Ever notice how in a lot of fics (my own included), Garrus is attracted to Shepard despite how different they are physically and physiologically? Or how in matters of romance and sexuality, he's often depicted as functionally humanoid? That was just an observation, not a criticism – I love all those awesome Garrus fics. Moar plz.
This is my attempt to explore their bond while trying not to anthropomorphize the turian, and to envision how Shepard might try to comfort him before the suicide mission without really knowing how. Shepard's appearance is deliberately nondescript – imagine her however you wish.
Anything you recognize from Mass Effect belongs to Bioware. The title is from the ee cummings poem 'you being in love'.
"I just want something to go right. Just once…"
Before those words stunned her into silence, she'd wanted to grin at him, tease him, push all the right buttons to bring out that deep flanging belly laugh she loved so much. Damn, she missed seeing him smile. But this wasn't about her, and it would take so much more than lighthearted banter to make him happy. It was getting harder by the day to remember the scarred turian the way he'd once been, youthful and impulsive, eyes burning with passion as he followed her eagerly in pursuit of justice. Now he looked so much older, hardened by the years that would forever be lost to her, still fighting tirelessly by her side even though the look in his eyes said he had nothing left to give.
Not knowing what to say, Shepard closed her eyes as taloned fingers traced her shoulder, their razor-sharp edges threatening to tear the thin fabric of her uniform. There was tenderness in his touch, hesitation as he leaned in to press his forehead to hers. His brow plates were hot and thrummed with the beat of his heart, racing from anxiety and, dare she hope, excitement?
She lingered there, savoring the warmth of his gentle touch, inhaling his exotic scent. She'd waited so long for this, suffering exquisitely as their soldiers' bond matured into close friendship and then into something else entirely. No word in any human or turian language seemed to describe what she felt for him: respect and love underscored by illogical, undeniable lust. She'd die for him. In a way, she already had.
"Tell me what you need, Shepard. I… I tried to do some research, but the human vids were all so different, and I'm not sure half of it is even possible for me. Not without killing you, anyway. I really don't know what to do."
Slowly, she opened her eyes, relieved to finally see an expression that was neither anger nor deadened apathy. The poor man was terrified. Under other circumstances, Shepard would have laughed to put him at ease, but he looked as though he might shatter into pieces if she did. So she smiled, reaching up to mimic his gesture of chaste affection by stroking his upper arm.
"It's okay, Garrus. I'm just glad to have your company. That's all I need."
He exhaled sharply, his posture relaxing. "Ancestors be praised. I'd do anything for you, Shepard, you know that. I've never met anyone like you, never felt this way about anyone but you… I'm just not used to flesh."
Garrus' nasal ridges crinkled slightly, his disgust a subtle remnant of a war that even now strained relations between their species. An icy claw gripped her heart, its sharp nails slowly digging in. Shepard forced herself to put on a mask of serenity, faking acceptance and understanding until it started to take hold, gradually appeasing the pain in her chest. Tonight her foolish emotions didn't matter: she wanted to give her best friend the love and release he so desperately needed before once again following her into the abyss.
"I'm confused, Shepard. I thought you needed me to ease your tension before the battle. What exactly were you asking me to do?"
Of course he was confused. She'd done her homework, followed up on the comments she'd assumed to be flirtatious. Her clumsy attempts to invite intimate companionship must have come across as a request to scratch an itch. Like her own kind, turians used sex as recreation and stress relief, but risked grievous injury if they took matters into their own hands. Talons, rather. So self-love was generally avoided, and relations between friends and shipmates were as casual and frequent as humans having a round of drinks to blow off steam. Being cloistered aboard an alien ship must have been as isolating and frustrating as joining an ascetic convent. Even the sensual joys of food were lost to him: despite her best efforts the dextro rations were sorely lacking in flavor and variety.
