A/N: I haven't uploaded anything in this account for forever. I've also more or less forgotten about the fandoms I used to dabble in. I'm all about DA and ME now, go Bioware. Anyway, here you go, a short series.
"Commander, think you could spare an hour for me?"
Shepard looks up from the datapad in her hand while directly across the mess hall Garrus ducks his head low to the plate of dextro paste on the table, careful not to give himself away. The others seated near him don't seem to take particular notice of the exchange between their commander and the reporter she had picked up two weeks ago at the Citadel. "Sure, Allers. Another interview?"
"It's about your recent meeting with the Council."
"I might not be able to say much," she warns. "Most of what we discussed is classified."
Allers tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, the ship's overhead lights bouncing off of her too-shiny dress. "Don't worry, I'll only ask easy questions."
"What a relief," Shepard deadpans.
"That's me. I'm a helper."
"Glad to know I'll be of some assistance."
Allers puts a hand on her hip, head cocked to one side. "Why else would I be bothering you?"
"I thought you just wanted the pleasure of my company," she answers easily, mimicking her stance. She's scarily good at putting her crew at ease, Garrus contemplates, one of those enduring traits she's had since their merry goose (or was the correct phrase "chicken?") chase around the galaxy for Saren. Quarian, turian, krogan, Cerberus loyalist—didn't matter, they all found themselves jumping through the Omega 4 Relay for her at the end of day.
This time appears to be no different. The reporter smirks, throwing back her shoulders in what Garrus amusedly decides is an unnecessary exaggeration of her…assets. "Can't it be both?"
At this, Shepard raises a single finely arched brow as he quietly cough-chuckles into his food. The ensign to his left—a young man who so far has been enthralled with every story the turian has in his arsenal—gapes. He's not the only one eavesdropping then—good. A yeoman elbows him. Someone else snickers, "News lady wasn't kidding when she made that crack about needing a 'nice body' for her report" and is promptly shushed.
Unfortunately, the commander's response is too low for anyone to catch, quickly murmured as it is, but Allers replies with a shrug and a smile, pressing the elevator controls. When the door slides open, she gestures inside with a layered "after you, Commander." Shepard steps in, the other woman follows, the door slides shut, and just like that the scene is over. For a long moment, silence reigns in the mess hall.
"Thirty creds say they're getting it on in the cabin right now," the Ensign blurts out.
"Fifty says you're dead-ass wrong," says a private, who Garrus recognizes as one of the guards to the War Room. Westmoreland or Campbell, he thinks. "Scuttlebutt hints she's already taken."
"Who knows? This isn't your typical Alliance ship. The commander keeps her personal business locked up tighter than an elcor's—"
And here Garrus takes this as his cue to leave, slowly shaking his head.
"I'm impressed you knew the pledge, Lola."
James Vega opens his mouth, but the rest of his words get drowned out again in the thumping bass of Purgatory. Shepard shrugs uselessly and cups her ear. He takes another breath, stops as if to say "fuck it," and instead leans in, his breath hot on her neck. "I'm impressed!"
Turning to face him, he discovers that he is close enough to notice the light sheen of sweat on her forehead. "I'm full of surprises," she says without raising her voice; but he has no trouble hearing her.
"Really," he drawls, keeping close because she hasn't pushed him away so far. Not yet, at least, and he intends to find out how much she's willing to indulge him.
The commander leans back against the bar, elbows propped on the counter. "Don't believe me?"
"Nope." The synth beats thrum under his skin along with the tequila shots he had downed before she showed up. "Prove it," he demands recklessly.
Two drinks in, and all Shepard does is roll her shoulders, fixing him with razor-sharp eyes. "For one, I haven't knocked you down every time you stare at my ass."
"Aw come on," James placates, "I thought we had moved past formalities after keeping each other company in the brig for six months."
She laughs, a rare sound. "Keep dreaming, lieutenant."
"Believe me," he confirms, raking his gaze down her uniform. "I do."
An ambiguous half-smile sneaks its way across her face. "Watch it."
"Don't need to tell me twice."
For a few seconds, Shepard watches the club's other occupants stumble up the steps, desperate to forget their troubles. She makes him wait for a response before finally looking back, a hard edge to that damn almost-smile. "Is there a point to all this flirting?"
James chances another step into her personal space. When she doesn't react, he drops his voice. "Maybe I just like pushing your buttons, no?"
Her eyes dance from his chest to his face and back again, the bar's strobe lights making them flicker, while her arms remain in the same position against the counter. Tough, unflappable, and hot beyond reason: that's his Lola. The corners of her mouth soften right before she sighs. "Or maybe you do it for the same reasons you crashed that shuttle into the Cerberus ship on Mars."
Whatever response James has ready dies in his throat because who should suddenly show up but the Normandy's unofficial XO. How long has he been standing there? Shepard, to her credit, blinks away the stolen moment and straightens, smoothing back flyaway curls from her forehead. "Garrus?"
"Figured you'd be here. I wanted to let you know that Kaidan's visiting hours start now." He taps his omni-tool. "Tried to contact you, but technically this floor doesn't exist."
