Author's Note to my long-term readers: Due to RL issues I haven't been able to get this month's chapter of "Closer to Home" finished to my satisfaction in time; it will go up next month and in the meantime, here's something else Mass Effect.
Author's Note on this Story:
On the way to the third story of my trilogy—the upcoming "Partners Like You And Me"—I ran into a little problem. Namely, that someone spends the time between ME1 and ME2, dead. In the game, we see the various characters getting on with (or trying to get on with) their lives and it made sense for me to do the same here. That left me with the challenge of depicting Jane attempting to survive without Garrus, and so, this tale was born to cover those two missing years. It was difficult to write, but I think I've found something I'm happy with.
Lost Like You And Me
Garrus Vakarian awoke slowly.
His vision was fuzzy, his head throbbed, and blinking commands to his heads-up display didn't result in any response. He could only presume he wasn't wearing it. By the Spirits, he ached all over, and the pain was bone deep. What had happened to him?
He struggled to exhume his memories from the deep, sludgy pit where they were buried.
The Normandy, under attack by a bizarre alien ship. Impact, alarms, Aileron the pilot yelling from the cockpit that he couldn't hold her. The Normandy in her death throes. Lights flickering, the floor bucking under his feet, Garrus had made his way through smoky, debris-clogged corridors to the life pods, carrying Jane Shepard in his arms.
Jane. His XO. Was she...
She'd broken her leg, he remembered that, but it was a clean break in the lower left leg. Nothing potentially fatal, the way a break to the upper thigh would be. She'd been trying to limp her way to safety but he wouldn't stand for it; he'd picked her up and carried her, and then...
Another image surfaced, more vivid than the rest. Jane in a life pod, hammering on the door even as he closed the hatch.
I'll be with you soon.
"Garrus, don't you dare!" she'd yelled even as he'd hit the launch button.
Thank the Spirits, he remembered watching her pod streak to safety. She was all right. She had made it.
He lay still on his back, letting relief wash over him. Jane might not be here, but she would be soon, back at his side where she belonged. And he would be with her—where he belonged.
That still didn't explain how he'd come to be in this place, though, in this room that smelled of antiseptic, with its pain-bright walls and its lights which glared down with the intensity of tiny suns.
He tried again to fill in the blank.
His talons gripped the lip of another escape pod; then an explosion had rocked the Normandy, knocking him off his feet. He'd scrabbled back up, only to watch in horror as a hole tore the Normandy's flank open, exposing her insides to the void.
Dear Spirits, he remembered being sucked out into space. He'd been counting the breaths left in his suit even as he realized he didn't have his helmet on. His skin had frozen. His lungs had burned, sucking vacuum. His eyes…and the unspeakable pain…
Without his eyes, he'd still seen images in his head. And the last thing he'd seen before the black curtain fell was the face of his partner, Jane Shepard.
Funny. They said that when you died, your whole life flashed before your eyes. But in those moments he hadn't seen his childhood, or his military service, or even his Spectre training. All he'd seen had been her...
When he died.
Garrus sat up, ignoring the angry beeping from the monitors that surrounded him. There were tubes coming out of him, and he swatted at them, hesitant to tear them out, but he could barely restrain himself. He wanted to get up off this gurney and go find Jane. And he wanted some answers.
This can't be possible.
The door opened.
Garrus Vakarian squinted his eyes in an attempt to identify the figure silhouetted in the doorway. Turian, male, fit. As the person stepped into the room, Garrus noted piercing blue eyes, no facepaint, and a fringe with divergent spines on either side of his head. The fringe pattern was considered ugly by turian standards, and yet this man made no attempt to hide it under a hood. Garrus' brain felt scrambled, but he was certain he would have remembered a man who wore both his physical flaws and his lack of clan allegiance so blatantly. The turian carried himself as though he had the ability to do whatever he pleased, rest of the universe be damned, and there was something cold in his eyes warning Garrus that this man was not merely a buffoon who didn't know better. Whoever he was, this turian was the sort who bent circumstances to his will.
Garrus set his teeth. He didn't bend.
Not for anyone less than Shepard.
"Good morning, Mr. Vakarian," the turian said in a deep voice. "I'm sure you're wondering where you are and what has happened." He sounded cultured, but there was a sharp edge barely concealed in his words, like jagged rocks under a falling tide.
Garrus narrowed his eyes, unwilling to admit that this man had guessed his thoughts. "Actually, what I'm wondering right now is who the hell are you."
If the stranger was offended, he didn't show it. Instead he bared his teeth in a wide smile and replied, "I'm sorry, Garrus—may I call you Garrus? My name is Saren Arterius, and I am the man who brought you back from the dead."
Two years prior to Garrus Vakarian's resurrection
Jane Shepard lay in her hospital bed, sleeping deeply after an administration of tranquilizers and painkillers. Her left leg was encased in a cast, her face was a mass of bruises and her hair had been shorn off to stitch up a nasty cut on her scalp.
C-Sec Sergeant Miles Haron watched the sheet slowly rise and fall with each breath she released; then he rested his elbows on his thighs, put his hands on his mandibles and wondered how it could be that he was the one sitting here watching over her.
She had no next of kin. Everyone listed as a contact on her official file was a fellow crewmate on the Normandy.
Desperate, the hospital had used the other comm addresses they found. They tried her previous contact address at an orphanage on earth, only to find that the person in question was deceased. They tried her former military commander, who informed them that the personal affairs of retired service personnel were not her concern. They tried her previous work address and reached C-Sec, and Captain Bailey had sent the call to Haron, claiming that he was the staff member best suited for the role.
