Author's note: This is the first thing I've written in about a decade or more so I'm probably rather 'rusty'. Hopefully it will prove to be a worthwhile read all the same.
This story, believe it or not, started off as a single mental image of a chicken's feet and a turian's hands. That's usually how a story comes to life for me; there's an absurd or funny image in my mind and with luck, a story evolves around it.
Anyway, I wanted to write something a bit different from what I've been reading here on so far. This is the story of a woman and a man falling in love and enduring, despite their differences and difficulties.
There is a chapter detailing intimacy between them but it is my hope that it isn't any worse than other fanfiction already posted here on .
And lastly, this hasn't passed the test of any beta readers but I'm reasonably confident it isn't crawling with linguistic mistakes. There might be the odd typo despite my best efforts and I apologize if that is the case. English isn't my native language after all …
Disclaimer: Mass Effect and its characters belong to BioWare
Chapter 1: Request
There had been a time when Garrus Vakarian, like every turian, had viewed humanity with suspicion and hatred. But then, how else was one to view an aggressive alien species that decided to present itself, uninvited, through one of the forbidden mass relays and laying claim to turian space?
Or so it had seemed at first. The Turian Fleet and the human Systems Alliance had gone to war over a misunderstanding, initiating a brutal conflict mercifully cut short by Council intervention. In the end, his people had been tasked to set things right again, or as right as they could be when both sides stilled nurtured mistrust and grudge.
But so much had changed since then.
Over the years, he'd come to appreciate and respect the human point of view, had come to admire their boldness and passion and later, as the first human agents were introduced into the force, he'd worked side by side with some very capable C-SEC officers.
Yes, humans and turians had come a long way since the Relay 314 incident all those years ago.
And now, they were waging war together. Well, sort of. He'd resigned from C-SEC not long ago and shortly thereafter, he'd found himself working side by side with another outstanding human officer, Jane Shepard. Only this time, she was his commanding officer.
He'd never met someone like her, neither human nor turian. What started out as the usual respect for one's superior quickly developed into something more, something deeper. Something like .. reverance.
Before long there'd been an invisible yet tangible bond between them, something he couldn't quite explain.
He'd found that he could talk to her, but more like to a friend than a superior. She'd taught him to think things over, to analyze and understand himself on a deeper level and she'd showed him the importance of knowing his true motivation before taking action.
She'd made him a better person for it; she'd modelled him into someone else in her image, another Garrus that was slowly becoming the man he'd always wanted to be.
He'd never realized how much he needed someone like that, never understood how lonely and desperate he'd been before.
It wasn't that he couldn't have had anyone if he'd wanted to …
There were bars and clubs within walking distance on the Wards offering a variety of cheap thrills and entertainment, and hooking up with someone for a one-night stand was easy enough. But he hadn't been needing that kind of company. What he'd needed was reliability and stability, an anchor point to tether him to the ground. Someone who'd be there for him when he needed her, someone to catch him every time he fell.
Someone like Jane Shepard.
He couldn't even tell when, exactly, he'd started thinking about her that way. Maybe the thought had already crept into his mind after the mission to Therum to rescue Doctor T'Soni, when Shepard had come seen him in the hanger to talk to him about his reasons for leaving C-SEC and join her on this mission. He'd been confident that leaving had been the right choice. Without C-SEC's red tape and regulations to hinder him in his work, he'd be free to do things his way. She'd told him otherwise.
Or perhaps it happened somewhere between Feros and Noveria, when they'd had a conversation about his career, about his father and about rights and wrongs. He'd expressed his willingness to do whatever it took to bring Saren down no matter the consequences, but she'd reminded him that just because one could break the rules, didn't mean one should do so in order to achieve one's goal.
She'd reminded him about integrity and honour and for the first time, he'd started wondering whether or not there actually was some truth to his father's concerns after all. He'd always dismissed them as exaggerations.
Yes, he might have sacrificed a few innocent civilians along the way, but never unless it was for a greater good.
He'd never had trouble justifying such actions in the past. Now … he wasn't so sure anymore.
