A/N: This was created on a whim, to fill someone's fic request for a story about glitchy translation aboard the Normandy.
"Garrus. Do you have a minute to talk?" Shepard drops by his station from time to time, even though he doesn't often have much to say. Since she found him on Omega, he has been quieter and more contemplative than she remembers him being on their first mission.
"Can it wait, Shepard? I'm in the middle of some nnnnnnggthk...eeeaa?"
Shepard raises an eyebrow. "Did my translator just glitch? I didn't catch that last bit."
"Ssshaal...nnn. Hhhnns!" Garrus points to the side of his head and flares a mandible.
Sounds of mild consternation come from the mess and crew quarters. Shepard motions for Garrus to continue whatever it was he had been doing (probably calibrations--it was always calibrations), and marches out into the common room.
"Anyone else getting translation glitches?"
Gardner chuckles. "Yeah, although everyone in here at the moment is human and speaks Standard. Cerberus, y'know? But I gotta say, Donnelly's accent is even funnier without the autotranslation layer over it!" This is greeted by a grin and a rude gesture from Donnelly as he dips his spoon back into his bowl. Gabby ruffles his hair good naturedly.
Shepard smirks. "EDI, what's happening here?"
EDI's blue orb appears in the room. "Commander, Mr. Moreau has installed some nonstandard software in an attempt to avoid the frequent communication errors when he makes up his own idioms. He is currently rolling back to the old translation system, but the install corrupted the old software. I estimate that translation services will be functioning properly again in 50 minutes."
Joker pipes up: "Sorry, Commander! I just thought it would be cool if...ah, sorry. I'll fix it."
The humans in the room with her seem to be reacting to this with good humor, taking the opportunity to hear each others' native languages and accents. An accidental ice breaker. But still.
"Thank you, EDI. Could you update all non-Standard-speaking crew aboard, in their own languages, of the status? No point in having folks panic needlessly. Joker, try not to add any more crappy shareware to our system, okay? You owe me a beer." She can't help letting a little smile creep into her voice.
"Sure thing, Commander," comes the sheepish reply from Joker.
"Yes, Commander," says EDI, "I will notify you when translation has been restored." The VI's avatar blinks out.
Shepard scratches her head and then shrugs, turning back to where she'd left Garrus. He is already striding out of the gunnery room and meets her halfway down the hall. He utters a string of syllables in a rich, metallic voice, pauses, and twitches his mandibles in what she has come to recognize as amusement.
"I suppose we'll have to get by on body language for now," she murmurs, then glances away as she realizes how that turn of phrase could be taken. Ah, but he hasn't understood!
He is standing still, his head cocked to one side, predatory blue eyes watching her intently. "See, now I wish I'd kept that hardcopy turian phrasebook they issued us in the Alliance. I could at least ask you where the nearest transit hub on Palaven is, or where I can get levo food. Good times." She grins, then thinks.
Garrus rumbles back, crossing his arms and leaning with one shoulder against the wall. Shepard knows this one; he does it when he has made some smartass comment and is pleased with his own wit. He lowers his tone, then continues speaking for a few moments, his speech sibilant and warm. He stops speaking and watched her, uncrossing his arms.
She regards him carefully, a small upward curve coming to the corner of her mouth. She comes to a decision, jerking her head toward the elevator. "C'mon. We're not getting anything done here, and I want to hear you talk some more." Turning, she moves toward the elevator, looking back only once to make sure he is following. He flicks his eyes in her direction when she punches in the code for her own quarters, but offers no remark other than "Hnnnn..."
Entering the room, Garrus is briefly at a loss. He's been up to the Commander's quarters before with Tali, catching up on old times with Shepard, having informal strategy meetings with the whole group, but never one on one and certainly not without advance notice. He notices a dead fish in the tank. "We can defend the galaxy from the Reaper threat, but not keep a fish fed? Really, now."
Shepard puts a hand on his arm and smiles, motioning him to the sofa with her head, uttering her musical gibberish.
"Shepard, I know you can't understand me right now...but I have to ask anyway: what is this? This...doesn't seem like a business meeting." He sits as directed, and continues cautiously. "So...are you actually flirting with me, or am I misinterpreting this situation horribly? I don't have a thing for humans, but I'll admit I'm pretty intrigued by the look on your face, uh, right now. Hmm." He shifts awkwardly in his seat, searching the human's face for any sign of understanding. She is listening with a small, mischievous smile on her face, but remains silent. "Dammit, I bet everyone's translator is working but mine, and you're all just having me on. I bet this is being recorded!" Panic grips him. "EDI, is everyone's translator really screwed up?"