"Right," she says and turns to James. He can see the muscles jumping in her jaw. "We'll talk later."
"Yeah," he agrees noncommittally, meeting the turian's penetrating stare. "Will do."
"Oh! Hello err—Garrus."
The turian in question nods back, stepping into the elevator. "Traynor. Don't worry, I won't bite."
She giggles too loudly and stops too abruptly. "Sorry, bad habit. What floor do you want?"
"Oh, same here," Traynor says, pressing the button.
As the door slides shut, he notices something slim and rectangular tucked under her arm. "What have you got there?"
The Comm. Specialist visibly brightens at the question, hugging the object a little tighter. "This? It's a chess set. GUI interface. Doesn't hold a candle to real pieces, granted, but it'll do."
"You're into strategy games then, huh?"
"Very much." She smiles, and ducks her head. "In fact, I went a few rounds with the Commander in her cabin just now."
"Really." There's only one reasonable response to that. Garrus crosses his arms. "Who won?"
"I did, actually. She's a bit of a sore loser." The smile has grown even wider, filling the rapidly expanding silence until Traynor snaps out of it. "Sorry. Again." Blowing out a puff of air, she continues, "None of this feels real…I mean, I never thought I'd find myself on the Normandy, playing chess with the Hero of the Citadel and winning to boot, you know?"
He shrugs, one of the many human tics he's picked up. "Stranger things have happened."
"True," she notes, raising a finger to her chin in mock-thought, "like getting the turians and krogan to work together—which she also pulled off." Another laugh, this time not so nervous, which she follows with a slow shake of her head. "It's one thing to hear about Commander Shepard…"
Garrus patiently waits for the other half of the sentence he knows is coming to catch up.
"…it's another to see her in action," she finishes, the tone of her voice completely different from how she had started out.
As if on cue, the door slides open. Traynor startles, hand on her chest. "Whew, look at me wax on like that! Apologies." There's that giggle again. "It was good talking to you, Garrus."
He rumbles something back and watches her leave with an odd weight in his chest. The awe in her last comment reminds him of when he had first met Shepard. Although the ex-cop from three years ago was definitely more gung-ho about the whole mission (read: had a bigger stick up his ass), he can clearly see the same admiration, the same nervousness, and the same wonder in the woman's star-struck eyes. Some things never change—only difference being that Traynor is human, custom built to fit her nooks and crannies with Shepard's own body. He holds up a three-fingered hand, wiggling his talons, and lets the alien appendage drop to his side. Custom built indeed.
Back at the main battery, his attempts to contact his father and sister fail again, like clockwork. Hanging his head, he thinks about what he wouldn't give for Shepard to work some of that magic now, stars and all.
Liara likes to stay inside her head too much. It's been that way since as far back as she can remember, sitting by herself on the grass elbow-deep in pretend-ruins while the other children played amongst themselves. The fact that she was raised as an only child (barring the newly discovered part-hanar sister) in a single parent household whose caretaker was often away on matriarch business did not exactly help her slide to introversion. It was inevitable, really. Her acceptance into the doctorate program at the University of Serrice for archeology had only cemented her status as Thessia's youngest social pariah.
That's how Shepard found her, first trapped by her need for solitude on Therum, and then tongue-tied by her own overeager efforts to make a genuine connection with someone who didn't slowly back away within ten minutes of talking to her. Instead, the human commander had smiled and listened to her mile-a-minute ramblings on asari culture, the Protheans, and anything else that captured her fancy. It was also natural, really, that Liara would become so attached to the first person in decades to treat her like, well, another person that she would be the most unwilling of the Normandy crew to let her death pass without incident.
"You still with me?"
Liara jerks, clearing out yet another inner monologue. The Presidium gardens had blurred together while her mind wandered. Blinking the scenery back into focus, she nods. "Yes. I'm sorry, I got lost in my thoughts again."
Shepard leans on the railing. "What about?"
The question is overwhelming to answer. What does Liara tell her? How does she condense three year-old feelings that keep dancing between friendship and loyalty and hero-worship and devotion and a million other things into a few scant sentences? "Everything, I suppose. This war, the aftermath, what I could be doing right now to help." She massages the corners of her temple. "Goddess, it's never enough, is it?"
Her mouth quivers, but the voice remains steady and firm. "No. But you do what you can."
The commander strikes an imposing figure amongst the Meridian Place Market shoppers, all broad shoulders and glinting armor in the artificial daylight. She almost believes her. "The galaxy is lucky to have you alive."
When Shepard glances at her, wearing that trademark half-smile, Liara pretends that the hand draped over her right arm is not her own. "And I'm lucky to have the Shadow Broker on my side."
"Very lucky," she agrees, suddenly feeling lightheaded, and looks away. Takes a breath. "I wish we could spend more time together like this." Her next words teeter on an invisible edge, threatening to bring down the mask she had taken so long to build. The Reapers are here, but Shepard is closer, and it's now or never.
She's still watching her.
"Just…friends," Liara finishes like a sigh.
For one endless moment, Shepard tilts her head to the side, as if considering the ensuing silence, until she finally touches Liara's shoulder. "Me too."
