Disclaimer: Mass Effect copyright Bioware; just borrowing the characters for fun... no, scratch that. Garrus is mine, Bioware. Just come and try and take him back :P

This is a one shot that has heavy spoilers for Samara's loyalty mission. If you haven't reached that part of the game, please, turn back now. Assumes a female Shepard with mixed paragon and renegade tendencies... neither high enough to break away from Morinth's spell.

Thank you, Bioware, for making the sexy turian romancable...

It isn't the first time he's been granted access to the VIP entrance on the lower level of Afterlife.

During his days as the Archangel, he'd often frequented the seedy and exclusive section of the popular nightclub, and had formed quite a few connections of his own. Unpleasant, but necessary due to the nature of his quarry. He'd managed to pick up quite a few leads simply by being there, quietly observing the interactions of the clientele. He learned how to melt into the shadows; perhaps not as effectively as the Normandy's most recent Drell recruit, but well enough to position himself in such a way that he could effectively eavesdrop in on some of the more suspicious beings that tended to consider Aria's nightclub as their base of operations.

He uses such skill now, as he finds himself sitting at a quiet table in the back of the club, close enough to a couple of other Turians that a casual onlooker would assume he was with them, and yet his body is positioned in such a way to appear that he wasn't interested in their interactions, were they to notice his proximity. And even though he knew from his time on Omega that the two particular Turians he had positioned himself near were semi-notorious criminals, for this visit, he doesn't care. His entire being is focused on the small human female entering the club.

His mandibles twitch in the Turian representation of a grimace when he sees her, and he ignores the twinge of pain such a response causes him. The human in question looks so very vulnerable, the clothing that she's wearing more suitable for one of the Asari dancers, than for the indomitable warrior he knows her to be. He watches as she quietly takes stock of the people surrounding her, eyes noting the exits nearly automatically before performing an almost imperceptible shrug as she combs her hand thru her hair and nearly saunters her way over to the bar.

"Hmph... Aria's really lowering the standards around here. Either that or the bouncer's had a bit too much hallex again, letting trash in here like that..."

Garrus bites back the low growl that threatens to escape, knowing that the Turian next to him would take it as a threat, and as much as he'd like to otherwise, he doesn't want to cause a scene and draw Shepard's attention. She didn't even ask him on this mission to begin with, choosing the Drell instead, which is why he is observing her as inconspicuously as he could. He doesn't trust the assassin, and Samara is freely using Shepard as bait in a personal mission that could easily get her killed, so she certainly isn't making Shepard's safety her first priority..

Garrus wants nothing more than to wrap his talons around the Justicar's neck because of it. What is she thinking, using Shepard like this, leaving her at the mercy of an Ardat-Yakshi? Shepard is the savior of the galaxy, this is so beneath her...

And yet, he notices that she makes an awfully tempting lure. He swallows as he watches her at the bar. Shepard's entire back is exposed, and in the soft light he can see that she's done something to make her skin almost sparkle with a metallic glow. The dark pants that she's wearing cling to her well formed calves almost indecently, and when she stretches her arms over her head and laughs at something the bartender says to her, she looks as lithe and nimble as an...

"That one is as flexible as an Asari." Mutters the second Turian sitting just a table away. "I wonder..."

The first Turian snorts in response.

"She's human. Human's are trash, no matter the gender. Keep it plated, or I'll cut you off. I'm thinking you've had too much already."

The second Turian laughs. But sound of it is strained and husky, deep with the flange effect that is common with Turian's that are feeling desire, and only heightens the tension Garrus is already feeling.

A quick glance over his shoulder confirms that the other Turian is now watching Shepard with an almost predatory gaze. A fierce and sudden surge of anger spirals through his body, and he brushes the arm of his shirt in reassurance, taking comfort from the presence of the hand cannon hidden just underneath and strapped to his skin.

He's always felt protective of Shepard, from day one. He's always known there was something different about her, something that set her apart from the rest of her species. Humans, he'd come to learn, were for the most part an aggressive, xenocentric race. And yet...

And yet, they had produced the finest example of sentient life he'd ever known. Brave, strong, humble and heroic, Shepard was in a class by herself. She cared for her crew, put their needs before her own, always. Would willingly put her own life at risk to help a friend, as she was doing now. Shepard, the first human Spectre, a symbol of hope to many, and a very close friend; one who had returned from the dead and come back to him just when he needed her. No Turian, Asari, or Salarian he had ever met could hold even a candle to her.

