A/N: Just something fun and light-hearted that started off as a what-if plot. Time frame would be shortly after the discussion on "reach and flexibility."
Disclaimer: Mass Effect and its hot aliens do not belong to me. Though it's probably for the best. The things I'd make them do…
Orientation: Expect Little Sleep
Garrus Vakarian was restless. And when he was restless, he paced.
He paced back and forth along the length of the main battery. Head tossing back and forth like a caged varren while his shoulders jerked as though shrugging off some invisible weight. There was a kink in his back, a sharp pain that dug into him like shrapnel. He brought it into scope, using the sensation to focus his jumbled thoughts. He knew it was partially psychosomatic; a pain that only surfaced when he was reconsidering. It was... what was that expression humans used when describing something unfavorable? Oh right.
Garrus was never one for reconsidering. Not only was it less satisfying than letting his instincts take over, there was a veritable lack of control that made his exoplating feel as vulnerable as saran wrap. At least his instincts gave the impression that he was actually doing something as opposed to sitting on his ass, hamstrung by indecision. As far as he was concerned, reconsidering was a practice reserved for the likes of his father and C-Sec. He had turned his back on both in the past two years. Strange how he only reconsidered his actions when Shepard was around.
Or in this case, when the subject he'd been reconsidering was Shepard.
She had caught him off guard. Surprised him with unfamiliar tactics. She had been coy, teasing, suggestive. She got him going about some entanglement with a recon scout, lulling him into a false sense of security before shooting him at point-blank range with a come-hither look and hormonally charged metaphors. Saying things like "why don't we skip right to the tie breaker" and "we could test your reach…and my flexibility."
If it were anyone else, he'd be asking where the hidden cambots were. Or maybe the acid fumes from the forward batteries had finally gotten to him.
Then he began to register that Shepard was serious.
Dead serious. No pun intended. And no, he wasn't hallucinating. She actually meant that she wanted to…he couldn't even bring himself to think it, let alone say it. But despite his bewilderment, he played his cards cool.
"Well, why the hell not?" he had said.
And yea, why the hell not?
Actually after watching a barrage of demonstration vids and skimming over diagrams of basic human anatomy, there were a lot of why-the-hell-nots, mixed in with a good bit of what-the-hell-were-you-thinkings. He didn't like to give himself too much credit, but given how more…susceptible the human body was, he was certain that whatever kind of cross-species intercourse they'd have would end in several bone fractures and torn ligaments. He wasn't kidding when he said turians prepped for high-risk operations with violence, and he wasn't sure how much of that the commander understood.
Or maybe she did and that's why she asked….
Damn, he needed to blow off more steam than he thought.
The vids and diagrams he pawned off the salarian were clearly no help there. As informative as they were, their contents were about as sexy as a mid-academy biology course. The details on positions and gestures like kissing or petting aroused nothing save more doubt. Turians didn't traditionally kiss or pet. Unless Shepard had a secret fetish for flesh removal.
His grimaced. Or the turian equivalent thereof.
It was all too much. He was in way over his head. Rather than compromise his dignity and his friendship with Shepard, it would be better if he just called the whole thing off. He'd tell her that they were being irrational and that it would be better if she found someone else...preferably someone who wouldn't cause internal bleeding.
The kink beneath his shoulder blade throbbed more acutely. It was the right thing to do, wasn't it? They were just too different. It wouldn't work. And yet, imagining Shepard with someone else- even if that someone was more compatible -didn't feel right or comforting.
It just plain sucked.
He didn't know how long he had been standing outside the captain's cabin, frozen in his tracks like a coward in a line of fire. He did know, however, that he was about to give up before one of his talons brushed the call button by mistake. Idiot. Briefly he considered running off in a blind panic before the sound of rustled bed sheets and soft footfalls caught his attention.
Kate Shepard leaned against the steel doorframe, dark hair slightly mussed and grey eyes wincing under the fluorescent lighting of the hallway. The bathrobe she was wearing slipped from her shoulder, revealing a smooth plain of skin that magnetized attention. The bathrobe itself fell just above her thighs, piquing his imagination against its will. It was probably none of his business, but he supposed the chances of her wearing anything underneath were about as slim as her waistline and…
Why was he here again?
