She had to admit, however reluctantly, that he was good at what he did.
Not that she had done badly on this one. It was a bit hard to tell without someone impartial keeping score, but by her reckoning they were about even on the kill count.
She was good at this, too. It was simple, really, just a test of skill, hers against enemy scumbags. Even easier, they hadn't really needed any of them for questioning. It simplified everything so much, if one didn't have to remember about taking prisoners. If it moved, and wasn't by any chance a turian Spectre in grey armour, it was an enemy and could be shot. If it happened to be a turian Spectre in grey armour, on the other hand, it probably still was an enemy, but that contest would have to wait for another time. The Alliance military wouldn't have been too happy with that, they never had been. They never seemed to get that, that fancy rules of engagement were fine and honourable in theory, but reality was much more simple. The one with less rules to worry about survives.
But Saren, damned alien that he was, he got it just fine. It was why he'd stayed alive as long as he had.
There were targets, and sometime there was collateral damage that, while being regrettable, couldn't be avoided. In the end it didn't matter as long as the result was the one correct one.
Another thing they had in common. In fact, she'd come to find that there were aspects where they were rather alike. Now there was a disturbing thought.
Still, her mood was too good right now to dwell on that. She approached Saren with a triumphant grin, but he just growled and turned away, back through corridors leading to the docking bay where their ship was parked.
She caught up with him easily.
"So, what's next?"
He shrugged, not in a talkative mood, but she wasn't easily deterred.
"Whereever we go, try to choose something with a decent bar. I need a drink."
Saren just snarled, but she had never known when to stop. "And maybe we can find some nice asari to improve your mood, too." And then she couldn't resist. "If we can find a kinky one who doesn't mind turians, of course."
He stopped and stared at her, but right now she was beyond caution, and she just grinned.
The Spectre shook his head in contempt. "Still stupid, and unlikely to learn." he commented to no one in particular.
Shepard snorted in equal contempt. The comment about humans being fragile was still rankling her. "I bet it's all just big talk with your sort. Us humans, we're tougher than you think. It's what I told you at the beginning of this...I can handle whatever you dish out. You don't scare me." Then her brain caught up with what she'd been saying and the context it was said in, and she needed all her concentration to keep a blank expression as he gave her a slightly incredulous look.
"Don't I? Then, as hard to believe as it may be, I must have severely underestimated your lack of sense." She had expected him to make some really biting remark, but instead he spun around towards her, impossibly fast, grabbed her collar and shoved her against the corridor wall, hard. That was new. He'd never before tried physical threat with her.
"Maybe I should arrange for a demonstration to show you exactly how rough we play."
She blinked at a too-close view of his mostly cybernetic face. Anyone else trying this would have found themselves with her combat knife in some tender spot by now, but even she was willing to admit that wouldn't be wise under the circumstances. Yet.
Instead, she tried the other option, talking her way out of situations. She met his eyes squarely, gave him a lopsided grin and asked "Oh? Are you volunteering, then?"
His mandibles twitched ever so slightly, and she had to suppress a laugh, even as she was offended by his expression of disgust. He wasn't, of course, and he hadn't even considered that option. He wouldn't willingly touch a human any more than she'd let a turian touch her.
Which meant that she'd won that round, once he backed down with whatever means he'd come up with to save face.
Maybe she hadn't kept her thoughts from showing on her face well enough, because what was visible of his expression turned calculating. A shiver of unease ran through her as she realised she had misjudged and this wasn't over yet.
"Maybe I am." he replied, that alarming purr back in his voice.
If she were smart, she'd call this off, back down and lose some points. And her self-respect. Not a chance.
"I doubt you'd know what to with a human." she shot back, carelessly.
"I doubt you could keep up with a turian." he replied.
They stared at each other, the challenge now spoken. Shepard kept herself carefully still, not breaking eye contact. This wasn't what she had had in mind, not at all, but she'd be damned if she'd even show any hesitation. Hell with it. She'd never been one to retreat or walk away from a challenge. She had a vague idea what she was getting into. After that conversation in Afterlife where the topic had come up, she'd done some research, though the purpose had been to get more material to provoke him with. In the process of that, she had learned that the extranet could be a frightening place indeed.