That was bullshit, as the humans said. A junior officer didn't have the authority to make decisions on behalf of a C-Sec captain, and there were plenty of senior officers who'd known Shepard longer than he had. He'd been picked for the sole reason that senior officers' time was precious and junior officers' time was expendable. They wanted a lackey to sit here and do the job that should have been done by family.
Spirits, it wasn't right. Shepard had taken Haron under her wing when he had been a new recruit. She'd been patient when he needed it, firm when he'd required it, and she hadn't cared in the slightest that they were from different species—species that had spent almost thirty years at war.
So when it came down to it, Miles Haron was not resentful of the fact that it was his ass and not his superiors' asses sitting in this uncomfortable hospital chair. He, at the very least, was genuinely concerned for Shepard's welfare. No, his discontent stemmed from the fact that a woman as admirable as Shepard had no better person to fill the role.
He'd taken a look at her file on his way over here. He wasn't technically cleared to see it, but he'd argued, successfully, that if he were to act as her "next of kin" there were details he needed to know in order to make informed decisions. And he'd been utterly shocked by the name of the person who should have been doing this job.
The Spectre. The turian Spectre who'd come to C-Sec and taken Shepard away with him.
The Spectre had quite frankly scared the shit out of Sergeant Haron. The man was pure renegade, scarred and dangerous, following no rules but his own. Miles hadn't liked leaving Shepard alone with him, had liked it even less to discover she'd left C-Sec to join him in whatever lethal game he'd been playing. What had he done to her, to make her grant him so much control over her life?
Haron took a deep breath and tried to convince himself that it didn't matter any more.
Garrus Vakarian, the so-called Hero of the Citadel, was dead.
Jane Shepard came to slowly.
She wasn't sure what had hit the Normandy, but it had done a number on both the ship and her. Her leg throbbed even through the haze of painkillers.
Her hand reached out and brushed against another hand. Scaly but warm, the hide rough, with two thick talons in place of four fingers. She took the hand in hers and smiled.
She wasn't sure how long she lay there, but in time a strange uneasiness upset her reverie. Garrus was not stroking her hair or caressing her cheek, though his hand still held hers tenderly. And through all this time, he had not spoken at all.
"Garrus?" she asked.
A deep breath. "Captain?"
The voice did not belong to Garrus. Shepard's eyes flew open.
The face looking down at her was turian, but definitely not Garrus. He seemed familiar, with the white facepaint on his mandibles and a gentle smile, but due to the incongruity of seeing this turian sitting next to her bed, it took her a while to place him. Her mind deciphered the puzzle in the instant before he spoke.
"It's me. Sergeant Haron."
She blinked in confusion. "Haron? What…where's Garrus?"
Was it possible she'd only dreamed her crazy relationship with the turian soldier she'd met on Oya during the war? Had her brain invented his return, named him Garrus, and cooked up a mad story involving a renegade Spectre called Captain Anderson and a race of malevolent living starships? The more she thought about it, the more impossible it sounded, and she was beginning to feel a pang at the idea of the fantasy she'd concocted being nothing more than a fevered dream when she noticed the look of sorrow in Haron's eyes and instantly felt as though she'd been kicked in the gut.
"I'm sorry," Haron whispered. "Garrus Vakarian is dead."
The words made no sense. How could that be? How could her memories have existed-what with the mad Spectre and the monstrous Reapers and the insane dangers they'd faced on the mission—what with the incredible sensations she'd experienced in Garrus' arms, and the things she'd done for him in return—only for Garrus to be gone?
Jane Shepard didn't need any Reapers in order to watch her world crumble into ruin and fall apart.
She was crying, crying as though there were no end to her grief, and Miles Haron held her as wracking sobs shook her frame.
He'd never been so close to a human before, and he'd never once considered that Captain Shepard—one of the toughest and most deadly C-Sec officers he knew—would feel so fragile up close. Her hide was tender, her frame pliant, and he feared he would hurt her as he wrapped his arms around her. Surely it would be worse, though, to have left her clawing at her pillow, slamming her arms against the mattress, heedless of the way her limbs struck the rails on the bed or the poles holding bags of fluid that fed into her veins. She felt as though she would be so easily damaged.
It was his duty to restrain her so she wouldn't hurt herself, or so he tried to convince himself as he held her, leaning awkwardly over the bed, trying to balance on the edge of his chair as Shepard's weight pressed more and more heavily against his chest. It was…it was a situation where he needed to be this close to her, despite the ordinary impropriety of such close contact. This was a scenario that changed all the rules.
Shepard was not used to being taken care of. But the fact remained that no matter how much she might dislike it, there were some things she could not do with her leg bound up in a cast, her body covered in bruises and her mind fogged with painkillers. She had no groceries in her apartment, no relatives to help her make meals or clean up after herself. The hospitals were too crowded to keep patients who were no longer in need of constant care. Faced with a choice between hiring a stranger to assist her or accepting Miles Haron's offer, Shepard had permitted the turian to move into her apartment.
"You're sure they don't need you at work."
Haron shrugged. "I have four week s of unused vacation. Use it or lose it, you know."
"You could use it with your girlfriend."
"I don't have a girlfriend."
"Captain, the last time I took vacation, it was to celebrate the release of the latest Galaxy of Fantasy expansion pack."
"Has to be more fun than looking after my invalid ass."
"A change is as good as a rest," he said with a grin.
She'd sighed. "If you're going to be staying here, you can call me Jane."
His mandibles had flickered, almost shyly. "You can call me Miles."
One year prior to Garrus Vakarian's resurrection
The galaxy, by any measure of decency, should have had the good graces to stop in its tracks once its brightest star, Garrus Vakarian, had died.
