Captain's Personal Log: Milky Way, Krogan DMZ, Aralakh System, Tuchanka: Battlemaster

I swallowed down the urge to scream that clawed at my throat. It wouldn't sound like the scream of anger, of battle rage a krogan would expect at a time like this. I had enough sense left to me to know that what I wanted to scream out to the giant acid-spitting alien behind me was absolute terror. I molded my back to the metal strut and made a point to check the read out on my shotgun. I wanted to yank Garrus back with me and order him to stay put before that corrosive shit hit him. I wanted to throw Grunt to the ground and haul him somewhere safe.

As if anywhere was safe from one of these fuckers. Though I wasn't sure how the thing wasn't coming up in the middle of the arena. Apparently, the krogan had found a way to reinforce against thresher maws. The Alliance should give them a call. You're hysterical, a cold voice in the back of my mind warned me. No shit, I told it.

"You all right, Shepard?" Garrus shouted as he crouched down next to me.

I blinked and glanced up at the sun-bleached sky then back to him. "Uh, yeah, just gimme a sec." Grunt crowed in the distance as he dodged another acid-spray.

"We don't have a second, Shepard." Most of his tone was calm, but I could hear the stress in his subharmonics because I was used to hearing it, usually when I did something boneheaded. Like right now. But, he was right. This not the time to lose it. I needed to get angry. What was it Zaeed said? "Rage was a hell of an anesthetic." It was a hell of a life saver, too. I took a deep breath and ducked my head around the column in time to see Grunt barely dodge another hit of acid. The maw shrugged off a hit from his claymore shotgun and ducked back down underground. Cheater.

I unslung the Cain from my back and readied a Warp mnemonic. We needed to get that fucker's armor lower if the Cain was going to have any effect. "Alright, here's the plan. We need to chip away at the armor. Right now, the Cain's round will just bounce off."

Garrus stared at me, wide eyed. "You can't be serious. You're going to have to stand out of cover for far too long for that thing to fire. You'll be a sitting goose for the acid!"

"That's 'duck' Garrus. The word is 'duck'." He blinked at me. "Fine, idiom lessons later. Point is, we'll be here till the krogan cure the genophage themselves if we have to whittle that thing down with hand weapons."

"Just don't Charge it." He told me.

"I'm crazy, Garrus, not suicidal." I grinned reassuringly. He didn't look convinced. I didn't really feel convinced. My pulse was still pounding in my ears and the better part of me wanted to run screaming back to Wrex's encampment with my tail between my legs. But I ducked around the steel strut and sized up the Maw's position. "Hey, Grunt? Keep that son of a bitch busy."

"You got it, Shepard!" His enthusiasm was just a little obnoxious, but at least one of us was having fun. The young krogan darted out from cover and shot the Maw, reloaded rapidly and shot it again before dodging another acid stream. I forced myself to exhale and fling the Warp I'd prepared. Garrus shot it with a concussive round. The beast roared and dove beneath the surface.

I met Garrus' eyes and we raced to the next spot the thing was likely to emerge. We were forced to repeat our pattern several times as we tried to chip the tough plating of its hide away to leave a vulnerable spot for the sub-nuclear round to detonate against and do the most damage. Finally, Garrus shouted, "There, Shepard, look! On its left flank!"

"Thank fucking God," I panted. A hole had actually formed in the tough plating meant to protect it if it ever had to leave its planet of choice.

Now came the part neither Garrus nor I were looking forward to. Grunt nodded that he was ready to redouble his efforts at distraction. Garrus checked his rifle and nodded at me. He, too, was ready to play distraction, to keep the Maw above ground while the Cain powered up to let off its one devastating shot. My fingers shook as I typed in the commands for the weapon and raised it over my shoulder. Anger hadn't yet surfaced to make this easier, but at least I'd been able to function past the terror. And no flashbacks of Akuze had emerged to cripple me. No, my brain was kindly providing me with nightmare visions of Garrus sprayed by a lethal dose of the acid that thing liked to spew. Probably why I was finding it difficult to get angry.

