"Snow?" Garrus asked, tilting his head as he processed the information. Shepard watched her companion carefully and her lips twitched at the sight of his curiosity. The turian's eyes narrowed, but the Commander had enough patience to wait out his apprehension. "What do you mean, snow?" His normally husky voice grew more vicious as he quickly became frustrated.
And he took the bait. Shepard's smile broadened and she felt her fingers twitch with the adrenaline, "I mean the weather- 'snow'. Is there any other kind of snow?" Snorting her own skepticism, she waved any possible answer away… as if Garrus could consider one.
"I understand what the term snow refers to, but I'm more confused by your intentions with it," he responded with mild concern. Ducking his head further into his armor, Garrus unconsciously backed up a step, but Shepard had him in her sights. Uncomfortable, the turian's shifting glances focused on the stars passing out beyond the safety of the ship.
He was already following her into hell as it was, why not a little bit further?
"Consider yourself lucky Garrus," Joker complained, shifting his chair away from the controls to stare at the two. "Snow is the best and while you guys get to goof around, I get to hang out with EDI." His eyes skirted over to were EDI hovered, seemingly unaware of Joker's current disdain. Studying her close friend and pilot, Shepard snorted as she caught the corner of his mouth teasing to rise.
Oh, he had hatred all right- a hatred that EDI wasn't an actual woman. Her control of Normandy during the Collector's attack had certainly changed his views of the AI for the better, even if the bickering continued. Either way, Shepard wasn't going to argue or taunt the pilot about his opinion.
"I refuse to consider myself lucky until I'm fully aware of what snow is being used for," the former C-Sec officer shook his head and nearly bashed his cheeks against the sides of his armored cowl.
They had chosen to keep everything a secret, to save the Normandy and themselves from an overload of media from both sides, but it didn't prevent her mocking calls out on it. Though they did nothing out of the ordinary when before the crew, Shepard was beginning to wonder how long it was going to remain hushed. As the Commander, gossip eventually climbed it's way to her and she was well aware of the rumors:
What was going on? What happened to the more reserved Garrus who existed only in the forward batteries to avoid the all human-rights crew from Cerberus? Why had he suddenly become the person to talk to when Shepard needed advice rather than Miranda, her XO?
Luckily Mordin was easily distracted to often forget her private adventures with Garrus so there was no mention of how her allergic reaction to turian's flesh in public. Naturally, he only inquired when she was alone and within earshot, giving her no easy escape route.
"Just think of it as a date," Shepard explained and coughed back the laugh as Garrus stared at her wide-eyed and speechless. His mandibles twitched before he began to retreat even further away from her, sparing one warning look before attempting a normal stance that didn't translate the ease he wanted.
"Wow, can the love birds please get off the bridge?" Joker moaned, a hand slipping up to his face to block out any imposing images. Shepard resisted the eye roll and twisted the pilot's hat around to mess with him before her arms folded comfortably.
"How much longer till we land, Joker?" Shepard insisted, shifting the conversation to avoid revealing Garrus' impending demise. Staring at the controls, she tried to read the input Joker had coming in, but the stubborn pilot shooed her away before any of it could make sense. With a scowl etched into his features, he repositioned his hat and swiveled the chair back to the Normandy.
"You get to wait five more minutes for messing with my hat," he snorted, glaring at her from the corner of his eye, "so that makes it ten minutes until landing. You better get down to the hold before I sic EDI on you."
"I am not a pet for your revenges, Mr. Monroe," EDI responded in her light monotone.
As the Commander turned, she winced at Joker's growing impatience and exasperation with the AI. "How about some sort of entity then?" He challenged; his voice fading as she departed with Garrus trailing quietly behind.
"Hm, perhaps," EDI continued and the computer generated tones refused to give any notion that she was at all pleased.
Nodding to the crew that gave her a fleeting look as she surged by, Shepard couldn't resist the satisfied smirk. She had a very concerned and equally confused Garrus following at a close range who she not only cared for as a crew member, but as a friend and partner. With the preservation of the Collectors' base, the Illusive Man rarely communicated with the Normandy as most of his resources were being used primarily for dissecting the information she had so graciously conserved. This resulted in a lot of free time for the crew and team, but simply because the job was over, didn't mean they were allowed to live with the freedom of civilians. The massive paychecks the Illusive Man generously handed out were enough to sustain everyone for lifetimes over, but all of it remained in the accounts. The Normandy was still in operation, even for the little missions handed over by Cerberus that often turned into merely dropping down to pick up a package.
Being space born, Shepard didn't mind the continuous life on the Normandy as some of the crew groaned about. Even with her happiness of travel and roaming the ship, she made certain that there were frequent stops to various locations for entertainment and high life with her crew in mind.
This stop included one to Earth where winter was raging as it always did this time of year. With the economy still prospering, it was the perfect place for the crew to rest and relax for a few days before heading out again. The Illusive Man, though she would have plotted the course anyway, had already agreed to give them some leave since many were complaining of little rest time between grunt work for Cerberus.
