Guess who's back?
Thorn is back.
Tell a friend!
The Basics Part 2: Touch and Go
"I need to ask you a favor," said Joker.
"This should be good," said Tali. "I hope it's not something devious like asking me to take a shower with some of the other female crewmembers." She crossed her arms. "Because I only have eyes for Shepard."
Joker replied with a blank look.
"Kelly told me."
"Goddamn it, Kelly."
Tali resisted the urge to eye-roll. "So what's this about?"
"Oh right," said Joker, his embarrassment instantly forgotten. "Operation Shepard's Clothing."
He cracked his knuckles before turning to face his massive terminal. A few keystrokes later, the hardware that surrounded them began to power down while the exit to the main bridge sealed itself shut.
"This isn't suspicious or uncomfortable whatsoever," said Tali. "Oh wait. Yes, it is."
"Just hear me out," said Joker.
"You've got five seconds."
The expression on his face- like he was actually thinking before saying things aloud- made her nervous. Whatever he wanted looked like it was a matter life and death, which seemed to be a popular theme for those onboard the Normandy.
"I need you to pretend that you're sleeping with Garrus."
Shepard knew she wasn't alone.
Though for all intents and purposes, it might have looked that way.
She had come down to the main cargo hold to take inventory on supplies when suddenly, the lights flickered off. In the old movies, that was usually a telltale sign that there was a hostile alien in the room and she was Sigourney Weaver. Luckily, the back-up generators kicked in and she was able to find her way back to the entrance.
Which was locked.
Yep. Definitely not alone.
Though she had a pretty good idea as to who was in the room with her.
"I'll give you three guesses," said a familiar voice.
She hid a smirk before turning towards him.
"Damn," she said. "Definitely not Kaidan."
"Well there goes my ego," said Garrus as he emerged from the shadows looking none too pleased.
Hostile alien? Check.
"The hell are you doing, Vakarian?"
"Something stupid and out of character most like," he said. "Think of it as payback for yesterday."
"Payback?" she said with feign-innocence. "And here I thought you were over your whole vengeance thing."
"Hn. You're funny," said Garrus.
He stood in front of her now, the dull red glare of the back-up generators casting dark lines over the scarred contours of his face. But rather than finding him menacing, Shepard was only intrigued.
"So," she said, taking a step forward. "Why all the mysteriousness?"
She made a note of how far less mindful he seemed about their close proximity, whereas yesterday he seemed on the verge of having a panic attack. She had to admit, it was nice to think that she had left a good impression on him.
"I ah…need to ask you a favor," said Garrus.
"This should be good."
"Yea," he said softly, his talons reaching out to brush her shoulder. "You might not want to do it though." His voice dropped to a much lower octave. "It could put you in a compromising position."
He sure learns fast, thought Shepard. Not that I'm complaining.
"And what would that be?"
"See, there's this game that humans play." Although turians didn't smile, she could almost hear the predatory grin in his voice. "I think you call it…strip poker?"
"Don't shoot," said Joker as he cowered back in his chair. "I'm crippled so it wouldn't be fair!"
For a moment, Tali didn't reply. She only continued to stare at Joker in that unnerving way that quarians did from behind their visors, their expressions completely hidden from the discerning eyes of the non-quarians around them. Then she dropped her arms as Joker braced himself.
"I'm going back to bed."
"Strip poker? Are you serious?"
She tiled to her head to the side. "So what's this really about, Archangel?"
Ok. He'll bite.
"Well for one, you owe me," he said, shaking a talon at her. "Doesn't matter what species I am, doing that to a man and leaving him high and dry was just cruel. Even for you."
She shrugged. "I thought it was funny."
"Yea, downright hilarious. Still…" He edged closer. "You really hurt my feelings."
It was probably the closest he could get to puppy dog eyes.
She regarded him thoughtfully. "Alright. I'm sorry."
He opened his mouth as if to start another argument, but then stopped.
"That was unexpected," he said. "So, why did you leave me high and dry yesterday? I thought we were having fun."
"I like keeping you on your toes," she said. "I mean you were so cute I couldn't help it."
"Tough and masculine. Very masculine."
"Did you enjoy it at least?"
She tried to avoid looking exasperated- mostly because it wouldn't do her any good since turians didn't recognize that expression. "Garrus, as much as your insecurity makes you even more attractive, you need to get over it."
"Just wanted to make sure that you were still aware that you've got less hard and scaly options." He winced. "I really hope that that didn't sound as off-putting as it I think it did."
"Whoever said that 'hard and scaly' didn't turn me on? But you probably already knew that."
"Yea. I just wanted to get you to say it."
"Extortionist," she quipped.
He shook his head. "You are really something else, Shepard."
"Are we done reaffirming my commitment to you? Because there are still Reapers out there and stuff-"
"Just one more question."
"Last night you said that you've been with another turian before we met. So…who was he?"
A very awkward pause.
"Oh right. That."
It became apparent to Tali that Joker was in the grips of a terrible brain fever, and it would be in her best interest to remove herself from his vicinity so that she wouldn't fall to its debilitating effects.
"Open this door," she said as she stood in front of the exit.
