09 April 2010

Regret

Disclaimer: the characters in this story are the intellectual property of Bioware, not mine.

WARNING: contains sexually explicit material. 16yrs+ readers only please.

Author note: I've purposefully tried not to describe Shepherd too much, after all, fans of Mass Effect will each have their own versions of Shepherd, so I leave those parts up to your imagination.


Garrus looked down upon the silky crown of the female human huddled against him, holding him tightly as if he were all that was keeping her from floating off into space and eternal darkness. He wasn't sure he'd ever get used to seeing her like this, nor the way it made him feel more content than he had ever been in his life. When Shepherd clung to him in this way with such frailty, such weakness: two very strange things happened.

The first thing was that Garrus found himself thinking all sorts of deep-rooted, tender feelings. That was weird enough, although he'd admit that sometimes he could be a little sentimental. However, love wasn't something that had ever been for Garrus. It was not something that really occurred to him as such, well... not unless you include 'love of beating criminal bastards to a bloody pulp' (he did so love doing that) or love of his sniper rifle. He had never looked to find a mate – after all living on the citadel and the Normandy he had been unlikely to meet a female turian, let alone start a family with one. If it was love he felt for Shepherd then that made things doubly strange because 1) Shepherd wasn't turian – she was human, and 2) the intensity of his feeling towards her set it apart from anything he'd ever known, seen, or heard of.

OK so there had been the odd suicide or murder he'd investigated at C-sec that had been related to supposed 'love' in one way or another. Certainly he imagined if any harm were to come to her now then whosoever was responsible for that would meet a very painful end at his hands. The weirdest part was that the closest thing he could compare the way he felt about Shepherd was the stuff legend – stories he had learned as a child, like the story of the two moons that orbited his homeworld. Insanity... He told himself as he thought about it. Regardless, these were feelings that had persisted long after only one time spent in Shepherd's bed, and they had not waned in intensity. As he listened to the small snuffling noises she made – head buried into his shoulder the words "I'm not letting go" just kept running on loop through his mind. Damn she got under his skin, but right now he wouldn't have it any other way, and more than anything he wanted to stay with her like this forever. We're both crazy, that's what it is.

He stroked his fingers through her silky hair. It surely was madness... How else could he explain how he was feeling? He was filled with a sense of inner peace as his fingers threaded between the strands of her hair, whilst simultaneously there was a growing hunger for her, passion bubbling through his blood enough to make it boil... and all the while he seemed to have this empowered mental restraint. It was a more-than-slightly confusing state to be in. Where the hell had he got this phenomenal self-restraint from anyway?

That... was the second strange thing that happened when Shepherd held to him this way. Sure, give Garrus a sniper rifle and tell him to track down a villain and he could do it swiftly, dead calm, knowing when to strike and when to bide his time. Patience he had when he knew there was an end goal in sight, but it had been Shepherd that had stopped him from blowing Sidonis' brains out across the Citadel floor. It had been her restraint – not his – that had pulled him back from becoming something, someone he would have hated. But now here he was: his instincts were driving him hard to do things – the sorts of hormonally-driven things that would override all logical thought capacity in any normal turian – and yet he still held fast to his conscious thoughts and he wanted to be in control, to be aware of everything he was doing. Maybe this is the final proof that I really don't make a good turian. He thought to himself. Add to that I was recently clinically dead for 40 hours and I'm seriously wondering if I should be packed off to therapy or something, because I am obviously totally screwed up...

Witnessing her frailty he also felt somehow stronger – invincible even – like suddenly he could really make a difference and change the world for the better. Through her weakness she gave him this 'indomitable willpower'. Is it right to draw strength from another's weakness? He almost felt guilty for it – it seemed dishonourable, and yet he was also filled with this insurmountable sense of righteousness. It filled him with confidence, until he became certain he could somehow hold this beautiful soul in his arms, protect it, and watch over it as it rinsed itself clean of all that had soiled it. A soul, he reminded himself quietly and with just a touch of pride: who'd more than likely afterwards go on to save the galaxy – again and again. In this moment he almost felt like maybe, just maybe, this was the true purpose for his ever having been brought into existence: To be here for her... the 'Hero of the Citadel' and the single most persistent hope for organic life in the galaxy against the Reapers. Maybe he was born for this, to be here for her to rest her wings when she was tired and to be her sanctuary whenever and in whatever way it was required.

