When things finally slowed, Shepard found her way back home. She'd talked about this visit many times during their last missions, an almost uncharacteristic excitement coming over her as she invited anyone and everyone to visit her place back on Earth. Some of them politely declined. Ashley was too anxious to get back home herself, while both Wrex and Liara had expressed an interest in a visit. Tali claimed that she wanted to, but she had to get back to the Flotilla with the geth data in tow. Joker, Chakwas, Pressly - she all expected them to show their faces soon. She did boast having all the beer you could possibly ever want, after all.
It took a while for her to be approached by the one member of the team who hadn't said a word to her invitation. She was just about to board a ship when he called out to her, a hand lifted in the air as he gave a small wave and a, "See you soon, Shepard."
A week later, Wrex had already gotten tired of Earth and left in no small hurry. Liara was indoors, flipping curiously through the stations on the vid screen. She'd left Garrus inside, too, pouring over her collection of old novels. Nothing too fancy. No Shakespeare or Keats; she wasn't a scholar by any stretch of the word. Ever since she was a little girl, she'd been obsessed with space. When she finally had the cash, she put most of it into finding age old editions of 20th century science fiction novels.
But after spending so much time cooped up indoors, she felt overwhelmed by the sudden desire to be outside. Pulling a thick blanket around her shoulders, she left her company to whatever pleased them and made her way out into the backyard.
Now that she could actually afford the finer things, Calla's first purchase had been a house outside of the city she'd grown up in. The bright lights and busy streets didn't entice her as it has when she was younger. Instead, something less busy was to be her new homestead - somewhere she could see the stars. After spending so much time among them, being back on the ground without being able to see them just wouldn't do.
The February air was chilly, but Calla soon settled down in the damp grass. With aid of the blanket, the temperature was more of a comfort than a problem. She enjoyed time alone as much as the next person, but she wasn't completely alone. Not really. With the sound of Joker's teasing laughter in the background, as well as the constantly changing channels, she almost felt like she was back in the room despite her staring up at the stars.
It was difficult to find something that could match the beauty of a sky filled to the brim with tiny white dots. As a teenager, she'd discovered astronomy completely by accident. Her fellow Reds laughed at her for it, but their mocking didn't dissuade her. Even when she was still nothing more than an initiate, she had the idea ground into her head that she was going to join the Alliance. She'd swim in those stars.
The sound of feet on the ground behind her tore her attention away from the sky. She craned her neck to see who it was, a warm smile spreading over her lips when she recognized Garrus' familiar shape moving towards her through the poorly lit backyard.
"You spend so much time out there," he said, slowing to a stop beside her. "You don't get sick of it?"
Calla shook her head and curled the blanket tighter around her shoulders. "It's different for me. You probably traveled up there all your life." She patted the ground beside her. Wiping the dew off of her palm, she pulled her hand back under the blanket. "I was eighteen when I first got off this rock."
She watched as Garrus situated himself beside her. His limbs were too long to sit comfortably on the ground as she was, but he tried his best. It was odd seeing him out of his armor, but he assured her that he had a full closet of things other than armor back home on the Citadel. "That's true," he murmured, "What kept you here, anyway?"
Calla shrugged, "Necessity, I suppose. I didn't have the money before I enlisted. And after I enlisted, they got me off of here as soon as they could. Traveling the galaxy isn't exactly the top of anyone's to-do list with my resume."
"Ah." Her eyebrows knitted. That was perhaps not the reply she was anticipating. They sat in relative silence for a moment, but that was cast aside sooner than later. "Do you have a favorite?"
Calla made a quiet sound of contemplation. A favorite star? A favorite constellation? She had many of them. "I have three major favorites," she finally answered him. "Scorpius is the first." Slipping the blanket off of her shoulders, she began to roll up her right sleeve. Garrus narrowed his eyes, watching as she revealed a tattoo. It was simple, comprised of fourteen small dots along the inside of her forearm. The constellation itself was unfamiliar.
"Why is it your favorite?" he asked, reaching out a hand to grab her wrist. Her eyes widened slightly. The feeling of his talons around her wrist was a surprise, but she didn't struggle. Instead, she let him inspect the tiny dots, ignoring the goosebumps that rose on her skin when he began connecting the small dots carefully.
"My astrological sign is Scorpio," she said, her voice oddly quiet. When he looked up at her, his mandibles flaring in question, she shook her head and gave a dismissive laugh. "A bunch of nonsense. Long story. It coincides with my birthday."
Gulping the knot in her throat, she looked down at her arm. "I have two more," she offered. Her attempt to free her arm was weak, but it worked. Garrus' curiosity over the two other tattoos overcame any desire to continue looking over the first. He let go of her, giving her the freedom to remove her boot. Pulling down the thick socks, she revealed the second tattoo. It was along the inside of her ankle. "Ursa Minor, also referred to as the Little Dipper."
"The Little Dipper… Interesting." Again, he reached forward, tracing the dots almost absently. Biting back a laugh, Calla's chin trembled. The sound was only muffled, and he looked up at her expectantly.
"Ticklish," she chuckled. Hardass soldier she was, and she was still ticklish. Who'd have thought?