"Tali, you don't understand," said Joker. "My manly dignity is literally on the line. This is about pride. This is about honor. This. Is. Sparta!"
"See, this is why the rest of the galaxy has problems with the human race."
"You didn't even listen to what I had to say!"
Good God. He was pouting.
"Stop doing that."
For some reason, he interpreted that as a cue to continue being ridiculous.
"See, it when I made a bet with Donnelly-"
"Oh, for the love of-" Her face met the inside of her palm.
"See, he thinks that Shepard is 'playing the piano' Garrus. Which she is. Kind of. I don't really know all the details. I couldn't get anything solid from the surveillance vids-"
"You were spying on them?"
"Long story short, if I don't convince Donnelly otherwise this all might very well end with Grunt forcibly removing my testicles then serving them on next week's lunch menu."
"I don't understand. Why me?"
Joker threw up his hands. "What other options do I have Tali? I mean, I haven't even seen a female turian, let alone met one! Who else would I ask? Jack? Miranda? I don't know them! They're not 'family'!"
"What about Kelly?" said Tali. "As a psychological profiler, she would know Garrus almost as much as Shepard would."
"I- yea, I guess that would make sense," he hedged, reddening. "But she would never go for it."
"Oh and I would?"
"Because you're the nice one!"
"Ugh, remind me never to talk to you ever again. It's like arguing with an infant!"
"Oh c'mon Tali! Think of my testicles!"
"You did not just say that."
"Alright fine," said Joker. "Be that way. I guess you really don't want to see the message vid that Kal'Reeger sent you last night."
A message vid? From Kal'Reeger?
She hadn't thought about the iron-willed marine since her disastrous mission on Haestrom. In fact, she hadn't been able to keep much contact with anyone in the flotilla since her equally disastrous "trial" under the Admiralty Board.
"Yep. Intercepted by yours truly." He grinned victoriously. "I didn't want to use this as a trump card, but now I assuming you're at least up for negotiation?"
"You little bastard." She spat in her own language.
"Thank you," said Joker. "So here's what I'm offering…"
They jumped. Or rather, Tali started and Joker brandished a nearby datapad at the would-be intruder.
But it was just Kelly.
How did she manage to bypass the security lock? They wondered. And more importantly, why did she look so distraught? It was a terribly incongruous expression on the normally chirpy yeoman.
"Hey, Kelly?" said Joker, frowning. "You okay?"
She bit her lip. "Where's Shepard? I need to talk to her."
This was odd, thought Garrus. He'd never seen Shepard so evasive before. Or ever, come to think of it.
"Well it's not anyone you know."
"Yea not good enough," said Garrus in his best interrogator voice. All those years in C-Sec had to account for something after all. "You owe me, remember?"
She sighed. "Fine. Cliffnotes version: once upon a time, I met a turian in basic training. He was stationed at the same facility as part of an asari peace ambassador's program to build ties between humans and turians, post-First Contact/Relay 314. We each had to pair up and everyone pretty much hated each other. But he and I actually got along fine because weirdly enough, we had a lot in common. Eventually, the program was scrapped. Too much animosity. Then we parted ways. No happily ever after required. The end."
Obviously, Shepard was omitting a lot of details. The more important question was why. If they had so much in common, why would he walk away? Or was she the one to walk away? Still, he felt it was better for him not to pry. Especially since there were much better ways to get her talking.
Her lips curled. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I don't know," said Garrus, "All this talk about past boyfriends-"
"He was not my boyfriend."
"It's kind of making me a little possessive."
"Oh. Just a little?"
He pressed herself against her, both of his arms barring her against the cold wall.
He whispered in her. "Just a tad. I might have to mark my territory."
"I hope not in the way I'm thinking…"
His hot tongue ran along the whorl of her ear, her gasp tapering off into a soft 'mmmm" as he wound his tongue in slow circles. He could feel her grow hotter, the skin on her neck and cheeks flushing.
That was a good sign, right?
She threw a leg over his hip.
Suddenly, her hands flew over his chest. Her fingers working over the zipper of his suit and suddenly it was yesterday all over again- except he didn't feel as clumsy and inadequate. For once, he was able to shove those feelings aside and trust his instincts. And while his instincts didn't have the best track record as of late, he had a feeling that at the very least he was onto something here.
He began nibbling on her earlobe- careful to mind his sharp teeth.
She threw her head back and gasped.
It was a good thing he left his armor off today, otherwise this little encounter would be just short of unbearable…
He could feel her leg slipping and he dropped one his arms to hook her around him. Her pelvis ground into his and she turned her face to meet his eyes. The fingers that were working over his zipper slipped lower and lower…then…
His breath caught.
The door blasted off its hinges.
It was Jack.
To her credit, the former Purgatory inmate only wore a mild look of surprise as she visually confirmed that yes, her commander was indeed glued to the hips of the Normandy's most broody turian.
"So turian huh? Been there, done that."
Garrus pressed his forehead into Shepard's neck. "Why am I not surprised?"
Reluctantly, he peeled himself off.
"For Chrissake's, Jack," said Shepard.
