Set before retrieving the IFF/Omega 4 relay but not the night of/immediately before Normandy crew is stolen. I had been thinking for a while about the favors your crew members ask of Shepard. Some are revenge, some are cries for help, but mostly all of them are meant to bring some type of closure. So, what does Shepard have to bring herself closure? This is my take on what that would be, exactly.

.~.

Partisan

.~.~.

Yeoman Kelly Chambers prided herself in being able to read people. It was one of the many skills she had honed while training to be a psychologist; to read the language of a person's body, face, stature. And not just in humans. She had excelled in understanding subtle nuances of alien species as well. The slight raised eye ridges and twitching mandibles in turians; the fast pace and large roving eyes of salarians; the sway of body and slight knowing smiles in asari, the list goes on. She even could tell, in some degree, what an elcor was thinking, which was by no means an easy feat.

So it was when Commander Shepard froze at her terminal after bringing up a private message, Kelly's eyes immediately zero'd in. She carefully watched out of the corner of her eye as the commander stood with her hand on the pad in front of her, eyes unblinking and hard, mouth set in a firm line. That look, she had come to find out, meant that something had struck the commander deep. It wasn't the harsh, almost mocking gaze she would give mercenaries while deciding if she should shoot them or not. Nor the sure stare and slight quirk of lips of a person in charge who was expecting a crew member to be upfront with their superior.

This look she was now viewing on her leader's face was one that had been seen rarely, in her time aboard the Normandy. First time she had seen it had been after the mission to recruit Archangel, when his fatigued and bloody form had been brought in to the med bay and whispers began among the crew that the commander knew him from before. The commander had leaned against the table outside the med bay for hours, watching carefully with the same look as Doctor Chakwas saved her former crew member Garrus Vakarian.

Second time had been right after their first big break against the Collectors, in the human colony of Horizon. Shepard had brought that look aboard after her meeting with another of her previous crew members. She had even admitted to Kelly that meeting Ashley Williams again had been hard - to be called a traitor by someone she considered almost a sister had nearly caused her to weep.

Just because she hadn't cried about it didn't mean the commander was a harsh woman; she smirked and joked and was friendly to anyone she worked with. The genuine smiles Kelly observed when Shepard would talk with Officer Vakarian or Tali'Zorah or Joker spoke volumes. It also revealed a truth about the woman who led their little band.

While Shepard could be serious and understanding of a comrade's problem or situation, not once had Kelly seen the commander speak of her own problems. She rarely spoke to anyone about her fears or hopes, or even what she felt after every mission the ground team came back from. It didn't seem as though anyone she fought alongside with even had the courtesy of asking her how she was doing.

'Am I the only one who even asks her 'What's up?' Kelly frowned. Shepard usually didn't go into any details with her; she still felt slightly uncomfortable around the psychologist-turned-yeoman, but was generally friendly. She had even called Kelly 'charming.' While the commander would never spill her secrets, Kelly was sure that Shepard appreciated why she was here.

I'm here to make sure no one goes batshit crazy and blows up the core and takes the rest of us with them.

Shepard's sudden movement startled her. The commander had abruptly turned and made for the elevator. Kelly turned her head to watch her, and it was as if the commander knew she was.

"Tell Joker to set a course for the Amada system. I'll be in my quarters. No one is to disturb me."

Kelly's eyebrow flew up as her frown deepened into one of concern. Shepard wasn't usually one to revoke her open door policy. She had strived to make it clear that any problem could be brought to her and she would listen without bias. As proof, every problem the ground team had brought forward - Mordin's old student, Grunt's Rite of Passage, Miranda's sister, Jacob's father, hell, even Jack and the facility she grew up in - were all faced and solved, thanks to the commander.

But the way she had delivered that terse command - sounding almost haunted, Kelly thought - gave off a wave of don't bother me right now.

"Yes, commander." Kelly said quietly as the elevator doors shut.

She wouldn't bother the commander. It wasn't her place. But she knew someone who could and possibly would get an answer about the strange isolation the commander had now initiated.

.~.

The clack of heels behind the door should have been his first clue something was up.

It wasn't usual someone came to talk to him besides Shepard; on rare occasions, one of the engineers actually came up from the lower deck with a data pad on hand to show the power draw of the cannons he so diligently calibrated.

He had to admit, it took quite a bit of control on his part not to face whoever entered the main battery; a daring move on a Cerberus ship. But, then again, Cerberus wasn't in charge. This was Shepard's ship. This was the Normandy, even if it had Cerberus labels splashed everywhere and Cerberus crew members working diligently inside.

This was the ship that that deranged cripple Joker expertly piloted across the galaxy. The ship that housed one of the most skilled quarians he had ever known - Tali would get a kick out of that if he ever admitted it. The ship that had one of the best doctors in the Alliance in her med bay; he doubted anyone but Chakwas would have been able to get him healed and on his feet so quickly.

And, if he dared to be brave enough to admit it to himself, the very ship that housed the one woman he had come to care for more than a commander, more than a friend.

You're in way deeper than you know, Garrus, his mind toned gently. He flared his left mandible in a bit of a turian smile at the implications his brain had brought up.

Her bold proposition has startled him, for sure. He was simply regaling her with a story of his past - one he would never have told on the old Normandy, in front of the Mako - just to see if it made her smile or shocked her. The hotheaded young C-Sec officer who would follow a Spectre on an impossible mission was really a sarcastic, skilled turian male who had gone toe to toe with a turian female recon scout and ended up in a very heated tiebreaker in said scout's quarters.

He had smirked as Shepard's head bowed down when she shook it, her grin just as wide as his. But as his commander offered to help him relieve tension, he had grown slightly nervous; using some line about sparring, when he was absolutely sure that wasn't what she meant by it, he offered her a way out should his brain be fooling him.

And then she had to go and use that smirk on him, and throw his line about 'reach and flexibility' back in his face. Only now, it was about his reach and Commander Shepard's flexibility. He had choked, trying to cover his response as best he could - some retarded line about her thing for men with scars, and he wouldn't say it out loud, but he wondered if she was part krogan - and all the while she just stood there, leaning against his console and waiting for him to give an answer.

Still with that coy smirk on her face.

Oh spirits, if Wrex or Ashley could see us now, he remembered thinking. This wasn't a conversation that would have ever graced the cargo bay of the first Normandy.

And spirits be damned, it had been two years since he had really cut loose and gone for it. It seemed to be a trend that he would throw caution to the wind and follow this human woman wherever she led. What was to stop him now? Everyone who knew him as Archangel thought he was dead; his family was non the wiser about his current location aboard the newly rebuilt Normandy, although he was sure his father could easily find out. But that man had never given him the respect he deserved, even after the battle for the Citadel. Garrus could care less what his father thought, or what anyone thought, really. He had said it before - he was a bad turian.

Which was why Garrus had simply thrown his inhibitions over his shoulder and actually agreed to see where this interspecies adventure would take him.

