Author's Note: I just wanted to say thank you again for all the awesome reviews. You guys rock.

Garrus woke up alone. It took him a second of looking around, half-awake, before he remembered where he was – and once he did he felt like a moron. He hadn't meant to fall asleep here. What if he rolled on top or her, or kicked her or something in the middle of the night – it would explain why she was awake before him. Fleeing her own room due to the big ass turian taking up her whole bed.

"Idiot," he mumbled, grabbing a sock that had fallen off during the night and hurrying out of there.

How long had he slept anyway? Everyone was awake. And they were all staring at him as he made his way to his bunk – some in open shock, others out of the corner of their eye, most with little smirks on their faces. He couldn't really blame them…seeing a turian out of armor was rare, but one in his pajamas? That never happened. Yet here he was, fresh out of bed, padding along the deck in front of the entire crew. If turians could blush…

"Garrus!" a familiar voice called, accompanied by the distinct sound of crutches hurrying across the metal floor. Oh, great.

"Joker, don't you have a ship to be flying?"

"Meh, EDI's got it. A man has to take a piss every now and then," he said, looking Garrus up and down with a huge grin on his face. "Ah, the walk of shame. Good times. Anyway, nice going G-town, I'm impressed."

Walk of shame? G-town? What?

"Um…what do you mean?"

"Oh I see, trying to play it cool. You sly dog," he said, his grin widening if that was at all possible. "Don't worry, I got your back." He winked and turned towards the elevators, leaving a stunned and thoroughly confused Garrus in his wake.

What the hell was that all about? He shook his head, dismissing the entire conversation. Humans were weird sometimes, and Joker…he was one of the weirdest. Suddenly remembering that he was still in sleep clothes, in public, Garrus hurried the rest of the way to his bunk.

Okay, this was getting ridiculous. He was fully dressed, purposely choosing the heaviest armor he owned, and people were still giving him looks. Even Miranda, who liked to pretend that he didn't exist, pressed her lips into a tight, mildly amused smile when she saw him. It wasn't that funny…

So he hid in the battery room. He'd been planning on finding Shepard and seeing what their next mission was, but since apparently he was now the laughingstock of the Normandy, he'd just wait for her to come to him. He had some calibrations to work on anyway, and since he took over the weapons systems no one but him and Shepard ever came in here anymore.

Settling into the familiar pattern of code and formulas in front of him, his mind started to wander back to last night. His hand absently went to his cheek, touching the spot where she'd kissed him. He could still feel it – the light pressure, the softness of her lips, the tingling it left behind. It was just a gesture of thanks, he knew that, but he still couldn't help but grin like an idiot every time he thought about it.

In fact, the entire night had been nothing short of amazing. Aside from the whole…breakdown thing. He still worried about that, if maybe he should have tried to talk with her about it, but he figured that if she wanted to talk she would have. He certainly wasn't going to force it out of her. And anyway, after she'd gotten that all out of her system, she seemed pretty…normal. Happy, like all she needed was to have a good, solid cry and let some of the pain go. He'd still keep an eye on her of course, watch for signs of lingering depression…but he was fairly sure she was going to be okay. She was strong, she'd pull through.

He just felt so much closer to her now. It was selfish of him, but having her open up to him like that, trusting him with her vulnerability…it made him feel special. And he finally got to hold her, which had been incredible. He'd learned so much about her through their little question game, and she kissed him…

It was stupid, and irrational, and completely unfounded…but he felt like a teenager after his first date.

As if on cue, the door swished open behind him, and he turned to greet…

Jack. Wait, what? She only left her hidey-hole in engineering to eat and kill things, so why was she here now?

Hopefully not to eat or kill things…

"Hey, turian. I have a proposition for you," she said as she leaned against the doorframe, folding her arms across her chest.

"Okay…" he replied, hesitation evident in his voice. A proposition from Jack did not sound like good news.

"Well, I don't normally go for aliens, but seeing the job you did on Shepard got me thinking I'd like to give it a whirl myself. Whaddya say?"

