Saren apparently hadn't been too keen on returning to the Citadel right away, as he had them stay at a hotel at the spaceport.
Shepard approved of that, as she wasn't too fond of staying on Saren's small ship for extended periods of time, if she could help it.
At least they didn't have to share a room this time. He tended to make creepy sounds when asleep. Or at least when he pretended to be, it was hard to tell. Maybe it was just another way he was messing with her.
"We'll depart tomorrow at 0700 standard time." he told her as they were standing in front of the hotel. "Don't be late. I trust you'll find a means to keep yourself entertained until then." The last was spoken with his usual contempt.
Normally that would have been enough to raise her hackles, but this time she didn't bother to hide her grin. "Why, thank you. I'll be sure to do that."
He snorted and turned away into the street. Apparently she was dismissed, which suited her well.
Shepard looked after him for a moment, faintly amused that even people who clearly didn't know who he was took care to get out of his way, then set out herself. She had some errants to run.
Some time later, she was back at her own room, waiting. Her armour had been exchanged for a set of simple but comfortable civilian clothes, and she was idly reading through the manual for the arc projector, courtesy of a salarian data retrieval specialist whose services she sometimes used. He was good, she knew that, but it was still a pleasant surprise that he'd been that quick.
Her omnitool sounded a soft ping, and she unhurriedly rose and quietly walked to the door of her room. She counted down silently, then opened the door and stepped out on the corridor. The door to Saren's room was closed but unlocked, and she walked in quickly, locking it behind her.
Saren was out cold on the ground, almost at the door, and she silently raised one eyebrow. Now those were admirable reflexes. After all, the stun grenade she'd rigged up should have dropped him close to the bed.
She probably had less time than she'd calculated here, so she wasted no more time and set to work.
She had to give him that, he really was tough. She was just tightening the last knot that held his wrists together above his head when he showed signs of coming around again.
Shepard stepped back and contemplated her work. One turian Spectre in full armour on a hotel bed, wrists and ankles secured with military-grade rope to bolts she'd set into the bed's metal frame. There was no sense in taking chances, after all.
She didn't try to hide her grin. Yes, this looked promising.
He took a few seconds, just blinking, then some tension in his frame let her know that he was awake. He lifted his head and stared at her. Shepard was still grinning. So, that was his 'what the hell?' expression. She hadn't known that his mandibles even could drop at all. Then he was over his surprise, and she could tell he was mad as hell.
"What exactly do you think you are doing?" he asked, and his voice was far too calm. She didn't miss the way he slightly flexed his hands, already testing how much give the rope had.
"Oh" she drawled. "The stun grenade was just an attempt to let you know that I really, really don't appreciate getting hit by one in combat. I wasn't sure whether you were really qualified to properly appreciate the effects of one, so I took care of that."
Saren snarled. "And this?" He gave the rope that bound his wrists a hard tug.
"Oh." she said slowly. "That was just an idea I had. After all, you were making disparaging comments about something you by your own admission have no personal experience with."
She took one step closer, then leaned over him and trailed a finger over his right mandible. He gave an insulted sound but didn't flinch away. His glare was disturbing, though.
"I'll claim that rematch now that you promised."
"Have you gone completely insane?"
She cocked her head to one side, considering. "No. Don't think so." She again ran her finger over his mandible, idly wondering whether he was angry enough to try to bite. He looked the part. "So. We can have some fun, and I bet you'll enjoy it."
"I seriously doubt that."
She choose to disregard that comment. "Of course, if you can't handle it, that's fine, too. Just say so and I'll cut you loose."
"An appeal to my pride. How very subtle." he snapped.
Shepard laughed. "You have told me before that subtlety is a lost cause with me. So. Too scared to play by my rules?"
He tossed his head, and again glared at her.
She chuckled again. It was an open challenge now, and as she had hoped he wasn't really able to back down.
"Oh, don't worry. I won't hurt you." she said, mockingly, as she started to undo the seal on his shoulder piece.
He just scoffed, as if the mere idea was ridiculous.