He was truthful in his words to her in their few conversations about it. There really wasn't anyone else he respected more than her - her drive to make sure the galaxy was safe, even if no one had her back; her choice to use force only when absolutely necessary (she didn't know it, but he had taken that lesson to heart - no innocents were harmed as much as he could help it in his time spent dogging the Omega's mercenary forces.) Even in the way she related to every person of her crew. Despite the past with the company, Cerberus employees aboard the Normandy were treated with the same respect her Alliance crew had received on her previous ship. It wasn't hard to figure out why people were so willing to follow this woman into hell, himself included.

He also was speaking truthfully when he had said she was the only friend he had left in the galaxy. She would help him with any problem, would listen to anything he had to say - more than he could ask of anyone, especially a superior officer.

It had taken him a while to figure out just why she hadn't let him kill Sidonis; his hatred and thirst for revenge could never override his control while Shepard was in the sights of his scope, even in front of that traitorous bastard. Without Shepard, he was sure he never would have taken the time to listen to Sidonis' words, his haunted face and words telling of the same nightmares Garrus had. Although, with how gaunt and pale Sidonis had been, the spirits of his team were taking their revenge on him in worse ways than Garrus would ever be able to take with a bullet.

Safely off the Citadel and back in the warm red space of his post aboard the Normandy, his mind had processed the outcome and he understood why Shepard had done it. Garrus really should have seen it; it had been the same with Saleon. She refused to let him simply play executioner. It wasn't his place to say whether someone lived or died, and her message of schooling his own choices had hit home once he realized her lesson had come back on him again after two years.

He was not a xenophobe by any means; he didn't find many species repulsive, with the exception to vorcha. While it remained true he didn't have a fetish for humans, it hadn't stopped his curiosity from getting the better of him when he searched for vids on the extranet of how to have relations with a human female.

And oh man, if Shepard could do half the things the human females in these videos were doing, he was in for a hell of a night. But, that was farther off; they hadn't set a time, but he knew it would happen soon, given their mission's highly dangerous nature.

But really, who was Garrus trying to kid? He wouldn't go this far with just anyone anymore. That time with the recon scout had been during better days, during happier times when the word 'reaper' was nothing more than a human myth. Thanks to his jaded and altered view of the galaxy, he couldn't be that naive anymore. More was at stake than anyone in this existence realized, and the only people who were actually doing something about it were aboard this very ship.

His thoughts were interrupted as the heels stopped just beyond the open doorway, a very proper clearing of the throat giving away who had graced him with their presence.

"Officer Vakarian."

He frowned slightly, not turning around. He wasn't a part of C-Sec anymore, so why did everyone insist on calling him by that title? He supposed his new title would be Gunnery Chief, but he couldn't see himself actively responding to that; he associated it with Williams more than himself.

" Operative Lawson." He kept his tone neutral, and not in the form of a question. He continued to try typing out the current string of code he was on, not giving her the benefit of having interrupted his work. She may be the current XO of this Normandy, but he hadn't had any reason to give her any respect beyond being civil. She may have been the one to bring Shepard back to life, but he could recall Shepard's offhand remark of a control chip in her brain being Miranda's idea.

His talons flexed on the console without his consent, and he kept the sudden urge to wrap them around the human woman's neck in check.

He could hear the woman's breathing change slightly, as if she had sentences she wanted to start, but would end up closing her mouth before beginning. He subtly rolled his eyes, a very human quirk he had picked up from Shepard, and decided to cut her some slack.

"If you need time, you can always come back later. I'm in the middle of some calibra-"

"It's about Shepard."

Those three words stopped his hands above the console. Turning slowly to his left, he peered through his visor screen at her, noting her nervous posture and her eyes trailing away from him.

"What about Shepard?" He asked in a low tone. Miranda's back stiffened slightly at his scrutiny, and she seemed to gather herself just enough to look him in the eye. Almost defiantly.

"There's... a message came through in her private mail." Garrus couldn't help the slight flex of his mandibles in the form of a sneer. Damned woman wouldn't give Shepard any privacy, even in her inbox. Give all the excuses in the world, she still shouldn't be snooping in business that wasn't hers.

"I take it this message wasn't a good one," he said airily, lifting his chin a bit. His eye was still trained on hers, taking in the way the tension in her body seemed to heighten the more she stood in his presence.

Something's up, why would she be that nervous around me?

His visor readout churned with data on his current focus, her heartbeat slightly raised, her breathing beginning to speed up. It was almost as if what she had seen in the commander's inbox would anger him as well. What kind of message could Shepard have received that would have to do with him?

"It came from Alliance command. They've..." Miranda paused, almost looking back as if to check to see if anyone was eavesdropping. He briefly lifted his gaze to the camera that was currently trained on the open door of the battery out in the hallway, but said nothing. She held his eye again as she finished. "...they've found the wreckage of the original Normandy."

Garrus' breath caught. Oh shit. He turned his view away from her, his mind drifting away to two years ago.

"I'm sorry Garrus, the Normandy is gone. She's gone..."

The very site where Shepard had... he couldn't even finish the thought in his head. It was still unbelievable. The things that woman had gone through because of the Collectors and Reapers... How did Shepard deal with it?

"They want her to find any record of the casualties from the crash site." Miranda's voice seemed almost... sorrowful? Why would she be sad about this?

Garrus turned his head back to her. "Why does it bother you? This is Shepard's business." He hadn't said it with any accusation in his voice, but she seemed to take it as such.

Her eyes narrowed and she took a step towards him. "Shepard is my business. I didn't spend two years putting her back together for something like this to drag her down."

Garrus growled and turned fully to face her, standing tall over her. He leaned close, mandibles twitching. "So that's all this is? All you care about is if it impacts the mission in any way? Making sure Cerberus doesn't lose any resource, is that it?"

All at once she seemed to lose her nerve, backing up away from him, her gaze dropping to the floor. Garrus cocked his head, disrupted by the sudden change in the usually strong-willed woman.

"I'm not..." she started. Miranda's eyes closed and she bowed her head. Taking a breath, she continued in almost a whisper. "I owe her. A great deal. More than you know or care to know. There isn't much I can do for Shepard, but this..."

She opened her eyes to catch his gaze again, and he almost took a step back himself from the emotion in them. It almost seems like.. his thought was interrupted. "I can't do anything for her, except this.

"She needs someone right now, Vakarian. No one else on this crew can offer what she needs, except you."

Garrus leaned back in alarm. Did she know of them? Of their conversations and supposed plans? And she's alright with it?

His mouth opened before he could control it. "Bit of a surprise, coming from a Cerberus loyalist such as yourself."

Miranda merely sighed and gave a rueful smile. "While I may not wholly agree with whatever the commander decides, I'm not going to judge someone who has placed their trust in me like Shepard has. This isn't Cerberus business, this is just me concerned about someone I trust."

The turian slowly crossed his arms in front of him, leaning back against his console. He was both amazed and amused at just how much Miranda had been affected by Shepard. He should have known that it wouldn't be long before anyone on the crew would take a bullet for the commander, but it still shocked him that even Cerberus people like Miranda or Jacob could even be swayed. You should learn by now, that woman can achieve the impossible, his mind chided.

Miranda turned to leave, peering back at him.

"We're still a few hours out from the system. Just please, do something for her."

