Just a drabble of a one-shot to get some stuff out of my system. Takes place near the end of ME2, before the final mission. Possible spoilers, but aren't there always? BioWare owns all characters and most concepts. Text, story, and this particular Shepard are mine.

"Garrus. You wanted to see me?"

"Yeah, hang on, just let me save this and key up the readouts I wanted to show you…"

Commander Lynne Shepard smiled as Garrus, back to her, typed away furiously at the control panel of the forward battery. The action was so typical of him—he was never "finished" with a project, and when he got involved with something he actively tuned out the rest of the world—that it was honestly comforting to watch. She was still smiling when the appropriate screens popped up and Garrus turned toward her, about to say something. Seeing her expression, he paused, head tilted slightly to one side in contemplation.

"What?" Shepard asked, arching a brow.

"You're smiling. Two days ago you were sulking around the ship like your pet varren died and today you're practically… chipper."

An annoyed glare replaced her cheerful expression. "I don't 'sulk,' Garrus," she replied.

"You do, it's just that most people can't tell; 'Sulking Shepard' is almost the same as 'Frighteningly Professional Shepard.' I figure one of three things has happened here," he continued, raising a hand to count off, "One, you've snapped and have blissfully accepted our impending doom; two, you've convinced tall, dark and scaly that you're more interesting than meditation; or three… you finally talked to Alenko."

Shepard's glare became an outright scowl. "I'm carrying a gun, you know."

"Why does every woman I know feel the need to remind me of that?" he asked, throwing his hands up in defeat.

"Because you're acting like a huge dick, Garrus."

The turian let out a surprised laugh, and it wasn't long before they were both cackling over the joke. Shepard had discovered long ago that for whatever reason their translators were unable to convey the finer nuances of calling someone an oversized phallus; the memory of the first time she'd used the phrase around Garrus still made her smile.

As their laughter subsided, Garrus looked her over a little more critically. "So. Since I know from experience that you'd die before accepting defeat and Thane isn't attached to your face right now, I'm assuming your change in demeanor has to do with the lieutenant."

Shepard shook her head and sighed. Another trait she'd always admired in Garrus was his determination, though it also occasionally made her want to kill him. "He sent me a message. Finally. I responded, we talked… it was weird."

Lips twisted into a confused grimace, Shepard perched, bird-like, on the battery's oversized materials crate. "We worked things out, mostly. I still feel shitty for how things ended, and he feels shitty for what he said on Horizon, but we both came to the conclusion that it just wouldn't work out."

She shrugged, eyes tracing the traction patterns on the floor. "By the way," she added, glaring up at Garrus through her bangs, "what makes you think I've got my eye on Thane Krios?"

He looked at her as though she'd just suggested that maybe they could hug it out with the Reapers. "Duh. You go into Life Support dead to the world and you come out smiling. Plus you're just so damn formal when he's around—that always means something's up."

"I thought you said that formal meant sulking," she grumbled.

The turian shook his head. "Different kind. You are nothing if not multifaceted, Shepard."

"Thane is just as formal with me and everybody else on this boat. I'm only responding to that."

"Formal my plated backside," Garrus deadpanned, "Shepard, I can be fairly dense about this kind of thing, but even I can see his intensity ratchet up a couple notches when you're in the room. Considering that Krios is already a pretty intense guy…"

He trailed off at Shepard's bemused expression. "Awh come on, Lynne, he looks at you like you're an angel come to guide us to our salvation or something."

At that, Shepard couldn't suppress a blush when she remembered how Thane had explained his nickname for her. One of the warrior-angels of the goddess Arashu. Fierce in wrath. A tenacious protector. Nobody had ever spoken to her like that before, or at least not so they had meant it. Those words still filled her chest like warm water every time she so much as caught a glimpse of him in a corridor.

"Damn, you're actually doing that human-embarrassment thing. I don't think I've ever seen that before, not on you. He'll be pleased to know you feel the same."

Shepard let out an annoyed groan and pressed her fingers into the hollows of her eyes. "He's actually talked to you about this? About… about me?"

"Not so directly," he replied, "but it wasn't too hard to read between the lines. He obviously cares about you, and you both do the same awkward avoidance thing when you're trying not to reveal too much about your feelings. Your kids are gonna be emotionally stunted, Shepard."