I watched Garrus and Grunt out of the corner of my eye as I crouched next to the pylon, the Cain trained on the Maw as the monster turned its head from krogan to turian, spitting acid as they dodged. I wanted to keep my full attention on them, but I had to follow the Maw as it attempted to track them and ignore me. After all, from its myopic vision, I was just standing here. At least, for our plan to work, it needed to continue to think that.

Of course, none of my plans ever went right.

Just as the Cain gave the long, drawn-out beep of target acquired, the Maw noticed me. I hit the trigger, the Maw spat acid at me. I couldn't dodge, or the round wouldn't hit the space worm. I held my breath as everything moved in slow motion and I felt the acid hit the ground in front of me and I was knocked off my feet by what felt like a freight train. I hit the ground, my helmeted head bouncing off the concrete just as the round went off and the sky turned orange-white and the ground shook. An armored body covered my face as debris rained down on us while we rode out the brief shock wave.

I pushed at the armored body above me, guessing the identity from the familiarity. "Garrus? You alright?" The only response was a dual toned sound that might've been a curse word my translator didn't quite catch.

He sat back and looked at me steadily. "It's never boring with you around, Shepard."

I flopped back and regarded the whitened sky. "I dunno, Garrus, seems like you got up to plenty of trouble on your own without me."

Garrus wryly answered, "Don't remind me."

"Did you get sprayed?" I asked, attempting to keep visions of melting turian flesh from making my voice shake.

I exhaled when he shook his head. "No, did you?" My answer was drowned out by Grunt's crowing as he came toward us and I just shook my head and grinned at the young krogan's infectious cheer.

"That was a battle worthy of your skills, Shepard! Hell, it was a battle worthy of mine!" He stood back and roared to the sky, "I AM KROGAN!"

Too bad Uvenk had to kill the mood.

When we got back to the compound, Wrex regarded me steadily from under his heavy plates. "Shepard," he motioned me over to stand off to the side where we wouldn't be overheard.

I was still shaking from fighting that thresher maw on foot. Now that the fight was over, visions of Akuze danced in my head, filling my veins with ice and the back of my mind with images of Garrus and Grunt torn by Maws - ok, mostly Garrus. I wasn't really in the mood for my old friend to start fucking with me. But I followed him. Heck, he was a krogan, he wouldn't be insulted if I picked a fight with him. "Wrex." It was either that, or go back to the ship and see if I could get into another sparring match with Garrus, which I didn't have time for, no matter how appealing the idea (even if I wanted to see if it would turn into more than sparring) not if we were going to rescue Mordin's former assistant. I guess the rage had finally showed up. Better late than never.

I stood next to him, overlooking the varren pits, Garrus was watching Grunt attempt to pick random fights with his new clanmembers. "So, now that we got rid of Uvenk for you, anyone else you want taken out?" I asked, crossing my arms and clenching my fists. I needed to hit something. A lot of somethings.

The old krogan laughed, "You never miss a trick, do you? I'm not going to insult you by thanking you. Was he at least worth the ammo to put him down?"

I snorted. "Compared to the thresher maw, he went down like a bitch varren in heat. Or an asari maiden in Chora's den."

He outright guffawed at that one. "I'll try to make sure to aim you at a tougher enemy next time."

"I'll bet you will." The air was filled with dust on Tuchanka and the Urdnot ruins were no exception. I raised my canteen to my lips for a drink of water.

He grew quiet for a moment, "So, you and the turian, huhn?"

I choked, doubling over in a coughing fit. "You waited for me to do that on purpose, didn't you." I demanded, my voice hoarse.

His lips pulled back off his teeth in a krogan grin. Usually it's meant to be scary as hell, Wrex did it to be funny. He had a sick sense of humor. "Well?"

My voice still raw, I said. "I don't know what you're talking about." We weren't that obvious, were we?

"Don't mistake me for a member of your idiot crew, Shepard. I know what a turian in lust looks like. And I think I watched you enough with that Alenko to know what you look like in heat." His tone was matter of fact and frank.

The thought of Garrus lusting after me made some of my anger dissipate and something low in my abdomen tighten. "Hah! I can smell it!" He all but shouted.

"Would you keep your voice down?" I demanded, putting away the canteen. "What the hell's wrong with you?" If we can figure out a way to make it work, then yeah, definitely."