Garrus nodded almost absently, his thoughts still turning in his head. The door swished shut behind her, and he took the time in his solitude to think.

To be able to visit the site where you died... Garrus could only imagine what Shepard was feeling at the moment. By all accounts and purposes, that should have been her final resting place. He wasn't sure how he would have felt, after finding out that she had been killed in action, that a terrorist organization would bring her back to life only to shove her back in front of a Reaper invasion. How does she do it and not fall apart?

To be able to see her again, to move with her on the battlefield like they used to, to hear her voice and feel her presence...

Shit, Vakarian. This isn't as simple as it should be. He knew how he felt about her; if he were truthful to himself, he wouldn't have been using the excuse of blowing off steam to be close to her. But it seemed almost impossible that someone like him could be anything more than a comrade to someone like Shepard. He had read her file in depth after her death, trying to understand her any way he could. Her past was an example of strength through perseverance; she grew up alone in poverty on the streets of Earth, learning to get by with her quick wits and persuasion skills. She could talk a krogan into having sex with a hanar, I swear.

At eighteen, she had enlisted with the Alliance military and served for many years. It had been just her luck that on the very planet she would take shore leave, her world would forever be changed. The Skyllian Blitz was well known, even to turians. Batarians had never gotten along well with the Council races, and their need to fuel the slavery business made it even easier to disassociate with them when they cut ties. He could remember the classes he took on learning alien races. Humans were to be treated with caution. They could hold their own and fight like the bravest turian military heroes, or be just as low and disgusting as vorcha.

Garrus hadn't quite realized he was traveling with the Commander Shepard who held off the batarian forces in the Blitz until he had read that file on her. He felt a little ashamed of himself for it. He was supposed to be a skilled C-Sec officer. Why did it take him this long to figure out who exactly he had been following into a lethal suicide mission? Twice now, even.

He shook his head at his own foolishness and turned around back to his console. He would have to speak with Shepard; if not because Miranda asked him to, but now he had to see how she was faring after hearing the information himself. He had been on the Normandy too. It was both a heavy weight and a stab to the heart that the wreckage was found. Idly, he wondered if that damn Mako hadn't been destroyed.

Garrus snorted at that thought and once again tried to finish the line of code he had been working on.

And again, footsteps signaled that he wouldn't get the chance to.

He almost gave a frustrated groan as the doors whooshed open again, and he turned to see Kelly Chambers staring up at him.

"Is there something I can help you with, Ms. Chambers?"

She simply gave a soft, disarming smile, which always put him on edge. He knew why she was on board. It didn't mean he had to enjoy her scrutiny or her attempts to get him to open up and talk about his problems. I have someone I would do that with already, thanks. Even with a grenade launcher, she seems less dangerous than this yeoman.

"Not me, personally, no. But there was something I wanted to ask of you, Officer Vakarian."

Again, he felt like correcting another person as to why he shouldn't be called 'officer' anymore, but she continued to forge on.

"I was hoping you would go and speak with the Commander."

He stopped short, peering at the redhead. And now, another request to talk to Shepard. What is going on? Does she have no privacy whatsoever on this ship?

"Ah, any particular reason why?" Garrus ventured. If she had seen the mail, then he was going to encrypt every damn message that ever came into the Normandy, just to spite these Cerberus people.

Something in the way Chambers' brow furrowed had him paying attention, however. "It's not my place to say, but it had something to do with a message she just received. I don't know who it was from, but it made the commander very uncomfortable. Her reaction worried me."

Garrus cocked his head. "What did she do?"

"She went to her quarters and ordered no one to disturb her."

The ball of worry that had settled in his stomach when Miranda had talked with him just grew heavier. Well, that would make things difficult. He couldn't just simply wander up there and ask to hang out. If Shepard didn't want to be disturbed, she probably did need to be alone. But to be isolated in a situation such as this? He was going to have to invade her personal area, he concluded with a sigh. Shepard wouldn't like it, but Garrus knew it had to be done. She had helped him through his rough personal problem - hell, she helped anyone who asked - so why shouldn't he do the same? She does everything for her crew. Time for her to get something back.

Garrus nodded to Kelly. "I'll see what I can do. Thanks for bringing this up with me."

She smiled, almost sadly. "Thanks, Officer Vakarian. A person like Commander Shepard shouldn't feel alone."

.~.

And now that he was up here outside her door, he found his nerve bleeding out of him. Scratching a talon along his unscarred mandible, he paced. What was he going to say? Hey Shepard, I've been asked to come up here to make sure you're not losing your mind. Hey Shepard, the Cerberus snoops caught the message and wanted to see if their resident hero was fit enough to ride into certain death. He resisted the urge to smack himself, barely.

Running a hand along his fringe, he sought whatever courage he still had left in him and passed his hand over the red holo on the door.

"Not now, Vakarian," a sharp voice said beyond the door. Even muffled, Shepard's voice carried. Garrus found himself unconsciously following her order, and caught himself before setting foot in the elevator. No, no. I need to do this, damnit.

He spun and stood in front of the captain's cabin door again. Hacking wouldn't work; Shepard had encrypted it. Damn N7, just had to teach her that, he gumbled in his head.

He peered upwards. "EDI?" he called.

"Yes, Officer Vakarian."

"Would you please unlock the commander's door?"

"Commander Shepard has given a strict order that no one is to disturb her. I am afraid I cannot open her door at this time."

Garrus placed his hands on his hips. Lowering his voice to a soft rumble, he tried again, this time, from a different approach.

"EDI, do you really believe the commander should be alone right now?"

A pregnant pause followed, and he smiled to himself as the holo on the door turned green. "No, I do not, Officer Vakarian."

He stepped forward to cause the door to open, and found himself caught in the hard stare of Commander Shepard.

.~.

She had been sitting forward, from what he could tell. Her elbows on her knees, her head in her hands. The terminal behind her held the private message from Admiral Hackett about the crash site, but Garrus found he couldn't tear his eyes away from the harsh gaze the woman in front of him was sporting.

For a while, neither said anything, neither moved. The two didn't even blink. Garrus was sure if he blinked, he would miss something important. The commander's brow lowered, and she ended up looking away first, towards her empty fish tank. He heard her growl under her breath, "Damned useless AI," before she stood and turned her back to him as she moved to the lower portion of her quarters.

He hadn't been in her quarters, now that he thought about it. It was certainly different from her room on the first Normandy. A bit more like an actual apartment, and less of a space to simply sleep. Commander Shepard actually lived in this room. A few sparse decorations, mostly the model ships she liked to collect, and he could see out of the corner of his eye the space hamster she had picked up from their first trip back to the Citadel. There was a medal case on her desk to the right of her terminal, and he looked beyond the models to see a framed holo on the desk closer to her bed.

He was surprised to find it was a picture of all the old Normandy crew, taken right after the battle for the Citadel. They had posed during the ceremony celebrating their accomplishments, and he found himself almost smiling remembering that day.

His thoughts were cut short by her terse question.

"What do you want from me, Vakarian?"

