This story is a sequel of sorts to my first multi-part fic Home and is set about two or three weeks after it. But almost all of this story should still make sense if you haven't read Home.
Although this story is rated T now, that will change in future. It contains spoilers for the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, but is definitely set before the events of Arrival. Presume Hackett simply hasn't contacted Shepard yet with the mission.
Like I said at the start of Home, I really appreciate getting reviews on my stories. Feedback is very useful to me as I still want to improve as a writer. Thanks again to anyone who reviewed Home or one of my other stories; your comments really did encourage me to keep on with the writing!
I will try and see this story through to the end, but I'm busier than I was when I started Home so the updates may be a bit sporadic. However, I'll do my very best not to leave this story unfinished if people are enjoying it.
One last thing, most of what I write about turians and Palaven will be based on in-game canon and information taken from the Mass Effect wiki, obviously though I'm going to have to make some stuff up. Oh, and I still have no beta so please excuse any mistakes that have made it past my checks.
Right, so ends this long author's note, now onto the actual story….
Disclaimer: Mass Effect and everything related to it belongs to Bioware.
Teagan Shepard glanced out of the tram window, taking in the unfamiliar sight of Vectis, one of Palaven's largest cities. According to what she'd read in the past, much of the turian homeworld was covered by arid deserts and tropical forests, but here stern looking buildings rose up out of the ground and nature seemed to have been beaten back long ago.
After spending a few moments staring at the sprawling cityscape and the orange tinged sky above it, Teagan turned her head away from the window and looked towards her turian travelling companion. Her mate. He was currently sitting opposite her, facing her across a small table with his gloved hands clasped tightly together.
She smiled at him. "How long before we get to our stop now?"
"You asked me that about two and half minutes ago," Garrus said, leaning back into his seat, "For a starship captain, you're not much of a traveller are you?"
She shrugged. "I'm just looking forward to seeing where we're staying. I've slept in far more tents and crowded crew quarters than hotels during my lifetime, as well as that one lovely cave. This is a new experience for me."
Garrus looked out of the window, his eyes studying their surroundings just like she had done a few seconds before. "I'm not so used to the city as I used to be when I still lived here, but I guess fifteen minutes."
"Still? Do you want to try playing i-spy again to pass the time?"
"As much fun as learning how to play that human game was, no," he replied, in the bone-dry tone that she'd come to love.
Teagan smiled at him again, a little mischief now sparkling in her eyes. She'd taught him the game when they'd first got on the tram, laughing as he struggled to understand how something so boring had been passed down between humans throughout the centuries.
"Oh well," she said, "I'll have to find other ways to keep myself entertained."
He looked across at her. "We'll be there soon enough. Besides, it was your idea to get this tram instead of a cab when we left the ship. Didn't you say you wanted to see more of the city?"
"I do. I'm enjoying the view; the city is certainly very…impressive. I just hadn't realised how far we'd have to travel from where we left the ship."
The Normandy was currently resting in a spaceport on the other side of the city, officially out of action for a week so the crew could have some much needed shore leave while there was still a chance. Only a handful of people were still on board, with most of the other crewmembers now temporarily scattered across the galaxy. Before reaching Palaven, the ship had made several stops to locations including the Citadel and Illium because not everyone seemed particularly enamoured with the idea of spending their shore leave roasting in the planet's sweltering heat, while surrounded by millions of turians. Grunt had even been dropped down onto Tuchanka to pursue some of his breeding requests, although Teagan was trying not to think about that too much. She sincerely hoped he wouldn't want to share tales of his new conquests with her afterwards.
It was strange to think how far the Normandy now was from some of the members of its crew. Teagan couldn't help wondering if a couple of people might choose not to return to the ship, but she was trying to push that thought out of her mind because she had no desire to lose anyone. Even the Cerberus crewmembers had more than proven their loyalty and their worth during the fight against the collectors.
The few people who had chosen to come as far as Palaven included Joker, who was keeping EDI company, and several others who were interested in seeing where the proud and militaristic turian race originated from.
