Zaeed hasn't been to Tuchanka in years, but he hasn't missed the shithole. Dust swirls around his face as he heads up the slope, the air frosty from a lack of sunlight. Nuclear winters will do that to a planet.
Garrus plods beside him, long legs and strange feet taking in the uneven terrain easily. He's been silent since leaving the commander with the krogan clan leader, Wrex.
They've been walking for over ten minutes, looking for a gap in the hills that the Chief Scout described to them – one with a perfect view over a valley of pyjaks. Just what the two men need for their sniping competition.
Zaeed's not even sure why he agreed to it. He'd been sitting with Garrus, drinking and jawing about old times, and he'd told the story of the 'magic bullet' – how he'd lined up three bad guys in a row and taken them all down with one shot. When Garrus had joked that the 'old' bounty hunter's sniping skills weren't up to it anymore, Zaeed had thrown down the gauntlet to the younger turian.
But Garrus had been born with a rifle; he lives and breathes with it in his hands. It's about the only thing he caresses as much as his woman, Shepard.
Zaeed chews on the end of his cigar. The goddamned commander of a humanity-first Cerberus vessel, and she's humping a turian. Not that Zaeed cares; he's never been one to turn down new experiences. Hell, the last woman he cared about was an asari; 'til she shot him in the back, anyway.
"Here," Garrus rumbles, moving to a dip in the rocks to the right. "Pyjak central. Can see the route straight to the krogan food sources. No wonder their supplies are so low."
Both men set up, lying low to the ground as they brace the long-nosed guns. Zaeed takes his time, settling his elbows, lining up the scope.
"What are the rules, anyway? First to fifty?" Garrus is peering down his scope at the grey skinned creatures as they leap about, oblivious to their impending doom.
Zaeed isn't sure what planet the vermin were originally a native of, or if their natural predator has died out, but they're causing havoc on Tuchanka. Breeding faster than nature can constrain, they plough through food sources like a biblical plague of locusts. "How about we take a shot each, loverboy? First one to miss loses?"
"Sounds good." Garrus barely moves, his rifle cracking, and a small bundle falls over. "Just so you know, old man, I never miss."
"Hah, I ain't that old," Zaeed breathes out as he pulls the trigger, catching a pyjak mid-leap. "And I'm telling you, women love this face." He watches Garrus take down another one of the pests. "If I'd met Shepard first, well, long story short, you wouldn't have stood a chance, boy."
Garrus laughs at that, a melodious noise as it reverberates in his deep chest. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, old man. Anyway, the rumour is that a certain bald biotic wants to... knock boobs with you."
Zaeed jerks a millimetre as he shoots, still hitting the grey vermin by a hair. The bounty hunter narrows his eyes at the turian; he's glued to his scope, but his mandibles are twitching as he laughs. Bastard. That's how he's playing is it?
"I've already told Jack I'm not interested. Can't help having so much sex appeal that they're queuing up." Zaeed watches the turian line up a perfect shot, taking out two pyjaks with one bullet. "Only counts as one hit." Zaeed drawls.
"Fine by me, I'll still win," Garrus rumbles, his eye affixed to the scope. "How come you've not left, anyway? Cerberus can't be paying you anymore."
"Nah, there's no money involved, but it's not like I need any. Got a good nest egg already. I'm staying because of our deal. You promised me Vido if I helped you save the galaxy." Zaeed takes his shot, aiming for two of the creatures. One jumps just before the bullet hits, but he still takes the second one down.
"Nice try," Garrus murmurs as he shifts his rifle almost imperceptibly. "And also true about Vido. Remind me when we're on the ship - I'll get Lawson to do something useful and track him down."
"Staring at her arse, that's the only use I've found for her so far. Maybe her boobs when she gets really mad and crosses her arms," Zaeed drawls as Garrus takes his shot. He watches the turian snicker, mandibles moving as he laughs, but the shot is perfect and a grey bundle falls to the ground.
"Wouldn't know, humans do nothing for me," Garrus lifts his head from his rifle, his tiny dinosaur eyes unblinking. Zaeed looks for a trace of humour, but the turian seems serious.
"You're telling me that you're humping the hottest goddamned woman I've met in a long time, and you don't even like humans?" Zaeed is incredulous.
"I'm pretty sure Shepard isn't lining up to date every other turian she's ever met, either," Garrus lowers his eyes to his scope again. "Your turn."
Zaeed shifts his aim and takes out a pyjak in one movement, returning to the conversation. "What if it's just aliens she likes? She's tried out humans, turians and what – you've left her with that Urdnot clan leader. He looked pretty impressive, she's bound to be getting busy with him while we're out here."
"No way - shows how little you know Shepard," Garrus takes another shot, completely unruffled.
"Are you sure? Have you looked at your krogan friend recently?" Zaeed takes out another pyjak. "Goddamn leader of all the krogans, that's some power. Power gets women hot. Plus he's the biggest krogan I've seen in a long time, I shit you not. The size of his crest alone..."
"Sounds like you're the one wanting to hump him," Garrus snaps as he lines up his sights and fires.
Zaeed conceals his grin, looking down his scope as he murmurs. "Well, she's tried one alien out; maybe it's got her hot to try another one." He pulls the trigger, watching his target fall over. "Maybe she's heard the rumours of their four balls, two dicks. Some women are into that kind of thing."
It's a tiny movement, an adjustment as he takes the shot, but Zaeed realises Garrus was close to missing.
"You're just envious. Hottest woman you've met, did you say?" Garrus growls.
"Hell of a woman," Zaeed agrees, killing a pyjak with minimal effort to further annoy the turian.
"And yet she's with me," Garrus lines up to take his shot and his face relaxes.
Zaeed leans a little closer, lowering his voice. "Nah, I'm not envious. You know why? Because every time I close my eyes and use my hand, it's Shepard I'm with anyhow."
There's a puff of dust, but the pyjak leaps away, unharmed. Garrus doesn't look up from his scope and Zaeed can't contain his guffaws. He takes a final shot, nailing one right between the eyes, just to rub salt into the wound.
Sitting up, Zaeed slaps his thigh, pleased at how well he can read Garrus now. The turian is highly pissed off, not at the Shepard comment, but because he missed. Zaeed pushes himself to his feet, popping his finger joints as he bends to retrieve his gun.
In one fluid movement, Garrus is standing, facing him, millimetres away. This close up, the turian towers over him, his predatory eyes furious as he looms even closer, sharp teeth bared.
"Yeah, I can relate - remember, I'm with Shepard every single night. With my eyes open." Garrus shoulders his rifle, before turning and moving off down the hillside.
The hell of it all is that Zaeed knows he's right. "He really is a lucky bastard."