It wasn't lost to him that she had used the very same question he had posed to her during their hunt for Sidonis. He had snarled at her during their shuttle ride, but she simply continued to try to reason with him. She had aided him during his mission to exact revenge, and he had treated her with such disrespect. He wasn't sure how she even forgave him so quickly. If she had been upset about it still, he was pretty sure she wouldn't have propositioned him in the first place.

"Do I have to want something from you to come see you?" he asked quietly.

She scoffed, but didn't say anything. He felt his annoyance rise, and dared to be cheeky. "I don't make a very good turian, Shepard. Whenever I hear a bullshit order, I choose not to follow it."

Shepard whirled, staring at him with an almost furious glare, her cybernetics glowing faint red under her scars. "Vakarian, I'm in no mood for games. Say what you will and get out."

Garrus slowly crossed his arms, aiming his own glare down at her, his scarred face just as unnerving as hers.

"No."

He heard her teeth grind, but she schooled her temper with a deep breath. Closing her eyes, he saw her shoulders tense as she sat at the edge of the bed. Back to the position he had found her in. Elbows on her knees, head in her hands. She said nothing, simply choosing to ignore his presence.

Garrus frowned, dropping his arms to walk forward, keeping an eye on her while moving to the couch to sit. He positioned himself much like she had, leaning forward with his chin resting on his talons.

They sat in uncomfortable silence for a while, both facing each other, listening to each other breath. Shepard's heart rate had dropped back to normal, from what his visor told him. She simply stared at the floor, her gaze seeming to go beyond the ship itself and into space. He had never gone this long in her company without words. They would usually talk about anything and everything when she came to visit him down in the cargo bay of the old Normandy. She was different from many humans he had met. There wasn't any tension between them when they chatted. She accepted him regardless of his species and their history with humans.

Garrus sighed gently, leaning back into the couch. This was going nowhere, and they were running out of time.

"Shepard."

She didn't move a muscle. He doubted she was even aware he had spoken to her. What could she be thinking? He wished she would let him in, let him help her. Had she ever had anyone ask if she was really alright? Had Kaidan been there for her before he...?

"Nothing."

Her soft answer startled him. "What?"

"There's nothing, you know." When he didn't respond, unsure of what she meant, she continued. "When you die. There's nothing."

Garrus' breath hitched. He heard her chuckle darkly.

"Everyone thinks there's this fantastic place you go to when you die, or are accepted back to wherever you come from, or whatever. But all there is, cruelly enough, is simply nothing. No light. Benezia was right."

He was growing nervous. She had started laughing softly, her shoulders shaking. All of a sudden, she flopped herself back on her bed, her laugh growing louder. Garrus watched in mild fear as she continued.

"People think there's heaven, or this wonderful paradise when you've passed on. Boy, will they be disappointed. To live your life and then find nothing waiting for you in the end, it's the perfect irony, ha!"

He had enough. He stormed up from the couch, standing at the edge of her bed, her knees brushing his shins.

"Shepard, shut the fuck up. Now."

He didn't think his growled outburst would work, but she grew quiet. As she stared up at the window above her bed, into the black expanse of space above, it took all his control not to grab her and crush her against him. The damn woman wouldn't even show him her fear. Was it because she didn't trust him, or was what he offered simply not enough? Their history didn't matter to her? Was she really holding him away from her?

"Am I really..." he paused, taking a breath. "Am I that far away from you, Shepard?"

Shepard closed her eyes, exhaling slowly. She rose up on her elbows, her eyes finally falling on him. He knew he looked pitiful, but he didn't care anymore. He had let her in too far. She owned him, whether she knew it or not. And seeing her this way was absolute torture.

She sat up fully, her forehead coming to rest against his chestplate. He heard her sigh, and clenched his fists to keep them from wrapping around her.

"I don't..." She shook her head against his armor, as if to cancel that thought. "Right before the Normandy blew up, I did everything in my power to get everyone out alive. I practically threw Joker into an escape pod. Even in a situation where I'm probably going to die, I always put other peoples' lives ahead of my own. I don't regret saving Joker, that's not what I'm saying. But to come to terms in the fifteen or so seconds while I had air-" Garrus' will wavered as her voice began to as well "-and then to wake up from all that and find the galaxy went and changed while I lay dead? And to find out that I can't even find peace in death..."

He couldn't hold back anymore. Dropping to his haunches, he gathered her close, shutting his eyes tight as her body began to shake. She grasped at his armor, her breath hitching against his neck. But he didn't feel tears, or hear any sobs. "Shepard..." he whispered.

"Even you, Garrus. You changed. Finding you on Omega instead of in C-Sec, or as a Spectre... and then to almost lose you the moment I find you..." He felt her arms raise to wrap around his neck in his cowl, feeling her breath against the scarred side of his face. "To see the darkness and hatred in you, how it nearly consumed you. I couldn't allow that, I just couldn't." He nuzzled into her hair, words failing him as this strong woman bared herself. He could only feel worse for how he had treated her after confronting Sidonis; she worried for him so, and he just spat angry words at her in his vengeful rage.

Warm, soft lips against his scarred mandible jolted him, and he turned his head to stare into her eyes. She backed up slightly, moving her hands to cup his face gently. Her eyes were unsure, but wanting. Did she...?

Pulling him closer, she closed her eyes and slowly brought their foreheads together. Garrus stared in shock. Was she even aware of the significance of what this meant?

"When I come back."

He tried to move his head back to question her, but she held his head firmly against hers. She murmured against his mouth. "I'm not ready yet, Garrus. Just, wait for me, please. Until I return."

He blinked, mandibles flexing against her palms. This went way beyond blowing off steam together. His mind and heart were overjoyed, but at the same time, his gut was dropping down to his feet. The nature of their relationship was, if he was to believe her actions, taking a pretty serious turn, and to say he wasn't nervous would have been a lie.

As her eyes opened to stare into his, his resolve strengthened. For her, he would walk through hell. He had already done it once, and he was definitely going to do it again for this mission. For Shepard.

"Okay," he breathed. Shepard's shoulders sagged slightly in relief, and she allowed herself a small smile. Garrus couldn't help mirroring it back at her, as much as a turian could smile.

.~.

"Commander, coming up on Alchera, ETA fifteen minutes."

"Thank you, Joker."

They parted slowly, achingly, and Garrus watched as she began to put on her armor. Watched her slowly close back up and become the strong immovable Commander once again. He wasn't sure how he felt allowing her to go down alone, but she had insisted. Joker couldn't exactly come with her, but they both had the feeling he wouldn't have been able to stand the sight of his once beloved ship in pieces. Garrus accompanied her in the elevator, and was almost hesitant to step out as the elevator paused on the crew deck. She grasped his hand tightly, almost as if she were trying to draw strength from him.

With a deep breath, he pulled her close and bumped foreheads for a small moment. "I'll be here."

Shepard smiled that small smile again, and dropped his hand, allowing him to leave the elevator. As the doors closed, a heavy sense of dread settled in his stomach.

Please, spirits, bring her back in one piece.

.~.

It had been well over an hour now, and he still couldn't finish this one damn line of code. His mind kept straying back to the sight of her smile, the feel of her soft forehead against his, her mouth against his scarred face...