But like a clockwork toy wound up in the seconds before its owner had been felled by a fatal aneurysm, the galaxy continued to march mechanically onward, heedless of its own loss, and unaware that its time was running short.
Well, not entirely unaware. The Council knew of the existence of the Reapers; it was up to them to figure out how to fight back.
Shepard had a nagging sensation in the back of her head that she should be taking a more active role, goading the Council and reminding them of the urgency required. Somehow, though, she had failed to summon up sufficient motivation. It was hard to care about the end of the world when hers had ended already.
After two months of recuperation, she'd returned to C-Sec—she had been one of their rising stars when Vakarian had recruited her, and on the strength of her past record, Executor Pallin had taken her back. Pallin, in fact, seemed pleased with her performance, but Commissioner Chellick had pulled her into office more than once for counselling, alleging that she had "lost the spark" that had once set her apart.
Shepard was left at a loss what to do. Strong and independent, capable, brave, she didn't know how to even begin to address the depression that gnawed at the corners of her mind, sapping her energy in the constant struggle not to put her revolver into her mouth and join Garrus in whatever world might come after. Now, a year to the day after Haron had given her the bad news, her world had failed to resume turning. Colours were dull and sounds were muffled and food tasted like ash, day after day after endless, endless day.
She found herself hoping, hope against hope, that someone from the Normandy might call her for help. Cadeucia. Ashley Williams. Aquila. Tali. Lilihierax. Aileron. Sidonis. Anyone. Hell, even the Council would do. Someone to say they had a plan to fight the Reapers and they needed her help.
It was hard to spend day after day waiting for messages that never came. A year and not a word, as though everyone else but her had forgotten and moved on. Could she have held on a little longer; would someone call tomorrow?
It didn't matter. As of today, she no longer worked at C-Sec.
She hadn't even seen Haron yet to tell him the bad news. Haron was the anchor in her life, her only shelter from the storm. After that first scene in the hospital she had no longer needed to pretend to be strong in front of him; he had already seen her cry. Where the hell would she have been without him? Probably in an even deeper mess than she was in now.
Haron had never quite gotten around to moving out of her apartment. He'd set up an army-style cot in the corner of her living room and told her to tell him when she wanted her space back. She'd hesitated to say anything, reluctant to throw away her only lifeline, and after a month or so there'd been a small stack of army bags next to the cot, containing the possessions of one Miles Haron.
He'd also had infinite patience with her. She doubted the new counsellor she was going to see tomorrow would do any better than the turian. In fact, she already knew what the counsellor would say. It's time to move on.
So, in the spirit of moving on, Shepard had dug out the only dress she owned—the tried-and-true standard black cocktail dress—and come out to the Dark Star with the comforting knowledge that no matter what else might happen, she could at the very least get drunk enough to sleep without dreams tonight.
"Jane. Buy you a drink?"
Shepard blinked. She hadn't heard the owner of the deep masculine voice coming up beside her, nor had she expected to run into anyone she knew.
Shepard looked up into the face of Jacob Taylor and felt her stomach sink.
Taylor was everything she ought to have wanted: handsome and fit, smart and strong, a guy with a good sense of humour and a deep-seated loyalty.
She'd dated Taylor briefly a few years back when they'd served in the same military unit, but in the end she'd broken up with him, saying vaguely that "things weren't working out." She'd never had the courage to say why.
Because you're not Garrus Vakarian.
Taylor had been her first lover since she'd left the turian behind on Oya. She had tried a couple others after him; they'd all fared even worse. She'd all but given up on men entirely until Garrus had thundered back into her life and knocked her off her feet, like a huge wave camouflaging a deadly undertow, like the downdraft from a storm cloud about to spawn a tornado.
"Sure," she said, with a smile she didn't feel.
She didn't have to marry Jacob, for God's sake. She didn't even have to go out with him again. But at least she could take the first step to having a life again.
"This has been nice," Shepard said at last. "But I think I'm ready to call it a night."
"Can I take you home?" Jacob asked, and when his hand slipped around her waist, she knew what he was asking.
"No, I don't think so," she replied awkwardly, feeling like a user as she pulled away from his touch. Had she manipulated him, led him on when she had no intention of following through?
"Oh," was all that Jacob said, and Shepard found herself struggling to read his expression through her alcohol-hazed brain. Was he angry, that he wasted his evening with a woman who wouldn't put out? Sad, that she'd turned him down again? Confused, feeling he'd done something wrong?
But what could she have done? How could she explain that she found his touch repulsive, through no fault of his own?
She had to say something. He deserved that much. "I'm sorry, Jacob, it's just…I lost someone very special to me. We were engaged. He died."
"Oh." Jacob's expression had changed, was clearly sympathetic now, with a trace of awkwardness.
"I really am glad to see you again, but…I'm nowhere near ready to date. What I really need right now is a friend."
Jacob nodded. "Yeah. A friend." He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Jane, but I don't think I'd ever be able to just be your friend. You're an incredible woman, and…"
"Please. Hear me out. You're an incredible woman, and I know I can't get past that long enough to be your buddy." He hugged her; she let him. To his credit, he did not try to kiss her. "It was good to see you. Take care of yourself."
And then he walked away.
Shepard felt sick. Felt like she was betraying Garrus for even allowing the hug. Felt like throwing…
Fifteen minutes later, Shepard stumbled out of the bathroom, her stomach empty, her mouth tasting vile, and her heart hurting worse than ever. Damn these miserable high heels—she could barely walk in them. She was drunk and sick and wounded and was there anyone in the whole damn universe left who'd even give a shit—anyone who'd even care if she were dying?
