When You're Strange

Chapter 20

A/N: Been a while, but don't worry, I haven't forgotten you guys! :D

I've just been busy as hell with other things is all. Real life happens. Lol

Beta'd by the wonderful illusionsfire76!

Garrus' omni-tool chimed three times in a row as they left the administrative section of the Presidium, indicating he had new messages. He blinked in surprise after he summoned the glowing interface on his arm. He found not one, but three messages in the short time he'd been within the communication blackout enforced in the administrative offices. Shepard glanced back to see him occupied with his omni-tool.

"You want us to wait up, Vima, or do you want to just catch up later?"

He shook his head, "Just go on ahead, I'll see you in a bit."

He sat down on a nearby bench, his blue eyes ringed with the orange glow of the haptic display on his arm. Shepard nodded and walked on, heading to the commons to browse the kiosks.

Garrus keyed up the messages app and sighed heavily as he noted the first sender.

From: Cadicus, Clan Vakarian

To: Garrus, Clan Vakarian

I've been able to pull up some very interesting information on your new mate, son. Her history, both personal and in military service, would be enough to give any turian pause. Given her rank and service record, I would have said I was proud to have her as a daughter, but then I find that not only is she not turian, but that she's a damned human?

You grew up hearing about the atrocities those filthy pyjaks committed against us in that damn war, how could you possibly think it was a good idea to become involved with someone of that very same species? Have you completely lost your mind? Not to mention your sense of duty.

It was one thing when you ran off and quit C-SEC to chase down that damn traitor Arterius with her, but to take her as not only your mate, but your bondmate? What could possibly possess you to do such a thing?

I fear this path you have put yourself on will lead to nothing but ruin.

I am calling you back home. You will report with all due haste to the family estate to be judged. Bring your frightening choice of a bondmate with you. We will decide what is to be done regarding both your place in this clan and hers. I do not foresee a positive outcome, for either of you; but we shall see.

I must ask; how it is she could possibly have a citizenship with the Hierarchy? She is not turian! It is simply not possible for a human to have turian citizenship. I can find no information as to how this is possible, though I have been able to confirm it, to the consternation of myself and the entire clan. You must both come and explain yourselves.

I cannot say I am looking forward to this meeting, but I will see you when you arrive.

Garrus couldn't help the shrill keen of anxiety and frustration he let out as he read. He knew his clan wouldn't approve of Taren the moment he began to fall for her, but he also knew deep in his soul there was no other woman that could be as good for him as she was. He knew he would have to make his clan see this. He began to trill hesitantly hopeful tones as he saw the sender of the next message.

From: Maela, Clan Vakarian

To: Garrus, Clan Vakarian

Son, I know by now you will have read your father's message, and I'm sure he gave you more than enough criticism to last the rest of the week, so I will attempt to lighten your mood a bit, though I admit I do share his concerns. Know that we all love you very much, we are just concerned for your future and well-being.

This Commander of yours seems to be an honorable sort, so I will try to withhold my personal judgment of her until I meet her. I am much more worried about you than I am about her. That you could pick a mate that is so far apart from your duty to your clan and yourself is baffling to me, but you must have some reason.

As reckless as you sometimes are, you were never so without good reason, even if it wasn't apparent at the time. You've always been different than most turians, so while this does come as a bit of a shock, I really don't find it that far out of your character. You've always been an innovator. Perhaps this will help to create a bridge between the turian and human species? Who's to say?

I'd like to know more about this woman. Tell me, what is she like? Do you really think she will make a good mate for you? You obviously love her, or you wouldn't have bonded with her, especially as quickly as you did. I'm worried that she may not be as committed to you as you are to her at this moment. I've heard that humans typically don't stay bonded for life; perhaps you should take this into consideration? I know she may seem like a powerful figure, and her rank and service history are certainly nothing to scoff at, but is she bondmate material?

You know I'm only asking these things because I'm worried about you, son.

Please send me a ping to fill me in and let me know how things are going.

All my love.

Garrus hummed out his love for his mother for a moment, then read the sender of the next message and rolled his eyes, huffing out a sigh.