"Err…job? What?"

"Oh come on Vakarian, the whole crew knows about it. No sense in being coy now."

He just stared at her, blinking in confusion. Seriously, what the hell was going on today? Why was nobody making any sense at all?

"Jack, I have no idea what you're talking about."

She rolled her eyes, like she thought he was mentally handicapped. "You nailing the Commander, obviously."

His jaw dropped. She thought he'd…

It all made sense now. The looks, the whispers, Joker...him walking through the ship in his pajamas…


His silence prompted Jack to continue, "I mean, she's been damn near suicidal all week, then you spend the night with her and now she's as giddy as a schoolgirl. If you can work that kind of magic in the sack, then I'm all for a little abracadabra of my own."

"But I…it wasn't…there's been some kind of misunderstanding," he stumbled over his words, flustered. "I didn't sleep with the Commander."

Jack gave him an I-don't-believe-you look, and he brought his hand to his forehead in a very human gesture. "I mean, I slept with her, but we didn't…I didn't…" He couldn't seem to bring himself to say it. The hardened, sarcastic turian vigilante was too embarrassed to say "have sex with Shepard". Ridiculous.

Watching his reaction, Jack seemed to reconsider. "So you're saying you didn't fuck Shepard?"

"No, of course not." Was she always this blunt, or did it just seem worse now that it was about him?

"Oh. Huh. Well, I'm taking my offer off the table then – if you're not some miracle worker in bed I'm going to just stick to my own species," she said flippantly.

His brain finally caught up to what she'd been talking about – he was so worked up over the idea that people thought him and Shepard had been together that he'd completely missed her point. She had wanted them to…


He forced himself to keep a neutral face as he nodded. She turned to leave, so thankfully the conversation seemed to be over.

Then a thought came to him. "Hey, Jack?"

She turned back, annoyance written all over her face. She glared at him, raising her eyebrows in a silent but unmistakable "What the fuck do you want?" Really, she'd be a lot more bearable if she'd drop the constant mood swings…

"Who told you that Shepard and I had…been together?"

An amused little smirk crossed her face. "Who else? Joker, of course."

Of course.

Shepard woke up this morning feeling better. Not perfect, but better. That's all you can ask for in life, right? Things will never go the way you want them to – the key is to make the best of what you have, not mope over what you've lost.

Shepard had lost a lot, but she had gained a lot too. She had a second chance at life, a state-of-the-art ship, a solid crew, and the respect of billions. Sure, some people had left her, but even more people had joined her. And she still had good friends that she knew had her back, even if some of them couldn't be here themselves – Tali, Joker, Liara, Wrex…


He'd still been there when she woke up, though probably not on purpose. More than likely he just happened to pass out around the same time she did. She couldn't blame him – her bed was way more comfortable than the crap bunks they were all used to.

Still, it was kind of surprising to wake up and find him there…not unpleasant, but surprising. She'd laid there for several minutes before getting up, just watching him sleep. He looked a lot younger when he was asleep, more like the Garrus she'd known before she died. Innocent. He'd grumbled in his sleep when she slipped out of bed, like he subconsciously wanted her to stay. The thought made her smile.

Shepard had thought a lot about her little "oh shit" moment last night – it had been on her mind practically all morning. Yet even with all that thinking she was still just as confused, and at the end decided she just didn't know if she loved Garrus. She cared about him a lot, adored spending time with him, could talk to him about anything. He was funny, and thoughtful, and even kind of cute – in a weird, alien sort of way. They got along wonderfully, and she could definitely see herself sticking around with him for a very long time.

But was that love, or just a really good friendship? The line was blurry, and she didn't want to choose the wrong side only to realize too late. She hadn't had a lot of experience with love, just Kaidan…and what she felt for Garrus was far different from what she felt for Kaidan.

Kaidan was like a storm she got swept up in – everything was so fast, so electric, so dizzying. It was a combination of attraction, desperation, and danger, with a heavy dash of lust for good measure. The chemistry was undeniable – sparks flew every time they were near each other. It was…perfect.