Cold settled in his stomach as an unsettling thought crossed his mind: Do I... worship her..? He felt a distasteful pang of disgust at the thought. Worship would dishonour everything that Shepherd stood for: a standard by which to judge yourself against. More important than that, she represented a standard that could and should be attained – for she was mortal, just like everyone else. No. This is not worship. Maybe I worshipped her once a long time ago, but not anymore. I know she's mortal. Universe be damned I know that – I've seen it. I remember the silence... the emptiness left behind when she was taken from us. I saw it in Kaidan's eyes and more than that I felt it. When she was gone that was the first time any of us truly realised that she could actually die. Garrus recalled how at first he just couldn't believe it, then he'd felt sick to his stomach – like in some way they had all betrayed her by never really appreciating that fact while she was still alive... He had realised how much more impressive that made her already incredible résumé. No. He definitely appreciated her mortality now, and he had every intention of fully appreciating her now that he'd been given this second chance.

No turning back. He was sure of that now, there was no denying how he felt about her – he would have to follow it through to the end, no more excuses. He wanted to scoop her up and hide her away right now, to be everything she needed. The confidence that burned inside him telling him that he could actually do that was downright intoxicating... finally he gave in. He leaned down and lifted her, scooping her up into his arms. She seemed so light and so small. He could sense she was so vulnerable, just as she had been down in Med bay an hour ago when he saw her the first time since... well... dying in her arms. She said nothing and made no noise save a few snuffles. She only clung to him with her arms around his neck, fingering between the hardened leather plates of the back of his neck and around the rim of his collarbone.

Shepherd was not a character he had become accustomed to unburdening her emotions and worries onto other people, and so he didn't really expect her to be explaining anything right now. That's alright. She doesn't have to. It's enough that she needs me. The light motions her fingertips were making over his skin were so gentle they nearly made him shiver. He walked around the side of the double bed – covers still crisply tucked over the pillows. Kneeling on the bed he set her down carefully, keeping his fringe and throat at all times within her reach so that she could continue her hypnotic ministrations undisturbed – it seemed to soothe her and it's not like he wasn't enjoying the attention. He smiled and purred softly to her.

Memories of scent, sound, and textures flooded his thoughts as he recalled in greater detail how he had come to lie here with her in her quarters for the first time; the last time. Suddenly what had seemed so long ago was now fresh in his mind... He remembered the way time had stood still, how the sounds she had made had melted his heart and had drawn out the deepest yearning for her. He recalled how it had felt to move inside her and how he had stared into her eyes, thinking to her things he'd never thought to anyone... before her. He'd sworn it was the work of magic how they had lain here, insulated from the ebb and flow of the universe and all its troubles, damn she had been so beautiful... like now. She's gorgeous... It's happening again I swear I can feel it...

Shepherd lay silently moving her fingers in sweeping strokes over a familiar face with alien hide – eyes shut tight in remembrance of being with him like this so very long ago. She allowed her senses to bask in the moment. As she concentrated, she could even feel the sound of his breathing through her fingertips, smell the leather of his skin through her tongue as she licked her lips, and she could hear within every purr he made that he wanted her, really... wanted her. She remembered how surprised she had been the first time at how gentle he had been with her. She knew she was safe in this one instant – no more monsters, no demons... Garrus would keep them from her.

Any other time in her life and she'd have looked in the mirror and called herself pathetic for the way she now surrendered all of her responsibilities, all of her pain, everything – to him, the turian who hot-headedly quit his job as a C-sec investigator to go chase Sarren around the galaxy with a human spectre. 'Impulsive' didn't sufficiently describe what she'd thought of him back then when they had first met. He had seemed so young, so full of bluster and arrogance and self-righteousness – damn he'd been a pain in the ass. She'd had to show him more than once that the quick and easy way was not always the best way. She'd certainly never have trusted him enough to surrender everything to him the way she was doing right now... she would not have come to him for sanctuary. And yet here he was, in her quarters, leaning over her, lying next to her on her own bed. How things have changed...

Then again... she always had seen in him a sweetness that she had felt the need to nurture, because it reflected something of herself she had always had to fight very hard to hold onto: her 'humanity'. It was ironic perhaps that an alien would remind her so much of what she thought it was to be human. She had nearly pulled her hair out thanks to Garrus on more than one occasion, but she had also grown to respect him. He would offer words of reason when she least expected them, and of all the people in her life right now, she felt like deep down he was the one who best knew her. But also... the one who most needed her. Maybe that's why I'm willing to drop my guard for him..?

