.
Good grief! :facepalm: Has is it been a month already!?? Crap! I can't believe it's been that long since posted 18. I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO sorry! Things have been... busy.. and uhmm...emotionally challenging these last couple of weeks to say the least. Anyway, I digress...my apologies.
Say hello to Solana Vakarian...and another glimpse at Chimera...Hope you all enjoy!

Sera and the Phoenix restaurant belong to me... the rest to Bioware.

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She’d gotten used to them - the headlights that constantly ran through the room from passing cabs, the random advertisements that illuminated depending on if it was day or night, even the odd sounds of a city surrounding her. It was amazing what a good set of blinds would do - although it did make it more difficult to spot attackers, from what Garrus and Zaeed had told her.

But something else was on her mind, and she wasn’t really sure how to share that with Garrus.

As soon as she’d returned from the doctor she’d leaned against the door, trying to steady herself as she tried to arrange her thoughts, trying to accept what he’d told her. She’d stayed that way until she heard the movement of her turian counterpart in the apartment and pushed herself into action - if she was busy it would hold off the inevitable...until she knew what to say...

For most of the afternoon she wandered about the apartment, slowly making it her own in little subtle ways as she cleaned. Changing the location for dishes or silverware in the kitchen, slowly swapping out the alcohol in the bar to things more suited to hers and Garrus’s tastes, changing the bed linens in the rooms to rich blues and reds instead of the stark black and white that Anderson had preferred. Soldier to the end, she thought as she folded the sheets and hid them away in the linen closet. Everywhere she went she seemed to have her own soundtrack playing, her omni-tool playing a constant stream of randomness that she’d loved, each difference showing her broadened love for multiple types of music. Through it all though, she felt distracted, like she was doing it on autopilot.

And that’s what finally caught Garrus’s attention.

She finally ‘settled’ in the kitchen to wash dishes - something that she enjoyed doing by hand instead of using the dish washer that Garrus had spent a good thirty minutes explaining how to make work. Her ears twitched slightly at the creaking of the couch, the gentle clack of sniper rifled pieces being placed on a glass table, both signs that Garrus was on the move. When she heard the sound of his clawed feet on the kitchen tile, she tilted her head slightly, just so he knew that she knew he was there, but kept her eyes down on the task at hand, her hands and wrists buried in soapy water. She heard a soft chuckle as Garrus moved up behind her, wrapping his arms around her midsection and pulling her back against his hard chest, “Is something wrong, Harley? Did you get bad news?” he murmured against her hair as he lowered his head so his mandibles barely brushed her shoulder. She stiffened slightly at his question, and she knew he was trying to catch her eye, but she kept staring at the sink, “No, nothing’s wrong,” she replied, shaking her head slightly as she tried to rearrange her thoughts.

“I don’t believe that sweetheart,” he replied in a gentle voice, shaking his head gently, “what happened? News you didn’t expect?”

News you didn’t expect....yeah...that’s one way to put it, she thought with an internal chuckle. Her mind went back to the hospital where Chakwas had set up shop until the next time the Normandy left the Citadel. With her help and a few doctors that were curious, they’d given Harley a full examination, trying to find the cause of her uncontrollable dizzy spells, her waves of nausea if she moved too quickly, her random wants to eat anything in front of her, yet two minutes later not want to touch a damn thing. Chakwas thought it was something the Illusive Man had done, something in the software that wasn’t reacting well to Harley going against his plans, for not following his orders.

News she hadn’t expected was an understatement.

“It...it turns out that when they rebuilt me they gave me some extra bits,” she started with a light chuckle, biting her bottom lip as she used a hand towel to dry off her hands. “But we knew that,” Garrus replied, leaning away from her as she shifted and turned to face him. “True, that we did. But Chakwas was able to fine tune what they’d done - apparently, to make me stronger and harder to kill then last time, they improved my body more then was originally thought. They...they made it so my body could...adapt? Is that the right word? Adapt? Anyway - my body apparently can change and shift to my surroundings, to what’s happening, so it’s easier to survive and heal,” she tried to explain, though it was starting to fall apart in her head, each word making even her confused. “Okay...but what does that mean now? How does this pertain to how you’ve been feeling the past few weeks?” he asked, leaning back against the island in the center of the kitchen, arching a face plate in an imitation of a raised eyebrow.

“It means...heh...,” she chuckled, her face heating and she knew she was blushing, raising her hand to run fingers through her curls, “that we’re going to find out what a turian-human baby looks like.”
While doing my chores the other day with my iPod playing, some of the music inspired this -- wouldn't the Illusive Man have made Shepard more resilient? Her body more acceptable to change so that he wouldn't have to rebuild her again if she died? What if that reflected on ALL of her? Including her lady bits?

And then this happened, lol

I do have a different version from Garrus's point of view...though not sure how it'd be taken.

Shepard/Garrus (c) Bioware
Harley Shepard personality (c) Me
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Love, Blood & Tears
Chapter 1:

*Note: Chapter 1 and 2 are more like an extended prologue than anything.  I cover a lot of ground in the first two chapters.  The story slows down after that.  The first two chapters basically cover little aspects that you need to know as the story progesses.  Please don't let the first two chapter deter you from reading on.  Thank you!

-----------------------------------------------

"I'm proud of you kid," said Anderson.  

"Just remember you were a human before you were a Spectre, you represent all of humanity with your actions," said Udina.  

"I won't let you down," said Shepard confidently.
  
Anderson stepping down and giving Shepard the Normandy? It didn't feel right to her.  Pushing papers wasn't his thing but he wanted to give her every chance to succeed in this mission.  She knew how much this meant to him and she wasn't going to let him down.  They had to stop Saren, a rogue turian Spectre, from bringing the Reapers back.  The Reapers were a threat to all life in the galaxy.  Last time they appeared, they wiped out an entire species known as the Protheans.  The crew was behind Commander Shepard 100% and failure wasn't an option for them.

It was now her ship to control and she already added three alien species to the Alliance crew; a quarian named Tali, a krogan named Wrex and a turian named Garrus.  This did not sit well with Ashley Williams, an Alliance crew member that Shepard had picked up on a previous mission.  Shepard ignored it – if Ashley didn't like it – she could transfer to a different crew.  Once abroad, Garrus got to work on the Mako, he wasn't considered social by any means.  He felt much more comfortable keeping to himself and doing calibrations.  

Shepard herself was not social by nature but she knew how important it was to get to know her crew and keep the morale up.  Garrus would be no exception.

"Thanks for bringing me on board Commander.  I knew working with a Spectre would be better than life at C-Sec," said Garrus.  They continued to talk about his work at C-Sec, among other things, and somehow his father was brought up.  

"My father was C-Sec, one of the best.  He's taken my resignation pretty hard.  Do things right or don't do them at all. He talked me out of becoming a Spectre when I was younger. The unlimited power, no accountability, he wouldn't like you Commander – no offense."

"None taken," smiled Shepard.  Garrus took notice of her eyes.  They were big and green.  He remembered once before when looking at her eyes though that they were brown.

"Shepard, your eyes."

"What?"

"They're green right now but I swore that they were brown."

She chuckled.  "My eyes are hazel.  They are a mixture of colors.  Sometimes they are more green than anything, other times more brown.  Depends on my mood I guess." She smiled.

"What's your mood right now?" he asked intrigued.

"Happy," she said as she laughed a little.  Her cheeks were turning red.  

"I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.  I was just curious."

"It's fine, you don't make me uncomfortable Garrus, not at all.  I've got to go check on the rest of the crew.  Talk to you later?"

"You know where to find me."

She had felt drawn to him since he came aboard. Her conversation with him only furthered her draw to him.  She found herself eager to talk to him any chance she had.  Garrus was also puzzled. Why does Shepard show so much interest in me? In a turian? Not that he minded.  He actually enjoyed his conversations with Shepard.  What is wrong with me? He never conversed this much with anyone and never thought that the first person he would open up to would be her of all people, his commanding officer, a Spectre. Well, back to calibrations…

Wrex was not so eager to open up to the commander but that didn't stop her from asking him questions, trying to get to know him better.  Although he did not deny giving her answers, his responses were short – to the point.

Tali was sweet and so excited to be part of the Normandy crew.  She was happy to answer any question Shepard threw at her.  As Tali talked, Shepard found her mind drifting to thoughts of how calibrations on the Mako were going….

*******

Therum was their first mission together.  They had to retrieve an asari doctor named Liara. Seeing Garrus in action, his sniping abilities, he was impressive.  Shepard was glad to have Garrus watch her back – he would be going on all missions with her from now on.  Shepard herself was impressive in battle.  Garrus watched her combat skills, her deadly aim, her lack of fear…she was amazing.  Her movements from cover to cover almost graceful.  Her long rich chocolate hair had red strands that shined in the sunlight.  She did her best to keep her hair back in a ponytail when on missions but it was slowly coming undone.  "Garrus!"  He snapped out of it. "Sniper in that tower! Get him!"  Garrus was focused again on the battle at hand, taking the sniper out with ease. What was that all about?! Keep your head focused. He continued to do what he was best at. "Scoped and dropped!"

They finally found Liara trapped in a force field down in a mining cave.  They freed her and just in time too – the cave was collapsing! "Go! Go! Go!" yelled Shepard.  They barely made it out of the cave in time.

"Great, another alien onboard," Ashley said under her breath.

"Do you have something to say Williams?" Shepard asked snidely.

"No ma'am."

"Good."

The crew finished their debriefing from the mission and were dismissed.
Shepard had enough of Ashley's remarks and attitude towards the alien crew members she had brought on board and she was determined to put an end it to.  She headed down a level to where Ashley was.  Garrus was under the Mako and Wrex was working on his armor – she figured both were distracted enough not to take notice of the lashing Shepard planned to unleash on Ashley.

"Do you have something you need to say to me Williams?"

"Ma'am?"