But there is no such thing as perfect. The storm moved on.

It was different with Garrus – almost completely opposite. There was no real initial attraction, no sparks, no lust. Their friendship was born from mutual respect and understanding, and as time went on she found that they actually had a lot in common, despite the obvious differences. There wasn't chemistry, there was compatibility.

It was like...a house. Garrus was like a brick house, taking a long time to build, while Kaidan was like a pre-fab – ready immediately. The pre-fab might be nicer to look at, and more convenient…but the brick had a certain charm, with a solid foundation you knew would last.

So she didn't know if she loved Garrus. What she did know was that she was open to the possibility of loving him, and in the unlikely event that he felt the same way…well then time would tell. They had time – she was not going to rush into anything because they were on a suicide mission, like she did with Kaidan. There would be no whirlwind romance, no lusty encounter hours before the final battle, no pressure…and no inevitable let down.

Not perfect…but better.

Out of all the things Cerberus had upgraded on the SR-2 – the power, the efficiency, the luxury – was it really so much trouble to install faster goddamned elevators? Garrus smashed the button, like the machine would recognize his irritability and hurry itself up. Finally he crossed his arms with a sigh, and not-so-patiently waited for the metal snail to get him to the CIC deck.

Garrus was going to strangle Joker. Actually, first he was going to find out where the hell he came up with that ridiculous rumor, and then he was going to strangle him. Did he have any idea how potentially damaging that could be for her? She's working with a human-first group known for their insanity and willingness to commit horrendous acts, surrounded by agents that would snap her neck without hesitation if the Illusive Man gave the order, and he puts it out there that she's sleeping with an alien? Was he out of his damn mind?

And it goes beyond that. She's a hero to her people, a shining example of humanity's best. There isn't a human alive who doesn't know who Commander Shepard is, and respect the hell out of her. What if they all thought she was with a turian? Humanity in general hated turians almost as much as they hated batarians – it would be devastating to her reputation.

And even if those reasons didn't exist – it was still none of his fucking business.

Finally, thankfully, the elevator came to a stop. Garrus stormed out of it, sparing it a quick glare for being so offensively slow. A few people smirked when he passed, but when they saw the look on his face the humor quickly faded. Some of them visibly paled, even. He didn't know how he looked, but he knew how he felt. Pissed. Really, really pissed. And few things in the galaxy were as inherently frightening as a pissed off turian.

"Officer Vakarian, Commander Shepard wishes to speak with you in the debriefing room," Kelly informed him as he stalked past. He stopped, staring daggers at the yeoman, annoyed with her for being between him and his target. She didn't flinch away from his expression like a normal human would have; in fact, she looked kind of…concerned? He sighed, letting the anger drop, mild sympathy taking its place. One of these days her empathy was going to put her on the wrong side of the wrong person.

"Right now?" he asked in defeat.

"Yep, right now."

He sighed again, deep and heavy, and turned back the way he came. What a waste of adrenaline.

Giddy as a schoolgirl, Jack's words came back to him. Though that was most definitely an exaggeration, Shepard did look…better. Not perfect, but better. She'd smiled easily when he'd entered the debriefing room – a mischievous little quirk of the lips that, when accompanied by that glint in her eyes, screamed trouble. He couldn't help but smile back. She was going to be okay.

He was eager to find out what she was up to, but he had to get that stupid rumor off his chest before he could concentrate on anything else. It was seriously bugging him…for all the noble reasons of course, but he'd be lying if he said it didn't reach a little beyond that. It was kind of embarrassing to admit, even to himself, but there was a part of him that was just depressed by the reminder that something like that could never happen between them. He didn't know if humans and turians were even compatible that way, and even if they were…she would never go for it. And he wouldn't want her to – he wouldn't risk their friendship on one stupid night of blowing off steam, no matter how much the idea might appeal to him.