He laughed again, "Shepard, you're the toughest female I've ever run across and you know that's saying something. But you have got to be the thickest woman in the galaxy when it comes to men." He didn't wait for an answer, but barreled along with his theory, "That damned turian's probably the only member of his species I like, but he's even worse at this crap than you are. You're going to have to hit HIM over the head."

"What makes you think I haven't?" When he nearly doubled over laughing, I crossed my arms and raised one hand to pinch the bridge of my nose. "Why the hell are you telling me this, Wrex? Since when do you care who I fuck?"

He crossed his own short, powerful arms and narrowed the one red eye at me, "You've got a hell of a fight on your hands, Shepard. One I wish I could join. I know what you're up against. I can only assume since Alenko's not here with you, one of you dumped the other." I glanced away, that chapter was closed. "He was stupid enough to dump his battlemaster, I see. Even more reason for what I'm about to say next. I've been around a long time, I've seen a lot of crap come down over the centuries, Shepard. You catch more than your fair share. That bastard turian has been at your back catching it with you the entire time. Back on the Normandy, I thought it was just hero worship. But then I'd see him watching you. I don't even think he was aware of it. When you'd get off the lift and turn directly to engineering to go talk to that damned quarian girl, he actually seemed disappointed."

I snorted and played dumb. "Next you're gonna tell me he's still watching me." I tried not to think about that day in my quarters when he'd stroked my hair. Or our experimental kiss. The time on the Flotilla. The weeks since. It was becoming more and more difficult to remind myself that he was my officer. The memories made a shiver run down my back, my armor got a little warm. I thought about the conversation we'd had the other day, the promises we'd made. I fanned the flames of my anger, trying to chase away the thoughts. Tuchanka was not a place to get sentimental. Even if this great fool of a krogan battlemaster was doing it more than enough.

Another rumbling laugh. "If you look right now… he is."

I slowly turned my head, trying to look like I was scanning the perimeter of the settlement, Garrus was looking in my direction, but… wait…. Was he checking out my ass? He didn't seem aware that I was watching him watch me. I stood frozen in shock. That look was obvious enough I didn't need a body language translator for once. If that expression had been on a human male's face, I would have known exactly what to do about it.

I spun back to stare open-mouthed at the krogan who was grinning at me. "Is that… is that even possible?" My God, he was actually, truly thinking about me like that. It wasn't just academic, or blowing off steam... I didn't know whether to laugh or run scared shitless into the nearest thresher maw nest. I shouldn't have been surprised. He'd told me he wanted me, too. But, this wasn't just in private in the battery or lonely on the Flotilla. This was in public. Mostly. Not that a bunch of krogan other than Wrex would know how to read his expression. Somehow... seeing him watch me so openly it was nearly a shouted declaration of intent. I shivered.

He grinned wider and shrugged. "If you're talking about technically? The parts are there and in the right places. How do you humans put it? There's a tab 'A' for the slot 'B'."

I rubbed my eyes. "I do not want to know how you know that."

He chuckled. "The Extranet is for porn, Shepard."

"You're a dirty old man, Wrex." I shook my head. "I'll be back. I have a salarian to go rescue. And more trash to clean off your lawn." I waved my hand at the still laughing krogan leader and told Grunt to go back to the Normandy and send the professor out.

Garrus looked at me questioningly as I walked by. "What's he laughing about?"

"Apparently Grunt got seven breeding requests." I rolled my eyes. "And you and I should hook up."

His eyes widened. "Seven?" He paused. "Wait... he said what?"

I heard Wrex stump up behind me before I could reply, "Don't be so modest, Shepard!" He clapped me on the back, knocking me into Garrus who caught me by reflex. He didn't let go of me immediately, a fact which wasn't lost on the matchmaking krogan. "You've got some competition, turian! Shepard got a breeding request, too!"

Garrus set me back on my feet and I glared up at him, both for holding on to me and for being amused, his mandibles quivering with suppressed mirth. Mordin Solus chose that moment to appear. "Human mating with krogan? Painful for human, best to stretch first."

Garrus and Wrex laughed so hard at that they had to lean on each other for support. They looked up and saw my glare and laughed harder. My back ramrod straight, I marched over to talk to Wrex's chief scout.