"You haven't exactly been trying to hide how you feel about the crew members I've brought on board. Speak your mind and let's be done with this!"

"I just don't think they should be able to have full access to the ship like they do.  We don't know if we can trust them."

"Why? Because they're not human? Is that why we can't trust them?"

"No…but, we don't know them and until we know more about them I just don't think it's a safe move."

"Oh I see….just like I brought you on board without knowing anything about you."

Garrus couldn't help but listen in on the conversation.  With his superior turian hearing – it wasn't really hard.  What he was hearing from Shepard, made him like her even more.

"Listen Williams, bottom line – this is my ship and I will run it how I see fit.  If you don't like it – then leave.  If you want to stay then I suggest you keep your mouth shut and don't ever question me again.  Understood?"

"Yes ma'am."

*******

With each passing mission, each conversation they had, Shepard found herself drawing closer to Garrus.  They had become the best of friends.  It came naturally and she felt so comfortable with him.  Shepard didn't deny the fact that she was attracted to him.  His eyes, his voice, his personality, his bad-ass sniping skills….she was very interested in him.  Problem was, Garrus showed no such interest in her.  She was flirty when she talked to him, could he not tell?  She didn't want to outright be bold about it because if he rejected her, she didn't want things to get awkward.  He had become her best friend; she didn't want to mess that up.  So instead, she had hoped that he would pick up on her subtle hints and return with a few subtle hints of his own.  That did not happen though.  Or maybe he did pick up on my hints and he doesn't feel that way and that's why he's not returning the favor. She wasn't going to push it.  She was just glad to have a friend in him.  Someone with who she could just be herself, Commander act aside.

Kaidan on the other hand, showed much interest in her.  She would flirt with him but she didn't really mean it.  It was harmless in her mind.  Why am I flirting at all? Is this an attempt to get a reaction out of Garrus? She felt bad knowing how much Kaiden liked her and knowing she could not return the favor.  She continued her playful banter with him anyways.  It was something to do to keep her mind of Garrus.  Kaidan was a nice enough guy.  Who knows, maybe if I try hard enough, I'll grow to like him instead of pining after a turian I can't have. A turian and a human being best friends? That was amazing in itself.  Her thoughts of having more were foolish and unrealistic.  She did her best to let it go.

Garrus respected Shepard very much.  He looked up to her, she made him better.  He loved being around her.  Her new founded relationship with Kaidan he was not so found of.  Kaidan was an alright soldier but he in no way held up to what he considered a worthy match for Shepard.  Although, he honestly couldn't think of anyone he considered worthy.  Maybe I'm just being an over-protective friend; I don't want to see Shepard get hurt. In any case, he'd be watching Kaidan very closely…

*******

Virmire had been a terrible mission.  Shepard had a painfully hard choice to make – save Ashley or save Kaidan.  She chose Kaidan.  Shepard took it hard, having to decide who to leave behind; she didn't like having to make those types of calls.  Alone in her quarters she broke down.  She had always been tough on Ashley.  It was tough love and she hoped that Ashley had understood that.  Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on her door.  She wiped the tears away and gained her composure and opened the door.

"Garrus!" she said with a sigh of relief.  She was happy it was him at her door.

"Shepard," he replied as he walked into her quarters. "How are you holding up?"  He looked her in the eyes and could see the tears swelling up.  He instinctively reached out to her, quickly pulling her into his embrace.  Not a word was spoken.  He just held her as she broke down .  

"Garrus, I'm so glad you're here.  I don't know what I would do without you."

"I'm here Jane, I'm not going anywhere."

She snuggled into his chest. He called me Jane. She quickly realized that this was the most tender intimate moment they had ever had.  She didn't want it to end.  She wanted it to be more but knew that it couldn't.  Garrus has shown no interest and why would he? He's a turian, I'm a human. Besides, I'm his superior, it wouldn't be right.

Garrus held her close, her hair felt silky against his face.  Her scent was pleasurable, unique to her.  He had never been this close to her skin, never noticed her scent, but now that he had it – he would never forget it.  Her skin was so soft under his touch, her skin which looked like it was lightly kissed by the sun. He didn't want to let her go. Spirits! What is happening to me?

*knock knock knock*

"Shepard? It's Kaidan, can I come in?"

Garrus let go of her. "Well, I guess I better leave you two alone," he said reluctantly.  He didn't want to leave her.  He especially did not want to leave her alone with Kaidan.  "I hope you feel better."

"Thank you Garrus." she wondered if maybe he felt more for her. Could he really? She thought hopefully. No! I'm letting my feelings trick me.

Garrus walked to the door and looked back at Shepard. "If you need to talk, you know where to find me. Have a good night." He opened the door to see a very surprised Kaidan. "Kaidan," was all Garrus said as he walked to the elevator. "Hey Garrus," Kaidan replied with a confused and somewhat panicked look on his face.  As the elevator doors closed, Garrus had to admit he was amused by Kaidan's reaction.

Shepard was in need of comfort. Comfort she'd been receiving from her best friend before Kaiden interrupted.  Now instead of comfort, she was being interrogated.

"What was Garrus doing up here?" Kaidan asked anxiously.

"He was just checking on me, making sure I was alright."

"Oh.  I know you guys are close but I just thought that with our relationship…or whatever this is….I don't know, I should be the first to comfort you."

"Kaidan, I'm sorry you feel that way.  I don't know what else to say.  I'm tired; Ashley's death is reeling in my head.  I need time to process everything and get my head right so I can be the commander my crew needs."

"Okay Shepard, I understand.  Sorry for adding to your burden instead of relieving it." He put his arms around her – her arms still folded.  

"Kaidan, I could really just use some time alone.  You understand, right?"

"Sure," he said with a half smile, but she could tell he was hurt.
She felt bad for even pulling him down this path as far as she had.  It was wrong when her feelings were not in it.  She honestly did try but it just was not happening.  She just wanted to be alone if she couldn't be with the one she really wanted.  

When this mission is over, I'll talk to Kaidan, let him down gently.

*******

This was it.  They were headed to Ilos to stop Saren.  It was considered a suicide mission.  It would be a couple of hours before they got to their destination.  To avoid any last ditch romance effort from Kaidan, Shepard spent time playing cards with Garrus and Tali.  "Keelah, not that much longer until we arrive at Ilos.  I better go check on some things – make sure I'm prepared," said Tali and she excused herself.  Now they were alone…

Jane tried to remain calm but her heart started to pound harder in her chest.  They were alone and this was her last chance before this mission to come out with how she felt for Garrus.

"Something on your mind?" he asked her, seeing that she was heavy in thought about something.

"Oh, just headed for a suicide mission, odds against us, with you by my side."

He chuckled. "Wouldn't have it any other way."

"Garrus, I was uh….I don't know how to start this off." She stared into his eyes, at a loss for what to say.

"Jane, what's wrong? You can talk to me about anything – you know that." He looked into her eyes and took notice that they were brown right now.  If green is happy, then was does brown mean?

"I'm afraid this time," she said as she looked away.

"Afraid?" he said surprised. Brown means afraid. Interesting.

You can do this! She thought to herself. Tell him how you feel!

"Afraid about how this mission is going to go.  I don't want to lose any more of my crew." Coward! She just couldn't do it, not right now.

"Jane, everything is going to be okay.  We can do this," he said, gripping her arms. "You've got this covered and I'll be with you every step of the way."

"Thanks Garrus," she said, as she pulled herself into him for a hug.
He held her close and they stayed like that for a few moments without saying a word.

After this mission, I'll tell him. I swear I will.

*******

"We're gonna make it!" yelled Shepard as they drove the Mako full blast towards the Conduit.  Saren had already gone through, leaving the Geth behind to stand guard.  The Conduit was closing fast.  Shepard evaded the geth as best she could and drove the Mako through, just before the relay closed.

They crashed on the Presidium of the Citadel, which was burning and heavily damaged by Saren's attack.  Shepard, Garrus and Tali made their way out of the wreckage. They made their way to Saren.  Shepard did her best to talk down Saren; to stop him from opening the Citadel up as a mass relay to bring back the Reapers.  He was indoctrinated, he had to break free from it.  She believed there was still good in him.  A trait that Garrus admired about her, even now. Saren started to agree with her and thanked her for freeing him before shooting himself in the head.  The fleet engaged the geth drop ships around the Citadel.  Shepard made sure the fleet defended the Destiny Ascension that the Intergalactic council members were on.  While giving commands to Joker for how to operate the fleet, she sent Tali and Garrus down to make sure Saren was dead.

Suddenly, Saren's body begins to twitch and he turns into what looks like a husk, completely possessed by Sovereign! Shepard used the last of her energy to kill it and collapsed to her knees.  Feeling exhausted when the weight was lifted off her shoulders.  Mission complete.

"Commander!" yelled Tali.  Shepard looked up to see a huge piece of debris heading straight for the Tower.  "Take cover!" yelled Shepard, just as it hit.

Minutes later, rescuers entered the Tower looking for survivors.  They helped recover Garrus and Tali who were wounded but alive.  Captain Anderson was leading the rescuers.  He asked Garrus where Commander Shepard was.  Tali looked sadly across the Chambers; over to the debris….it would have crushed anyone standing under it.  A piece of the debris moved….Garrus ran over to it. "Shepard?!" yelled Garrus, frantically hoping to find her.  Jane emerged with an injured arm and climbed out of the debris, limping towards Garrus, smiling. Garrus pulled her into his arms, looking into her eyes.  They were green.
Garrus/FemShep romance.

