~ G.V ~
"Incoming!" Shepard's voice came in loud and sharp over the built in communicator in my armor and I winced.
"Dammit Shepard!" I yelled at her as I dove behind cover, a rocket hitting the ground a few meters away from me. Dust and scraps flew up in the air and limited my line of sight for a moment. "Some of us have an actual working hearing opposed to you deaf humans!"
It was supposed to be a quick drop and hit mission. It was supposed to take us no more than an hour tops. The base where we were supposed to pick up the intelligence was supposed to be abandoned.
I was supposed to be used to working with the living catastrophe magnet that was called Commander Shepard. Things never went the way they were supposed to with her.
"Not for long!" she laughed in my ear.
I snorted for myself and lined up a shot.
Things started out normal enough, as missions with her went anyway. It wasn't until we were making our way back to the shuttle that I noticed something was off. I had always been very aware of her. That went without saying. Especially since we had started to become... friendly off duty. I had always felt protective over her. It was just the deeply rooted normal turian military reflexes. Protect your commander, you are expendable, she ain't. More so now that I had started to take a personal interest.
But today I found myself taking unnecessary risks for her. Like making sure she was properly concealed, through darting across the battlefield when an YMIR had decided this to be a good time to go berserk and spew out bullets in all directions. Or making sure she didn't take point as we investigated a new room. I was on this mission in a sniper capacity, I don't think I had ever taken point before with her. There were other, smaller things too. One among them was prioritizing the mercenaries aiming at her before anything else.
I saw her noticing my unusual behavior, but she didn't comment on it. I wasn't entirely aware I was doing it myself, to start with.
It wasn't until we sat safely in the shuttle on our way back to the Normandy that I understood what was going on. When her smell drew my attention and my eyes lingered on her in a very unprofessional way. People knew we had a thing, it wasn't some big secret. You couldn't keep secrets aboard such a small vessel as the Normandy, especially if you were its captain. But we always kept things professional in front of others when we were on duty.
I did a quick calculation on the date according to the Palaven calendar as my body started to shift uncomfortably without my consent. The curse that followed drew a few eyes but I didn't exactly feel like elaborating.
When the shuttle finally docked I was the first one off it. I headed straight for the main battery. Ignoring how my boots left muddy stains on the floor or how my body was in desperate need of cooling off. Sometimes I envied the mammals for their ability to sweat to make their body temperature drop. As the doors slid closed behind me I shut my eyes and tried to clear my thoughts. How the hell was I supposed to manage this?
~ J.S ~
He was avoiding me, there was no other logical explanation for it. The Normandy was not big and not bumping into each other wasn't really an option. I always saw every one of the crew at least once a day, if I wanted to or not. Making sure you didn't see someone took planning and intent. Not to mention some kind of skill, I was sure.
It had been like this for a few days now. At first I didn't think much of it, we were both swamped with work. It was probably only bad luck. Heaven know we had enough on our plate to never have a free minute anymore, but earlier we had managed. Stealing an hour here, planning to get the same evening free there. Besides, I was an independent woman, my happiness didn't depend on some man. Or so I liked to think anyway.
But as the days piled up without getting to have an actual conversation with the elusive turian I started to suspect something had to be up. When I went to talk to him in the battery he was either too busy with his 'calibrations' or not there at all. He never came to visit at my quarters as he used to and I never saw him in the mess hall. What was going on?
One evening I told EDI to ask him to come up to the loft. I was working at my terminal, going over some reports I hadn't had time for during the day, and as I was concentrating on work I didn't notice the minutes tick by. Minutes turned to an hour. He was surely busy with something important, I thought. Garrus would come up given the chance. He had never refused my call before. So I waited. One hour turned to two and I started to become really irritated. What was so important this late that he didn't have time for me? Maybe he was sleeping? No, that didn't sound right. He usually had later hours and it wasn't that late. Was something wrong? Was he hurt? Should I be calling down to med bay to check with Chakwas?
Flummoxed I exited my quarters and headed down to the crew deck. When I reached the main battery I hesitated. Whereas I usually stepped right in, this time I pressed the door control instead. It gave off an alerting signal. It was late after all and although we had seen each other in any and all kinds of situations I would allow him some kind of privacy. If he wanted it. Which he obviously did.
The door stayed closed.
I frowned. It was one thing to not come running when called upon. A whole other to blatantly ignore me like this. Feeling my temper starting to flare I opened the door and stepped in. The room lay dark and quiet, only the idle vibrations of the engines I hardly noticed anymore could be heard. I looked around the small space but couldn't find him. I even went so far as to check where he slept. No turian.
