Author's Note:

This story is a direct sequel to "Where Angels Fear To Tread."

This story is beginning to venture into hypothetical territory, that might well be invalidated by the events of forthcoming Mass Effect fictions/games. From here on in, this is my take, which may diverge a little or a lot from the established canon, depending on how that canon evolves.

The chapter title is taken from the song "The Long Way Home" by Rawlins Cross and if you can find it on youtube I recommend having a listen :)



Closer to Home

Chapter the First: The Long Way Home

The door of the main battery had barely closed behind her when Garrus' hands closed around her hips. Commander Shepard felt her heart rate spike and her whole body grow warm; she'd been wanting Garrus all evening and the waiting had been hellish.

Garrus hesitated a hair's breadth before their bodies touched, his eyes searching hers as if to seek permission.

Shepard didn't bother to speak. She wrapped her arms over his shoulders and pressed her lips to his mouth. Let that be her permission.

He needed no further orders to finish what he'd started. He guided her against him until her body molded to his. She could feel his mandibles fluttering against her cheeks, hear the growl deep in his throat, smell his scent in the air. Her body was heating, moistening, tingling, and she had a funny quiver in her tummy that was both wonderful and awful at once.

Shepard felt as though she and Garrus were caught in a strange limbo between friendship and romance. Ever since that damn kiss the night after she'd pulled him off Omega, she'd started thinking of him as a potential lover—without ever questioning that he was also, and foremost, her very best friend, and the closest thing she had to family in this vast and cold universe. When she'd tried to talk to him about it—which she'd screwed up by basically asking him if he wanted a fling—he'd seem interested, and yet strangely reserved. On the night before the Omega-4 relay, they'd somehow managed to turn touching alone into something more intimate than any sex she'd ever had, and after they'd both come back alive, they'd gone further still. Yet Garrus had practically ignored her during the victory party, at least when it came to being anything more than "the Commander's old war buddy, Officer Vakarian."

Sooner or later she'd have to have a talk with him, to ask him if he felt he couldn't risk the repercussions of making this new dynamic between them public, or if he was hiding it for her sake. Right now, though, she was finding it more and more difficult to concentrate when Garrus was nibbling his way down her neck.

Her initial fear that he'd lose interest after satisfying his curiosity had been pretty well discarded. She could feel his hips against hers and he felt very, very interested from where she stood.

Garrus reached the collar of her work suit and clearly didn't want to stop. He took the cloth in his teeth and tugged at it, making a soft snarling noise.

"Careful," she laughed, "you'll rip it."

"So get rid of it," he growled back, and then, as if shocked by his own behaviour, he added, "Please?"

Shepard didn't want the damn thing on any more either, but as she climbed out of her suit and tossed it to the floor—as Garrus pressed his forehead against her jaw and started licking her collarbone with his raspy tongue—she realized what this would look like if anyone were to walk in on them.

Shepard had always been very careful about the circumstances in which she'd allowed herself to...indulge. Her private quarters, or her partner's. Motels. Once, a tent.

Never in the main battery of a ship.

The idea simultaneously terrified her and thrilled her. She took a step backwards and found herself leaning back against the gun console, where Garrus had spent so long working on the Thanix cannon. God, they were getting out of control. This wasn't like her. She should tell him to stop.

Instead, she found herself smiling up at him, and said, "Hey, Vakarian. Calibrate this."


There was no mirror in the main battery. Garrus found himself trying to catch a glimpse of his reflection in the shiny surfaces around him, just in case he'd overlooked some incriminating detail like doing up all his buttons or fastening his belt.

Inches away, Shepard was doing the same. "Did I forget anything?" she asked.

Garrus looked her over—just once. He resisted the temptation to look her over a second time, knowing damn well if he did, they'd end up right back where they started. "Looks fine to me, though you might want to straighten your, uh, hair." Damn, he was starting to love that hair, especially when it got all tousled, that line of thought would also lead to instant replay. "Did I?"

"I don't think so." Shepard also didn't seem able to look at him too closely.

Garrus folded his arms. "Well, now that we've made sure I'll never be able to concentrate in here again, what would you like to do?" He flared his mandibles in a grin.

But Shepard wasn't smiling as she let out a heavy sigh and sat down on the crate at the side of the battery. "Garrus, we need to talk."