This fan fiction will focus primarily on the developing relationship of Garrus and Jane Shepard. It will go all the way through Mass Effect 3 and BEYOND! I won’t veer too much into all the other things that happen in the games because I’m sure anybody reading this has played the games and already lived all that other stuff – no need to re-write it. The purpose of this is to get a more in depth view of things we wish we had got to see happen with Garrus and Shepard! I was going to start my story where Mass Effect 2 starts since that’s when the romantic relationship takes off between them. But there was a few things I had written in my story journal that would have happen in Mass Effect 1 that I wanted to go ahead and share with you all first. Just to show some of the feelings building between them. So I wrote one long chapter to cover the things I wanted to from Mass Effect 1 before going into the heart of my story. I hope you enjoy!

All characters are the sole property of Bioware, and all that jazz : )

----------------------
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"DAMMIT! Why the hell won't you work!?"
All of the things roaming in Garrus mind his family, the war, and
especially Leona. During discovering Leviathan Garrus almost lost her, he was enraged at the thought of
loosing Leona he didn't want to--no, he COULDN'T lose her Leona was on the center of his mind. Garrus was
trying to calibrate the Normandy's guns but all he kept on doing was bringing up errors, he gave up and
paced up and down the room, flashes of Leona's accident on Leaviathan appeared in his mind he tried to fight
the thought's but they were overpowering him. He couldn't take Garrus clutched his hands and punched the wall
leaving an inprint of his frustration. Co-workers came rushing in.
"Garrus are you alright?"
"yeah, yeah i'm fine"
"Jesus! Look at the wall Garrus you put a deep dent right in it!"
"Yeah, I'll be right back"
Garrus went to check on Leona his heart filled with anxiety needed to see Leona and hold her in his arms one
more time. When Garrus arrived at Leona's cabin he found her laying down in bed taking a nap, Garrus quietly
walks over and sits on the bed and gently rubs his hands on Leona's back. Garrus studied Leona's face and saw
dried tears, his heart sunk he was at awe. Why didn't she talk to him? As Garrus stared at her Leona woke up
with a smile on her face.
"Garrus, I'm glad you're here."
"Were you crying again?"
Leona froze for a moment she looked away with more tears ready to come.
"Leona, you know you can talk to me"
"I know I-I don't know why I didn't"
"It's ok, but what's the matter why were you crying?"
"Over everything Garrus. I'm tired of this damn war and losing people that deserve their lives right now!
Mordin, Thane, Ashley the list never ends... what if I lose you Garrus? I don't think I could handle that"
"You'll never lose me! I'll always be right here for you till the end, you and I" Garrus steals a kiss from
Leona and hands her a paper towel to wipe her face.
"But anyways, why did you stop by? You need something?"
"The only thing I need is you. I was trying to work and couldn't stop thinking about...about..."
"Leviathan? Garrus it was just a accident I'm fine now"
"It was a tough call Leona! What if you didn't come back!? What if you died!? WHAT WOULD I DO?"
"Garrus..."
"I love you Leona"
Leona grabbed Garrus and kissed him. Garrus pressed Leona's body against his and laid Leona's body on the bed
and removed his shirt. Leona and Garrus spent the whole night together.
Garrus woke up to find Leona's head on his chest, he smiled and gently moved her to other side of the bed.
He got up and wrapped a towel around his waist revealing his chest.
"Leaving so soon?" Garrus was surprised to see Leona up from her nap
"I was just about to get some wine for us"
Garrus kissed Leona on her forehead and starred deeply into her beautiful light green eyes just before leaving.
Leona watched as Garrus was about to leave in grief
"I'll be right back--right back at your side."
Garrus left Leona's cabin and stumbled upon Kaidan with a wine bottle in his hand. Kaidan in shock stopped.
"Oh...hey Garrus"
"Kaidan."
"...Yeah umm I was just heading to see Leona I'm guessing you did too?"
"Yeah, but I wouldn't see her right now. After last night... she's pretty tired."
"Oh... I see, well what I want to tell her won't be long I'll just tell her and be on my way."
Kaidan tried walking past Garrus and into Leona's cabin but Garrus blocked Kaidan by putting his arm in front of
him.
"Like I said Kaidan, not a good idea. You'll be drinking that wine alone tonight."
Kaidan knew this wasn't going to end well, but he was not leaving without a fight.
"Listen Garrus, you may have her now but it's a matter of time when she realizes that we belong together. What the
hell did you think you and her relationship was heading? You're an alien and she's a human! What if you two had kids?
GOD FORBID! And what if your little girl got sick hm? How would it feel not being able to hold or go near your little
girl when she's sneezing and coughing because she's a human and you're a damn turian!?!"
Garrus curled his hand in a fist without Kaidan noticing, Garrus was in rage.
Kaidan laughed.
"It won't last...Now, if you excuse me--"
Garrus punched Kaidan. The punch led Kaidan to fall to the ground, the wine bottle rolled away. Garrus picked Kaidan up by collar.
"Listen bitch! It's over between you and Leona, you broke her heart she hates you to the core!"
Garrus gives Kaidan a punch.
"Every night she cried you know? Oh yeah! That's right you didn't. Cause you was too busy acting like a bitch for NO reason!"
Another punch.
"Until I came. I couldn't stand those tears I had to be there. I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me"
Another punch.
"You didn't deserve Leona! And it was a matter of time before she finally got over you. I love Leona, and I will do everything
in my power to protect her especially from you!"
And a final punch. A punch that was so powerful full of rage it broke Kaidan's jaw. Garrus threw Kaidan across the room.
"GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE YOU BASTARD!"
Kaidan was left on the floor unconscious. Garrus finally got the chance to kick his ass something he wanted to do since he broke
Leona's heart. Garrus looked at the wine near his feet and picked it up. Nice, cold, and expensive, Garrus walked back into Leona's
cabin.
Leona was still in her bed looking at the beautiful fishes.
"Garrus! I heard a lot of noise coming from out there what happened! Are the crew playing with the guns again!?!"
Garrus laughed.
"Leona, everything is perfect. And hey, look what I got"
Garrus revealed the wine.
"Oh my god! Garrus is that Henri Jayer Richebourg wine? That wine is over 50,000 credits! Where the hell did you get that kind of
money?"
"Ssh.. anything for you let's just say... I had to beat out a deal from a friend."
Garrus smiled took out two glass of wine and poured the wine.
"Leona lets make a toast, to us!"
Leona giggled "To us!"
They both took a snip of the wine and kissed.
FINALLY done YAY! :woohoo: well this one is for a special friend! Blightfighter45 (Check her shit out especially if you're a bioware fan!) So yeah, I hope you like it!
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Hours passed as Garrus and Shepard slept with their bodies entwined. Then the Commander stirred. She stretched herself out and opened her violet-blue eyes that were still edged with exhaustion. She blinked a few times to help ward off the urge to fall back to sleep as she forced herself into a state of awareness. The Commander wriggled backward so she could watch Garrus still fast asleep. A sleeping turian, Shepard thought, would have been a hysterical image. However, watching Garrus sleep had turned into part of her morning routine. It was one of the only times that he didn’t appear serious or seem troubled by something. When the turian slept, he seemed at ease with the galaxy; a genuine image of beauty and peace. 

She grabbed the three-fingered hand that was draped loosely over her shoulder and moved out of his hold. Shepard smiled at the thought of the night before. They hadn’t made love, nor was it on their agenda to do so. They just laid with one another, bare skinned, enveloped in the customary white military sheets. With this thought in mind, her smile became shy and intimate, her eyes soft and adoring. Out of her small collection of lovers, Garrus had been the only one successful in completely disarming her and making her feel whole. He was her safe haven, her place of reassurance and security; the only one who could make her feel okay when everything around her was in the throes of chaos and disaster. He was her peace, her rock, her foundation. It was one of the easiest things to love about him.

And the feeling was mutual. Had it not been for Shepard recovering him, Garrus would have died on Omega. Had it not been for her, he wouldn’t be the man he was now. He would still be a stubborn, close-minded turian working for C-Sec and getting nowhere with it. Shepard was Garrus’ salvation. Without her, he would be nothing and he knew it. 

The Commander studied the contours and designs of Garrus’ torso as she traced her ivory hand over the turian’s chest. Her brow raised with slight surprise when Garrus rolled onto his back. The sound of a punctured pillow rang in her ears and Shepard stifled a giggle. It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened, and it definitely wasn’t to be the last. Since taking up a relationship with the turian, she had gone through at least ten sets of pillows and pillowcases. The requisitions officer and drop-shuttle pilot, Steve Cortez, never asked when she ordered new ones, but innocently commented on how much of a rough sleeper that she must be, though he had a generally accurate idea as to what was actually going on. 

Shepard saw an opportunity in his action and smirked. “Alright, Vakarian, time to get up,” she muttered under her breath as she moved under the sheets and crawled atop of him. She placed each of her legs on either side of his body and lightly ran her hand from the base of torso, over the ridge of chest and up the exposed flesh of his neck. As her hand traveled forward her body lowered until she hovered above Garrus’ mouth. She bit her bottom lip when a small pang of reservation that told her not to wake him. But her eyes and mind danced with mischief and the urge was overpowering. 

With her head only inches above the Turian’s, the Commander removed her hand from his neck and placed it on the now ruined pillow and her smirk grew. “Wake up,” she purred amorously with hints of deviousness before kissing him. 

He stirred slightly but didn’t awaken, so Shepard continued to kiss him. She started with his hardened lips, then moved over his scarred mandible, down the scarred side of neck and remained there. “Garrus,” she called in an almost sultry tone.

Garrus said not a word. The enticing way that Shepard had used to wake him up was too pleasurable for him not to be selfish with. He laid there, feigned sleep as best he could and tried to keep his mandibles as they were. The feeling of her tender lips caressing his scarred flesh was too comforting, too desirable for him to do anything to stop her. But how long could he receive without giving her anything in return? Maybe he would respond the next time that she tried to elicit a response from him by calling his name? That seemed fair enough in the Turian’s mind.

But it all came too soon in Garrus’ opinion. No sooner had he thought it did Shepard coo his name. “Vakarian,” her call was slow and dictated. 