She stripped him down efficiently, vaguely glad that his armour and underarmour detached in parts. The Spectre kept himself still, neither fighting her nor helping in any way, and she found she approved. She liked a challenge, and this one came with the additional bonus of enjoying herself.
Shepard tossed the last piece of his clothing carelessly off to the side, looking down on him.
He met her eyes unblinking, giving the impression of being at most vaguely bored by the proceedings. She grinned again. He certainly wasn't embarrassed, but of course that would have been a human reaction, and that he wasn't. As far as she knew, nudity didn't bother a normal turian at all. Most disliked being out of their armour, but that was some sort of ingrained paranoia and had nothing to do with any shyness about their bodies.
At least she had a good opportunity to have a proper look at him. She knew by now that that uniform pale grey colour of his was highly unusual, and that he was to be considered lean rather than muscular for one of his kind. His plate-covered body with its odd angles was still something she wasn't entirely certain about. It certainly wasn't appealing in the conventional sense. And yet it was, to her.
She got rid of her own clothes with the same efficiency. It made no sense to draw that out, as just by itself her body wouldn't be appealing to him either. It was the context that did it, for both of them.
He didn't even acknowledge her touch as she ran her hands over the long plates on his torso, and the muscles underneath were tense.
She wasn't worried about it. It was just another tactic of his, trying to remain uninvolved. Too bad that her fantasy of this called for him to be quite the opposite, really.
She ran her hands over plates that were rough and scarred in many places, slowly, finding spots with softer skin and lingering there, taking her time. This was just another contest, and she was in the far better position.
He very slightly flinched when she ran her hands over the softer patches on his stomach, which struck her as a bit of strange, but his expression gave nothing away.
She trailed her hands down his waist, unhurriedly, until he gave a strangely suppressed growl. Fair enough. She swung her leg over, straddling him and leaned close to his face.
Still angry, as far as she could tell. Good.
She gripped the curved spine that ran from his cheek backwards the length of his head, which was more to keep his head steady - she still didn't quite trust him not to try and bite, or jab some pointy part of his head into her face just for the hell of it. "Now, try to play nice" she admonished.
Saren scoffed. "I don't think either of us is any good at that." he replied in a dry tone.
Shepard laughed at that and slipped her other hand around the back of his head. That got her a reaction, even if he did his damned best to hide it, but she was too close to him to miss the sharp indrawn breath and the change of tension in his frame. She smiled to herself. He might try to resist, which made this even more fun, but that was rather useless. Turian males were a bit less obvious than human ones, but there were some hardwired responses nevertheless. This was one of them. She knew others, too.
She ran her fingers over the back of his head and downwards his neck, and he gave very soft whimpering growl.
"Have I changed your mind about this yet?" she asked him, and he bared his teeth in a defiant snarl. "If not, don't worry. I'm not in a hurry. We can keep this up as long as you want." She dug her fingernails into his skin, not even hard, but the sudden contact made him jerk under her in a very promising way. And she was in exactly the right position to note that the plates that spanned his pelvis had parted slightly.
Shepard smiled again. She considered needling him with another remark, but he gave her a venomous look that made it clear that he knew what she had been going to say, and her smile deepened. Even better.
She let go of the spine and gripped his bony collar instead.
"Well?" she drawled, repeating her previous move, and that made him jerk again, harder this time. Interesting.
He glared at her, then gave a odd sound somewhere between a hiss and a growl, and let his head fall back and to the side. That gesture she could interpret. He was, however grudgingly, conceding a point here.
She pushed herself back upright again and ground herself against him again, encountering a slightly more yielding surface than plates. Despite his behaviour, what she had been doing to him had roused his interest. Very much so, in fact.
She rubbed herself against his length, slowly, enjoying the friction. He hissed, lifting his head again, writhing under her, and she wasn't sure whether he was trying to avoid her or seeking closer contact. Odds were he wasn't too sure himself.