Garrus felt his insides clench. He'd known this was coming, and yet part of him dreaded it; the prospect of this conversation made him nervous, and not in a good way. "Agreed. I can't keep this under wraps much longer, Shepard. Our crew is filled with smart people who are already asking questions. If we keep, er, meeting like this, they're going to figure it out."

He saw Shepard flinch. Okay, so he'd guessed wrong when he'd supposed she might not want the crew to know. On the other hand, he wasn't entirely sure she understood the consequences of taking their relationship public. The fallout would go far beyond vague disapproval of fraternization between a commander and her subordinate. He also had a nagging sense that maybe she didn't know the full extent of what she was doing to him; she might not realize that the situation was already beyond his capacity to influence. He wasn't exactly sure what she wanted, how much commitment she was ready for. And her emotional state—the vulnerability their lovemaking exposed—was gunpowder in an already volatile mixture.

He was a little shaken by the side of Shepard that he only saw in private; the uncertainty, the shyness, the fear. For all that she'd been the one to initiate this more physical aspect of their relationship, she'd seemed very reluctant to talk about the emotional aspects now that they weren't quite best friends, nothing more and nothing less any longer.

The appalled look on her face after the very first time she'd kissed him should have been a clue. Same with the tears she'd tried to hide before the Omega-Four relay. Her grudging reluctance to speak after their encounter in his room was simply one more manifestation of an underlying issue. Garrus didn't know the root of the problem, but he did know that something had hurt her at some point—very badly, and very deeply. Garrus' investigator's instincts told him it predated her disastrous first affair. Most people, having lost a love, would turn to family and friends for support. She had folded in on herself instead.

Just as he had after she had died.

Commander Shepard had always been so busy fighting on behalf of...well, first the Alliance, then the Council, and finally the whole damn universe...but who had ever fought for her? Garrus had a terrible suspicion the answer was no one. Commander Shepard, who had the ability to solve any issue with bullets and fists, but who did so only after words and compassion had failed... Garrus guessed she'd learned that compassion for others from Pastor Cora, but she had not learned how to ask for any for herself—or how to accept it when it was offered to her.

He knew this wouldn't be easy. But she needed him, whether she knew it or not.

All right, Archangel, time to earn your wings.

"Shepard, I want us to be clear on this." He reached out and caught her hand in his. "I'd be happy to let them know, if that's what you'd like."

He could tell she looked relieved. "Then what's the problem, Garrus? Tomorrow I'll walk up to you in the mess, give you a big kiss, and tell everyone to enjoy the view while it's still a novelty."

Garrus scratched the back of his head. "It's not our crew I'm worried about. Any extreme Cerberus loyalists among them are likely to be leaving us soon anyway, and with EDI joined to the Normandy now, we could make do without them. It's what happens when we disembark that has me...concerned."

Shepard looked at him blankly. "You mean...sure, there's going to be some people—human and turian—with nasty things to say, but I never really pictured you as the kind of guy who cared what other people thought of you."

Her statement wasn't entirely accurate. Garrus knew all too well how it stung to spend twenty-odd years of his life trying, and failing, to be the son his father wanted him to be. He also knew, though, that he'd had an epiphany when he realized that the day he'd quit C-Sec to follow Shepard—and sacrificed his quest to earn his father's love in the process—had been the first day he'd really felt good about being Garrus Vakarian. Never mind that he was angry at Saren and frustrated with the Council and worried about his family's reaction and concerned about heading off with a mostly-human crew on a crazy mission all at the same time. Still, she had a point: social acceptance was far from his primary concern these days.

But he had more than just himself to think about.

"It's not me I'm thinking of, Shepard. You're the one already fighting an uphill battle, trying to get people to take the Reaper threat seriously. You don't need another reason for people to discredit you. There are a lot of old enmities between our people."

Shepard snorted. "I really don't think my personal life, particularly what you and I get up to in the privacy of our quarters, is going to swing public opinion about the Reapers," she said, "and if I'm wrong, I'm not afraid to punch that Khalisah Al-Jilani reporter if that's what it takes to shut her up." A little smirk crossed Shepard's face. "Actually, I'm kind of looking forward to the expression on the turian councilor's face when he finds out."