How the mighty have fallen. If Councilor Anderson had permitted it, she would have returned to work alongside Council without hesitation, but with her acceptance of Cerberus' missions came the loss of respect with the Council. It was a sacrifice that had been not easy to accept, but it was a choice she made.
"I've never been to Earth," Garrus commented, quickening his stride to catch up to her. Side by side, he towered over her like he did with every other human on the ship, but the turian still managed to remain even more intimidating in the battlefield. She could only hope not knowing the plan would incapacitate him in the fight.
"It's been years," Shepard shrugged, acknowledging her own loss. Offering the elevator with a wave of her hand, Garrus nodded his head politely and stepped inside. "I went to visit a few times as a child, but I traveled with my parents until I was old enough enlist." She stiffened at the realization that perhaps, she had told him too much. Though they both admitted the relationship they had started was something to fight for, it was still rocky terrain.
He had only spent the night with her that once; before the Collector base with his uncertainty and gentleness. Perhaps it was she who had become possessive or maybe Garrus had accepted the outcome of that one night, but he readily came when she called for him back into the room. He never once mentioned that one night or his feelings on it, and somehow, she regretted what they had done as he continued to isolate himself further.
But the first time she leaped into his lap, he had laughed and it was a sound she always sought to hear again. He accepted her request to curl up into his arms a while later, pulling her to the bed with an odd sort of determination in his eyes.
Like he wanted to do things right by her; like he wanted to prove that he could be more than a friend. She absorbed all he offered with a sort of happiness that she had never felt with anyone, but him.
The fear of him disappearing figuratively only made her strength waiver. Perhaps she was being too greedy and if she had any decency, she would let him go and actually find a fine turian female who would love him with respect to realize his renown. Her heart sank as she stared broodingly at the floor- it was a decision that hammered nails into her chest.
Garrus' head lifted like a hound picking up a scent. "You're awfully quiet for someone plotting such a dark event," he noted with a tinge of dry humor. Shaking away the depression, Shepard secretly shared a sly smile with herself before shrugging nonchalantly. Let him assume as he liked; this was a day for her to focus more on laughter rather than despair and she was prepared to absorb every moment of it.
But she had to know. "Garrus, what's going to happen when Cerberus is over and we're not needed to hunt down the Reapers?" She spied on him from the corner of her vision, watching as his gaze lowered to contemplate. Deep down, something tugged on her stomach in preparation for the worst.
"I'm not…sure," Garrus muttered, his tone growing darker as the Commander's heart fell. "I might return to Palaven for some time and see what comes of it. I haven't really decided or thought about it." He cocked his head, "And you?"
Unlike Garrus, she had already fumbled the ideas around in her head to consider the end of different scenarios. "If I can, I'll take the Normandy and simply travel. Joker'll come with just to pilot something other than the junk Alliance hands to him and some of the others might stay behind- like Jack and Jacob. Grunt will return to Wrex and the two will probably go hunting for another Thresher Maw just to kill something," She smiled wryly at the memories. "Thane will return to his son, that I'm sure of. Samara will go back to her Justicar duties as soon as her oath and vows end. I'm assuming Tali intends on going home, maybe with Legion to show not all Geth are hostile against the world. Miranda will probably work with the Illusive Man again or stay with me and work from the ship. Am I forgetting anyone?" She sighed before wincing, "Oh, and Zaeed will go do whatever the hell he wants to go do."
"And how do I fit into this plan of yours?" Garrus asked quietly, but there was no inflicting tenor to hint any other thoughts.
"You're the one I can't figure out Garrus and I've known you the longest out of all of them… except maybe Tali. That's why I asked." The other reason- to sedate her worry- didn't need to be mentioned. Garrus chuckled heavily in his gentle tremor and stepped out of the elevator as soon as the doors opened with a hiss.
In the bay, Grunt, and Tali waited patiently together near the shuttle with as little information as the turian at her side. They were the only other two who had agreed to come along after hearing the mention of a snow day, but Shepard assumed they were more curious than interested in what she had planned. The humans on her team- Miranda, Zaeed, Jacob, and even Jack- all had known her intent, though they not once spoiled it to the others. Thane had refused, mostly due to his disease, and Samara had agreed to stay behind on Thane's behalf.
"I thought you would never get here." Tali's voice rose so it echoed in the large bay and the Commander smiled kindly to her friend before charging up into the shuttle. With little hesitance, her team followed and took their seats- Grunt wedging his bulk into two.
"I have your course plotted to an area already covered in snow… and still snowing," Joker's voice fizzled on the intercom as the shuttle dropped from the Normandy's safe seclusion. "There's little to no people in the area so you should be undisturbed from your… increasing fan base," he continued with a taunting chuckle as dark as Shepard had been before.