"What is the story behind this one?"
"Well, the other one I have is Ursa Major - the Big Dipper. That one would, uh, require me taking my shirt off to get at." Her chuckle turned into a full on laugh when she saw his eyes widen a little. "Don't worry. I won't." Running a hand through her hair, she shrugged. "I've always liked the Dippers. I read into it a long time ago. Some people say Ursa Major and Minor represent Callisto and Arcas from Greek mythology - an ancient Earth culture. Callisto got pregnant by Zeus, the head honcho, and his wife got so pissed she turned her into a bear. Arcas was her son."
Garrus' eyes never left her face as he listened to her talk. In their short time of knowing each other, she'd come to realize that he hardly ever looked away. "Was he a bear too?"
Calla gave a snort of laughter. "No, no, no." She sighed, "Jesus, I'm so bad at telling stories."
She felt the reassuring weight of his hand on her arm. "No, you don't. I'm just at a disadvantage."
"Oh." The word nearly caught in her throat. "Well, see, Arcas was Zeus' kid. Callisto had the child and then Hera turned her into a bear. It wasn't until later, when Arcas was grown, that he nearly killed Callisto, thinking she was a bear - a big furry animal. Zeus intervened and put them right up there in the sky."
"That is… odd," Garrus chuckled.
"Welcome to Earth History 101. Odd's a good word to describe it."
They sat there again for a long time. Calla put her boot back on and busied herself with lacing it. Garrus merely sat there, head tilted back, eyes focused on the stars. She wondered if he'd ever been to Earth. He hadn't hinted at otherwise. Or perhaps he was savvy enough with the human species that he could navigate them easier than most.
After staring at the stars for a long time, Garrus turned his head to her. "I'd like to see your other tattoo."
Calla nearly choked, lifting a hand to her mouth to try to stifle her own nervous laughter. "What?" she asked, "Right now?" Her free hand clutched at the blanket pulled tight around her shoulders. "It's too cold."
"Just a peek? You've intrigued me. I want to see this Ursa Major."
His voice had taken on a deeper tone. The faint growling in his words brought a wave of heat to her cheeks. He was serious. He was really, truly serious. "Oh, fine," she grumbled, knocking the blanket off of her shoulders again. Her hands went to the hem of her shirt and she lifted it up just enough so he could see half of it.
The black dots, larger than the ones that made up both of the others, stood out against her pale skin. However, he wanted to see the whole thing. Garrus shifted so he was kneeling by her side, and he reached out that ever-curious hand.
Calla's eyes fell closed at the feeling of him lifting the fabric up even farther with the back of his talon. She obliged, bringing it up most of the way. Her bra was still concealed, but the entire tattoo was revealed. Seven large dots, all positioned along her rib, forming an easily noticeable "Big Dipper."
The hand that wasn't holding up her shirt was soon trailing a path between the fake stars. Her goosebumps seemed to grow goosebumps, and she let out a soft sound torn between pleasure and protestation. His own breath hitched, his hand slowing to a complete stop.
When she opened her eyes, he saw the confliction there. Too much was happening. It'd only been just over a month since they'd left Kaidan back on Virmire. He was well aware of how she felt about him, and all too conscious of how much she must've been hurting. If there was any semblance of empathy within him, and there was, it was not for their deceased friend. It was for her. The question that he most frequently asked himself in the past weeks was not how he could help her find Saren, but how he could comfort her. The stress, the grief - he could see it on her face.
But he could see something else. After Virmire, her eyes hardened. She was so set on finding the rogue Spectre. She would find him and kill him, and she would keep a brave face for anyone who needed to look upon one. That was not the case tonight. She was supple. Her eyes were liquid, and her smile was genuine.
She lifted a hand and rested it along his neck. "Garrus." Even the sound of his name on her lips seemed different. It sounded warmer, more intimate. The feeling of her fingers dancing with uncertainty along his throat pulled him even closer to her. He watched as her eyes drooped closed, and as she slowly began to drift closer.
Her entire body gave a noticeable shiver, pulling her just far enough away from him to yank her out of the moment.
"You're cold," he said. His voice was louder and more informal than he expected, and she hurriedly pulled down her shirt and gathered herself. She was standing up, blanket cocooned around her, before he could even get his bearings. "It's cold. We should go inside."
"Yeah," she murmured. "That's probably a good idea."
They stood there staring at each other for another long moment of silence before Calla tore her eyes away from him and began her trek back up to the house. When she entered, the warmth almost overpowered her. Draping the blanket over the back of the couch, she sat down next to Liara, who was still intrigued by what she was finding on Earth television.
"She just watched someone make bananas foster," Joker laughed.
The asari looked from Joker to Calla, her eyes wide with amusement. "I have never seen such a thing, Shepard. Your different ideas of entertainment are intriguing."
Shepard grinned, "They were making bananas foster, and I missed it? Ugh, great."
They all turned to look at Garrus as he settled down on the chair opposite Joker's. The two others quickly looked away, but Calla gave him a small, knowing smile. While it was not exactly a protestation of affection, it was enough.
"What exactly is bananas foster, anyway?"