Garrus' low rumble of irritation echoed dully in the Main Battery as he stood before the console, glaring at it as if doing so would make it display the desired results. Naturally, the glowing orange screen continued flashing the incriminating numbers before him – his calibrations were still off. Somehow by an additional 2.1 percent compared to his previous attempt. Shaking his head, he prepared himself for another few hours of crunching data.
Until the Main Battery doors behind him swooshed open.
"Hey Garrus, got a moment to talk?"
Garrus felt a soaring of his heart at the sound of that voice while he sighed at the same time – a human trait he had picked up during his days at C-Sec. He missed their conversations together back aboard the old Normandy and he hated turning her down but there was work to be done. He turned to face his commanding officer who was expectedly standing in the doorway. "Sorry Shepard, can it wait? I'm in the middle of some-" He stopped dead in his tracks. A shock jolted through his system when he saw her. Eyes wide. Mandibles slack. The damned calibrations flew from his mind, forgotten for the moment.
Shepard smiled knowingly up at him with a humorous twinkle in her eye. "- calibrations?" she finished for him. "You know, people are starting to wonder what you're really doing in-"
"Shepard," He heard his voice come out rather harshly, sub-harmonics expressing his alarm with a slight trilling. "What the hell happened?!"
That made her pause. Then again, he wasn't sure if it was because of his tone or the fierce look he was sending her. The human female quirked an eyebrow at him quizzically, not understanding. "Garrus? What do you-"
"What, Shepard, is that?" demanded Garrus as he jabbed a gloved talon at the direction of her neck. Still staring at him oddly, she brought a hand up to her throat only to wince and quickly draw it away. Figures, thought Garrus. A large portion of the skin on her neck was discoloured; a sickly purple-black-red that covered the base of her neck and expanded down well past the collar of her top, indicating a part of it hidden by her clothes.
He watched her sternly as she started to chuckle. Did she find this funny? "Oh, it's just a bruise. Nothing to worry about, really. It's a common, minor injury among humans-"
"Yes Shepard, I know what a bruise is." Garrus was actually rather familiar with the injuries humans would suffer, thanks to his time at Citadel Security. He saw workmates return from assignments with cuts, bruises, dislocated joints, bloody noses, peeling skin and the occasional broken bone. Garrus had come to the conclusion that humans really were rather fragile creatures; a swipe from a turian hand could flay open a human's flesh and expose the bone. They had no carapace or tough epidermis to protect their soft flesh. What strange, inefficient evolution.
"Oh, right. Yeah, guess you would. Sorry." she said, still grinning at him. He huffed and abandoned the console to approach her. Calibrations could wait. This was more important.
"Have you been to see Dr. Chakwas, at least?" asked Garrus though it was with a resigned tone. Knowing Shepard, he probably already knew the answer.
True to his expectations, Shepard waved her hand dismissively. "Nah, it's just a bruise – nothing serious. It'll heal up on its own perfectly fine. I don't need any medical attention. Honest."
Garrus observed the splotch of dark colours against her lighter-coloured skin. It contrasted garishly and didn't look pleasant one bit. Garrus couldn't help but grimace at the sight. He didn't like the look of it on her skin at all. "Looks serious to me. Besides, I've heard some bruises can be life-threatening to your kind."
A bark of laughter. She wasn't taking him seriously. "Those cases are pretty rare! You'd have to have had a serious accident to get – OUCH! What was that for?!" Shepard flinched away as her hands flew up to protect her badly bruised neck – which Garrus had just prodded with a knuckle.
"See? It's paining you. You should go see the doctor right away – you never know how bad it could be. How did you even get it?"
"For the last time, Garrus. I'm fine. It's only a little bruise - "
"Shepard, that is a 2D monster on your skin. If you call that 'little' I'd hate to see what you would call big - "
"Then don't ever see it."
"I hope I'll never have to because it already looks disturbing enough like this."
Shepard's indignant frown seemed to crack as a corner of her lips twitched upwards. "Oh. So you think I look ugly now?"
Garrus quickly back-pedaled, his turn to be on full retreat. "No! I never said that! That is, I mean," he looked hard at the blotch. "It looks so… unnatural. I'm just not used to seeing you have one." He just wasn't used to seeing something so unsightly mar her usual beautifully smooth skin, that was all. Spirits, it was a good thing turians couldn't 'blush' as humans called it.
Garrus fell silent, eyes not leaving her bruise. He continued staring at her until she asked, shifting uneasily, "What?"
"Aren't you going to tell me where you got that?"
"Oh, that. Well, I set Grunt free - "
"You remember that tank-bred krogan we picked up from Dr. Okeer recently? He calls himself Grunt – he likes it because it's short - "
"You did what?" said Garrus slowly in disbelief. That alarmed-demanding tone was back in his voice again, the trilling slightly dragging out, expressing shock. His mandibles snapped tight against his jaw. Muscles suddenly tensed up. "It did that to you?!"