While the prospect wasn't that appealing, she'd certainly lived through worse. After all, this wasn't about any sort of attraction or desire, and pleasure was only a secondary objective. This was pure dominance behaviour, something she understood all too well. She might as well play this just the same as she did everything else - full speed ahead, no compromises and devil take the hindmost.
"I must point out, you're not off to a good start here." she quipped, indicating he was still holding her by the neck and trapping her. "Not that I have any high expectations, mind, but you're sort of proving my point here."
His reaction was a short laugh, and that was as new as disturbing. She'd never heard that sound from him before.
"Last chance to back out, human." he purred, but it wasn't the tone he used just before he was going to do something unpleasant, messy and ultimately fatal to some unfortunate soul. This was new, too.
"I could say the same, turian." she replied in as close an approximation of his tone as she could muster.
He laughed again, the tone of that dropping to something deeper, more feral. And not altogether unpleasant.
"Now, release me." Shepard challenged in an even, almost bored tone.
"Not yet, I think." Despite that, he loosened his grip on her collar, only to hook a talon into one of the seals of her armour, loosening the shoulder plate.
"Very subtle." she stated.
He didn't take offence. "Subtle", he purred, "would be lost on you. And that's not what this is about, is it?"
Maybe he had a point there, she thought, allowing him to strip her armour off. No sense in letting him have all the advantage, though, so she tugged at his armour as well, taking a bit longer with the unfamiliar locking mechanism. If anything, he seemed slightly amused by what she was doing. His smug attitude irked her, but for now she kept her peace. It was always better to know the battlefield before charging in. He ran his hands down her front, splaying his taloned fingers over her breasts and stroking down to her thighs, then unhurriedly moving upwards again. The fabric of her undersuit was thin, catching on the textured pads of his gloves. A sudden heat ran through her. Well, that wasn't surprising. A good fight always put her in the mood, it was just a reaction to making it alive through a life-threatening situation. It was just something hardwired into the basic human setup, no deeper meaning to it.
Didn't change the fact that it felt good, though.
Another rub at her breasts that made her lean into the touch, and he started peeling away at her undersuit, detaching the sections with the same careless indifference he'd shown with her armour. Before she could try the same with him, he shrugged out of his own undersuit, and she got a quick view of his body, pale plates, unfamiliar, alien lines and angles, and a good share of scars. Strange, but neither attractive nor repulsive.
He stepped close, took her shoulders firmly and turned her around, then resumed his roaming over her body. He'd lost his gloves along with his clothes, and the sensation of his hands against her skin was strange but far from unpleasant. He didn't have scales on his palms, but the skin there was textured into segments, and combined with the fact of his higher body temperature and the coolness of the corridor, it really felt like his hands were tracing fiery trails over her body.
Shepard even leaned back into him, appreciative of the warmth. It was only what he wanted her to do, after all, making her instinctively seek contact and relax her guard. Especially if she couldn't see him to remind her just how alien he was. She suppressed a smile even as he rubbed over one responsive nipple, leaning against her in the same move ever so slightly to disturb her equilibrium, and she automatically braced herself with her arms against the wall.
'Subtle' is lost on me, is it?
Very well. She could see what he was doing, but that didn't mean it didn't work. For now she'd play along, which meant she'd have to stay a good bit more passive than was her nature. On the up side, she could enjoy this freely. For now.
One hand went down her torso again, coming to rest between her legs, the other took hold her hip, steadying her.
"Careful with the claws" she warned, not bothering to hide the fact that her breath was coming quicker. In truth, she wasn't worried about his talons. Hurting her now would run contrary to his objective, and he had more self-control than that.
"Don't worry." he said, his voice low and close to her ear. His fingers started stroking against her, slowly, slid along her opening and up again, fingers parting just to run past her clit, then down to start again.
It served very well to keep her very interested while just not touching where she needed him to. He might hate humans, but that didn't mean that he was in any way ignorant about their anatomy. She gave it a bit of time, but patience had never been her strong suit.
"You sure you wouldn't want any hints? Maybe a map?" she challenged.
Saren actually chuckled. "Thank you for the offer, but I think I can find my own way." He drew his fingers up again, then suddenly ran one finger directly over her clit, drawing a gasp from her as she involuntarily leaned against him, spreading her legs, giving him better access.