The place Joker had chosen was indeed, perfect. The snow was falling heavily, but the flakes were large blobs of wet and flawless for her plan. The horizon was empty save for small collections of pine trees that barely hinted their health beneath piles of pure white snow. A frozen wasteland that was too good to be true.
With a final moan, the shuttle hit ground; spewing up snow to swirl around them with an energetic fervor. The heat from inside dissipated as quickly as the doors opened and Shepard's cheeks burned with the surprise blast of cold. Her team stood behind her and stared at the great empty spans of white before Grunt, ever the tactless of the bunch, simply charged into it until he stood calf-deep in the stuff. Looking up into the sky, he blinked at the incoming flakes before floundering farther away.
"Reminds me of Noveria," Garrus muttered, scanning the horizon as he absorbed their location. Her military stature faded away as Shepard nodded in slight agreement, though Noveria was a dangerous ice zone instead of the simplistic white before them.
"This, is snow," Shepard explained, motioning to it with a wide sweep of her armored arm. With their armor serving as protection, they would last long hours in such weather, with the suits core temperature remaining a stable degree with its technology. Shepard wouldn't waste a minute of it.
"Snow," Grunt repeated in his heavy voice before he stomped out another footprint. "What do you do with it?" A child in an adult form… and Shepard grinned at the complete innocence.
"Well," She began, stepping forward on her own and feeling her stomach spin at the sight of Garrus and Tali following Grunt's own tracks to examine the stuff that was so highly talked about, but not as deadly as Noveria's icy terrain. Bending down, she fiddled with the frozen liquid and compacted into a neat, round little ball. Cradling the object in her hands, she held it towards them. "You can do things like… this!"
And she threw. Since Grunt had asked, he was unknowingly the first to partake in the snowball fight. Her arc was a little high, but since the target was such a large bulk, it struck directly in the corner of his mouth- his eyelids closing similar to that of a lizard as he briefly let it melt on his face. Reaching up, he swatted the offending object to the ground and stared at the dent made in the rest of the snow.
"Snowball fights!" Tali shouted and nearly jumped into the air at her realization. "I've heard of these from other pilgrimages!" Immediately, she crouched down and began molding an oddly shaped ball, but the snow was so light and compactable there was little need to try extremely hard to make one…
Laughter broke from the Commander's throat as she spun away, knowing that Tali could choose any for her own target. Shoving through the snow, she focused on the saving grace of the terrain- the trees. If she could find cover then she would have a greater fighting chance than those out in the open- just like a true battle. The falling flakes stung her exposed nose and cheeks as she leaped around to the back of a tree- her pants mixed with chuckles.
The freedom of play with friends was going to be hard to ruin.
A large thump with enough force to shudder the branches above her made her second-guess the rules of the snowball fight. Slowly peeking out from the thick trunk, her attention focused to the large white splotch against the bark. Beyond the tree line, Grunt was shaking his hands free of excess snow- the snowball he had made being bigger than Shepard's head. Scanning the area, she noted Tali and Garrus also galloping to the trees with the turian attempting to outrun an armed quarian.
For a moment, she was blinking away intruding flakes to watch the chase, her attention more so on her lover than mechanic friend. He was charging top speed through the snow, his gate stretched with taloned feet barely striking ground before he was leaping ahead again. Battling enemies, Shepard had never really seen Garrus in flight mode- too focused on her own survival to consider monitoring his grace.
But the turian could move. Nearing the tree line, he quickened his movements even more until Tali was falling farther and farther behind. Another head-sized snowball struck the branches above her and Shepard quickly returned to her own defensive position.
She would be ready… forming another snowball; she waited patiently for Grunt, who seemed to have solely chosen her as his snowball enemy. Low to the ground, Shepard felt the chill seep into her knees before the suit began to compensate as she waited for Grunt to stop his predatory pacing outside her tree protection.
A blast of cold to the back of the head stunned her with enough force to crumple her balance and she tumbled face first into the ice. Tali's cry of triumph warned the Commander of her other attacker and she scrambled back to forming snowballs. Tossing them out to the other trees, she caught only glimpses of a purple uniform as Tali surged around Shepard's position.
"Sniped one!" Garrus hooted and a larger, more dangerous ball landed directly into his face as Grunt returned the favor. Everyone was laughing, including the normally violent Grunt whose chuckles vibrated from his chest. Spinning around in place, Shepard smiled at her own happiness as she watched her team slam snow into each other with as much glee as a human child.
Turning, a heavy mass blundered into her stomach and knocked her back into the snow with a soft groan. Rolling in the velocity of the fall, Shepard laughed as the arms around her waist tightened and she became aware of the blue armor and body enveloping her. His laughter travelled as he lay beneath her body weight- sprawled in the snow, but it died quickly, leaving only the mist of their breathing and the echoes of Grunt and Tali in a heated snowball fight.