"Grunt body slammed me when he first became aware. He has a name, Garrus."
Garrus froze. She was body slammed by a krogan? "Excuse me?" He chose to ignore her reprimanding tone – which, in retrospect, he had never done before. "And nobody helped you?" he asked incredulously.
"I was alone - "
"Shepard, do you mean to tell me that you just released a tank-bred krogan whose mental state we had no idea about, by yourself, without at least one person to watch your back if something went wrong?" He probably had also never interrupted her this many times before.
She was beginning to look vaguely irritated. "EDI was monitoring the situation - "
"And what could she do in a worst case scenario? Sprinkle confetti? Show off a dazzling light show? She doesn't have a mobile platform, Shepard. She doesn't count as back-up."
Before Shepard could reply, EDI's holo appeared next to the door with a soft blip. "For the record Officer Vakarian, my emergency protocol procedures allows for – "
"Wasn't talking to you, EDI." said Garrus through a clenched jaw.
"Very well. Logging you out." and with that, EDI vanished with another blip. Was that an indignant tone in her voice? Argh, whatever. That wasn't important right now. Garrus was idly reminded of his time both at C-Sec and Omega interrogating suspects as he returned to assaulting Shepard with questions.
"Did you at least have any equipment?"
"I had a pistol - "
"Against a krogan, Shepard?"
"I didn't need anything else. Besides, I didn't even use - "
"At least tell me you had armour on."
"I – All right, this is ridiculous. Nobody in this entire ship wears armour while on-board except you. And Grunt."
Garrus flexed his jaw slightly, revealing pointy teeth as his mandibles flared to their fullest extent jerkily. A sign of increasing frustration. "Shepard. Do you realise the danger you put yourself in? Anything could have happened – anything! You could have died – again. And this whole mission would be just left hanging - "
She tossed her head, scowling up at him. "Look, I can handle one krogan - "
"I don't doubt your abilities, but you humans are not exactly the most durable - "
"Well, I'm still alive right now, aren't I?"
"But injured. You were charged at by a krogan, Shepard. A full-sized one at that! There's no way anyone could come out unscathed from an encounter like that!"
"It's just a bruise, Garrus! Seriously, I don't understand why you're taking this so - "
"No. No. That's it." Garrus hissed-spat. He wondered if the crew all the way in mess hall could hear their rising voices. Stripping off the gloves and tossing them aside, he strode towards Shepard and grabbed hold of her upper arm – still having the mind to be careful not to puncture her skin with his talons – and began dragging her out.
Shepard dug in her heels and fought against him, eyes flashing angrily. "Garrus! What the hell are you - "
"Since you seem incapable of taking care of your own well-being, I'm taking you to Chakwas myself."
She broke out of his hold with a well dealt strike with her other hand – which surprised him since he was gripping rather firmly – and leaving his own smarting uncomfortably. When he snapped around to face her, he found himself dealing with an enraged human female right up in his personal space and in his face. He drew himself up to his full turian height, towering over her. He refused to back down despite the fact she was glaring at him with enough ferocity to make even a thresher maw shrink back in fear.
"What the hell is the matter with you?!"
"What's the matter with me?! No, it should be me asking what the hell is the matter with you! What were you thinking, Shepard?!"
"I am in full control of my thought faculties, if that's what you're implying. Thank you very much."
"Oh yeah? Because I could swear that anybody with even half a right mind would have thought it was an absurdly insane idea to let loose a lab-bred killing machine in the closed quarters of a spaceship!"
"It was my call, I am your commander! I run this ship as I see fit! Not you!"
"Damn it, Shepard! I'm just worried about you! Can't you see that?!"
Shepard opened her mouth to deliver a scathing reply but stopped, closing it again. She stared at him. He stared back her. Belatedly, he realised the full implications of his words. Even more belatedly, they finally realised their proximity. In the heat of the argument, they had come so close that their bodies were almost brushing against the other, their faces mere inches apart while they had been yelling. Garrus could feel her breath fan over his mandibles and the heat radiating from the surface of her skin. Her eyes that had been blazing in fury and defiance moments earlier were now round and her gaze clear and jaw slightly slack, taken by surprise. Several strands of her hair were out of place, giving her hair a flyaway appearance. All had fallen silent within the main battery, neither of them daring to move or make a noise. A painful silence that seemed sharp against the earlier clamour of their shouting. An awkward tension now settled between them rather than a confrontational one.
The silence dragged on. The distant sound of a glass shattering was heard from the mess hall outside.
It was Garrus who first broke the silence. "Er, sorry about that Commander. Shouldn't have just grabbed you like I did. That was out of line."
Shepard seemed to pull herself from her thoughts; her gaze refocused and she shook her head vigorously, flustered "No no, I overreacted – I shouldn't have shouted like that either. I apologise. And… I didn't mean to pull rank on you."
"No, you're right. You're the CO, these decisions are in your hands entirely. I didn't mean to question your authority, Commander."