It certainly was strange to be so attracted to a turian. Nylus – for the brief time she had known that turian – had won her respect, and Garrus in some ways often reminded her of the dead spectre. With one sentence Nylus had disarmed every concern she had thought to worry about regarding his alien intentions: I don't care that you're human Shepherd... He opened her eyes on a different side to turians than the one that she had learned to fear and then dislike as a child. Garrus too had the same level of integrity – a rare thing to find in any individual regardless of race; experience had taught her that. But Garrus had also surprised her by showing a tenderness she would never have expected to find in a turian. However she now recognised that Garrus was also unique in so many ways... standing apart from the crowd, just as she had always found herself.

Why? Why am I surrendering like this? For a moment she panicked: I didn't even behave this way in Kaidan... But Shepherd found her answer. It was because she trusted Garrus. But she trusted him not just with her life – although that was not something many could claim (which had made Kaidan special at the time) – she also trusted him with herself. She trusted him, and only him, to bear her burdens, to take control. When they had landed on the Collector base, it was him she chose to lead the second team. She had known, that if ever there was her equal, someone as steady in the face of danger and as determined to succeed as she was, it was Garrus. So now he took everything away so that she didn't have to be 'Commander Shepherd' anymore... At least for a time.

But you know you'll have to go back eventually. The part of her that clung to her responsibilities like they were her very own life-support, now pleaded for her to remember how she had felt when last time it had ended so abruptly. You never learned. You never learn... You let your guard down and look where it got you. It was her father's voice speaking these words... She had always been his youngest apprentice, but being her father's daughter she had had to learn twice as fast as everyone else, and she had to be the best of all his students. Remember the pain you felt when you had to pile all of your defences back up again? It was like the day the slavers came, and he had told her to hide because she was not ready to fight. No you cannot help. You still allow your emotions to run too close to the surface, he had told her, if you truly want to fight for something you must learn sacrifice, patience, and above all to remain calm. This will be my last lesson to you. She had cried, and he had yelled at her to run, his last words would echo in her ears every time she was in trouble from then on: Be strong. I am proud of you.

However good she seemed to get at putting a lid on it, Shepherd was still a deeply emotional person. Now a war waged between how she had lived her life since then and her need for emotional expression. Her father's voice again reminded her of how she had felt when the call to hit the Omega Relay had come in. Remember how raw that left you..? You can't just cast off who you are for a different skin Shepherd, your pain and your responsibilities are what make you who you are. You cannot simply abandon them... The conflict waged within her, but, nothing his voice could say would be able to make her wish away this moment, and more than anything she just wanted to let it all go...

Then it came to her... Shepherd found a way to do it, to let go of everything... She found a way to still her father's voice: When it ends, it ends. She told herself resolutely. Garrus deserves better than rejection, and so do I. I won't waste any more time. Not now that she knew what it was like to truly regret, not now she knew what it was like to think that there would be no more time. She swore it: Never again...

A foretalon brushed over her forehead, stroking away the frown that had been developing. She smiled forlornly, still thinking of what she had so nearly lost. Grateful – she was so, so glad he was here, so overjoyed that he yet lived and yet drowning in sorrow for what could have been. She humbly thanked everyone (and anyone) who had to do with Garrus' resurrection. His gentle touch coincided with a soft thud on the floor, prompting her to open her eyes – primed for emergency, her heart skipped a beat. Upon opening her eyes her heart skipped again as instead of his tunic she found bare muddy-brown hide and silver grey plating before her: Garrus propping himself up on one elbow and naked from the waist up. He was smiling thoughtfully over her – so it had been the dull sound of his tunic crumpling as it hit the floor that she had heard.

Reaching towards her throat he tugged with a talon at the placement of the first fastening of her uniform, raising a quizzical brow as he did so. Her heart raced, Ah. She hadn't noticed what she was wearing. She hadn't really meant to put her uniform on after showering, but had unwittingly done so on auto-pilot. Feeling rather self-conscious she nervously bit her lip, smiling shyly as she undid the clip of her collar. Blue eyes gazed softly down on her in lazy interest, mandibles parting as Garrus then tracked the movement of his talon – stroking down from her chin to her throat, then to the next fastening... Still biting her lip but smiling a little more, she undid the next fastening, and again he lightly stroked the back of his talon down from her jaw to the next fastening. Patiently he waited for her to undo the next fastening, and then the next, and the next... When finally he could stroke down from her temple to her navel, to his satisfaction she let escape a small gasp as he did so. She was so sensitive and he just loved seeing her react so strongly to so little.