"A round of drinks for everyone, courtesy of our new friend!" The bartender yells, resulting in cheers from the assorted club patrons. Shepard turns, smirks and confidently walks towards the dance floor, ignoring the onslaught of eyes upon her.

Garrus doesn't, though. He can't. All that focused attention on Shepard makes him uneasy. The way the other patrons in the club assess her as she walks, undressing her with their eyes makes him want to rip the heads off of every male in the place... and some of the females too.

An Asari walks up to her, and he stops breathing for a second. Morinth? No, it couldn't be the Ardat-Yakshi. He recognizes the girl as one of the Afterlife regulars, one who had flirted with him on occasion in the past. He'd been nice to the girl, but had ignored her advances... he never really had much interest in the Asari, and anyway at the time, he had been grieving...

He pushes the flow of emotion back fiercely. She's alive. And he was here to keep her that way.

Shepard is all liquid and grace as she moves with the music. She's dancing next to the Asari, but ignores the other girl's apparent interest in her. That only seems to make the Asari dancer more determined, but still unsuccessful.

The predator inside him stirs, focuses on the way her waist twists as she dances, showing flexibility that was nearly impossible for most Turian females to obtain. And the way she leans into the music, almost liquid in her approach, has him riveted; he finds himself lulled by her movements, by the way she glitters under the lights, and finds himself focusing on how the shirt she wears rides up every time she twists and turns, baring her waist for all and sundry. It has him glued to his seat; a part of him wanting nothing more than to go and cover her up and the other part of him...

He swallows and turned away. He couldn't think such things about Shepard, it was impossible. And she would never, ever consider....

"She's our target for the night," Turian number two says idly, while Shepard continues to dance with the Asari..

Turian number one growls.

"Please. It's obvious she's a club tramp looking to score some hallex. Do you really think she's got much in the way of credits?"

Turian number two laughs lightly in response.

"Who cares? I'm sure she can... compensate us for our efforts. Besides, we had a pretty decent haul from that Volus earlier. Yep, I've decided.... tonight, our target is the human... I'm up for something exotic anyway."

"Again, I say you've had too much to drink... really, Kuran, human trash... "

"You've never even considered it Laruk?"

"Why would I? They have that stringy stuff on their heads where their ridges are supposed to go, and their waists look hardly strong enough to hold up the rest of them, let alone flexible enough to mate with."

"I can tell you from experience that they are almost as competent in that area as the Asari. Well, the females, anyway."

The first Turian flexes his mandibles in the Turian representation of a grimace.

"You mean the males aren't as.... you know what, Kuran? I changed my mind. I don't want to know." Laruk shakes his head as if to clear it of the disturbing imagery. "Anyway, female or not, she's still human trash. If you're really that hard up, you should go after the Asari."

"Yes, but she's flexible human trash. And besides, it'll be much easier to dispose of the human afterward... after all, if we were to target one of her precious Asari dancers, Aria'd get a bit... annoyed."

Garrus reaches for his hand cannon, thinking to himself 'screw the mission', when he sees Shepard making her way over to the two turians. It is enough to jar his focus for just a second, enough for him to remember the mission and that he wasn't supposed to even be there. He grinds his teeth and reminds himself that this is Shepard, and if any human female could handle herself against a couple of Turian thugs and would be rapists, it was she.

He wants so badly to intervene... but won't. He wants to protect... but can't. He forces himself to hold still, and takes comfort that he's very close if things start going wrong... but he has faith in her, and knows it is more than warranted.

"Am I interrupting something, gentlemen?"

Her voice is deep and sultry, in a way he's never heard it and he's riveted, watching her move towards the two Turian thugs with all the grace of a predator.

"Not at all. In fact, we were just talking about you." The Turian named Kuran says, leering at her lasciviously.

Garrus falls back further into the shadow and chances a glance over his shoulder at Kuran. Quietly, he commits the name and face to memory for the next time he is on Omega. His talons are carefully wrapped around his hand cannon, which he keeps hidden from view as he watches and waits.

"Go away Human," warns the Turian named Laruk.

"Trust me, you don't want to start something with us tonight, Human."

The two Turians glare at each other.

"Maybe I do," Shepard responds.