Instead of verbally responding, he brought his hand to the glabrous flesh of her cheek and guided her lips to his and kissed her. It was a slow, deliberate kiss, that made his mandibles fan into a wide grin and he felt her lips do the same against his hardened mouth. With his only hand now planted firmly on her back, Garrus rolled their bodies so that Shepard was laying on the snowy under-sheet of the mattress. Her auburn locks were messily spread out on the pillow and her violet-blue eyes looked up at him with affection and mischief.

“Thanks for the ruined pillow,” she scolded playfully with a smirk and raised brow. 

“You can always buy more. It’s not the like the Reapers have a grudge against soft white things. Not yet anyway,” he commented in a light tone before dipping down to kiss her jaw.

Shepard chuckled and placed her hand on the scarred side of his face. He studied her features with affection and adoration. Garrus watched as she tucked her supple lower lip under the pearly white of her teeth and softened her gaze.

“I don’t feel like getting out of bed just yet,” she admitted slowly, her voice soft and sounding more like a confession than a statement. 

He pretended to give her statement a moment of thought as a low hum rumbled in his chest. “I guess I can live without running some diagnostics for a bit longer,” the Turian commented with his mandibles fixed in a grin. Garrus leaned down and kissed his commander once more, this time with more passion than tenderness. 

I lied, they're related. EHEEHEHEHEHEH
Part three shall have smut, because hey, why not~?

I don't own these little shits~
Characters belong to BioWare
Writing belongs to yours truly.

Told you that I would try to be more active. :I

Part 1: [link]
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Shepard is signing books when the assassin hits.

He sees it out of the corner of his eye-

the flash of a gun,

the curl of fingers.

He's out of practice.

Slower than usual.

But he's been Alliance for longer than he's been retired,

and his reflexes kick in anyway,

turning over the table,

pushing the woman in front of him down,

dropping to the floor himself.

He hears the gun fire.

Once,

twice,

three times.

He rolls, using the table for cover.

Rattled thoughts ram through his brain.

 What the fuck-

 Who the hell-

 Are you kidding me?

He wishes he had his gun,

and as he glances around for something useful,

his thoughts become more orderly.

 There's only one exit.

 If I can find a way to move the civilians out-

 no, not enough time.

 Gotta take him down.

 Fuck, I need backup!

As if in answer to a prayer-

not that Shepard believes in those,

he hears a familiar voice.

"Shepard,

here!"

His hand snaps up before his eyes raise and he catches the pistol as it's thrown his way.

 "Bailey?"

The C-Sec Commander whips around the corner again and fires two quick shots.

"Damn it!

I can't get a clear shot-"

"I've got it!"

And Shepard does.

Whipping up to face his would-be-killer,

firing without hesitation

straight into his forehead.

There's blood and brains all over the floor.

"Nice hit,"

Bailey congratulates him as the janitors clean up

and the onlookers wail.

"How many injured?"

Shepard asks,

handing back the borrowed pistol.

"Five,"

Bailey responds,

"but none of the injuries are fatal."

Shepard runs his hands through his short hair.

Copies of his autobiography lie on the floor,

their pages wet with gore.

"Huh,"

he says.

"I, uh...

wasn't expecting that.

Do you know why-?"

Bailey shakes his head.

"Dunno.

Best guess is grief;

could be that he blamed you for someone's death.

Or maybe it was just insanity."

Shepard doesn't like the sound of either.

"Get some rest,"

says Bailey,

clapping him on the shoulder.

"Thanks,"

calls Shepard as he walks away.

He stares at the assassin's remains

and then turns rather sharply

and takes the back door out

to call for a shuttle.

He wants to go home

and more than that

he wants Kaidan.

-----------------------

Kaidan is with his students when the assassin hits.

He calls for a break and they separate,

tangling into loose groups.

He smiles as he sees them interact-

friendly punches in the arm,

teasing.

It reminds him of when he was younger,

fooling around with Shepard and Ash.

He doesn't wince when her name comes into his mind.

It's been too many years,

and both he and Shepard have moved on from Virmire.

It never hurts to think of the good times they spent together, as friends.

"Sir!"

One of the Lieutenants-

Berkley,

a younger recruit who takes respect to a ridiculous level

but who works hard all the same-

scampers up and snaps to attention.

"Permission to grab a protein bar, sir!"

Kaidan waves a hand.

"Go ahead, Berkley.

But don't eat more than one:

you'll regret it later."

Berkley's brow creases.

"Stomachache, sir?"

Kaidan raises a brow.

"Constipation, Lieutenant."

The recruit's face twists as he attempts to hold off a smile.

"Permission to laugh, sir!"

"Granted,"

Kaidan chuckles,

and Berkley lets out a snicker on his way to the door.

It opens as he hits the lock,

revealing a tall, pale man

with his hands tucked in his jacket.

"Hey,"

Berkley says in confusion

as he sees the man in front of him.

And before Kaidan knows it,

his recruit is on the floor

with a bullet hole through him.

 "Get down!"

Kaidan screams,

seeing Berkley fall

and hit the ground,

amazement written on his young face.

The rest of the recruits pause,

glance towards the scene,

and panic.

Running in all directions.

Making them easy targets.

But all the killer sees is Kaidan.

He raises his gun again

and there's nothing in between them

but empty space

and Kaidan's biotics.

"Bring it,"

he snarls,

blue energy crackling over his body,

and the killer pauses.

"I don't think so,"

he says softly,

eyes hooded and calculating.

He grabs Berkley's body.

The Lieutenant moans,

blood spattered across his right arm-

 still alive,

Kaidan realizes;

 he's still alive-

"Let him go!"

he shouts,

and a couple of things happen at once.

The killer shoves Berkley forward.

Berkley stumbles towards Kaidan.

Kaidan reaches out to catch him without thinking.

And the gun fires again.

-----------------------

The apartment is empty when Shepard arrives, which is strange.

Kaidan was supposed to be home hours ago.

His training sessions up at Alliance headquarters end early on Fridays

and he always greets Shepard at the door.

Splaying one hand against his chest.

Carressing the skin behind Shepard's ear with the other.

Pressing his lips to the scar at his hairline before he whispers into his ear,

the faint touch of breath making Shepard shiver.

 Hey.

It's all he ever says when he greets him but there are always so many other words in that

one

simple

 hey.

Shepard just has to listen;

he can always tell what Kaidan really means,

or what he's holding back.

 Hey,

like

 what's for dinner?

Or

 my head is killing me.

On bad days,

 you left the iron on, Shepard.

On good days,

 are you flirting with me, Commander?

But on most days,

just

 I missed you,

and that's Shepard's favorite.

 I missed you,

three big words crammed into that little

 hey.

It's become a ritual

and Shepard frowns as its consistency is broken.

He flips on the lights.

"Kaidan?"

There's no answer;

the apartment is empty.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Shepard sighs and moves towards his desk,

not looking forward to the email he'll have to write Hackett

addressing his own attempted murder.

It'd be easier with his husband there,

but solitude will have to suffice, for now.

He stretches and flexes his fingers,

but when he turns on his terminal,

he's surprised to find at least twenty messages already waiting for him.

 Hackett.

 Liara.

 Garrus.

 Vega.

 Cortez.

 Traynor.

 Joker...

hell,

he hasn't spoken to Joker in months.

The emails are close in time,

all of them sent just around thirty minutes prior.

Warning bells go off in his head almost immediately.

Thirty minutes prior,

Shepard was watching the blood of his assassin being scraped off the floor.

Something is building in the back of his throat;

something that he hasn't tasted since the last battle in London.

It's bitter

and vile

and makes his throat seize up

and his knees weaken.

It makes him click on the first email,

scanning the words frantically

and feeling his mouth dry up as what he suspected is proved true.

It's nothing more

and nothing less

than fear.

-----------------------

Traynor's hand is gripping Vega's so hard his knuckles are whitening.

"Vega,"

she says,

her dark eyes wide

and wet

and worried.

"Vega, I-"

Vega shakes his head in warning,

crouching to look her in the face.

"Uh-uh.

Don't lose it, reina-

keep it together, now."

He calls her reina,

 queen,

because it fits.

She likes chess,

and she likes having control.

Plus, she likes the sound of the nickname and told him so the first time he said it.

 I'll have to use that more often,

she'd said, winking.

 Maybe it can be my club name.

She's not winking now.

"Oh my god,"

she gasps,

"I wonder how the others are taking it."

He tries to tug his hand out of her grip but she doesn't relent.

"Esteban's on his way,

and so is Doc.

Scars is coming, too.

I haven't heard from China, though."

She's not letting go of him and so he pulls her along,

tugging her through the ward towards the lobby.

They sit on one of the hard-cushioned couches there and Traynor can't stop shaking.

"Where's Shepard?"

she asks,

over and over again.

"Where is he?"

Vega smooths her hair,

rubs her back.

"Any minute, now, reina.

He'll be here any minute."

The doors slide open and Vega jumps to his feet as Traynor's head snaps up

but it's only Cortez.

"Steve,"

says Traynor,

relief spreading across her face.

"Esteban,"

says Vega,

mouth considerably drier.

Cortez moves forward and grips his forearm

and his pulse skyrockets

even though this is most definitely not the place or the time.

"How's he doing?"

the pilot wants to know.

"I came as fast as I could when I heard."

"He's okay,"

says Traynor,

glancing towards the ward.

"But that's all they'll say,

that he's

 okay-

he's been shot in the fucking head, for god's sake,

how on earth  can he be

 okay?"

She looks like she's going to panic again and Vega bends down to cup her cheek in his hand.

"Hey,"

he whispers,

"don't, not now.

Not now, all right?

When loco walks in here, this isn't what we want him to see."

She sucks in a breath

and then nods,

her eyes fixed on Vega's.

He smooths her hair again.

"Why don't you grab some coffee, reina?"

He kisses the top of her head as she turns to leave

and straightens to find Cortez staring at him.