The main reason Teagan had brought the Normandy, and herself, to the planet, however, was because Garrus had decided to visit his home city and his family for the first time in years.
Her tagging along with him during the trip just seemed to make sense to both of them. Even before they had become far more than friends, they had never been found any great distance from each other, regardless of whether they were on the ship or off. Admittedly, this wasn't how Teagan had expected to spend her first shore leave in more than a year, but she'd gotten well used to nothing ever going quite to plan for her.
As soon as the Normandy had landed, she'd left the ship with him and they'd jumped onto the cross-city tram. So far the journey had been pleasant enough, if slightly longer than she expected. She wasn't sure exactly how many miles they'd already covered as the tram made its way smoothly through the city, but the scenery outside seemed to be changing fairly quickly.
Teagan stole another look out the window and saw more densely-packed buildings, lined up like rows and rows of well-armoured soldiers. She wondered just how many hours turian labourers had put into constructing them.
"Hey, Garrus," she said and he lifted his eyes up from the part of the table he'd been staring at, "Where are we now? The buildings are very regal and, uh, tall."
"Looks like the financial district," he replied, "There's probably a lot more volus than turians around here."
"Oh, really? Those guys are pretty short; you'd think they wouldn't need such tall buildings. It must all be for show, a bit of pomp and grandeur to compensate for what they lack in height, and in other…areas."
"You might be onto something there," he said, some amusement creeping into his voice, "This wasn't a part of the city I ever had much time for though. Too many money-grabbing bastards for my liking."
"I can imagine." She grinned at him. "I'm so glad I have you to act as my unofficial tour guide of the turian homeworld."
He smiled back. "Well it makes a change from my usual work, following you around, sniping mercs and watching your six."
As Garrus finished speaking a loud sigh came from somewhere behind where Teagan was sitting, but she tried to ignore it.
They were currently sharing the tram carriage with about twenty or so other turians. Some were dressed like they were on their way to work, but there were also a few couples on board, along with one family made up of a male and female turian and their two adorable little children who didn't have any facial markings yet. To their credit, most of the passengers were treating the strange pairing of a human and a turian travelling together as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. However, a few others were showing more interest in them than was strictly polite.
One elderly turian couple in particular had given Teagan and Garrus a long and bemused look when they'd climbed on board. Teagan had hoped that would be the end of it, but the sigh had come from their general direction and it seemed like their bemusement was beginning to turn into irritation.
She wanted to believe they were just objecting to their peace and quiet being disturbed, albeit not in the most polite way. However, it wasn't like she was being particularly loud and Garrus was barely talking most of the time.
Trying to be as discreet as possible, Teagan glanced towards where the couple were huddled together in one corner of the carriage. Unfortunately, the female turian returned her gaze straight away, looking back at her with a hard glare on her old, wizened face. She had similar, though not identical, clan markings to Garrus, but while Teagan loved how they looked on him, something about the way the lines sat on this woman's face made her seem almost threatening.
Teagan swiftly turned away from her to face Garrus again. However, he didn't look back at her, seeming to have become lost almost entirely in his own thoughts.
From the moment they'd left the Normandy together, it had been obvious that he was feeling a little tense, something which became even more pronounced whenever the two of them weren't talking or joking with each other. Teagan had been trying her best to cheer him up over the last hour or so, especially since he'd often done the same thing for her in the past. If the turian couple didn't like the noise they were making then screw them.
"Hey, big guy," she said, "You still okay over there?"
"Oh…yeah," he said slowly, "I'm just…thinking about this trip. About seeing Solana and my mother again."
"Well, I hope thoughts aren't getting too dark in your pretty head. You don't really seem like yourself today."
Garrus finally looked towards her. "I'm alright."
She saw how tightly he was still grasping his hands together so she reached out and firmly took his right hand in hers, clumsily fitting her five fingers in-between his three talons. She wanted to offer him some comfort even though she couldn't really understand how he was feeling since she'd lost her own parents and sister so long ago.
