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Shepard's POV

Chapter Thirteen

What's Underneath

Shepard couldn't remember the last time she enjoyed herself so much. Technically this was a stake out and she could only let her guard down so much. Still, she was enjoying the warm buzz of alcohol in her system and even how close Kaidan was nestled against her. Mostly, though, it was the body across from her that was the best part.

Garrus was leaning back, watching her intently with a hooded gaze. Every word she spoke, every gesture that she made, she could almost see him commit it to memory. And there was something thrilling in that. To know he cared about what she said, what she did, it made her all more aware of herself. Made her think and ponder, because she knew he was watching her, would see every mistake she made. So she had to make sure she did things right around him.

Chora's Den was busy that night and it was becoming hard to keep track of Rita's sister, Jenna. The bartender was a source of constant movement and more than once she had to get up and refill half empty glasses just to get her in her sights again.

Shepard took a small sip of her drink, feeling her buzz starting to fade into unfeeling drunk-ness (the asari drinks had to be half 151 proof, at least) and the commander knew she needed a break from drinking.

Kaidan and Garrus were talking about their first encounters with an elcor (Garrus was still amused from seeing one dressed in biker gear earlier at the clothing store. Hell, she was still amused too) and Shepard was sure she was already drunk when the words 'Shakespeare' and 'elcor' were used far too closely together.

Kaidan doubled over with laughter as Garrus was doling out quite dully some mangled form of poetry while looking blankly into his raised glass.

Shepard chuckled as she caught Garrus' eye and he flared his mandibles out at her in an amused smile.

"Idiots," she playfully rolled her eyes and Garrus let out a deep chuckle that made her spine tingle. "I highly doubt you sat through a rendition of Hamlet with elcors. You would still be sitting through it."

Garrus leaned back, sitting his drink down, and flared his mandibles in another, but slightly softer, grin. "Oh? /Doubt thou the stars are fire,/Doubt the sun doth move,/Doubt truth to be a liar/but never doubt thy love."

Shepard couldn't stop her cheeks from flaming and she had to fight to stop herself from grinning like an idiot. How can one man be so smooth and not even be aware of it?

"You've been around Ashley a little too much, I see," she teased, taking a drink to hide her flushed cheeks and she was glad he was without his visor as her heart was beating pleasantly fast, sending a fiery rush through her slowly numbing body.

He shrugged. "I remember that because it took fifteen minutes for them to say it, as it was apparently a dramatic line that had to be slowed down for theatrical purposes."

A little while after that, Shepard flagged down a passing waitress; a pretty light blue asari who gave a Cheshire-cat smile as Shepard pointed to the table. The asari seemed a bit too happy as she approached their table and hopped on top with a little too much pep.

The woman was clearly used to table dances as she didn't once make a wasted move or knock over their glasses. She smiled down at Shepard, dipping her assets close to her and then moving to Kaidan with fluid grace. He blushed as she gyrated her hips and pulled her chest high, curving her back into a beautiful arch.

Then she turned and Shepard raised a brow as she saw the woman's smile widen.

"Hey, big guy," the asari cooed as she faced Garrus.

She was now blocking most of Shepard's view, but the commander could still see Garrus shift around in his seat. Kaidan, who had a better view, froze before a wicked grin broke across his face and he sat back with his arms folded.

The asari moved, the muscles on her back straining against her clothes, and Shepard was dead sure she just touched Garrus from how he moved slightly farther away.

"Me and my friends were wondering," the dancer purred. "Out with your girl? Because even if you are," the asari sat up on her knees and glanced back over her shoulder at Shepard as her hand boldly stroked along Garrus' jaw, "we would still like to give you a private show."

Shepard wasn't aware she was clenching her jaw until she felt her jaw ache. She held the asari's eye and was more than willing to forget their mission and rip that asari off of Garrus. Giggling to the side made her turn and see 'we' was as a group of human and asari hovering close by, looking far too hungrily at the turian across from her.

The asari on the table looked back at Garrus and moved so close she was almost in his lap. "Free of charge, of course."

Kaidan jumped when Shepard slammed her glass on the table, his amusement quickly fading as Shepard fiercely glared at the asari whore on the table. Maybe it was the alcohol blazing thought her at the moment, but she was pissed.

Yeah, Garrus was his own person and could very well say yes if he pleased—

Oh, he better not say yes. They were on a... mission after all...

"No," Shepard stated, voice heated. "He's not interested."

The asari turned, hand touching Garrus' chest, and smiled. "If he's already willing to try human, asari will be a pleasant surprise."

"I think human is enough for him," she countered as she began to stand. Only Kaidan's hand on her shoulder stopped her from getting up.

The dancer sighed longingly as she finally took the hint. She turned back to a still dumbfounded Garrus.

"Maybe next time you come without the feisty human?"

Shepard watched the asari walk away to join the group of giggle women, and Shepard was sure if it wasn't for Kaidan holding her back, she would have completely messed their mission up by starting a bar fight.

"That was… interesting," Garrus said after taking a long drink.

Shepard, in her aggravated state, almost missed Kaidan's deep frown as he looked from Garrus to her and said, "Yeah, it was."

Shepard's hand flew to her knife as a large, three fingered hand grabbed her bicep. Even with her training, her distracted state of mind, and the alcohol, made her reaction time slower than that of her attacker and the turian stopped her from reaching her weapon. He swept up both of her hands into one of his larger one and used his free hand to lightly grip her neck.

