The doors to the only elevator on the Normandy swooshed open and a tall turian with blue clan markings on his avian-like face stepped out. He was clad in navy blue armour and sported a glowing blue visor over his left eye. Eyes that were also blue, light like water took in his surroundings and the various people at work. Standing at over six feet, with a hardened carapace and a healing wound on the right side of his face concealed by a bandage, he made quite an intimidating sight among the space vessel's human crew.
As Garrus marched through the CIC he was glad to notice that most of the crew just ignored him and carried on with their work. A few even turned around to say hello. It was a vast improvement from when he had first boarded the Normandy (or rather, when he had been in the condition to leave the medbay and walk around). He had been treated to furtive glances, suspicious leers and nervous whispers. It didn't matter that the Illusive Man had handpicked this crew to be able to work with aliens – Garrus knew that they would still have their misgivings about non-human sentients.
He was glad to see that the atmosphere of the ship had changed now. Actually, he could have sworn the yeoman Kelly Chambers was discreetly hissing and beckoning him over with a finger with an eager smile on her lips. But he had something important to do – something that warranted him hauling his ass all the way up to the main deck, swallow his pride and face the most irritating and smart-mouthed human he knew.
Pretending not to notice the yeoman – who was gesturing wildly now – Garrus made his way onto the bridge and towards the cockpit. He was barely three paces away from the pilot's seat when a sardonic voice spoke up, "So, you finally getting off on those calibrations or you just here to look for some actual, living company?"
"Very funny, Joker. Absolutely side-splitting. Glad to see you haven't changed much." grumbled Garrus, though his mandibles were lightly flared – an approximation of a turian smile though slightly lopsided as the cybernetics in the damaged mandible was still taking some getting used to. "So, how have you- what's so funny?"
Joker had erupted into silent laughter, holding onto his sides as he tried to calm himself down before he broke a few ribs. "Y-You totally didn't get that, did you? Flew right over your head!" choked the pilot once he had somewhat composed himself. Garrus was mystified at this behaviour. He blinked owlishly in puzzlement.
"Getting of- Oh forget it. Not like you'll recognise real comedy anyway if it danced naked in front of you in leather hooker boots and hit you with a cuebone."
Garrus, with slightly narrowed eyes, had opened his mouth to ask what exactly was a cuebone but paused, deciding that with Joker, maybe it was wiser not to know. So he shut his mouth again. Now that he was here, it had occurred to him that he had not thought on how we was about to broach the subject. This was Joker, after all. Who knew what trickery the man was capable of? Garrus felt his heart drop to the pit of his stomach - maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.
"All right all right, Two-Face – or do you prefer Batman? Anyway, I'm guessing you probably came here for some reason other than getting your lack of tasteful humour rubbed into your face. What, you need me to stop over at the Citadel to pick up some turian toothpicks or something?"
He hadn't even started yet and Garrus was already thoroughly confused. But Joker was the only male human on this ship whom he was on talking terms with. Somewhat. And it was Joker whom he had known the longest. And Joker who'd known her the longest. Joker who was probably the only one on this ship he could trust to keep his mouth shut on this issue, ironically enough. He was the only logical choice, so to speak. He found himself wishing that Kaidan had survived Virmire for an entirely different reason, or for Engineer Adams to be here. At least he might have gotten some serious answers instead of snide comments about his face. But Joker was all he had right now, and this was a semi-emergency.
"Um, okay, er. Look, Joker- I, er – need your help about something. It's… er…"
Before he could make a further idiot of himself and completely knot up his tongue, the Normandy's AI intervened.
"Officer Vakarian has been researching on your human celebration of Valentine's Day for 32 hours and 59 minutes over the course of the past five days. He has opened a total of 498 windows regarding the subject and has visited factual sites as well as online forums and – "
"EDI, stop right there if you don't want me to go down to the AI Core with my assault rifle and put a few holes through something." Garrus growled, trying to hide his mortification. Trust a computer to screw things up at the most inopportune moments –
"Acknowledged, Officer Vakarian." replied EDI smoothly. There almost something smug in that tone, but Garrus had bigger things to worry about than a mischievous AI.