"I take it you're enjoying yourself?" His tone was actually teasing, which she wouldn't have believed possible. It surprised her enough to try and look back over her shoulder to look at him, but he nipped at the back of her neck and rubbed his fingers against her once more, and that made her reconsider the action as she went rigid for a moment with pleasure.
"I'll just count that as a yes, then."
Shepard felt him shift slightly, then his fingers spread her folds as his tip came to rest against her, teasing her open. Waiting for her reaction, or maybe trying to make her beg. Not much chance of the latter, she thought.
She actually growled. "Well? Do you require a written invitation?"
"Interesting idea, but I think we can forego the formalities."
He pushed forward suddenly, entering her in one deep stroke that drew a strangled moan from her despite her resolve. There were certainly parts on his body where she fully approved of strange ridges and plates. Too bad that said parts came only as a package deal including the whole bad-tempered, human-hating turian Spectre.
A slow move against her, precisely timed for maximum effect, made her gasp, and he curled the fingers he was stroking her with, grazing against her with his knuckles, where his skin was covered with scales. That made her arch her back, suddenly desperate for more. The turian gave a sound that was deep and satisfied and had no real human equivalent, and set an agonisingly slow pace. Close, very close.
Her perception narrowed down to the feel of him inside her, and the slow roughness of his scales on her clit. And all the time she was aware that he wasn't involved in what he did beyond the need to prove a point to her. There was little doubt he had something nasty in mind, when he was was done proving said point.
Despite knowing that for certain, her knees were getting weak, and she let him support her weight.
"Hmmm. Well, I think now would be a good time..." He thrust deep, suddenly, then stilled and ran his knuckles over her clit, which was more than enough. She cried out softly as climax hit her like some physical force, the release so intense she was sure she saw black spots in her vision.
"So predictable." His sneer cut through the pleasant haze in her mind, cleared it instantly. Shepard's eyes narrowed, but she kept herself relaxed, bonelessly leaning against the wall. She made no effort to hide her still harsh breathing. The grip on her side loosened, talons trailing down her sides almost playfully as she sensed him taking a step back, separating from her.
So, that was how he intended to play it...
"That was far too easy. I wasn't expecting much in the way of pleasure out of this, but I had at least thought you would be more of a challenge." The careless, disinterested tone was guaranteed to raise her hackles, the insult calculated perfectly for maximum effect, the delivery flawless. She had to admit he knew how to get to her. Only, it wasn't always that easy.
And that's where you are wrong, Spectre.
At the speed she usually reserved for combat, she spun around and launched herself at him full force.
Superior reflexes or not, it was the last thing he'd expected, and she succeeded in tackling him to the ground. They slammed down hard, the impact bringing her down on him, and she managed to cling tight, wrapping her legs around his hips. They went into a roll, each struggling for dominance, but he went rigid as she increased the pressure of her legs just so, and she ended up straddling him. His length pressed against her firmly, and she took the opportunity to lift herself slightly, angle her hips and slide onto him, which drew a strange deep sound from him. She looked down at a plated face with far too many teeth on display right now. He snarled, a sound that in another context would be terrifying, but she couldn't keep the smirk off her face as she leaned over him.
"Better think again, then."
Saren could have tossed her off, being physically a lot stronger than her. There was no question about that. However it appeared he wasn't quite able to decide at the moment what he wanted. Shepard smirked again. She could certainly help him in that decision. He'd done his research, obviously, but so had she. His snarl of rage turned into a deep growl as she found exactly the right spots on that mostly-scaly body to make him move in very interesting and exciting ways. Every part of him, that was.
And the fact that she could do that was just as much of a turn-on as the feel of him in her. It wasn't exactly surrender, but she wouldn't have expected that anyway when he wrapped his taloned hands around her waist, holding her tight.
Oh yes, she could enjoy this.
She ground against him, hard, and he pushed back. There were some ridges in his plates that rubbed against her in exactly the right way, and it was all she could do not to arch her back in pleasure. Instead she looked at him in challenge. "Might as well do this properly, don't you think?" Her voice was maybe not as steady as she would have liked, but it had the desired effect anyway.
He growled again, then started thrusting against her in earnest. This time it wasn't the precise, almost clinical performance he'd given before. She bit back a moan. Yes, that was more like it.