He peeled open the military pressed tunic. Following the trail of his talon he lightly drew his whole hand, fingers spread, in a second sweep down her curves, listening intently as she sighed to his touch and lifted herself towards his fingers. Her skin was unbelievably soft, and warm. Then, he followed the same path with his mouth as he gently tickled his mandibles over her smooth skin. He breathed in deep, her scent brought forth far stronger memories than he would have expected – lightly fragranced and damp from the shower, exactly as she had been the first time. She gasped and closed her eyes, following his mouth down her body with her own fingers, a behaviour he watched with quickening arousal. She did that too, he remembered – awash with echoing memories of passion and the current erotic behaviour that reality was unfolding before his eyes. Damn... I... She... He had to growl to steady his breath and focus his thoughts. He was bursting with anticipation, so much it almost hurt.

Reaching the oh-so-soft skin that tapered down from her stomach to between her hips he growled wantonly into her, watching as she pushed her head back into the pillows, arching her back as her fingers snaked over her breasts and down. She groaned. Oh hell... Do you have to be so damned sexy? Heaven knows how he held his restraint – his instincts were setting his nerves on fire as they co-operatively slid down her lower garments. The small moans she made as he slid his thumbs down the inside of her knees as he removed her trousers and underwear certainly weren't helping – except to make him burn all the more to be inside of her. But he breathed deep and steadied himself somehow, smiling as he recalled the first time he had seen her underwear - unbearably cute for providing her barely a semblance of protection. Hah! But as he slid his fingers around her thighs she twisted and writhed against his nuzzling, drawing her fingers through the fronds of his fringe, pushing him to the edge of his control not least because he could also now smell her readiness... He almost lost his restraint as realised it.

He relented his nuzzling, drawing himself back up the curves of her form to bring himself to lie beside her, propping himself up so that he could gaze down upon her. As he stared into those trusting eyes, he again found that inner strength that gave him the restraint he needed to make sure he would never move too fast, never harm her. More than anything he wanted to protect her. He smiled, pleased with himself as she looked up expectantly, and knew he would enjoy what was yet to come in a way he never knew was possible before he met her. He teased his restored restraint as he lightly drew a single talon down her nose, over her lips – curiously supple and rather interesting things. Continuing down her throat, over one breast – another part of human anatomy he seemed to like more and more – and then down her abdomen, he elicited from her a most satisfying murmur of contentment.

She wriggled in response to his touch. Damn... Every time she made those sounds it made his heart race and he found himself again desperate to plunge himself into her and teetering on the edge of self-control. Yet he somehow found his calm – that seemingly unlimited self-restraint he could find only with her... He stroked down her neck to her shoulder, pushing against the material of her tunic just enough to make her notice that she was still wearing it. He chuckled when to his amusement she muttered "Oops..." and hastily removed it.

Maybe it was because he wanted to remember every moment, and sheer determination kept him steady. Maybe it was simply because he respected her so sincerely that he just wanted to be sure he wouldn't harm her, or maybe... maybe this was just what love could be: him wanting to know that she was enjoying him as sincerely as he was enjoying her. He gave up trying to figure out why he was able to do what he was doing and lifted his weight on one arm. Still caressing her as he moved he was especially pleased when he caught her sliding her eyes over his muscles as they tautened, he couldn't help but smirk. I want to be everything you want... he thought smugly to her.

He slid one knee carefully down the inside of her thigh... She moaned in eager anticipation, spreading her legs apart invitingly, again setting his nerves on fire. Nuzzling down into her neck he purred into her flesh until she embraced him. Hold on to me, he thought to her, hold on to me and don't let go. Affectionately she nuzzled up to him as she pressed her nose to his, smiling sweetly. A wave of relief suddenly washed over him and he sighed longingly to her. He was relieved to find himself here like this, with her. He honestly thought he'd never get a second chance. He wanted to tell her again how much he had thought about her since their first time, how he'd longed for her – especially as he had lain in her arms for what he thought would be the last time: trying desperately to cling to existence, or to take with him that one last memory of her face into oblivion... or wherever it is you go when you die. He had so very much wanted to lose himself inside her, one last time, and he could barely believe that his dying wish was now coming true. He wanted to tell her now how amazing she was... How speechless (and secretly prideful) he had been when Thane had told him that she had gone completely wild with anger and sorrow when they had prised her from his body.

I am so, so sorry I left you, He stroked down her body, mournfully wishing he could undo what had happened... the sorrow she must have felt. I tried so hard to hold on. I didn't want to break you... He stroked down her cheek tenderly. I am so lucky to have this second chance. He had only to look into her eyes now to gain all the reassurance he could ever need that she truly wanted him, truly needed him, just how much she trusted him. He could now believe everything that Thane had told him. However, even if he wanted to risk breaking this spell by speaking to her, he could not bring himself to mouth the words, able only to purr low and deep with satisfaction as he stared into her eyes. Just don't let go, he begged her silently, whatever happens.

