Time stopped its journey forward, with the two of them simply staring at each other from their respective positions on the floor. Shepard felt tears prick at the back of her eyes, and a lump formed in her throat as his words sank in. She was not, by nature, much of a cryer, but damned if her eyes weren't about to spring a leak over her turian's softly-spoken declaration.

It took several tries, but she eventually managed to get the lump in her throat to dissolve so that she could say, "Garrus, that's just about sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me."

His mandibles stretched outward in a grin as he sat up, her hands still clutched in his. Idly, he wove his fingers with hers, and while it should have looked strange, his small number of talons with her seeming overabundance of digits, it worked just fine. It just took a little adjustment to make everything fit together comfortably.

Not entirely unlike their relationship, really, but that was something to be mulled over at another time and place.

He leaned in, then, until his forehead brushed against hers as he replied, "Just returning the favor."

From inches away, he watched as her eyelids fluttered closed, another happy sigh on her lips. Her evident contentment emboldened him, so much so that he nipped at her chin, the closest thing to a kiss he could give her. Her eyes flew open, and the look within them told him that she knew exactly what he'd just done. Smiling, she tipped her face forward to return the gesture, and his grin broadened. He couldn't express what it meant to him, that she was using overtures that were familiar to his kind, rather than treating him like he was a spikey, hard-skinned human.

Actually, he could. And he wasn't going to wait another minute longer to do it.

With a grace and speed she'd only ever seen him use on the battlefield, Shepard could do nothing but hold on as Garrus levered both of them off the floor (how he accomplished such a feat, she wasn't sure, but really couldn't find the gumption to care) and backward onto the bed.

They bounced a bit as they settled down on the mattress, and suddenly, she found herself flat on her back, looking up into the plated face she'd come to adore.

"Now, where were we?" His breath was hot against her collarbone as he nuzzled up to her, breathing in her very singular scent. Elsewhere, his hands set to work at divesting his human of what remained of her clothes. "Ah, yes. I remember." He dragged the tips of his mandibles down the valley between her breasts, and her chest heaved in a gasp.

It was interesting, on some level, that a sound that used to worry him was now one he looked forward to hearing. In fact, the list of noises she made that he liked was growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to this current situation.

The only thing he enjoyed more than hearing those sounds was doing the things that dragged those noises out of her in the first place.

With that in mind, he changed trajectory, and ever so slowly licked the underside of a breast, just to see what would happen. That little nub in the middle he'd played with earlier seemed to be very sensitive to touch, so perhaps the rest was, too.

Shepard's back arched sharply, the motion accompanied by a breathless cry. Garrus smiled smugly and did it again, this time on the other side, and held back a chuckle as she grabbed the back of his head to try and hold it in place.

Much as he would have liked to fulfill her silent plea, he'd just succeeded in disengaging all the snaps of her pants, and given that neither of them was going to get any real relief until they were well and truly naked, there was no way he was going to delay getting them in that state any longer than he had to. So, he pulled away from her desperate hold to tug her slacks down her legs with a jubilant growl.

Of course, his triumph was short-lived when he realized that the previously-outwitted bra had an accomplice.

The timbre of his growling must have changed, as Shepard was up out of her prone position and placing her hands on his hips in a placating manner before Garrus even noticed she'd moved.

"Relax, big guy. Let me handle this part." Her eyes never leaving his face, she tilted her head downward, which caused her bearing to change from reassuring to demure. The affect was completely ruined by the impish grin she wore, however, and it was a look he knew well. It was a look that said, "I know something you don't," and it was then that he saw where her hands were headed.

In his previous frenzy to reveal more of her soft flesh to his eyes, Garrus had missed a very intriguing detail: Her underwear sported a pair of bows, one at the peak of each hip bone. While they appeared to be purely decorative, as it turned out, this was far from the case.

With slow, deliberate movements, Shepard took the tail of each ribbon between a thumb and forefinger, and pulled until both bows had unraveled. Then, with a quick flick of her wrists, the triangle of black fabric was gone, and there was nothing between the two of them but distance.

Well, that, and his pants. And that simply wouldn't do.

He scrambled backward until he was standing at the foot of the bed, franticly hauling his trousers down his legs, only to get held up by his spurs. With a snarl, the turian pulled with all his strength, and the seams appeared to disintegrate in fear at the violence he displayed. His pants now pretty much useless, he dropped what was left of them and vaulted forward, sending Shepard sprawling backward onto the bedspread in slack-jawed shock.

The shock wore off quickly, as Garrus was moving down her body at a moderate, but purposeful pace. Leaving a trail of nipping "kisses" in his wake, he traveled down her torso until he reached the juncture of her thighs, and pulled up short.

She watched as he contemplated this newly-revealed part of her person. The throbbing that had started there a long time ago increased steadily under his scrutiny, and Shepard just barely succeeded in keeping her protests to herself as she waited for him to work out whatever was going through his head. There was no point in complaining, as all it would do is make him feel the need to rush, and rushing him was the last thing she wanted to do.