And it did appeal to him, he realized suddenly. He'd never really thought about it before, never imagined her that way. Obviously he thought she was beautiful, and had been dying to touch her, but it was always little innocent things that he craved – running his fingers through her hair, caressing her cheek, holding her close. He'd never even let himself think about the more…primal ways of touching a woman. Not with her. She meant too much for that.

And now, thanks to that stupid asshole Joker, he couldn't seem to stop thinking about it. About what it would be like with someone so small, so soft. About those odd curves and pale skin and plush lips and what they would all feel like pressed against him…

He ripped his gaze away from where it was staring intently at her mouth, once again grateful that turians couldn't blush, and took a seat beside her at the table. She seemed to get that something was up, because her expression changed to one of concerned curiosity.

"Before we get started on the debrief, Commander, I wanted to get something cleared up…" he began, suddenly nervous enough to use her title. Her brows furrowed at that but she didn't say anything, so he took a deep breath and continued, mandibles twitching in embarrassment, "There's been a lower deck rumor circulating all day that I…uh, slept…with you. Last night."

She just blinked at him, slightly confused. "Garrus, you did sleep with me last night."

"No, I mean…slept with you," he clarified, wishing that the ship would open up and suck him out into space. Anything to escape this awkwardness.

Her eyebrows shot up, but her face otherwise remained blank. That was good. Blank was better than horrified, right? And then he remembered keeping his own face carefully neutral at Jack's "proposition", and grimaced slightly. Maybe blank was not so good.

"Where did the rumor come from?" she asked finally, leaning back in her chair.


"Of course," she sighed, but there was a hint of something else in her voice. Amusement? She leaned forward and hit the comm unit, dialing into the bridge.

"What's up, Commander?" Joker's voice poured out of the speakers.

The corner of her mouth twitched into a fraction of a smile. Garrus fought the urge to sigh aloud – she was way too lenient with Joker. She said he reminded her of her little brother. Unless her little brother was an obnoxious prick, Garrus couldn't see it, but he hoped she'd be able to direct the proper amount of outrage towards him this time.

"Lieutenant Moreau, I've regretfully been informed that you are the party responsible for the invention and dissemination of slanderous remarks regarding the personal affairs of your commanding officer," she said, voice formal, cold, and very serious. That tone would have put Garrus on edge without even being directed at him…but unfortunately, the whole thing was kind of ruined by the huge grin that was spreading across her face.

Garrus rolled his eyes in exasperation, but he couldn't be too mad. If she wasn't worried about the rumor, he wouldn't be either – and besides, seeing her smile like that was almost worth the silent mocking he'd endured all day.

Joker, however, couldn't see the amusement written all over her face and immediately began to panic. "Wait, Commander, I didn't…it's not my fault… I-I was only…" he sputtered, tripping over the words in his haste to defend himself. Even Garrus couldn't help but smirk at his frantic backpedaling.

Shepard was chewing on her lip, looking like she was going to explode. Finally she couldn't hold it anymore and burst with laughter, cutting the pilot off in mid-explanation. Joker was stunned into silence. For once.

She laughed so hard there were tears in her eyes. Crying when they were sad, crying when they were happy…humans were a strange species. After several moments her hysterics began to wear off, and she calmed down enough to speak.

"Relax, Joker, I'm not mad at you," she began, and bit her lip to keep from laughing again when Joker audibly sighed with relief.

"Dick move, Commander," he muttered, but the words held no anger. Evidently he was just happy to not be in serious trouble.

"Yep, but you deserved it. Look, I'm not mad," she reiterated, "however, I want you to knock that shit off. Rumors, especially untrue ones, are bad for morale and could have far-reaching consequences that aren't immediately obvious."

"Sorry, Commander." He actually sounded repentant. Garrus wondered if he really was, or was just playing to her soft side.

"No need to apologize, just don't do it again. Now, how exactly did you come up with something like that?"

"EDI told me," he replied immediately. Joker was definitely not an only child – he had that blame shifting thing down perfectly.

Shepard raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? EDI, did you tell Joker that I slept with Officer Vakarian?"