He slid his hand down her shoulders and over her waist as he brought his other knee inside of hers, and lifted her aft towards him, delighted as she swung her legs around his waist and over his hips. He was reminded of her strength as he backed them both towards the foot of the bed – she hung one armed from his shoulders, affectionately fingering his mandibles with her free hand. She rocked against him, sliding herself over his bare stomach and the material of his trousers, making him swallow hard against this new erotic distraction. He had to growl to steady his breathing. He lay her down onto the bed as he stepped to the floor, hastily removing his trousers just in time to block the pillow that would have thudded next to his head. Instead he grabbed it, and threw it off the side of the bed. I don't need the damned pillow. I don't need protecting. Before she could say a word to match her worried expression he was back over her, pressing his body to hers lightly but firmly, his forehead to hers, and growling deeply as he stared into her eyes. Stop trying to protect me and just let it all go. He slid one hand under her shoulders and silenced her words with a finger to her lips with the other. I'm here to protect you, nothing more, nothing less.

He was satisfied when she moaned as if the last cares of the world had just evaporated from her shoulders and he nuzzled down into her neck, growling into her lustfully. It was then that she melted, frowning as she kissed up to his finger, nuzzling it out of the way as she moaned and kissed his mandibles, fighting against his attentions to nuzzle into his neck. He hugged her close as he stroked his hand down the arm that embraced him to her shoulder, and she hugged him back, writhing against him as he continued to slide his thumb down over her breast and her belly to her hips. He could enter her at any moment if he chose to now. She was frantic. Passion coursed through his veins with the gratification that he received, seeing just how much she wanted him inside her – the way she tried to pull him closer with her legs. Determined to take his time and not to hurt her he retained the self-control to hold himself from rushing into her. No. Give his life to save her. Never harm her.

But something made him question if something was wrong... She was desperately passionate – he could sense a change in her. He lifted himself from her just enough to look down upon her, and was mortified to see a tear glittering as it slid from eyes clenched shut. She looked as if she were in terrible pain. He froze, worry spreading across his face. "Hey..." He touched her cheek gently, cautiously, greatly concerned. The noise of his own voice made him jump – the sound of it coarse to his ears. Her response was confusing – she nuzzled into his hand but didn't answer. "Did I... Have I hurt you in some way..?" He tried to ask, frightened that somehow he might have, could have, maybe accidentally..?

She cackled a peculiar, mocking laugh – "You?" She sniffed and shook her head... "You have never hurt me..." At least that sounded honest... She held his hand to her cheek with her own. "Oh Garrus you've never, ever hurt me. I don't think you could..." She smiled, still pained, still clenching her eyes shut as yet another tear escaped. "It's just..." She tried breathe, "It's just..."

Garrus began to realise what it must have been like for her to have cradled him in her arms, probably thinking he was gone forever. If she felt as strongly for him as he did for her then readjustment was going to be a long, painful process. He remembered what it had been like for himself years earlier: watching the last lifepod eject only to discover that she wasn't on it... watching the Normandy burst silently into flame and wreckage, knowing that Shepherd was still out there. Having said that, Shepherd was far stronger than any ordinary person, and he had been surprised that she would behave this way. Perhaps if he'd had even the slightest clue of how much she would mean to him now, he would have reacted the way she did and done worse than simply kick himself for having never tried to tell her. Then suddenly it hit him...

He added together the pieces of what Thane had told him of her reaction towards his death and the way she was behaving now. Slowly the pieces fit together... She had chosen after their first time to put her feelings aside and with good reason, or so Garrus had thought. He had before assumed it a wise decision: one she had simply deemed necessary to make to maintain her strength and resolve to deal with the greater tasks at hand. It had seemed logical enough. However he now began to think – much to his horror – that she had possibly made that decision out of fear...

It dawned on him that he had never seen Shepherd truly regret anything. Not even when he watched her knowingly make the decision that would leave Ashley – a friend and a comrade – behind on Virmire to die. Shepherd had merely been silent, sadness betrayed only by her eyes which were quickly filled with anger. That anger she would later use constructively to sure up her determination to stop Saren. That was how she seemed to deal with things and he had always admired her for it. But what he could see now... was regret. He was sure of it. He'd seen it often in the eyes of witnesses to murder who could have - and knew they should have - done something about it, but instead had simply stood and watched it happen. He'd hated those people. Regret was the price a person paid for doing nothing when they could have done something and knew that they should. That's why he always preferred to do something - anything - rather than nothing, earning himself a reputation for recklessness in the process. So then, this was not pain of 'now' he was seeing, but fear of history repeating itself.