EDI replies in his language. "Officer Vakarian, I can confirm that all translation services are offline at present. The Commander is not versed in your language and cannot understand what you are saying."
Shepard sits bolt upright and delivers a few terse phrases to EDI, who acknowledges and disappeared. The woman relaxes again, waving one hand apologetically.
"Fine, Shepard, if that's how you want to play it. Frankly, even if I am misinterpreting this, I don't see how anyone could blame me for it." He edges closer to her on the sofa, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Does this work for you?" He braces himself mentally, expecting her to stand up and move away. Maybe she will shrug away his hand and laugh it off without taking offense. It would be easy enough to pretend that he is expressing worry, not inappropriate interest. But Shepard does not shy away from this contact. She rests her cheek against his hand and blinks slowly.
Experimenting, he strokes the side of her face with the back of his hand. She leans into his touch and meets his eyes. The world blurs.
Organics are naturally curious about each other. Late night 'net queries from private terminals, with search terms such as "turian facial expressions," "human mating customs," "turian anatomy," "levo/dextro compatibility issues," and "fornax turian human" have not gone unnoticed by EDI. The two in the Commander's quarters, apparently unbeknownst to each other, have been researching these topics for some time. By now, they are thoroughly educated about safety precautions and procedures for turian/human coupling. They have each accessed an impressive number of hours of vids on these topics. There is no need to interrupt the proceedings to issue warnings or offer advice.
Mordin has worried unnecessarily, EDI concludes.
Somehow, this is all much easier without words, thinks Shepard. Oh, they are speaking to each other, but without the translator, it's all a stream of trills and purrs and hums and breaths and music. So much simpler without all the "Is this okay? How about now? Oh no, did I do that wrong? Did that hurt?" bullshit that this initial encounter could otherwise entail. So much more thrilling, even considering the whole first-timeness of it all. It's as if they are exploring each other blindfolded.
So easy. She slides over to him and takes his other hand in hers, kissing his wrist, placing his hand on her waist, running her fingertips down his arm. His eyes widen, then close. He pulls her to him and she's now straddling his lap, stroking his cowl through his shirt, murmuring into his neck with her strange (but fascinating!) human mouth. One arm wrapped around her waist, his other hand roving from her calf to her thigh, up to her shoulder, her neck, down her arm to her hand, clasping her fingers. Placing them gently but firmly at the back of his head, under the fringe. Showing her how to massage there, whispering encouragement, breathing into the warmth where her neck meets her shoulder.
Five fingers feels different. He had imagined human hands to be too delicate, too gentle. Breakable, with sharp little nails. But this is Shepard, whose hands have dragged him into cover in battle, pressed against him to staunch the flow of blood until medigel was applied, yanked his arm half out of its mooring to prevent him from shooting Harkin. Harkin! Of all people, why is he thinking of Harkin now?! What a moodkiller! Garrus opens his eyes.
Shepard is smiling at him, still playing at the back of his head and neck. She's speaking softly, holding his eyes with hers. With her other hand, she plucks once at the fabric of his shirt, letting it snap back into place, one eyebrow slightly raised. A question. He plucks at her own top in response, flexing his mandibles slightly. He runs a finger across her collar bone. She nods.
Neither of them particularly remember shedding their clothes. It is just done, with military precision. (Strip, soldier! On the double!) Through his lust stupor, he is dimly aware that she has retrieved something from the back of her desk drawer. Then they are back on the couch, she atop him, their discarded garments strewn nearby on the floor. She is flushed and speaking a gentle growl, rubbing and wet against his arousal.
He catches his breath. Rumbling a response, he leans her back and supports her waist with one hand, using a knuckle of the other to work small circles around that nub at her center. He knows what this thing is. It's what human women apparently scoff at their partners for neglecting. What's the phrase? Couldn't find it with a flashlight and a map? Well, he has found it, and it's driving her wild. "Thank you, Fornax Magazine. May the spirits bless you," he announces aloud, because he can.