One person came to mind.
On impulse, she activated her omni-tool and entered an address.
"Jane? Is that you?"
"I'm at the Dark Star." She took a deep breath. "Can you take me home? I mean, if you've got something better to do, I can call a taxi…"
Miles Haron piloted the aircar through the Citadel skylanes, all the while fighting a vague sensation that he was a pathetic excuse for a turian. Shepard called, and he came running, as though he had nothing better to do than sit around and wait for the human to need him.
On the other hand, it wasn't as though he had no time to spare. He loved to play with his sister's kids and draw sketches and play Galaxy of Fantasy, but all those things could be done some other day. Shepard, on the other hand, had nobody else to turn to, and if he didn't help her… He couldn't bear imagining her standing somewhere all alone, waiting for a cab to come along.
He turned the corner and there she was, standing under a lamppost, a solitary human female in a dress that looked rumpled and completely out of place on her, her cheeks streaked with some sort of black paint that leaked from the corners of her eyes.
She'd been crying, he knew, but despite that he couldn't help the part of him that was intrigued by those streaks on her face, as though she had been born in some obscure turian colony that sported dark, asymmetrical tattoos…
Miles shook his head, wondering what the hell he was thinking as he pulled up at the curb.
"Thanks for coming," Shepard said as she opened the door and sat next to him. "You sure you've really got nothing better to do?" Shepard said, but the sniffle that followed put the lie to her words.
She had tried to hide it from everyone else at work, but lately the cracks in her façade were becoming large enough for the other officers to suspect that something was wrong. Haron, who had known the truth for longer, was worried for her. Administrative leave would do her no favours; he felt that her job was the only thing holding her together.
"Chellick fired me," she whispered.
Haron felt his blood run cold. So, the matter had decided itself, then.
"Well, not really fired," she elaborated when she saw the look on his face. "Medical leave, he called it, but it feels like fired to me. I'm not supposed to come to work until I'm back to my usual self. In the meantime, I'm supposed to see doctors and counsellors and take pills…" She choked; a tear ran down her face. "As if any of that can cure the fact that Garrus is dead."
"I know," he said, and Spirits, he did know, but this was about her, not about him. "Hang on," he whispered. "We'll be home soon."
They were barely in the apartment door before Shepard buried her face in Haron's neck and wept.
She put her arms around him and clung to him, and he was solid and comforting, anchoring her in the dark maelstrom that her life had become, offering her a refuge that was warm and secure and tender. His chest was firm, a little narrower than Garrus' had been, but every bit as supportive. Funny how she now found human men a bit unpleasant to hug, the way they were so soft and slightly squishy.
Finally, as Haron was wiping the tears from her eyes, a yawn escaped her.
"Let's get you to bed," he murmured.
She could argue with him, but what was the point?
Miles helped her into bed, just as he had when she'd been injured. He seemed not to notice that she still had her dress on. As he tucked the sheet around her she knew what would happen next. She could already feel herself bracing for the ache that would hit her when his body withdrew, and she realized that she did not want it to.
Garrus is gone.
This wasn't even about living again. This was about holding on, one night at a time.
"Don't go," she whispered.
"I'll be here if you need me," he said, ignorant of the full impact of those words, and before Shepard knew it, she had sat up in bed, taken hold of his mandibles, and kissed Sergeant Miles Haron.
This couldn't be happening.
It was strange—very strange—but not bad. Not bad in the least. Haron moved his mouth and hoped he was doing it right. He put his hands on her shoulder blades in the hopes that if he was encouraging enough, she'd keep going.
He'd never thought of her…okay, that was a lie. He had, on three separate occasions, commenced fantasies of what it might be like to make love with Shepard. On each occasion he had stopped around the part where clothes came off and chided himself for thinking this way about his superior officer—even if he was currently living in her apartment. The first time, he'd quickly edited the fantasy with a female he'd known in boot camp; it had proven mediocre with the new leading lady. The second time he'd snuck a Fornax out of the confiscated-goods locker. The third time he'd just given up and spent ten minutes freezing under an ice-cold shower.
What he'd never thought was that there might be an actual chance in hell of him hooking up with Commander Shepard. And, now that it was happening, he hadn't the slightest idea of what to do.
He might be unspeakably jealous of that renegade named Garrus, but at the moment he realized it might be a good thing that Garrus and Shepard had been….intimate. It meant that Shepard knew what to do with a turian.
Unfortunately, it also meant that Shepard was used to a turian who knew what to do with her, and as the kiss broke, as Shepard looked up questioningly and he answered her by pressing his forehead to hers, he admitted, "I've never done this before."
It would end this before it began, of course, but perhaps that was for the best. She really wasn't in the right state to be making informed decisions.
"That's all right," she murmured as she slid her hand down to his waist. "I'll help."
Could he really let her….?
No. He had to do the right thing. It didn't matter what he wanted.
"Captain," he insisted. "You've had too much to drink tonight. I can't do this."
Spirits, he wanted to try, but he couldn't bear the idea of Jane regretting her actions in the morning.
Her seductive expression collapsed. "Miles…damn it…I can't be alone any more."
She needed to move on. That was true. He still couldn't believe she wanted to move on with him, but he wasn't going to argue with her choice.
"I can sleep here," he said quietly. "With you. And then…" He swallowed, hard. "If you still want to do this tomorrow morning, I won't say no."
She nodded, accepting. "I want you to hold me," she said, and touched the bed beside her. "Please."
Miles felt his mandibles flicker. "My sleepwear's out there," he mumbled, gesturing to the living room.