She'd been so shocked when she'd first realised just how messed up his family situation had become. She wished he'd come to her and told her, but instead she'd found out poking around in the shadow broker's files like some kind of prying, nefarious gossip. Feeling sick to her stomach, she'd stood there in front of the console and tried to take it all in. His mother was ill, his sister resented him for not being there to help, and he hadn't told her any of it. Instead, he'd said nothing while Teagan had gone on and on, and then on some more, about her own issues.
Once she'd got back to the ship, after saying a rushed and barely comprehensible goodbye to Liara, she'd gone right to the main battery to talk to him. She'd just come straight out with what she'd discovered and, by some miracle, they'd managed to discuss things properly without too much skin crawling awkwardness on either side. In the end, it had been her who had first suggested that he use the upcoming week's shore leave to visit his mother and sister. A day later he'd finally said that he thought it was a good idea and then asked her to accompany him. He'd sounded like he genuinely wanted her to come and wasn't just suggesting it because he thought he had to. Hopefully she'd read him right.
Teagan tightened her grip on his hand further, pressing her fingertips into the rough material of his glove. "You know, Garrus," she said, "You and your family have a lot to get caught up on during this week and that's probably not going to be easy. I want you to know that you don't have to tell them we're together or even that I'm here on Palaven with you if it's going to make things more awkward for you. I'm here to help, not to complicate everything."
He hesitated for a couple of seconds before responding. "I already told Solana I've been serving with you again when I said I was coming to visit, although I avoided too many specifics about our mission. She may as well know about us. And my mother too, if she's well enough."
"Asking this is awkward, but did you tell Solana about your scars?"
"I may have downplayed them just a little."
"Garrus," Teagan said, trying not to sound too concerned, "That might not have been such a good idea. I mean, she'll notice them as soon as she sees you anyway and so will your mother."
"I just…didn't want her to worry too much, I never do. It will be easier to explain things face to face. The two of them don't need to know everything about what happened on Omega or about our mission now, but…I want them to know about you. I'd like you to meet both of them."
"I think so."
Teagan lapsed into silence for a moment as she thought about what it would be like to have in-laws for the first time in her life. Well, not in-laws exactly, but she couldn't think of a better term for it. She'd had no family for years, and, honestly, felt vaguely hysterical at the thought of meeting either Garrus' mother or sister, but this simply wasn't about her. If Garrus wanted her to meet them, then she would. She'd wear something nicer than usual and try to respect proper turian etiquette, whatever the hell that happened to be.
"You're okay with that, right?" Garrus asked.
She smiled nervously and nodded. "If the right moment comes, then I'd like to meet them too."
"Good. I'm sure my mom will like you. Solana can be…difficult sometimes but I think you're pretty great so hopefully she will too."
Teagan smiled, but then her brow furrowed as an uncomfortable thought began to form in her head. "What will your father think if he finds out about us?"
"I told you already that he's not going to be a factor in this," Garrus said quickly, sounding like he wasn't particularly keen to discuss this topic at any length. "He's lived on the Citadel ever since he started to work for C-Sec and he rarely sets foot on Palaven, even to bother visiting my mom and Solana. He's gotten quite isolated from rest of the family over the years. Sol still keeps in touch with him, but I haven't spoken to him since I left C-Sec the second time around."
"He wouldn't approve of you being with me though, would he?"
"I…don't know," he said hesitantly, then more confidently, he added, "I don't really care, we won't see him. It's probably for the best. I have you to lecture me now instead of him."
"I don't lecture you. I just…give helpful advice here and there."
He raised a brow ridge. "Uh-huh."
"And I only give the advice because I care about you."
"I suppose that's your excuse for reading the Shadow Broker's dossier on me as well?"
"No. I know I shouldn't have read any of it. I just couldn't help myself. I was worried about how much information he had on you and…"
"I know, I know. I was only joking." He sounded slightly worried that he'd offended her, but he hadn't really. She'd got used to his merciless teasing long ago. "I'm glad you're here with me now."