One way to find out. She leaned forward again, angling her hips to align herself, until she felt his tip slightly spreading her folds. Then she stilled, meeting his eyes in silent challenge. He bared his sharp teeth again and moved against her, halfway entering her, which was all the reach his restraints allowed him. With faint satisfaction, she noted that she had calculated that well.
She bit back a gasp and remained still, eyes locked on his, until he made a low sound that was clearly frustration.
She knew him too well to believe that she could really make him beg, but this was good enough, and a lot more than he'd wanted her to see. He was good at control. That was, after all, why she wanted him to lose it. With a smile of triumph, she leaned herself back, taking him in fully.
He forgot himself enough to groan, and she echoed that sound. That had been sudden, and he was stretching her, those strange bumps and ridges feeling just as good as she remembered. It was too bad the rest of him was that insufferable. Desire ran through her like sudden heat.
She rolled her hips, and he growled again, the sound broken by a sharp intake of breath.
She thrust against him again, and he almost whimpered, biting the sound back just in time. Still defiant. He wanted her, or at least he wanted what relief she could give him, but that didn't mean he was done fighting her yet.
He bucked under her, displaying much more flexibility than she'd have thought he had. With a shake of his head he snarled at her, and it wasn't a friendly or reassuring sound at all. She was rather glad at the moment that the ropes held him securely.
She looked down at him, and knew that was just what she wanted, the turian Spectre writhing under her, his self control well and truly broken. Realistically she knew she had little chance of making him submit, but she realised she didn't even want that. She liked that defiance. All she wanted was shake his calm and get a reaction, just like she always did, and she had accomplished both. She had no interest at all in humiliating him or attempting to break him. Though considering the rage in that snarl of his he would never believe that.
And the challenge she'd tossed him went both ways; she was going to enjoy herself, but she would make damn sure he'd do the same, however difficult he was making this. She ground herself against him again, taking full advantage of the small ridges on his plates, and his snarl turned into a growl again as he thrust back at her. He didn't have much leverage, though, and he writhed again. It might have been frustration for him, but that move ground his plates against her in a delicious way, and she gasped until she remembered that she wasn't letting him take control here.
With a mixture of arousal, annoyance and amusement, she lifted herself a bit and thrust against him, hard. He responded in kind, as much as he could, and she set a fast rhythm, something still more of fight than cooperation.
He was growling steadily under her, deep and fierce enough that she could feel the sound reverberating through him. Odds were that she would really be regretting all of that once they were done - or rather, he'd make her regret it - but at the moment she couldn't care less.
Her pace was fast and hard as she slammed down on him, and it was almost enough, almost there, when she felt him tense, muscles shifting under his plates.
"This has gone long enough. You had your fun." His voice was strangely collected, even calm. Far too much so.
Not yet, she hadn't, she was unable to say, as she saw him slowly twist his clawed hands against the rope. Shepard felt a flash of amusement - he was strong, she knew that, but this thing would be enough to hold a krogan.
Saren snorted as if he could read her thoughts off her face and stared right at her, eyes bright and feral, and his claws flexed. With an almost leisurely swipe, they sliced through the rope without any visible effort.
It only took her a moment to process what she was seeing, and she didn't waste time questioning how the hell that was possible. Survival instinct took over, lust almost instantly replaced by a stab of very real fear and a surge of adrenaline as she tried to get away.
He seemed fine with that for the moment, as he tossed her off, leaving her to hit the mattress, and in her peripheral vision she saw him claw at the ropes over his ankles. She tried to get her limbs underneath her, almost desperate to get some distance between them, but even so she knew she was too slow.
His hand closed around her shoulder, and she reflexively jabbed her elbow backwards, hard. She didn't turn to see where she had caught him, but she felt the impact and heard his snarl, too close to her. Fiery pain ran over her arm, and she instinctively drew her arm back, blinking at two long, fine lines from elbow to wrist. He'd scratched her.
Not deep, not a problem, her mind supplied, but before she could get back into fighting mode, his hand transferred from her shoulder to her neck, and she went rigid, remembering his claws.
That scratch had been a warning, or maybe a preview of things to come, she realised.