Perhaps he was too rash and impatient, always looking for the fastest way around a problem rather than the right way.
But there was Jane Shepard.
Eventually, he'd started depending on her, looking to her for guidance and approval; he needed her to show him what to do and where to go next.
And yet … there were so many questions, so many doubts. Too many whys and what ifs. And there was a hole in his heart, a lonely aching that would not be quelled.
The truth of it was - he was a mess. So much had gone wrong in his life …
He'd been a promising recruit once; his name, and that of a thousand other youths, had been put forward for SPECTRE training. He'd even been one of the top ten candidates to enter, but his father's old-fashioned ideals and attitudes had nipped that opportunity in its bud. Bitterly disappointed, he'd taken the only other option available to him at the time and joined Citadel Security, just like his father had done and had always encouraged him to do.
His father had been one of the best officers around. His father expected even more of his son and though he tried his best, Garrus could never live up to those enormous expectations.
His days as a C-SEC detective had for the most part been an emotional rollercoaster. Sure, he'd concluded a handful of investigations successfully and yes, he'd caught a bunch of criminals along the way, but it was never enough to make him feel good about himself. He wasn't making much of a difference anyway .. all he had to do to remind himself of that fact was to look around the next street corner and there'd always be a crime in progress.
And there'd been the matter of authority as well. Good turians followed orders without question. Garrus questioned every single one of them, if not openly then in his mind. Butting heads with the Executor himself, the turian liason between C-SEC and the Citadel Council, over this thing or that had become a daily routine lately. More than once, he'd threatened to leave C-SEC altogether when the old bastard wouldn't even listen to his suggestions or had dismissed his concerns as pure nonsense. And just as often the Executor had threatened to kick him off the force for insubordination.
Venari Pallin reminded him all too well of his father, might have been his father, the way he repeated the importance of doing things the right way, insisted everything be done by the book, or not at all.
Looking back on his years of service, Garrus, the C-SEC detective was a failure, that was the long and short of it.
Then there'd been the shocking news of his mother's illness and the disagreements with his sister regarding her treatment at a nursery home. Part of him felt guilty about the situation. Part of him urged him to return home, to care for his mother for as long as she lived because that's what good turians did. Their family duty. But going home would inevitably mean facing his father, and he wasn't up to that, not now, when his life was falling apart.
And lastly, to further tip the scales, he'd gotten one of his best friends on the Citadel, a promising young officer killed because of something he'd said in the heat of the moment.
He'd been ranting about the old-fashioned ideals of turian society, something about good turians, about obeying orders, even the bad ones and how, sometimes, you had to follow your heart. Sometimes, right or wrong, you just had to let yourself be inspired by the moment and do the unexpected.
Little did he know that his friend would follows his words to the letter and that his words would ultimately cause the young man's death.
The loss was still an open wound, left unattended far too long. The death had been the last straw, a last disastrous fallout of his own misery, to prompt him to leave C-SEC and never look back.
At the time, it'd felt like his entire life and everything he depended on was crumbling away beneath him. And that was the simple truth of it; he'd be lost, without purpose and direction, if not for Jane Shepard. If not for his current mission aboard the SSV Normandy.
It was getting late. The time reading on the chronometer in his visor told him that it was after midnight in fact, and well into the day crew's sleep cycle. But he could find no rest tonight. His body tingled with an uneasy energy, a restless surge that caused him to jump at the slightest noise.
On the other side of the hanger Wrex, the krogan battlemaster, was resting. The krogan had set up camp down here, refusing the cramped space of the sleep pods provided for the crew. It wasn't hard to see why; even without his armour, Wrex was simply too large to fit inside a pod and so, he slept here.
Once in a while, the krogan grunted in his sleep and the sound was amplified by the hollow hanger space. The thunderous sound never failed to cause Garrus' heart to skip a beat or his fingers to miss a key on the terminal he was working on.
Damn, this was no good.
He recognised this unrest all to well, he'd experienced it before. After all, it wasn't unusual for crews to wind up and tense in the face of a dangerous mission but it seemed humans and turians handled this problem very differently.