From: Solana, Clan Vakarian

To: Garrus, Clan Vakarian

WHAT THE HELL GARRUS? Have you lost your fucking mind? Dad went into shock for a full ten minutes when he found out who your damn bondmate is! He said he's calling you back home, and I'm backing that up 100%! Bonding to a human? You've lost it, I swear.

And she's a citizen of the Hierarchy? HOW? Either this is the biggest clerical error ever, or this is complete fraud. I wouldn't trust her, Garrus. I know I sure don't. Why the fuck can't you be a normal turian and mate a good turian woman? Surely there's plenty of turian women that would want you as a mate. Our clan has more than enough status to recommend you to just about any possible female; shit, you could probably snag the Primarch's daughter if you wanted to!

You fucked up bigtime this time Garrus, Dad is PISSED. Hell, I'M pissed! The only one in our clan that isn't outraged over this shit is mom, and I REALLY don't understand that one. But whatever, she's always coddled you and your strange ideas, so I guess it's not that much of a surprise.

Fuck's sake, Garrus. Spirits help you, because dad sure as fuck won't. You know damn well how he feels about humans, he lost his brother to those pyjaks in that fucking 'incident' of a war.

I don't even know what to think at this point. This is the most ridiculous stunt you've pulled so far, and I don't know how you're going to get out of this one. Spirits know I love you, but this is too far.

And she's HUMAN, Garrus! She can't even bond properly! UGH! I can't believe you put yourself in this situation willingly. This is insane. This is going to do nothing but hurt you and our clan. I can't believe this. I just can't. I don't know how to help you anymore, you've gone swimming without knowing the water depth, and you're gonna get yourself drowned.

This human of yours won't be able to save you. Some of the clan members are talking about excommunication. You have GOT to get home and clear this shit up. TELL us that you were joking or something, that the papers you filed were fake, that it was all an elaborate farce. This can't be real. By the Spirits, if it is... If it is, I don't even think the Spirits can help you, Garrus.

Spirits be with you.

Garrus rubbed his eyes as he finished reading, heaving a deep sigh born of pure frustration. He'd known this was coming the second he sent the letter of announcement to his family, but he wasn't quite prepared for how hard it was hitting him. But, no matter their feelings on the matter, he knew that Taren was his bondmate for good reason. She was his perfect match; there was no turian female he'd met that compared. He'd followed the traditions, gone on the requisite dates with potential matches from different high ranking clans, but none of them held a candle to Taren.

The first time he saw her covered in the blood and gore of her enemies, seen her weave her way through a battalion of mercs like they were made of paper and she was a being of pure flame, he'd known there was no woman that could compete. The girls he'd met on those arranged dates were all lovely, well educated, and would have made ideal mates; but he could never have bonded with any of them. He was a warrior at heart, always had been. Those women would never have completed him.

Taren was a warrior worthy of joining the Spirits of war when she died. She was cunning, brutal, precise; a lethal instrument with the titanium will of a god of old. She made her enemies shudder in fear and anger at the mere mention of her name. She was more than worthy of him. More than his equal, more than his match. She was exactly what the galaxy needed, and he was proud to have been chosen to stand by her side.

He slowly straightened on the bench as these thoughts coursed through his mind, and began typing replies to his family. When he finished, he stood with a bit more confidence than he'd sat down with, and pinged Taren's omni-tool for her location. He flicked a mandible out in a smirk as he received her location as one of the sex toy shops in the adult sector of the commons, and began a brusque walk in that direction.

~o0o0o0o0o0o0o~

Tali wrung her hands nervously as she waited for her father's shuttle to land. The signal had become nearly constant from the Prime unit, and it was bothering her more than she thought it rationally should. Rational or not, it was really starting to worry her. The sooner her father and the techs he brought with him could get to work programming the Prime, the better.

The crackle of the mass effect field covering the entrance to the shuttle bay before the doors opened to maintain atmosphere distracted her from her thoughts, and she turned towards the now opening bay door. She smirked at the shuttle that appeared, which was clearly geth in style. Obviously her father had been doing very well in his efforts to recover and re-purpose geth technology since she'd last seen him, if he had this kind of prize as his personal shuttle.

