AN: Thanks to all my reviewers. I appreciate that you take the time to drop me a line. I'm having major writer's block on this story. The next chapter will be longer, I promise.

Rated M. I own nothing.

OoOoOo

Shepard pulled back, shoulders stiff and posture rigid. Her eyes were downcast as she reflected over the whirlwind of emotions coursing between them.

"I'm not saying that. At least, not exactly," she replied slowly with careful inflection on her words. "I'm willing to feel this out and see where it goes. I have a lot on my plate right now by anyone's standards. The last thing I need is to commit myself to a relationship that might be doomed to fail."

His mandibles clicked in open agitation, the shock prominent in his eyes as he looked at her. "But, I thought-"

"Everything I said," Shepard interrupted gently, "was true and will always be true. I do love you Garrus."

"But?"

"But we are two very stubborn people, and if we are being honest here, we both have the tendency to rush head first into things."

"It sounds pretty good to me," he throatily replied.

Shepard gave a short and awkward laugh. "Yeah, I guess it does. What I'm trying to say is that I'm not ready yet to trust what's between us."

"I don't understand," he said.

How could she explain it to him? How did one eloquently tell someone they were worried about what might happen? What if he loved the idea of 'Commander Shepard' and not the actual person? Could it ever work between them? Actually work? Would she die again leaving him all alone once more? Or would he die and she would be left to mourn him?

This wasn't easy for her. She'd had a more than a few relationships go down the drain thanks to her work. Thanks to her pride, temper, and other people's unrealistic expectations. Garrus did not appear to understand that he turned her life upside down in more ways than one and she was still trying to put things into perspective. She was a loose cannon where he was concerned and that could get someone killed, including him.

Yes, she wanted desperately to try and to trust him with her heart but she simply couldn't. Not yet, anyway. There needed to be time and some show of faith on his end this time around.

Shepard scratched absently at her arm, trying to sort out her thoughts. It shouldn't be this damned hard. It should be easy to tell him how she needed it to be. There was no time right now for Libo* and that left her hard pressed to deal with something as low on the priority list as her love life. Yet, it was not something that could be easily ignored if this turned out to be her last

First things always came first and nothing could be more vital to everyone's continued existence than stopping the Collectors. And, of course the Reapers, but Shepard would have to take out the main threat later. Right now colonists were disappearing at an alarming rate and the council she was sworn to protect despite her previous death, would not listen. And, there was still the fact that Shepard hadn't finished piecing together what Cerberus really wanted.

She took a deep breath, calming her nerves as she stared Garrus down. "We… if there is going to be an 'us' I need time Garrus. We have to go slow. So as of right now, we are more than Commander and subordinate. But, I'm not sure how much more."

He ducked his head a moment, blue eyes narrowed in thought. "Hm," he pondered for a moment before looking back up at her with predatory intent. "There is no one in this whole screwed up galaxy that I trust more than you Shepard. So hey… you want me to wait? I can do that."

She flushed slightly, not having had the guts to hope he'd understand. She nodded stiffly, and backed away slowly before she launched this 'slow' relationship into something much faster.

"Well, it's been longer than five minutes. I'm sure the galaxy is falling apart as we speak."

She laughed in spite of herself at his wit. Sadly, she was half-certain he was correct. She'd be dodging or taking bullets by the day's end. She was sure of it.

"It seems to make a habit of doing that," she quipped with some of her old fire returning to her eyes.

"It's scandalous, I know. It's a wonder anything managed to exist before you, Shepard," he quips giving her his best affronted look.
"Then I'd better go see who needs saving today. It's likely some Turian squad that can't shoot their way out of a wet paper bag."

"A what?"

"Never mind," she replied with a slight smile. "Hey Garrus, maybe later we could talk about… whatever it is we have going on here? It won't be for a while… but…"

He rumbled in amusement. "Sure. But I might be in the middle of some calibrations."

Shepard pushed him into the elevator.

OoOoOo

It seemed simple enough to Shepard. She only wanted to grab a quick bite to eat and the cup of swill they had the nerve to call coffee. There was an old saying about coffee a spoon could stand up in, she was pretty sure it wasn't supposed to be literal. Though much more questionable than the food on the SR1, Shepard choked it down like a good soldier. Or one that had been half-starved. She'd been missing a few meals here and there looking into a few of her side objectives.

And, sometimes, after being plastered in Collector blood she just wasn't all that hungry.

So, at first, she thought she was imagining it. There was a feeling of someone staring directly at her. Shepard inconspicuously took a look around and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Cerberus personnel were chatting about various subjects ranging from missing family members to the latest game of Skillian 5. Her gaze traveled the length of the mess hall with some misgiving. The hair on the back of her neck was standing at attention. That normally meant someone was watching her, or about to attack her.

Shepard finished her meal that was "More food and less ass" for the most part. She calmly put her dishes with the other dirtied ones and continued back toward the elevator. The sensation of being watched did not abate. Shepard felt her right eyelid twitch in a physical response to anticipated stress.

It continued as she observed and read her new messages on the main deck. It continued as she checked in with Jacob to see how things were and it continued when she made her rounds in Engineering. It ceased when she stopped at the women's restroom, which was a relief and also all the more suspicious.

She took alternate routes around the ship, and turned quickly down a corridor to the starboard observation. Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of a scarred face with one messed up cranial-horn.

She was going to kill him.

Shepard whirled around and strode after Mordin with purpose. She caught the tail end of his note-taking.

"Spotted by subject, must continue later."

"Mordin!" Shepard shouted in a roar worthy of any commander. "You'd better not be conducting some experiment."

"Define experiment. No. Not needed. Can only conclude you will be upset by the reasoning."

"You're damn right I will be."

"Suspect warp ammo possible," he muttered to himself as he zigged and zagged away from her.

"Come back here you Salarian menace so I can pulverize you!"

She could see the smile he was cracking when he looked behind briefly to assess how quickly she was gaining on him.

"No need for violence. Am shocked you would even suggest such a thing."

"You've been following me around all day taking notes! I am not an experiment," she growled walking quickly toward him.

"Was not difficult," he retorted as he scrambled into the elevator and effectively slammed it shut in her face.

Shepard huffed in agitation. "I know where you sleep!" She shouted at the now closed doors.

"Way to lay down the law there boss," a certain biotic commented snidely from her left.

"Thanks Princess, I needed the pep talk."

"You can kiss my ass anytime Girl scout."

"I'm flatter Jack, but I just don't like you that way."

The bald biotic huffed at Shepard's obvious anger in amusement.

OoOoOo

Libo: Liberty, time away from the shop or the field. Time to be away from work. Now, supposedly, this is a Marine term. I am uncertain if that is correct or used correctly. However, in the unlikely event any fine and upstanding member of the USMC is reading this fan fiction, please understand that no offense was meant if the term or usage is incorrect.