Turian vessels provided ample opportunity for stress release. He'd endulged in several of them himself. Heck, a supervised brawl or a one-on-one to blow off steam was tradition on a night like this! Every turian who'd ever served in the Fleet would have gone through this at some point or another, and would have found his or her release through physical exertions.
And there was the other way of handling one's stress … One could always opt for a bit of privacy if not in the mood for violence.
But this wasn't a turian vessel, it was a human ship. Everything here was done differently to what he was used to, and that was the problem.
There was no training facility where he could work off some of his energy, in fact there was no excersise equipment whatsoever. If it hadn't been for Wrex sleeping against the other wall, he could have done with a jog right here, all by himself. A couple of hours of a slow paced trot might have worn him out enough to let him find a few hours of rest before tomorrow. Before Ilos.
He would have preferred something a little more intense though, a quick fix for his anxiety … like beating the hell out of a punching bag. Or sparring.
Come to think of it, this hanger might have done for an arena if he could only have found himself a partner. But all crew not needed to run the ship would be asleep by now, and besides, he wasn't sure any of them would have agreed to take him on even if it was for a bit of friendly sparring.
There was no denying it .. they didn't trust him. He'd seen the way they looked at him, he'd heard the whispers behind his back. Yes, most of the humans still gave him a wide berth and treated him like the enemy. It hurt, but he'd learned to live with it.
For her sake. He'd do anything for her. To be with her.
He glanced over at the sleeping krogan. Well, there was one who would certainly take him on should he ask!
No. Daring a match with half a ton of krogan was a bad idea, surely. And yet …
Behind him, he could hear the elevator coming down the shaft and seconds later the soft swoosh of the doors gliding open. He recognized the sound of her footsteps immediately, that confident stride with which she approached him.
And suddenly he knew exactly what he needed to feel better.
For the briefest of moments, images of her in his arms, of them together in bed flashed before his mind's eye. And it was bliss and he would never again have to worry about being lost and left behind and hurting …
"Garrus. Still up?"
He turned around to meet her gaze. Now how would he explain what he needed from her?
"Commander. Yeah, I …, " he started, and faltered. "Listen …" He wanted to tell her about turian traditions. Needed her to know about ways to ease tension, how to soothe anxiety before what might very well be a suicide mission. He needed her to be with him, like man and woman. And consequences be damned.
"Something on your mind, Garrus?"
He tried to find the words, but they wouldn't come. His mandibles churned helplessly until a single word came out. "Saren."
Saren? What the hell did he have to do with any of this! Exasperated, he clenched his fists and felt his talons dig into his palms, through his gloves.
The moment ruined, he might as well continue down this lane. "I've been thinking about what you said, about bringing him before the Council. Are you sure about this, Shepard?" He caught his breath before continuing. "What if he convinces them to listen to him? What if they let him go?" He blinked and spoke his mind, boldly, the way he knew he could speak to her and only her. "I say we don't give him the chance." No, kill the bastard in a heartbeat, don't give him a chance to get away, again, not with all that he's done.
"We know more about Saren's plans than anyone. But what do we really know? If we kill him, we'll never find out." Her tone was calm and confident and as usual, she was right.
"Yeah," he sighed. "I see your point." There was an awkward moment of silence between them before she spoke.
"So, how are you holding up?" She looked him over, briefly. "You seem a bit tense." She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. The feeling of her hand on him made his heart leap with excitement.
"Yeah. Nerves mostly. I …," and he was about to go bold on her, bolder than he'd ever gone before, when there was a thunderous snort from the other side of the hanger. Wrex stirred from his sleep and boomed.
"Would you mind? I'm trying to sleep here!"
Shepard chuckled and turned to the krogan. "Sorry Wrex, I forgot you live down here." She turned back to him and gave an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry Garrus, I'd better go. Try get some rest and I'll see you in the morning."
Or, we could continue this somewhere else. Somewhere private …
Images of Shepard close to him floated by again, his skin against hers, a tender embrace ...
But she was already gone and the elevator was creaking back up the shaft.
And his body was in even greater distress now than before.