"Hey,"

he says, uncomfortable under the pilot's gaze.

"What's up?"

"Nothing,"

Cortez says, clearing his throat.

I, uh...

just didn't think Traynor swung that way."

Vega blinks,

then laughs.

"Oh.

 Oh.

Uh, nah-

she and I aren't...

nah.

She's definitely not into...

and anyway, she's married.

To a cytologist."

The pilot raises an eyebrow.

Vega shifts his weight.

"She's like a sister to me,"

he adds.

"That's all."

Cortez looks at him carefully.

"A sister,"

he says.

"Huh."

And Vega coughs and flushes and sits back down on the hard-cushioned couch.

------------------------

Shepard drums his fingers on the front desk.

The nurse in front of him scrolls through files.

"Alenko, you said?"

"Yeah."

She hands him a datapad and he takes it, drumming his fingers against the device instead.

"Room number is on there with the list of his allowed visitors.

You've already been cleared for visitation;

just make sure that you put your relation to the patient next to your name."

His fingers still and he scans the list until he finds it.

 Shepard, John.

There's a line waiting to be filled.

He fills it.

 Relation: husband,

he taps out,

throat thickening as he hands it back to the nurse.

She does a once-through and nods.

"The ward they're keeping him in is on your right,"

she says,

and then pauses.

 Sorry for your loss

is what comes to mind.

 Have a nice night

is what comes out of her mouth.

She's not even sure if he hears her anyway.

---------------------------

"Shit,"

says Shepard,

staring past the glass into the room where Kaidan lies.

His friends group behind him,

occasionally reaching out,

touching his shoulder,

clapping him on the back:

Vega,

Garrus,

Liara,

Cortez,

Traynor,

cramming in to provide their comfort.

"Where's Joker?"

he asks,

but no one answers

because no one knows.

"Shit,"

he says again,

resting his forehead against the glass.

"I'm going to fucking kill the bastard who did it."

Garrus chuckles without humor.

"He's already dead.

The students grouped up and took him out after he shot Alenko."

So he's been robbed of his revenge, too.

Traynor tries to hand him a cup of coffee but he shrugs it off and she hands it to Vega instead.

"I'm sure Kaidan will recover,"

says Liara softly.

"That's not the point,"

growls Shepard,

"the point-

the point is-"

but what is the point, really, when the person you love has a bullet wound in their head?

 "Loco,"

says Vega

as Cortez says

"John,"

and it's Garrus who finally asks.

"You think it's your fault?"

Shepard doesn't answer but

 yes,

 of course it's my fault.

"What the hell do you think you could've done to prevent this?"

is his next question,

and Shepard can only shake his head;

 I could've been there,

 I could've stopped it,

 I could've taken him out.

He couldn't have but he wishes he could,

and more than anything he wishes that it was him in the hospital bed

and Kaidan wishing it was different.

"An assassin went after me, too,"

he says.

"Why could I kill him

when Kaidan couldn't?"

But he knows the details of the second attack:

how the killer had played dirty,

gone against rules,

brought in a hostage.

"Why couldn't you kill him?"

he shouts through the glass,

and Kaidan can't hear him but he asks anyway.

He swipes something out of his eye with the back of his hand and grunts.

"I'm gonna see him now,"

he says,

and no one argues.

He says a few words to the armed guard standing watch in front of the door

and is granted access;

Liara moves to follow him but Vega grabs her arm,

stopping her.

She bows her head and consents.

Some things are better left alone,

and right now,

Kaidan and Shepard are two of those things.

---------------------

Vega watches from the window.

One half of the Major's head is swathed in white bandages,

stark and crisp against the black of his hair.

He lies limply in the hospital bed,

the shallow rise of his chest the only movement across his body.

Vega sees Shepard's mouth move,

lips forming his name,

reaching out to touch him

and then jerking his hand back.

His face twists and his knees buckle and he sits,

forehead pressing into the side of the bed,

hands twisting into the sheets.

It hits hard, seeing Shepard like this,

and it hits even harder now because Vega's seen it before,

when the Major was injured on Mars.

Maybe it was even worse then, being a witness to it;

the obvious unspoken emotions that had been building between the two suddenly revealed,

written all over Shepard's face:

not that Kaidan could have known what the Commander had gone through,

back then.

Vega wonders if anyone's ever told Kaidan that the day after Mars,

Shepard got ridiculously drunk,

threw up all over the CIC,

and then cried on Cortez's shoulder for a half an hour.

It seems to be how Shepard deals with things out of his control,

getting drunk.

After Earth,

after Mars,

after Thessia.

He's determined not to let it happen again.

The Major might have Shepard's back most of the time,

but someone's got to take care of him when Alenko can't.

He hears soft footsteps behind him.

"Hi,"

says Cortez.

"Hey,"

says Vega.

The pilot steps up beside him,

letting out a breath.

"Wow.

Shepard really cares about him, doesn't he?"

Vega murmurs in agreement.

Inside the hospital room, Shepard's mouth moves again,

speaking comforting words that Kaidan probably can't hear.

There's a silence that lingers as the two of them gaze at their Commander

and his Major.

Cortez breaks it.

"How've you been?"

he asks awkwardly,

shifting in place.

"I mean, with the whole N7 thing-"

"Good,"

Vega says quickly.

"Yeah, it's good.

Hard work, you know,

but good."

Cortez nods.

"Yeah."

Vega coughs.

"And you?

How've you been?"

"Good.

I'm good, too."

"Good,"

says Vega,

and they both fall silent again.

He can feel the heat working its way up into his cheeks;

he glances at Cortez and then drops his gaze to the floor,

stomach twisting painfully.

It's been two years since the last battle on Earth,

when Vega had picked his way through the remains of Cortez's crashed shuttle,

throwing away the rubble with his bare hands,

cursing frantically,

so desperate that by the time he found him,

wedged between two thick metal bars,

he was almost weeping.

He hadn't meant to kiss him.

Not really.

It had been spurred from the immense relief,

a reckless, surging rush that made him grip the back of the pilot's neck

and jerk him forward,

lips colliding in an awkward, soft mesh of confusion.

He hadn't meant to, not really-

but it had felt good.

And it had felt right.

He remembers the look in Cortez's eyes when it had ended;

surprise mixed with something else-

something gentler,

something warm,

with a spark that had sent Vega's heart working doubletime.

He remembers Cortez's hesitant smile.

And then he remembers the words that had tumbled out of his mouth.

The rushed apologies,

the stuttering excuses.

Ruining whatever it was between them that had begun to grow.

And the way that Cortez's face had fell,

saddened,

hardened,

and set

as he tried to make up for his "mistake"

with a short, barked laugh

and a shake of the head.

His own forced dismissal.

 "Shit- I'm sorry,

 I really didn't mean to-"

Cortez's quiet reply, with a failed attempt at casualty.

 "That's okay, Mr. Vega.

 Just heat-of-the-moment, right?"

Right.

Heat-of-the-moment,

like the animal inside his chest hadn't stirred and woken

when he'd heard what could've been a growl issue from Cortez's mouth

as he kissed him,

like he hadn't almost pinned the pilot down right then and there

and forced him to explain why whenever he was around,

Vega felt weak,

like he hadn't wanted that almost-something

to go on

and on

and last forever.

Heat-of-the-moment.

Nothing more.

Inside the hospital room,

Shepard brushes his mouth over Kaidan's palm.

Outside the hospital room,

Vega thinks about maybes and could've beens and almost-somethings.

Cortez lets out a soft huff and turns,

his boots scraping on the clean tile,

and begins to walk away.

And Vega takes his almost-something,

combines it with his hot-headedness,

his fast reflexes,

not giving a fuck,

and the right amount of stupidity,

and opens his mouth.

"Esteban."

Cortez stops.

Looks over his shoulder.

"Yeah?"

 Hot-headed,

 reflexive,

 no fucks given,

 stupid...

 and almost-something.

"Wanna grab a coffee?"

Cortez turns the rest of the way around.

"I didn't think you drank much coffee, Mr. Vega."

"I don't,"

says the soldier.

"But the Commander and the Major do,

and I'm pretty sure it worked for them."

Something flickers in Cortez's eyes.

Something like realization and caution mixed.

When he speaks next it's slow and uncertain.

"You're saying it'll work for us, huh?"

 "Dios mio,"

Vega exhales,

"I don't know."

Cortez takes a few steps forward.

"What do you know?"

he asks,

bitter

and tired,

face lined with repercussions of war.

"It's been two years,

and do you know anything?

Anything at all?"

Vega looks at him,

looks away.

"I...

I know stuff."

"Stuff,"

repeats Cortez softly.

Vega wipes the sweat off his hands on the sides of his t-shirt.

"Stuff.

Stuff like...

how you like it when I call you Esteban.

How you didn't like it when I talked for too long to the asari dancers at Purgatory.

How you used to watch me out of the corner of your eye when I did pull-ups."

He can hear Cortez moving closer but he doesn't dare look up.

"You blushed when I lost at strip poker

but you looked anyway.

You always double-checked that my locker was prepped before missions

even though you never needed to.  

I'm not that smart of a guy, Esteban.

I know stuff, yeah.

I...

I just dunno what to do with it."

Cortez's voice is close.

Closer than he'd thought.

"You think coffee is going to help, James?"

His name on the pilot's lips is almost too much for him to handle.

"No,"

he says suddenly,

harshly,

head jerking up

and looking Cortez straight in the face,

heart banging hard against his ribs.

"I know it's not gonna help.

But I don't know what will."

Cortez's hand is on his jaw and Cortez's eyes are fixed on his and Vega can't breathe.

"How about this, then?"

Cortez whispers

before he closes the space between them.

The kiss is long

and careful

and sweeter than Vega expected.

And it's less awkward than before,

when Cortez had been bleeding out over the remnants of his ship

and Vega had been out of breath and choking with relief.