"Really." he said, close enough to her ear that the tip of one mandible tickled her skin, "one would assume that you would give these things a bit of thought beforehand. Do you really think that you are the first person ever to have come up with the bright idea of trying to tie me up?"
He sounded still far too calm, which probably meant he was furious.
His chuckle was definitely chilling. "I will admit that the others who tried that trick had very different concepts of fun than you, though. Now, then. This game was your idea, so let's see how well you like it if the roles are reversed."
His claws flexed very slightly around her neck, and her breath caught. The touch was very light, just barely enough to let her know the situation she was in.
"Don't move, or you might hurt yourself." he warned, and her lips drew back in a silent snarl.
She didn't like this, not one bit. She couldn't even turn her head to look at him without risking injuring herself on his claws. Then his other hand was back on her, deceptively gently running up her inner thigh, and she yelped as her body remembered what it had been doing just moments ago and reacted accordingly.
She found herself half really, really scared and half really, really turned on, which made no sense whatsoever.
Her mind insisted she was in danger, and she had to get away, and her libido insisted that she wanted him, right now, and damn the consequences.
He reached around her hip, slid his hand down her belly, and she couldn't suppress a whimper. Lower still, and his fingers spread her open.
She whimpered again as he pushed himself into her, slowly. She twitched her hips, and couldn't tell whether she was trying to evade him or urge him on.
He growled again, and she had to check herself from flinching back, as the claws around her neck tightened just a fraction. Not painful at all, just a reminder. Yet.
"I said don't move."
Shepard had no choice but to comply. Her pride would have compelled her to at least give some defiant reply, but her voice seemed gone.
And she feared that she knew where this was going.
Saren didn't even have the decency to make this rough. He'd already proven once before that he knew exactly how to touch her, and he was playing that advantage fully. He moved against her, a perfect rhythm that was just what she needed, right now, just a fraction slower than she'd tried to go for, keeping her wanting even more.
He was drawing this out, then. No surprise there.
In all the time they'd been working together now, it had been a constant struggle for control, and neither of them had come ahead long enough and significant enough to decide the issue once and for all.
Now she had no control left over this, none at all, and that was almost enough to make her panic. It scared her deeply, as much as the certain knowledge that by now she wouldn't even have thrown him off even if she had been able to. She yearned for the release he could give her, and of course he had to know that.
She had no doubt whatsoever that he'd do something extremely nasty as soon as he'd decided he was done playing. And yet that knowledge had no effect on her arousal. She knew she was reacting exactly as he wanted her to, to the degree he had decided on, but there was nothing she could do about it.
His thumb grazed her clit, and she forgot how to breathe for a moment.
He chuckled again, sounding genuinely amused, which was an even worse sign, and she barely kept herself from bucking against him as his thumb started circling her clit in time to his thrusts.
Damn him, for using her own body against her, for knowing her reactions far better than he'd any right to.
And damn him for being more than a match for her even in this.
She wasn't going to beg, she told herself. She simply wasn't. Regardless of how close she was to the limit of what she could stand. She didn't do that, never.
Her breathing was harsh, and she bit her lips to avoid making any other sound, because the only vocalisation she seemed capable of was an almost helpless mewl, a sound that didn't seem like anything she'd make. She hated that, hated being reduced to that, just as much as she enjoyed what he was doing to her.
Saren growled, close to her ear again. "Now, Shepard."
She didn't know whether it was intended as a command, a warning or a threat, but she had no time to think anyway as he thrust against her sharply, at the same time clamping his teeth around the back of her neck. The pure shock of it sent her over the edge, and any sort of reason that might have remained left in a flash.
She thrashed against him, screaming, everything else forgotten. Somewhere in the back of her mind she heard him snarl again, felt him jerk sightly in a much more subdued reaction, but it didn't really register with her.
His claws slid over her neck as she threw her head back, breaking his grip, and he let go of the back of her neck, too.
Her arms and legs suddenly gave, but before she could collapse, Saren wrapped his arms around her, letting himself fall on his side, and drawing her down with him.
