There was something kind of unintentionally hilarious about watching Garrus spray-paint his face.
The first time she'd done it, she'd been investigating the sprrttzzzch, sprrttzzzch of sound emanating from her shower, and had walked into the bathroom to find him holding a face-formed stencil up by a narrow handle and carefully spraying himself with a can of blue paint. A little less than half of the mask had been blocked out, to account for his facial scarring. That part wasn't funny. That part actually made something inside of her do a sad little lurch and dragged her down for a while. But the rest of it was just… well. She supposed watching someone use hairspray would be equally strange, in reverse circumstances.
Garrus had caught her watching after he put the stencil down, and had immediately gone on the nervous defensive.
"Um," he'd said. "I was just…" The vague, sort of helpless gesture he'd made towards his face had her catching his wrist, and when she moved in close the fresh paint smelled stronger than usual, sharp and a little metallic. He'd swallowed. She'd grinned, and tugged him back into the bedroom again, not another coherent word said between them until much later.
The second time she'd gone in to brush her teeth, and he'd awkwardly paused and asked if he should go use another bathroom. She'd given him a look and assured him that she didn't find his bathroom presence offensive, and anyway, she knew her personal facilities were much more private than the crew ones. If he was going to sleep with his commanding officer, he could at least enjoy the perks. Of course, she maybe shouldn't have said that part out loud, because he was still a little twitchy about the whole thing. In some ways.
"This isn't like that, Shepard," he had told her, and she was sure he was thinking about weird extranet porn and how he officially qualified as something of a sexual deviant now, and possibly what his parents would think if they knew.
She had sighed around her toothpaste, looking at him in the mirror and raising an eyebrow. "Garrus," she'd said. "I know you're not sleeping with me for the perks. It was a joke."
He'd blinked. "Right. Of course." And then he'd proceeded to get even more embarrassed about it, because he did have a sense of humour – really, he did – he just forgot about it when she flustered him and he over-thought things. She was getting used to being the stable one on this new plateau of their relationship, the one who said things like 'breathe' and 'we'll figure it out' and 'yes, humans do that too' and 'no, it really doesn't matter'. But she would be lying if she said she didn't have her own insecurities – she was just much, much more practiced at handling them.
The third time she'd heard the sound of the can again, she stuck her head into the room to watch him, her skin still pink from the show and her uniform only half on. He'd caught her staring and blinked.
"Nothing," she had replied, grinning.
The fourth time, he hadn't let her get away with that answer, and finally she'd relented. "It's just a little bit funny to watch you spray yourself in the face," she'd admitted, remembering how he'd confessed to still finding breasts a 'little weird' the night before, in that way that said 'please don't break up with me, even though a lot of this is always going to be strange and oh crap I shouldn't have said anything, should I?'. It was impossible to get hurt or angry at that tone of voice.
He'd paused, and then huffed out a laugh. "Yeah, I guess I can see that," he agreed, and then he told her about how the spray-can deal was a relatively new innovation. "Some turians can't stand it. They still have to do things the old fashioned way."
"What's the old fashioned way?" she'd asked.
Which was how they found themselves sitting cross-legged on the floor of her quarters a week later, a can of paint open on the floor beside them, knees touching. His skin was hard and warm and a little rough, except at the joints, where it got softer and more flexible. When she dipped the brush into the paint it looked thick and bright, but the colour dimmed a bit as she pressed it gently to the bridge of his nose. The space beneath his eye. She painted from memory, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth, Garrus oddly quiet beneath her ministrations. It wasn't long before the air between them was warm with body-heat, and she slipped on the last stroke.
With a frown, she dipped a small towel into the little dish of remover which Garrus had also produced, and wiped it clean. Then she repainted the line, lips spreading into a triumphant grin as she looked at him, and didn't see anything out of place. Without his paint he looked naked – vulnerable. There was something to be said for that. But with it, he looked like Garrus, and she knew at once that she'd done a passable job (to human eyes, anyway) because that was the face she knew so well. Standing up, she offered him a hand, and then hauled him into the bathroom to confirm.
"There," she said. "Is it alright?"
It was only as she was leaning against him, looking at him look into the mirror, that she realized how utterly silent he'd been. The muscles in his waist shifted a little under her palm, and he stared at his reflection intently. She couldn't read his expression. Not until he twitched a little, raising his hand briefly as if to touch his face, but stopping halfway. Then she recognized that look. It was the same calm, quiet reverence he'd used the first time they'd touched, head to head, flesh against flesh.
"It's perfect," he replied.