But it feels the same.

Good.

Right.

Cortez's thumb skims over his cheek

and Vega feels small

and ridiculously vulnerable.

But when the pilot tries to pull away Vega wraps one thick arm around his waist

and leans forward again.

"I think,"

he says,

words murmured in the smaller man's ear before he presses his lips against his throat,

"that this might be a start."

"A start?"

Cortez asks.

"Yeah,"

Vega tells him.

"And a much better start than coffee would've been."

Cortez's laugh is breathless,

and Vega draws back just enough to see the brightness in his eyes.

"I'm glad you think so, Mr. Vega."

"I'm glad too, Esteban."
Two years after the destruction of the Reapers, Shepard finds himself in the midst of an assassination plot. While he struggles with the repercussions, friendships are mended and bonds are made.

This is my first time writing Cortega; I've meant to get around to it for a while now, since they're so well-suited for one another. FLUFF! :heart:

Sorry for the extra spaces...they're bothering me too but I'm not sure how to get rid of them. FIXED IT. :roll:

And of course Kaidan will recover, you all know that. There's a reason that Ashley has never survived Virmire in ANY of my playthroughs.
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Plot: A rewriting of all scenes on the Normandy involving Shepard and Thane.

Featuring: FemShep, Thane
Timeline: During ME2
Content: romance beginning

First part of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series

**********************

Shepard stepped inside the elevator and hit the Crew Deck's button. After only a few hours of preparing their mission, she had found herself out of work: Cerberus was doing almost everything in her place, finding the resources they needed, analyzing the data she found, upgrading their weaponry… The young woman found that extremely frustrating: with Malira she was used to having her hands full with work, to giving the orders, even as she remained the anonymous leader of the organization. She knew Cerberus did this to make sure Shepard would not end up poking her nose too deep into their business – and she could not blame them for being careful; after all she had been transmitting the coordinates of all their destinations to Malira who always ended up dispatching a team to salvage the places right under the Illusive Man's nose. Hopefully the Cerberus' evasive leader would not see there a clue of her involvement in Malira's organization: she had always publically showed her support for the organization that worked so closely with the Alliance. Even aboard the Normandy, all her crew mates knew the respect she had for multi-species corporations, and Malira was the biggest of all.
In any event, the Commander ended up twiddling her thumbs… again. She therefore decided to try and have a chat with their newest crew member, that rather impressively deadly drell assassin. As the lift took her two decks lower, she reviewed in her mind the mission in the Dantius Towers: she had quickly understood this assignment was different from the others, from the moment she had seen those mercs fall from an air duct with snapped necks. With the tower still in construction, the ducts were visible, and yet she had not heard a single footstep of the assassin while he was making his way up the tower.
"But you guessed his presence, Miri…" She thought.
That she had. She perfectly remembered that floating minute when her intuition had told her he was right there, looking at her through that ventilation grid. She had smiled at him, like a tease. She had hoped the gesture would provoke him into… into what? She still wasn't sure.
She breathed deeply, pondering: she had felt challenged… for the first time in years. Hence the tease. She wanted him to know that the challenge was on; she did not plan to kill Nassana before him, the Asari was his target, not hers, but she did want to reach her before him, to be there when he would finally show up, otherwise she knew he would have disappeared before she could get to him.
"Interesting how things started up" she told herself, walking out of the elevator and into the Crew Deck's corridor. Life Support was one of the closest doors, and the red interface in the center of the metal panels indicated that the room was locked. She activated the intercom and introduced herself: the door opened after a short while.
The Drell was standing, waiting for her, his hands clasped behind his back.
- Commander, he greeted her politely, tilting his head lightly.
She returned the gesture:
- Just checking up on you, she said with a look around. You're settling in all right? I know it's not ideal…
- It is comfortable enough, thank you, the man replied, turning his back to her and walking quietly to the window that gave on the ships' core. I did not expect to find the humming of the engines so… soothing.
A smile hinted in the corner of her lips: she knew the feeling.
- I couldn't sleep without it, she agreed. It's part of me now.
- Understandable, was his answer.
She looked at him a moment. The man was standing, as still as a statue, in front of the window, apparently lost in contemplation. His silence did not make her uneasy, quite the contrary, but it was not in her habits to impose her presence to her crew mates, so she tried:
- I was wondering if you would have a minute to talk.
The man remained silent for a short while then asked coolly:
- Is there a particular reason to this discussion?
- I just like to know the people I work with, she answered directly, but with a soft voice, trying to make him understand that her intentions were genuine. But I will leave if you prefer.
The Drell turned away from the glass and met her eyes for a moment. She did not avoid his gaze: she was always more expressive with her eyes than with her words. She knew how intense her look could be, destabilizing even the most confident interlocutors, but it had also always been a way for her to inspire confidence and convey her feelings. Because she was calm and assured, people tended to be drawn to her, like to a shelter in the heart of a storm. Though she suspected things would not be that easy with Thane Krios; they never were with the people she recruited for this suicide mission.
- Forgive my manners, the Drell finally said with a little more warmth. It has been a long time since I last shared a real conversation. I would be glad to try again.
She nodded in appreciation:
- I have a few questions for you. Feel free to ask me yours as well.
- I shall.
The Drell sat on the chair closer to the window, rested his elbows on the table and joined his hands. Shepard remained standing, leaning against the nearest wall, and faced him. He looked peaceful and she wondered if this was only a cover, like she often used, or if he was really that serene.
- So, she started. When we met you, you said you were dying.
- Yes, I thought you'd want to know more.
His shattered, vibrating voice was appeasing, Shepard surprised herself thinking.
- You don't have to worry about the rest of the crew, the man pursued on a lighter tone. My illness is not communicable, even to other Drell. It's called Kepral's Syndrome.
The name rang a bell in the Commander's head, a bell dating back from the months she had spent on Kahje…
- I heard about this disease, she trailed off. It's specific to the Drell who live on the Hanar homeworld, right?
- Yes, Thane confirmed. My people are native to an arid world…
- Rakhana, the young woman remembered.
The Drell looked up at her, obviously surprised:
- You know of it?
- I'm a traveler, she confirmed with a hint of a smile in her voice.
- So you know that most of us now live on Kahje. It's very humid and rains every day.
Shepard nodded, a wave of memories coming crushing itself against her consciousness. She ignored it; now was not the time. If the Drell saw anything of her brief inside turmoil, he did not show it, pursuing:
- Our lungs can't deal with the moisture. Over time, the tissue loses its ability to absorb oxygen. It becomes harder to breath and eventually, we suffocate.
Miridian frowned:
- That's terrible.
She meant every word. She promised herself to have Malira look into what was being done to cure that disease.
- Can't you resort to lung transplantation?
- Many of us do, even if the solution remains temporary, Thane attested, but in my line of work, it is… difficult. My body was trained to kill since I was very young. If I were to receive new lungs, I would lose these skills and capacities. I would live longer, but I would be deprived of everything that I am in the process.
"Like me" the young woman couldn't help thinking. "I don't even know if I'm still a person, with all this Cerberus tech in my veins." And she would have rather stayed dead than come back half the woman she was.
- I understand, she replied solemnly. I'm surprised the Hanar did not try to find a cure though, I know how much they care about the Drell.
- They have funded a genetic engineering program; they should be able to adapt us. But the project has only been running for a few years, I don't believe my body will still draw breath by the time it bears fruits.
Shepard was silent for a while, trying to figure out when she could next contact Malira and tell them to send resources to this Hanar program without raising the Illusive Man's suspicion. But as she looked at the Drell, who was lost in contemplation again, she lost track of her thoughts as a new question grew bigger in her mind. She hesitated then asked:
- Are you going to be all right until the end of the mission?
She knew how easily she became attached to people; having to live with a dying squad mate was already hard for her to conceive, but she wasn't sure how she would react if he died in a few months right in the middle of the mission. Not to mention that this could put the entire squad in a difficult situation. But Thane reassured her:
- I should be fine for another eight to twelve months. The more time I spend in humid environments, the faster it progresses.
- It will do you good to live aboard a ship then, Shepard commented. The air is drier than on most planets.
- True, but in any event, I think it is safe to say that by the time my body is incapacitated we'll be either victorious or dead. Either way, I won't be a burden to you.
- That's not what worries me, Miridian could not help replying.
The Drell looked up at her with surprise again. They exchanged another long silent look, each trying to read past the other's mask… and failing.
She would not be able to resist her nature: she would try to save him, and would probably get a few sleepless nights doing so, but she was who she was and helping people whenever she could was a trait carved deep inside her core. She could sense he was a proud person though, so she did not voice her thoughts, hoping she would be able to help from the shadows.
When he finally broke eye contact, she added with curiosity:
- You don't act like a dying man.
- You have the advantage there, Shepard, he replied, her name rolling on his tongue. You've already died. Perhaps later you could give me some suggestions.
A smile escaped her and painted her mouth. She looked away to try and regain seriousness. She noticed the effort the Drell made to hide his satisfaction at managing to break her façade for a second. She did not expect him to actually make a joke. And he pursued like nothing happened:
- I can do nothing to alter my fate. One advantage of my training is that I've always, to some degree, considered myself dead. So trust me, this won't affect my performance.
- Understood.
She stood upright again and took a step away before saying:
- Thank you for talking with me, I won't take any more of your time. Unless you have questions of your own?
- I have one.
Surprised, Miridian faced him completely:
- Go ahead.
- How did you feel… when you died?
The question disconcerted her; she had not expected it. No one else had dared ask her that, probably to avoid bringing back bad memories. But the Drell was looking at her with genuine curiosity and, thinking about it, she was glad to actually be able to talk about it to someone. She was used to keep things for herself, but airing out the worst of her stories could make her feel better.
Unconsciously, her hand reached up to touch the slowly healing scars on her right forearm.
- It was…
The memories flashed before her eyes like a tornado: the pain, the lack of air, the anxiety and the Normandy, her home, on fire, floating away…
A shiver went down her spine and she sighed:
- It was terrifying.
The adjective caught the man's attention and he watched the human female with astonishment. That such a strong woman, one that had faced more evils than even he could imagine, would admit so plainly that her own death had scared her left him puzzled… even worried.
- Death is never easy, she added with a bitter voice. I live by its side every day, I bestow it upon my enemies, tear innocents out of its grip; one could have expected me – of all people – to be prepared but… to see everything I held dear go up in smoke, to leave the people I cared about behind… to feel the air escape my breath, hear nothing but my own heartbeat faltering…
A heavy silence fell on the room.
- I'm sorry, Miridian apologized after a long while. I shouldn't have spoken so freely.
- On the contrary, Thane reassured her with a soft voice. I was willing to know. I feel for you; I don't think many people could have been through such an experience and come out sane.
Shepard took a deep breath and slightly squared her shoulders, feeling her anxiety turn into an energizing rage… like always. She clenched her fists.
- The only good thing about this, she stated severely, is that I learn well from my mistakes. I will be much more difficult to kill the next time.
Thane nodded his agreement:
- Obviously. You should know that I was offered several contracts two years ago, asking me to terminate you.
The statement threw Shepard off balance; she met his eyes:
- Really?
- Yes. Contracts that would have made me a very wealthy man.
- Did you accept any of them? She asked, wondering if she had once dodged a bullet from him without knowing it.
She'd had a few run-ins with assassins in her last years, but all of them had hit a brick wall. She was always very well prepared.
- You do not correspond to the type of contracts I accept, he replied with a hint of a smile. And an assassin must know when a target is out of his league…
- I'm not out of your league, Shepard countered, concealing the fact that the praise had flattered her.
- Maybe, the man shrugged. But the outcome would be less than certain, and I rarely work with unknowns.
He looked at her with a light in his eyes she had not seen before:
- But I would very much like to test my combat skills against yours some day.
Back on a known terrain, Shepard immediately felt stimulated by the challenge. Still, she did not show her interior excitement, contenting herself with crossing her arms in a confident posture:
- Is that so?
- I think it could be productive. And motivating.
- Agreed, she replied honestly. I will think about it.
She turned and started walking toward the door. Before she was out of his sight, she stopped and added:
- Maybe you could try and assassinate me while you're on the Normandy… not for real, of course. But I'd like to see if I can "duck".
She heard him chuckle.
- I will think about it.
Shepard left the room with half a smile on her face.
Please note that English is not my native language so I apologize for butchering it (or the quotation marks ^^).