"EDI," I said, directing my attention to her station over in the corner.
The round hologram that was her avatar flashed to life and illuminated the room with its blue hue.
"Commander Shepard, what can I do for you?" the AI asked politely.
"Where is Garrus?" I asked.
"Officer Vakarian is currently spending his time in life support together with Thane Krios," she answered without a minutes pause.
My brows creased together in a confounded expression.
"Thank you EDI," I dismissed her and headed towards the drell's chosen dwelling place.
"Logging you out, Commander."
So he was with Thane? Was that why he hadn't come up to me? But he could at least have let me know he was busy or... something. My insides fumed. Instead he had let me start to worry.
I slapped the door control with perhaps a bit more force than I intended. Cool down Shepard, I though to myself. Why was this getting to me like this? It wasn't as if Garrus owed me. We cared about each other, sure. We had spent a few nights in bliss together, sure. But we hadn't actually sat down and talked about our relationship, we hadn't defined it. Times were too unstable and what we had was too fragile. Any day could be our last and we just wanted to spend some time together. Or so I had thought. Was he having second thoughts? Did he want to go back to just being friends? If he even saw us as more. Why wouldn't he tell me in that case instead of this... this... whatever this was.
I let out a frustrated sigh just as the door opened. I found the both of them at Thanes desk. A pair of sniper rifles lay in pieces under their working hands, together with lubrication for the guns and a heap of soft cloths. The two alien men must just have shared a joke if I read their relaxed and slightly grinning facial expressions right. I might not be a total beginner on interpreting other species' moods, but sometimes I had a hard time with a few of the more secluded races. The feeling of awkwardly walking in on someone doing something they were not supposed to was however something that seemed to translate over all races. When both of them turned around in their seats, their faces dropped slightly.
"Commander." Thane was the first one to collect himself of course. Not that he had looked that surprised to see me. The drell was an enigma with his even face and tone of voice.
Garrus wasn't as smooth, he shifted slightly uncomfortable where he sat.
"Shepard," he said restrained.
"Good evening, gentlemen," I said with bravado. Trying to push away the feeling that I had just stepped into something private. "I was just looking for Garrus, really." My eyes lingered on him. He did look rather uneasy and this time it wasn't the cute kind of awkward. What was bothering him so much?
"Yes, well." The turian cleared his throat. "I was just about to return your call when I got distracted."
Distracted? Really? 'Was just about to...' Bullshit! Was he really going with that line? I schooled my face into my unreadable commander mask while bristling inside, waiting for the immense and unexplainable irritation and frustration to subside. It didn't.
"Right," I pressed on, not knowing really what to respond to that obvious lie.
"Was there something important you wanted?" Was that a guilty look that fazed over his features? I couldn't be sure, it came and went so fast.
"Important? No..." I shook my head and forced myself to breath. Taking measured, shallow breaths. Normal, Shepard, just act normal. This is probably nothing. They are just polishing their guns, he probably got caught up... I stopped that thought right there, realizing how it sounded even within the confines of my own mind. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. I didn't have anything to fear from Thane. None of them had showed any tendencies of being interested in one another. Why was I even thinking of this? Both of the men were looking at me, waiting for me to continue. Focus, dammit! "I just came to check on you since you didn't respond. We can take it another time."
"You sure?" Garrus looked carefully questioning, but I could read his lower harmonics well enough by now to know he was relieved. It bothered me.
"Yes, I'm going to tuck in anyway." I just wanted to get out of here and out of this strange and somehow upsetting conversation.
"Alright, well... Sleep tight then." He offered half a smile with the flick of his mandibles.
I forced my mouth to tilt upwards and hoped it came across as friendly.
"Good night, Shepard," Thane said with his usual calm, resonating voice.
"Good night." I turned the smile to him, this time it came a bit easier, and walked out of the room.
~ G.V ~
The urge to run after her was so strong it had me gripping the edges of the table as soon as the door slid shut behind her human shape. The thick skin on my knuckles stretched and paled and a soft scratching sound could be heard as my talons dug into the underside of the table.
"Smooth," Thane said in his stoic tone of voice. I forced my eyes from the door, I hadn't even noticed I was staring at it as if I wanted to tear it a new one. All my concentration was focused on keeping my body from bolting out of the chair. My muscles felt as tightly wound as a spring pulled out too far.
