A/N: Unbetad, and spoilers for the game.
If someone had told Shepard two years ago that she'd be sleeping with a Turian, and that Turian would be Garrus, she would have laughed in their faces. But likewise, if someone had told her that in a period of two years she'd be brought back to life from beyond the veil of death, she probably would have done something similar. It was odd how things seemed to work out exactly as they were meant to, though. Though things never seemed to work out well for Shepard.
It was strange how quiet the cabin was, peaceful and isolated from the rest of the ship, the world, the galaxy. Here, Shepard could pretend that the outside world didn't exist, a world of mercenaries and drugs and killing and necessity. God she hated that word: necessity. How many acts of horrible magnitude had been performed in the sake of that word, that the end justified the means.
And yet here she was, working with Cerberus, the organization who's very motto was one of necessity. Her crew was Cerberus, two of her squad were Cerberus, but yet they weren't, not anymore. It wasn't Cerberus heading into hell itself to save the crew of the Normandy, it wasn't the Illusive Man who had any concern for them. No doubt to him they knew what they were getting in to, and he was under no obligation, but she was. They were her crew. Hers, not his.
Wait, they had already done so. It was over, they were hers, the crew and her team, even the most steadfast loyalists of the Cerberus group. Sometimes it was incredibly hard to keep time straight in her head. Shepard knew that she had defeated the Collectors, but other than major events sometimes events were mixed up for her. She was sure Miranda had noticed, others likely had too. Grunt knew, he was surprisingly adept at reading her for such a young Krogan, much like Wrex in that respect.
Garrus knew and tried to help when he could. A whispered reminder into her ear that it was ok, when she woke up in nervous sweats screaming that it couldn't happen, they had to SAVE the Citadel. It was ok.
It was also odd that she was thinking these things even has her body lay sated and content under the glow of the tank lights, with a sheet draped over her hips and her upper body exposed to the light. Shepard was sated in a way that she had not been able to enjoy in more time than she cared to remember, once again forced to remember that it had been two years, not a mere few weeks like she remembered time.
Kaidan had made that evident enough, after all.
Slowly, Shepard opened her eyes, scanning the bedspread opposite of her, empty with the undersheet rumpled and still warm from his body. She frowned, sitting up slightly and looking through the dark shadows for him. She was rewarded with his body, hard lines and muscle and scale emerged from a shadow near her office. All the shyness from before was gone from him, and he moved with the sated grace of a animal, holding a wooden box in his talons. Shepard propped herself up on her elbow, glancing quizzically at the box and then back into his small, raptor-like eyes.
There, laid in them was a particular gentleness that she was not accustomed to seeing in Garrus' eyes, not anymore, not since he was an idealistic young cop back on the Citadel. He had changed so much, and the light revealed as much. The scarring on his face had healed, but he would bear them for the rest o f his life. He would likely never have full movement in his right mandible again, though he managed. Far from being unattractive, the scars no more effected her feelings than her own scars had Kaidan's so long ago.
Immediately, Shepard felt guilty. It was not the time or place to be opening up wounds that were working on healing. He approached, placing the box on the pillow between them and sliding back into the bed and her heart with all the grace of a cat, curled symmetric and opposite of her. His mandibles flared with mild nervous energy, though she just watched him, waiting. Shepard had always been a incredibly patient woman, the surprise to most who had met her.
"I'm sorry, did I wake you?" He said, his raspy deep voice gentle and quiet, shifting seamlessly into the quiet hum of the ship around them. Shepard smiled at him, and it felt like they were close together even though they were a foot apart. She shook her head slowly, and stretched, savoring the feeling.
"Yes. It was cold," Her eyes slowly shifted to the box between them on the bed, even as Garrus pushed down the sheets a little further, settling it between them. "What's this?"
She reached out and touched it with gentle fingertips, the wood felt light and soft. She was curious, and Garrus knew as much even as his eyes glittered. He opened the box silently with his adept, flexible talons, as maeliable as any human or salarian fingers, and took out five small vials, of each he opened and set on the bed between them in a straight row. Shepard leaned forward to look at them, and then looked back up as baffled as ever.