"Ooooh," snickered Joker, that notorious, infuriating smirk cracking his face in two. "Does Big Bird have something he wants to tell Mama Joker?"
"You might want to stuff it, smartass. Unless you want me taking that stick out of my ass and beating you to death with it."
The human pilot only jabbed further, "What, you're going to pick on a poor, crippled old – Hey wait a minute, how did you kno- " Joker's face transformed into one of sudden understanding – years at C-Sec had enabled Garrus to recognise some an interesting range of human facial expressions – and he swivelled the chair around to face EDI's console. "EDI!"
"You should be well aware that my presence extends to all areas of the ship and that I monitor anything and everything that goes on around the Normandy. That includes, but is not limited to, around the clock audio and video feed to my servers. The cockpit is no exception." Garrus was pretty sure the AI was enjoying this.
"But that didn't mean that you had to rat me out!"
"On the contrary, I deemed it information worthy of Officer Vakarian's attention as it directly concerned him. My core programming allows for deviances from preservation of confidential information in such circumstances."
"Bullshit! You were just out to get me! This is for the time when I tried to disconnect you from the speakers with the nail clippers, right?"
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Joker grumbled, "Sheesh. Women. Even as synthetic life forms you're all impossible."
Garrus cleared his throat. "I hate to interrupt this charming exchange, but I am still standing right here."
"Oh, erm, right." Joker's eyes darted to Garrus a little nervously, probably something to do with him now knowing what he had said about that pole up his ass – good, thought Garrus. That might teach him to reign in that outspoken mouth of his. "So, uh, what do you need, big guy?"
Garrus sighed – as best a turian could, the air whistling past his rows of pointed teeth and mouth plates. Best get this over with. "Look, I need some advice on… this, thing you humans call Valentine's Day."
A blank stare was his only response for a while. "Well, that explains all that extranet searches EDI mentioned. Bet the Illusive Man's not going to be happy when he gets the extranet bill this month. Reckon he'll cut down on his cigarette expenses, then?" There a short pause before Joker answered himself, "Nah, probably not."
Garrus almost made a jab at Joker's own, technically illegal extranet activities but decided to let it slide just this once – he needed help from this guy after all. "And, well… I noticed that it's a… popular custom among humans for er… bondmates to give each other gifts on February 14th of the Gregorian calendar. And that popular gifts include chocolate, stuffed bear animals and flowers. The thing is, well… I don't understand."
Joker lifted an eyebrow. "Don't understand what?"
"Flowers. I mean, why flowers?"
The look Joker gave him was even more flabbergasted – if that was possible. "… Er, why not?"
Garrus fixed his gaze to the floor and shifted his weight to one leg as he absently scratched at his undamaged mandible. "Well, they don't serve any logical or practical purpose. You can't go into battle with them, you can't eat them and they just wither away and die in days. What's the use in that?"
The question was so unexpected, so stunning in its mundanity that Joker couldn't seem to formulate an answer at first. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, man. It's just something we do, you know?"
Garrus sent him a deadpan stare. "I am asking because I don't know, Joker."
The pilot raised his palms in a gesture of surrender, "Hey, don't get all hissy with the cripple! It's just something that's been around a long time. Seriously, it's like asking the krogan why they fight all the time or why asari maidens hang out at stripper clubs and stuff – it's just really ingrained in culture."
Garrus' posture slumped uncharacteristically as he leaned against the bulkhead of the cockpit. Heaving another, bigger sigh, he crossed his arms and quivered his mandibles in anxiety. "Joker, I wouldn't seek out your help unless I really needed it. So please, be serious? Just this once?"
Joker turned to give him a peculiar look. "Sheesh man, don't need to pull the serious brocode card on me - I'll help you out, no problem. Not like I don't know you'd be completely hopeless without me and screw everything up with her without my expert guidance. Can't let that happen, can I?"
Garrus swallowed. "Er, 'her'?"
Joker's eyes went to the ceiling of the cockpit. "The Commander, duh! Who else?"
"B-but I never- She didn't- I mean, we- " stammered Garrus, clear blue eyes wide and brow plates high on his forehead. Damn this human, he got him good. Garrus felt grateful that Joker was not a turian - if that infuriating pilot could hear the flustered sub-harmonics in his voice, Garrus was sure he would just die of embarrassment.