The drell had returned to his previous occupation of cleaning and reassemble his rifle like nothing had happened.
The frustrated sigh that escaped my lips was ground up in my throat and came out more like a growl. I had sought out Thane's company earlier tonight when I had gotten the call to come up to Shepard's cabin. Visiting her was simply not a good idea right now. Me and the assassin had our differences but on some basic level we understood each other. I had found I preferred his company over any of the other in the crew, save for Shepard. So it was only natural for me to seek out my distraction at his quarters tonight. Besides, out of everyone on the ship he was the only other person who would understand.
It had still been one of the most awkward talks I'd ever endured, and that was counting a few I had with my dad when I grew into my fringe. But the calm, unmoving sight of his eyes and the sound of his voice as he gently spurred me on in my explanations, had been a Spirit given gift and helped a long way to help me finish.
"She's driving me insane," I said when my mind had calmed down enough for me to gather my thoughts. Her smell lingered in the room and hindered me from getting my heart rate down to a reasonable level.
"You should talk to her, tell her what is troubling you," he suggested as he attached the last piece and hefted the newly assembled rifle in the crook of his elbow. He sighted down the barrel to make sure he got it all aligned correctly, even though I doubted the assassin would ever make such a mistake.
"No," I said. I could never do that. "I'd rather die than loose Shepard's respect." I tried to keep my hands from shaking as I started to put the pieces together on my own weapon. But the adrenalin that had just shocked my system kept sporadically sending surges down my arms, making my fingers twitch involuntarily. The metal clanked together and after a third failed attempt a green hand reached out and strong fingers enveloped my own.
I looked up and met Thane's big dark orbs. I had expected amusement, teasing for not being able to accomplish even such a simple task. Maybe even pity. His face betrayed nothing when he opened his mouth.
"You are obviously stressed," he mused. "Maybe this is not the best undertaking for you right now." He let go of my hand when I relaxed it and put the pieces back down onto the table. "The hangar should be empty this time of night." He leaned back in his chair with a lazy grace. "Maybe we should go down there and see if we can get some of that frustration out of your body."
I gave him a bemused look.
"You want to spar with me?" I raised one eyebrow. "When I'm like this?"
The slightest hint of a smirk ghosted over his lips.
"I assure you, Vakarian, you can not harm me."
There was a challenge in the air and right now I was all for jumping at it.
~ G.V ~
It was great to be able to go full out during the spar. My muscles had been aching for action more than I thought. It was truly freeing, feeling them stretch and contract as me and Thane moved over the floor. It had started innocent enough. Both of us testing the others' strengths and reflexes. We had been training together before, preferring an alien partner over the Cerberus crew, but the opportunities had been few and far apart. Despite that, it didn't take long to fall into a familiar pattern. We had been fighting side by side during missions often enough to feel comfortable with each other in a combat setting.
The metal deck under my bare feet scraped as talons dug into it, bracing for the barrage of flat handed strikes the assassin were raining over me. I blocked or diverted all of them until one slipped under my guard and caught me square in the ribs. My natural armor absorbed most of it and I could tell Thane softened it when he noticed it was going to hit its mark. But I knew it was still hard enough that it would leave a mark for tomorrow.
One point to the drell and he withdrew, dropped his stance and walked over to the side were we had our water. He patted a towel over his face as I grabbed my bottle.
"Not bad," he said when he lowered the cloth again. His green skin was still glistening slightly from sweat in the soft light. We hadn't bothered to light all the lamps in the hangar and only a few panels on the wall next to us were lit.
I swirled the water around in my mouth for a second, trying to get rid of the dryness from breathing so hard during the fight.
"You got me though," I said after I swallowed.
He tilted his head in acknowledgment of the statement.
"Still, not bad." He picked up his own water bottle and took a few gulps. He was still breathing hard and I could hear the rasping in his lungs.
"You okay?" I asked. The drell wasn't weak in any stretch of the imagination, but I still worried from time to time he might overexert himself. He was very passionate about his goals even though you would never suspect it from simply looking at his calm demeanor. I couldn't imagine what it felt like to not get enough oxygen when you breathed though, it was quite daunting.
"I'm fine," he assured me, put down his bottle and stretched his neck out before moving on to his shoulders. "I have a fight or two in me yet. How about you, getting tired?" The amused smirk that I had come to associate with the drell crept up over his mouth.
I scoffed. My body was still busting with energy and it literally tingled, asking for more movement.
"Not even close." I moved out on the floor again, dropped down to center my weight and waited for Thane to join me.