He slammed a hand on the console and brought the other up to pinch the upper portion of his nose in frustration. Giving a tired growl, he locked the console to save the latest calibration (which, now that he thought about it, had been the same line he had been working on when Lawson showed up) and moved into the mess hall. His mandibles twitched as he mulled over his thoughts, barely glancing at Gardner as he fixed himself something to eat. Thanks to the provisions the commander has purchased at the Citadel (again, he mused, she thought of others so frequently), he had a nice variety of dextro-amino foods to choose from, since the only people who would eat it were Tali and him.

Speaking of the quarian, she was currently eating - or what he assumed was eating - at the table by herself, the Cerberus employees who usually sit there strangely absent. He picked up his tray, throwing a mild salute to Gardner, and moved to sit across from her.

"Hey Tali."

She looked up from her omnitool, giving what he thought was a smile through the glass covering her face. "Oh, hello Garrus."

He placed his tray in front of him, taking a moment to rest his elbows on the table and peer at his quarian comrade. She had returned to typing, and seemed pretty engrossed in whatever message she was currently working on.

A smirk growing on his face, Garrus finally asked, "So, how's Kal doin'?"

"Oh, he's doing fine, his infection from Haestrom has cleared up and he's taking some time off while the Board -" She paused, and raised her head, and he could definitely see the frown beyond the glass. He chuckled as she grumbled at him. He spared her further and began to eat.

Finishing her message, Tali sighed and placed her hands on the table. "I hope we make it through this, somehow."

"We'll pull through. We always do somehow, despite all the odds against us." Garrus swallowed, absently checking the time on his visor. Hour and a half, now.

"Yeah, you're right. I should learn to expect these things once Shepard comes calling."

Garrus choked on the bite of food in his mouth as he laughed, coughing to clear his windpipe. "I don't think I'd take anyone else seriously if they told me about Reapers and Collectors and what not. Simply because it is Shepard, I believe it completely."

He had the strangest feeling Tali was eying him, but he couldn't be sure. He continued to eat, both of them lapsing into a silence not unlike the one he had found himself in earlier with the commander.

He finished his tray, sitting back in the chair and tapping the controls of his visor. Hour and fourty-five minutes...

"Why do you keep checking the time, Garrus? Expecting something?" He blinked and focused on her glowing eyes behind the helmet. Before he answered, his mind paused. Should he tell Tali? She was originally on the Normandy when it was attacked. She might have wanted to go see it too. Shepard hadn't allowed Joker or him to accompany her, and he doubted she would have allowed Tali to go down planetside with her either.

Garrus sighed, deciding to be blunt.

"Shepard went planetside about two hours ago. She's visiting the crash site of the first Normandy."

"What?" Tali gasped. He blinked at her, a bit surprised at her response.

"She went down there alone? Garrus, what's wrong with you?" she demanded. He sat up straight, confusion on his face. "What?"

Tali shook her head, a frustrated groan echoing out from her helmet. "Are you really that dense, you idiot?" She leaned forward, her hands moving to lay flat in front of her on the table. He couldn't help but lean away as her words came out louder and angrier.

"Listen, because I shouldn't have to repeat myself. Shepard blames herself for what happened. I know, I know-" she waved a hand up as his mouth opened to speak "-it was completely impossible for her to predict the Collectors attacking the Normandy, or even that she would die. No one would have seen it coming, given how much we know of the Collectors. But every one of those people who died, she considers herself the one responsible for their deaths."

Garrus eyes widened. "Why? How could she hold herself accountable?"

Tali frowned deeper at him, her head shaking back and forth slowly. "You don't recall, do you? What was special about Shepard? What did she have that no one else did?"

He glanced down at his tray, thinking. Shepard was special, no doubt about that. She was the only one with the drive and the skill to take on a Reaper. She had been right about Sovereign being alive, and Saren being indoctrinated even when he didn't believe it himself. She had taken her crew to places not many had ever seen, seen creatures and beings that most would only believe a myth still-

Garrus jolted his head up, gasping softly. "The Protheans! She had the knowledge of the beacons and the Cipher!"

Tali nodded, her eyes now downcast as she relaxed back in her chair. "Yes, she had the knowledge of an entire civilization in her brain. I assume she still does. She was the only one to understand Prothean language and the only one that had any important details pertaining to the Reapers, whether she knew of it or not. And she was the only one to stand up against Saren and Sovereign. Hell, without Shepard, our entire galaxy would be overrun with Reapers."

She raised her gaze back to him. "So, since she was the only one with that knowledge, and we know for certain that the Collectors are working with the Reapers, what conclusion can you reach?"

Garrus' mandibles tightened. "Shepard thinks the Collectors attacked the Normandy because of her Prothean knowledge..."

He didn't give Tali any time to respond, he was up and out of his chair and storming to the elevator.

Spirits, why didn't he see it before? Why didn't he ask her? How could she truly believe she was the cause of all those peoples' deaths? She was the one thing standing between the galaxy and certain destruction. She was humanity's best chance against the Collectors. What happened with the Normandy wasn't her fault. How could he convince her to see that?

The elevator took way too long for his patience to hold. As soon as the doors slid open, he was out, bypassing Chambers entirely as she glanced up in shock at his quickly moving bulk. He didn't slow his stride or wipe the grimace off his face, his steps taking him right up to the pilot's chair.

"Where is she?"

Joker turned his chair a bit, peering up at him from the corner of his eye. "Well, hello to you too, Garrus. How've you been? Beaten anybody to death with that stick yet?"

Garrus glared, in no mood for the crippled man's humor. "Shepard." he toned.

Joker sighed, swiveling his chair back to face the console in front of him. He was quiet just long enough for the turian to start growling low in his throat as his patience ran out.

"She got back about twenty minutes ago. Chill out."

His startlement cut his growl. "What?"

"Yeah, she's back on board. So while I appreciate the visit, you might want to go check elsewhere. Like, in her quarters."

Garrus turned to race back to the elevator, but Joker's sudden quiet voice made him pause.

"If you care for her like I think you do, Garrus, you'll help her. If not for her, then for me." Garrus peered back at the chair of the pilot, not sure what to say. The human continued.

"I should have died that day. Instead, Shepard pulled my ass out of the fire. Instead of me, it was she who died. I'll never forgive myself for letting that happen. Ever."

"Joker..."

"Don't spare me the lecture on whose fault it was, cause you're not changing my mind. I can only hope you change hers."

Garrus held in a breath, understanding the crippled man's inner pain all too well. So many what ifs had run through his head - what if he had been there, what if he had gotten Shepard to an escape pod, what if he had pulled her away from trying to get to Joker in the cockpit - and he couldn't find any answers for any.

"I'll try, Joker."

"Don't try, just do it."

.~.

And now, once again, he found himself pausing outside her door. His nerve was shot to hell again, but his worry for her began to outweigh the lack of courage he had to face his commander. She had been back for twenty minutes - twenty-five, if he counted the slow ass elevator - and hadn't let him know? Hadn't messaged him telling him how she was, if she wanted company or to be alone? Although, if she had sent any message that had asked for isolation, he would have ignored it.