"You don't need it. Don't go." Her hand closed on his shoulder.
Oh, Spirits. He unbuttoned his uniform shirt and trousers, watching her watching him. When he fumbled on the fasteners, Shepard slithered out of her own clothing. She was shaped like an asari dancer on top. He fumbled some more.
Oh Spirits. He could see her waist. It was incredible.
Why didn't her underthings cover it? What was the point of garments that hid top and bottom and left the middle shockingly bare? He had never imagined her so…so…so aggressively sexual, so provocative…
Shepard stepped forward and finished the last of the buttons for him.
In their underthings, they slipped into bed—Shepard first, as in the old days, then Miles afterwards. He felt impossibly awkward, lying there, wondering if he was doing this wrong, doubting he was doing it right. It was up to Shepard to nestle herself against him and tuck the blanket over his shoulder.
She was soft and impossibly warm, smelling of beer and sweet flowers together. He gritted his teeth as he found his body reacting to her nearness. Would she notice?
No. The residual alcohol in her system had already dropped her into slumber.
Miles Haron lay beside her, his body tingling, his shaft painfully hard, barely daring to breathe for fear he might poke her with his plates and wake her. For a moment he tried to imagine how he would make love to her, if she asked, but the thoughts made him tremble with suppressed desire and he made himself stop before his quivering disturbed her. He slept fitfully, as though he were a child anticipating the opening of gifts on Ancestors' Day—or as though he were a teenager, preparing for bloody combat at dawn. He did not know if the morrow would bring a wondrous surprise or a terrible disaster, but either way, the waiting was hell.
Somewhere in the small hours of the morning, Haron finally fell into dream.
Shepard awoke in the cold grey light of dawn.
For the briefest of moments, leaning up against warm, leathery hide and inhaling the peculiar coppery scent of turian, she felt that all was right with the world. She stretched, and smiled as she rolled over to kiss Garrus on the tip of his mandible.
But as she inhaled, the fragrance that met her nose was one of deep forest, not grass, and she remembered once again that Garrus Vakarian was dead. The turian in her bed was Miles Haron, the one person who had reached down to pick her up after her life had fallen apart. The one person who, unbidden, had offered to help her gather the pieces and put them back into some semblance of workable order. She was damaged; she'd never again be the person she was before she'd lost Garrus. Maybe, though, she could be someone functional again.
If she could, it was Miles' doing.
She leaned over and kissed the turian lightly on the mouth.
He stirred in his sleep. She found herself looking him over again. He wasn't as striking as Garrus, but he was pleasant to look at, fit, more cute than handsome, with a nice fringe…
Oh, God. She was a xenophile. Jacob, a good-looking human, did not turn her on. Haron, an average-looking turian, did.
Shepard slipped out of bed and opened her dresser drawer. Yes, the items were where she had left them, more than a year ago. The medicated lotion that would protect her skin from chafing. The two injectors in case of allergic reactions. The box of condoms…she quickly checked the date on the side. Yes. Still good.
For a moment she felt guilty about betraying Garrus. She probably always would. But she was too young to stay celibate for the rest of her life, and she would die before her time if she had to stay in that cold, grey half-life where she'd spent the past year. Garrus would have wanted the best for her. It was what she would have wanted for him.
She rubbed the lotion into her skin and slipped back into bed, nuzzling up against Miles Haron.
Sergeant Haron woke up slowly, unwilling to leave the dream he was dreaming.
He was, impossibly, in bed with Commander Shepard. They were both wearing underwear, but nothing more. Shepard's soft breasts caressed the plates of his chest as her hips beat gently against his. Her garments left her waist bare; he did not dare to touch it, so he curled his hands over her shoulder blades instead. Even with underthings on, he could feel her heat, thought he could feel tantalizing wetness. She shifted her pelvis, searching, until she found the exact position where his length pressed against her in exactly the right spot. He knew when she found it. She sighed in pleasure and he felt her body's yielding even through their clothing.
Her fingers splayed across his back. So many soft little nails scratched his hide. He returned the gesture, curling his talons so he would not draw blood.
He wasn't sure how to initiate a kiss, so he touched his forehead to hers instead, realizing too late that humans did not do that. But Shepard accepted the gesture, and then slipped her fingers up under her fringe.
Oh. Yes. She knows what a turian likes.
He made a questioning noise deep in his throat. Shepard smiled, kissed him softly. Yes, she was awake and alert and aware once more, and yes, she still wanted this. He had no reason to question her further.
Miles rested his hands on her ribs, wondering if he might be allowed to touch her waist. He stroked her, up and down, lightly scratching her back, slowly working his way towards her hips. Surely she would guess where his hands were going. Surely she would object if she did not want him to touch her there.
And yet he could not quite summon the nerve to do it. Oh, Spirits, he was going to lose his mind. Soft hide, sweet scent, lips on his mandibles, Shepard…
She moved, turning next to him until she lay mostly on her back. Confused, he held still, waiting to see what was about to come next. He felt her hand curve overtop of his, guiding it to…
He froze for only a moment before he forced his arm into something approximating a stroke. Shepard sighed, apparently with pleasure, and that gave him the courage to do it again as her hand once again showed him how.
"Jane," he croaked, his voice hoarse with nervousness. "I…I've never done this before."
"That's all right," she murmured. "Here. Let me show you what I like."
She took him on a tour of her body, urging him to explore the curve of her hip, the flat planes of her belly, the soft roundness of her breasts under the thin, black lace of her…what was that little top called again? She asked him to sit and sat between his legs, reached one arm under the other to unhook her undergarment, and then leaned her bare back against his chest. Quivering in anticipation, he could not resist hooking his hands around her waist and stroking it as he waited for her to settle back against him.