At least, that's what the nice part of her personality was saying. Her bitchier side was screaming at her to demand that he stop playing games and nail her into the mattress right. Fucking. NOW.

To occupy herself, she craned her neck in attempt to check out certain parts of his anatomy, but found that between his position and her vantage point, she couldn't see a damn thing.

That didn't matter, though, as her vision went white a second later, when Garrus took a tentative swipe at her opening with his tongue.

She couldn't see, couldn't breathe, couldn't think. Every nerve ending in her body was firing at once, and all she could do was grasp at the comforter beneath her hands in hopes of keeping herself grounded. A flanging chortle was her only warning before the sensation returned, and her hips bucked upward of their own accord.

Her fists twisted in the blankets, awaiting the next onslaught, when a new feeling permeated her mental fog: A faintly burning tingle. It took several seconds for her conscious mind to catch up to what her subconscious had already figured out.

She freed her hands from the blankets and brought them up to his head, pulling at his fringe in an attempt to get his attention.

"Garrus," she panted, "Garrus, as wonderful as that is, I think you'd better stop."

He looked at her, his expression akin to disappointment. Then, he seemed to read the message in her eyes and the look changed to one of alarm. "How bad is it?"

"Nothing life threatening. What about you?"

". . .now that you mention it, my tongue's burning a little." He stuck out the aforementioned organ, and sort of picked at it with his talons. Whatever test he was running on himself, he seemed satisfied with the results, as he said, "Not as bad as I feared."

Whatever she was about to say in response died on her lips, as it was at that moment her gaze drifted downward to the space between his legs.

She couldn't keep the smirk from her face as she drawled, "Well, well, well. Who do we have here?" The human pushed herself into a sitting position, which caused the turian to retreat a tad to keep from bumping their heads together. She knew from the pamphlets a certain scientist had provided for her perusal that a turian's manhood (turian-hood?) only emerged from its protective sheath when the male in question was one-hundred-percent ready and raring to go. This development sent all the forlorn thoughts that had been teasing the edge of her mind as a result of the previous minute's incident skittering back into their dark, angsty corners.

Almost languidly, she reached a hand forward to rest on the plates just above his member as she intoned, "Care to introduce us?"

Garrus jerked at her touch, and her smile turned absolutely wicked at her next line of thought. Looks like that's a sensitive spot. I wonder. . . With a playful air, she scratched at the plates beneath her hand, and could barely contain her glee when the focus of her "experiment" twitched in response.

With a wistful (and fleeting) thought about what she couldn't do with this information, Shepard's eyes darkened as she said lightly, "Oh, well. A good, old-fashioned handshake will have to do."

With that, her fingers wrapped around this particular point of interest, and squeezed.

Her feather-light touch on the most vulnerable part of him was too much. Garrus had thought he was going to lose it when she started scratching along his waist and lower abdomen, but that was nothing compared to what he was feeling at the moment.

"Shepard. . .," he'd started to warn her that he was very close to his breaking point.

Then she'd squeezed him, and that, as they say, was all she wrote.

Unbeknownst to him, he'd hissed aloud, and Shepard's hand left him. "Oh, god, Garrus, I'm sor-"

She never got out the rest of her apology.

With a roar that would have startled them both if they'd stopped long enough to think about it, Garrus seized Shepard by the waist and hauled her to him. In a pantomime of their earlier embrace, he picked her up with the intention of wrapping her around him in a very different way, when she wheezed into his ear, "Can't yet. We need-"

His growl was low and dangerous. "Where are they?"

"Bedside table," was all she managed to say before she latched her mouth onto his throat. Then one of her hands found his fringe and yanked. Hard.

He nearly dropped her right then, but was able to hang on long enough to get around the side of the bed and fumble open the drawer of her nightstand. He fished around blindly with one hand until his talons closed around a small, rectangular box.

Pulling his prize out of the drawer, he fairly threw Shepard down on the bed to free up his hands. He ripped the box open with enough force that both halves of the tattered cardboard went sailing into separate parts of the room. Little foil packets flew into the air, and scattered about his feet. With a frustrated noise, he bent down to retrieve one when he suddenly discovered he didn't have to.

With an efficiency close to frightening, Shepard had a condom out of it's wrapper and rolling down over him before he could blink.

The very nanosecond she finished, he was on her, and with a long look that was equal parts affection and desire (one that was reflected in her eyes), he settled between her legs and brought her forward until they were joined in the most literal way possible.

Neither of them knew quite what they should expect when they had imagined how this, the most intimate of physical acts, would go. Even after reading all the journal articles and watching all the vids, they knew things could go very, very badly. Or, at the very least, very, very awkwardly. Hell, the odds of things going remotely well were pretty slim, considering.

Which is why they were in no way prepared for how right it felt when they came together that first time.

The couple groaned in unison, he marveling at how easily he'd slid into her, she in awe that his "impossible reach" seemed to extend to parts of him other than his arms. His talons flexed at her hips, and her nails dug into the hide separating his shoulder plates from his upper arms. Neither of them moved more than that for a while, the both of them adjusting to this new degree of closeness, and the realization that there really was no turning back.