She might have said that aloud, too, because he kicked his speed up another notch, and she matched him move for move, holding on for dear life. He'd given up that ridiculous pretense of controlled gentleness, and that was more than all right with her. This was just another contest at endurance, and Shepard was determined to win it, regardless of however close she herself might be to breaking limit.
So she'd have to cheat a bit at it. She leaned over, digging her nails into the back of his head, just beneath the uneven spikes. Saren growled, throwing his head back instinctively, leaning into the touch. The move exposed his throat, and she darted in and pressed her lips to the side of his neck. His skin was softer there, but still much tougher than a human's, she noted as she bit down hard. Her human teeth were too blunt to do any damage. Fortunately, that wasn't required here, the gesture being symbolic only, but it was very effective.
He screamed, a sound very unlike his normal voice, arching against her, pushing in as deep as possible, his talons reflexively tensing around her waist, then came with a shudder that shook his whole frame.
Gotcha, she thought, triumph curving her lips into a real smile as she let go of his neck. With distant amusement she noted that some things translated disturbingly well between different species, like his slack-jawed, slightly dazed expression right now. She was close too, and when his talons clenched and broke skin, and the shocks running through his body turned into delicious movements of now-slickened plates against her clit, that mix of pleasure and pain combined with the certainty that she'd won this round send her over the edge hard. She was able to swallow the whimper that had been lodged in her throat, but the intensity of it had her grip his bony collar, digging her nails in as she shuddered against him. All the while, she was almost painfully aware of his piercing gaze upon her face, but she never turned away or closed her eyes.
Still panting, she all but collapsed on him, keeping herself propped up on her elbows against his scarred chestplates.
He growled and shifted slightly, separating from her, but to her mild surprise he didn't throw her off immediately. Which was just as well, now that she was coming down again from that particular high, she felt the minor pain of a lot of slight scrapes, some fresh bruises and what probably was a pulled muscle in her back from tackling him. In addition to that, there was a set of not very deep puncture marks on her waist. The thought of the latter made the corner of her mouth curl up very slightly in amusement. That, he hadn't done on purpose, and while he probably couldn't care less about any damage to her, the fact that she'd made him lose control like that would gnaw at him. She might bear some marks, but she had left some marks of her own on his pride, and she knew from her own experience that injuries to one's pride healed a lot slower than a couple of scratches.
On the whole, it had been worth it, and unexpectedly fun. More than it should have, really.
She held his unreadable gaze for a few moments, then rolled off him and sat up.
He did the same, immediately, still regarding her without any expression that she could make sense of. She didn't even try, instead focussing on retrieving and putting on her clothing and gear. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him do the same.
Once she was properly attired again, she gave the turian a faint grin. He scoffed. "If you tell anyone about this..."
Shepard's grin turned fierce. "Oh, no, I regard this as a private contest."
The Spectre shrugged, then turned and started on the short walk to their ship again,
She fell in step beside him, then gave in to temptation. "So, let's hear the final score."
The turian gave her a sideways look, but didn't reply. Of course, that had never deterred her. "Still think I'm fragile?"
"Still think I don't know how to handle a human?" he retorted.
They stared at each other, until Shepard shook her head a bit rueful."I suppose no on both counts?" she offered, and at his nod continued. "You still think I'm that predictable?"
The Spectre snorted. "No, I'll have to amend that statement. In fact, I will state that given how much effort you put into your attempts to make me lose my temper, the only explanation is that there has to be something wrong with your mind, and it's impossible to accurately predict what an individual in that mental state will do. So, no, you are not predictable. Just insane." She laughed. "Fair enough."
As they reached the ship, another realisation struck her. "Damn. That means it was a tie, wasn't it."
Saren tapped against the codepad, causing the airlock to slide open. He seemed to be ignoring her, but suddenly stopped and looked at her. "And the problem with that is that it has to be either complete defeat or victory for you. There can't be anything in between."
It wasn't a question, but she nodded in agreement anyway.
He shook his head in an impatient way.
"It's the same with you, isn't it?" Shepard challenged.
Instead of a snide remark, that got her a rather thoughtful look. "If it absolutely has to be decided one way or another, maybe I'll offer you a rematch, some time."
She looked back at him considering. "If it can't be settled any other way, maybe I'll take it."
She held his gaze until he snorted and turned away, climbing through the airlock.
She followed with a slight smile of her own. Well now. Her Spectre training had just become a bit more interesting.