"I should explain. I don't need anyone else to ease my tension." Her cheeks flushed, her body still tingling from her earlier exertions. Garrus' mandibles flared in surprise. Shepard's scent was so different, sweet and musky, currents of pheromones swirling in the air as she moved. He'd assumed she was reacting to him, and wasn't sure whether to be intrigued or offended. "I'm not a turian woman; I can't be your lover in the way you're used to. I'd like to extend an invitation. No expectations, no hurt feelings if you turn me down."
"Just when I think I'm starting to understand you, Shepard, you surprise me again. What do you have in mind?"
"Spend the night with me. Relax with me. I picked up some wildberry liqueur and some dextro amino snacks when we docked at the Citadel. Later, if you're willing, I could try to heal you." She laughed, the light bubbly sounds resonating in his aural conduits. "Don't ask me what that means until you've had a few drinks."
Were he a good, sensible turian, Garrus would have politely taken his leave. Maybe one day he'd look back and wonder what might have happened if he'd taken the barefaced creature up on her enigmatic offer. But a sensible Garrus would never have left his post at C-Sec, tagged along with a rogue Spectre as she hunted down criminals, and certainly would never have been so profoundly affected by the death of a human that he nearly destroyed himself trying to carry out her legacy. The ordeal had left him badly wounded, and the kindness and certainty in her eyes as she spoke of healing were balm to his aching soul.
"Okay. Sure. Why the hell not?"
"I'll just need a minute, I'm going to get changed. I don't want anything to do with Cerberus tonight," she said, fingering the logo on her uniform. "Make yourself comfortable and I'll be right back."
Comfortable? While in Citadel space, he had to force his long flexible limbs into asari furnishings. They'd arrived first, after all, and the salarians had no complaints about the standardized sizing. This human ship was no different: the beds were too short, the chairs too small, and there was nothing to provide the necessary cushioning for his cowl, his prominent spurs and ridges. Garrus had too much history with Shepard to worry about offending her, so he set about rearranging her cabin. He ripped the comforter and cushions from her bed and the throw pillows from her couch, and found them sufficient to build himself a proper nest on the floor. Delighted, he sprawled, tucking a plump cylindrical pillow behind his neck so that his fringe didn't scrape the ground.
Shepard emerged from the bathroom to find a purring turian rolling around on her bedcovers. She couldn't help but giggle as she moved to uncork the berry liqueur and a bottle of ice brandy. Fine silk pyjamas covered her from collarbones to ankles, concealing her alien skin with sensual fabric.
Garrus watched her hips sway as she made her way over to him, filled glasses in hand. He wondered whether she was planning to seduce him, and was surprised to discover he was only somewhat troubled by the notion. He'd heard the rumors about humans, of course: a surprising number of men in his old regiment claimed to have a friend who'd been to one of their brothels. No self-respecting male would admit to experiencing it personally, but bawdy tales of the acts they were capable of made for great late-night storytelling. That is, if you could stomach the thought of soft, pliant flesh. Shepard was not so soft, he'd noticed: ropy muscles and strong bones lay just beneath her skin. His eye was drawn to her sharp clavicles as she drew nearer, folding her legs daintily underneath her as she sat beside him on the floor and offered him a drink.
"And to think I was worried you'd have trouble relaxing."
"It's not my fault my quarters are the size of a closet."
"Mmm. Cerberus certainly didn't have turians in mind when they designed this ship. We'll have to remedy that after the mission."
"Are you so sure we're going to make it through tomorrow?"
"As sure as I ever am." She grinned. "We're still here, aren't we?"
"It takes more than death to kill me," she said haughtily. "Hey, do you remember the conversation we had back on the old ship, about prisoners getting to request a last meal before their execution?" Garrus had been horrified to learn humans used to kill their criminals. It was such a waste of lives that could be put to better use in forced labor or military service. Once they'd gotten past that, though, they'd spent hours giddily discussing their own perfect last meal, trying to one-up each other by making their alien foods sound as disgusting as possible.