She watched as the craft swooped in for a smooth landing; her father's pilot had obviously not lost his touch in the time since she'd left. She moved towards the shuttle's side hatch, eager to greet her father and his team and usher them into Engineering as quickly as possible.

She nearly forgot procedure as the hatch finally hissed open and lifted. Her father stood there, looking at her expectantly, his team of five behind him. She shook herself from her momentary lapse.

"Rael'Zorah vas Rayya, welcome to the Normandy. The Captain is off ship at the moment, so she has designated me as her liaison to you and your team until she returns. This ship is of turian and human design, and has a single clean room for emergencies that is properly maintained, but otherwise the ship is not safe for out of suit work. If you will follow me, I will lead you all to the Prime unit."

She held her hand out in the direction she meant them to travel, then began walking towards Engineering without delay. Rael and his team followed closely. Tali took the time during their short walk to update them on the increase in the Prime's signal frequency, as well as informing them as to what Shepard wanted the geth to be used for, if possible.

"Shepard told me before she left for the Citadel that she wanted to see if the Prime could be used against the reapers somehow. Whatever is possible. Regardless of the outcome, even if it's just a soldier to add to our ranks, it needs to be on our side." She gestured to the Prime as they entered Engineering, squatting next to it; the other quarians following her example as they began to scan and adjust servos and chips immediately.

She continued, "I can give you all the relevant information that we have about the reapers to help you in this endeavor. I will also be on hand at nearly all times, as will a small complement of guards, the ship's physician, Doctor Karin Chakwas and an Alliance tech, who will be solely monitoring all signals from the Prime. An early warning detection, as it were. That tech is not to be disturbed under any circumstances, per Captain Shepard's orders. She does not want to risk the safety of her ship or crew, as I'm sure you can understand."

She started, remembering something, "Oh, I have disabled its leg and arm chips to keep it immobilized until it is properly programmed. Captain Shepard asked that those chips remain disabled until we are completely sure the platform is safe to become mobile."

Her father and his team nodded as she finished, then began work in earnest, dismantling parts of the Prime, putting some pieces back in place that Tali had taken off and comparing code lines. They completely ignored her in their eagerness to work.

She shrugged and stood, walking over to where Wrex stood. She waved nervously as she spoke, "Hello, Wrex."

His large red eye flicked to her face. "Tali."

His gaze lingered for a moment, before returning to the group of quarians huddling around the Prime. "Think they can get that thing working on our side?" He jutted his chin out in the direction of the Prime, his eyes flicking back to her face as he waited for a response.

She nodded firmly, her conviction strong. "If anyone can, it's my father and his team. They've dedicated their lives to working on geth technology. They understand it better than anyone besides the geth themselves." She wavered for a moment as two Alliance guards tromped into Engineering, armed and ready to take over for the night guards. "Well, aside from the reapers now, I suppose," she concluded.

A slight 'humph' and a nod was all the response Wrex gave her, as his large eye turned back to the Prime. She waited, but he didn't seem inclined to discuss the matter any further. She was about to turn away and walk to her console when he spoke up again.

"I could eat. Hungry?"

He looked at her, then around the room in a bored manner, as if he didn't care how she answered, but the mere fact that he'd asked in the first place struck her as odd. He almost always ate alone, unless Shepard decided to sit with him. Which usually ended in half of the off-duty crew sitting at the same table, while he, Shepard, and Garrus told stories of battles that seemed too impossible to believe; meaning they were at least mostly true.

She'd never heard of him actually asking anyone to eat with him. She quirked her head slightly at him, curiosity eating at her. Crossing her arms in what she hoped was a very Shepard-like negotiation pose, she decided to take the plunge.

"Starving. Is that an invitation for lunch?"

Wrex lifted his shoulders and let them fall in a shrug, "Whatever you want to call it." He gestured to the fresh guards. "They got this, I'm hungry, you're hungry, let's eat."

