Author's note:

This is a kmeme fill (of course). The request was to show a turian male displaying avian behavior such as nesting or display-making. Mass Effect and its characters belong to BioWare. I'm just dinking around with them for fun and lolz.

Flashbang grenades were a bad idea in that batarian lab full of unidentified chemicals. You felt it as the grenade left your fingertips, too late to pull back. The explosion was fierce, the batarians incinerated, and your ground team...well, Legion was unharmed, but Garrus nearly choked to death on the fumes.

He's been laid out for three days, drifting fitfully in and out of consciousness as Mordin attends. Mordin claims he'll recover, but when Garrus inhaled that vicious mix of red sand cut with a dextro-based neurotoxin—because that's what the batarians had been cooking for the Talons in that lab—it fried him good.

You fried your lover, Shepard. After Alenko, you said "Never again," and now here you are, pacing like a zombie outside med bay. You see through the glass that Garrus isn't moving tonight. The monitors show he's stable, at least. You should eat and you know it, but nothing stays down. You haven't mentioned the vomiting, the sleeplessness to Mordin, because you want all his time and energy spent tending to Garrus. You stumble back up to the Loft and lie flat on your back in the dark, staring through the viewport at the night sky of Nos Astra, where you're docked.

You must have dozed, though, because the next thing you hear is Mordin's voice and it takes a moment for you to focus on what your translator is saying rather than the words his mouth is forming.

"Garrus is gone," he's telling you, and in an instant you're bolt upright, that prickling sensation at the tip of your nose telling you you're about to weep whether you like it or not.


"No. Not dead. Gone. Disappeared in the night. Removed IV and feeding tubes. Took things with him. EDI scanning news and extranet chatter for reports of disoriented, hospital-robed turians."

What things did he take, you wonder stupidly, and Mordin tells you even though you hadn't realized you'd asked aloud: his old, busted up armor, the blue set you'd replaced with the silver. A sack of gravel from the storeroom, the kind you use to line the bottom of your fish tank. The remnants of palladium and platinum you've mined over the past months—mostly metal dust and a few pebbles.

This makes no sense.

This makes no fucking sense at all.

Is Mordin calling Garrus a thief? But no, that's not it at all, and he calmly, gently tells you he thinks Garrus is recovering, but not quite firing on all cylinders yet. Turians have a few old, old rituals that involve the seemingly random items Garrus has made off with. You close your eyes, not comforted, uncomprehending, and it seems like a year before EDI speaks.

She informs you that a "Zhiiparud Vakarian" has reserved a sleep room—one of those one-room jobbies for travelers who just need downtime during a layover—clear on the other side of the metropolis, and you attempt to bolt from the room, but Mordin fucking trips you to keep you from going. You want to deck him, but he's dead serious. He has the same look in his eyes as when he told you he'd killed with farming implements before, and so you listen as he tells you he thinks Garrus has gone primitive, and you'll need to bring him comforting items or it'll all go to shit.

He asks you if you have any jewelry, and of course you have none. Any that you had is now a scorched lump on Alchera. A message goes out over the comm, and he asks if anyone has any disposable jewelry, preferably "shiny." Kelly comes running with a handful of plastic Mardi Gras necklaces. They're antiques from Earth, but completely replaceable, and you pocket them and thank her briskly before dashing out the door.

Mordin chatters at you over the comm as you sprint out the airlock, down the docking corridor, and over to the taxi stand. EDI transfers the coordinates to your omnitool and then to the cab, and off you go as the salarian doctor speaks of animal instincts and not making any sudden moves. Sinking back into the fake leather cab seat, you don't even care. You just want to know Garrus is alive, and if he's left you.

You hadn't thought of that before, and now that you have, your stomach rolls over.

He's in a hotel room. Maybe these instincts Mordin's droning about have made him hook up with a turian woman, and if that's the case, you think you can forgive it and move on, if that's what he needs. If you can't be what he needs. Maybe there are things about Garrus you'll never be able to understand. Maybe you should never have trapped him with that suggestion of blowing off steam, or dragged him along on all your missions.