"Garrus?" She squinted. Then smirked. "Need me for something?"
"Have you got a minute?"
"Sure." She stretched, the bathrobe hiking up her tanned calves. "Just killing time anyway. You know, sleeping."
Crap. At what point did he lose track of time?
"Come in," she said, eliminating his chance to apologize or argue.
He rallied himself. "Thanks."
He followed her in, forcing his eyes to unlatch themselves from her hips. He didn't know where she bought that bathrobe, but it had that wily look of contraband that roused his instincts to seize and confiscate. An image ran unbidden across his mind…of him undoing the sash, the black silk gliding down her body in one grand flourish.
"Guess I'll change into something more comfortable. It figures that you'd barge in on me naked."
"Shepard!" Blood rushed underneath his plating. "Wait… you walk around your cabin naked?"
She looked down. "Well technically, I'm half-naked. But usually I go full on." She picked out a thread. "Why do you think it takes me so long to answer the door?"
An awkward beat.
"Oh right. Of course you were," he said in a pitch he hoped was reasonable.
"I'll go grab my uniform," she said, disappearing into the bathroom, "Lighten up, would you?"
"Yea, Garrus. Lighten up," he thought disparagingly. "Friends talk about being naked around each other all the time."
She returned wearing one of the Cerberus outfits. A part of him couldn't help mourn the loss.
"So, what did you want to tell me?"
That wearing that bathrobe should be illegal and that I should arrest you for being very naughty.
He coughed, attempting to block out the sound of his inner pervert.
"Ah, I've been thinking about what we talked about. Blowing off steam, easing tension. I've never really considered-"
"What's wrong with your side?"
"You're kind of leaning on it in a weird way."
"Oh." He shifted his weight to his other side. "It's just this back thing. No big deal. Anyway, what I wanted to tell you was-"
"How long have you had that?"
"Since last night. Damn it, Shepard. I'm trying to tell you something."
She fixed him with a stern look. "You can tell me in a minute. Get on the bed and sit forward."
He sighed. "Apparently, this is turning into the exact opposite of what I wanted to do so-"
"Relax. I'm just going give you a backrub." She mimicked him. "No big deal."
"Look, I appreciate the offer but-"
"That wasn't an offer. That was an order. Now get into bed before I pull rank on you."
"Well, since you asked so nicely," he said in a tone he hoped was sarcastic.
He moved over to the bed, eyes shifting guiltily at the unmade sheets. He really should have waited until morning to have this talk, but once again his impatience clouded his judgment. Now he was trapped in his commander's bedroom, falling prey to her influence while it became increasingly more difficult to remember what he wanted to talk about in the first place.
Good call, Vakarian. Good call.
He sank into the edge of the mattress and felt it dip further as Shepard joined him.
"Why couldn't I just sit in your chair?" He asked over hunched shoulders.
"You're huge," she said, kneeling behind him. "You would've broken it."
"No I wouldn't. Argh!"
She had poked him. "Found it. Now seriously, relax."
"You are aware that you're talking to a turian? Ow!"
She had poked him again. "Shh. Just focus on something else for now- like calibrating."
He snorted. "Oh yea, baby. Calibrating always puts me in the mood." He jerked his head nervously towards her. "I mean that jokingly of course. And the 'baby' part was a reflex. Totally not a come on."
"Just thought I'd clarify."
She ran her hands across his back, the heels of her palms creating long, deep strokes that resonated even through his thick skin. He tensed as he felt her drift along the ridges of his spinal column, making her way up to the base of his carapace then down again to the small of his back. There were so many things wrong with this picture. A subordinate fraternizing with his commander wasn't necessarily a capital offense, but it had the potential to jeopardize the mission and he couldn't afford to do that. Not when he screwed up so many things already. He shouldn't even be enjoying this. It felt dirty and not in a good way. Alright maybe a little. But regardless, he should tell her to stop. Why couldn't he tell her to stop?
