Title: The Heart Asks for Pleasure First
Summary: A month after taking down Saren, Shepard spends Christmas shore leave with her favourite turian C-Sec officer on the Citadel. Movies are watched, gifts are exchanged, and two war heroes celebrate their unlikely friendship.
Pairing: Garrus/Shepard friendship, flirting, mentions of Kaidan/Shepard
Spoilers: All of ME1
Timeline: post-ME1, pre-ME2
A/N: Hello, my lovely readers! I'm guessing most of you have followed me over from my other Shakarian fic, Commander Shepard, You've Got Mail. If you're reading this, and you haven't read that one, then it's my duty to warn you that this fic references quite a bit from that story, so you might not understand everything. But don't worry! You can fix that by going and reading CSYGM right now. It's Shakarian humour and fluff, just like this one, and I promise you won't be bored.
Shut Up, Joker
December 21st, 2183
Johannes's partner came barreling into their shared office like a Category 5 hurricane or a starship zipping into FTL travel, waving a piece of paper. "I've got it! They approved it!"
Leaning back in his chair, Johannes took a moment to reassess. His partner, Garrus Vakarian, was not only a veteran of the turian military but a war hero as well. Though whispers of his impetuosity and recklessness during his first stint at C-Sec abounded in break rooms and office spaces, service under Alliance brass had worked wonders with Garrus. He was disciplined, like all turians, calm, pointed, incredibly skilled, strategic, and flexible. His interrogations were flawless, his tactical thinking unrivalled, and his sniper skills practically on par with those of a savant.
Right now he looked like a six-year-old with a Christmas present.
"Approved what?" Johannes asked carefully. He couldn't smell any alcohol on his partner, dextro or otherwise, but the events of that fateful night at the bar during the week before had given him lessons in caution. A sober Garrus Vakarian was fairly good at handling insults without violence. An intoxicated Garrus Vakarian tended to knock the offender halfway across the room, break his nose and pull a concealed handgun from under his civvies.
Garrus dangled the paper in front of his face. Johannes grabbed the edges to steady it and read the first couple of lines below the heading. He frowned and looked up at Garrus, who was smiling as only a turian could: mandibles extended to the sides, the better to show off his many sharp carnivorous teeth. "Christmas leave? Garrus, Christmas is a human holiday. Do you even know what it is?"
"Shepard explained," Garrus said blithely, removing the paper from Johannes's face and laying it down across his own desk. His features reassumed their usual composure and he ceased bouncing around so much, something Johannes was quite grateful for; a cheerful, bubbly Garrus was disturbing in the extreme. "It's a human religious holiday. Religious but not religious. Giving and receiving, family and friends."
"Right," said Johannes, who was not sure at all that Garrus really knew what he was talking about. "But how in the world did you get that application for leave approved? I know C-Sec has a non-discrimination policy, but still."
Garrus grinned again, without warning. "Spectre authority."
"Oh." Johannes rubbed at the bridge of his nose with one hand. How could he have forgotten? Not only was Garrus a war hero, part of Shepard's elite three-member squad that killed Saren and gave the human ships their vital opening, but he was apparently on close personal terms with the first and only human Spectre. Just how close, and just how personal, Johannes wasn't sure. Break room rumours varied widely on that point.
"I don't know much about Christmas," Garrus admitted, patting the application approval form as if it were a child or a well-loved dog, "so I was hoping you could help. You know, to make up for tricking me into going out with you the other night."
"What?" Johannes could hardly believe his ears. First Garrus had got drunk and sent one of Johannes' few human friends on the Citadel to hospital for making a stupid remark about the commander, and now he was demanding that Johannes make it up to him? "Please tell me you're joking."
"I've got to run now," Garrus continued, as if Johannes hadn't spoken, "but I'll be back in time for that inspection tonight. Tomorrow you'll need to show me how to wrap a Christmas present. And where to buy wrapping paper. And what sort of present to buy."
Johannes had an entire spiel planned out. He intended to elaborate upon the wonders of the extranet, and explain that entire books on Christmas rituals and etiquette could be downloaded with the tap of a finger; he also intended to emphasize that just because he was Garrus' partner did NOT mean that Garrus should come to him with questions on obscure bits of human culture, at least not quite so frequently; most of all, he intended to ask about that partly eaten sky-blue cake in the break room refrigerator with the letters G-A-R-R scrawled across the top layer in frosting cursive and a candle shaped like a starship stuck between the G and A.