Not that either of them wanted to. Or could.

Garrus was trying to gauge if it was safe to move when Shepard wiggled her hips, and that was more than enough encouragement in his aroused state. He pulled back a fraction, then pushed forward, testing the proverbial waters.

She groaned again, and pushed herself closer to him in what appeared to be an unconscious show of approval. He did it again, pulling back farther this time, and he felt something very strange and amazing happen. Her channel contracted, gripping him, and it evoked the same feeling that had surfaced when she squeezed him with her hand, only much more pronounced.

Time slowed and raced in consonance, as he pushed her back onto the bed and covered her smaller body with his larger one. His renewed thrusting was shallow at first, but quickly increased in depth and speed as his need to find completion multiplied, a million-fold.

Shepard's knees were nearly level with her shoulders, her ankles flush with her hips, and even though she knew she was really going to feel this later, it wouldn't hold a candle to the way it was feeling now. Sparks were exploding in front of her eyes as he stroked her deepest reaches with each snap of his hips. Granted, it had been a long time since she'd last been with anyone, but she was certain that had little to do with her reaction. She could feel that her shins and the backs of her thighs were already chafing, and still, she didn't care. All that mattered was the sound of their mingled moaning, the building heat in her loins, and the fact that the person doing this to (with) her was her match in every way.

As such, it shouldn't have surprised her in the least when her orgasm snuck up on her, completely overwhelming in it's ferocity. Her eyelids clamped shut and this time, she couldn't stop a tear or two from leaking out. A combination of a whimper and a sob forced its way out of her lungs, and her hold on her turian's shoulders intensified as she rode the downward slope of pleasure, waiting for him to join her.

That sound nearly brought Garrus to a stuttering halt, as it was unlike anything he'd ever heard, and he was worried that something had gone wrong. Then he saw her back arch, felt her spasm around him, and all concern fled as he finally reached his peak with a startled grunt. His remaining thrusts were jagged and uneven, much like his breathing, and by the time he'd finished, he was gasping for air like a dying man desperate to hang onto life.

He collapsed on top of her, sated and exhausted, and barely had the presence of mind to roll to the side to avoid squishing her, pulling her into his chest and laying his rough cheek atop her head as they both slid comfortably into unconsciousness.


It wasn't until much later, after they'd dozed for a while and simply enjoyed that ephemeral period known to many as the afterglow, that conversation began anew.

"Something just occurred to me."


"That. . .what was it you called those lacy things?"


"Right. Those didn't seem very practical, considering your lifestyle."

"They aren't meant to be practical. They're meant to be enticing."


"Did they work?"

"To a certain extent." He was fiddling with her hair now, which she'd finally thought to take out of its perpetual bun after she'd woken up. It hadn't taken much effort, seeing as it had come halfway undone during their. . .exertions. "How fortunate you happened to be wearing them tonight," he mused, absently flipping a tuft of hair back and forth across his knuckles.

Her tone changed from conversational to something he couldn't really decipher. "Yeah, about that. I sort of stacked the deck in my favor."

He dropped the strands he was playing with and lifted his head off the pillow to look down at her. "Explain."

"I have six sets of those, in different colors. I've been changing into a set to wear when I'm off duty every other day for the last two months. Just in case."

He paused, and she could practically hear the gears in his head grinding as he thought over the implications of that admission. This hadn't been the first time they'd been alone together in those eight weeks. It wasn't even the first time they'd slept side by side. It just happened to be the first time they'd been physically intimate, and what he said next seemed to be rather non-sequitter. "Five."

"Five what?"

"Five sets, not six. I ruined your bra, remember?"

"Oh. Right. Well, it was an acceptable loss. Black isn't my best color, anyway."

He nuzzled the side of her neck, chuckling warmly as he said, "That's one of the things I love about you, Shepard."

Her heart stuttered a bit at his use of the "L" word. It was silly, as she was as sure of what he felt for her as she was that she couldn't hack her way out of a grocery bag if her life depended on it, but he'd never actually said it before. Technically, he still hadn't, but that was neither here nor there. "And what would that be, exactly?"

"I think there's a human phrase that fits best: You know how to roll with the punches."

She grinned as she quipped, "That's me. Endlessly adaptable." She was quiet for a long moment. Then, rather shyly, she asked, "What else do you like about me?"

"Are you sure you want to hear the list right now? It could take a while."

"Oh, I'm sure we can find something to do while you're waxing poetic about my finer qualities." She was doing her best to suppress a laugh at his indignant huff at the back of her neck, but the laughter was cut short at the gentle nip he gave her shoulder.

"Which brings us to item number two: You're an excellent multi-tasker."

They didn't get back to sleep until an hour or so later, when they'd exhausted their voices (and their bodies) to the point of lethargy. But that was okay. They didn't really need words or grand overtures to get their respective points across anymore, anyway. A brush of the forehead or a nip at the chin, or even a sidelong glance said more than enough.