"That's good to hear." She caught his eye. "But, Garrus, why didn't you tell me about all of this sooner? Then I wouldn't have read any of it poking around behind your back. "
"I didn't want to burden you…I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. It's just, I…I feel terrible for how much I've been leaning on you lately. I mean, I even dragged you to Mindoir with me, I…"
Garrus didn't let her get any further, "I've always said I'll be there whenever you need me. Anyway, we were only on Mindoir for a couple of hours. You're going to be on Palaven with me for a whole week while I try to sort things out. I hope you don't end up miserable for seven days."
"I want to be here."
Despite what she'd just said, Teagan could still see something like worry lurking in his eyes. She leant forward across the table and placed her free hand on the side of his face. "I want to be here, Garrus," she repeated, making sure he met her eyes, "Okay?"
"Yeah," he replied.
She smiled at him as she sat back down in her seat, but as she did so, she could feel the eyes of the old turian couple on her body once more. God, she was getting fed up with this.
"You know, Garrus," she said, lowering her voice slightly, while still keeping it loud enough so they could probably hear her if they were trying to listen in, "I don't think some people in here like seeing us together."
He glanced around him. "You might be right, but it's their problem not ours. Is it bothering you?"
She let the two words hang in the air for a second and then got up and sat beside Garrus. He didn't have any time to react to her presence before she pulled his face towards hers.
"I guess they probably wouldn't like it if I did this either," she whispered, leaning in to kiss him on one of his mandibles.
"Probably not," he said as she pulled away, "But it honestly didn't bother me. In fact", he paused to wrap his arms around her, "You can feel free to do that anytime you like."
"I'll have to remember that."
Teagan leant her body against his and decided not to bother getting back up again. She'd only sat opposite him when they'd boarded the tram to try not to draw too much attention to the fact that they were together, but the ploy clearly hadn't worked and she was tired of being separated from him by a bloody table.
When it became clear that she was staying put beside Garrus, the old turian couple seemed to decide that merely glaring at her wasn't enough anymore. They left their seats, making as much noise as possible, and started to head towards the carriage exit. Teagan hoped that it was somehow just a coincidence. Sadly though, the one last disgusted look she got shot as they walked up the aisle proved it wasn't. She wasn't sure if Garrus had noticed what was happening or not, but he pulled her much closer to him as the couple passed by where they were sitting and then started to stroke her hair.
Teagan's eyes followed the two turians' retreating backs for a few seconds, before she turned her head away from them and curled up like a cat beside Garrus. She focused on enjoying the feel of his talons running through her hair and occasionally scratching her scalp, rather than giving into the anger that was bubbling up inside her chest.
She let out a soft sigh. It always pleased her no end how much Garrus genuinely seemed to like her hair, despite it being a distinctly human feature.
"Tell me more about your family, Garrus," she said after a moment.
His talons stopped moving. "Like…what, Teagan?"
"Anything. I don't feel like you've told me that much about either of them yet." She paused. "For starters, what does Solana do?
"She works as an administrator. I don't think she enjoys it much, but she keeps at it anyway."
"And your mother? I mean before she became ill."
"Oh…well, she was a high-ranking government official on Palaven for years. When I was growing up, she was always working on some grand project to try and make people's lives better here. It meant long hours and a lot of sleepless nights but she was never the type of person to give up."
"Sounds like someone I know."
Garrus made a strange huffing noise in his throat that was not quite a laugh. "I guess I maybe take after her a little."
"More than a little," she replied.
Teagan didn't get much more out of him about his family before they were at their stop and had to head for the bustling streets of the city again. As they exited the air-conditioned tram station, she felt a blast of the almost stiflingly warm air hit her face.
She gasped and stopped in her tracks. "Is it always this hot here?"