With firm belief that Shepard shouldn't be alone, he pressed his hand to the green holo - she hadn't locked it, or EDI had been expecting him to make the trip upstairs again - and ventured inside.

Peering around, he didn't spot her form in the room anywhere. Did she not come back to her room? Did Joker fool him into thinking she was up here? What if she was still down on Alchera, lost amongst the shredded and torn remains of her first ship-

It was then he heard it.

A soft, shivering sob.

He turned his head quickly, finally noticing the open doorway into her bathroom. Why hadn't he noticed that before? And, now that he saw that, he could hear running water. Strange nerves fluttered up his back. Was she showering? Oh shit, he had barged in without permission, and hadn't realized she might be okay. She might have needed some time to freshen up before she messaged him. His mandibles tightened against his face with embarrassment. Stray, primal thoughts permeated at the edge of his mind that Shepard was naked just a few feet away - just the fact she was dripping wet made those thoughts louder - and he tried valiantly to cut those down. Maybe he should go back down to his post until she was ready to talk. Better than being beaten soundly for interrupting her in a private moment.

But that sound cut through his brain again. Her strangled, quiet cry that barely reached beyond the doorway.

He couldn't stop himself from crossing the threshold to the bathroom.

What he saw nearly crippled him worse than Joker.

Shepard had returned, but not in one stable piece as he had hoped. She was leaning back against the wall under the constant pounding spray of the showerhead, and from what his visor readout told him, the frigid temperature of the water was nowhere near safe for a human to be subjected under for any length of time. Her clothes were dark with dampness, and her knees had been drawn up; her head lay back, and it nearly broke him to see that positively anguished look on her face.

She hadn't noticed him, as her eyes had been closed while her face accepted the assault of the spray. He couldn't tell if she had tears, but her gasping breath gave away her inner turmoil just as strongly.

Garrus finally remembered to take a breath, the sight of her so broken had nearly shocked him to death.

"Shepard..." he tried, gently.

Her eyes snapped to him, her cries stifled as she took in the sight of him in the doorway. He didn't dare move towards her, for fear she might lash out and hurt herself. But he didn't move away either, letting her decide how the situation was going to play out.

Shepard all at once began to shiver violently, her body finally protesting the harsh temperatures she subjected herself to. Her eyes dropped, nearly closing as her head lolled to her knees. Garrus was galvanized into action, slamming the controls for the shower to end the downpour. Even with the water finally stopped, her limbs shook and her breath came out ragged.

He scooped her up, a little shocked that she wasn't protesting. Carrying her bridal style, her head against the edge of the cowl of his armor, he strode out of the bathroom, back into the conditioned warmth of her bed area.

Garrus hesitated, looking towards her bed. He couldn't exactly put her down on dry sheets while she was drenched. She continued to lay limp in his arms, not arguing or putting up a fight over how he was holding her. It scared him badly. She should have said something, anything by now. Whether to yell at him for invading her quarters again, or be mad that he was holding her as carefully as he would hold an infant. Her eyes had closed, and a fresh round of quaking began again all over her body.

The turian cursed, deciding to simply kneel and hold her in his lap. He wasn't sure how she would respond to what he had in mind, but he couldn't put it off any longer. He had to remove her wet clothing, or she would get sick.

Sitting her with one hand on her back, he swallowed and tentatively reached for the clasp of her uniform shirt. When his talons closed around it, he relaxed slightly as she made no move to stop him. Slowly undoing the clasps, he exposed her shoulders and upper torso.

Her eyes were half open, but simply gazing at the floor. Garrus was sure she wasn't even in the room. He couldn't imagine where her mind might be, whether she was reliving the moments before her supposed death, or even just remembering the frigid landscape of Alchera with the carcass of the Normandy strewn about. His eyes were drawn unconsciously to the bit of clothing covering her chest and holding her - what were they called, breasts? It seemed to hold them in place, and he wondered idly how she managed to fight with the excess weight on her chest.

Garrus nearly gasped as he finally noticed the criss-cross of hair-width scars across her chest, glowing faintly with enhancements beneath her skin. He had believed she'd only had scarring on her face due to her resurrection, but from what he could see beyond the confines of her clothes, the scars extended well beyond her cheeks. His hand grazed across her stomach lightly, his glove not allowing him to feel the raise and bumps of her marred skin. She shivered, though he wasn't so sure it was due to cold.

Strangely galvanized, he unsnapped her pants and shimmied them down her hips. He decided to leave her underclothes on, for privacy's sake. And for his own sake. He wasn't sure if he could keep himself from feeling other parts of her body while she seemed distracted.

Placing her on the floor, he stood and quickly went back into the bathroom. Finding a dry towel, he returned and placed it around her shoulders. He rubbed along her arms gently, but she didn't seem to be warming up while the towel soaked up the residual dampness.

Shepard had been strangely quiet the entire time, and it surprised him when she finally decided to talk.

"It should have been me, Garrus."

He blinked, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Shepard?"

"I should be down there. I should be dead."

Garrus tensed, his talons tightening slightly.

"I shouldn't even be here. I..." She gasped, her face twisting as tears began gathering in her eyes. "Those people are dead because of me. The Normandy's torn to shreds and left to rot on that god forsaken planet."

She finally looked up at him, her voice breaking. It nearly snapped his heart in two to watch. "Why was I spared? Why was I brought back and they weren't? Why did Cerberus do this to me?"

Tears poured down her cheeks, her eyes imploring him without words to understand. Garrus clenched his jaw, unable to stop himself. Quickly, without missing a beat, he shucked the gloves off his hands and brought his warm, rough hands to cup her face.

As soon as they made contact, she openly sobbed, surprising him as she dove forward, her arms encircling his neck as she had done earlier, before she had left. He placed one hand on her back, stroking gently, while he kept one against the back of her neck. Shepard grew louder, her anguish raking through her body and out against his neck.

Garrus physically ached listening to her. Her feelings that had been bottled up for so long were pouring out, and all he could do was sit and hold her. How could he ever make her tears stop? How could he make her see that her return wasn't a curse, wasn't a punishment?

"Shepard..." he whispered. Nuzzling the side of her head, he breathed her name again, pulling her back with him as he leaned back to sit against the foot of the bed, placing her in his lap. Pulling her tighter against his frame without hurting her, he began stroking his talons through her hair. Marveling at the softness of the strands even when wet, he held her as her pain-filled cries began to subside.

"Shepard, do you know where I'd be without you?" he murmured. She whimpered, tightening her grip around his neck.

"I'd be alone, dead in an apartment on Omega. No one would have been there to help me against those mercs, and I wouldn't have found the place where I was meant to be."

Her sobs had quieted, but she continued to cry silently, listening to his soft words. He pulled at her shoulders gently, extracting her from him so they faced each other. He smiled, stroking his thumb under her eye, wiping her tears away.

"Without you, Shepard, I wouldn't have seen even half of this galaxy, wouldn't have met all these.. interesting people you've brought aboard -" she gave a small amused scoff despite her tears "-or fought for what I believed in."