And for a moment, Garrus thinks that the first Turian is going to do the decent thing. But when the Turian named Laruk simply shrugs and mutters "it's you're funeral" under his breath, Garrus knows he now has two names and faces to remember for the next time he's on Omega.

Kuran reaches out and grabs Shepard, pulling her flush against him and for one brief second Shepard falters. She looks disorientated and confused as she meets the gaze of the Turian holding her. But the condescending leer on the Turian's face seems to break her out of her haze, and she tears her eyes away from him.

Shepard's eyes wander for just a moment before finding his, unerringly seeking them out in the darkness. Garrus realizes that in his rage, he has stepped out of the shadows. He starts to raise his hand cannon, and she almost imperceptibly shakes her head. And then proceeds to bring her knee up where it makes contact between the other Turian's legs, sending him sprawling.

There would be only one way a Turian would be susceptible to such an attack and the thought of it makes him want to reach out and snap the other Turian's neck for even thinking about Shepard in such a way. And while he is struggling with his baser instincts screaming at him to protect what is his, she has already disarmed and knocked down the first Turian, sending him sprawling into the table, and knocking their drinks down onto the floor.

She's still looking at him when the Asari approaches her, from behind.

"You're the most interesting thing here tonight," the Ardat-Yakshi says, as she places an arm around Shepard.

She still hasn't broken eye contact with him, her eyes filled with a mix of surprise, anger, and some other emotion that he can't put a name to, and he knows that despite his intentions, he's somehow made a mistake. He's disappointed her, he knows it, and the weight of it causes him to fall backwards towards the chair behind him.... where Garrus nearly finds himself sitting in the Drell's lap before he catches himself. He blinks, certain that the Drell was no where close the last time he surveyed his immediate surroundings.

"There was a reason I insisted on accompanying her on this mission, my Turian friend."

"And what might that be?" Garrus spits out, annoyed. He hasn't yet removed his eyes from where Shepard and the Asari murderess are now seated, and he notices with some dismay how Shepard's confidence seems to have fractured somewhat. The Asari pulls back a bit, as if second guessing Shepard, and he realizes with a start that he may have thrown Shepard off her game.

"There is a Drell saying that covers this type of situation, which essentially translates to 'soft heart, soft head'. She cannot be who she needs to be in order to lure the Asari with you around, my friend, because her feelings for you are too strong. Just as you can't watch her intentionally put herself in danger at such a disadvantage."

In disbelief, Garrus turns to the Drell who smiles at him, somewhat sadly.

"I... she... you misunderstand Krios, Shepard and I --"

"Go back to the Normandy, Garrus Vakarian. I will keep her safe."

Garrus silently appraises the Drell and then slowly nods. He turns, and leaves the club without even a glance back, his heart heavy and his mind anything but at ease.

Later, when the Justicar returns with the Drell, and Shepard's not with them, he nearly tears the head off of the assassin before the Justicar calmly intervenes with a touch to his shoulder.

"She already awaits you in her quarters. She wishes to speak with you alone."

The elevator ride up to the Captain's cabin is longer than any he's ever had back at the Citadel. When he finally reaches the loft, the door opens automatically, and he stands there, waiting.

Shepard is on her bed, kneeling, facing away from him, quiet and subdued. She turns and acknowledges him briefly with her eyes before turning away again, and he realizes that is the only invitation he's going to receive.

He approaches her and stands next to the bed.

"I'm sorry, Shepard."

The words are heavy, filled with remorse, and he can't help but place a hand on her shoulder, looking for reassurance, which he doubts he's going to receive.

"You should be. You really threw me off, Vakarian. You could have jeopardized the whole mission."

Her answer is soft, subdued, and not particularly angry. It causes him pause, and he looks at her more carefully. She has not yet changed back into the civilian clothes she normally wears on the Normandy, and the shirt she's wearing is half slipping off of her right shoulder.

He knows something is very, very wrong. She should be at the very least concerned about her state of dress, if not outright embarrassed. She should also be should be yelling at him; screaming at him, even. Not acting so... disaffected.

It doesn't take long for him to realize that she's hurting. Something had to happen on the mission, something that's affecting her even now.

Without even thinking of the consequences, he sits on the bed behind her and pulls her against him, into his arms. She shudders and turns in his arms, and buries her face against his chest. With her this close to him, he can feel her shaking.

"She got into my mind, Garrus." She says after a moment. Garrus runs his talons carefully through her hair, idly thinking to himself that it's more soft than stringy. She seems to take comfort in the action, and exhales against his chest, the warmth of her breath oddly soothing.