"That's not – " she began heatedly but then stopped mid-sentence. She dropped her gaze from his face to study floor. He noticed that neither of them had taken a step back yet. In their close quarters, the scent of the shampoo she used this morning rose up from her strange, malleable hair to tickle his nose. Silence prevailed in the room for the moment, each of them fidgeting awkwardly. The air felt so thick, it could have been cut a rusted human butter knife.
"Look, – "
"Say, - "
They cut themselves off, having spoken at the same time. Shepard's cheeks were dusted an even more prominent red now. Garrus remembered reading somewhere on the extranet that the reddening of human cheeks were primarily a sign of embarrassment. He supposed it was much like how turians tended to rapidly flutter their mandibles when flustered – like what he was doing now.
Spirits, could this conversation get any more awkward?
"Sorry. Er, you first." Shepard tried as she shuffled her feet.
He shook his head. "No, it's… Er, okay. You go first."
She glanced up at him quickly and offered a tiny smile. "Right then. Okay. I just wanted to say that I never meant to exploit my rank and use it against you. That wasn't nice. I – do not interrupt me." Shepard warned, raising one of her thin, spindly human fingers at him. He shut his open mouth, the protest dying in his throat. He nodded once. She continued.
"I value our friendship and bringing that into the picture was just an underhanded move. I shouldn't have done it. I'm such an ass."
"No you're n – "
"Anyway," Shepard said louder, drowning him out. "What I mean to say is that I'm sorry for what I said but I'm not sorry for what I did. I didn't mean to jeopardise our relationship. I… I'm glad that you're always looking out for me. I'm glad that you care – really, I do. You're not just a subordinate to me – you're a friend. You're an important friend to me and I don't want to lose that."
"Ah." Was all Garrus could manage to say. He felt stupid. Was that it, then? She only thought of him as a friend? He had expected this. Expected this from day one. But he still couldn't ward off that sense of disappointment he thought he had prepared himself for. Well, he would take what he could get. It still didn't change his feelings for –
He was interrupted in his thoughts by Shepard muttering, "Erm… A very important friend."
Garrus quirked his head. Brow plates rising. "What?"
Smooth, Vakarian. Very smooth.
"A very, very important friend." Shepard's face was practical flaming now, eyes settling on anything on the room except him. She was unconsciously twining and retwining her fingers together restlessly.
Garrus couldn't help but feel a shot of renewed hope despite himself. He couldn't help it. Just what did she mean by 'friend'? He wanted to know – no, needed to know now. He needed to know so badly that he almost asked. But the look on her face and the rigidness of her body – like a startled deer about to bolt for cover – stopped the question on its way to his tongue. Instead, he blurted "Look er, Shepard. I value your friendship too." he inwardly frowned. That hadn't been what he really wanted to say. "I mean, I value our relationship a lot." Spirits, why wouldn't his mouth obey his brain? "As in, a lot."
Oh great, he must sound like a real idiot right now. Not exactly the quality he wanted to have on display in front of the (human!) woman he had been harbouring feelings for for two years.
To both his elation and horror, her eyes widened slightly as she seemed to get the message and she became redder and even more flustered – if that was even possible. "Oh! Oh. Erm… That's – erm, that's good. Great! I mean. Um."
An even more awkward silence reigned over the Main Battery then, with Garrus nervously wracking his brains for something to say – anything – to snap them out of it. His shifty gaze finally came to rest upon her badly bruised neck again, the trigger of their argument in the first place.
"Guess you should um, get that looked at."
Her eyes snapped up to his before following his line of sight to her injury. "Oh. Yeah, forgot about that." she gave a weak laugh. It was only a small one, but the sound still lightened his heart like nothing else could. "You were right. I'll be going to see Chakwas then. Thanks."
She turned back and the door reopened with a swoosh. As she walked away toward the medbay, he felt something stir in his chest and the next thing he knew, the words "Wait, let me come with you." had escaped his mouth.
She looked back over her shoulder at him with an expression that made him think for one agonising second that she would protest. She opened her mouth then abruptly shut it as a thoughtful look overcame her face. Then something seemed to change as she smiled – really smiled – and tossed her head in a beckoning motion and continued on.
Garrus felt a contented sigh leave him as he in turn left his post and followed her out the door. It wasn't much, but it was a start.
A/N: Right. I said I would try to update with something on Doomsday for a laugh. Well, probably not what people were expecting but here we go.
I'll probably be only finishing ME2 by tonight or tomorrow night, then it's one to ME3! Which... Shepard... -starts crying-
Yes, I am totally a Shakarian shipper. :D Though Thane does have a very nice upper body... -is shot-
Like always, please feel free to point out any mistakes and dumb typos on my part. I have proofread this but something almost always seems to slip my eye. I love constructive criticism, so go on and hit me with it if you have it!
Till next time!
P.S.: Please do check out my other Mass Effect fanfic, Bro Effect. It's currently ongoing and I'll probably be finishing the next chapter soon so please do look out for it!