He is momentarily smug, but forgets all else when she grits out a word he understands: "Yes." He knows that word; he didn't work alongside humans without learning the very basics. He can even pronounce this one himself, turian mouth structure and all. He removes Shepard's hands from his shoulders and places them around his shaft.
"Y-ehss," he says.
He has no idea how he doesn't lose control when she moves aside and proffers a turian prophylactic, which is what she must have gotten from that desk drawer earlier.
"And here I thought this was just going to be a friendly handjob between soldiers, Shepard. First you come back from the dead, now this. ...Have you been planning this, or do you just keep a supply of these around for kicks? Never mind, I don't even CARE right now."
While he eases the condom on, she busies herself by running her fingers along the soft parts of his body. His sides, his thighs, his neck, his slender waist. That makes him jump and groan, that last thing. He watches her grin evilly and file that away. He caresses her face and throat. She catches his hand, plants a kiss at the wrist, and runs her warm tongue up the inside of one finger.
Garrus beckons his Commander, his Shepard, and she climbs back into his lap, sinking deliberately down upon him, taking him in, feeling him hard and thick and deep inside her. They cling to each other for a moment, getting used to the sensation of their newfound closeness.
"I've thought of you as a best friend and comrade-in-arms, Shepard, but this, ah...mmm. This is even better," he purrs deliriously into the soft skin behind her ear. She growls something into the top of his head, chuckling.
Shepard slowly begins to roll her hips. Garrus matches her pace automatically. She turns his head to the side and presses his cheek to her heart. He can hear her blood, her pulse speeding, right under the surface. No hardsuit, no shields, no cloth between them; just a few inches of bone, muscle, and skin. Her fingers begin to work beneath his fringe again, eliciting a long, helpless moan. He forces his eyes open and regards her hardened nipple as it moves hypnotically in front of his nose. Rubbing it between a thumb and a finger causes her to make keening sounds and rock against him furiously.
Urgent need seizes them both. Garrus grabs the back of Shepard's neck, pressing her forehead to his, locking them into eye contact. She seems to understand that he wants this--to hold her gaze as they take their pleasure together. The only sounds in the room are that of flesh meeting flesh, the frantically whispered urgings of two new lovers, and the thrum of the Normandy. Finally he gives a muted roar and arches, grinding into her, looking her right in the eyes as he spends himself, and now she is undone, bucking and gasping in her own climax. They stay together with foreheads touching, bodies shuddering with release. He can feel her contracting rhythmically, giving him some wonderful aftershocks.
After a minute, she throws her arms around him and buries her face in his shoulder. He strokes her back and takes in the scent of her. Soap, human arousal, and salt. Clean sweat, not battle stench. He laughs softly, fighting the urge to crack wise about how they both stink after a mission. Without looking up, she laughs with him.
Wordlessly now, they disentangle and clean up. Wrapped in a towel from the bathroom, she stands and seems to consider. She reaches for him, pulling him into a hug. He wraps his arms around her and huffs into her hair. They sway gently from side to side.
"Commander, Officer, translation services are back online." The announcement makes them jump.
"Thank you, EDI," manages Shepard.
"You are welcome. Commander, I have made recordings of all utterances aboard the Normandy during the outage in case playback would be useful in resolving any communication issues that may have arisen. Shall I send a copy of your recent conversation with Officer Vakarian to your private terminal?"
Garrus abruptly sits back down on the sofa, shaking his head. Shepard facepalms, but recovers her poise.
"Tell you what, EDI. You send me a copy, and DELETE the original. My conversation with Officer Vakarian was highly classified. Understood?"
"Understood, Commander. I have now done as you requested."
"Thanks, EDI. That'll be all."
"Logging you out, Commander."
Garrus stands back up and crosses his arms, trying (and failing) to look stern and offended. "Keeping a copy, Shepard? Blackmail is beneath you, you know."
"Blackmail! Nooooo. I just thought, you know, we listen to it together on our next uh...highly classified brainstorming session. See what it was you were gibbering about that whole time. And I wasn't exactly reciting the alphabet. Aren't you curious? But maybe you're going to be optimizing firing algorithms, and I'll have to listen by myself." She winks wickedly and climbs into bed, patting the space beside her.
"Um. I think I can clear time in my busy calibration schedule for that." He pauses. "Let's get some rest first, though. Maybe next time we can make it all the way to the bed."
They sleep tangled together.