The seriousness between them made Shepard dizzy. This wasn't how the day was supposed to end when she intended to escape the military training that had been her life for so long. She wanted to open up, to prove to herself that she was more than a tool for high powered government officials and this was one way to do it; to have enjoyable memories to call back on than the loss of so much from the Reapers' plans.
"Why haven't you tried kissing me?"
She struggled to hide her surprise as she sat up to stare at him. This certainly wasn't the conversation she had been expecting nor was part of all the thoughts raging in her head. He was waiting expectantly though, for the answer she needed to find. Playing with the snow closest to her fingertips, the decision to share information she always tried to hide danced behind closed eyelids.
Now was the time to choose.
"I don't want you to disappear and if I do something that's wrong, I fear that you will," She whispered, feeling her throat close up for the dark road they were travelling. Forcing her eyes open, she caught his frustrated expression before he masked it. Propped up on his elbows, he regarded her with the gentleness he showed only when they were alone in her quarters.
"I did so much research," he confided, his voice hollow. "Kissing is important to humans, especially in a relationship… according to the articles. And that night," he paused, his mandibles flaring as the only sign of his discomfort… or excitement, she was still learning what it all meant, "we both made a leap and yet, you haven't…" In a flash of fury with enough energy to force her to shy away, his arms pulled her to him and their lips connected.
Frozen, Shepard's eyes clenched closed as she waited for his refusal- a sudden jerk of his head and it would be all over for him to storm of in hopes of finding a female turian. There was no molding of lips, no tongues to dance together in the space between; only the odd pressure of his mouth to hers where she could feel the unusual shape of his upper lip against her own. His chest vibrated in some odd growl of approval until very tenderly, he moved away to allow only a few inches of space between them.
"Turians kiss a little differently, but it still represents the same thing," he explained, despair creeping into the rough echoes his vocal chords produced. "But I don't think I can anymore, not with my face as it is."
"I don't want to see you get hurt Garrus," She could feel tremors rising into her throat. "In my life, you would only get killed. If you stayed with a female turian, you could raise a family-"
"We could adopt."
Shepard sighed, but the scowl she had in store simply couldn't resist putting on a display. She challenged his innocent stare with her own, "That's not what I meant."
Suddenly, his mirth faded and his head lowered with it. "…I know. And you should realize by now Shepard, that I'm right where I should be." Her stomach twisted, but relief raced swiftly through her system until she felt numb. His eyes widened as he studied her, "and want to be," he quickly added. "What's wrong, why does it look like you just heard the worse news of your life?" Cautiously, he nuzzled her forehead with his own out of concern; a passing action that had stuck since their night.
"Just happy," She breathed, realizing the pounds of worry that yanked against her chest were fading away. Relaxing in his embrace, she kept her hands wrapped around the top of his armored cowl, as she would have done to a human's shoulders. Adapting to each other had been difficult, if not humorous at times, but it was well worth it until her curiosity got the better of her judgment.
"How do turians ki…"
He paused, growing uncomfortable until his eyes flickered behind her. "Look." He snorted, motioning up towards the top of the hill. The marks they had left in the terrain during their fall were barely visible as snow continued to rain down around them, but through the wind, Shepard could spot Tali slowly approaching in her search.
He helped her stand, though they both wobbled in the growing accumulation of snow and Shepard waved as Tali trudged over. Behind her, Grunt was already following in her footsteps, with him more covered in snow than she. Garrus immediately retreated, the tickle of his breath against her ear fading as he backed away to hide what they were.
It saddened her, but it was a price to pay for the truth she so dearly wanted. A human desiring a turian? So many would frown on that feeling…
"That was fun, Shepard," Tali exclaimed and behind the mask, the Commander swore she saw the brief silhouette of a smile. "I'm glad I came along."
"This storm is growing worse," Grunt observed, halting a few feet ahead, but his usual krogan temper had been worn down to the slightest thread. Nodding her agreement as the wind picked up to torment all of them, Shepard began the slow walk back to the shuttle. Grunt led the way, plowing through it all as if he had been built for that sole purpose while she and Tali remained in the middle of the two male aliens.
"We should do this again some time, with the whole team here," Tali continued, her gaze growing inquisitive. "I want to see how Legion's circuits handle such extreme wet weather."
"Aren't you nice," Garrus grumbled from behind and Shepard tuned out the bickering with an efficiency Grunt lacked. By the time they reached the shuttle, the krogan looked more and more ready to knock some heads, but he quietly took to his seat as the others continued.
Shepard was more curious as to how turians kissed rather than the conversation at hand. If Garrus was uncertain to tell then it only increased her need to find out why. Perhaps his avoidance of the subject was due to his inability to kiss another turian properly or maybe it was a cultural thing. Either way, Mordin was sure to know… especially after all the lovely advice he had given before.
As soon as the shuttle docked, the team separated after a few short farewells. Duties that had been neglected for the sake of the snowball fight mission required attending to, but for once, Shepard was pleased to see that everyone had something to do rather than follow her around as she investigated. When Garrus disappeared without reappearing, she quickly left for Mordin.