So here we go!
I have rewritten almost all dialogues with Thane from ME2 plus a few bonuses and I'm starting to post them on DA. I hope to be able to publish it all on a regular basis!

Let's flirt!

Part 2 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]
Part 3 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]
Part 4 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]
Part 5 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]
Part 6 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]
Part 7 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]
Part 8 of Mass Effect 2 - Thane Series: [link]

Note: Everything belongs to BioWare, universe and characters, and preview picture which is a screenshot of the game Mass Effect 2 with the Female Shepard I customized.
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All was peaceful and still in the Captain’s Cabin. The only light to be had was the soft sapphire glow of the fish-tank, the light orange of the Commander’s private terminal and the starlight that trickled down through the skylight above the bed. The only noise was the gentle wheeze of the tank and the deft beeping of the terminal. Two bodies were encompassed by snowy white sheets, one human, the other Turian. The sheets fell over the contours of each body and fit similar to a child wearing an adult sized glove and only moved slightly when either entity drew in or exhaled a breath.

Neither of them were asleep, but neither dared to open their eyes. They didn’t need a visual to be aware of the other’s presence, the slow ebb and flow against their chests was enough to confirm each other’s existence and manifest a captivating sensation of comfort and sanctuary. And it was this sense of comfort that permitted each to exist as a singular whole without time or space to separate them.

The Turian’s hand lackadaisically traced the Commander’s spine, her bare skin radiating its heat onto his palm until they were equal in temperature. Garrus took note to each periodic bump that protruded under her smooth skin, as though to memorize the feeling of her body should he ever not have it to sample. He slowed his movements as he approached the small of her back, brought his hand to the back portion of her hip and gently massaged the silken flesh. This evoked a melodious sigh from the Commander’s lips and she silently inched closer to her companion so that every fragment of their separate identities seemed to meld together as a whole. 

Shepard’s head rested against the coarse skin of Garrus’ neck, her short auburn locks fell cascaded over her fair-toned cheeks and barely touched the Turian’s tanned flesh. Her arm draped over his torso and her fingers held a light grip on his carapace, her thumb gently rubbing the hardened case. Shepard had always been unaware as to whether or not he could feel her touch, but proceeded to softly stroke it anyway. 

He hummed a response, indicating that he was feeling her tender caress with gracious acceptance. His hand was still lazily circling her hip but with less and less velocity, and after some time, it ceased all movement and simply rested upon her skin. Her head nestled against his skin as she gave a contented sigh. Shepard’s breath tickled his skin and he felt warm air creep between their bodies upon her exhalation. 

Garrus could feel her breathing slow after sighing and instinctively knew that she was preparing to fall asleep. He felt her muscles tense as an attempt to keep herself awake but he gently stroked her hip, as though to tell her that she had every right to rest. Her body gave one last feeble flex of protest before it relaxed. Shepard’s grip on his carapace loosened, her body parted from his ever so slightly and her head remained where it was. 

The Turian lightly nuzzled her forehead and fanned his exposed mandible into a slight smile. He felt the Commander’s heartbeat slow as she fell into a more comfortable state of slumber. His sub-vocals rumbled intimately as a hushed sigh parted from his hardened lip-plates. He moved hand that had been placed on her hip up to her head and stroked her hair with a light touch. They rhythmic repetition of his hand mimicked the inhale and exhale of Shepard’s breathing.

Garrus could feel himself slowly fall victim to the hypnotic motions of both himself and Shepard. His strokes were becoming few and far between, his breathing slowed, his body was shutting down. He gave one attempt to fight it, but without victory. Before surrendering to sleep, the Turian wrapped his arms around Shepard and closed the gap between their bodies, feeling her completely surround him once more as he slipped into a dreamless state of sleep.
/casually drops writing and flees

There will be a couple parts to this, maybe three.
Each unrelated to one another but at the same time, they are?
I have no clue, kids. Just bear with me here.
-passes out bear costumes-

I don't own these assholes.
BioWare does.
But I do own the writing. uvu

Comment, Fave, Throw cheese graters at me, idfk.
BUT YES HELLO. HOW HAVE YOU ALL BEEN? I THINK I'M BACK NOW?!

Oh look

Part 2: [link]
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Invictus

Chapter One -Tårer af et knust hjerte - Tears of a broken heart…


****************************************************************
Margurite Shepard: Earth-born, War Hero, Sentinel. Full Paragon with a very healthy dose of Renegade. Saved Wrex, Saved Rachni Queen, Romanced Kaiden, Saved Kaiden at Virmire, Saved the Destiny Ascension; All squad members recruited and loyal, destroyed Heretic Geth, Destroyed Collector Base, Miranda and Legion killed.

Oops.

For the purposes of this story, Shepard doesn't receive Thane's LotSB letter until after he leaves.

****************************************************************
"Shepard, ETA to Invictus is twenty minutes."

Shepard rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. "Thank you, EDI. Have Garrus and Tali meet me at the Kodiak in thirty."

"Affirmative, Shepard."

Margurite Shepard stared with empty eyes through the dark portal above her bed into the empty blackness of space. She didn't need a mirror to know her hair was a tangled mess. She didn't need one to tell that her eyes were baggy from sleepless nights, or red from the tears she had shed. Hel, did she even have a mirror? For the life of her, she couldn't remember anymore. Not that it mattered. She didn't have anyone she wanted to look good for anymore.

Thane was dead, and she hadn't been there with him when he passed. The last time she saw him he had been with her on the Normandy, there in their quarters, their clothes and weapons carelessly discarded about the room in their desperate need to feel each other's skin against their own. It had been their last night together, before he booked passage on an Asari ship, kissed her goodbye, and reluctantly left her with a damaged ship and a disgruntled crew.

Shepard sighed, and forced herself up and into the bathroom to shower. Her crew needed their commander in top form. They couldn't see her unwashed, tear-stained, and in dirty, week-old clothes. They couldn't know her heartbreak, how she longed to join her love across the sea. She had to go on. For them. For her friends. For his son.

Thane would want that. He'd want her to keep going.

Her grief was nothing compared to the lives of everyone in the galaxy.

Shepard stripped and stepped under the scalding water. She knew that. She did, but Gods it was so hard sometimes. She missed his warm presence, his companionable silences, their deep conversations. She missed his rumbling voice that broke past all her defences. She missed his deep dark eyes that saw beyond her Commander façade and lightened upon the woman beneath. She missed his hands caressing her flesh, his fingers tangled in her hair, his lips trailing kisses up her inner thigh. His soft breath on the back of her neck, his arms holding her tight against his chest as she fell asleep and their soft, drowsy good morning kiss in the pale blue glow of their aquarium.

He had wormed his way into her heart in a way that no one else had ever been able to, and now that he was gone Shepard felt empty, hollow. Her thoughts and memories were eternally tangled up in the alien who made her fall in love with him.

Shepard shook her head, rousing herself from the memory of their first shower together. She turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, trying to ignore the phantom ghost of his palm on her stomach. She dried herself, did her hair and cleaned her teeth. Wrapping her towel around her, she walked out into her bedroom and to her wardrobe. "How much time until I'm supposed to meet the others, EDI?" she asked.

"Ten minutes, Shepard.

Shepard groaned and dropped the towel. Oh, crap. She pulled on her black bodysuit, and buckled each piece of red-and-black armour on one by one.  "Thank you, EDI. That's all for now."