He brought her forehead to his, holding her eyes with his.

"And I would have never met the one person I would give up anything for. Even my own life."

She gasped, her eyes widening. "Garrus..."

"Shepard, you are an amazing woman. You take the impossible and make it real. Whether it's chasing a rogue Spectre through a mass relay surrounded by geth, or freeing a rachni queen and having her support when the time comes, or even headbutting a krogan-" she swatted his arm and he chuckled, but continued. "You will always be amazing, no matter what you do. These Reapers don't know who they're messing with. And I can't wait to stand with you and see what you do next."

Closing his eyes, gathering his resolve, he whispered the next sentence he spoke.

"And I would never have met the one being I cherish above all else, Shepard.

I would have never been given the chance to love you."

.~.

He heard her sharp intake of breath, and clenched his eyes tighter. Whatever her answer was, he would accept it. He knew that what he felt for her went beyond mere camaraderie, beyond friendship between two similar people. After her death, he had found himself floundering, like he had lost something vital. Her lessons, her morals, they were all he had to go on. And to watch her name be tarnished everywhere he turned burned his blood. He had gone to Omega to make a difference, but maybe he had gone there to meet Shepard again. To wait for her return.

"Garrus."

He kept his eyes closed, almost afraid to look up and see her face. To see her push him away, to watch as she closed off from him forever.

She had begun to cry again, from what he could feel. Her hitching breath washed across his face, and he felt lower than vorcha that it may have been his confession that brought her to tears once more.

"Make me forget..." Nimble fingers found the clasps of his armor, and he was startled to find his chestplate being removed. Glancing at her eyes, he stared in confusion as her tears continued to flow, but she seemed... happy? Humans were so strange, and filled with so many different conflicting emotions.

His armor was being pulled off without his awareness, and it was only when her cool, soft fingers gripped underneath his fringe that he shuddered and his breath gasped out of him.

"Shepard..." he moaned as her hand began to stroke the back of his neck, her mouth beginning to move along his left mandible.

"Please, Garrus," she begged softly, nibbling gently at his facial marking that painted along the mandible. His hips twitched upward into hers without his permission, but her eager response told him she was alright with it. Her hands stroked down his neck and along his cowl, grasping him against her soft, pliant body. The towel around her shoulders had fallen, and he found himself unable to hold back the urge to rub his hands along her bare arms.

Panting slightly, he looked towards the ceiling, moaning as Shepard gave a sudden, forceful grind in his lap.

"No more cold, no more darkness..." she breathed along his neck, her small flat teeth nibbling in between his scales. He moaned gently, his body reacting in warm waves of heat that settled in his groin, still covered by armor.

"Shepard," he panted, "what are you saying? What do you want me to do?"

He growled a groan as she gave a firm bite to the sensitive skin between his scales.

"I don't want to remember, Garrus," she murmured, bringing her face back to his. Through his aroused haze, he caught her eyes. They smoldered with need, but were overflowing with tears still. It pulled at his heart to see her still so upset.

"I just want to be me, not a commander, not a Spectre, just me. Only for tonight. With you." Her forehead kissed his once again, her shuddering breath mixing with his.

"Help me forget everything except you."

Garrus growled low, almost a rumbling purr. He moved to stand, pulling her against his body. Her legs wound around his hips, her arms gripping around his cowl. He turned them both, placing her back on the bed. She wouldn't let go of his torso, keeping their foreheads locked. He nuzzled gently, moving her head to the side as he brought his tongue along her neck, leaving a warm trail on her soft skin. She moaned gently, murmuring his name.

"Shepard, are you sure?" Are you sure it's me you need? he added in his head.

Her grip tightened on his cowl, and he gave another groan as her hips thrust against his. "Please, Garrus... I need you."

Well, that was all he required.

One of his hands flew to her hip, squeezing gently as he backed away. He stood at the end of the bed, keeping her eyes on his as he finished removing the blue armor. He still had his bodysuit on, but it was form fitting and did little to hide his arousal.

Kneeling forward over her, his hands started at her neck and rubbed slowly down her body, caressing and squeezing. Shepard lay back, staring up at him through lidded eyes. She panted and whimpered as his warm calloused fingers soothed her chilled skin, and he could smell her musk from between her legs.

Bringing his hands under her thighs, he slowly brought her legs up, settling himself between them. Her body was cool against his own heated form, and she moaned as he ground against her, making her aware of her affect on him.

Shepard moved her calves along his outer thighs, squirming as her hands tried to find the opening to his suit. They butted foreheads; her mouth moved along his jaw, kissing and licking along his scarred mandible. The extra sensitivity to his face had him groaning softly, gripping her hips and sliding his talons under the fabric still covering her abdomen.

"Sorry," he murmured, before hooking his thumb on either side and slicing through her panties, pulling them away and exposing her genitalia. If she had any qualms about it, she was too focused on him to care.

Without his notice, she had tore his suit away from his chest, her fingers pushing and flexing the areas between his plates. But her fingers on his hips had him jolting in surprise, his breath hitching. He felt her fingernails dig into his skin and he couldn't keep the growling moan escaping from his throat.

He shimmied the bodysuit down his legs, his erection rubbing flush against her moist heat. Both gasped at the feel of each other, and Garrus sliced away the fabric covering her chest in an effort to feel her bare skin against his.

Her breasts heaved as her panting grew louder, the heat from his body slowly making her lose her mind. Somewhere, at the edge of his own slipping composure, Garrus remembered the voice of Mordin warning him of reactions that humans may have during events that were transpiring between them at the moment.

"Shepard," he gasped, his hips twitching to thrust against hers, his control hanging by a thread. "I don't have- I mean, do you..?" Even with his commander naked and writhing underneath him, his inability to say such words even with what was happening between them was almost comical.

Even if he couldn't say it, she seemed to catch on. "Drawer," she moaned.

He wrapped an arm around her, holding her tight against him as he reached for her nightstand next to the bed. Fishing through the drawer, he pulled out a turian prophylactic. If he were in his normal state of mind, he would have laughed nervously and wondered where exactly Shepard had gotten such a thing. He was sure Mordin had gotten to her as well with warnings about their coupling. Later, when they were sure she wouldn't have a bad reaction, they wouldn't need it. If there even is a later, Garrus wondered.

Tearing open the package, he brought the condom to the tip of his cock. Grasping one of her hands with his own, he wrapped her soft, nimble fingers around him and groaned loudly as she proceeded to roll the rubber down his length, squeezing and pulling slightly all the way down.

Shepard gripped him tightly, bringing him to the apex of her thighs. Garrus braced a hand on the bed to her side as he began to enter her hot, wet center. She brought both her hands to grip underneath his mandibles, whimpering and gasping as he slid inch by inch inside.

Garrus closed his eyes, panting as he settled between her legs, pushing faintly to get her used to his girth. Their physiology was structurally similar, but the way she gripped and flexed around him was nothing like what he was used to. Turian women were warm and wet, but that was all the stimulation needed once turians actually reached that point of mating. The foreplay involved with turians was rough and almost like a duel, with the end result being the male mounting the female and finishing quickly. But with Shepard, with a human, he could take his time and simply feel. Simply admire the strong, beautiful human female below him as she writhed and called his name.