I did this to her. Memory replayed in his mind as he recalled the look on her face as the call came in to signal it was time to hit the Omega Relay. She couldn't cope – I stripped away all her defences and then just let her get on with it... And that's exactly what she must have done. She just got on with it. But what else could he have expected from her? He should have known she'd force herself to get on with things no matter what, even if she was broken: it was who she was. And then instead of trying to fix the situation, I supported her decision! His blood began to boil, he had been such a fool. What if she needed me to go to her..? She had looked so shocked when he had pulled away from her, the pain in her expression forever etched onto his memory. Dread sunk into his stomach like krogan rynchol and left him feeling just as violently sick...

He of course had tried not to give her even the slightest inclination that he felt rejected or that he still cared deeply for her, because he didn't want to make her job any harder or complicate things. But he'd based all of that on the assumption that her staying away from him was a rational decision. Imagine if she was afraid to risk reopening that wound, especially not knowing how I felt on the matter... Shepherd you damned fool... It would have eaten away at her as it did him: silently, secretly until... Until some event forced it to the surface. Like either one of us dying... He was sure then that as he had lain dying in her arms, such regret could have, surely would have, obviously had torn her apart. Goddamn genius Garrus. And to Shepherd: You damned idiot! Why didn't you talk to me?

"Hey." He said, turning her jaw to face him, she didn't open her eyes. "Hey." He said louder – "Look at me." Slowly she opened her eyes, and the frown diminished into pure sorrow.

"I just... remember everything you told me on that blasted world... everything." She spoke with a small, strangled voice, almost a whisper. "I couldn't believe I could lose you, not like that... not when I hadn't told you... I didn't... because I couldn't..." She shook her head and closed her eyes again, the pain again returned to her expression. The past was still so near.

"Hey!" He yelled, getting her attention and forcing her back to here and now – he hadn't quite meant for it to sound so angry... "You weren't the only one afraid you'd lost something." Again the strain in his voice made him sound angrier than he meant to be, "I... I thought that my only chance..." His voice began to fade. She still had her eyes clenched shut, "Goddamn it Shepherd!" He growled with frustration and gripped the back of her skull in one hand, "Look at me Shepherd when I'm trying to tell you something important!" Great going Garrus. Real smooth... "I thought I was never going to get the chance to tell you that I love you! Don't you see? I lay dying in your arms, hating myself for never trying to tell you that until it was too damned late!" He barred his teeth and snarled.

"You're not the only one who felt the burden of regret!" He was angry – at her stupidity, at his own, and generally at everything that had ever gone wrong in his life. He desperately wanted to make her realise how important she was to him and he was really making a mess of it. Shepherd slowly opened her eyes. He had expected to see fear for the rage that had scorched his voice. To his surprise, her eyes met his full of hope, and earnest need. Relieved, he stroked the tears away. He sighed and shook his head, trying not to cry himself. "I don't care that we screwed things up the first time." softly now, the words barely escaping his mouth as he searched her eyes for a response, "I care that you love me..."

"I do... I love you." Shepherd's voice was full of sorrow, but he nearly laughed in joy of hearing her say those words – the reassurance that he wasn't the complete and utter fool his father would say he was for behaving in such a way – with a human no less. He had died before hearing her utter those words to him the first time she had spoken them to him.

"I said I'd always be with you, didn't I?" His voice was nearly breaking again in his desperation as he searched her eyes again for reassurance, but to his insurmountable relief she nodded, and smiled. He steadied his voice, and pressed his forehead to hers as she stared up at him, calm now. He cupped a hand to her face as he spoke, "Well I damn well mean to follow through with it." He slid his fingers slowly over her silky skin.

"Always?" a small voice escaped from a hopeful smile. She was so damned beautiful, even more so when she was this fragile. He didn't know if it was nerves – they were wracked to Hell – or if he was just insane, but he felt this overwhelming need to be inside her. He wanted to show her in every way that by her side was where he meant to stay. He lined himself up, relieved to feel her wet warmth already spilling forth from her as he brushed close in preparation, spurred on when she gasped at the touch.

