Title: The Gray Area

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Bioware.

Beta Reader: Renting

Summary: Follow Garrus as he progresses through different levels of attachment to the great Commander Shepard; fondness, respect, friendship, full blown hero-worship, and something that gets lost in-between. Set ME1.

Chapter One

They Didn't See It Start

The elevator door opened with a near silent swish that caught Garrus Vakarian's attention. Looking over his shoulder he was met with the sight of his current CO, Commander Shepard. Her eyes swept over the blue and red room as she stepped forward. The bright light of the weapons bench he was currently stationed at was a stark contrast to the more mellow lighting of the hanger, and he was not surprised that she was drawn to the brighter corner. The lack of familiar krogan was such an oddity that Commander Shepard's steps faltered as she past the vacant spot.

Her vision lingered over the team lockers as she walked. If she was displeased with the current state of his—as the contents were now spilling out and onto the floor in the most haphazard of ways—she gave no sign. But that was not surprising. If he had learned one thing about the commander (and honestly, it really did feel like he had learned only one damn thing), it was that she was near impossible to read.

Garrus had always prided himself on being able to read people. He was a cop after all, and that was a very important part of the job. Knowing each species and their 'tells' was vital in an interrogation. But with the commander … well, she was harder to read than a hanar and elcor's bastard love child.

"Commander," he greeted with a happy click of his mandibles that was surly lost on the human woman.

At first he was wary of his growing fondness for Commander Shepard, as he wasn't too sure how friendly the Alliance let their soldiers become. But with her regular chats, it seemed like that wasn't an issue. The idea of becoming friends with the commander was a pleasant one and he was happy to see it slowly happening.

Plus, Garrus really wasn't getting along too well with the other members of the ship at the moment …

"Vakarian," she greeted. She had only stopped calling him 'Officer' Vakarian a few conversations ago.

Progress, he grinned.

Her brow rose as her eyes traced his flared mandibles. Her lips gave a flash of a smile that was gone as soon as he spied it, and he was sure she knew he was grinning at her. The commander glanced over at his disassembled sniper rifle as she cleared her throat.

"Where's Chief Williams?"

As far as she can possibly be from me. "I don't know, Commander."

"She should be on duty." She was looking at him again.

He shrugged as he turned to lean one arm casually on the countertop. "If you're looking for her you might have better luck in the mess hall," he offered.

She merely watched him with her large human eyes as her brain worked out why Williams would risk the ire of the commander.

"Seems you ran her away," she simply said. She didn't voice her disproval or her understanding to either side. She didn't storm off to demand Williams to not derelict her duty or ask Garrus to be more understanding.

It was madding not being able to tell what she was feeling. She always voiced her thoughts. It was how she felt that she kept carefully locked away.

No positive or negative.

Always neutral.

"And no, I'm not looking for her." She scanned his work station again before adding, "I'll let you get back to work." He nodded and turned to his gun.

He fully expected her to exit the hanger and finish her rounds of the ship, which was why he was confused when he caught her out of the corner of his eye.

With a slight till of her head she was staring down at the mess he had made while looking for all of his mods that were buried in his locker. He opened his mouth to assure her that he was going to clean it up, but snapped it close as she lowered herself on the floor.

Feeling the need not to disturb the odd scene that was unfolding, he tried his best to watch from the corner of his eye, and for the first time in his life he cursed his visor for hampering his vision.

Shepard had settled herself in the middle of his mess and crossed her leg in a way that made him cringe. Wordlessly, she began shifting through his clutter and stacking things in neat little piles; a mod here, a stray armor piece there.

Once done she began to look through each pile. A frown would mar her face before she sat whatever had failed her test aside before picking up another piece and putting it to under the same scrutiny. After a clear 'reject' pile was made she stood up and opened her own locker, pulling out a box from the bottom.

Garrus tried to act like he was in the middle of adding a scope mod when she walked over to him. Her hands reached for the mod in his, her strange five fingers leaving a faint chill from her lower body heat as it brushed his. The mod was tossed over her shoulder and, with a loud clank, he was amused to hear it land in the reject pile. Garrus angled his head to watch her with one eye as she pulled free a newer, and a hell of a lot better, sniper scope and replaced it in his hand.

He was aware she went through everyone's lockers and ungraded armor and weapons when they didn't do it themselves. This was the first time he had actually seen her do it. He was even willing to bet he was the first one to ever see her do it.

He looked up at her and said, "Thank-you, Commander." She froze as her brow came together and, after a long moment, gave him a small nod.

Did no one ever thank her for this? It was uncommon for a commanding officer to personally deal with the weapons and armor; this was clearly Williams' duty. So it was almost endearing how much responsibility she put on herself.

The urge to see her smile overcame him as he added, "Although, if you have any hope of ever reaching my level, you might want to keep all the goodies for yourself."

Amusement was an easy read on her face and he couldn't help but feel proud at her current smile.

Well done. Maybe now you'll even be able to make a geth giggle and the universe will implode.

"Hey, I gave you a run for your money on the last mission." She sat the box on the table and her fingers toyed with the edge.

"True." He leaned back in his seat and folded his arms loosely. "That was until you missed your second head shot, threw your rifle at the nearest merc, brought out your assault, and charged." He chuckled.

Shepard shrugged as she leaned her weight gently on the table with her hip. The move was slow and deliberate; like she knew what she was doing and was testing the waters. "Scare tactic; if you stick to one thing too long you become complacent and the enemy has a better chance of besting you. Better to throw a curve ball and keep 'em on their toes."

