"Well, that was..."

Garrus closed his eyes and waited for Shepard to continue. Maybe if he willed it hard enough, he could imagine this moment out of existence! Mmmmmmmmmmm...


He groaned at her words and opened one eye to stare over to the human laying beside him in the bed. She offered him a sheepish grin. A few years ago, he might have been confused. Human facial expressions were complex and numerous; they used their eyebrows, their mouths, their lips, their eyes to convey their emotions so much more than turians who used their hands, mandibles and tone of voice. And then compared to other species that smiled like salarians and asari and drell, but who didn't always smile for the same reasons, it just got worse from there.

But the one thing he had learned was that just because a human was smiling didn't mean they were entirely happy. Or that they were being honest, either.

"That was awful," he clarified. There. It felt better to just state the fact and, yet, somehow worse too.

Shepard grimaced and he couldn't help but notice how her body moved with the expression. The differences between them were even more stark now, with their clothes on the floor and nothing to mask their skin and bones. She was laying flat on her back on top of the tangled sheets, another thing that kept catching his attention. Humans had a term for this; what was it? Uncanny valley, where something was clearly a person, but had enough small differences to be creepy? Or something like that. That's what kept striking him now in ways he'd never noticed before. Like how she could lay flat on her back while he laid on his side. His idle thoughts kept wondering how she could possibly be comfortable like that before he remembered a split second later it was because she was human and he was turian. Before he would have said the differences were not that much, but now... now they seemed to fill the room.

"Well, to be honest, you did kind of surprise me," replied the commander, and though she still looked apologetic, Garrus could hear a bit of amusement in her tone. Oh spirits. She thought this was funny, didn't she? Where were the escape pods again? They were looking attractive.

"At least the bleeding's stopped," he pointed out, trying to sound optimistic.

She rubbed at the spot where, in the heat of the moment and forgetting that she wasn't plated, he'd nipped at her neck. Well, a nip for a turian. For a human, it was more of a 'moment in which we'll yelp and bleed a bit and knock over the lamp in the process'.

"It'll be fine." Leaving the little red mark alone, Shepard shifted so she was sitting up with her back to the wall. "And, ah, I'm sorry for not asking before I straddled you. I didn't realize your waist was so sensitive."

His hips gave a twinge of soreness in memory. He certainly hadn't been expecting it when she had given him a playful push to the bed and, without warning, promptly put her weight on top of him. The noise that had come out of him had been... well, he wouldn't be sharing that story with anyone. Embarrassment flooded his mind again, warming the skin around his neck and collar. He had wanted this to go great. Wine and music, a private moment between him and her, this human he had so much respect for... so much fondness for. But this?

This was a complete disaster.

"Look, I'll- I'll go," he started to say, moving to get up and find his pants. But before he could put his feet to the floor, her hand circled tight around his wrist.

"Hey, hey, hey!" Shepard gave his arm a tug to try and coax him back. "Where are you heading off to?"

He tried to wave off her grip listlessly, though he remained seated on the side of the bed. "The nearest air lock."

"Oh don't be so dramatic," she groaned. Since it was obvious he wasn't going to lay back down, she shifted so that she was sitting beside him.

"You make it sound like we were supposed to have an asari choir singing an epic about the night, buddy."

"No! Just... better than this." Shit.

"It probably could have gone better," she agreed.

He looked back to her, somewhat surprised. She didn't sound annoyed or aggravated at all. This was a new one, at least from Shepard. He had grown used to her gravelly personality; Grunt called her "battlemaster" and it fit. Solona Shepard's place wasn't in an office or in a big city, but the battlefield. While she always tried to be friendly with her crew, it was in the heat of the moment that her true emotions showed: barking orders to stay safe, shouts of ridicule or yells of concern, running through the line of fire to get someone out of a bad spot. It had always seemed to him that she was herself when she was faced with death. Or worse, at least in Shepard's mind, faced with failure. And he would admit it to himself, he loved seeing that part of her and being beside her in those fire fights. It made her look so damn alive.

Shepard arched an eyebrow at his expression. "Got something to say?"

"I figured you'd be disappointed. I mean... this may be the last thing we do before we hit the relay," he pointed out. "Nothing ruins a suicide mission like bad sex."

The human let out a heavy laugh and ran her hand through her hair. "Garrus, you want me to share a secret with you?"

He tilted his head to the side, curious. "Only if it doesn't involve that scale itch Mordin's been obsessed with."