"Yes, Commander." The blue orb flicked to life on the center console, and she sounded disgruntled. She obviously didn't like being tattled on.

"And why were you discussing my private affairs with the Lieutenant?" Shepard said, voice strangely calm. Tired, almost, like she knew she was going to have to pry this story out of them.

"He asked," she put simply. You could almost hear the shrug in her voice. Passing the blame.

Now it was Joker's turn. "I did not ask! I just offhandedly mentioned that I hoped Garrus could cheer you up since no one else was having any luck, and EDI said that obviously he had because he was sleeping with you."

It was fairly remarkable how much this resembled a familial dispute. Like something broke and Shepard was the patient mother, trying to coax the truth out, while Joker and EDI were the tattling, blame shifting kids who kept trying to dance around the subject in hopes of escaping trouble. Garrus would have found it fairly entertaining if it wasn't about his sex life. Or lack thereof, as it were.

EDI started to build her defense, but Shepard cut her off, annoyance starting to get the better of her. "You know what, I don't care. This is easy to fix. Joker, you will go to each and every person you spread this rumor to and tell them it's not true. Say you were lying, say EDI fed you false information, say the Illusive Man himself commanded you to on punishment of death, I don't care. Say whatever you want, but make this right. EDI, you will never speak another word about my personal life to a member of this crew unless I give you explicit instruction to do so, or in the event that my life is in immediate peril and such disclosure is necessary to keep me alive."

She took a deep breath, eyes flicking to Garrus. She looked at him intently for a moment, and then seemed to think of something else, a small smile coming to her lips . "Also, I want you to kill every piece of surveillance equipment in my quarters. Video, audio, infrared…if there's a gnome living under my bed I want him dead too. Got it?"

"I apologize, Commander, but you do not have the necessary security clearance to shut down surveillance aboard the ship," the AI said politely. Too politely. She must be really irritated.

"EDI, let me be very clear. I don't give a shit what kind of clearance I have. If you don't shut them down, I will shut you down. I'm sure my quarian friend would love the opportunity to tinker with such an advanced AI. So please, for the sake of both of us, turn off the fucking surveillance."

There was a long pause. Garrus didn't understand why EDI was hesitating – she obviously couldn't do it without the proper clearance. She would call Shepard's bluff, and Shepard was bluffing…right? Looking at her, serious and utterly determined, she didn't look like she was bluffing…but then again that was kind of the point. Either way, he knew she was doing this for him. Because he was uncomfortable last night, knowing they were being watched. He fought to control the smile that was threatening to give him away.

"All surveillance in the captain's quarters has been disengaged. Please note that you will need to manually control all functions in that area using a standard omni-tool, as I will no longer have the capability to hear your requests."

"Noted. Thank you, EDI, that will be all. You too Joker."

Shepard disconnected with the bridge and punched another code into the comm unit.

"Tali here."

"Tali, could you please tap into the Normandy's security system and make sure that EDI has shut down all surveillance in my quarters? Let me know if she gives you any trouble," Shepard said, knowing EDI would hear the subtle threat in her words.

"Um…yeah, absolutely. I'll get right on it," Tali replied, slightly taken aback but most definitely excited. It was no secret that she had been itching to get inside the ship's systems since the moment she joined the crew.

Shepard shut off the comm and leaned back in her chair, obviously pleased with herself. She turned to Garrus with a satisfied smile on her face. "Better?" she asked.

"Much. Cutting off the surveillance was a nice touch," Garrus said. It was a way of saying thank you without actually saying it – he didn't want to be presumptuous and assume it was for him, though he was certain it was.

"Glad you think so, because now you're going to have to teach me how to work my lights manually," she said, grimacing at the thought.

Garrus snickered – the woman could bring an enraged krogan to their knees but couldn't work an omni-tool to save her life.

"You got it. So, back to business – what is this mission all about?"

Her eyes lit up with excitement. He couldn't help but smile back – he loved that look.

"Oh, you're going to love this..."