This one was written as a birthday present for the lovely tarysande. I highly recommend all her Shepard/Garrus fics, if you haven't read them already.

Garrus's age is not established anywhere in the Mass Effect canon, as far as I know, so I've assigned him an age arbitrarily.

Palaven, 2166

"This was a terrible idea," Garrus announced.

The only person available to hear him was Tycus, who was doubled over the railing of the bridge over the stream the path crossed. Garrus winced at the noise coming from his cousin. He wasn't feeling too well himself; his head was spinning a little.

"You should have said so earlier," Tycus muttered.

Garrus turned his head a little too fast toward his cousin and winced as the world swirled. "I did," he countered.

"You came out with me anyway," Tycus grumbled.

Garrus tried to remember why it had seemed like a good idea when Tycus suggested they slip down to a bar and buy themselves a few drinks. Oh, that's right: he'd been bored. He hadn't even been supposed to be at home this month, but he'd missed his flight out when he heard about Mom's accident. Mom was doing a lot better, limping around the house in a walking cast, but Garrus wasn't sorry he'd stayed home to help her. Dad wouldn't be back from his duties in C-Sec for a few weeks yet, and Solana was in service; Mom went to bed early these days, so he'd been bored. Tycus's visit was the most interesting thing that had happened all month.

And it was his birthday, his last before starting his service, or it would be tomorrow. Fourteen, and no plans at all, most of his friends away, along with Dad and Sol.

So Tycus's plan had sounded worth it, even though the bartender had looked at them skeptically. He'd served them anyway. It was the first time either of them had really indulged.

"Doesn't mean it was a good idea," Garrus told him. "You feeling okay?"

Tycus shrugged. "Better, anyway."

They started back up the path toward the house. Garrus walked with exaggerated care. Tycus kept bumping into him.

It was late enough that he didn't expect to encounter anyone on the way to the house, since it was a quiet, sedate neighborhood, so it was a surprise to see someone coming their way. Someone who wasn't limping, so not Mom; someone who was tall and slim and stopped with folded arms as they came near.

"Exactly what have you two idiots been doing?" asked Solana.

Tycus winced. "Nice to see you, too, Sol."

"Sol!" Garrus blinked at her, trying to make sure it really was his sister. "What are you doing here?"

"I got leave and came home. Thought I'd surprise you for your birthday." Solana leaned toward them and sniffed. "Are you two drunk?"

Garrus fidgeted, dismayed by how long it was taking to come up with a response. "Um..."

Tycus said, "I can't be, I think I already, uh..."

Solana sniffed again. "Please don't finish that sentence, Ty, I think I get the idea."

She fell into step beside Garrus and the three of them headed back up the hill. She said, "Just imagine what Dad would say, Garrus. The immoderation," she said, deepening her voice to an approximation of their father's, "the intemperance, the sheer waste—"

Garrus winced. "Please don't tell him."

She nudged him with her elbow. Garrus narrowly avoided staggering into Tycus. "I won't. Just this once. In honor of your birthday. Don't think you're getting any other favors, though. In fact, I might just wake you up bright and early." He saw the flash of her teeth as her mandibles flared out in a grin.

Garrus sighed. He could only imagine what he'd feel like in the morning, but Solana's favors usually came with a price. He glanced at her sideways. "Did you really come back just for my birthday?"

"No, I came back to see my secret boyfriend."

Tycus laughed. "Do you really have a secret boyfriend, Sol?"

"If I did, do you think I'd tell you, Ty?" She bumped Garrus with her elbow again. "Course I came to see you, baby brother. Last one before the big one, right?"

"Right," he said. One more year until he started his service. The thought made him a little nervous, but more excited. One more year, and he'd be out of the house, training, working. Really finding out what he was capable of.

"Want to go shooting tomorrow?" Solana asked. "I've got the whole day free."

Garrus brightened. "Definitely. I mean, I beat you last time." And it had been a while since he'd gotten to see his sister for a whole day. She was seventeen and hadn't been home for more than a week at a time in two years, and when she was home, Mom and Dad were usually around, too.

"You wish. That was a tie."

He shook his head. "You must be getting old, Sol. You're not remembering right."

"You just soaked your head in alcohol, Garrus. I think you're the one who's not remembering right."

They kept bickering amiably all the way back to the house. In spite of the headache, Garrus found his mood improving. It looked like it might be a good birthday, after all.