Travelling the ship with such vital information often felt like some sort of spy game, with others reading her mind whenever she passed by. Kelly usually understood her more than most and it was always a dangerous game they played when the assistant knew Shepard was withholding something.
When the elevator doors opened, the expected greeting from Kelly was noted, but escape wasn't going to be a possibility this time. Just as the Commander was prepared to literally sneak her way to Mordin's lab, Kelly turned to glance over her shoulder.
"You're still in your armor, Commander," She noted, her eyes scanning the detail before refocusing on Shepard's face. "It's also soaked. When you go up to change, I thought I would let you know that you have some paperwork to log from the last mission we did for Cerberus."
Slowly inching towards the door, Shepard smiled politely at the young woman. "Thank you Kelly. I will look into it as soon as I can, but I intend on visiting Mordin first. Please tell Joker he can pick any destination to dock on Earth for some crew leave."
"Very well, Commander," and she returned to typing.
The salarian was naturally at his lab table, working with a microscope on unknown items that held the scientist's interests. He glanced up when he spotted Shepard's movement from across the room and he straightened with an odd grin on his face.
"Shepard, working to increase the quarians' immune system. Busy work, but glad you stopped by. Is there something I can do?" He stared at her with feigned impatience and Shepard worked fast to process his pacing.
"I was hoping you could share some information with me," She held up her hand for him to wait when she heard a brief inhale and he stilled. "Garrus was telling me about how he can't kiss another turian again, why is that?"
He remained stiff until her hand lowered, to which she rolled her eyes, but Mordin ignored her and quickly returned to his microscope. "Interesting concept, yes, I can see why impossible. Garrus- very respectable turian, but also scarred. Broken mandible prevent such interaction between other turians."
This was information she had already gathered on her own insight, but Mordin had reassured her that the assumptions she had created were indeed correct. "I don't understand why that would stop him," she continued, but her attempts to remain innocent in the matter didn't prevent Mordin's own observations.
"Very dangerous action between turians, especially for females," Mordin insisted, looking up from his work to briefly stare at her. "Males interact as sign of dominancy. If turian interacted in such way with other species, even more dangerous." He gave her a look, then fiddled with the scope's controls.
"Mordin, I don't understand why a broken mandible will prevent this," she pressured, throwing caution out the window in hopes that he would simply tell her instead of giving the finest of details before explaining it all. Her jaw glued itself to the roof of her mouth as she waited.
Sensing her irritation, the salarian shrugged. "Turians' mouths very flexible- you should know." Shepard felt her cheeks rise in temperature and slowly turned in a fake examination of what he had along the far wall. "With one shift, they can expand the jaw. Rather remarkable. The mandibles balance the jaw to avoid breaking exoskeleton. To… kiss, one turian will adjust the jaw and bite the back of recipient's neck."
Satisfied with his answer, Mordin nodded vigorously. With her blush lowering, Shepard stepped toward his table; her hands sprawled against the metal surface. "That's it? Somehow I thought it wasn't as… vicious." Uncertainty gnawed at her gut as she considered turian romance. Of course she had no intention of leaving Garrus, especially after what happened in the snow, but the idea of such violence…
"Not vicious, quite romantic. The bite is only one part of a kiss. Doesn't puncture skin, but teeth are positioned on the spinal nerves for the brain. Turian teeth are hollow, more or less, part of them are-." Mordin cleared his throat, as if to sway the thoughts back into order. "Not important. The teeth serve as a base of transfer for vibrations; why it is not vicious."
"Not sure what to call it. Even turians. Salarian scientists, like myself, call it singing, but deny such notions. Turians get angry at suggestions," he snorted his distaste. "It relaxes the mind and increases the libido of other turians: transfers illusions- mental images of partner's feelings… Not sure of effects on humans." Mordin straightened to study her once more, but Shepard's blushing had eased for her to focus more on the curiosity streaming through her veins. "Garrus has a broken mandible so balance of the jaw is impossible. Or highly unlikely. Very dangerous for him to try. Don't encourage him. Bites down too hard and spine will be damaged. Dangerous for you too – human skin so very weak, sharp teeth may puncture and cause injury. Unless, one might be able to strengthen human skin, very possible idea…"
Mordin began rummaging through his drawers, muttering so quickly Shepard soon lost track of what was being said at all. Without the salarian even noticing, Shepard slipped away up to the elevator. Kelly gave her a questioning look, but said nothing as the Commander studied the elevator with more focus than she had ever given it before.
Shuffling into her quarters, Shepard slowly shed her armor with an eased sigh of relief and hunted down her pajamas. The day was nearly at an end, why stress it more with excess clothing? In shorts and a tang-top, she considered the blinking number on her private terminal with hatred. Her mind, so distracted with the bundle of information Mordin had generously offered, was far from interested with work.
