A/N: I'm finally at the end of this story, I'm sad it's over! I had a blast writing it, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Thanks to everyone who has been following along (and especially to my reviewers, I hadn't even thought of some of the parts to this story before your great comments!). I'll be gone for a few weeks, but I already have a one-shot I'm planning on writing and then maybe another story :)
A human specter; a turian vigilante; a drell assassin, a salarian doctor.
The four were a formidable presence as they walked through the Citadel. The security officers didn't even hassle them over their weapons or identification. They knew that was Shepard and her crew. And clearly, from their brisk gait, they were on a mission.
The crowds in the Wards parted like a sea of insects as the Normandy crewmembers passed through. Though space was tight, the populace gave Shepard's group a generously wide berth. This slowed foot traffic significantly, and many on-lookers gawked at the gun wielding, multi-species entourage. The name "Shepard" floated about like a vague apparition.
Shepard, Garrus, Mordin, and Thane finally settled at the end of a lengthy line for the Presidium-bound transit station. A few nervous line-goers offered Shepard's group their respective positions in line, but the commander (contadictory to her threatening, clearly deadly array of firearms) gave a friendly smile and quietly refused. She then turned and listened to her companions' banter, despite the growing clusters of bystanders eagerly watching her.
Mordin was feverishly discussing Keplar's Syndrome with Thane.
"Would like to run some tests. Have a feeling I could cure it- before you die even!" Mordin tugged at his lab coat with confidence. "Work well under pressure."
Thane tried not to look annoyed and kept his voice even. "Your medical skills are indeed apt, but the hanar have attempted to produce a cure for years, to no avail."
Mordin scoffed. "Bah! Hanar too slow. Ever try to converse with one?" Thane sighed. He was raised on the hanar homeworld, of course he'd talked to them. "Could give an elcor a thorough colonoscopy in time it takes for one hanar to finish single sentence! Polite species, but can't think on their feet." He paused. "Actually, don't even have feet!"
Mordin's banter gave Shepard and Garrus a few blessed seconds of peace. Garrus was quiet as he stared uneasily at the ground, very much aware that his name was now being muttered by the on-lookers.
Not that Shepard cared about the scene they were making. She turned to him with a strange expression on her face. As he slowly raised his head to meet her gaze, he couldn't quite tell if she was excited, amused, or nervous. Maybe all three. Slowly, her lips parted.
"Move in with me."
Nervousness tickled his heart. "What do you mean?"
Shepard put her slim hands on her hips suggestively. "I've seduced you into my bed, now I aim to keep you there."
He gladly played into her banter and felt his anxiety slip away. "Hmm...Like a trophy?"
She laughed heartily. It felt good. "More like a pet. You'll go right next to my fish tank."
His blue eyes gauged hers, searching for answers. "You're serious about this?"
Her voice held suprising emotion. "Of course… but only if you want this too."
Couldn't Shepard tell how much he needed her? Wasn't he obvious? "Shepard… I've only learned one thing in this whole twisted galaxy: That life without you sucks. So yeah, let's do it."
Shepard clutched his hand. She didn't care about the bystanders anymore.
The ruckus Shepard was causing in the Wards had caught the attention of several familiar faces, such as that of Kaidan Alenko.
His new girlfriend was far more feminine than Shepard had ever been. Today, the fair-haired doctor was shopping, and Kaidan was the designated 'bag holder'. He felt particularly silly, as he was dressed in his bulky black armor yet carrying emasculate large pink shopping bags. It was a bit degrading, but he had time to kill anyway. Anderson had ordered him to present his Horizon report to the council to back up Shepard's evidence, but that still wasn't for a half hour. Plus his new girlfriend had been calling (and calling!) lately, so he eventually gave in and agreed to shop with her. Watching the carefree doctor bounce from store to store was numbingly boring, and he still wasn't sure how he felt about his new female 'friend', but she got him out of his apartment which was probably a good thing.
Besides, he needed to get that kiss with Shepard out of his head.