His eyes wandered towards the krogan again and before he knew it he was stalking up to Wrex. The words were out of his mouth before he could think better of it. "Hey, Wrex, buddy .. "
Buddy? Was he really that desperate?
The old warrior regarded him with a large reddish eye. "What do you want?"
"Well, I could really use a workout and since you're awake anyways …"
The krogan was on his feet before Garrus could even phrase the words 'oh crap!' and a thick, meaty finger poked him in the chest.
"Listen, turian!" Wrex's enormous head and square jaw hovered a finger's breadth from his own. "First of all, I'm not your buddy ...," he snarled, nostrils flaring and eyes squinting.
"And secondly?" Garrus held his breath.
"I'll spar with you but I'm not taking you to bed."
Damn. Seemed the old one was familiar enough with turian customs. He felt heat rise to his cheeks in embarrassment and gritted his teeth before accepting the offer. "Deal."
They circled each other out on the floor in the middle of the hanger, neither wanting to take the initiative, both trying to assess the other.
"All right boy, show me what you've got," Wrex taunted and moved after him as he slipped sideways looking for an opening.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," he retorted and tried a swift punch. His fist hit thin air as the krogan smartly sidestepped.
"Ha!" The battlemaster's lips split in a gleeful grin. "Gotta do better than that, kid!" And then the colossus exploded into motion.
He considered himself fast for a turian but Wrex was faster still. The krogan was on him in a flash; his left arm came up instinctively to block the strike, he had a brief sensation of of Wrex's gauntlet sliding over his elbow before the punch connected with his ribs and forced a startled Ooof! from his throat.
How'd he done that!
Gasping and rubbing his chest to rid himself of the tingling in his ribs, he staggered away from his opponent. His armour had taken the force of the blow of course but he'd still felt that. And now he was mad!
"Krogan – turian 1-0," Wrex chuckled. "Want some more? There's plenty left where that came from."
"I'm just getting started," he scoffed. "You won't even see me coming this time." Bending his knees he adopted his fighting stance and this time, he wouldn't be such easy prey!
They started circling again, dancing around each other like a pair of ancient duellists answering a challenge.
Though the odds were not in his favour he gained a little confidence after managing to block three strikes in a row and then neatly slip inside the krogan's defenses and land a punch on that big square chin. Though his fist connected with a satisfying crunch the krogan didn't so much as flinch.
"Is that all you've got?," Wrex drawled feigning disappointment and puffed his massive chest out. "Let me show you how it's done."
The air inside the hanger bay felt suddenly cold against his face. And then Wrex attacked again.
The krogan's right arm snapped out in a vicious blow aiming for his ribcage a second time, but this time he was prepared. He evaded the attack swiftly and glided to his right, setting up an offense of his own. But just as his muscles tensed for the blow, he realized he'd been tricked, discovered that he was stepping right into a second blow, delivered by Wrex's left fist. It would hit him square in the jaw and there was nothing he could do about it …
"Hey … turian? Heey," a distant voice thundered above him.
Something nudged him in the ribs and his first reaction was an instinctive one. His body curled into a quivering fetal ball on the hard deck plates.
"It's me, Wrex." The voice was closer now. "You okay?"
No. He certainly didn't feel okay. There was something wrong with his face … it hurt. Reaching up, he was horrified to discover the odd angle of his mandible sticking out to greet his fingertips. And his jaw was … He yelped.
Broken? There was a nauseating crunch of bone grinding against bone as he tried to close his mouth, and a taste of blood on his tongue. He caught a glimpse of blue on the floor beneath him and something pale and sharp glittering with it. It took him a moment to understand what it was. A tooth. His tooth.
And then the world was growing dark and he felt himself starting to slip into unconciousness.
"Commander," he hard from a distance. "We've got an, er, situation …"
And then he was gone.
Pain! His face was being torn apart …
He struggled but couldn't move. There was something in his mouth. The smell of antiseptics and rubber in his nostrils.
His eyes wouldn't open.
Palaven! What was happening to him!
There were voices but he couldn't quite make out what they were saying. Something about waking up. And then another voice, close to his ear.
He tried speaking but all that came out was an unintelligible gurgle.