Garrus groaned. "What I'm trying to say is, we need to talk about what you want out of life: for your future, from me, that sort of thing. People are going to try to force our hand by slapping labels on...what we have here. They'll call us dating, serious, not serious, open relationship, engaged, all kinds of things, and when they start talking and asking questions, I need to know what to say to them."

Shepard blinked. "Tell them the truth."

"Not. Helpful." Garrus leaned in closer. "Shepard, what is the truth?"


Garrus was looking at her earnestly, intently, but his question pissed her off regardless.

"If you don't know how you feel about me, I sure as hell can't tell you, Vakarian."

The turian bristled and folded his arms. "It's already obvious how I feel about you. You're the unknown quantity here." His mandibles were fluttering madly and while she wasn't entirely sure what the expression signified, she could tell he was agitated. She had a sinking suspicion that a female turian—like the wonderfully flexible recon scout—would have known exactly what was going on in that head of his, but Commander Shepard, only human, couldn't even begin to guess.

"You know how you feel about me? Well that's just great, Garrus. Why don't you try telling me for a change?"

Shepard cringed at the sardonic tone coming out of her own mouth. All her uncertainty and self-doubt and insecurity was molding itself into a weapon and now she was hitting Garrus full force with it.

She watched him bristle. "I said I'd always be there when you needed me," he growled, clearly agitated. "What else do you want me to say?" He started pacing, his hands locked behind his back. "I don't know how humans do things. Do you want me to make you a promise?" His eyes darkened as his head snapped around to look at her. "I know you've been hurt by promises broken. I'm not inclined to waste my breath on words."

"So if that stuff about being there if I need you isn't a promise, what is it?" The damned quaver was back in her voice.

He grabbed her wrists in his talons; his nose was almost touching hers. His mandibles flared and half-twisted, giving him a very close look at a lot of very sharp teeth. "That's a fact, Shepard. An unchangeable, inexorable, tangible fact." The intensity on his face was frightening to behold. "And if we go off this ship, any turian we meet is going to pick up on it, because I will not and cannot hide my instinctive reactions to you. The only choice I have in this matter is what you want me to do and say about it, and I will do everything in my power to make this…whatever we are…look like…what you want…" He gazed into her eyes, and while she couldn't translate his expression, when he spoke, she could guess his emotion from the tone of his voice.


"You really don't understand, do you?" he whispered.

Shepard licked her lips. "So explain it to me."

He shrugged helplessly. "Turians don't do shades of grey. I…what I said…what I feel…I can never take it back." He tilted his head and eyed her through his visor, reminding her of a hunting hawk. The words coming out of his mouth were cryptic, disjointed, and Shepard couldn't decipher what he was trying to tell her beyond the fact that he sounded serious. "That's why this has to be your decision. I would never push you, and I would never stand in your way. I…"

He looked as though he were about to say more—maybe a lot more—but at that moment there was a loud, violent banging on the door.

"Why the fuck is this thing locked?" came a muttering voice, followed by a much louder shout, "Vakarian, open the fuck up!"

It was Jack.

Shepard's eyes flickered around the room, but there was really nowhere to hide. She couldn't fit behind the console and the single crate in the room wasn't nearly large enough to conceal her. Mouth dry, Shepard pressed herself against the wall next to the door on the off chance that she could slip out before Jack became aware of her presence.

"I'm serious, boy scout, if you don't open this door the fuck up, I'm going to smash it in with…"

Just that quickly, Officer Vakarian was back in control. He nodded to Shepard, and with a cool "I've got this," he opened the door, moved through, and closed it behind him.

Shepard trembled with the adrenaline still coursing through her system. She and Garrus had been about to—well, she wasn't sure if he was about to tell her he loved her or if they had been about to have one hell of a fight, but either way she'd have bled off this combat rush. The unresolved anticipation was going to wreak havoc with both her physical and emotional state, and there was nothing she could do now but listen to the conversation on the other side of the portal.

"Hello, Jack." That was Garrus, sounding like he'd pulled her over for a routine traffic stop. "A pleasure as always…"

"I want to know who you're screwing," Jack said bluntly.

"Heh. I never figured you for the kind to care about that sort of thing," Garrus replied smoothly. "Seems to me that gossip is a pastime better suited for a…cheerleader."

Shepard was torn between admiration for Garrus' dig and fear that the next sound she heard would be Garrus getting biotically slammed into—or through—the door.