And, just as Shepard's name struck his mind his blonde acquaintance trotted up to him, her light eyes twinkling in excitement. "Kaidan, Shepard's here! In the Wards!"
He recoiled, causing the shopping bags to shake about rather unceremoniously. He sincerely hoped that his girlfriend wasn't planning on meeting Shepard. He'd only told the peppy doctor that he'd served with Shepard on the SR-1. He never told her entire truth; that he'd once loved Shepard (and still did?). He never even told her about Horizon or, god forbid, his reunion with Shepard in the café yesterday. He felt sick and spineless for keeping the truth from his new girlfriend, but even now he kept his mouth shut.
He'd made up a thousand excuses as to why he continued to hide the truth from the blissfully ignorant doctor. When he thought Shepard was dead it was so as not to dishonor the commander's memory with rumors of fraternization. After Horizon he was just too damned angry. Now, it simply seemed too late.
The doctor wasn't lying. There Shepard was, in all of her armored glory, waiting in line for a transport with Garrus and other aliens in tow. She was talking to Garrus. And laughing. He hadn't seen her laugh in over two years. That laugh still haunted his dreams.
Then he saw her grab Garrus' hand. He had trouble swallowing.
His girlfriend didn't notice Kaidan's reaction, and instead sighed dreamily. "That must be the turian she's dating. They seem really happy together."
Kaidan scowled deeply, and the corners of his mouth nearly reached his chin. "Yeah."
The fair woman turned to him, sighing happily. "What was it like serving with her?"
Kaidan bowed his head. Part of him wanted to drop his shopping bags and go after Shepard. He knew in that café that there was still something between them, as adamant as Shepard was to end their relationship…But Shepard had made her choice. And Garrus was a respectable turian. No, Kaidan would take her rejection like a man. He'd leave them be.
Finally, Kaidan answered the doctor's question. "Serving with Shepard was an honor."
Tabal Lacker was ever a creature of purpose, of intent, but even she paused when she saw Shepard and Garrus chatting happily while waiting for a transport. She glared as if trying to make the two melt with her eyes.
The cuffed salarian suspect she was hauling looked up miserably at her, but she ignored him. Pity was not an emotion she ever indulged in. This young salarian had been spotted by several witnesses shoplifting some very pricey star charts (only a few stores down from the boutique where Kaidan's girlfriend had been shopping), and Tabal had been called to the scene. The turian female was agile and strong, and took the salarian down with little trouble. Bailey ordered her to bring the thief into one of the interrogation rooms, but the sight of Shepard and her crew erased Tabal's memory for the moment.
Shepard grabbed Garrus' hand. Tabal snarled. The thin salarian shuddered, then looked at the scene that had caught the female turian's attention. "Hey, that's Commander Shepard!" the thief squealed, temporarily forgetting his predicament. "She's going out with that turian, you know. Garrus, I think his name is. They're the first public human/turian couple, isn't that cool? I was just talking with my cousin about it. He's a producer, you know. He actually wants to make a movie about it! "
Tabal nudged the suspect agitatedly. "Shut up."
But before the turian hauled her suspect away, she took once last glance at the pair. Her brain still boiled at the thought that Garrus had rejected her- Tabal!- for a human. It was insulting, degrading even. Tabal had really hoped to get back at Garrus by going to Westerlund News. But she hadn't taken Shepard into account…that human specter was wily and tough, if her interview with al-Jinali proved anything. Tabal had underestimated her.
She looked the commander over. Shepard was shorter than herself, but appeared sturdy and confident even under her many weapons and hefty armor. She was just a human, but there was a fire in her eyes, a power in her movements. Something told Tabal that she didn't want to cause too much trouble with her.
So she would leave the happy couple alone, for the time being.
The shuttle ride to the Presidium was short but relatively quiet. Not that Mordin could stay silent for too long. As the shuttle landed and they exited, his large head bobbed in the commander's direction. "Shepard. Question."
"Hm?" She and the others started walking, all collectively tired of Mordin's rants, but the salarian either didn't notice or didn't care. He quickly caught up and continued.