But then Garrus opened up his omni-tool, orange touch-screen interface reflected in his visor, and made a small pleased sound as his blue eyes scanned the screen before he activated the hands-free display and began busily typing away with all six fingers. By now, Johannes knew the signs. His turian partner had just received yet another email from the absent Commander Shepard of the Alliance Marines.
Johannes was no expert on turian facial expressions. But watching the flicker of Garrus's mandibles and the warm light glinting in his ice-coloured eyes made Johannes think suddenly of his own wife, Ariel, and the prolonged years of their own youthful courtship before fumbling romance had blossomed into all-consuming love.
Did Garrus even know?
"Okay," Johannes said. Garrus's eyes flicked up from the screen, rested on him briefly, and dismissed him. "Just don't be late to the inspection."
Garrus chuckled. It was a full, deep, rich sound, the kind only turians could produce, flanging and synthetically melodic. It was also the happiest sound Johannes had ever heard a turian make.
Just three weeks of separation. Astounding.
"Don't worry. I'll be right on time."
December 25th, 2183
"Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la."
"'Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la."
The Normandy's pilot and resident caroler scowled and hit a holographic key with his thumb, shutting off the cheery Christmas jingle. "Oh, come on, Commander. Don't be a scrooge. It's tradition—"
"Once we touch down on the Citadel and I can get the hell off this ship, you can sing all you want. But not. Another. Word. Until. Then."
Joker rolled his eyes and adjusted his cap. "You know, you don't have to stand here. In the cockpit. Behind my chair, where I can't keep an eye on you and the Normandy's controls at the same time. Breathing down my neck…"
"I want to make sure you're doing your job. Not watching pornography. Or singing Christmas carols."
"That was one time. One time." Joker shifted in his seat, trying to ignore the sensation of eyes on the back of his neck. He hated it when Shepard stood behind him like that. He couldn't even glance back without getting a crick in his neck, and the last time he'd rigged up the cockpit's security cameras to broadcast live footage of what she was doing into his personal terminal, she'd gotten all hissy at him. It was like she enjoyed making him squirm. Come to think of it, this was the Commander he was talking about. She probably did enjoy it.
"And anyway, it's not like I didn't invite you to watch—"
He saw her hold up a hand in his peripheral vision. "Stop right there." Her voice was pained. "How much longer until we dock?"
"I can't skip these lines, Commander. It's holiday season; the Citadel's got Alliance ships up the yin-yang in here. Everybody's on shore leave. Now, unless you wanted to use your Spectre clearance—"
"Emergency Spectre clearance is to be reserved for emergencies, Joker. Not skipping holiday traffic because my pilot started getting antsy."
"Just my luck. I had to be assigned to the most boring Spectre in the galaxy."
He turned his head just in time to see a smirk curl the edge of her lips. "That's not what you said at Ilos."
"Okay, so sometimes you aren't boring. But only when the galaxy is at stake. Or we're about to get shot down by something big and nasty. Thanks for reminding me."
"You didn't answer my question. How much longer?"
"ETA forty minutes. Which is pretty good, considering we arrived on Christmas Day."
She spread her hands in an admission of defeat. Which was a pretty rare sight, all things considering. He should have taken a picture. "I don't control when the brass schedules shore leave. Just be grateful we're getting some at all."
"Oh, I am. Trust me." Joker expertly twiddled the controls, sending the Normandy into a complete 360 barrel roll before falling neatly back into the docking queue. Just another way to stave off the boredom for awhile. Cushioned by the ship's artificial gravity, neither he nor Shepard felt a thing. He was pretty sure Shepard hadn't noticed, since she hadn't started yelling at him yet. "Why so restless, anyway? You're never this worked up about shore leave."
"I'm not worked up." Shepard crossed her arms, daring him to continue. Christ, he hated it when she did that.
"Fine. You know, Commander, you've been extra touchy ever since the aliens jumped ship. I think having them around was good for you. Stabilizing influence and all that."
"Shut up, Joker." Precise and to the point. That was Shepard, through and through.
"Problem, ma'am?" Joker recognized Kaidan's voice without looking around. Over the years of spending basically all his time alone in the cockpit, he had learned to pinpoint the precise moment that someone entered the room behind him, as well as identify them by the sound of their footsteps or their voices. It was extremely difficult for anyone to sneak up on him. Of course, Shepard managed occasionally, but only when he had his earpiece in.
"Joker's being an ass," Shepard explained, her voice perfectly level. "Nothing new."
