Pain to pleasure; so quickly, everything shifted.

Garrus had been fringe-deep in it, practically wishing for death ten minutes before. Because he'd lost the one person in the universe that he loved. And then? Then it wasn't true. The terrible truth was a lie, which turned everything upside, but that... that was fucking perfect. He could walk on the ceiling. Dance, even.

His chest carried a residual ache, but Gwen's touch would sweep it away. She fell back beneath him, and her eyes were a summer sky on earth, the blue of some fish he'd seen on the Citadel. He could fall into them and swim, but for now, he had better—more urgent—things to do. He'd feared they would never be together like this again—that her sense of duty wouldn't permit it. And really, how could he argue? His feelings didn't matter when measured against the mission. In his wildest dreams, he'd never expected her to choose him, not with all scars and faults, occasionally irrational demands.

He nipped at her throat as she raked her nails across the tender skin at the base of his fringe. He hissed at the pulse of arousal that made him want to possess her utterly. The impulse hadn't abated from last time. The argument and his doubt about her past with Thane only made him hungrier to claim her in an indisputable way, but she rose up on her knees and made logical thought impossible. She teased him everywhere: waist, behind his spurs, the soft skin beside his mandible, and she'd learned the secret turian language of desire. For every soft touch, she gave him a delicate pain, a press of nails, a fierce rake of claws, or a dig into softer skin; that was how a turian female told her mate, You're mine. I'll do what I wish with you. Then, of course, they fought for dominance. Reach, flexibility.

Garrus shuddered at the lust, building, building. It gathered at his core, primal as his heartbeat and more ferocious than a snap of teeth. In that moment, he'd have impaled anyone who came between them, anyone who tried to keep him from her. He couldn't think, could only—yes. She pressed her lips to the tender skin beside his mandible, then bit down.


She did it, and he snapped. Gwen went down under him in a single push. He raked his claws over her body, pricking it to life. It was miraculous that someone who felt so soft could be so tough. The thing's she's survived... Not just lust, but love drowned him in an inexorable wave. The last few days without her? That was true death, animation without life. No man, not even a turian, could live without his heart.

He pulled her wrists above her head, pinning her. As this was familiar ground, she didn't protest, but her eyes were so wide and blue, so open, that he could see to the bottom of her, all the doubts and shadows, all her secret terrors. But he couldn't identify the shape of them, whether they were monsters or spirits or long-dead ghosts. There was no regret in her face as she gazed up at him, only desire in the form of her full lips and silly human chin. She was such a beautiful creature.

"Kiss me," she whispered.

His tongue, hers. They touched. Tasted. Not each enough to hurt one another, but enough for the heat to multiply like a fire sucking all the oxygen out of the room. For a moment, he couldn't breathe, and while he gasped for it, she inhaled after him. Such an intimate thing; and he breathed her in return, taking what she pushed from her lungs. It was more than kissing, more than sex. This was life itself, and he'd die without her, die if he couldn't be part of her. By the widening of her eyes, the flush of color that ran from her neck to her chest, she felt the same.

Desire gained weights and layers, until he tore at her uniform. It was impossible that he'd carried her to bed still wearing it. Seconds later, he flung the tatters to the floor and stripped, aching beyond words. Then he came back down to her; she wrapped her legs around him, heels digging into his spurs. He let out a low snarl, provoked by the feel of her feet, just there. He wished he could feel everything about her; that she could come inside his exoskeleton and lie against his heart, as it beat just for her.


"Mmm." She arched when he touched her there. And there.

He bent his head, alternating the lick and nip, until she moaned. It was a weak sound. Possibly it should've disgusted him, but it only made him burn more, incited a greater predatory urge. His whole body trembled from the force of his restraint, but she held onto him, still touching with dextrous fingers and agile lips. So good. Each time he thought it couldn't get better, but now, now it hurt. She stroked the stalk of him, avoiding the tendrils, and his whole body clenched. More. Stop. Everything.


No more waiting. No more patience.

Garrus flipped her, releasing her wrists, so she could brace on her hands. He pressed a palm to the small of her back, tilting, and then he thrust. She was ready; she wanted him, but it was always a surprise to feel the slick softness, the flexible heat. So alien. So... perfect. Gwen circled her hips, taking him deeper, until he let out a raw growl. With a turian female, there would've been a bloody fight before he got her to submit. But here, now, she let him master her, possibly understanding how much he craved it. The pleasure went to his head until his fringe vibrated with it, a low note of utter longing. His whole body rang with it, just as he was drowning in her softness, her scent. Each movement sent another pulse of pure heat through him.