Garrus has been tracing nonsensical patterns on the glass window of the observation lounge for the past hour. It's not the most productive way to pass the time, considering that he's missed several calls from the Primarch (as indicated by the periodic beeps his omni-tool makes), but whenever he tries to move, the leaden weight in his gut stubbornly keeps him in place, as if to force him to acknowledge and process the scene he was an unwilling witness to when he first stepped into the room. He gently knocks his head against the glass. As far as he is concerned, it isn't a matter of acknowledgement or processing so much as it is realizing how much the tables have turned.
They weren't talking when he came in. She was standing on the same spot he is now while he was leaning on the window next to her, their backs both turned to him. Her hands were in her pockets. His shoulders were slumped, the rest of his body slightly angled towards her. He had immediately stopped, made his excuses, and left just as quickly as he arrived, all without waiting for a response from either one of them. They could have been thinking about any number of things, but Garrus is fairly certain the face-off during the Citadel coup was at the forefront.
Their courtship aboard the original Normandy was well-known, but low-key, words that could also be used to sum up the commander's persona. They had a lot in common: both reserved, both introspective, both mixing tech and biotics on the battlefield. It came as no surprise to anyone when Alenko left Shepard's cabin early in the morning on the day they reached Ilos, least of all Garrus. His traitorous talons can't stop—won't stop—tracing the glass.
Truthfully, he can't remember the exact moment she had crossed the line from friend to maybe-more in his mind. It might have been when he caught her in the mess hall in the middle of the night nursing a drink, right after her jarring reunion with Alenko on Horizon, or during the six months he had to himself on Palaven while Shepard wasted away in some Alliance cell on earth—time enough to decide what she meant to him, regardless of whether or not she even felt the same way. He had very nearly forgotten about the newly minted Spectre.
Not once had Shepard ever discussed her relationship with Alenko to Garrus except for the most basic of details. He had to learn the subtle tells of her body language in order to glean what information he could: the set of her mouth when his name is mentioned, the tight line of her shoulders as she held the gun at him, the heavy stares she levels at him now that he's back on the ship. In the end, though, it doesn't matter who she chooses. She knows where to find him. Eventually, Garrus stops tracing and leaves the lounge.
It's night-cycle in the Citadel. The flow of refugees has merely slowed, not stopped, with enough traffic milling about so that the solitary figure leaning on the railing is not completely left alone. Looking up, the stars outside Docking Bay D24 are tiny, bright pinpricks in an infinite cosmos that seems unaware of these dire times. With no one else in the immediate vicinity, Shepard snorts at herself. This is what happens when the commander doesn't sleep like she should: her mind goes off on dreamy, semi-poetic tangents that do jackshit to help her strategize against the Reapers.
"Huh, guess I'm not the only one awake then."
Shepard glances at the turian suddenly by her side (No, not suddenly. Always.) "What's keeping you up?"
"Palaven. Our impending doom. Ways to get better turian food on the Normandy." Garrus shrugs. "The usual."
She makes a sound that's close to a laugh. "You could just learn how to cook."
"I'll pass. Too busy taking down Reapers." His head swivels left and right in his surroundings to size up the crowd and locate all possible exits, she figures, before relaxing into a stance that somehow involves cocking his hip, his fringe raised high. Shepard notes the space he's put between them: far enough to deter heckling but close enough to discourage casual interruptions. Their eyes meet in the middle. "Joker mentioned we're heading out tomorrow."
"Far Rim," she confirms, "I got a message from the Migrant Fleet. The Admirals want to parley."
"About time the quarians wised up. Think we'll run into Tali?"
The sigh she releases covers the tremor in her voice. "I hope so. It'd be nice to have some of the old team back."
His mandibles flutter suspiciously right before he adds, "Just like—"
"Old times," she finishes with a tiny smirk. "Yeah, exactly like old times."
They pause as if to remember where everyone is right now: Williams, Mordin, Thane. The expression on his face turns somber. "Doesn't feel that way, though."
"…no," she wearily admits. "Everything's different now." With nothing else to add Shepard turns away, the night sky calling out to her. Inky black and stark in its vastness, the view is part of the reason why she even had joined the Alliance in the first place. How simple, how easy would it have been to get lost up there, to find someplace far away from all this and spend the rest of her life in peace? How far-fetched is what she just thought?
"How different are we talking?" Garrus asks, his smooth subvocals bringing her back to the land of the living.
Something about the question sounds off. "What do you mean" is on the tip of her tongue as she faces him again to find that he's narrowed the distance between them—only by a fraction, but she's known him long enough to spot his tells too. His gaze searches her own, with shoulders held rigid, and mandibles pressed tight to his face: the posture she had seen him wear the other day when he had walked in on her and Kaidan in the observation lounge.
Even after all this time? Swallowing the sudden lump in her throat, Shepard carefully, slowly, slides her hand over his, and laces her fingers. He only stiffens a little bit. "You're still here," she says matter-of-factly, determined not to have her words shake. "So not by much."
His grip tightens almost painfully, but Shepard doesn't notice. "Good to know," Garrus replies just as evenly, the look in his eyes completely giving him away.
They pass the night together.
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