"Always." He growled confidently, staring into her eyes as slowly he slid himself into her. He smiled with pride as she groaned in relief, throwing her head back as he came to lie back over her. She was so moist that he found himself nearly totally enclosed by her. He couldn't help but growl with deep satisfaction, feeling her pulse in a tightening grip around him as she tensed her thighs to pull him into her completely – deep as he could go. Nearly blinded by the intensity of sensation he moved slowly at first, her fingers caressing him everywhere they could reach. He could no longer think in words as he began to lose himself inside her.

He looked down to see himself slipping in and out of her as she stroked over his tensed arms and shoulders. He listened keenly to her... Oh how he loved the sounds she made! She moaned and groaned and cried out in a language that called to him, begging him for more and he gave it – anything to keep them both here like this. He slid his fingers over her body and around her thighs, stroking down to her rounded muscular behind, bracing her as he pushed in each time as deeply as he could. In steady strokes he moved inside her as he nuzzled into her breasts. She curled her fingers over his fronds and massaged the sensitive skin between and underneath, beckoning him towards ever-hardening pleasure with every sound she made. His fingers tingled with the heat of her body. Her skin wet with sweat, and his skin slid frictionless over hers. They worked each other's muscles into fever. His fingers drew lines down her slender form to which she would respond internally: sending shocks of heightening arousal to him with each renewed joining of their hips.

He wished he could stay like this forever. Always be with you, he thought to her. He swore he'd never leave her side – never. He was hers, and would stay that way until he died. He swore that too. He watched her abdomen tense and felt the grip of her powerful thighs as she pulled his hips to hers. He nuzzled into her neck to take in her musky scent. He could feel her approaching the threshold, pace and pulsing quickening, and heaven so help him: he was right there with her. He roared with the effort it took as he forced himself out of nuzzling her neck to grab the back of her skull and pull her head towards his as he barred his teeth. Just as he let go, just as he released himself into her, being finally unable to restrain himself any longer... She opened her eyes and stared pure strength into his roar as she let loose her own, grabbing hold of his hand as she did so and gripping it so tightly he had to squeeze back.

He groaned with the continuing aftershocks as she pulsed internal contractions around him, and he steadily rocked in smaller motions inside her tightening grip. She drained him to the last as she clung to him making unbearably enticing small moans of satisfaction. For the longest time after that they simply lay panting – he purring between breaths, she murmuring tiny moans, each in concert recovery from overwhelming pleasure. His thoughts were numbed for a time as he lay staring into her eyes. Finally he squeezed her hand gently and withdrew a little, but his strength faltered and he pressed into her again making her groan with heightened sensitivity. Again he looked into her eyes and his heart skipped a beat in surprise. Huh... wasn't expecting that kind of reaction...

She stroked down his scarred face, tracing the now-old wounds with her fingertips. He huffed in bewildered amusement as he was again reminded that anyone else save a krogan would probably not have found him that attractive, at least not anymore. Even humans seemed to shy away from scars... But Shepherd smiled tenderly as she traced those that adorned most of that side of his face. She was special, but he damn well knew that. I wish I'd found you years ago, not 'Commander' Shepherd – I wish I'd known this side of you. So much of his life could have been more bearable had he this to come home to – maybe he could even have lived a simple life: no chasing around the galaxy, she wouldn't have had to die, I wouldn't have had to die or nearly die twice... But who was he trying to kid? He knew truthfully he'd never have settled for that kind of life, and neither would she. That was perhaps what made them such a perfect fit. Oh and she is definitely a perfect fit...

Still, he was wondering if there could be a way to have some of that now... After all, who knows when the Reapers would actually turn up? For all they knew, the Reapers might do the smart thing and just wait a hundred years or so to be sure Shepherd was either far too old or dead and buried before carrying on with their plans... After all they'd been waiting a few million years for galactic civilisation to grow and mature, what's the harm in a few hundred years more? Then he could have Shepherd to himself... Except he knew deep down that some other emergency would take the Reapers' place. But then again it would probably be better for the galaxy if the Reapers didn't wait... Better they either weren't that smart, not that patient, or for some other reason could not wait... In any case, he swore to be with her when she faced them. I wouldn't want to miss out on the fun.

With a smile on his face he realised his mind had wondered – meaning time enough had passed for it to have wondered. Nervously part of him was now worrying about when this moment was going to end, and he waited for something to bring them crashing back into the world and its woes... But nothing did. He smirked, pleased that the crew of the Normandy had kept to their word. Even if all hell was breaking lose, he and Shepherd were not being informed of it. Shepherd's eyes darted around the room as she wondered the same thing, listening keenly for a moment in case of alarm, but none came – there was only the mute sound of the ship's engines and the bubbling of the fish tank. Just me and the fish... she recalled he'd said earlier, it had made her laugh. With a sigh she found herself thinking: No. I think really there has only ever been you Garrus... Nobody had ever been as close to her emotionally as he was. Weird as it was he meant everything to her now.