He stomped towards the door without any further ado. Tali blinked and followed him, her curiosity and growling stomach urging her on. Wrex stayed silent through the elevator ride, shifting his weight from one foot to the other occasionally as the agonizingly slow and groaning lift carried them to the crew deck.

Tali almost sighed in relief as the elevator gate finally slid down, releasing them from their captivity. The mess hall was completely empty as they rounded the corner. Wrex headed for the levo fridge as Tali trailed him towards the dextro fridge. So single-minded was she in her hunger, that she nearly ran into his back when he stopped midway, his arm pointing towards one of the side tables.

"Have a seat, I'll get our grub," he all but demanded, then continued towards the fridge.

Tali stood there for a moment, stunned. He was getting her food for her? "Wait, do you know which container to-" She started to say, but he waved her off.

"I've been on this ship as long as you have, I've seen which one you grab. How you can eat that stuff is beyond me, but to each their own." He opened the levo fridge and began rummaging around for his meal.

Tali raised an eyebrow incredulously, but complied with the old krogan's wishes and sat down. She watched him scrounge something together for his meal, which amounted to a heaping plate of what seemed like every dish of food from the levo fridge. Then she saw him open and poke his nose into the dextro fridge, take a sniff, growl a bit and pull out one of her nutrient paste tubes. She snickered quietly at the slightly absurd scene.

He moved towards the table he'd picked with his plate in one hand and her tube in the other, a self-satisfied smirk just barely discernible on his face. She smiled at him as he arrived, handing her the tube before sitting down with his own plate.

"Thank you, Wrex. That's... Very sweet of you," she said, as she prepared her suit's food intake port to inject into the tube he'd handed her.

He grunted in response, and took his seat, unceremoniously digging into his food as quickly as he ever did. He only paused his attack on his food to look at the tube as she began to suck the paste through the port. "So does that taste as bad as it looks?" He asked, grimacing at the foul looking gray pallor of the paste in the tube.

She giggled, "No, it's actually not that bad. All quarians use something similar on our pilgrimages, as most food vendors throughout the galaxy have them in stock to serve both quarians and turians. There's different flavors, but they all have the same ingredients for the most part, and they are all sterilized for convenience and health safety for both species. This is actually slightly better than what's in most vendors; it's fresher. Of course, it's nothing compared to real quarian food, but it's certainly the better option to starving to death."

Wrex seemed to accept her answer, and continued digging into his plate of... everything. "So how about that?" she asked, waving her hand slightly at his plate. "Does that taste as odd as it looks?"

Wrex looked from her to his plate, then back up, "Pretty much."

She snorted, "So why don't you have special krogan rations or food? You can't possibly genuinely like... That." She waved at the plate again, a bit more exaggerated than before.

He sighed, "Honestly?"

At her nod, he continued. "Because it tastes better than roasted varren."

Tali's eyes widened visibly. "Really? Wow, roasted varren must taste pretty bad."

He rolled his eyes. "You have no idea. But it's the only readily available food source on our planet besides the occasional thresher maw, which we tend to save for special occasions."

Tali quirked her head in curiosity. "What qualifies as a special occasion for krogans?"

Wrex looked somberly at his plate in thought for a moment, then lifted his gaze to hers with the ghost of a smile on his face.

"Live births, mostly. Successful rites of passage. Funerals for warriors who died in battle."

Tali 'hmmed' before answering. "Quarians have fairly similar reasons for celebration, though we don't celebrate deaths. Quarian pregnancies can be quite dangerous, and are often fatal. My mother died after giving birth to me. Our immune systems sometimes just can't handle the shock of another body being inside us for that long. Sometimes it's the babies that die, but more often it's the mothers."

Wrex had stared at her, keenly listening until that moment. "Really? How often does that happen?"

Tali dipped her head in sadness. "Around one in three births will result in the mother or child dying. On average, there are more female children born than male. Nature's way of helping us cope and continue our species. At any time, on any ship, there will be more adult males than adult females. It is sad, but true. My birth was not celebrated; instead, there was a larger celebration when I got my first suit than for those whose mothers survived. It is traditional."