"Garrus, listen to me. You've been hurt, you're with doctor Chakwas in the med bay."
His left eye finally slid open enough for him to catch a glimpse of her face, next to his.
"You're going to be fine, it's nothing serious, but you have to let the doctor work her magic."
He tried to ask how bad but he couldn't form the words, there was something soft and spongy between his lips, something like cotton. His tongue caught in the fibres .. it tasted horrible and he retched helplessly. He could feel her hands on his shoulders, a firm grip pushing him back down.
"Take it easy, big guy. Don't fight it. Your jaw's been dislocated but the doctor will fix that for you in a minute."
There was another voice farther away talking about more sedatives. Something stung his neck, there was the feel of cool liquid entering his bloodstream .. and Shepard vanished from sight.
He came to, startled by the silence and feeling cold to the bone. He reazlied he wasn't wearing anything but his underclothing and a thin blanket on top.
It took him a moment to take in his surroundings and recognize where he was. The med bay. He was lying in one of the recovery bunks at the far end of the main room with a curtain drawn halfway shut beside him to grant him some privacy.
It suddenly came back to him, all of it. The fight with Wrex, being struck down, blacking out on the hanger floor .. and waking up hurt and humiliated, partly sedated, in the operating theatre.
He felt better now though. Apart from a slight headache and a faint dizziness he felt fine.
When he tried sitting up however, he very quickly realized that he wasn't fine at all. The world lurched and his body sagged limply to one side and he was falling … onto his Commander who'd been dozing in a bedside chair.
"Garrus ..!" She caught him just in time to stop him sliding off the bed and onto the floor.
"I'm sorry .. I .. ah ..," he slurred groggily and exhaled as she promptly put him back to rest. Talking hurt. His mouth wouldn't move properly and when he reflexively reached up to touch it, he found gauze and tape supporting his mandible and jaw. He blinked, stunned. Was it that bad?
From the corner of his eye he could see her leaning close. "Garrus, what the hell were you thinking? You could have died!"
"Tu .. turian tradition," he mumbled, feeling his bruised tongue graze against the ribs in his palate.
"What?" She was standing over him now as she gave him a suspiscious look .
"Hu ..rts .." He ran his fingers over his immobilized jaw to indicate how his injury was making speaking difficult.
"Fine." She caught on. "You can explain yourself later. Now get some rest." She stood up to leave.
The thought of being alone, wounded and suffering drove a knife through his guts.
"Stay." He reached out, desperately, and his talons caught on her suit. "Please."
I need you, here, with me.
"All right." She sat down again, folding her arms gently across her chest. "I can do that."
Their gazes met. She was upset, he could tell. But he was too tired to worry about that now. Now, he just needed her by his side, to comfort him like a mother comforted a foolish child. Now, he needed to sleep, knowing that she'd watch over him and keep him safe.
His hand sought hers. Found it. She accepted his offering and squeezed. It felt good, reassuring.
And before he knew it he was drifting off to sleep.
The night dragged on, it would be morning soon. She'd tried to sleep a little, a few minutes at a time but it wasn't easy supporting herself in the uncomfortable chair. When she couldn't sleep, she let her eyes rest on Garrus' resting form.
He was sound asleep in front of her, a sleep brought on by sedatives and massive doses of painkillers. He was resting on his side turned toward her, head supported by his pillow and a peaceful look on his face. Now and then his eyelids fluttered as were he dreaming and his unhurt mandible would twitch and she could hear tiny, sucking noises from his mouth.
She'd never seen a sleeping turian before. And she'd never seen Garrus this vulnerable. He looked rather sweet, the usual predatory fierceness was gone from his features now, erased by the tranquility of sleep.
She'd never seen him out of his armour either and now she could just about make out his slender build under the blanket. Her gaze lingered on the sharp curve of his hips as they lifted the blanket from his waist.
She wondered what his body was like under it … all alien and strange no doubt. She would like to find out. She could find out, right now. All she had to do was lift the blanked and have a long, good, private look, perhaps a touch even, and he wouldn't even notice.