"You have to tell me, Vakarian, I'm serious." Jack's voice was strangely subdued. Shepard had to strain to hear her next words, and they gave her a shock as the biotic convict choked out, "Everyone thinks it's me."

"Really. And you don't want the crew thinking you're fucking a turian, is that it?"

Jack snorted. "I don't care about that. I've done turians, asari, drell, even a krogan. No big deal."

"So the reason you're prying into my private life is…"

"I'll fuck turians, but I won't fuck cops."

The word was delivered with such disgust that Shepard had to slap her hand over her mouth and bite down on her tongue to stop from laughing out loud.

Garrus snorted and said, "Well, ex-cop now…"

That did it. The adrenaline screaming through her veins demanded an outlet, and here it was. Shepard started laughing for real, and the more she tried to stop herself, the funnier the situation became. A voice in the back of her mind was telling her she was emotionally wrecked for her to find something so stupid to be so uproariously funny, but that voice had no practical advice to give on how to stop her giggle fit.

"Hey, do you have someone in there?" Jack's voice was a warning that she ought to sober up, but that was so much easier said than done.

Garrus' answer was just a little too hasty. "No, I…"

"You do. You fucking do, boy scout! Let me see."

Oh, shit.

"You aren't authorized to access the main battery!" Garrus protested, and Shepard heard scuffling sounds. She imagined Garrus throwing himself between Jack and the door control.

Jack had seemed to be in a good mood at the party, but her emotional state changed like the weather: drastically and without warning. She didn't sound drunk, though Shepard didn't know if that was good or bad. Drunk Jack would be more likely to start a fight, but also less likely to win it; alcohol and good judgment didn't go hand in hand.

"It's the cheerleader, isn't it?" Jack screeched. "That little bitch! She's going around starting rumours about me when she's the one sucking your big turian…"

Shepard sobered up, realizing the situation was getting rapidly out of control. She was the ship's captain; she needed to step in and restore order. But opening the door was tantamount to a confession, and Shepard didn't believe that Jack, or anyone else, would continue to swallow lies about calibrating the Thanix cannon for very much longer. Was she really ready to do this? What would she say to the crew, when she wasn't even sure for herself what she had—or what she wanted? On the other hand, if anything happened to Garrus, Shepard would never forgive herself. Though he could take care of himself. Most of the time.

She was frozen with indecision. Her brain was telling her to stand up and own up, but her body wouldn't move, her subconscious was screaming incoherently and...

The door opened and Garrus walked in. Shepard had the vague sensation of time having passed. How long had she been standing there, at war with herself, trying to make up her own mind?

And Vakarian looked cranky.

Shepard licked her lips. "What's wrong?" she asked, though she feared she already knew the answer.

"I hate owing Krios one," came the reply.

Shepard blinked. "Krios?"

Garrus nodded. "He showed up as soon as Jack started ranting and whispered something in her ear. She said something back to him, something about Jacob and Miranda…then she got this big wicked grin and the two of them headed off." His face became pained. "I feel a little guilty about unleashing her that way, and that's not the worst of it. As he was leaving, Thane gave me this…this look…like he was saying I know what you're up to. I don't know. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it."

Shepard slouched back onto the crate. "Why can't everyone just fuck off while we work this out?"

Garrus sat, gingerly, on the other end of the crate. "Pressures of command, I suppose." The turian shot her a look. "You know he likes you."



Shepard let out a sigh. "Yeah. I know."


Then, a raspy question, "Do you like him?"

"I don't need another guy who's going to die on me." She looked at the floor. "That sounds awful, I know."

"Like Kaiden."

"Like Kaiden, like my dad." She didn't want to talk about this. She turned to him, studied the scar on his face. She knew it was irrational, but… "You're not going to die on me, are you, Garrus?"


Garrus closed his eyes. He had nerve damage in the area of the scar; he couldn't feel her fingers on his skin, but he could feel their gentle pressure through the scarring. He knew he couldn't promise her that he'd never die, but by the Spirits, he wanted to. Instead he folded his arms around her, hoping that was answer enough.

How the hell was he to explain what had happened to him—what he'd let happen, because she was human, because he'd never imagined that he might bond this way to someone who wasn't even a turian. How could he take this gamble with a species so different from his own—and now that he was with her, how could he not? How could he do it without making her feel that she was being blackmailed or trapped? He could feel the tension in her now, the nervousness, the fear, and he knew this relationship scared her already. Already, when they were really only friends with benefits.

