He made his way toward the elevator on shaky legs, and he barely registered the eerily quiet halls as he punched in the code that would take him up to her cabin. The doors hissed open and he heard music coming from the bathroom, then Shepard singing. She managed to stay on-key most of the time, but her enthusiasm made up for any lack of ability.

"There's a fire in the courtyard, blazing 'cross the sky, bullets flying over, sound the battle cry . . . "

He paced around a bit, waiting for her to finish, and when she cut the music off he called through the door, "Hey, Shepard."

"Oh, hey! I was just getting myself psyched up forohmygod what happened?" She'd just opened the door, a hairbrush-mic in her hand, and saw the expression on his face. He looked shell-shocked, like he had no idea what to do.

"I just got a message from the hospital where my mother's been staying. They said that they wanted to thank me for my generous donation and for the sample of Collector tissue." He paused to gauge her reaction, but she kept her face blank. That right there went a long way toward confirming his suspicions. "They also wanted to thank Doctor Solus for calling the STG, and for the several dozen pages of research he sent. They're 'cautiously optimistic' about her—their words—for the first time in a very long time. I think they assumed the credit transfer was from me, since it wasn't from Solana or my father and no one else was supposed to know about this."

"I, uh, tried to keep it anonymous," she said, and he had to choke down the lump that was building up in his throat. Shepard touched his arm but he didn't react, and she started to wonder if he was upset about breaching his privacy. "I swear, I didn't go digging through your files. Liara came across the information and forwarded it to me, and I asked Mordin if he could call in his contacts and maybe work on it in his spare time—you know, instead of inventing new bio-weapons and all the other crazy shit he usually does. I didn't want to tell you because you never mentioned it, so I thought maybe you were—" She was abruptly cut off when Garrus wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her tight.

"I . . . I can't begin to thank you for this, Shepard." He pulled away so he could see her face. "Why did it take me so long to find you?" he whispered.

"I've been right here the whole time," she said confusedly, thinking he was talking about her location on the ship for a moment before he tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and gently touched his cheek to hers.

"You really have, haven't you?" He made a trilling purr that she'd never heard from him before and his arms went around her waist as he turned his head to catch her lower lip and run his tongue across it. Her breath hitched and she kissed him hard, trying to fit as much of her body against his as she could.

There was something different about this, and she didn't know what it was—they'd been intimate before, but now her stomach was full of butterflies and she was unsure of what to do next. When she broke the kiss to tell him so, she saw the same uncertainty on his face.

"Garrus, I—" she began hesitantly, "—I don't want to fuck this up."

"I know what you mean," he said, threading his fingers into her hair while his other hand stroked her lower back. "It seems like both of us are always getting the short end of the stick and that so much has gone wrong in the past—my work with C-Sec, what happened with Sidonis. I want something to go right . . . just once. Just—" She stopped him with a hand to his cheek and smiled up at him, her mind made up.

"We've made a career out of doing the impossible. I think we can manage this." Her arms went around his neck and she grinned. "So I guess this makes you my boyfriend."

He grimaced and rolled his eyes. "That word sounds so adolescent for some reason."

"You like it."

"Yeah," he said, nuzzling her neck, "I do."



"Closet romantic."

"Crazy human . . . but I wouldn't have you any other way."

"Silly turian." She started to back toward the bed and pulled him with her. "Ditto."

This time when they came together it was like they were doing it all for the first time and every touch held a new meaning. It was less about the act itself, more about seeking out that missing part of themselves and finding it in the other. Afterwards, they lay together, hoping that time would slow for just a little while before reality came crashing back in the form of Joker's voice on the intercom. For now, though, they were content with the knowledge that this would be the moment they remembered, when they told the tale later, as the place where their love story truly began.

AN-I said this on the kmeme, too, but I'll post this here as well: I was trying reeeeally hard to write the ending love scene, but it just wasn't working. It seemed too forced, and in the end I thought that it would . . . I dunno . . . cheapen the ending somehow. Sorry if there are any disappointed readers out there, but this seemed like the best way to finish this story.

Thank you to everyone who stuck with this and read the whole thing, I hope you liked it! I certainly had fun writing it.