"Hey I'm not the one using the cargo hold like it's a high school janitor's closet. But hey, I won't judge. Out loud, anyway." She leaned against the scuffed doorframe. "Just wanted to let you know that Miss Priss wants you on the bridge. Something about her cousin."
It had been four weeks since Kelly's cousin Jenna filed a missing report on her boyfriend. Although the former barmaid needn't have bothered since it looked like every C-Sec affiliated precinct already knew. Probably because Jenna's boyfriend also happened to be the one and only Executor Chellick. (1)
" 'Will wonders never cease?' I think is how the expression goes," said Garrus as they stood outside the door that led to Jenna's apartment- the apartment that she had apparently been sharing with Chellick a few months after Sarren put a bullet in his head.
Shepard cast him a sideways glance. "What? A human and a turian entering a serious relationship? Imagine that."
"How serious are we talking here? About them, I mean?"
"Kelly said they've been living together for over two years now."
Garrus whistled. Or the turian equivalent thereof. "You know I never figured Chellick to be the type to go for a human. He always seemed like one of those conservative types; followed a lot of rules, observed a lot of traditions."
"Well you know us humans and our wily powers of seduction," said Shepard. "No one in the galaxy's safe."
"I hear that," said Garrus. He shook his head. "I still can't get over what happened in the cargo hold. I mean, what the hell?"
Shepard brushed her shoulder against his.
"Don't worry. I'll make it up to you later."
Inner-Garrus did a happy dance. "You think Jack will talk?"
"You think Jack actually cares?"
"If you want I could have a talk with her," said Shepard. "Right now I'm more worried about Chellick. This whole thing gives me a bad vibe."
"You don't have to tell me," said Garrus. "The political implications alone are enough to throw the Council into a fit."
The door to the apartment swung open to reveal a red-eyed and exhausted looking Jenna.
"Thank God you're here."
It felt strange to enter Chellick's apartment without him being there. Granted, he and Garrus were never close outside of work but he had been over a once or twice for drinks with some of the other officers. Although those times were few and far between, he still recognized the wine on the kitchen counter as one of Chellick's favorites. Briefly, he wondered how Chellick and Jenna split their grocery bill between dextro-amino and levo-amino based foods.
"Sorry if I'm a little on edge," said Jenna. "I thought you might have been one of those press people that have been harassing me."
"I hate reporters," said Shepard.
They sat on the couch.
"I know this is sudden," said Jenna. "I didn't even think about contacting you, but when Kelly mentioned your name-"
"Don't worry about it," said Shepard. "Now, can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with Chellick?"
"What's there to say?" said Jenna. "We care a lot about each other"
"Can you elaborate?" said Shepard.
"How did you two meet?" said Garrus, who was genuinely interested in their relationship.
"We met up again after the sting in Chora's Den," Jenna began. "When I came back to Flux, Chellick came over to apologize and he told me that he never apologizes- let alone to a human." She laughed. "For a second, I thought he was drunk. Sometimes I wonder if you had anything to do with that, Shepard."
Shepard didn't acknowledge that, but Garrus noticed the corner of her mouth lift ever so slightly.
"Anyway, he offered to buy me a drink that night and I thought, 'Well, that's the end of it'. But then he stopped by again the next night… and the night after that. Pretty soon, he became one of my regulars. I should have known what he was up to then because he said nightclubs weren't really his scene. So when he asked me out to dinner, I nearly dropped all the shot glasses I was holding." She smiled. "Then sometime later, he invited me over to his place. Then I invited him over to mine. Now we live together. Or at least we did until…you know."
"I'm sorry. I know this is hard for you," said Shepard. "This is usually the part where I ask if there was anyone you knew that wanted to cause trouble, but given his high-profile position in the Citadel…"
Jenna nodded. "Yea, Chellick didn't have a lot of people he could trust. Not even most of the people he worked with."
"That's a surprise," said Garrus. "I always thought Chellick got along well with everybody. I figured that that was how he advanced to Executor in the first place."
"That's true," said Jenna. "But whatever popularity he gained when he became Executor quickly diminished after our relationship became public."
Garrus and Shepard exchanged looks.
"It was that damn reporter. You know the one," said Jenna. "Chellick once told me turians were generally open-minded when it came to someone's personal life. But when they found out that Chellick was in a serious relationship with a human….it just rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. It also gave a lot of ammunition for anti-human politicians like Joram Talid."
"I knew I never should have let that one go," said Shepard, recalling her last mission concerning Thane's errant son.
"Really? I thought that you might have been the one to do him in."
Shepard frowned. "Come again?"
"You mean you don't know? Joram Talid was assassinated two weeks ago. That was the last case that Chellick was investigating before he went missing."
Garrus cast Shepard an inquiring glance.
"Well shit," she said.
1) Congrats to Just-another-freak-a-geek who guessed that Jenna's boyfriend was indeed Executor Chellick. And yes he is the awesome On that note, I know that there is a strong possibility that Chellick succeeding Pallin as Executor may not even be canonical. But I'm going to take a liberty with this, just for the sake of the story.
2) The plot thickens and so does the sexual tension between two very specific characters in the next installment of Field Research: The Basics Part 3: Hard Tricks. Sorry for the long wait and thanks for sticking around!