She could feel his talons dig into her skin with each hard pound of her heart. She tried to calm herself, but she found she couldn't breathe too deeply, as his talons were nestled far too close to her skin for comfort.

If she wanted to, she could break his hold on her wrists, but she wasn't about to risk having her jugular slashed open. One of her teammates was sure to come looking for her, but how long would it take for them to notice her missing? A hell of a lot could happen in a few minutes.

The turian bent his head so his mouth was close to her ear and whispered, "Relax, I'm not going to hurt you."

Shepard knew better than to believe that, but seeing how his grip on her hands had loosened at his words, and he still had a good amount of space between them, she felt her panic recede a bit.

"Just stay away from Jenna, human. Got that?"

Jenna? Why would… Oh freaking A! C-Sec! This bastard was from C-Sec! Shepard took another look at her captor and he looked almost uncomfortable at their position, as his bright green eyes wouldn't meet hers.

Before she could respond, there was an… animalistic snarl from her left, one that made both her and her captor jump. Her captor was quickly ripped away from her and she could feel his talons graze the skin of her neck and tear the collar of her vest in the process. If his hold was any tighter then she would have a pretty nasty wound right now.

Shepard's hand flew to her throat as she looked up. Garrus. It was Garrus to her rescue and he looked beyond pissed. His blue eyes were wide and on fire as he advanced on the other turian. Shepard noticed he moved to block her from the other's view and that he was… growling?

No, not growling, but that was as close as she could guess it was, as his subharmoics were echoing loud in the small bathroom hallway. There was a mix of metal in his voice as well; like the harsh rumble of an old Earth car's engine, powerful and unstoppable.

Shepard shivered. She had always known Garrus was extremely laid back, only really losing his cool a handful of times, but this, this was something else entirely. He was dangerous right now, and a part of her liked it.

What Shepard had fallen for was what was underneath his outer appearance; he was such a good guy that he could have been drell, salarian, asari, or, hell, hanar and she would have still fallen for him. This was the first time she was actually attracted to his outer appearance.

From today, and their trips to the Citadel, Shepard knew Garrus was a looker with his species. While she could appreciate the graceful way he carried himself, that ridiculously smooth voice of his, and piercing blue eyes, she could only guess at the rest. Now, seeing him standing tall, hands spread like claws, and eyes wild, Shepard was starting to see the whole damn picture.

Shepard—knowing there was a chance the other turian was C-Sec—reached out and grabbed Garrus' arm and was surprised at how easily he yanked her along. She planted her feet just as Garrus stopped on his own accord.

"Chellick?" Garrus asked in shock.

The other turian narrowed his eyes. "Vakarian?"

Shepard was right in her assessment that the man was C-Sec and it seemed like Garrus and he were well acquainted as they talked with each other.

Shepard had forgotten she was still holding onto Garrus' arm until Chellick's gaze had lingered on her hold, then looked pointedly at Garrus. Not wanting to put Garrus in an awkward spot she let go, a bit reluctantly, as she could feel his warm, hard plates under the leather of his jacket, where normally he was covered in cold steel.

Chellick took the opportunity to acquire her assistance in tracking down an illegal arms dealer. Seeing that that was easier than convincing the stubborn human bartender to quit helping C-Sec, Shepard agreed.

It was a breeze dealing with the black-market arms dealer and she even had a bit of fun messing with the krogan in charge. He recognized her as a member of the Tenth Street Reds, from merely her walk, and Shepard did not like being associated with them. What the Reds were doing now was a far cry from what they did when they started.

The walk to C-Sec to drop off the goods was a cheerful one and, again, Shepard almost missed Kaidan's frown as he called Garrus and her 'two peas-in-a-pods' as they both laughed at how disappointed they were not to solve things bullets.

Kaidan's frown quickly vanished when Shepard playfully hooked her arm over his shoulder and grinned.

"You know, LT, I was thinking; we should talk with nothing but idiotism around non-humans, it would be better than code, as they tend to make no sense when you think about them in modern context."

Garrus sent them a light glare as Kaidan smirked in agreement and hooked an arm around her waist. "Well, I'm going to have to be a doubting Thomas on that one."

Shepard's mind kicked into overdrive as she didn't want to be the one to mess up the flow of their coming banter.

"It'll be a piece of cake."

"But we'll have to think of them at a drop of a hat," he reasoned.

"Yeah, I guess it would be a blue moon for that to work seamlessly," she sighed dramatically, but she couldn't stop her wide grin at Garrus' annoyed look. "Most wouldn't be able to cut the mustard."

Kaidan nodded. "We would need dry runs."

"Hmm," she said, stalling for a second. "Maybe we should just eighty-six it?"

"Maybe just in a pinch then? Just go for broke if we have to, so we don't kick the bucket?"

"You hit the nail on the head, Kaidan. So for now I'll hold my horses."

"But with Garrus here, the cat's out of the bag."

Shepard looked at the openly glaring detective. "Pick up your ears, Vakarian, this is all tongue and cheek, so put a sock in it."

"I hate you both," he said and Shepard felt her insides warm as his mandibles twitched into a smile he was clearly fighting.

"Aw," she pouted. "But you're the apple of my eye."

He really was.