"Curious about one thing. Your prior mate, forget his name… met him on Horizon, dark brooding fellow…"
Shepard's brow arched and she unconsciously started walking a bit faster, as did Garrus beside her. "Kaidan?"
Mordin took a few long strides and snaked up beside her as poor Thane got stuck in the back of the group. "Yes, he was human, yet now mating with a turian. Intruiging shift in sexual companions. Curious…ever romanced other species before Garrus?"
Shepard gave an impish grin and slowed her gait down, apparently willing to indulge the good doctor. "Well, there was this one guy." Garrus threw an inquisitive look her way.
Mordin persisted, as she knew he would. "Non-human?"
"Yep, he was a turian too. Talk about a real dark and broody fellow. He was moody and ruthless at the best of times, and even claimed to hate humans. I think it was all pent up sexual frustration myself."
Mordin's large pupil's dilated and he almost stopped walking altogether for a second. "And despite this you mated with him?"
She turned at Garrus and grinned, as if she were conversing with the turian instead. "I'd call it more like 'sparring' myself. You see, he kept saying how he wanted to put my kind in its place, and well, I was having none of that. Up until the end, our little matches kept ending up in draws. You see, he had reach, but I had flexibility." The group halted outside a large ivory door as Shepard summoned the elevator leading to the Presidium Tower and council chambers. She pointed up to the towering spire in front of them. "We held our tiebreaker in this very tower." Garrus gave an amused laugh, finally understanding, before she finished. "I won, naturally."
Mordin stared at Shepard for a few long seconds. It was blessedly quiet for a while, before he finally answered. "Wait… are you discussing Saren Arterius?"
Shepard just smiled.
"You are eliciting some kind of humorous jibe, are you not?"
"Consider it payback for our chaffing discussion."
Mordin smirked. "Fair enough, Shepard."
Thane simply shook his head at the conversation, but Garrus turned to Shepard and chuckled. "I bet Saren just rolled in his grave."
Shepard shrugged. "Eh, he turned into dust after that final battle. I'm not too worried about it."
At that moment, the sleek elevator arrived, and the four got in.
Many of the Presidium apartments had luxurious lobbies upon which the residents socialized, read, worked, or merely looked out through the massive windows to the impressive, lush view. It was the first time Garrus' father spent time in it. Usually he ridiculed such a purposeless room, but today it would serve an important function. Reconnaissance.
The old turian received a ping from his terminal as Shepard and Garrus passed through the security in the Wards, then another ping when they activated a transport to the Presidium. Luckily for him, the shuttle's landing pad was within eyesight from his apartment.
And, as expected, he saw Shepard, his son, and a few other aliens exit the vehicle and walk casually past his apartment's lobby.
Shepard appeared relatively at ease. She was talking to the salarian in her group, but the aged turian didn't miss the way his son stole several obvious glances at the human female beside him, or the way Garrus walked animatedly with some kind of hidden excitement fueling his gait. He'd never seen his son act that way before.
Officer Vakarian sighed. What happened to Garrus? When had it all gone so awry? He'd tried to do right by his son; to teach him traditional turian values, to provide him with an honorable job at C-Sec, to discourage Garrus' reckless outbursts and desires. Yet somewhere along the way, it had all backfired miserably. Now Garrus was as hasty and uncontrollable as the humans he worked with… hell, he was even publicly courting one. No doubt a great many turians would now spit at the Vakarian name, at Garrus' name.
So why did his son look so damn happy? It was all so wrong…
But Shepard had been right about one thing. It was too late. Officer Vakarian had wanted so much more for his son, but it was too damned late.
He looked at Garrus one last time before he retreated back into the darkness of his apartment. His son was a ways away now, standing close to Shepard as their group waited for an elevator. And he was laughing. Individual happiness was not held in high regard in turian culture, but Officer Vakarian supposed it was something…
Something he'd never really taken into consideration before.
Khalisah bint Sinan al-Jilani hid as she saw Shepard pass through the Presidium.