He worked her hard, holding her hips, no thought of bruises, scrapes, abrasions. No thought at all. And she took it, took him, until the pain fell away into the most primitive pleasure. His heartbeat filled his ears, rasping breath, creating a symphony with her small sounds, gasps and moans, the scratch of her open hands against the cool sheets as she writhed. Her body felt so small beneath him, small and hot and deep, incredible that she could, could—oh.

Her contractions took him by surprise, tightening and releasing, until he had no volition anymore. Garrus gave to her, then, in blind, snarling pushes. The flowering came on, rooting them together, and his own orgasm came in chills and cycles, a shuddering, endless gasp of delight that left him draped over her, unable to find his voice.

"And that's makeup sex," Gwen said drowsily.

"I approve." Eventually he found the energy to roll off her and gathered her to his chest. This was a human tradition, not a turian one, but he enjoyed it. There was some novelty in not having your bed partner run off immediately to do something more important. It made him feel... well, it made him feel everything. Garrus nuzzled the top of her head. She smelled... sweet. Odd word for a woman like Gwen, but it applied.

"It's getting harder for me not to mark you," he said quietly.

She arched a brow. "What's that, some kind of turian fetish?"

"Not exactly." Was it a mistake to bring this up? Too soon? He only knew that thinking things were over between, for good, had been almost as bad as believing she was dead. The universe only made sense if he stood by her side.

"So tell me."

"When turians mate permanently, we mark our females, so other males know not to mess with them."

"By 'mate', I assume you're not talking about sex." Gwen didn't look sleepy anymore, but she'd squared her expression until he couldn't read it.

"No. I used the word 'permanent' for a reason."

"You're saying you want to... marry me?"

"Not exactly. That's not a turian custom."

"You just want to hang a sign on me, then? To keep potential poachers at bay." She wasn't amused, he could tell.

"I have a feeling I'm explaining this all wrong," he said, sighing.

"Just tell me what it entails and we'll talk."

"A new scar, basically. One visible to the naked eye. But nothing disfiguring," he hastened to assure her, when she lifted a hand to touch her cheek.

"What, then?"

"Here," he whispered. "I'd draw the line here."

Garrus ran a claw down the side of her throat, and it almost killed him when she arched into his hands. He could snap this delicate throat, crush it so she could never speak again, and she just fucking let him touch her, any way he wanted. He traced two claws down the tendons, soft as moonlight. She shivered. There was no way he could want her again. Physiology wouldn't cooperate for another hour or so, but the emotional ache was already present, quiet but inextricable.

Gwen smiled. "Is that all? Go on, Garrus, if it'll give you some peace of mind. I already told you I'm yours, no matter what. So now, tell the turian world, too."

His voice choked in his throat. For long moments, his hands trembled, fingers curled into impotent fists, the claws digging into the softer skin of his palms. He'd seen humans weep before, but turians didn't—and for the first time, he wished they could, because it might alleviate the stinging pain steadily climbing up his skull toward his fringe. There was just.. nowhere for so much emotion to go.

"Hey," she said, seeming alarmed. She knelt beside him, a hand on his shoulder. "What did I say? Garrus, talk to me. What—"

"I left Palaven because I couldn't get along with my father, Gwen. I was never going to live up to his standards or be the turian he wanted me to be. In doing that, I left everybody behind—my mother, my sister. And since then... I've had nobody. I've had commanders. I've had assignments and colleages. But I never had anybody, until now, who said, I belong to you. You can write it on my skin."

"Oh." There was a sunrise of understanding in her gaze, clouds of blue, echoed with the tears he hadn't been able to shed. They slipped down her cheeks in silvery droplets, fascinating him.

"Nobody's ever cried for me, either." Garrus leaned in, tongue flicking out to taste.

Her tears tasted of the sea. It echoed in his ears, rushing, and it carried freedom with it. There would never be a more perfect moment, not during sex, not during combat. Praying he wouldn't hurt her more than necessary, he set his claw against her throat and drew it downward. She made no sound at all, even when her red blood—so strange—pressed through the crease he'd cut.

"Is that all?" she asked.

"Not quite."

He called downstairs for the final touch, an unguent to make sure the scar silvered properly. A flustered Kelly Chambers delivered his requested item, and he dismissed her quickly, stymieing her attempt to peer past him into the cabin, at Gwen reclining in the white sheets. The mark would be lovely and precise, a gift presented and accepted in love. After he applied the salve, he kissed her, touching tongues, nuzzling, and then he rubbed the side of his face against hers.

"It doesn't hurt," she said. "If you were wondering. And I'll be healed in no time, thanks to the skinweave and the biotech floating around in my arteries."

Garrus laughed softly. "You don't need to reassure me, Gwen. I've seen you shake off death. You wouldn't be overset by a scratch."

But he might be. Because of what it meant. And the way it changed everything, as there were a few things he hadn't told her...

I love you, Gwen Shepard.

Mate. Love. Life.