"Maybe we should take this slowly," he said, a quaver in his voice.

"Shit," Shepard muttered. "What's that mean?" she asked, running her hand over his mandible. "Ever notice how we can say the same words and somehow they come out different in our heads?"

"It means," he said softly, "yes, I've noticed. And I…" He swallowed hard and he stroked her cheek. "I don't think love or marriage means the same thing to humans and turians."

Shepard shivered in his arms. "What are we, then?" she whispered.

"I think we need time to figure that out," Garrus murmured. "Time for you to ask yourself what you want. What you need. Time for us to decipher what language the other species uses so we can make sure we're talking about the same thing."

"More research," she snorted.

"I think you're worth the time," he replied. "Some things shouldn't be rushed."

"You're telling me to cool it," she translated.

"I think it's going to kill me but…yes, if we decide we don't want to…ah…take this farther…it would be a lot easier if the crew didn't know and weren't constantly commenting on it. And they're going to find out if we keep it up at the rate we've been going."

"Kasumi's already figured it out," Shepard muttered.

Garrus jumped—he couldn't help it—but the news wasn't really surprising. "If I catch her sneaking into my quarters, Shepard, I can't be held responsible for what might happen."

"You've got nothing worth stealing," Shepard said, trying to make him laugh, but the joke fell flat because it was true.

Some damn potential husband he was. No money. No career. He had no idea what turian social tier he was currently classified on, but he imagined it probably wasn't very high, not after he'd washed out of Spectre training and broken off contact with C-Sec, who would have accepted him back, and had commed him several times to tell him so. He'd never even bothered to respond to them, which would likely be classified as dereliction of duty.

She could do so much better.

She could find something closer to home.

"We need to take the time to do this right," he murmured in his ear, because doing it wrong would be worse than not doing it at all.

He held her while he could, dreading the moment when she would eventually stand up and tell him she had work to do, and she'd see him around. The instant when his perfect point in time would be extended forward into an uncertain and unknowable future.


Shepard felt cranky and edgy as the Normandy soared towards the Citadel. After the past few weeks of constant danger, this leisurely interstellar cruise was driving her insane. For the past week, she'd had nothing to do but obsess about her relationship with Garrus, or the fact that while he once again seemed to be doing a great job of pretending to be nothing but her old war buddy—now both in private and in public—she seemed to be under constant strain not to touch him, to put her arms around him, to kiss him…to drag him up to her cabin for an afternoon's delight.

We need to take the time to do this right. She needed to respect him enough to honour those words. And, aside from that one little slip-up in the Hammerhead the other day, they'd been doing pretty good.

Still, Shepard was impatient.

She already knew what she wanted. She wanted Garrus to get over his issues and ask her out, already. She didn't care if the whole universe knew they were a couple. Why the hell couldn't they do what normal people did and go out on a few dates while they figured out if their relationship had long-term staying power?

Grudgingly, Shepard conceded that dating was what normal humans did.

Maybe it was different for turians, which was why she'd composed the elaborate scheme that had brought her to Zaeed's room today. She'd told the old mercenary that Jacob wanted his help in the armoury—Zaeed would never turn down the opportunity to play with guns—and she'd told Jacob…

Okay, she'd been a little unfair there. She'd told Jacob that she'd get Mordin to give him and Miranda some sex advice unless he kept Zaeed busy for a few hours.

Jacob had looked shocked, horrified and a little betrayed, but the point was that he'd agreed.

Then all she'd had to do was get Legion to shut off EDI's monitoring of this room, and hack Zaeed's door lock, and here she was, ready to search the extranet on Zaeed's personal computer.

Zaeed really couldn't complain about the invasion of privacy, she thought, not when he'd hacked the ship's feeds to put his own personal surveillance unit in the corner of his room. Right now, it was displaying a picture of the mess hall, which was currently empty.

"Shepard-Commander, doesn't your computer have extranet access?" Legion inquired.

"I don't need anyone else monitoring what I'm looking at," Shepard muttered. No, the last thing she wanted was anyone tracing a search on "turian sexual relations" to her computer, and she could think of at least one person named Jeff who would take great delight in snooping that way. Joker and his cyber-girlfriend, the Cerberus AI. Shepard had told Garrus she'd keep her interest in him concealed.

