Disclaimer: Bioware owns Mass Effect. I'm just playing in the sandbox.
Shepard looked up from the email that Captain—Councilor Anderson had sent. EDI's blue globe popped up on the AI stand in her quarters.
"We've arrived at the Citadel. It is currently 0400 hours, Citadel time."
Shepard nodded. "Thanks EDI. Are Garrus and Tali busy?"
"Officer Vakarian is calibrating the main gun—"
"He's still working on that thing?"
"He is willing to be interrupted, however, and will meet you on the bridge momentarily. Tali'Zorah is also available."
Shepard stood from her desk, glancing once at the smiling picture of Kaidan, and rolled her bad shoulder as she walked to get her armor out. One of the distinct disadvantages of traveling all over the galaxy was the way planetary time had a way of messing up her sleep cycle. Like the Alliance ships she'd served on before becoming a Spectre, the new Normandy's crew took shifts in sleeping so that nothing was ever completely unmanned. Even with all the standard gene mods and legal stims, humans still needed a regular sleep cycle. Too bad it didn't happen to coincide with their arrival at the Citadel. To Shepard, it felt like early afternoon, but she didn't think Councilor Anderson would appreciate that fact if she showed up at what for him would be four o'clock in the morning.
When Shepard walked into the CIC, Tali, Thane, and Garrus were waiting near the bridge. Tali and Joker were engaged in a little tech talk, while Garrus was clipping his assault rifle to the clamp on his armor.
"Garrus, we're only going to get supplies and visit Councilor Anderson, not reenacting the battle of the Citadel."
"With politicians it's better to be prepared," he returned, mandibles flaring in a grin.
"Did I mention it's 0400 hours?" Shepard said with a raised eyebrow. "We'll be hanging out in the wards for awhile until it's a decent enough hour."
"Oh." Garrus looked thoughtful and then held up his talons in a clear "so what" gesture. "You never know what will happen that early in the morning."
On the Citadel, nothing ever truly slept. The stores were still open on Zakera Ward, as was the Dark Star lounge, if the thumping base reverberating through the bulkhead was anything to go by. They avoided the noisy bar, opting instead to find a place for what to them would be a late noon meal. It took some fancy searching on Tali's omni-tool to find a place that would accommodate all three of their unique dietary needs, but soon enough, they were all seated, glancing at the glowing menus on the table's console.
The food was decent and, being among old friends, Shepard felt herself relaxing for the first time since Horizon. Tali and Garrus bantered back and forth like siblings, and Shepard was on the receiving end of a few zingers as well.
"Tali, you were very fortunate not to be on the Edolus mission."
"Garrus, it wasn't that bad—"
"Don't believe her Tali. I had cramps in my talons for days afterward from gripping the seat." He flexed them as if to demonstrate his point. "I kept trying to tell the Commander that the Mako was not designed for 180-degree climbs, but up we go… and of course—what's that human phrase?—what goes up must come down."
Shepard tried and failed to hide her embarrassed grin. "Well at least the Mako was equipped with state-of-the-art crash webbing and gravity compensators. We may have been upside down for a few minutes, but it righted itself in the end. And I'll remind you, Officer Vakarian, that the mineral deposits on Edolus alone paid for that Phantom armor you loved so much."
"My face was blue all over from all the blood rushing to my head. I looked like an asari. Liara was very confused when we returned to the ship."
Tali and Shepard were overcome by the giggles at that point and almost didn't hear the ping on Tali's omni-tool.
"It's Kal!" Tali's voice sounded surprised. "I hope nothing's wrong..." She went silent a moment, scanning the message. "Oh, he wants to update me on the Admiralty's search for a new admiral." The quarian looked up. "May I be excused, Shepard? There's an extranet terminal just outside—"
Shepard nodded. "Go ahead. Give him my greetings."
"Thanks Shepard." Tali hopped away from the table, all but skipping out of the restaurant.
Shepard watched her go with a smile. "She's got it bad."
Garrus looked at her, head cocked. "Is Tali… sick? Shouldn't she be in the med-bay?"
Shepard laughed. "No. There's nothing in the known universe that can cure love, Garrus."
Garrus's mandibles flared as he chuckled. "Indeed." He glanced at the direction Tali went. "I wonder if that's the only time they take off those suits."
"Garrus!" Shepard laughed.
He grinned at her. "Admit it, you know you were wondering the same thing."
Shepard laughed over the rim of her glass. "Not going to admit to nothing."
Silence descended on the table for a moment as Shepard used the table's console to pay for their meal. When she looked up, she noticed that Garrus's mandibles were fluttering in what she was beginning to recognize as sign of nervousness or alarm.
"Something wrong, Garrus?"
He looked startled and then chuckled. "You know me too well, Shepard." He paused. "Since you mention it, I… ah, I have a rather awkward question to ask."
Shepard nodded, keeping her face as encouraging as possible, though inwardly she winced. Garrus had been there at Horizon. He saw the way Kaidan and Shepard had met… and the manner in which they parted as well. Was he going to drag that up?
"When human women… show interest—" Garrus seemed to catch the blank look on her face and his mandibles pulsed again. "Ah, I think the word you use is 'flirt'? Yes, when human women flirt, what… what do they do?" Clearly uncomfortable with the topic, Garrus seemed to want to look anywhere but at her.
Shepard took a sip of her drink to hide her grin. "I'm afraid you're asking the wrong human, Garrus. I entered the military when I was a teenager, and I had so many issues from the raid at Mindoir that I wasn't even aware that boys existed until sometime in my twenties." She grinned. "You'd be better off asking Jack."