Starting with a light rhythm, he gathered her legs up higher, gripping one hand under a twitching thigh. His other hand moved up to cup her face, wiping away the trails of her tears. She pulled his head to hers, sharing gasps and moans as their foreheads joined once more. A blush had crept onto her cheeks, and he found himself feeling masculine pride that he was the one who had made that flush come across Commander Shepard's face.

"Garrus, oh god, Garrus...!"

"Ungh, Shepard, spirits..."

He gave a hard thrust, and she keened against his mouth, her eyes closing. He saw tears gathering on her eyelashes, and the sudden force of shame and guilt slowed his hips.

"Shepard, what's wrong?" he breathed.

She shook her head fervently, her hips writhing against his. "Nothing's wrong, don't stop."

His grip on her thigh tightened enough to force her eyes open. He was gazing at her almost sadly.

"If this isn't what you really want, you don't have to lie for my sake." He brought his thumb up, and rubbed it once again under her eye, drawing her tears to her attention.

Shepard surprised him with a gasping laugh, and she smiled gently. "Garrus, humans don't cry just when they're sad."

He blinked, unsure. Her smile grew from the confusion written on his face, and more tears escaped down her flushed cheeks.

"We also cry when we're happy, or relieved. Right now, I'm happy I'm sharing this with you."

Rubbing against his crest with her forehead, she murmured his name almost reverently. "Garrus, please..."

"Shepard..."

"Please, don't call me that now." She trailed kisses against his open maw, daring to lick against the fangs that hung behind his mandibles. "Call me Jane. Call my name, Garrus."

He thrust fervently within her once more, panting against her mouth, his mandibles flexing against her jaw. "Jane..."

She cried out and gripped the back of his neck, her fingernails scratching lightly down his scales. "Yes, yes, Garrus..."

Words were lost as his control on his speed and force waned, and soon he was driving into her as her cries grew louder and longer. He groaned and nearly bit through his tongue to keep his orgasm at bay; he wanted to see her lose control, to see her come apart in his hands. To see what his body could do to hers, what his engorged length could pull from her rapidly tight, hot channel.

Shepard rose her hips in time with his, bringing his cock to rub deliciously inside her. Garrus found the coil in his loins spiralling tighter, and struggled to continue. His plating along his abdomen seemed to rub against her folds in such a way that had her arching against him with surprising strength and louder gasps. Finally, unable to withstand the pleasurable onslaught, she gripped behind his fringe almost painfully, wailing against his jaw as she reached her end. Her walls flexed and tightened around him almost to the point of pain.

Garrus lost his battle with his will, shuddering and climaxing as he roared his completion. For a few solid moments, his hips continued to thrust intermittently, causing him to groan as the woman below him milked him further. Once he regained the use of his muscles, he rolled to the side, slipping out of her and collapsing onto his back.

Both lay still, breathing hard, simply enjoying the pleasurable aches and throbs from their act together. Garrus rose first, giving a tired groan as he made his way to the bathroom to clean up. Shepard simply stretched out, her face serene despite the tear trails and redness from earlier.

Once he finished, Garrus stalked carefully back across the room and down the stairs, his body aching in a pleasant way. He hadn't had a coupling feel like that before. What he had before Shepard - Jane, he recalled with a smile - was nothing compared to what he had now. He took great pride that he could bring Shepard such coital bliss, despite their differences in species. His legs felt like they were going to collapse under him, but he took a few moments to simply take in her relaxed state, her face calm and her eyes dry.

As he settled back into the sheets, gathering the woman he loved in his arms, he wasn't aware just how tired his body was until his head hit the pillow and he promptly passed out.

.~.

He felt a soft, tingling sensation along his mandible, and he nuzzled further against the warm body curled with his. The feeling continued, and as he awoke further, his senses told him it was a light caress of fingers along the scarred portion of his face.

He opened his eyes slowly to see Shepard in front of him, her gaze mapping every bit of marred flesh her fingers stroked. He brought his hand up, stroking down her scarred cheek with his knuckle. Their eyes met, and both shared a smile.

"Hey," he whispered.

"Hi."

Stroking his talons through her hair, he hugged her close. "You feelin' better?"

She sighed, but it wasn't a bad sound. "Yes, thanks to you."

Garrus purred gently against her ear, mandibles flexing into a wider smile. "Good."

He felt her fingers along his scarred jaw again, and simply basked in her touch.

"You know, I was just thinking."

"Careful, you might hurt yourself." A swat to his shoulder had him chuckling.

"Not as much as I'd hurt you, jerk." He could hear the smile in her voice, and knew her words had no venom in them.

Her voice turned suddenly solemn. "I was just thinking, if Archangel had been anyone else, I'm not sure what kind of person I would be. Not having anyone I could truly trust with me through all this, or anyone who had stood with me in the past and knew of my choices.. I don't think I would have made it this far. When I first began this mission, I had asked about the members of my crew from the fight against Sovereign. Everyone had either moved on with their lives, or couldn't be reached." Her hand slipped under his mandible, and cupped his jaw. "When I asked about you, Garrus, I was told you had simply dropped off the radar. Not even Cerberus could find you."

Bringing his hand down along her back, he rolled them both, gathering her against his chest as he lay against the pillows. "Suppose I should be impressed I managed to elude Cerberus sensors for so long."

Her one hand was still against his jaw; she scratched her nails along his skin under his mandible, feeling him shiver and purr. She laughed gently, hugging against him. "Never doubted your skill, Vakarian. Archangel's dossier was a pretty one."

Garrus grew quiet and solemn as he thought back to older times as well. "I never thought I would ever see you again, Shep- I mean, Jane." He smiled as he said her name, but continued. "If there's even one thing I owe Cerberus, it's that they brought you back to me. I don't think I could have survived Omega if anyone else came to my rescue."

Shepard leaned up, bringing her soft, pliant mouth against his mandible, as if to soothe the scarred tissue with gentle kisses. He sighed and smiled, cupping her face and bumping foreheads with her.

He stared into her eyes, compelling his emotions through his gaze and voice. "Jane, I had no way out. My men were gone, and my time was ticking down with every bullet I shot at those mercs. If you hadn't been there, I would have died alone, no one knowing who I was. Sidonis would have gotten away with his betrayal, the lives of my men would have never found justice. I would never have come to terms that even if I found him, killing him wasn't the right answer.

Jane, if you hadn't been brought back to life, I would have never found my reason to stay alive."

Tears formed at the corners of her eyes, but the smile she had was the most beautiful he'd ever seen.

"I love you, Garrus.

"I love you too, Jane."

Gathering her close against him, listening to her silently shed tears - of happiness now, he was certain - he held his mate and lover as they sailed through the stars to their greatest fight yet to come.

.~.

End

Omg it's over? It is! Well holy shit, I don't think I've ever written a one shot this long before. I think this was what - almost 30 pages? Wow. Hope you enjoy, it's rather fluffy and romantic compared to some of my other works, but I hope it came out alright. Let me know what you think :3