She wasn't afraid of Shepard, per se (though she had the feeling that the commander wouldn't be against decking her in the face), but her boss forbade her from interviewing the human specter. Ever again. Or else.
Three time al-Jilani had interviewed Shepard. Three times it had blown up in her face. And Shepard's last 'bigot' accusation actually held water with others. Rivaling new stations pounced on her supposed 'xenophobic' interview with Shepard like varren over a fresh kill.
Now al-Jilani had essentially been demoted to reporting on mundane Citadel events, like the erection of a new hanar statue in the Presidium. Sufficed to say, al-Jilani did not get her coveted position at Galaxy News.
Al-Jinali burned as Shepard happily chatted to her salarian companion. Some dark emotion in the reporter yearned have one last crack at that pretentious specter, to finally put Shepard in her place. But al-Jilani had dug herself a hole deeper than a thresher maw burrow, and she knew it. So, as Shepard walked by, with turian lover in tow, the reporter stayed hidden behind the large hanar statue.
Al-Jilani wasn't the only one in the Presidium who hid because of Shepard and her crew. Sidonis was just leaving the Presidium's Financial District, but dove into a slim alleyway as he saw Shepard and Garrus approach a nearby elevator.
He held his breath as he hid, and half expected to hear heavy turian footsteps and feel the hot fire of a slug from Garrus' rifle. Yet, by some miracle, he'd successfully hid from his old boss.
He poked his brown head out from the alleyway and watched the turian he'd come to fear so intensely nonchalantly stand about. As Shepard's crew waited for their elevator, Garrus seemed absorbed by some conversation between Shepard and a salarian. It was strange to see Garrus stand in public without relentlessly checking for hostiles; even when their squad on Omega was at their best, the turian always appeared cautious and wary.
Maybe Shepard was right, maybe Garrus wouldn't actively come after him, so long as he didn't give him reason to. And he wouldn't. He would be one of the few noble, upstanding citizens in all of Omega. He'd already contacted Ms. Blake, and even booked his transport to Omega from a respectable transport company in the Financial District as opposed to the more sketchy operations in the Wards. Sidonis knew that helping Omega's orphans would never make up for what he did, but maybe he could start to live with himself again.
Before he turned away, he heard Garrus bellow a pleased chortle. Sidonis then left with quickened steps towards his scheduled transport to Omega. He didn't want to give Garrus any reason to stop laughing.
"The council will see you in a moment," said a richly dressed asari, who strode up to Shepard as her group ascended the stairs to the council chambers.
Despite Sovereign's damage, the Presidium tower didn't look terribly different…which was, for Shepard, strange. After all, so much had happened in these halls. Her induction into the specters, Udina's sellout, her final fight with Saren… and, at this very spot, was the location where she'd first met Garrus.
Perhaps the turian sensed this too, for he turned towards her. He let his hand slide along Shepard's arm before resting upon her shoulder.
Thane saw this and smartly distracted the doctor. "So you believe it may be possible to cure my ailment?" he asked Mordin simply. The salarian happily took the bait, blabbing like Kelly after hearing a juicy piece of gossip. Thane took a few steps back to give Shepard and Garrus space, knowing that the salarian would follow.
After the two other aliens meandered a few steps away, Garrus tenderly spoke, allowing his hand to move upward and tickle Shepard's neck. "I wish we'd done this sooner. Us."
Shepard laughed. "Ha! Could you imagine if I came onto you two years ago? You probably would have run to the nearest escape pod before I could even mention the words 'blow off steam'."
"Oh, I don't know." His blue eyes were hypnotizing. "I always liked you, Shepard."
Shepard cocked her head playfully. "Why?"
He stepped closer towards her. "We have a lot in common."
Shepard looked amused. "Yeah? Like what?"
"Well, for starters...We both like to cause trouble and look good while doing it."
She too, came in closer, until their armor was touching. "Are you saying I look good?"
"Shepard, you're all I think about."
The asari woman returned, interrupting. "The council is ready for you."
"Are you ready, Shepard?" Garrus asked.
She smiled. "Yeah, I'm ready."