She found herself ready to search turian culture to see if she could somehow reach out to him like he had done to her with a humanized kiss. Perhaps he would relax a little more if he saw she was at least trying. She lost track of time as she visited various sites with hope of finding some sort of useful information on anything turian.
Many sites dealt with turian cuisine- something that became far more challenging than it looked as she read on. Others included various background information as well as physical appearance- all for the use of other species working or dealing with turians. Only a few offered inter-species relationship advice, but most of it seemed trivial or too awkward to read…and there was no mention of a turian kiss anywhere.
Spinning in her chair, Shepard stared at Garrus leaning in the doorway. His arms remained folded, but the blue hues of his eyes were everything but angry. Hearing her heart pound painfully against her ribs, Shepard blinked to understand all she saw. Garrus wasn't wearing his normally odd colored clothing or even his visor, but rather a darker version of turian clothing, loosely fitting as though it was meant for one quite larger than Garrus' build. It exposed more skin along his neck and left his hands and feet bare to feed her eyes as well as letting him move freely- a clever invention for when turians wanted to relax.
"I ran into Mordin," he continued, stepping into the light of the fish tanks and observing the swimming ruckus inside, "who decided to warn me that turian kissing is highly ill-advised." The blue hues danced along his face as the fish travelled back and forth in front of him and he ignored her gaping.
Multiple ways of killing the salarian scientist ran through her mind as she watched him gracefully step down into the rest of the room. Without the awkward bulk of his normal uniforms, he seemed more at ease than she had ever seen him, but glancing at the clock warned her it was quite late- the only reason he was able to sneak into the elevator unnoticed in this more personal state.
But there was no possibility to avoid the incoming discussion, so Shepard merely shrugged. "I wanted to know everything. Why you couldn't do it anymore and why it was so unexplainable. I think even Mordin struggled a little bit and his mind is the biggest thesaurus I've ever worked with."
As she had hoped, Garrus chuckled and glanced at her through the collection of ships she accumulated. Moving around again, the ex-officer nodded, with his mandibles shifting slightly in his own facial expressions. "It is hard to explain, so I thought I would show you." Turning to face her from afar, his gaze grew deadly.
Shepard's eyes widened and she stood- putting a hand up to stop his plan before it went in motion, "No, the last thing I need is Mordin having a 'I told you so' moment the next time I see him with both of us in the med bay: you with a broken face and me with a broken neck."
"So you do know the risks involved." Stepping forward, he leaped the steps to be once again at her level. His predatory stance never wavered as he began stalking her and for a moment, Shepard was afraid. Garrus had never hurt her or tried to hurt her, but from what Mordin had explained, she feared for their safety.
And Garrus had never broken the rules when so much was at stake.
"Do you trust me?" He demanded; his voice growing heavy to make Shepard's knees weaken. She paused, feeling her breathing accelerate at what could happen after she answered.
"Yes." It was a given. She always would trust him, whether he chose to break the rules or not.
So she stood still as he approached, feeling muscles strain with the silent need to avoid, escape, and hide to prevent it all from happening. Skimming around her, he slowed just as his chest pressed up against her shoulder blades causing her to wince. His arms slipped around to rest comfortably at her waist and one side of his face leaned in to press against her own.
"It doesn't help that you're stiff as a board," He teased in a low rumble, his breath tickling her ear and she swatted playfully at him to release some of the tension. "You remind me of… myself when we spent that one night- how nervous I was before you eased my mind."
"You don't seem to realize how bad of an idea this is," She pressured, giving up on trying to turn in his hold.
"I won't hurt you, I know by now how fragile humans can be," He sounded certain and quite satisfied with his knowledge, but Shepard still imagined how many ways this plan could go wrong.
"Bad idea for you," She insisted, growing restless as her training nagged her to use force to get away…
"I've handled far worse Shepard. You died. I think that sums it up and I don't think I can let you go one more time without offering you this. It's everything- all that there is and will be in one gesture." His pause was infinite, but full of a hidden meaning that Shepard wasn't quite sure how to respond. "I'm with you Shepard," he continued, his voice growing softer. "And this is the greatest gift I can offer. I'm not sure what will come of it- no one's really worked inter-species relationships so I can't promise you what Mordin may have said."
Preparing to retort, she wasn't expecting the low grumble that began to emit from his chest and throat that sounded nothing like music at all- but each octave he struck with the… growls… made her muscles lax till he was helping her stand by holding her to him.
"Now." He whispered, the growls ceasing and Shepard's eyes flickered open to consider what now meant. Her thoughts took their time to reassemble, but the odd popping noise - eerie and horrifying – behind her helped her brain connect the dots.
"Garrus, wait-" One taloned hand slipped from the waistline and gripped her jaw to still her and she felt her insides twist. It was too late. His jaw was already shifted, if not dislocated entirely, but he made no grunt of pain or displeasure. Unable to see him, her mind played different images in her head, some more frightening than others that made her want all the more to escape his grasp.