"As far as I can remember, yeah," Garrus said, "But the deserts around Vectis are even hotter. The environment is regulated to a certain extent in this city to keep the temperature slightly lower and to stop the radiation reaching dangerous levels for non-turians like you. You'd probably need to wear some kind protective clothing if we went too far outside the city limits."
Teagan felt strangely hemmed in all of sudden. "Is Vectis completely surrounded by desert?" she asked.
"Pretty much. There's a stretch of coastline not too far away from here though. My mom sometimes used to take me there with Solana when we were both kids, just to give us a break from the city for a few hours. It was…nice. That's what Virmire reminded me of. The coast is a lot more picturesque than this city, but I guess you might not be able to take the heat there either."
"It's bad enough here." She pulled a face. "I'm getting…sticky."
His mandibles flared in amusement. "Poor little human."
"Hey! It's not my fault I didn't evolve to be specially adapted to these conditions like you did."
"True, but if you stop complaining, we'll be off the street in no time and back indoors where it's not so hot."
"Good point," she said and they both started to move forward again.
Walking through the city by Garrus' side, Teagan couldn't stop herself from occasionally gawking at her surroundings, just like any other tourist from another world would do. The street they were on was wide, but tall buildings ran down both sides. Most of them reached up far above Teagan's head, their upper windows reflecting the colour of the burnt looking sky so she couldn't see in through the glass. Down at ground level, there were turians all around her, striding off in every direction. Most of them, whether male or female, stood at least two or three inches taller than her.
Teagan felt small, the same way as she had done the first time she'd set foot on the Citadel and come face to face with all the grandeur, all the different species gathered together. After growing up on a small farming colony, it was hard not to find the sheer size of places like Vectis intimidating at first.
But she'd soon got used to the Citadel, and she would get used to this metropolis too. Even when they passed through a busy, stuffy market place, she kept her head up and continued striding down the street with Garrus.
Eventually, they turned off the main roads and into a series of smaller side streets. They wound their way through them until they stopped in front of a five story building with 'hotel' inscribed in turian over the front door.
Teagan recognised the front of the building from the glossy photographs she'd looked at on the extranet. She'd investigated a few different hotels with Garrus, but in the end they'd chosen this one because it was close to his family's home, quiet, and had a good reputation.
It didn't seem as if it was the type of place where she'd be recognised as the 'great' Commander Shepard. Not that she thought that was particularly likely anywhere on Palaven. Many turians found it hard to tell humans apart at the best of times and with her brown hair, brown eyes and pale skin, she was hardly the most distinctive looking example of her species.
A moment later, they walked into the hotel and found themselves in a sparsely furnished lobby, with marble flooring and stone pillars running up the walls. A male turian wearing a dark blue uniform was standing behind a long, carved stone desk on one side of the room, watching the two of them with slightly narrowed eyes.
He didn't exactly have a welcoming expression on his face, but the air was slightly cooler in here than outside so there was no way in hell Teagan was leaving.
She walked over to the desk with Garrus by her side.
"May I help the two of you?" the turian receptionist asked as they drew up in front of him.
"Uh, yeah," Garrus replied, "I reserved a room for two, under Vakarian."
Hearing him say the room was booked under his name sent a small thrill running through Teagan's body. She'd never got far enough into a relationship to stay in a hotel with a guy before, let alone somewhere as nice as this.
She opened her mouth to joke with Garrus about this being a momentous occasion for her, but the receptionist spoke before she could. "The room is for you and this…human?"
"Yes. That would be why she's standing here beside me."
"Right." He turned towards her. "What's your name then, mam? I need it for the hotel records."
She hesitated for a moment before answering, but, really, what were the chances of someone on Palaven knowing her full name?
"It's Shepard. Teagan Shepard," she said in the end, deliberately leaving off her military rank.
He tapped at the console again. "And the two of you meant to book a room with a double bed rather than one with two singles?"
"Yes," Garrus replied in a slightly strained voice. He looked tense again, with his mandibles clamped to his face. "Why are you asking?"
