Disclaimer: All characters belong to the wonderful folks at Bioware.
Horizon, Commander Shepard decided as she buried her face in hands that shook slightly, had been completely FUBAR. They had managed to save most of the colony, and her squad came through relatively unscathed. The Illusive Man had gotten confirmation that the Collectors were working for the Reapers, and Mordin was in his lab tinkering with the samples they had collected. From a military perspective, the Horizon mission had gone swimmingly.
Her reunion with her old crewmate, friend, and lover, however . . .
It's all bullshit, Commander. Jacob's words came back to her. I couldn't agree with you more, Jacob, she thought. Gingerly, she massaged throbbing temples, doing her best to ignore the ache that was lodged somewhere between her lungs. She had expected cynicism from the Council, although part of her had had the temerity to hope for a more reasonable attitude. But from Kaidan? Traitor, uncaring, delusional: he had thrown all those words at her. Her mouth twisted. Sure, hero of Eden Prime, Elysium, of the Battle of the Citadel, Savior of the Council. And what does it all boil down to? Nothing.
Her private terminal beeped. Shepard lifted her eyes and pinned the screen with an icy glare. Her dark hair was straggling out of its customary bun, and she felt like she'd been run over by a pack of varren. Fuck you, glorified homework planner. Commander Shepard needed fifteen solid minutes to herself to get her head on straight.
It beeped again, insistently. She bit back a growl of irritation and reached for her steaming coffee as a knock rang from her door. Seriously? If Jack and Miranda are having another catfight, someone else can deal with it. A lengthy stint in the med bay might do them both some good. Fifteen minutes where the galaxy isn't throwing everything at me, that's all I'm asking.
Instead, she took a deep breath, and allowed her commander face to settle over her features. "Come in," she called.
The door hissed open and some of the tension fell from her shoulders.
"Shepard, I," Garrus dithered for a moment, "I thought you might need an ear." If he saw the telltale redness of her eyes and shining streaks over her cheeks, he was too good to mention them. He shifted from one foot to the other, ill at ease, but determined.
She stood, a smile creeping reluctantly over her lips. It didn't quite make it to her eyes. "You know me, Garrus. I'm always fine." It was unconvincing, even to her. Softened by old memories, embittered by new ones.
His mandibles flexed and he crossed his arms. She wished he wouldn't. When he looked imposing or cocky, he looked even taller than usual . . . and she was feeling small and fragile enough as it was. "Don't, Commander. I've played enough Skyllian Five with you to know when you're bluffing. " He stepped closer as her eyes slid away. "Hey," he slid a talon under her chin. "It's me. Sit down a minute, would you?"
For an instant, his face was so close to hers. She could feel the warmth of his breath, the heat radiating off his body. His eyes, normally so feral, were intent, concerned. She allowed him to guide her to the couch tucked below her office. Part of her snapped at her to tell him to go. She was his commanding officer, for chrissakes. She needed to be cool, competent, level-headed Shepard. Except, I'm not, right now. And he's not. "You're a better friend than I deserve, Vakarian," she confessed.
"Garrus," he corrected her. "It's always Garrus to you, Shepard." He brushed back a strand of hair from where it stuck to her damp cheekbone. His voice was a low rumble. "I know what Lieutenant Alenko said to you on Horizon must be eating at you."
She opened her mouth to wave it off, paused. He was right. He did know her. "Yes," she admitted. "I wish it had gone better." She looked up, met his piercing eyes, now bent on her. "What he said . . ." she trailed off. "I have a hard enough time convincing the rest of the galaxy I'm doing the right thing. I never expected that he would disbelieve me." She stopped. Bit her lip. "Stupid, right? Kaidan is Alliance. Soldier first, everything else, second. I wish I could see another way to carry out our mission, but there isn't-"
"Shepard," Garrus interrupted her. "Don't distrust your judgment, because I don't. You agonize over the best, the cleanest way to accomplish the mission. You brought Captain Taylor to justice. Oriana met her sister because of you." His hand jerked, as though he restrained himself from reaching out. His talons clenched into a fist. "I told you I would follow you into hell itself, and I meant it," he said fiercely. "You're the best thing that ever happened to this galaxy, to-" he broke off, startled as a tear splashed onto her lap. He edged closer, stemmed the flow with a careful talon. "Shepard?"
Her head dropped to his shoulder. She was tired. His armor was warm under her cheek, heated by his body, and pitted by Tarak's gunship. "You've always got my six, Garrus. Thanks." Her inner commander had stopped harassing her. Frankly, if she was honest with herself, he had been more than her subordinate ever since Omega. Those two years had changed him. And me.
He placed a talon over her lips, hushed her. "Always will." His voice vibrated deep in his chest and throat. She glanced up, eyes meeting the livid scars over his mandible and face. "I wish I'd been faster, Garrus."
His mandibles widened in what she had come to recognize as a turian smile. "I would never have made it out of there alive if it weren't for you." He caught her raised eyebrow, smirked. "Besides, I think they make me look dashing."
She brushed a fingertip over his scarred mandible, tentatively, surprised when he inhaled sharply and it snapped close to his face. "Does that hurt?" She snatched her hand back. "I'm sorry-"
"No," he shook his head. Had his voice dropped an octave? "Don't worry about it, Shepard." He cleared his throat, intensely aware of her eyes on him, concerned, questioning, and blue as the skies of Palavan. "Do you think you'll talk to the Lieutenant again?"
She frowned. Her features turned in on themselves as she pressed her fingers to her mouth. "No," she said. "Not . . . in the way you mean." She glanced up at him. "Normally, I'm all for second chances, but not where my heart is concerned." Her fingers twisted together in her lap. "Partners, lovers . . . support each other in every decision they make. If I can't count on him now-" when she had needed him most- "then there's no point. I can't decide to be broken up for the duration of this mission and get back together with him afterward- if there is an afterward," she added, with a grimace. "That's not a relationship." She looked up from her monologue. "You're awfully quiet, Garrus. Have I been rambling?"
"No, you just stunned me with your brilliance," he bantered. Then he sobered, catching her hands in his own. "I'm sorry, Shepard. You deserved better."
She looked down at their joined hands. Her fingers slid easily through his talons, fitting smoothly, perfectly between them. "I got better, Garrus," she said quietly. "I got you."
She amended that quickly as his mandibles twitched, and she felt heat burn along her cheekbones. "And Joker. And Chakwas. And Anderson. Really, all I need is my faithful hound, and I'm set."
She grinned. "It's a human thing, Garrus." She stood. "Thanks for coming by. "
"I'll always be here when you need me." He towered over her, and, impulsively, she hugged him. He paused, and she had a moment's panic- damn, I hope that's not offensive in turian culture– then his arms came around her uncertainly. She exhaled slowly, relaxed, stepped away.
A flicker of something shot up her spine as she met his eyes. They were dark, nearly black, and hot. He rested a hand on her shoulder. "Get some rest, Commander." His mandibles widened momentarily. "You look like hell."
"Gee, thanks, " she muttered to his retreating back. Glancing at herself in the mirror over her desk, she had to agree with him, however reluctantly. She met her eyes in the mirror-
Shepard looked away sharply, shooting a glance at her door as it clicked shut. Sighing, she climbed up the stairs to her bathroom, shedding her clothing as she went. The water steamed as it hit the tiles.
She did not look in the mirror again that night.
A/N: I'm thinking this will be more than a one-shot. Reviews are appreciated!