And, oh sweet spirits…
A preternatural light burned from her fingertips as she kneaded small circles into the interior part of his shoulder. He felt his muscles slacken into jelly as that warm electrical pulse beat and fluttered across the plains of his ribcage, soothing his nerves with dark energy. As the tension bled from his near-paralyzed body, he came to the glazed conclusion that biotics…biotics were…
"Nothing. You're just, ah, very vocal."
The ridges over his brow plate furrowed but he let it slide, choosing to thank her instead. "That was…um…"
She removed her hands, picking herself off the bed. His eyes trailed after her as she slid onto the couch, becoming more conscious of the fact that with the loss of warmth came the loss of resolve. Great. He was right back where he started. Suddenly, he couldn't look at her. He dropped his gaze to the floor.
"I think you need to vacuum."
She paused as if deliberating. "Well, it's not exactly the urgent message I expected, but yea I'll get right on it."
"What? No, that's not what I... Look-"
"Garrus." She leaned in. A genuine note of concern resounding through her voice. "Is there something wrong?"
"Is there something wrong?" He echoed. "Yea, you could say that."
She waited for him to continue.
"What I meant to say is that I think…we're wrong."
An icy chill descended on the room.
"It's not that I don't find you attractive. I mean you are. For a human, anyway. It's just…" His shoulders slumped. Defeated. "Shepard, it's obvious that we're not the most compatible in terms of physiology. There hasn't been a lot of… interspecies coupling between turians and humans and maybe- maybe there's a good reason for that. It's not the safest thing, for one. Certainly not something they covered in basic training… and of course, I wouldn't want to hurt our friendship. Our friendship is the most important-"
"Garrus. It's okay."
He found himself caught somewhere between incredulity and… incredulity.
"I understand." A minute, but reassuring smile. "I'm not going to pretend that I'm not disappointed, but I wouldn't want to hurt our friendship either. And like you said, we are very different."
"Oh. Good." He should have felt relieved. Instead, he only felt more unsure. "This is…. This is good. I guess." He rubbed his knees, at a loss for what to say next. "Hey, if you want you can pretend this never happened. I wouldn't want things to be weird between us."
"I asked you to sleep with me. I don't think it gets any weirder than that."
"Don't worry about it." She grinned. "I wouldn't want things to be weird between us either."
"Oh. Glad to hear it, commander."
Another awkward beat.
"It would have been fun though," she said.
"Really? You think so?"
Somehow he didn't think the high probability of chafing would be a fun prospect for Shepard. He was amazed that she even thought about it that way.
"If you did your research, then you'd know that human adaptability doesn't just apply to our military doctrine. Some of us are very open to exploring options with other races. Even if they do come with complications."
"No offense, Shepard. But if you did your research, then you'd know that those complications include the possibility of toxic shock syndrome. Not exactly a turn on for most people."
"Well, you know me." She crossed her legs. "I like to live a little dangerously."
"Right." A nervous chuckle. "So…it's pretty late. I should get going."
"Goodnight, Shepard. Thanks again. For everything."
"I'm always here if you need me."
He made his way towards the door, feeling tired and confused while Shepard's odd silence bored in on him. He made the right decision, didn't he? No. He couldn't second-guess himself; he'd been over this. The alternative presented too many risks, too many complications, too many staggering odds. He had already played that game. C-Sec, Omega, Sidonis… not once did he come out a winner. Still, he had his doubts. It was times like this where he missed the good old days where more odds meant easier choices. It was an integral part of turian nature to take the route that unsettled the least dust. Then again, he hadn't always been a very good turian. And…and hadn't Shepard also taught him that playing against the odds was what made things more worthwhile?
He paused in mid-stride. "Shepard?"
She stood up. Her quizzical expression staring back at him from the opposite side of the shelf that separated her office.
"Just for the sake of curiosity, what did you mean by 'exploring options' with other races?"