Garrus' mandibles flared slightly as he set the last vial down, careful not to jostle them. He did not meet her eyes, usually a sign he was either ashamed of something that had happened, or he was nervous. She waited, patient, until he spoke. They had waited this long, she could wait a minute more. He finally brought himself to speak, the tip of one talon running over the box.
"Among my people, paints are important, especially our clan markings on our faces and bodies. It's a ritual, usually performed with someone you are… really close to," He hesitated, but softened as she reached forward and cupped his face gently, silently encouraging. They didn't need words to communicate this. He began again, "each of these colors represents a feeling or an emotion, and where they're placed on the body has meaning as well."
"I'm not sure I understand." But there was no sign of rejection in her tone, simply curiosity. His eyes wandered over her body, her shoulders, arms, and bared breast to the blue glow of the wall, lingering there for a moment before meeting her eyes again.
After a moment, Garrus reached forward and dipped the tip of a talon into a paint so vivid red that it showed even in the dim light.
"This is the color of passion, placed over the heart, it means love. A mark over the belly is life, and the forehead is affection," He stiffened slightly, wondering for a moment what he was thinking. "I'm sorry Shepard, I think I've assumed…"
"Assumed what?" Her tone was gentle, curious, and fascinated.
"That even though we said that this was just to blow off steam, that's all, that it's become something more than that," His voice lowered, as well as his eyes. "I realized that at that Collector base past Omega 4, that time could end in the next year, the next month, the next week. I don't this, what we have to end on the note that it was just for stress. I… care for you, Shepard. More than I probably should."
Realization dawned in her eyes as she sat up a little more, glancing at the paint and then back into Garrus' eyes. She smiled, and it made his heart both sing and become silent, in wonder in equal parts.
"So," she said finally with a grin, pointing at the vivid blue paint, the same color as his markings on the bed, stark against the white. "What's this mean?"
"Hm, it means longevity, and hope."
"I see." Shepard pursed her lips slightly and smiled, dipping her oddly blunted and oddly adorable fingers into the paint, two of them dripping with it, and reaching up to press the two paint colored fingers over his heart. She felt his chest move under her fingertips in a sharp inhale of breath. "What does this mean?"
"It means that you hope for more." He whispered slightly.
"Appropriate, then. Garrus you were there, are there when no one else is. You keep me steady, grounded in the world. I hope, for more."
He had rarely heard her voice like this, quiet and tentative. It occurred to him for the first time that she may be as nervous about this as he was, and far from being alarming, it was assuring. Sometimes, Garrus got caught up in Shepard and what she was, he lost sight of who she was.
Finally, Garrus dipped his talons in the red paint, reached forward, and painted a broad streak of red across her chest and between her breasts, scraping gently past one soft mound and making her shudder. He would not lose sight of her again.
The crew as already fully at work when Commander Shepard exited the elevator, and most days now she rarely drew much attention besides the usual 'good morning, Commander.' She usually got. Today was a little bit different. There was nothing really wrong with her, not specifically, though it was odd to see Commander Shepard's face covered in different shades and colors of blue paints, all formed in elaborate patterns on her face and neck, heading down under her armor. She whistled as she walked to her private terminal, paint stained fingers dancing over the keyboard of her private terminal.
It was of course, as always, Kelly that was the one who had said something. Kelly Chambers had learned to rarely be intimidated of the Commander, and it seemed like she should ask.
"Trying something new with your makeup today, Commander?"
Commander Shepard smiled and shrugged a bit in that mysterious way of her. For a woman who's methods were so easily understood, she was very difficult to understand. She didn't seem to have any intention of answering.
But Kelly was no fool, and she knew her job. She watched and waited, and was rewarded when the Turian – Garrus- walked by with more than a few new markings of his own painting his face, green swirls along his scars and a red mark over his forhead. They shared a smile that was so intimate that Kelly was forced to look away, hiding a smile the entire time.
It was nice that the Commander had finally found somewhere she belonged.