Silence fell between them for a few minutes after she spoke, and Wrex seemed deep in thought, staring at the space on the table between them. Finally, he spoke.

"All this time, I thought krogans were the only ones that had major birth rate problems. Seems like our species have more in common than we thought." He glanced up at her for a few seconds, then back down to the table, his jaw moving back and forth slightly as he seemed lost in thought.

Tali smiled softly at him, and reached across the table, grasping his hand. "Wrex, I think all species have more in common than we'd like to admit, but it's true that ours have fairly similar problems. We've both nearly destroyed ourselves, had to flee from our homes, been ostracized and ridiculed for many reasons, many of which weren't true."

She watched him as she spoke, how his eyes were drawn to their joined hands. Her grip on his hand tightened as she continued. "Even you and I personally have things in common. We are both kept from returning to our homes until we have something worthy of being let back home for. We are both treated like outsiders by nearly everyone that isn't on this ship. We've both been completely alone in our journeys until Shepard came along, and we are both amazingly strong and resourceful people, in different ways."

Wrex swallowed thickly and looked up at her, nodding as he returned the grip she had on his hand gently. "You're right. All of that is part of the reason I've been keeping an eye on you in Engineering. You're one of the few people I really get along with on this ship, besides Shepard herself, really. I want to make sure you're safe."

Tali's mouth dropped open. Though Wrex couldn't see that, she was sure he could see the surprise in her eyes through the glass of her mask. She blinked and tried to get her jaw working long enough to speak.

"Thank you, Wrex," was all she managed to squeak out, as both their grips tightened on one another's hands before releasing each other completely.

She immediately missed the warmth of his hand, and laid it on her other arm, trying to hold the warmth in a little longer. She blushed behind her mask, embarrassed at missing something as ridiculous as the stolen warmth from the hand of a friend.

She glanced up at Wrex, who seemed to be having problems figuring out what to do. He seemed to be going between finishing the food on his plate, to staring at his hand, to avoiding looking at her completely, to huffing and staring dejectedly at the table again. She would have laughed at him if she hadn't been feeling the exact same confusion and frustration.

She didn't understand any of it. She could've identified it right away if she'd felt the same way about another quarian, but a krogan? Talk about trying to breach the species barrier with a nuclear bomb! She felt ridiculous. Surely she was just imagining things. She watched as he started to reach towards his food again, then stopped, and laid his hand back down where it had been when she'd impulsively grabbed it. If she was imagining things, she wasn't the only one.

She had to break the spell that was cast upon them somehow. She knew it was time to get back to work, even though she wanted more than anything to sit right there and figure all this out. She decided to resolve the situation as gently as possible. She reached over once more, grasping his hand again, the grip returned immediately this time, and looked at him squarely.

"Wrex?"

His eyes snapped to hers. "Yeah?"

"Thank you for taking care of me. And for lunch. It was very nice of you. Thank you," she smiled and squeezed his hand before letting go again. "I should get back to work, my father may need me before long, and I can't stay away from my station for too long."

She went to stand and he followed. "I'll go with you."

She held up her hand to stop him. "Wrex, you should finish your food. I'll be fine, and I'll be happier knowing you're not hungry, than having it in the back of my mind while you stand guard."

He sat back down. "Alright. But don't take any chances with that damn geth."

She smiled brightly, "I won't. Don't worry. Now finish your food. I'll see you down there."

He waited until he heard the lift gate close behind her to release the groaning sigh he'd been holding.

"Damn women."

~o0o0o0o0o0o~

As she entered Engineering, her father looked up from the Prime, beckoning her over. "You were right about the signal," he said, "and while it is worrying, I believe we can program at least its base functions before the signal becomes constant, in approximately five hours. It's fortunate you called us when you did. I am not certain what would have happened if you hadn't, but the unit could very well have a self destruct subroutine, so we need to hurry. Here is a piece of the code I need you to input," he said, transferring several thousand lines of code to her omni-tool.

He turned to the rest of his team, one after the other, transferring more pieces of the code to each of them, ending with the single female on his team, nodding to her. "There, now we each have a piece. Let's get to work."