Comfortably in position, Jane took his hands and taught him to cup her breasts, how to fondle them, how to roll her nipples between his talons. Then she said, simply, "Do that" and leaned her head back onto his shoulder, letting her own hands fall as he continued to touch the sensitive little nubs. A deep, throaty moan rolled from her chest.
He was doing this. He, Miles Haron. The idea was arousing and intoxicating and…
Shepard's body was moving in his grip. Her hips were shifting in rhythmic pulses. It made her rump rub against him in a very, very appealing way. Her breasts felt heavy in his hands. He watched he r soft, plump lips part with another moan.
He'd never thought of himself as a xenophile and yet…
How was it possible to feel so aroused and yet so honoured at the same time?
Before he knew it, he had nuzzled away her hair to find the nape of her neck. He'd already nipped her when he realized that he'd bitten down with the pressure he'd used on a turian. Shit! He spat out salty blood. And worse, she'd pulled away from him.
"Ow!" she protested, at the same time as he yelped, "OhspiritsI'msosorry…"
Jane gave him a smile and said, "Hey. I like the nipping. Just not so hard, and after…" She leaned back against him. He could have sworn her expression was growing sultry before he lost sight of her face behind the spider silk of her hair. "After you nip, I want you to lick me there."
He nodded, though she could not see him. Yes. That he could do. He found a spot on the side of her neck, away from the minor injury he'd inflicted, and tried again. A very tentative bite . A lick…
Her skin was salt and musk and heat. The sensation of his tongue on her skin clearly pleased her. He curved his talons around her breasts again and was rewarded with a cry of pleasure, but before he could resume his prior repertoire, he found her hand on his again, guiding it somewhere else.
His left hand still held her breast as she carefully positioned her second and third finger onto his first talon. Her breath hitched when she urged his digit against the soft lace of her panties. He moved his talon ever so slightly and was shocked at the way she arched against him.
Miles felt something quiver in his belly as he explored the human pleasure-spot. He marvelled at how Shepard shifted to spread her legs as wide as she could, the better to expose herself to his touch. He thrilled at how she trusted him to please her, how she was letting him do this and more, urging him on, asking for it…
"Please, Miles. Don't stop."
Begging for it.
Oh, and something was quivering elsewhere, too. Was mating with her going to feel like it felt now, with his shaft rubbing against and between her buttocks? How long would that thin lacy material withstand the onslaught of a turian's shaft?
Apparently too long for Shepard, as she whimpered, then growled and roughly grabbed the material, rising up on her knees, bracing her arms…
…and then looking back at him, a question in her eyes.
"What do you want?" he asked her softly.
"Can you take me home?" she whispered, for the second time that night.
Yes. Yes he could, and when his mouth refused to form the words, he nodded instead and reached for her. "Show me what to do," he begged.
He was not sure how it would happen. He guessed that when she was ready, she would mount him. Tentatively, he shifted to lie down, hoping to make it easier for her.
Instead, Haron made an "urk" of surprise as Shepard, with well-practiced speed, rolled a condom onto him. He stared at the sight of himself sheathed this way; two thoughts collided inside his head. First, that he hadn't even thought about the opposing-chirality contamination. He wasn't worried for himself—he'd been tested upon joining C-Sec and his allergy sensitivity was lower than usual for a turian—but for her. That had been stupid and inconsiderate of him to forget that she might be more reactive. It was a good thing she was the one in charge here.
And secondly, that he was about to mate with Captain Jane Shepard. He tried to hold steady as he waited for her to straddle him and take him, but instead, she lay on her back next to him, opening her arms—and her legs—invitingly. Her head turned to the side and she smiled at him. "Miles," she said.
Nervously, Miles rolled atop her, then knelt between her legs, leaning forward so she could wrap her arms around his shoulders. She sighed happily, but he felt anxious now that he could no longer see how her parts were supposed to line up with his. He whimpered anxiously, suddenly afraid that if he didn't figure this out and fast, he might not be able to go through with it at all. And, of course, the longer that thought stayed in his brain, the quicker the impending disaster would arrive…
It would probably have been easier for poor Miles if she'd been on top, but when it came right down to it, Shepard had lost her nerve. There was something about the idea of, well, of taking the initiative to fuck his brains out that was just a bit too much, too fast, for her right now. It was strange enough lying with someone who wasn't….wasn't her fiancé. The only way to make that fact easier to take was to be in a position where she could let the rising tide of desire sweep all other thoughts from her mind—a position where she didn't have to think about keeping her balance or what to do when.
Yes, he was unpractised; if he hadn't told her she was his first human, she would have guessed by now. It didn't matter. He was kind and respectful and…and a quick learner, and…and she wanted him. Dear God, she did. She wanted to have sex with Sergeant Haron.
He hesitated now, and she took mercy on him. Jane reached down between them and took hold of his shaft in her hand.
He gasped. Closed his eyes. Mewled. She had surprised him, but he liked it. He was firming up under her touch. She moved her hand and listened to his breathing grow ragged and his shaft become hot and hard. That had to feel good….but she knew what would feel better. Her body was tingling, warm and moist and ready to receive.
She guided him to the right place. "There," she said, struggling not to groan as she placed the tip of him at her entrance. "Thrust there…"
Haron, ever the good turian, obeyed.
He didn't use much force, and so only his head him made its way in, but that was more than enough to make her moan. His mandibles flared and he tried again, driving himself in deeper. "More," she urged him. "Please."