She didn't try to fight him, simply because she had no energy left to do anything but gasp for breath. He slid out of her, and even in her present state she braced herself for whatever nastiness he might have in mind, but he just continued to hold her, one hand on her hip, the other under her on her ribs.
In truth she half expected him to close his hand at any moment, and dig the claws into her hip, but he made not aggressive move at all.
So she did the next best thing and waited for reason or at least her breath to return to something approaching normal, leaning against the scaly but very warm turian behind her. Once she had revived somewhat, she carefully ran her hand over her neck, checking for any damage. There was no pain, but her perception wasn't back to normal yet, so she simply might not feel it yet.
There was no blood on her hand, and neither was there any damage down her body, where she could see it.
That made no sense, she knew she had thrashed against his grip hard enough that she should have injured herself. After all, that had been the point, or hadn't it?
She reached for his hand on her hip and brought it up close to inspect it. The fact that he didn't resist nagged at the back of her mind, but she pushed it away for now. His black claws were as disturbing and pointy as always, but the inner curve of them was flat and smooth, no edge at all. So how the hell had he sheared through the rope...
He actually sighed and flexed the fingers slightly, and something shifted in the underside of his claws. Shepard could make out the faint glint of metal and the curve of a sharp edge, then he relaxed his fingers, and the edges sank back into the claws, invisible again. Shepard suppressed a shiver. She wasn't even sure why that made her uneasy, but it did.
"You carry blades in there?"
"And you carry a combat knife strapped to your boot and another on your arm and almost never remove the latter. Your point being?"
She didn't answer directly. "Are you going to use those on me?"
Saren gave a low growl. "I wasn't intending to, and I wasn't under the impression you wanted me to. If you insist, I can oblige, though."
"No need for that" she replied quickly. Had she so completely misread that?
She had to know. She turned around, facing him.
His expression was calm enough, as far as she could tell, but that never had said much.
"Just how angry are you right now?"
A flash of surprise in those strange eyes, though she couldn't tell whether he was surprised by the question itself or the fact that she asked it.
"Do I have reason to?"
She blinked. "You tell me."
He snorted. "I suppose I should. I don't like being stunned, much less being restrained, especially not without my explicit consent."
Shepard bit her lips. "I told you I'd let you go if you told me to. I meant it."
"I know." His voice still was too calm. "I know it was a game to you. That's why I cut through the rope as opposed to, say, your wrists."
His matter-of-fact tone sent a shiver down her spine.
"It wasn't a game to you." she said, and it was no question.
He didn't reply.
"You don't play that way, then? Turians don't do that?"
He snorted again. "I can't speak for my whole species, of course, but I'd assume it's uncommon. Usually we don't need to be taught our place or redefine who's dominant to who. And if the point of being restrained is to let go of inhibitions because one cannot he held responsible, and submit to another's will for a while, as I was led to understand, then let me assure you that turians as a whole don't tend to suffer from inhibitions or feel ashamed of whatever method consenting adults use for pleasure, and as I said, we don't play around with rank. So I wouldn't see the point." He paused, his tone growing wry. "As for me, personally, the last time someone tied me up and I didn't manage to get free immediately, I lost most of my face and all my fingertips. That's when I got these replacements." He flexed his fingers again, tapped one claw against one of his rigid mandibles. "So, no, I don't play that way." He lowered his hand again, and somehow it came to rest on her hip again.
She stared at him. "I'm sorry. I didn't know." The words were out before she could even think about it. She rarely ever felt the need to apologise, and certainly not to Saren.
"Of course you didn't." he stated in the same matter-of-fact tone. "After all, I hadn't told you."
He didn't seem upset to her. All she could tell was that she really couldn't read his current mood. He was too quiet, he hadn't thrown her off or threatened or insulted her.