Garrus gave her the blankest look a turian could give (he was told by a human C-Sec officer that it was easily a creepy dead stare), as her last sentence made no freaking sense to him.

She returned his stare before she gave a small laugh.

Garrus was sure this was the first time he'd heard her laugh. It was small and breathy and it looked to come from her core as she grinned at him. "Change things up to keep them sharp."

"Because you want the merc with the gun pointed at your head to think on his feet."

"Isn't fun otherwise."

He was grinning again. "Point taken."

Garrus was a bit sorry to see her straighten as she picked up her box and turned back to her locker without another word.

The commander could end a conversation just as quickly as she started one, but he was surprised to see she left her smile on as she worked on switching his mods for upgraded ones. Once done she placed her box back in her locker and began neatly cleaning his, leaving his other guns out as it was clear he still needed to work on those.

When she stood, he was sure, once again, that she was going to leave.

Instead, she went across the room and picked up a heavy looking crate. She carried it over with little difficulty and sat it down in front of the lockers. Opening it she began placing gear into each locker. He noticed nothing went into her own locker, which lead him to believe that she had already received her own equipment earlier in the day. She added a few more things to his and even replaced his greaves.

Garrus also noted she didn't add any of her own mods to the other lockers like she did his. The commander wasn't one to hoard better gear, and he was confused as to why she would only upgrade his mods with her own.

Garrus took a good look at his new scope and found the answer; it was expensive as hell. He had only given it a glance when she had first given it to him, so he hadn't notice it was a scope that could improve his sighting by twice what it was … and was currently on the market for a half-million creds.

She mostly likely had only one to give, and buying anymore would have meant the crew going hungry for a while.

Spirits, he couldn't take this.

He picked up the mod, turned to face her, and dropped it. He fumbled to catch it as he stared in disbelief.

Shepard was currently dead set on stuffing a very large and gleaming shotgun into Wrex's locker. It was a losing battle as the current oversized krogan armor was already jammed tight in there.

"Son of a …" she muttered as she pushed with both hands. With a small grunt she pulled back and was rewarded with the sight of the gun half jammed in the locker. She glared like it was mocking her. "You little…" she trailed off again as she looked around. Shepard spotted him and waved him over.

"You just gonna watch me all day or help, Vakarian?"

Garrus sat the mods on the table, already half forgotten, as he walked to stand next to her. He surveyed the damage before he started scolding. "Brute force won't work on everything, Commander."

"And what would you do?" Her tone was near playful and he easily went along.

"Well, first you have to be gentle." He gripped the shotgun and eased it out. He scanned the locker and found a spot near the top to fit it. "You have to ease it in." He slipped it into the gap and slowly moved it in, waiting to see if it would catch. It didn't, so he felt safe enough to force it in the last leg. "Once you're in far enough, then you can added a little force; just enough to past a little resistance, but not enough to break anything. See? With the right touch you can fit things in the oddest places."

Happy to help, he turned back to Shepard. She had a near insane grin on her face that she was struggling to hide but was failing. This was the first time she was unable to completely hide her emotions and that only added to his confusion.

Finally she gave up and let her devious grin break wide. "Oh really, Vakarian?" She placed her hands behind her back. "Sounds like you have a lot of experience in that area. Glad to know you don't just jam it in."

What was she getting at? What could—oh Spirits! He didn't mean it like that!

"Commander! I-I didn't mean-what I was saying-I—"

Her eyes opened wide as she understood his stutter, then she promptly doubled over in a fit of silent laugher.

Once again, he felt an odd sense of pride at making his stoic commander break her mask, even if it was at his own expense. She recovered only to break back down once she looked at him.

"I'm sorry," she wheezed. "I shouldn't have laughed." Shepard wiped at her eyes. "It's just normally you're so … nonchalant and smooth. To think you said that without meaning too …" She was still smiling as she shook her head at him.

Garrus tilted his head as he took in her words. "Nonchalant and smooth? My, Commander, didn't know you held me in such … high regard," he said as smoothly as he could.

Even with her soft human face flustered from her laughter, he could still see her cheeks darken as she looked away.

This was turning into quite the night. Maybe he should run Williams off more often.

Ah, speak of the devil …

The elevator opened with a swish, and before Alenko or Williams stepped out Shepard was wearing her controlled mask once more.

Williams froze at the sight of the commander before steeling herself and walking briskly over to her.

"Williams," Shepard greeted. "I was wondering when you would show up for your shift."

Alenko, always one to throw himself on a grenade, interrupted. "Sorry Commander, it's my fault. I ended up talking her ear off and when she finally got a word in, she said she was running late." He gave a half smile, and Garrus was sure that the man thought his words were true.

Shepard only stared evenly at Williams. "Really? Well, now that you're here, make sure you don't get in Officer Vakarian's way. I would hate for you to run him off."

Garrus had a hell of a time holding his tongue.

"Yes, Ma'am." She gave a jerky salute as Alenko furrowed his brow at the hidden exchange.

Shepard nodded as she picked up the now empty crate. "I've added a few things to both of your lockers. Make sure to check it out before the next mission."

Both humans voiced their affirmatives as she went to the other side of the room and deposited the crate, then walked into the elevator.

As the door slid closed she caught his eye, and for a moment he swore her mouth twitched with a smile before she was gone.