"Oh spirits…" Garrus's mandibles fluttered wildly.
Shepard chuckled. "In all seriousness, I suppose if I wanted to 'show my interest' in a man…" she paused, remembering conversations on the old Normandy with a certain Lieutenant. "I would spend time to talk to him, find out what his interests were, find excuses to be near him." She paused, dredging up memories of her painfully delayed adolescence. "There might also be visual cues: she might find excuses to touch you, or play with her hair while you talked..." She chuckled in embarrassment. "I'm a soldier, Garrus. I missed the course on being the textbook romantic partner." Shepard stared at her drink. Was that how she screwed up meeting Kaidan? Had she simply not used the right words to show how much she still cared for him?
"Hmm." Garrus rumbled deep in his chest. "That sounds about right." His talons clicked a nervous pattern on the tabletop. "Yeoman Chambers has been visiting me in the main gun a lot—especially after we got back from dealing with Sidonis."
Shepard frowned. "Has she been bothering you?"
"Well, not bothering exactly. She said she wanted to get to know the alien crewmembers better. I told her I was busy dealing with the upgrades, but she doesn't mind watching me calibrate the guns—and before you say something, it does take a long time. It's not a handgun, you know," he huffed. "She just stands there, watching me. It's a little creepy, to be honest. So I started talking, you know, just to keep her from staring, and I don't know, it's hard to read her."
"Chambers is a little too… friendly, I will admit," Shepard said wryly, recalling that her first kneejerk reaction to the perky redhead had been automatic recoil.
"Friendly, yes." Garrus nodded. "But I asked Thane if she was visiting him, and he said she was, but it doesn't look like she's spending as much time with him as she is with me."
"Hmm." Shepard scratched her temple. "Well, she may have a thing for you. She said something about wanting to give you a hug when I first brought you aboard." Shepard grinned. "Maybe she's a woman with a thing for scars."
More mandible fluttering. "A hug," he repeated. "Is that a human euphemism?"
Shepard laughed. "No, no. A hug is when two people embrace—with arms around each other, chests touching. It's a non-sexual way to show affection or comfort."
"Ah. That explains it." Garrus tapped the hard front of his armor. "Turians aren't much for 'embracing.' Carapaces tend to get in the way."
"Yes, I imagine so," Shepard murmured, recalling a highly embarrassing conversation with Mordin from a few days back. She'd gone on her daily crew rounds, like she usually did, and Mordin had launched into an explanation of the possible complications of human/turian relations. Words like "chafing" and "ingesting" had been involved until Shepard had hurriedly and with a very red face set him straight.
"How do turians flirt?"
"We fight," Garrus answered promptly.
"Ah, yes. Your Lady Flexible, as I recall," Shepard said with a grin.
"Heh, yes," Garrus rumbled, tugging on his collar with an embarrassed flutter of his mandibles. "Under normal circumstances, parents will choose a mate for their child. It's a rite of passage for my people: only secondary in importance to entering the military. When a turian meets their potential mate the first time, it's usually for a sparring match."
"You fight with the person you're supposed to marry?"
"Not a lethal fight, but yeah. Dulled blades, single-shot pistols, or hand-to-hand combat. It's a way to prove to the other family that you're strong, worthy of being accepted, capable of producing offspring that won't shame your future family. Of course, how you lose is important too. Should the loser be what you call a 'bad sport' it reflects badly on family honor and his—or her—potential as a mate."
Shepard reached across the table and touched his arm. "Garrus, did you ever get… betrothed?"
Garrus looked at her hand, soft and fleshy compared to his sharp talons. "Yes. Once. My father tried to match me right before I was placed in C-Sec." His mandibles drooped. "Unfortunately… her parents thought it was an inauspicious match and declined to enter into the preliminary agreements."
"Don't worry about me, Shepard. It was a long time ago. I was still a kid. I wasn't ready for a lifemate or children. Besides, I wouldn't be much of a father rambling across the galaxy trying to right impossible wrongs." His laugh sounded a little hollow.
Shepard gripped his arm again. "Garrus, you'd be a great father. After this mission is over, promise me you won't give up on your future."
"I mean it. And I'm not saying you have to go out and find a mate and settle down. I just…" Shepard bit her lip. "That look you had in your eyes when I found you on Omega. I don't ever want to see a friend of mine look like that again."
Garrus briefly covered her hand with his other talon. "I promise." He paused. "But only if you do something for me, Shepard."
"Don't give up on yours either." Garrus's mandibles were tight against the side of his face, an expression she'd come to associate with his solemn, serious moods. "After this is over, talk to Lieutenant Alenko again."
"Am I interrupting something?" Tali's voice held a hint of laughter as she approached the table where Garrus and Shepard's hands were still interlocked.
Garrus chuckled. "Well, you know, Tali, some women do find facial scars attractive when they have a nice set of their own."
Shepard shook her head. "This is how rumors get started."
"Speaking of rumors," Garrus said with a wicked gleam in his eye. "How is our broad-shouldered, red-armored marine doing, Tali?"
"Kal'Reegar? Oh, he's… he's…" Tali was twisting her hands together like she did when she was nervous. Shepard and Garrus couldn't hold back their laughter.
"I hate you both," Tali grumbled.
"Alright, crew," Shepard said with a grin, glancing at her omni-tool. "Councilor Anderson has had enough beauty sleep. Let's catch the next rapid transit cab and get to the Presidium."