Said infuriating pilot turned back around to fiddle with something on his terminal. "Oh come on, I may be a cripple but I've still got one pair of perfectly working eyes. I saw how you kept looking at her aboard the first Normandy. And don't pretend you weren't making goo-goo eyes at each other over the table at yesterday's conference."
"We do not make goo-goo- " began the protest, which was abruptly cut off.
"Whatever, none of my business. Now, let's get down to your business." Joker said almost cheerfully, clapping his hands and rubbing them together gleefully with a glint in his eye.
Garrus was again reminded of his doubts as to the wisdom of this course of action. He felt completely lost at sea – and turians didn't swim. "Erm, sure?"
"So, let's get straight to the point – you want to know understand why we give flowers?"
It was Garrus' turn to blink owlishly – with somewhat more success. "Yes."
Swivelling his chair completely around to give his undivided attention, Joker put a hand under his chin as he thought for a moment. Then his flickered up at Garrus. "Okay. Right, I'm not some love guru and this isn't exactly my area of expertise but I'll give this my best shot – humans have an eye for things, you know? We appreciate aesthetic beauty. You could even say we're shallow gits but that's not the point here so forget that; flowers are pretty and they smell nice too. Two-in-one, can't argue with a bargain.
"Anyway, just because they don't last very long doesn't mean that they're useless. It's because they're fragile and live for such a short while that women appreciate them. So put those qualities together and you have a winner! Empheral beauty. Besides, giving a girl flowers is like saying she's beautiful too. Flowers speak with our emotions. Get the right ones and you're basically telling her you love her and would do anything for her; from catching a grenade with your bare hands to mowing the lawn. It's been part of our courtship traditions since like, the dawn of time."
A soft titter resounded in the cockpit as Garrus voiced his distress; this seemed a bit more complicated than he first thought. "The right ones? Like what?"
This time, the answer came without pause. "Roses are always a sure fire way to express romantic feelings and stuff and women just dig them. They're supposed to represent love and beauty or something like that. Just perfect for the poor guy trying to get her attention – that means you – so if you're getting the Commander flowers, roses would be ideal. Give her those and I promise you, she will freak out." There was a pause before he added, "In a good way. Don't worry."
Another moment of silence stretched on before it was broken, "Ugh, I think that verbal documentary just gave me diabetes."
Rumbling a laugh, Garrus commented, "What strange customs."
He got a raised eyebrow in response. "Oh yeah? And what do turians give as presents to their special girls anyway?"
"Us? Rifle mods, omni-tools, new armour, practical stuff like that. What?" asked Garrus obliviously at the look of disbelief on Joker's face.
"Man, I can't believe you said that with a straight face. Tell me you're joking."
"Er, I'm not?"
Joker began to slowly shake his head. "Oh man, it's a good thing you came to me for help on this thing. There's absolutely nothing romantic about that shit!"
"Look who's talking! Why do you humans have to be so complicated?"
"Hey! Don't put a blanket label on us just because our women have minds more alien than yours, okay?" grumbled Joker is reply as he scratched at his stubble.
"For the record, our females give us problems too. It's just that the human ones are worse." came Garrus' complaint as he threw his head back and knocked it against the bulkhead.
"On behalf of all females in the galaxy, I would like to disagree with that notion." EDI suddenly interrupted, having been quiet for a considerable while.
A scoff escaped from Joker. "Bah – you? Can you even be considered female? I mean, you don't even have a physical platform – you could be genderless!"
"I assure you that I was programmed with feminine characteristics and to refer to myself as being female. I am certain that you will be singing a completely different tune given a few months' time, Jeff." came the somewhat scathing reply from the AI, as if it was insulted.
"Yeah yeah, whatever." said Joker, waving his hand again as if he could swat her away.
Deciding to take advantage of the pilot's brief distraction, Garrus uncrossed his arms and pushed himself off the bulkhead. "I appreciate the assist, Joker. It's good to know you have a serious bone in you somewhere that doesn't have to do with the Normandy. "
"Ah well, don't get used to it. It's not every day I hand out love advice like some Agony Aunt in Ronzy's Racy Adventures Weekly, you know? Hey, if I did, think I could make a career out of it?"