Delicate tools and steady hands descended upon the Prime's various coding centers, inputting code and programming functions along the way. Tali tried to keep an eye on what the others were doing at first, but keeping track of twelve other hands, plus her own, proved to be too much to concentrate on. As much as she wanted to know every part of the process, there simply wasn't time. She sighed quietly and concentrated on her own junction in the Prime's central processing unit, carefully laying in bits of code and commands as she went.

~o0o0o0o0o0o~

Shepard deeply inhaled a last gasp of Citadel fresh air as she stepped onto the shuttle, carrying her spoils from her shopping as she went. Garrus and Liara trailed closely behind her, Garrus taking the seat next to her as Liara sat across from them.

"Well, that was productive!" she said as she smiled at them both in turn, Liara rolling her eyes slightly when Shepard's smile beamed at her.

"Yes, if by 'productive' you mean that you bought half the sex store just to embarrass me, it was quite productive," Liara grumbled.

Shepard laughed. "Liara, if you weren't so easily embarrassed, it wouldn't have been half so much fun. But no, I was more referring to the awesome mods I picked up for all of our guns. They are SO much better than what we had! I just wish they'd had them out sooner. These will let us kick ass with so much more style!"

Liara rolled her eyes a second time. "Only you would think gun mods were stylish, Shepard."

Garrus interrupted her with a snort. "Excuse me, but I happen to agree with Shepard. The better the mods, the more stylish the slaughtering."

Shepard grinned up at him. "Aww Vima, you flatter me." He leaned down and softly brushed his plates against her forehead in affection.

A moment of silence passed as they felt the shift in gravity of the shuttle passing through the Widow relay. Another five minutes or so, and they would reach the Normandy. Just then, a thought occurred to Shepard, prompting her to turn to Garrus.

"So Vima, what was so important about those pings? You never did say."

Garrus sighed, trilling reluctance at her as his eyes flicked to Liara, then back to her. She understood and nodded. "Later then?" He nodded and looked apologetically at Liara.

"Sorry, Liara, family business." He flicked a mandible out in a wry smile at her.

She nodded as comprehension dawned on her. "Ahh, I understand. Not to worry, Garrus."

He smiled and visibly relaxed, opening one of the cans of tupari energy drink he'd bought, and settling into the uncomfortable shuttle seat as much as possible for the rest of the ride. Soon enough came the familiar sounds of the Normandy, and the light bump that was the pilot landing smoothly in the shuttle bay. The second they landed, Joker's voice came over the comms.

["Taren, Tali's dad got here with his team, and they're all holed up in Engineering, working on that damn geth already. Tali tells me it shouldn't be more than a few hours before it's repaired enough to talk to us. So, anywhere you want to head to, or are we going to sit here for another five hours?"]

Shepard shook her head, smirking. "That's a negative, Joker, I'll give you a heading once Tali's father and her team get done with the Prime. I want to give them a steady workspace down there, for as few mistakes as possible. I'm sure you don't want an eight foot geth coming to break your hips, do you, Joker?"

An audible growl of annoyance was heard, before, ["Roger that, Taren. Joker out."]

Shepard gathered the bags of weapons mods first, handing them to Garrus. "Drop those off with Ash, would you Vima? I have to get the rest of these to our room somehow without the rest of the crew seeing everything I bought."

Liara put a hand up to halt Shepard's progression. "Wait a minute. You have no problem embarrassing me to the point of agony, but when it comes to the rest of your crew, you don't want to embarrass them? What makes me so special, exactly?" She crossed her arms and stood resolutely in place, waiting for Shepard's reason.

Shepard barked a laugh. "Liara, it's not that you're so special. Frankly, it's just that you're the easiest of the entire crew to pick on. Also, this happens to be one of the easiest ways to fluster you. I'm sorry if it really bothered you that much. I just figured it was time you got out there and saw some of what the galaxy has to offer, that's all."

She smiled softly at Liara and rested a hand on her shoulder. Liara raised an eyebrow, and opened her own bag enough to show the item placed on the top of the pile of things Taren had bought her.

"So, buying me an elcor phallus was a part of this vaunted galactic education, I'm guessing?"