They relaxed, and returned to reality slowly, of their own free will: no imminent battle, death or destruction to face. Shepherd smirked and raised an eyebrow. "48 hrs, you said?" The confidence was back, and it was actually a little unnerving for Garrus – for it was his commander staring back at him now, between whose legs he lay: still very deep inside her... But it was a good thing – the barriers were back up, but not because of anything bad. She'd simply rested, and returned to herself.

"48 hrs." Garrus nodded, echoing confidently. "Well... maybe more like 46hrs, now." He smirked and she laughed, sending internal spasms through their connection, making him shiver and hold his breath until she finished – it was a most peculiar sensation. He stared into her eyes long enough for his mind to wonder back to thinking about how wonderful she was, and how lucky he was to be here right now. He really was getting sentimental with his age... Kindness spread across his expression. He looked away for a moment, like he was working himself up to something. Shepherd watched him with curiosity as he then looked back at her and released her hand from his.

Hesitating briefly, he then placed his thumb on the bridge of her nose and then gently stroked back up and over her forehead, combing his fingers over her skull and through her silky soft hair. Shepherd pushed into his hand, blinking as he did so and smiled – she was sure she remembered him doing that the first time they had been together. In fact, she had remembered the action so vividly that she had performed it herself as he lay dying in her arms. She remembered it seemed to mean so much to him at the time... Shrugging off that sad memory in favour of recollecting recent events, she looked at him with renewed interest. She was certain now that the gesture had some deeper or symbolic meaning, especially when he waited expectantly until she reciprocated. She smiled and pressed her thumb to the bridge of his nose and stroked upwards over the armoured bumpy ridges, and drew her fingers back over his fringe, sliding them between the fronds as she did so. He seemed to sigh with some great relief.

"What does that..." Shepherd tried to ask, she did not want to spoil the moment or insult him, although suddenly her voice sounded so very loud... Clearly there was something about turians – well something else anyway – that she did not yet understand. "Sorry... Umn...." She tried to guise her question in humour. "The human is lost here and is thinking clearly there is something she's missing with regards to turian culture..." Garrus simply raised a brow. Fine I guess I'll have to ask, then. She thought to herself. "That gesture... has some significance. What is it..?"

Garrus smiled, and she swore if he could blush she would have seen him do so. He ducked his eyes nervously for a moment as he thought carefully about his answer. He pulled himself from her, making her moan mournfully, and climbed back up onto the bed. Shepherd, followed him, pulling herself back up the bed until she reached the pillow that still remained near the headrest. Garrus collapsed and lay beside her, pulling her closer to him by her waist and quietly held her hand. She waited patiently.

"Turians..." he began hesitantly, "well we don't really... Uh... At least, uh... Well there is normally a ceremony but..." He cleared his throat, evidently nervous. "I'm giving you the wrong idea." He shook his head as she began to smile from ear to ear, "I don't mean it that way, I mean I'm not not meaning it that way. You and me... this has become, I think, no I knew it the moment I touched you that it is serious, and..." His eyebrows lifted in quirky amusement and he let go this huge sigh of disappointment. "Wow. I didn't think my tongue could ever make me sound this bad..." He really wanted to go crawl into a corner somewhere...

"Hey..." She touched his mandible and settled its nervous agitation. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that. You can tell me about it later, OK? Whenever you're ready. For now I'm just happy it seems to mean something important, something good." She said confidently, reassuring him. He really did want to explain it to her, but he was relieved to leave it for a while. He hadn't really planned that part yet, so words were a bit of a jumble where explanation was involved. Still, there was the tiniest doubt in her eyes, asking for a reassurance that she'd at least got the right impression. He worked to find the words to give it to her.

"It... is something good. Definitely something good." He squeezed her hand. "It's private... something only for you and for me, our being together. I promise you I'll tell you about it when I've done a little more research – I want to make sure I can explain it properly without making a complete ass of myself."

"Alright." she smiled, and stroked down from his temple to under his chin. The tenderness in her touch settled his nerves. He would explain it later and do it properly, as should be done. Then, closing the subject with much resulting laughter from the pair of them, Shepherd dropped her voice and commanded: "C'mon then let's get up: I'm damned hungry again."


Author note: Can't believe how many errors I still found reading through the whole story again months later! Hence taking it all down and putting it back up again. All 'Shepherd's now changed to 'Shepard's. Hope you've enjoyed reading my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.