"I thought I should check, sir, in case there had been some kind of administrative error. But there's no need to worry, this hotel is very open minded and supports all sorts of life choices." He paused as if he was expecting some sort of response to what he'd just said, but when neither Teagan nor Garrus spoke, he kept talking, "Your luggage has already arrived from your ship and should be in your room. I'll just get your card key now."
He rustled around behind the desk for a moment and then placed it in front of them. "You're staying on the first floor. Would you like me to find someone to show you to the room? I'd take you there myself, but I'm busy."
Teagan looked around her, there was no one else apart from them in the lobby, and now the turian had checked them in, his arms were resting idly by his sides.
Garrus picked up the card key. "No, no, I'm sure we can find our own way to the room. We wouldn't want to trouble any of you since the hotel is so full of people today."
With that, he walked away from the desk, pulling Teagan lightly by the arm with him. Together, they started to head towards the stairs.
"What a friendly guy," Garrus muttered, as soon as they were out of the receptionist's earshot.
"Oh yeah," Teagan said, "It's great to know he's not judging us, isn't it?"
"Definitely. I can't remember the last time I felt so welcome."
She laughed, feeling considerably more relaxed than she had done a moment ago. She decided to put what had just happened right to the back of her mind, along with the incident on the tram.
They reached the first floor a few seconds later and then made their way down the brightly lit corridor until they found the correct room number written in gold on one of the doors.
Once inside, they both paused to take a long look at their new surroundings. Their room was quite simply decorated like the rest of the hotel, but larger than the captain's cabin on the Normandy and far less dull. The surfaces and the floor were covered in marble, which gleamed under the overhead lights, and the curtains and throws were all dyed in rich shades of purple and blue. A large bed, however, was the main focus of the room, along with a pair of glass double doors which led out onto a balcony.
"At least the room is nice," Teagan said, "Even if the service leaves something to be desired."
She walked towards the balcony and looked through the glass at the fairly quiet street below. A few pedestrians were milling about outside a row of small, but well-presented restaurants and shops.
Garrus walked up behind her. "I'm glad we're here. Together."
He rested his arm lightly around her waist and pulled her against him. "Do you think the Illusive Man has realised your using Cerberus funds to pay for this room and finance everyone's shore leave yet?"
"I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't have dipped into the money, but I wanted to make sure everyone got the break they deserve, and it's not like the Illusive Man has tried to cut us off. Well, not yet anyway. He's probably still hoping I'll come round to Cerberus' way of thinking."
"I presume there's not much of chance of that?"
"Hell, no." She paused for a moment. "But I don't want to talk about Cerberus or the reapers or anything else to do with our mission now. I know we've got a lot to sort out during this trip and this day hasn't gone brilliantly so far, but right now we're alone, in a hotel and it's still early evening. There's no crew, no work to do, just us. Me and you. So what do you want to do, big guy?"
She had a few of her own ideas of course, but he hadn't seemed quite himself today so she thought it was best to leave it up to him.
In the end, he didn't answer her, preferring instead to lift her up with the same strong arms that sometimes pulled her into cover on the battlefield. Teagan laughed as he started to walk them both straight towards the bed, seemingly without having to put any effort into it. She forgot just how strong he was until he did something like that, but she certainly didn't mind him occasionally seizing the initiative. It wasn't often that someone other than her took control of things.
Upon reaching the bed, he dropped her down onto the mattress and then leant over her, rumpling and creasing the perfectly smooth sheets. Not that he seemed to care much about that. Teagan smiled as he pressed his forehead against hers while one of his hands searched for the fastenings on her shirt.
I always feel incredibly nervous about posting a new story so I hope you enjoyed reading this.
I don't know for sure when it will update because I'm going on holiday to Marseille for a few days, but I'm looking forward to writing the next chapter – some of it will be from Garrus' perspective and it's been so long since I've been inside his head.
Note: Vectis is actually the Roman name for the Isle of Wight in the UK. I used it in this purely because I love the sound of the word and I thought it sounded very turian!