She barked out a laugh, and Garrus managed the turian version of a smirk, but his mirth faded quickly. "Listen, I'm glad you two are… whatever you are," he said, fumbling a little, "but are you sure you should give up on Kaiden so quickly?"

At her sharp glance, Garrus backed up a step. "Hang on, Shepard, hear me out. I know you care about Thane a lot and Kaiden's been kind of an ass, but… realistically here, how much time does Thane have left?"

She hadn't been expecting that, not from Garrus—she felt as though she'd just been slapped. Had his tone conveyed anything but the most sincere concern for her, Shepard was pretty sure she'd be angry as a battle-drunk krogan. For his part, Garrus looked as sad and deflated as she'd ever seen him, but she knew he wouldn't have mentioned it if he didn't care about her so much. She realized that this must have been bugging him for a while now.

"None of us have much time," Shepard replied, her voice solemn, "but if we survive this… he has about six months now, eight if we're insanely lucky and he stays on Rakhana, or at a treatment center on Kajhe."

It hurt, saying it like that, barefaced and without anything to buffer the reality. Hurt like hell and then some, felt unfair and cruel and utterly, completely hopeless, but strangely that fact didn't change much of anything.

"I know what you're getting at, Garrus," she said quietly, looking up at him with a sad smile, "Kaiden can give me what Thane can't. In a weird way he's kind of the perfect guy."

She stood, moved over to the console and leaned against the battery's railing. "With Kaiden I'd have someone uncompromisingly loyal, deeply loving, affectionate. He'd buy us a house on Earth somewhere, ask me to marry him, we'd probably have kids or buy a boat or whatever it is normal folks do. And you know what, Garrus?" Shepard asked, turning to face him, "I think that kind of life would make me miserable."

The turian let out a chuckle and leaned against the far wall, beginning to understand where his Commander was coming from. "Kaiden's a good guy. Almost too good, really. There are things about me that he'll never get, the… the less pleasant things. He'd put me up on some pedestal and I'd always be worried about falling off. With Thane…" Shepard trailed off, her gray eyes distant.

It took her a moment of contemplation to find her voice, and Garrus, strangely fascinated that he was even having this conversation with the Commander, remained respectfully silent until she spoke again. "I feel like I don't have to hide anything. I don't have to be afraid of my own weaknesses or how he'll perceive me. I feel… safe, I guess. When I'm with him I feel like… like I'm home."

She looked at him rather sheepishly, fully aware that she'd been rambling and of how foolish she must have sounded. It was a bad habit—whenever she had to talk about an uncomfortable issue, Shepard tended to think out loud unless she made a concentrated effort to control herself. To her surprise, however, Garrus was smiling. He seemed far more at ease than he had when they'd started talking.

"Should've guessed you'd never do anything halfway, not even this," he said with a chuckle, "If I'd known you felt that strongly I wouldn't have bothered you."

Shepard grinned. "I call bullshit, Garrus. You're more of a busybody than Chambers."

He laughed with her, the tension completely gone between them now. "All right, yeah, I still would've asked. I just don't want to you to get hurt, 'Ria. Maybe it's stupid, but… well, you know I'm always looking out for you. I've never had a better friend."

Shepard smiled at him, sincere and full of gratitude. He called her that occasionally once he'd found out her legal first name was Maria; apparently that last syllable sounded like the turian word for 'friend in all things,' and was used mostly among close family members. It wasn't a title any turian would give lightly.

"I know, Garrus. Same to you, no matter what else goes haywire."

She pushed herself off the railing and stretched, feeling like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. If Garrus understood, if he would be there to support her, then maybe she could bear it when things started to get difficult. He'd gotten her through some pretty godawful stuff in the past, after all.

"We make a good team, looking out for each other," she said as she started to scan the readouts he'd pulled up, "so if I ever think you're setting yourself up for a bad date, I'll make sure to intervene."

Garrus practically cackled at that one. It was an obvious deflection, but served a purpose; they had said all they needed to say, and were back to their usual banter. They didn't often lay their affections bare, and when they did it was a fleeting thing, but necessary. Shepard left the forward battery feeling a little lighter, and Garrus watched her go knowing that she was as prepared as one could be for loving Thane Krios. That was just as well, he considered as he made the adjustments he and Shepard had discussed. He had been fully prepared to break some faces for her if need be.

Hope you liked! The ending needs work though. Reviews and critique always gratefully accepted and encouraged.