Suddenly, a fine pink mist of tupari was everywhere. Garrus had just returned from dropping off the weapons mods with Ash, and he was now doubled over with laughter, tupari dripping from his chin and mandibles. Shepard tried to hold in the smile that was trying its hardest to betray her, but it won the battle.

Between snorts of laughter, she managed to say, "No, Liara, that was just hilarious. I figured maybe you could display it on your mirror as a trophy, if nothing else. At least people visiting you would be impressed!"

She finally joined Garrus as she burst into laughter, still hanging onto Liara's shoulder for balance so she wouldn't fall to the floor. Liara had borne it all stoically until the mention of sticking the huge dildo to the mirror. The image of Doctor Chakwas popping in to say hello and seeing such a ludicrous thing stuck to the mirror had the effect of lightening her mood considerably. A grin spread across her face as she thought about it, and she finally joined her teammates in their laughter, though in a bit more subdued fashion than them.

They all finally managed to calm down enough to begin the trek out of the bay, piling into the cargo elevator with their adult natured goods; the occasional titter of laughter erupting here and there. Shepard looked at Garrus and almost burst into laughter again, seeing the remnants of the tupari still clinging to his face. She motioned to the sticky substance as she spoke, "Vima, you've got some tupari still on your face. I'll get it, just... Hurry to our quarters if you don't want anyone seeing it."

He looked surprised for a moment, before she saw his neck flush blue. "Sure thing, Vima." Was all he could manage.

As the gate finally slid open, they headed their separate ways, Garrus and Shepard moving especially quickly to avoid any crew members in the mess hall. The moment they both made it inside, Shepard dropped off her bags of adult merchandise and turned, pressing Garrus back and down to the couch. She straddled him as she took his face in her hands and began licking and sucking the tupari off of his mandibles. He trilled surprise, then arousal at her sudden onslaught, his hands resting comfortably on her waist and stroking small circles with his thumbs. She smiled at him and nuzzled her forehead into his for a moment before she spoke.

"So, going to tell me about those pings now?"

Garrus groaned, "Do I have to? I was rather enjoying what you were doing just now." He looked at her in his best approximation of a pout.

She slowly stroked his fringe in comfort. "I know you were, but you've been avoiding telling me about those pings ever since you got them. It must be something important, so spill. What is it?"

Garrus sighed and let his head fall back on the top of the couch, his fringe fitting neatly over the back. "It was my family. My father is calling me back to Palaven, with you in tow."

Shepard smiled, "Well that's great news isn't it? I mean, isn't that the point of sending the bonding notice, to be called home to see if your new bondmate will be accepted into the clan?" She was practically bouncing on his lap in anticipation of finally getting to meet his clan, until he looked at her with sadness in his eyes.

"What? What's wrong?" she asked.

He trilled worry as he spoke, "They think you're human. Well, completely human anyway. Apparently the records on Palaven state that you don't have any turian in you, and my father is... Well, he's outraged and confused. He thinks you're a fraud. My mother is trying to be open minded about it, but she's worried that you can't bond with me properly. My sister is almost as angry as my father, but I think she'll see the truth easier than he will. They're all worried that you'll ruin me, that I'm not following my duty, that we'll cause a scandal. We're both going to be tested to see if we're to be allowed to be in the clan. Not just you."

She was outraged. "You've gotta be shitting me! How could the records on my citizenship be this fucked up? How could they possibly be considering excommunication for you? This is insane. This is fucking... That's it, the second Tali gets that damn geth sorted, we're going to Palaven. I'm not going to stand by while your name and reputation in your clan get tarnished just because of a fucking clerical error."

She leapt off of his lap and ran to her console in search of her citizenship records.

~o0o0o0o0o0o~

Tali startled as the Prime's head moved, its optical sensor lighting up and pointing at her. It didn't move for some time, and she went back to work repairing its vocal processors, occasionally stealing nervous glimpses of its 'eye' looking at her. Finally, she repaired the last damaged circuit and activated the module.

The first sound the Prime made was a hair-raising mechanical scream.