She shook her head at the idea. Some Commander she was, thinking of feeling up a member of her crew like that.
She forced her gaze to rest on the opposite wall and drew a long, slow breath. She would have to be pretty desperate to respond to an alien this way, wouldn't she?
She let her mind drift as she waited in the dark, quiet hours of the med bay.
She missed someone by her side, someone to hold her and to comfort her when she needed it. She hated going to sleep in a cold, lonely bed each night, staring into the darkness of her cabin and hearing only her own breathing.
She thought about how her childhood had set a routine that had followed her throughout her life; moving from posting to posting with her parents and later on her own, never staying long enough in one place to settle down. Never having the time or opportunity for romane engagement. She'd had friends of course, close friends even … but part of her had always known that engaging in a serious relationship would sooner or later end in heartbreak since she'd be moving on before long. And so she never allowed herself to become that close to anyone.
And now, as Commander Shepard, she was lonelier than she'd ever been before. Lonely enough to find the prospect of a relationship with a turian subordinate appealing.
"Commander." She was nudged awake by a hand on her knee. "Shepard."
Sleepily she opened her eyes and found Garrus wide awake and looking imploringly at her.
"Hey, feeling better?" She cleverly hid a yawn in her palm and checked the time. 7 a.m Standard Earth time. She must have slept a while after all, a fact supported by the awkward kink in her neck.
"I'm fine," he said and pushed himself up on his elbow."A little sore perhaps," he grimaced. "But it's nothing that'll keep me off duty." He drew an awkward breath and looked her straight in the eye, the sudden intensity in his gaze took her aback. "Listen … Shepard."
"You can call me Jane, Garrus."
"Jane," he corrected himself and blinked shyly. "There's .. something important I need to ask you."
"Shoot." She straightened herself, suddenly curious.
"Would you … do something for me? " She could hear him swallow hard, betraying his anxiety. "Would you share a meal with me?"
She could feel her eyebrows sailing high in surprise. "Sure. I know a couple of restaurants that serve human and turian dishes."
He shook his head. "Not like that, that's not what I meant. I mean … in private."
Now curiosity was getting the better of her. "Garrus, are you asking me out on a date?"
"Yes," and then he quickly corrected himself. "Well no, not exactly." He swallowed hard again. "I mean .. it's … It's more than that." And then: "Would you … would you cook for me?"
"Garrus ..!" She drew back, stunned and amused and rather shocked, and she couldn't help herself but chuckle. "What is the meaning of this?"
" It is our belief that … " He hesitated. "When two people … care for each other .. sharing a meal binds them together. We believe that eating from the same bowl will link us, our lives and our fates, forever on from that moment. We will become as one."
She didn't even hear the last part of the sentence, she got caught in the middle. "What are you saying? Eating from the same bowl?" Concern nipped her in the pit of her stomach. "Do you realize how dangerous that would be?"
"There are meds to suppress the physical reaction," he assured her. "It wouldn't be so bad. I can handle it."
There was a moment of awkward silence between them. She wasn't sure what to say. Refuse, and she would hurt his feelings. Accept, and she'd risk losing him to an allergic reaction.
But there were drugs to handle that. And part of her wanted to take Garrus home, delighted at the thought of enjoying a private conversation over dinner. And the thought itself of them sharing dinner was utterly bizarre.
What would he even make of her cooking skills?
She smiled and shook her head. She hadn't cooked a solid meal in years. Did she even remember how to?
She realized he was watching her intently, those ice-blue eyes looking to her for support. And she reached a decision.
"Well ," she smiled. "Why the hell not? If you're willing to risk your life and limb to sample my cooking .. who am I to refuse?"
She'd meant it as a joke.
But he wasn't smiling. Instead he took her hand in his and bowed his head. "Thank you, Jane. This means a lot to me. A lot."
Garrus breathed out a long sigh of relief. It was done. The Normandy was en route to the Citadel to report to the Council and tomorrow, Jane Shepard would invite him to her apartment and they would eat a meal together. Tomorrow, he'd be a very happy man.
Because then, he'd have no choice but to tell her everything about turian traditions.