"I couldn't think of anything but her. She could have asked me to do anything, anything at all and I would of. I've never felt so... helpless."

Garrus pulls her closer, angry with himself for listening to the Drell, for leaving her there, vulnerable and alone. She may have completed her mission, but the Drell had failed to keep her safe the way he promised he would. And the Justicar... how could she have let it get as far as it had?

If he wasn't so mad at himself for leaving her with them, he'd airlock the two of them and be done with it.

Garrus had sworn to himself that he would protect her at all costs when she came to him on Omega. She'd been such a vision through the scope of his rifle, like a warrior angel, cutting down everything in her way just to get to him. He'd been sure he was hallucinating. She was dead... he had grieved her...

But it had been no hallucination. Shepard had returned from the grave, alive and well... and by some undeserved grace from the spirits was now in his arms.

Garrus's heart thunders in his chest at her proximity. She has never been this close to him before. In the past, it she always sought out Alenko for comfort, for someone to confide in... and he even now with her so close against him, he couldn't prevent the surge of jealousy that threatened to overwhelm him at the thought. She'd loved Alenko, that undeserving bastard who broke her heart on Horizon, and Garrus had always kept his feelings to himself. Him and Liara both had spent quite a few of their off nights together drowning the pain of their unrequited affections for their captain in a bottle of Batarian ale. But neither of them thought that Shepard would ever look outside her own species for a partner. Humans rarely did, after all.

He'd accepted that his feelings were stupid and impossible, and forced them back. She'd never see him... in that way.

And even if she did, it was impossible. They were too different...

'But that Turian at Afterlife didn't seem to think so' a small voice in the back of his head reminds him, and he fiercely brushes it away. The way that Turian had viewed his Shepard as if she was just a tool for pleasure, as even less than an Asari prostitute... it makes his blood boil to think of it.

Yet, with her so close to him, fitting oh so perfectly against his chest... he can't help but to consider... what if? What if it were possible? And what if the Drell was right? What if she returned his affections... even just a little?

He couldn't help but notice how natural she felt in his arms, despite the huge differences in their anatomy. She was all softness and warm curves, and the way she just almost melted into him was making his thoughts fuzzy and his breath come very fast.

"I know I was angry with you for being there... but I was wrong, Garrus. Sometimes, I take on more than I can handle... and if it wasn't for Samara arriving when she did..."

Shepard shudders again, and if it weren't for his unwillingness to leave her when she so obviously needed him, he'd head down to the starboard observation port right now. He has quite a few things to say to the Justicar; things that he wasn't even sure his omni-tool's translator could handle.

He carefully places a talon under her chin and tilts her up to face him. "You are the strongest person that I know, Shepard. Don't let Morinth take that away from you."

'And from now on, no more away missions without me,' he silently adds, his eyes locked on hers. He is no expert at identifying human emotions, but he knows Shepard. Knows her well enough to decipher at least part of the wealth of emotions that play across her face, and the implications of some of them floors him.

"What would I do without my Archangel?" She says, smirking. But it breaks the tension and he snorts, gently releasing her, feeling immediately bereft of her warmth. She leans back against her pillow and smiles at him; reaches for his hand with hers. He encloses the small appendage between his own hand, taking great care not to accidentally cut her with his talons. Like this, without her armor, she was so very fragile. Deceptively so.

"You'd still be gunning down geth and chasing collector ships, I have no doubt."

"Yeah, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun."

"Only you, Shepard, would think of it as fun."

She squeezes his hand and he looks at her. The teasing look is gone from her eyes. She sits up, and with her other hand, captures the side of his face. She seems to consider him for a moment, and then leans in and brushes his forehead with hers.

His breath hitches even as his heart pounds in his chest. He reminds himself that this isn't what it seems, that there is no way she could know what such a gesture meant to a Turian. But it's hard to listen to reason when she's so very close, and for once he lets his mind go where it will.

"Thank you, Garrus. For... for keeping me grounded," she says quietly, her lips very close to the side of his face. "And for coming along on this crazy one-way trip."

He pulls her close, breathes in the scent of her. She's wearing some kind of Asari made perfume, reminiscent of some of the Thessian flowers scattered around the Citadel. It's another reminder of how she began her night, and another reason to keep her close.

"There is no where else I'd rather be."