She didn't need to tell him twice. Every thrust took him deeper inside her and every thrust felt better, better yet, until he feared his heart would stop and his lungs burst from the pleasure of it. Spirits, it felt amazing.
Haron had assumed she would feel wet inside. The condom prevented him from feeling the slickness moving over his shaft, which was something he'd never actually thought about before. Still, the rhythmic pulsing of her muscles felt far, far better than anything he'd ever managed with his own hand. He'd been wrong. This was nothing like rubbing against her panties. That had been a tease, nothing more. This was the real thing and oh Spirits, please let her be enjoying this as much as he was.
He moved against her, feeling himself sinking deeper, deeper into her, until finally his tip pressed up against something inside and she screamed. He froze, afraid he'd hurt her again, until her eyes flew open and she demanded, "Don't you dare stop!"
He didn't. He abandoned his control, did what he wanted to do, and she mewed her approval, eager for more, urging him on.
Haron stopped thinking about it and just fucked her, and she thrust her hips against him, and it was great, and…
Her muscles tightened on him, milking him intensely. A tremor rippled through her body. She was clinging to him, and her eyes were closed tightly, and her lips moved…
"Garrus….Garrus!" she cried as she spasmed against him, clawing his carapace and clenching his waist in her knees.
She was dreaming of her lover. He didn't care. This was Jane, open and vulnerable and be damned if he'd let her down. He gave her what he knew she wanted, and when the tears came from the corner of her eyes, he licked them away. Finally she stilled, and though he was still inside her and he ached from the want of her, he forced himself to continue lapping her cheeks, her lips.
Shepard's eyes opened.
"Miles," she murmured.
He gritted his mandibles, ready to withdraw on her word.
He nodded—it was all he could manage.
"Let's take care of you," she said, her voice deep.
Miles' brain couldn't process the meaning of the words, but when she lifted her hips against him, when her hands pressed down and forward on his shoulders, he knew what she meant.
Slower. Slower, sweeter this time, and Jane was watching him. He found himself staring into her eyes as their bodies fell into a slower rhythm, a pattern as natural as breathing. The tips of her breasts pressed into his hide. He caressed her waist as they made love. Once in a while her body shivered beneath him; he wasn't sure if those were smaller orgasms or not.
And then he remembered how she'd loved his tongue, so he began to lick her throat, her collarbone… He was laving her breasts when she came again, and yes, he knew that time.
But it was hard to lick and mate at the same time and soon he was back stretched atop her, thrusting into her welcoming core. Oh, Spirits. He was being selfish now, but he wanted so very badly to feel the kind of release she'd been enjoying.
Shepard had come how many times now? Two? Three? Four? Was that enough? He'd heard human females were like turians in that regard. He remembered his old drill instructor, and a conversation between her and her friend that he wished he'd hadn't had the misfortune of overhearing.
I'll cuff this new guy upside the head if he doesn't get me off at least five times before he gets his.
She was apparently every bit as vicious in bed as she was on the drill square. Miles had promptly had nightmares of falling into the woman's clutches. And now he was with Shepard, who'd fought Captain Anderson and the geth on the Citadel. How good was the Spectre, Vakarian? How many times did Shepard consider adequate?
….Probably something like ten. He'd never make it.
Still, if he gritted his teeth and thought about something unsexy, he ought to be able to last a little bit longer.
….what was unsexy? Humans? No. Humans, as it turned out, were very sexy.
His old drill sergeant. Yes. That leathery old bitch was definitely unsexy, the way she stalked around yelling abuse at everyone, demanding faster, harder, more….
Shepard can drill me any day.
No! Change of subject. Criminals! Criminals were unsexy. The only satisfying thing about interacting with criminals was slapping the cuffs on them and…
You've been a very naughty girl, Jane. I'm afraid I have no choice but to take you in.
Really, Sergeant? Is there any way I could…make it up to you?
Unexpectedly, Shepard dug her nails into his back. They hooked on the edge of his plate, sunk into the tender skin beneath. Startled, he lunged into her; she hooked her legs around his hips to keep him there in this position, lifting her butt right up off the bed, angling her as he drove down into her and she milked him and….
Jane cried out as her climax tore through her, a different name this time. His name. It was more than a mortal turian man could take.
Sergeant Haron actually saw his vision blur and fade to black as he came inside her with a force he hadn't thought possible.
Jane Shepard allowed herself only a few moments to catch her breath before she pushed at Haron's chest, a signal to withdraw. After a year without sex, she was more than a little tender from the rigorous coupling they'd just enjoyed and…
I screwed Sergeant Haron.
She looked down at herself, glistening with sweat, her legs spread wide and…oh, God, Haron's shaft sliding out of her, slick with her own juices. The bedsheets rumpled from their exertions. The air heady with the musky scent of human sex and the sweet tang of turian sex mingled together. Miles' breath came in short rasps as he looked at her, seeking approval. She rewarded him with a smile, not trusting herself to speak.
Haron cleaned himself up quickly, quietly. She figured she ought to do so too. When she was done, she curled up under the blanket and waited for him to rejoin her.
She'd always love Garrus. Hell, she doubted she'd ever love anyone else that way again. But she needed to learn to live again, and this was a good start.
I screwed Sergeant Haron, I loved it, and I'm going to do it again.
Shepard lifted the blanket, patted the bed beside her. Haron, nervously, slid in beside her. "Was it okay?" he asked urgently.
"More than okay," she said, reassuring him. "How about you? Was that…as nice as a turian woman?"
He stared at her, looking blank.
Was it really that bad for him?
"No," Haron said at last, shaking his head. "I didn't mean I'd never done that with a human before." He ducked his chin shyly. "I mean I'd never done that with anyone before."