But yes, given what he had indicated she could very well imagine that he didn't like being restrained. It was, perhaps, something to keep in mind for a time when they battled each other in earnest, but nothing she wanted to use in this kind of game. She played rough, and played to win, but there were some limits, and when it wasn't consensual on both sides, then it wasn't acceptable. She had shot people for not respecting that rule before. She had to admit to herself she might have crossed a line here without meaning to. And while she was still shaken from her own reaction to her complete loss of control, she wasn't certain anymore that he'd planned it that way. Or even really knew how badly she was shaken.
"So...are you angry?"
He met her eyes squarely. "No. But I will be if you do anything like this again without telling me beforehand." He paused, letting her think about his words, then continued. "I don't appreciate surprises. If I'm not sure about your intentions, chances are high you are going to get hurt. I do have reflexes."
And no reason to trust, she mentally added.
She was still amazed that he apparently had chosen to play along rather than show his disapproval in his usual violent manner. She'd taken it for pride when he'd tried to resist her, and his own instincts, but maybe she'd had misunderstood there, and it hadn't been just pride at all. He'd turned the tables on her, sure enough, and let her know exactly how it felt to be trapped between lust and fear, which just maybe was just what she'd done to him. As with everything he seemed to do, there had to have been a point in this, too, but she was still too dazed to try and figure that one out. But he hadn't actually hurt her. Quite the opposite, if she was honest.
It was even more odd that he was still touching her, voluntarily. Shepard sighed, giving up on trying to figure out what was going on in the turian's head.
"Suppose that counts as a draw again" she said absently.
He snarled, a sudden angry, rippling sound that usually meant trouble and sat up. "That's it."
She tensed, taken aback by his sudden move, and rolled away from him, reflexively ready to defend herself. He just stared down at her, offering no physical threat. As far as she could tell, he was merely annoyed.
"Oh, stop that twitching, it's annoying. You might one day give me cause enough to convince me that snapping your neck is in the best interest of the galaxy, but so far we're not at that stage yet. And contrary to whatever you seem to be used to or expect, I for one can keep play and real violence apart." He growled again, and she knew from that he had lost his patience. "You had your rematch. Now get the hell out."
"What?" She blinked, her mind still trying to analyse the first part of what he'd said.
"You are aware that this is my room, and you have a perfectly serviceable one of your own?" His tone was back to sarcasm.
Illogically, that somewhat reassured her. If he was still bothering to be sarcastic, he probably wasn't considering murder just yet. Shepard relaxed a bit and considered this. Her adrenaline was down again, and she felt sluggish. "Not sure I can move yet." she admitted. Maybe she could, if she absolutely had to, but she certainly didn't want to.
He stared at her for a moment, almost incredulous, then snorted. "I really hope you don't expect me to carry you."
She didn't bother to answer that one, but made no effort to even attempt to move. She faintly wondered whether he'd resort to bodily kicking her out of the bed. That was something she really wouldn't put past him.
Saren grumbled something the translator either couldn't or wouldn't make sense of, then lowered himself to the mattress again. "Ah, the depths to which I sink to. Very well. You can stay, this time only."
Before she could come up with anything in reply to that, he snorted. "And if you snore, I just might have to strangle you. As a service to the general public. You humans are bad enough awake, but you make really disgusting noises when asleep."
She chuckled. He was certainly capable of that, but not for that reason.
She instead got the covers from where they'd been discarded beside the bed and drew them up. The bed was a bit on the narrow side, now that she considered it, especially with a tall turian already inside who probably wouldn't respond well to getting prodded in order to make room. Then she figured what the hell and rolled around again, experimentally leaning against him.
He growled again, but it was the slightly-insulted kind, which under most circumstances could be safely ignored. "Don't worry, I won't make it a habit. You're far too spiky to make a good pillow anyway." she told him. And it was true, he was spiky, but also rather warm to the touch, which was nice enough.
"I would very much appreciate it if you would shut up now." he growled.
She didn't mind. As far as she was concerned it was truce until morning. Thinking about all of this could wait until then, too. She leaned a bit more against him, finally relaxing, and since he didn't even growl this time, he was probably pretending not to notice. That suited her just fine.
She did him the same courtesy when some time later, she pretended that she didn't notice when he shifted slightly and his hand came to rest on her hip again.