Maybe Garrus is just sick of your crazy, did you ever think of that? Well, no, of course not. You were too busy pretending this could work.

Now it's Kelly who's yammering away at you over the comm, and you don't even try to parse her words because the cab purrs to a halt in front of a nondescript building and you're already running inside. The front desk isn't even manned by a person, and it keeps insisting that for privacy reasons, it cannot confirm whether or not any specific guest is present. You have to get EDI to jack its system so it'll direct you to the room where Garrus might be lying dead, or having an affair, or trying to have a quiet, uninterrupted think.

Sprinting to the correct room, you haven't run this hard since your escape from the Collector base. Now, as then, you can't feel your muscles complain. You'll pay for it later. But that's later.

Here's the door. It's all you can do not to body slam the fucking thing, but these doors are built for security so you wait forever, which is approximately 0.7 seconds, for EDI to override the lock and let you in, shutting the door behind you.

And what you see before you...isn' still doesn't make any fucking sense.

Garrus is standing on one leg, eyes shut. Okay, so, first things first, he can stand, which is good, and you know that turians can sleep standing if they need to, which is why they're often confused by the human phrase "asleep on his feet." The comm explodes with voices, so you finally shut the damn thing off. Now there's only ONE voice in your head and that's yours, thank you. With the cacophony gone, you start to process your surroundings, and what you see, you don't understand.

The room's decorations are odd, to say the least. There's an arch in one corner made of reeds and sticks and metal poles from a broken-down military cot. Less of an arch, actually, and more of a teepee with the front half cut off, and in front of it is about a billion shining pebbles, blue and silver and white, in a mound and then a trail leading to the door where they crunch under your feet. Metallic dust coats the inside of the arch with a soft gleam, and small, chunks of blue ceramic adorn what would appear to the the arch's "doorway."

Blue ceramic.

You scan the room, and sure enough, there lies what's left of Garrus' old Archangel armor, picked clean of anything blue.

This is demented. Is his brain so damaged?

Tears have been falling from your eyes for a good 30 seconds now, and finally you muster the courage to croak, "Garrus?" It doesn't come out as anything but a whisper the first time, so you have to try again. And this time, his eyes snap wide open and focus on you.

You take a defensive stance, wondering if he'll attack you, because this isn't the man you know, is it? This isn't the Garrus who lies with you at night as you analyze the day's missions, and who helps you brainstorm ideas for making ends meet while gathering forces to help you fight the Reapers. The creature staring at you with Garrus' crystal blue eyes isn't saying your name or cracking a joke or explaining himself. He's watching, still as death, balanced perfectly on one foot. His gaze flicks once from you to the trail of stones and metal, then back.

You take a step backward, hoping to give him space, to make yourself nonthreatening, but his mandibles quiver in distress and you can't stand it. So you take a small step forward instead, and the quivering stops. His weight shifts to his other leg, and then he watches, and he waits.

"Garrus, what's happening to you? Can you understand me?" You reach for him and take another crunching step along the path he's made, and...he sort of bobs his head a couple of times, blinks, switches back to standing on his first foot. He doesn't reach for your hand, but his eyes don't leave you, either.

You're well past thinking this is a trick or a prank, and suddenly you remember one of the words Mordin was trying to pound into your head even as you resisted and ran:




You have a theory. You put it to the test. Another step toward what has got to be an avian bower. "Is this right, Garrus?"

In a blur, he darts to the opening of the bower and holds still as a statue. Another step, then. You're ten feet away when his fringe puffs up into a crest and his neck turns bright blue, and you freeze because holy shit, is he about to attack? You've never seen a turian like this. Never even seen pictures of a turian like this. No stories, nothing, just urgent words over the comm that you so brilliantly turned off. You don't think you should turn it back on again. Your hand drops down to your side and brushes against a bulging pocket.

Kelly's beads.

Cautious, you reach in, curl your fingers around one strand, and pull it out. Silver plastic, glittering in the scant light allowed by the compartment's single window. Garrus leans forward, transfixed, studying the beads as they dangle in your hand. Absurdly, this is when you realize he's stark naked. He doesn't seem angry, so you try another two steps.