Tears welled up and threatened to spill as Shepard inhaled sharply. "I trust you," she whispered and she felt his head jerk forward. Like prey in the claws of the hunter, Shepard mentally thanked Garrus for his hand holding her head still- keeping her from thrashing about in the instinct to flee. His other arm tightened around her waist, hoisting her up off the ground till her feet dangled inches from the floor to make up for the height distance.
His mouth carefully scraped up against her skin, molding with the shape of her neck and nudging untied hair out of the way with a brush of his nose. Breathing heavily as if he was returning from a harsh battle, Shepard trembled at the feeling of scalding air striking the sensitive area, and her eyes clenched closed at the presence of something sharp.
She had always seen them through the gaps of his mouth, where his mandibles failed to cover, but it was always from afar. She never inquired about the black points, but was aware of how sharp they were, considering how predacious Garrus appeared at times. Now they pushed against hypersensitive skin firmly as he began closing his jaw further- pinpricks that caused enough damage to break through.
Pain- sharp and brief, but nonetheless there. He had pierced her skin, but seemed to stop there as she felt blood swell to the area to assess the wound. Garrus froze then- rigid against her and his breathing slowed before he shifted.
Fear shrouded him like fog and like any trained military personnel Shepard could almost taste it. Time to take a chance- if she moved only in slightest wrong way, any one of his teeth could puncture something else and continue the damage… but if she stayed absolutely still, Garrus would panic and run.
Following the length of his arm, Shepard's hand slipped between them against his abdomen with her palm splayed against his plating. He immediately sucked in his stomach as her fingers closed up around the material of his shirt and kneaded it.
His shoulders were the first to relax, only maintaining enough strength to hold her upright, and everything else rapidly followed until his breathing was raspy growls… and then he began to rumble.
The salarians called it singing, and to Shepard, it was just that, but sounded similar to the Earth's whales with long sorrowful notes that changed tones. All the octaves were low and interchanging as he travelled along the music in his mind. Her spine tingled where his teeth met, sending numbing shivers through her brain until she nearly wanted to try singing with him.
It was all there in the music… his undying love and passion that the notes passed on to her mind. There were no images, just a subconscious sense of knowing as the shivers traveled until the tears began streak down her face without any control.
She was learning so many things she never thought possible from the quiet turian.
He had mourned her death beyond the time of any other. He had longed for her, even before Ceberus had begun rebuilding her life. And he loved her more than anyone had given before.
All of it was exceedingly overwhelming, but not at all stressful as his last mournful note echoed in her chambers. As soon as his chest and throat eased, he swiftly lowered Shepard to the floor- steadying her until she crumbled ungraciously to the floor as her legs wobbled. Stunned into silence, she watched him charge for her door, pausing there with his hands splayed firmly against it and his head lowered.
Without him, she felt cold and abandoned on the floor like a child losing a security blanket. Even from where she sat, Shepard watched his body tremble against the metal entrance, encased in the shadows and darkness. Collecting her thoughts, she inhaled, feeling more refreshed and alive than before all this started. "Garrus?" She ventured, flinching as one of his hands reached up to the face she couldn't see and moved something.
An audible cracking sound followed and the Commander swallowed back her nausea. Part of her wished she prevented all this from happening and yet, she knew it had been his choice to do so. "Garrus," She repeated and he slowly turned to look over his shoulder. The lower part of his face was obscured by his outstretched arm, but his eyes were cool and at ease.
Reaching up to the back of her neck, her fingertips brushed against the warm liquid. Studying the amount, she shrugged, "Nothing too major that I should be concerned about."
He grunted, unconvinced, and returned to stare at her door. It made her worry, that perhaps she had done something wrong. Maybe she should have turned him away when she had the chance, but he had insisted…
Rubbing her arm to shake away both the chill and her incessant worrying, she struggled to her feet. Garrus made no move to help her as she uneasily tackled the steps toward the bed and she would have been surprised if he moved it all during her transfer. He was bothered and yet, she felt indisputably helpless that she couldn't find a solution.
"I hurt you," He groaned hoarsely as Shepard settled at the foot of the bed, tucking feet beneath her and listening for hints of pain from him rather than concerning herself with her own injuries. At least he was speaking clearly without any hint that his jaw had failed so Shepard waited. "I'm sorry Shepard. I thought that I… could handle it. Maybe I was overconfident."
For a moment, he had been bold with her; taking a daring leap that exposed him. Now, he shrank back within himself and she became undoubtedly aware of how far he was shying from her.
"I should be the one apologizing- I'm getting a little jealous that my door is receiving more of you than I am," She teased, grimacing as he shook his head and slowly turned. Shepard wanted to blame her lust on the side-affects of his kiss, as Mordin had so gladly explained, but Shepard was certain that some of it was her own and she wasn't going to complain. Either way, she yearned for him to be close, even if it was to hold her. Still engulfed in shadows, he skirted around the light of her fish tank to obscure himself further and Shepard bit back the frustrated snort.