But she needed some answers.

"Is it classified?" Legion persisted.

Shepard rolled her eyes. "Yes, Legion, it's classified."

"I understand. This unit will seek new data elsewhere."

Finally. The geth walked to the door, but it hesitated in the doorway and turned back to Shepard. Its faceplates tilted inquisitively. "Shepard-Commander, this unit is confused at the transmissions between Tali vas Normandy and Kal'Reegar."

Shepard planted her face in her palm. "Legion, Tali will kill you if she catches you spying on her private mail." What the hell was with this ship and its personnel?

"This unit only wishes to understand more about its creators."

Shepard held her tongue. Was her idea too cruel? Too unfair? No. Mordin didn't get to give Miranda and Jacob any sex advice. The salarian needed something to keep him entertained…

"Why don't you ask Mordin?" Shepard said.

"Thank you, Shepard-Commander. We will."

As Legion left, Shepard found herself secretly wishing to be a fly on the wall when Mordin taught the geth about quarian birds and…well, whatever quarians had on their insect-free world that did the job of bees.

But right now, Shepard had her own birds to be concerned about. And turian bees.

She typed "turian sexual relations" into the search engine and wondered, briefly, what Joker and EDI would think when they invariably discovered what Zaeed's computer had been looking at. Morbidly curious, Shepard clicked on the machine's search history.

Babes and Guns

Asari Sluts Gone Wild

Sexy, Sexy Firearms

Krogasm – They're Big, They're Hot and They're Gunning For You

If anything, "Turian Sexual Relations" was going to look downright tame on that list.

Shepard felt a little embarrassed as she discovered an article by women's magazine Galactopolitan. In public, she always made fun of the magazine that focused on fashion, sex, and celebrity. In private, though—well, a girl with an absentee mother had to learn about female things somehow.

Shepard clicked and began reading a racy article about human women who'd had sexual relationships with turians.

Turian relationships typically comprise a dominant and subordinate partner…usually these roles parallel the turians' social ranks, although some high-ranking turians find it comforting and relaxing to play the subordinate role with their mates…Partners of equal social standing spar to determine who is dominant…a human should expect to take part in these dominance games, it's all part of loving a turian.

Garrus had never asked her to fight, but that certainly explained his constant deferring to her. He'd clearly judged her the dominant partner because she was his commander. She found it vaguely unsettling; she'd always thought partners should be equals. The fact that Garrus might not even want that reminded her that she couldn't assume his desires would be the same as a human man's.

And on that note…

Traditionally, the dominant partner is on top during mating. Switching this position—so that the subordinate is on top and the dominant is on bottom—is considered deviant and kinky, as it implies the subordinate has thrashed the dominant in combat. An example would be…

Shepard already knew an example. The goddamn missionary position.

Curious now, Shepard searched the article to see what it had to say about doggy-style. If Garrus thought it was degrading and perverse to let her be on the bottom, what the hell did he think it meant to have her down on all fours?

In relationships with a female dominant partner, the male enjoys mating her from behind. In this position he can caress all her erogenous zones, both as foreplay and as a means of making sex even more pleasurable for his mate…the subordinate male takes pride in how often he can bring his mate to climax. Although he is atop her, his every move is at her command—she speaks and he obeys…

Shepard realized her jaw was hanging open. Oh, shit, that paragraph was turning her on big time. She'd had no idea…Garrus had basically offered to be her sex slave and she'd told him no damn way was she putting her ass in the air? Shit! She had to find him, find him right the hell now and tell him she'd gotten over her issues and yes, she'd love to try it his way, yes please.

To hell with this waiting business. They'd had one little slip-up in the Hammerhead already; why not two? Just enough for Shepard to find out how it would feel to take Garrus up on his offer…what could be the harm…

Shepard shut down Zaeed's computer, staggered to her feet and began making her way across the room, her knees already weak from imagining Garrus' tongue on the back of her neck, her spine against his chest, his hands on her breasts and his concave hips cradling her butt while they….

Suddenly Shepard heard an audio feed from Zaeed's surveillance camera. "I'm worried about Shepard," Kasumi was saying.

The sound of her own name shocked Shepard out of her X-rated fantasy. She felt like a voyeur as she braced her hands on the table in front of the surveillance screen and watch Kasumi and Kelly take seats in the mess hall, but hell, if they were talking about her then she had a right to be informed, didn't she?