She tightened her bottom lip as she reflected on his question. Was she already thinking of its implications even though they both knew that he was still unsure? To her credit, she didn't miss a beat when she finally replied. He hadn't expected anything less from her.
"When I was talking about 'exploring options', I was thinking in terms related to turian intercourse. From what I gathered, the duration seems a lot shorter in comparison to humans ..."
"Hm, sounds clinical." He crossed his arms. "And frankly, a little insulting."
She rolled her eyes. "Let me finish. All I'm saying is that most turians would rather get in and get the job done than beat around the bush."
Unwittingly, he imagined a group of turians ganging up on a garden shrub.
"I'm sorry: 'beat around the bush'?"
"Turians don't do foreplay," she translated.
"So what you're saying is that if we had… gotten together, then you would have…with me?"
"Yes, Garrus. I would have done many, many things with you. Or to you, depending on how you look at it."
That's funny. His mouth seemed a little drier than usual.
"Again, for curiosity's sake, what sort of things would you have done?"
She raised a scarred eyebrow.
"Then 'hypothetically speaking' there was a lot I was considering. Mostly involving things that turians don't typically do, but not so foreign that it wouldn't be enjoyable."
Against his instincts, he prodded. "Such as?"
"I don't know. Bondage, maybe. I could tie you up, you could tie me up-"
He roped the sash of her bathrobe around her mouth…
"Toys. Roleplay. You can be the warden, I could be your prisoner-"
He braced her wrists in ardantium steel cuffs…
"Or if you wanted to try something more renegade, you can be a pirate, I could be your hostage-"
Was it just him or did the room get hotter?
"Or I could be the student and you could be the teacher-"
Seriously. Did the room just get hotter?
"Or we could be two officers aboard a terrorist-funded starship who get busy on the conference table while everyone watches."
"Which would never happen."
She was teasing him.
"It uh…," he cleared his throat, "It sounds like sex with humans depends on a lot of variables."
"Sex with humans isn't really all that complex. The build-up is more gradual, that's all. I mean, first base, second base, third. Homerun. Woo-hoo."
He stared at her blankly.
"It's a baseball metaphor."
She waved it off. "Doesn't matter. Look, I know you turians like to get down to business, but sometimes it pays to take things slow. Basically, each base stands for a level of sexual intimacy that gets more intense as you go along."
That sounded a hell of a lot more interesting than anything he read in those pamphlets. He couldn't stop himself from asking.
"So…what does each base stand for?"
She shrugged. "Maybe if you change your mind later, you'll get to find out."
That's right. He had already made up his mind, hadn't he? Just like that, his crippling sense of awkwardness returned with a vengeance.
"You know, it's interesting how I didn't come across any of that in my research."
"Sometimes, you're better off figuring out stuff on your own." She yawned. "It's really late. We both need to get some sleep."
"Right." He stood back. "That's what I was doing. Leaving."
He left without a backwards glance.
He made it about three steps across the hall before pausing at the elevator. Hesitation coursed through his veins as his thoughts began to race.
He thought about Shepard. About the way she casually blurted out her devious plans as though she were reading the nutritional values off the back of a milk carton. He thought about how he felt. About the way he couldn't stop thinking about the things that Shepard said and how they rattled his sex drive in the most treacherous ways. And that goddamn bathrobe! But most of all, he thought about how Shepard took the time to seriously think about what he wanted, that she cared enough about his needs that she compromised her own so that he could feel unpressured, at ease. That gesture by itself…
He pressed the call button again. This time, intentionally. Shepard reappeared, still in her Cerberus uniform.
"So…," he rubbed the back of his neck, "You said something about tying each other up?"
A supremely smug expression dawned across her face. She folded her arms.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? You still need to learn the basics."
At that point, it looked like neither of them would get much sleep that night.
Up next: Shepard gives Garrus the run down of "the basics." And maybe vice versa. Awww yea.
Notes and References:
(1) Kate Shepard; a combination of the names Kate Austen and Jack Shephard. Both are characters from ABC television series, Lost.