Ignoring his jab, she interrupted with, "Quite frankly, if I just wanted some decent sex, I probably could have found a dozen other people on the ship besides you."

...Oh. "Ouch," he grumbled and moved to stand up again.

She yanked him back down. "Let me finish, you." Her face softened as she paused. "There's other folks on the ship. Kelly hasn't exactly hid her attraction. Jacob, he's a good looking guy, so is Thane. Hell, Joker keeps telling me he can do this thing with his tongue that drove his ex crazy-"

"Gyah," groaned Garrus, flinging a hand over his eyes as if that'd stop his overactive imagination from exploding. "Stop. Mercy."

The commander gave him a swat on the arm. "But I chose you."

Now it was his turn to pause, less out of thought but confusion as he tried to put it together. Finally, his thoughts failing him, he murmured, "Why?"

"Because you're my best friend," she said simply. Reaching up, she cupped his face in her hands. Her fingers were smooth and round, so unnatural to him, but the warmth was soothing against the sensitive scarring. He glanced up to meet her eyes. Though the room was dark, the light from the skylight overhead was hitting her just right; the stars carefully illuminated her body and face, sensual and curved. It wasn't turian. But he could see the beauty... especially when his eyes met hers, blue on blue, and he could see all the emotion she was struggling to convey.

"You know words aren't my best talent," she grumbled halfheartedly, putting voice to his thoughts.

"Why talk when a gun can fix it," he said, quoting something she had said shortly after they'd first met... spirits, nearly three years ago. How different they'd both been then.

Solona smiled. "Yeah. See? You know me better than most of other people in the galaxy. When everyone else asked me who, why or what, you just asked when and where. I don't have to explain myself when I'm around you. If there was anyone else I wanted to spend my last moments with, it'd be you, and even if it's a completely embarrassing failure on my end, at least it's with somebody I respect and like. I know the stakes we're up against in the next few hours, Vakarian. But if we're going into that fight, I..."

She took a deep breath and suddenly she seemed unsure. The air was warm, as she had adjusted the temperature controls for him, so she hadn't bothered with covering up. Without her armor, she almost looked vulnerable. Not weak, just faltering, if only for a moment. It wasn't something he was used to seeing in Shepard. In a universe that seemed intent on turning everything he believed in head over heels, she was an anchor in the storm. So sure of her ideals and goals, that what had to be done, what must be done, and at least if she bloodied her hands in the process no one else would have to.

Reaching up, he took her hands into his, giving them a gentle squeeze.

Pulled out of her thoughts again, she continued as if she hadn't stopped. "I really feel that we can do this."

"You could beat them," he said without a doubt, "even if I weren't here."

"Probably. But it wouldn't be the same without you."

Without him? He considered what his life would be without her. Back on the Citadel, safe and sound, no dreams of betrayal and innocents suffering, with no memories of what it felt like to lie on the brink of death while his blood pooled around him...

And no memories of standing on the Ilos, the first visitor in thousands of years. Having never met a geth that could talk or a cloned krogan or a drell assassin. Never stepping outside Citadel space to Omega, to the Migrant Fleet, to a hundred other places he had never even heard of. No Tali, Joker, Ashley, Kaidan, Wrex... No Shepard.

"Well. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he whispered.

She smiled at him and shifted his hands to her waist, letting them rest against her hips. He leaned forward and nuzzled his nose to her curly black hair. The stiff curly texture was completely foreign but it smelled like everything he associated with her. Sweat, medi-gel, those little spices for the cooking she loved, something sweet he couldn't place a name to. Letting out a sigh of contentment, Shepard shifted to press her lips - what did humans call it again? Kissing? - to the unscarred side of his neck. When she nipped at the skin just below his jaw, a stab of pleasure sent him shivering with arousal.

"You know, you could've told me what made you horny before we decided to get into the advanced course of freaky alien sex," said Shepard, and though he couldn't see her grin, he could recognize the tone that came with it.

His confidence restored, Garrus chuckled as he carefully kneaded his fingers along her waist. To his relief, he was rewarded with a purr of pleasure from Solona. He still might not have a perfect grasp on human sounds, but there was no missing that one. "Well. I wouldn't want to bore you with the details."

"Show me your damn details," she growled playfully and, laying back down among the pile of sheets, tugged him gently down with her.

"Aye aye, commander."

"Just no biting."

As always, Mass Effect and its characters belong solely to Bioware, and not to me.