"Logging you out, Shepard."

In three minutes she was fully dressed and heading out the door. She stepped in the elevator. The doors closed, isolating Shepard from the rest of the ship. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, practicing a couple of the meditation techniques her lover had taught her. A few minutes later she was the cool, calm, almost stoic Commander Shepard everyone knew.  Finally composed, she opened her eyes and pressed the button for the CIC, ready for the sights awaiting her.

****************************************************************

It didn't work. Any calm she felt quickly drained as the elevator doors opened. Shepard moved as quickly as she could from the elevator to the Armoury, her eyes narrowed and teeth clenched. With all possible haste she strode through the doors, selected her weapons, and walked back out the door again.

The shiny bright newness of the CIC irritated her. The Alliance retrofit had wiped the scars of the Collector battle from the ship. It made it seem as though the battle had never happened, that those who had been lost had never boarded her, gave their lives for her, for the Alliance, for the Council, for everyone. It was cold, cruel even.

It was downright disrespectful!

Her new Yeoman, Michael Colinton, called out to her as she went passed. No doubt trying to get me to check those infernal messages again, she thought.

Elendige skiderik! Michael irritated her, too. In her blacker moods he down-right pissed her off! He was never polite or kind about his constant nagging, not the way Kelly had been in executing her duties. Shepard tried to ignore him as best she could, pressing the button for the elevator and keeping her back turned to him as she waited for it to make its way up. As the door opened she heard him leave his post and walk towards her, constantly yammering the entire time. She quickly stepped in, turned around, and pierced him with her best don't fuck with me gaze. Colinton froze for an instant, then immediately scurried back to his post, the blood drained from his face.

Shepard smirked as the doors closed on the image of a cowed little man. It felt way too good to make him squirm.

Shepard sighed. She missed her chats with Kelly, too. The perky woman had helped her a lot after she was resurrected. She had become a friend by the end. But, with the exception of Joker and Dr Chakwas, the few surviving members of the Cerberus crew were all in jail, rotting away because of who they used to work for, Kelly included. Not even Jacob had been safe. All of Shepard's powers of negotiation could not convince the contemptuous Council to pardon them.

She had failed them. She had failed everyone, and the guilt was almost unbearable. They had all become friends, to varying degrees, stuck on the same ship for so long, under such incredible duress. She should have been able to do more. But she was going to try and keep her promise to at least one of them.

It was the least she could do.

****************************************************************

It was a very long, slow ride down to the Engineering and Cargo deck, where Garrus and Tali would be waiting, but it was long enough for her to calm down again. Just thinking of the sniper and the engineer made her smile. The rest of the crew may be in jail, but the fact that Garrus and Tali officially worked for her, not Cerberus, had saved them, and all the other non-Cerberus members of her squad. So while the ghosts had been replaced, and their home demolished and a new one rebuilt in its place, her family had remained. It made her glad that she had swallowed her pride and accepted the Council's offer for reinstatement as a Spectre. Even though, in the end, their support had been worth next to nothing.

The sound of the loud, overheated argument wafting through the deck jarred Shepard back to reality. Oh, what is it now? she thought. She gritted her teeth and hurried to the hanger. And then she stopped, eyes wide, then narrowing at the sight before her.

Garrus and Tali were both standing beside the Kodiak's open hatch, fully armed and ready to go. They were both tense. Garrus had his hand resting on the SMG in his holster. He would have looked relaxed to anyone who didn't know him, but Shepard could see he was on edge, ready to fight at an instant's notice.

Tali was standing directly in front of the Kodiak. She was pointing and waving her hands at a third armoured figure that was blocking the hatch.  Shepard groaned as she saw who it was. Alenko, she moaned mentally. What does he want?

The argument seemed to have been escalating for a while now. Tali took an angry step forward and poked Alenko in his chest. "Listen here, you bosh'tet…"

Alenko battered her hand away with his arm. "I do not care what you think, Tali." he said.

Tali took another, threatening step forward. "You have no right to do this!" she yelled.

Alenko's arm glowed a deep blue, Stasis ready to go. "Don't fight me on this, Tali."

Garrus had his gun out and pointing at Alenko before Shepard knew what was happening. "Be careful, Alenko. This will not go well for you."

That was it. She couldn't let his escalate any further or they were going to kill each other. Shepard raced across the bay and knocked Garrus' pistol aside with one arm and grabbed the collar of Alenko's armour, dragged him out of the Kodiak and threw him to the floor with the other.

"Stand the fuck down, all of you!" Shepard yelled. She met Garrus' eyes. He nodded at her and took a small step back before holstering his weapon.  Shepard looked towards Alenko, and saw he already had his biotics under control. Good. "Now, would someone kindly tell me what is going on here?"

Kaiden stood, brushing himself off. "I'm coming with you, Shepard," he stated.

"By Keelah you are!" Tali hissed. If she was a cat Shepard was sure her fur would have been standing on end. "Shepard needs people she can trust at her back, and you are not one of them!"

Alenko crossed his arms. "I used to be Shepard's most trusted officer, Tali, or don't you remember?"

"You were the one who changed that, or don't you remember?" Tali retorted.

"Enough!" Shepard yelled. "You are both acting like children!" She threw glares at each of them before continuing. "We have an armada of Reapers in the galaxy, the Council and the Alliance hounding at our heels, and enough merc bands after us to constitute a small army. The last thing I need is to have my squad at each other's throats!"

They all remained silent for a moment. Tali looked down at her feet. "You're right, Shepard," she said finally. She turned back to Alenko. "I apologise, Major."

Alenko nodded tersely. "Thank you, Tali." he said. He turned back to Shepard. "Commander, this may still be your ship, but remember you were only allowed to keep it under the condition that…"

Shepard clenched her teeth. "I am well aware of the terms, thank you." she forced out. Oh, why does this bullshit always happen to me?  She groaned, and looked back at the new Spectre. "Get in the shuttle, Alenko. You too, Garrus." she said.

Alenko walked past Tali towards the Kodiak, pointedly ignoring the quarian  glaring at him. Garrus climbed into the Kodiak ahead of him. Instead of taking a seat, Garrus stood in the doorway, his eyes narrowed on Alenko, his mandibles held tightly against his jaw, muscles tensed, ready for action. Alenko stared up at him, his own eyes narrowing; his body tense. A flicker of biotic power sizzled between his fingers. A deep low growl sounded in Garrus' throat.

Oh, for love of… "What did I just say?" Shepard yelled. "Both of you, back off! If any of you threaten any of your fellow crew members again, I will throw you out of an airlock myself!"

Garrus and Alenko both immediately backed down. Garrus even had the decency to look ashamed. He stood back and allowed Alenko into the shuttle, giving him a quick, if terse, nod as he passed. It was quite a humble peace offering, coming from Garrus, these days.

Shepard shook her head. The problems we've had since Alenko came back on board. Her squad barely tolerated him, and Garrus and Tali, who had been with her on the first Normandy, openly despised him. The crew was both in awe and terrified of the new human spectre. The conflicting sentiments had led to many interesting confrontations between the two groups. Miranda would have put a stop to it before it had ever got to the point where Joker felt entirely justified to "accidentally" spill a bowl of hot soup over his former friend. Her new XO however? Garrus had, albeit gently, patted Joker on the back and promptly taken a bottle of scotch up to her cabin and spent the night playing Skyllian Five with her.

I suppose it isn't surprising that tensions had risen this far, Shepard thought, but guder helvede, don't they realise I have better things to worry about? Like what it is that Alenko wants on that planet? She blinked. Well, now, that's an idea.

Shepard walked over to Tali before she could consider the moral implications of what she was doing. She grabbed the quarian's elbow and led her away from the shuttle. "Tali, I want you and EDI to hack Alenko's omnitool. Can you do that?" she asked.

Tali snorted. "Of course, Shepard." she said. "This is me you're talking to."

Shepard smirked. "I thought so. Do so as discreetly as you can. I just want you to monitor its use." Shepard said. She smiled at the younger woman. "Thank you, Tali."
"You can count on me, Shepard." Tali said. "Whatever you need."

"I know." Shepard said. She gently squeezed the quarian's arm. "Keep me updated if Alenko separates from us."

"Do you think he will try something?" Tali asked.

Shepard shook her head. "No. But I still don't trust him. Remember, discreet." she said.

Tali smiled sadly behind her mask. "I'll talk to you when you get back, Shepard."

Tali watched as Shepard walked back to the Kodiak and climbed in. The hatch closed behind her and the shuttle took off and flew out the cargo bay doors. It was no time at all before the shuttle was out of sight, zooming through the atmosphere, taking a broken woman to the aid of the boy who in a perfect galaxy would have been her son by now.

Maybe she and Kolyat will be able to help each other, once this mission is over. Tali thought. She quietly moved back through the cargo bay and back to engineering. "EDI, you heard Shepard. Let's get started."
Okay, finally, it is here. Invictus - Chapter One - Tears of a Broken Heart...

I've had this up on FanFiction.net for quite a while. In fact, it's been so long that in the interum I have discovered I needed to completely rewrite Chapters Two, Three, and now Four, the original Chapter Two.

I'll also be on Jury Duty for the next couple of weeks so the next one may be a little late, but I have sent it to my beta so don't worry.

This was also written LONG before the beta came out, so there will be some things that need clarification, but they will come later in the story.

Last, but certainly not least, that wonderful photograph up the top was done by the wonderful Kaoruku, whose profile is here: [link] . The photography is titled "Somewhere" [link] .

It was very hard choosing a pic for this chapter, but as soon as I came across Kaoruku's work, I just knew that I had found exactly what I needed.

Oh, and since I keep forgetting to do it:

The Mass Effect Universe is owned by Bioware. Even Thane. I'm just borrowing it. Margurite is mine.

Prologue: [link]
Chapter Two: [link]
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