Something was wrong. Her lips twitched into a frown as she scanned him up, searching for any sign of distress. Daintily stepping down the stairs, he finally entered her vision entirely and Shepard whimpered her sorrows. Garrus' gaze jerked away and she caught the healthy mandible flare with his spurring emotions.
The damaged one hung limply a few centimeters lower than it normally did, not following its mate in Garrus' control. Shepard's feet slipped to the floor as she stood, the world spinning briefly at the change, but she couldn't resist the smile as Garrus gripped her arms to steady them both. He refused to look her way, but the possessive hold informed her where his attention was.
"I'm making you uncomfortable, aren't I?" She murmured, her hands sneaking up to rub his throat beneath the mandibles. Turian physiology was complicated; she had learned that as soon as she had undressed him the first time, and Shepard knew how sensitive all the soft skin he possessed actually was. The jaw line was no different as she found the ridges of strained tendons.
So perhaps the situation was fixable after all.
"Nervous, Shepard," He corrected with a low rumble as his eyes flickered closed under her care. She smiled up at him as each exhale became more of a hiss while she worked on getting the knots out of his muscles. Soon after, his head lowered for her to have complete access to the injured mandible until the tendons beneath relaxed. Very slowly, the mandible returned to its proper place and followed the twitch of the mate. The damage done to him had been unforeseeably easy tending and she hid her relief when the tension dissipated.
"Thank you Garrus, for what you did."
His eyes snapped open and he immediately drew his head from her hands to regard her warily. "You're forgetting all that happened." Though he seemed withdrawn, he refused to let go of her as his grasp tightened around her arms at the memories.
Her determination didn't waver, "No I didn't- you sang."
Garrus instantly became defensive, "It wasn't singing." Shepard chose her own stalking method by poking him in the sides. Shying away from the pry, Garrus retreated a step and relinquished his hold on her arms.
"I'm certain that it would be considered singing," She pressured, pestering him and watching with amusement as he tripped over his talons in the attempts to back up.
"It's part of our culture, it doesn't need a name," He responded, ducking away from another one of Shepard's dangerous digits. Pinned between the wall and herself, Shepard grinned as he realized how cornered he truly was.
The lunge wasn't exactly as planned, especially since her own balance completely failed her, but he caught her just the same. Tumbling backwards with the momentum, the wall crashed through as it swung open into her private lavatory. Garrus grunted as he struggled to get his footing, his talons digging deep into the floor as he collapsed inside.
Once again curled into his side for her own protection, Shepard relinquished the building chuckle at Garrus staring wide-eyed at the bathroom ceiling. Though it was elegant in the prospect that this was indeed a ship, the bathroom itself was quite small and Garrus had landed them both in the shower stall.
"I always forget what part of the wall is actually a door," Shepard smiled innocently and Garrus' stunned snort told her he was listening. Studying the surroundings, her gaze immediately fell to the water head looming above them. "Whatever you do, don't move," She hissed and Garrus followed her focus and she coughed back her laughter. "The enemy has us in its sights."
"Motion-sensored junk," he muttered and leaped to his feet.
Stunned at the move, Shepard opened her mouth to scold him and immediately got blasted by warm water. With it streaking down her face, she blinked at the immense pressure and shielded herself with her arms. "Garrus!" She was quickly soaked as the water continued, steaming up the room as the temperature shifted from cool to scalding- normally the way Shepard preferred her showers in the morning.
"You're battling pretty well on your own," He stated nonchalantly, his arms folding across his chest as he watched Shepard struggle to stand. Glowering at him through the steamy haze, the Commander untangled her limbs and stood, letting the heat numb her nerves and wash the blood away.
"Garrus Vakarian get your ass in this shower now," She pointed beside her, giving him a warning glare that melted the wills of her enemies.
His arms unfolded and he gave her a mock salute before trudging inside. He shuddered as the water struck him, but he remained solid as he met Shepard's stare. Deep down, Shepard mourned the loss- finding that the romance of the kiss had never been, only becoming light humor to avoid the awkward responses. Garrus' kiss had turned into a game, where the enemy was the shower, but perhaps this was how it was supposed to be. Without this… their relationship would never pull through.
Reaching up, she cupped his face- feeling freshly massaged tendons move his mandibles against her palms before her lips connected with his own. Pulling away quickly, she hesitated, "My kisses aren't as extravagant as yours, but they mean the same." Perhaps she was getting too sentimental… "I don't sing mine either, unless you really want to wake up the neighbors." Her eyebrow rose in question as Garrus' throat vibrated in a hollow chuckle.
"I don't want you to be any different, Shepard," He insisted, nestling his nose in her wet hair.
"Good," She sighed in mock relief, "because I really didn't want to try singing." Shepard watched as his mouth twitched and smiled as his chuckle transformed into laughter.