A cry erupts from his throat. Or a word—you don't know, because when you turned off your comm, you also turned off your translator. He turns his body so he's partly facing you and partly facing the entrance to the bower.

So, fuck it. You close the gap, taking the last steps between you, cupping the beads in your hand where he can see them, and await his next move. You're shivering even though you feel heat radiating from his skin. Your heart tries to pound its way through your ribcage and your throat is closed, as his eyes dart from your face to the beads to the floor, to your face again. And finally, he reaches for them. Takes them gingerly out of your hand and drapes them at the top of the bower, murmuring or purring, you're not sure which.

You're brave now. You're pretty sure he hasn't left you, and that he isn't dying, and that he wants you to be here. So you lift your now-empty hand and gently brush the back of it against his cheekbones and his neck, which is still shockingly blue, and his fringe that gives him an extra foot in height when it's extended like this. Instantly, he's across the room, dragging the comforter off the tiny bed in the corner back to the bower and shredding it inside. Stuffing and synthetic feathers everywhere. Then he is still again. You duck your head and step inside, because what else can you do? He's with you—really with you now. You can feel his breath on the side of your face and all at once you're tired as hell, so you take his hand and pull him down with you into the remnants of the ruined bedspread.

His whole body quakes as he clasps you to him, and his breath comes in shudders. He pulls his face away from where he's buried it against your shoulder, and his mouth works, trying to form speech. "Zhiiparud. Zhiiparud...ssah-rdee. Ai-Ssah-rdee." Then he rests his head against you and keens mournfully.

Shepard. Sorry. I'm sorry.

Oh god, he's sorry. He's ashamed. He's embarrassed.

He won't understand you if you tell him it's fine, that there's nothing to be sorry for, that this is all your fault in the first place. His visor's what runs his translation software, and you think you saw it lying on the tiny desk as you came in. You settle for making what you hope are soothing noises, but actually you're as much of a mess as Garrus is, gulping and sobbing as quietly as you can manage.

You lie there together for some minutes, feeling gasps slow to breaths, and you dry your eyes with the back of your hand. Garrus' crest has fallen back to its normal fringe state, so much more familiar as you drag your fingers back and forth along it. He looks at you, and his eyes are fully his again. The blank and desperate stare is gone. You crane your neck to press your forehead against his. His mandibles clatter and he jerks his hips slightly out of the way.

Looking down confirms it; hard-on ahoy. Which makes sense, actually, because having been dealt a swift blow to the head by the frying pan of realization, it clicks for you that this is a mating ritual. You know, with the end goal being mating. Pair bonding. Duh. Frankly, it's a relief to get to the part of this where you know exactly what to do.

He remembers you, even though he can't say so with any precision. Oh, he does. He remembers how foreplay goes, how you like it when he licks at your neck and your nipples, how you like his entrance to be slow and teasing. His body bows inward with tension; turian sex isn't often like this. It's emphatic and powerful, and that's fun, but he's showing you he knows you. You're not about to complain, yet you're not above driving him crazy with the backs of your nails on his skin and your teeth against his collar. Both of you come quickly, in short, sharp shocks, and together you simply lie back and breathe.

Later, after the last of the fluff and metal dust has been rinsed from your skin, and you've picked more pebbles out of your ass crack than you'll ever admit to anyone, you find Garrus' visor and hand it to him. He examines it, powers it up, puts it on. You turn on your comm.

"How're you feeling?" you ask him.

He doesn't quite answer your question. "I'm sorry you had to see that. It's why I tried to get away," he confesses. He's putting on his civvies as he says it, enabling him to avoid eye contact.

You're standing there with no pants and a cut on your hip from his talons, and you march over to him, pull him to a standing position, and bunt foreheads with him. "Don't be sorry. Just don't. I was frightened and pissed at first, but this," and you gesture at the somewhat rumpled bower and the shining trail extending from it, "Well, flowers and chocolates have nothing on this."

He huffs at you in exasperation, then chuckles, and you throw back your head and laugh.