Oh, shit, Shepard thought, and that sick I'm-betraying-Garrus feeling joined with a whole new source of nausea she thought of as the I'm-a-user sensation. Shit, what had she done? What she'd thought had been two friends sharing benefits had suddenly turned into a situation where a selfish, self-centered woman manipulated a…
Miles seemed to intuit her disquiet. "I, er, I hope it wasn't too awful for you."
"No," Shepard said quickly. "No, that's not it…it's just that…" She looked at her hands. "I'm damaged goods. You know that. Your first time should have been with….with…"
"With someone I love?" Miles guessed.
She nodded miserably.
"Jane…" The turian took a deep breath. "I was in love with someone, once. In boot camp. We were going to wait until we were married. We, ah, we nuzzled, touched foreheads, nothing more. Our wedding was delayed several times as one or the other of us had our leave from military service cancelled. In the end…in the end she was killed defending a colony from batarian raiders, and we lost our chance, forever." Miles raised his eyes to hers. "So I know how it feels to lose your life-mate. And I know how it feels to try to put yourself back together again. I'm damaged too, Jane, and I am never again going to make the mistake of putting off the chance to live a little. If you have no regrets, I have no regrets." His hand curled tentatively around hers.
He had not attempted to define their relationship. That was just as well. They were far too personal for colleagues, too intimate for friends, but they'd never been on a date, nor was she anywhere near ready to call Miles Haron words like boyfriend, lover, partner. Those were Garrus Vakarian's words.
As for regrets…she was not sure she could regret Garrus' death when she had done nothing to cause it. She had not asked him to help her to the rescue pod first; he had insisted. It was the way he was—the way he had been. Had he been the one with the broken leg, he would have been alive now, and she would have been dead.
So, the situation being what it was…no, she had no regrets.
"There are worse things," Shepard murmured, "than two people comforting one another."
Miles Haron lowered his head to hers, tentatively touched her mouth with his tongue.
His kissing skills were improving very rapidly indeed.
One week after the resurrection of Garrus Vakarian
Garrus sat in his quarters on the bridge of the reborn Normandy SR-2 and flipped through the list of dossiers on his personal workstation. He could not fathom what was going through Saren's mind when he compiled this list.
The turians he understood. Saren had been a very busy man during his years as a Spectre, using the freedom and flexibility of his role to amass a vast personal fortune and begin building the turian-supremacist organization he called Facinus. Garrus glanced over the names on his list.
Kihilix Tanus, Saren's right-hand man, and to Garrus' mind, an obnoxious, overbearing braggart who flaunted his alleged superiority every chance he got.
Captain Gavorn was already on station, much to Garrus' relief. He could not think of anyone better to put in charge of his armoury. But why had Gavorn capitulated to a maverick supremacist so readily?
That was something Garrus would have expected of Lorik Quinn, but Quinn had apparently retired to Invictus; he'd certainly be surprised if Garrus dropped in from beyond the grave for a chat. Perhaps Garrus could talk him into another adventure.
There was also a dossier with Lilihierax's name on it, so it looked as though Garrus would get a second familiar face on his team, if only he could convince the engineer to drop whatever he was working on and come back for another ride on the new Normandy.
But these other operatives:
Thane Krios. Drell assassin.
Warlord Okeer. Krogan geneticist.
Ashley Williams. Human soldier. Ashley? What had convinced Ashley, of all people, to trust a turian supremacist like Saren Arterius? He had better find out, if he was to convince these other aliens to join him.
Spirits, he wasn't entirely convinced himself that Saren's damned "Collectors" were even real, but right now, he had very little choice. He had no doubt that Tanus would end him if he pushed his luck too far.
Garrus sighed, flipped another file over. Jeff Moreau. Human pilot. Aileron had gone down with the Normandy rather than leave her. How was poor Cadeucia holding up from the loss of her husband? It just wasn't right. It was the captain, not the pilot, who was supposed to go down with the ship…
…but he had gone down with the ship. He, however, had been brought back. There would be no magical resurrection for Aileron, or Aquila, or anyone else who had died on the Normandy.
Aquila. A memory floated through Garrus' mind. Himself, Shepard, and Aquila, who had gone from resenting Jane's role both on the ship and as Garrus' lover, to taking part quite enthusiastically in pleasuring both himself and Jane… Oh, and the look on Jane's face when she had enjoyed Garrus' shaft and Aquila's tongue at the same time…
No. He could not think about that now. Dossiers.
Mordin Solus. Salarian scientist.
Jacqueline Pointe. Human biotic.
Samara (no surname given). Asari justicar.
Tali'Zorah vas Nedas. Quarian engi…could that be the Tali he knew?
He hoped it was. He could use some familiar faces. Three names he'd expected to see were missing.
And Jane Shepard.
Absently, Garrus' hand moved down to his rib cage, and there, it stopped.
Moments later he opened his comm link to Saren. "Where's my scar?" he demanded, without preamble.
Saren replied coolly, "We fixed you. Eliminated all your injuries, including that one."
"Put it back." Garrus' voice was cold and flat.
Garrus could hear the disapproval in Saren's voice. "Why ever would you want such an unsightly—and unnecessary—blemish?"
"Never mind." Garrus ended the communication. Withdrew his combat knife. Examined the hide stretched over ribs on a body that only superficially resembled his original form. Who knew what was under that skin? Cybernetics and vat-grown organs and Spirits only knew what.
It would make him scream if he thought of it, so he pushed it from his mind. First, he would fix this body as best he could by carving his bond with Shepard back into his flesh. Then he would go out and find her, and nothing in the universe would stand in his way.