"Right." Kaidan moved closer. Great, now Joker had two people breathing down his neck. Just another day in the life of the greatest pilot in the Alliance fleet. "Was I dreaming, or did we just do a barrel roll a few minutes ago?"
"What are you talking… Joker."
"Great going, Alenko," Joker muttered, hunching down in his seat as far as he could go. "Glad to see you're staying on your toes." Stupid jerk.
He could almost hear Shepard's engines firing up as she prepared to execute a thorough tongue-lashing on the merits of professionalism and setting an example for the other Citadel races. But before she could start, Kaidan laid a hand on her arm. "It's Christmas, Shepard. Why don't we just declare this the one day that Joker is allowed to be an ass, without repercussions, and be done with it."
I love you, Kaidan.
"Oh, fine." Shepard sighed and headed toward the back of the cockpit. Joker exhaled in relief and rolled his shoulders, easing a little tension in the muscles there. "Radio my cabin when we're clear, Joker. And no more barrel rolls."
"Roger that, Commander."
"I can whip up something in the canteen if you're hungry," Kaidan offered, hovering midway between Joker's seat and the door, eyes on Shepard's back. It was kind of sad, really.
"Sounds great," Joker piped up, since Kaidan clearly hadn't been talking to him. "Meet you there in five?"
"I'm not hungry," Shepard replied, as if Joker hadn't spoken. "I was thinking of getting dinner on the Citadel, anyway. Garrus said he knew of some good restaurants."
"Oh." Wow. If that wasn't a shutdown, Joker had never heard one before. The confusion in Kaidan's voice was palpable. "Well… tell Garrus hi for me."
"I will." Shepard stepped outside, and the cockpit doors slid shut behind her with a pneumatic hiss.
Joker turned his head. Kaidan was still standing behind his chair, face illuminated by the green glow from the door's locking console. "You like Christmas carols, Alenko?"
"What? No, not really." Kaidan shook his head like he was warding away flies and looked at Joker. "What were you doing to piss her off, anyway? I could hear you two all the way from the CIC."
"Just getting into the spirit of the holidays. Not my fault the commander's a scrooge."
"She's been a little restless ever since that formal dinner with the Council a few days ago." Kaidan gave a tiny, almost imperceptible shudder.
"Tell me about it. Kept popping up here to ask me when we were hitting the mass relay to the Citadel. I've never seen her this anxious about shore leave before."
"I wish I knew why." Kaidan sighed and slid into the copilot seat. He didn't touch the controls, just leaned back and rested his head on the back of the chair. Joker knew the lieutenant never let himself relax like this around the rest of the crew; it was only here in the cockpit that he unbent a little.
"Oh, you know why. It's that scaly bastard, Garrus. Him and Shepard were thick as thieves when he was onboard the Normandy. She probably misses him."
"You think that's it?"
"Yeah. Plus she hasn't been in a firefight for almost a week. The peace and quiet have got to be wearing her down. Bet she and Garrus are gonna hit up the firing range as soon as we touch down on the Citadel."
"I guess that makes sense." Kaidan sounded reluctant.
Joker looked at him shrewdly. "You think there's something else going on?"
"I don't know what I think."
"Don't sweat it, Alenko. The commander's a bit strange, I'll admit, but I don't think she's into aliens."
Kaidan's eyes widened. "Jeez, Joker, I did not want that picture in my head."
"I know you were thinking it. But come on. Dr. T'Soni was practically salivating all over her and Shepard acted like she didn't even notice. Who turns down an asari, anyway?"
Kaidan shook his head, grinning a little despite himself. "Obviously not you."
"I'm just saying. I think your position as the commander's pet subordinate is safe."
"I'm not—we're not—God, Joker, you have to make it sound so bad."
"Sorry, sorry." Joker could be mean sometimes, but he didn't really want to give Alenko an aneurysm. Not at the moment, anyway. "Just give her some time."
"Thanks for the effort, Joker, but I really don't need romantic advice from you."
"Ouch." Joker shook his head and checked the docking queue for the twentieth time. Still no movement. The forty minutes he'd given Shepard might have been an underestimate. "Just don't tell the commander that we've been speculating about her love life."
Kaidan smiled. "Wouldn't dream of it."
A/N: I hate to start off a new story like this, but I'm going to a Model United Nations conference tomorrow, and won't be back for three days. I might not have computer access while I'm there (don't know yet!) so, if there isn't an update, don't panic. Thanks for your patience!