I gave him a second to assemble himself across from me before I moved in. Feinted a punch to his left shoulder while I sprung my knee up for his opposite side. He wasn't fooled by my trick, but was distracted long enough to be forced to hard-block my knee. I pushed in closer, something I wouldn't have chosen to do during normal circumstances. Thane was lethal at this range and my advantage over him was my longer reach and brute strength. Right now though, I didn't care, I just wanted to keep fighting. Being on the offensive, stepping into his personal space and forcing him backwards, felt great after having to defend for so long. One elbow aimed for his chin, which he easily caught, green thin fingers gripping my bicep like iron, left my soft side unprotected. Suddenly one of his legs were wrapped around my hip, the other ground down on my foot. My center of gravity shifted and as he threw himself backwards I had no choice but to follow. His free foot came up, caught me in the stomach and then I was in the air, launched by his strong leg muscles. I landed hard on my back, gasping for air. I still hadn't had a chance to move or react when he was looming over me, locking me in my place beneath him.
"That was not very well thought through," he said with a subdued chuckle and his warm breath wafted over my face. He had my throat in a strong hold in a green hand, his other kept one of my wrists fast against the floor. Had this been a real fight I was sure he'd have snapped my neck by now. The power he held only made me respect him more. "A strategical error from the great Archangel?" One eye ridge crept upwards.
He was taunting me. Stupid green little man. A strong foot slid between his legs, hooked around his knee while I, with my free arm, broke his choke hold on me. I flipped us around and soon Thane found his shoulders locked down by my elbow. His hips were held down through my thigh between his legs that still had a firm grip around his knee. Sometimes having turian double jointed legs had its advantages.
"Maybe I wanted to feel you squirm," I said, grinning with a flick of my mandibles as I looked down on him. I made sure to keep my weight off his chest, just in case. I was a heavy man.
"Maybe this would be an activity more suited for you and Shepard?" he quipped back and shifted his hips beneath me to get his point across.
Suddenly awkward about our precarious position I rolled off him and up on my feet.
"You just had to take it there, didn't you?" I tried to keep my voice humorous to not show that he had gotten under my skin.
Thane rolled up from the ground, turned and readied his stance with a grace you had to envy.
"Any weapon is fair when you find yourself on the floor," he said with a slight grin. Then he attacked. Hit, block, ripost, kick, dodge and he pulled away again. "You should talk to her." He sounded serious now.
I advanced, aiming a series of lightning fast strikes at his torso which he easily parried, before I drew back.
"No," I answered.
That was the last thing we had the chance to say for a while. The fight got started for real. Thane pushed me in whichever way he chose. I might have been the best hand to hand specialist of my crew back in my military days. But the green assassin was a class of his own. If I managed to push him back I knew it was only because he let me. He had to pull back his skill to match mine when we fought. That he managed such a feat only spoke of how good he was.
A good while later we were both breathing hard as we retreated to our water bottles by the wall.
"It is not very fair to her," Thane continued our earlier discussion.
On some unspoken cue we both started walking towards the doors. It was late, even for us, and it was time for bed.
"No, it's not." I shook my head. "But what would you have me do?"
He was quiet for a while as we stepped into the elevator that would take us to the crew deck. The drell seemed to contemplate something.
"Your relationship is not exclusive, is it?" he asked, sliding a questioning glance in my direction.
I wasn't really happy where this was going, but I kept it to myself. What I had with Shepard was fragile, tentative and very early. It had started casually enough when she asked if I wanted to relieve some tension with her. Spirits knew we had both needed it. We had kept doing it, but never talked about if it meant something more. I wasn't sure myself. She was a good friend, the best I had during these harsh times. I would never want to screw that up.
"No, it's not," I said.
The elevator started to move as the doors closed.
"Then maybe you should think about finding some other partner, for the time being. We don't have time for several hours of practice each day, as fun as it might be."
I almost laughed. That was Thane in a nutshell. As spiritual as the guy was, he was still the most practical man I knew.
"I guess I could." I pretended to think about it but the thought just didn't seem right to me. "But some other partner..." the doors to the elevator opened and we rounded the corner to head for the showers. Myself for a cold one and Thane for a warm one. "I'm just not interested. Sure I could take her out for a drink or two, but what's the point? It can never lead anywhere anyway..."
Then I saw the look on Thane's face. His features flattened out and grew smooth, not a hint of emotion in them. The closest to looking startled the drell would ever come, I imagined. I followed his gaze and felt my heart jump up in my throat.