"Yeah." He closed his eyes, lost in wistful remembrance of biting into ripe kirin-fruit, the juices running down his mandibles and staining his shirt as warm ocean breezes tickled the grooves between his plates.
"I have a surprise for you. Not that I'm implying anything morbid about the mission, but I figured we both deserved a treat."
She retrieved two refrigerated storage cases she'd acquired on the Citadel, and set the controls to bring the contents to their desired temperatures. She'd picked them up only a few days ago, intending to return for enough to feed the whole crew before their sudden abduction meant there was no longer time for frivolities. Garrus tore into his like he was disassembling his favorite sniper rifle, and he soon had a banquet spread around him of Palaven fruits, pungent-smelling raw and cured meats, candied insectoids, and the exorbitantly expensive piece de resistance, a box of writhing sea-creatures that the shopkeeper had simply called "crunch". He went right for these, gingerly picking up his protesting prey with the tips of his talons and popping them into his mouth with gusto. Shepard's stomach did a backflip as the shells cracked to release green ooze, dozens of tiny pincers twitching menacingly even in the throes of death.
Unpacking her own parcel of delicacies, she ignored the happily munching turian to take in the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread, chocolate, strawberries, fresh cream (from an actual cow, not the vat-grown udders that left an odd metallic aftertaste), blini with caviar, and her own favorite indulgence, guaranteed to make Garrus cringe. It had taken a good deal of investigative work, but she'd managed to find cultured oysters from Eden Prime, keeping them alive in her saltwater fish tank. The feast had cost a small fortune, but under the circumstances she couldn't care less. Garrus' horrified expression as she slurped down the succulent briny bivalves was more than worth their price.
Bellies full to bursting, they stretched lazily on the comforter. Garrus' bottle was half-empty by the time he finished his meal, and the warm buzz was gradually eroding the barriers he'd worked so hard to keep up. He found himself rambling about the great joys and disappointments of his life, reminiscing about his childhood on Palaven, his military service and C-Sec missions, and finally the pain of losing his squad on Omega and hitting rock bottom. Shepard sat back and listened, feeling an empathetic knot build in her heart as Garrus relayed his tragic tale, his deep voice wavering as the story ended with a lone gunman preparing to fight to the death against impossible odds.
"Spirits, Shepard. I've never told anyone about this. Did you put something in my drink?"
"No. But I'm here to listen if you need me. Whenever you need me."
He looked down at the glass that had somehow emptied itself yet again, tracing a talon absentmindedly around the rim. "Is this an appropriate time to ask what you meant by healing?"
"I suppose so. This may be difficult to explain. I have… certain abilities. I didn't really understand them myself until I met Sha'ira: she shares my gift."
"You're still not making any sense, Shepard."
"Right. It turns out some of us biotics are in tune with other kinds of energy as well. In turian terms… I may be able to heal your spirit, if you let me. Help you embrace eternity. I'll have to come a little closer."
He eyed her warily, nodding his assent as he decided this wasn't a joke at his expense. Shepard sat in his lap, nimbly wrapping her legs around his waist, arms draped over his shoulders. He hadn't been this close to a female in far too long, yet her touch was gentle and reassuring, and the look her eyes asked for nothing in return.
"I don't know what to do, Shepard."
"Breathe, Garrus. Just breathe." And so he did.
Softly, slowly, Shepard increased her awareness, noticing the rise and fall of the turian's thorax, the warmth of exhaled air against her cheek, the hardness of his thigh plates beneath her strong legs. Matching his every breath, she inhaled more deeply, turning the attention of her mind's eye to the rhythms of her own body. She'd never attempted such a connection with a turian before, but her earlier meditations left her in fine form, at peace with herself and the universe, energy flowing freely. Not wanting to startle him, she opened her palms to show him the faint biotic charge. With a feather-light touch, she ran her fingertips from the crown of his head down to the tips of his fringe, gliding along his neck and collar, shoulders and arms, guiding her energy down to the tips of his talons. She brought her hands up for a second pass, this time tracing down over his brow, running her thumbs along his nasal ridges and down over his mouth and mandibles, eliciting a contented sigh as she grazed his vulnerable throat before moving down over his heart and thorax, across his waist and back again to his wrists and hands to complete the circle.