"She's been irritable lately. Do you think she's fighting with Garrus?" Kasumi said speculatively.

"Garrus?" Kelly replied with a frown.

Kasumi blinked. "I thought the relationship between Shepard and Vakarian was this ship's second-worst-kept secret. You know, right after the one about Jacob and Miranda." She glanced slyly at Kelly. "Miranda really doesn't appreciate what she's got there."

Kelly snorted. "Everyone knows about Jacob and Miranda's eternal love except for Jacob and Miranda themselves—I think they missed the memo. But Shepard and Garrus?" She wrinkled her nose. "I know for a fact that Garrus doesn't like humans that way."

"How do I put this…perhaps it's just you who aren't his type?"

Kelly shook her head. "No way. Have you seen Shepard's psychological profile?"

"Aren't those supposed to be confidential?" Kasumi teased.

"Yes, but your profile says that locking something up is the best way to get you to take a look at it."

Kasumi laughed. "Guilty as charged, but no, I haven't read the dossiers. Shepard has put some very good encryption on those files."

"So, only a matter of time then."


"Well, let me save you some trouble. Garrus doesn't fit Shepard's modus operandi. She likes casual, short-term relationships with human men."

"Casual gets old after a while. Shepard and Garrus have been close for quite some time. Maybe she's looking to settle down."

Kelly snorted. "Then she'd better not do it with a turian."

Shepard felt her stomach slowly turn over.

Kasumi raised her eyebrows. "Oh, really? How come?"

Shepard knew she was about to hear something she didn't want to know, and yet she couldn't help listening to what Kelly had to say.

Yeoman Chambers gawked at the thief. "You don't know about turians and sex?"

Kasumi shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. "Never had occasion to take interest. My own tastes are strictly for the human."

Kelly smiled, apparently pleased at the ability to show off her specialist knowledge. "Turians have very different approaches to sex, marriage, and love than humans do. Turian society is very big on both personal responsibility and personal freedom. Turians are free to do whatever they please so long as it doesn't affect their ability to do their duties. So there's a lot of casual sex, a lot of sexual experimentation, and that doesn't stop after they get married."

Kelly took a drink and continued. "Marriage is a social obligation involving a ceremonial union of two clans and a duty to have and support a family. The turian language hasn't got a word for "slut," or a word for "homewrecker," but they've got twelve different epithets to describe a deadbeat who doesn't support his family. That goes to show you where their priorities are. Extramarital affairs are only a problem if turians spends so much time with their lovers that they neglect to support their families financially, maintain their home compounds, raise their children, and keep good working relationships with their spouses."

"And affairs don't cause poor, er, working relationships?"

"Not when both partners are having them."

"Oh. Oh my," Kasumi said, for once speechless.

"Yes. And given the Commander's history of abandonment issues, I can't imagine her being content as a turian's mistress. Not even one as devoted as Garrus."

Shepard's hands clenched into fists, and she was about to blurt out that she did not have abandonment issues when she realized that Kelly couldn't hear her here in Zaeed's room, and yes, in fact, she did. Instead she closed her eyes and swore at Garrus, at his sick adoration of his fucking duty and at whatever twisted impulse had turned it to sexual attraction somewhere along the line, and at whatever sadistic god had seen it fit to make Garrus a turian and not a human man who could return her affection with a human sort of love.

She'd never deserved a human's love.

Onscreen, Kasumi was inquiring as to whether or not it was possible for Garrus to marry Shepard.

"Turian society would never permit a traditional turian marriage with an interspecies couple. They could do it at a justice of the peace on the Citadel, I suppose, but I still don't think she'd be happy with an open relationship," Kelly said, and Shepard almost threw up right there on the floor, she felt so ill. Yeoman Chamber's words drifted through her head, echoing, meaningless. "Though Garrus is pretty reckless when he gets an idea into his head. I suppose it's possible—assuming he really does like her that way—that he might have gone so far as to gamble his entire heart and soul on…"

Shepard turned off the security camera. She couldn't take any more of this. She couldn't stand to listen while her heart shattered.

Shit. She loved him. She loved him, that turian bastard, someone too different from her to ever be able to love her back.

In the privacy of Zaeed's quarters, Shepard hung her head and wept.