Without any prompting, he reciprocated her movements, her sensitive skin alight with the gentle brush of his talons. Taking Garrus' hands in her own, she began to draw his energy into her, returning it with each exhalation. He was as tense and rigid as she'd expected, but was lulled by the waves resonating through his tissues, deepening his own breath in response. Shepard placed her right hand over his heartbeat, her other hand covering his as he reached up to mirror her. A pleasant tingly sensation spread through her as their rhythm intensified, swaying back and forth, breathing in and out as the distinctions between them began to blur. With Garrus, creating the link was nearly effortless: she was rapidly losing herself in his energy. The pull was almost too strong: his spirit drew her in with magnetic intensity. She opened her eyes to see the turian enveloped in soft blue light: the whole room was hazy except for Garrus' striking gaze piercing her soul.
They bonded, their shared energy building with every breath, and Shepard felt pain and pressure building in her heart as she let down the last of her barriers and embraced her partner's suffering. Such a horrible burden for him to carry alone, she thought, but together they just might be able to set it free. They fell further into a shared trance, losing all sense of time and self, feeling at one with the universe as they embraced eternity. All at once, Shepard became acutely aware of her body as the knot in her heart opened in violent release, tearing through her chest in a brief moment of agony that left pure bliss in its wake. Big. Cosmic. Ecstasy.
Garrus collapsed against her, burying his face in her neck. She threw her arms around his cowl, wrapping her legs tight around his waist to soothe and comfort him. Saying nothing, she held him until the glow subsided and at last he spoke.
"What the hell just happened?"
"You were carrying a lot of tension. I offered to help you release it, remember?"
"I had no idea this was what you meant. It worked, by the way."
"I know." She beamed at him as he sat back to stare at her.
"Is it always like this?"
"It's different every time. That was… incredible."
"Mmm." Garrus' mandibles flared in a lazy smile, looking thoroughly pleased with himself.
"We could bond again, if you like. I'm also quite skilled at biotic massage, if your muscles need some attention. Don't think I haven't noticed the way you've been rolling your left shoulder lately."
"Unbelievable. Yes. To all of it."
By the time they reached the Omega-4 relay, the hardened vigilante was nowhere to be found: he'd been carried off into the ether by alternating waves of calm serenity and ecstatic bliss. In his place, burrowed in a warm nest of comforter and pillows, lay a smiling, playful, utterly relaxed turian soldier. They hadn't slept a wink, not wanting to waste a moment of precious time together, but somehow Garrus felt as though he'd never been so well rested.
Garrus gathered the commander into his arms, running his talons through her hair as he tried to understand the significance of what had passed between them. Surely this far exceeded the boundaries of friendship, but nothing they'd experienced was sexual by turian standards, nor human if the vids were to be believed. She made him feel safe, wanted, loved; even if neither of them survived the day he knew that he belonged with her.
Shepard finally had to shoo him out of her quarters as Joker announced their approach to the relay, leaving just enough time to shower and strap into her armor before rallying the team in preparation for the jump. She watched him leave with joy in her heart: she'd never seen Garrus so happy. If only she could suppress the twinge in her chest as the elevator door closed, her selflessness vanishing as the man she loved was carried out of sight. Through it all, she didn't have the courage to tell him how she felt. Cerberus had revived her, but only Garrus could make her feel alive. It just didn't seem right to say anything: her gift of peace and unconditional love would be meaningless if she demanded his affection in return. Shepard took comfort from the release she'd given him, and the knowledge that even though the turian was none the wiser, with every breath they'd shared her soul cried out. I love you. I love you. I love you.