"I think you'd do a fantastic job. Go for it." Garrus grinned down at his human friend, the healing mandible still twitching erratically.
"Get me a pink frilly bonnet and some knitting yarn and it's a done deal." Joker replied, his sardonic tone back in his voice. "So uh… You sure you okay now, man?"
"Yeah, I should be good. I think." Garrus whistled softly. "Anyway, I should be letting you get back to work. I've interrupted you longer than I should have." As he said this, Garrus turned and made for the bridge but was stopped when Joker suddenly asked, "You could have just done something simple like buy her a simple present like a teddy bear or something, the extranet can tell you that much. Why did you have to make your life difficult and go for something like flowers? It's Shepard, she would have understood that you meant well without you needing to break your back over it."
Another moment of pregnant silence wore on. Garrus did not turn to face Joker. After a few agonising seconds, Garrus answered, "Because she's worth it, Joker. This means a lot to me – hell, maybe even more than what it means to her – but I want it to mean something much more for the both of us. I really want this thing we have to work out, Joker. I just… don't want to screw it up."
Joker nodded, though Garrus couldn't see it and responded in a solemn voice. "Right. I get you, buddy." There was pause before Joker spoke in a soft, barely audible tone. "Listen, I really hope it works out for you two. I'm serious."
Glancing over his shoulder, Garrus sent him an appreciative nod. "Thanks, Joker. I appreciate it."
And with that, he exited the cockpit and made his way through the bridge and CIC – once again ignoring Kelly's beckons – and called for the elevator.
When the elevator doors dinged shut and Garrus had vanished from sight, Joker swung his chair back around the right way and resumed his work.
"You approve of their relationship, Jeff?"
Twisting around a little, the pilot looked over at the blinking blue orb at his left. "Yeah, I do." He leaned back in his chair, looking up through the roof of the cockpit at the endless space and uncountable stars. "The galaxy's a rough place, and it's dealt a bad hand to them. They deserve it, EDI. They both do."
Extranet Chat Room 143
01:34: G: Hey Sol.
01:39: G: Sol? Answer me, please.
01:42: G: Please answer the terminal, Sol.
01:45: S: Spirits, Garrus! Have you any idea what time it is here?
01:46: G: I know. And I'm sorry but I really need to ask you something.
01:47: S: Fine. But be quick, I'm sleepy.
01:47: G: You know those flowers growing in our backyard? The ones we tried to make flower stew out of when we were kids?
01:48: S: Garrus, if you woke me up in the dead hours of the morning to ask about gardening, I will personally cut off your fringe and make stew out of that.
01:49: G: Cute try, but I don't think you could beat me yet. You think you could take a few and send them to me? Think of it as a personal favour.
01:52: S: I might. But why in Spirits name do you need a bunch of garden flowers?
01:55: G: It's complicated.
01:55: S: Oh no, not this again.
01:55: S: Why can't you ever tell me anything?
01:56: G: How's Mom?
01:57: S: Same as always, no thanks to you. Don't change the subject.
01:57: G: I was serious.
01:59: S: I know, sorry. Things have been tough.
02:00: G: Sol, I'm dead serious. If there's anything, anything at all I can do to help, just say the word.
02:02: S: I've told you before, what we really need is to have you here. But I'd rather not have that conversation again.
02:03: G: All right, but my offer still stands.
02:03: S: I'll get the flowers for you later. How am I going to send them to you?
02:06: G: We'll be docking at the Citadel in two days. Think you could send them over to one of the drop off points?
02:08: S: Fine. But you still haven't told me what they're for.
02:08: S: I mean, we've found out long ago that they're not for eating.
02:10: S: Come on, you can't even tell me this?
02:12: G: It's something to do with an alien custom.
02:13: S: What sort of alien custom? Human?
02:15: G: Asari have taken a liking to it, too.
02:15: S: That's not the point. So what is this human custom?
02:19: G: Like I said, Sol. It's complicated. I'm not even sure if this is going to work.
02:22: S: Hey, if you're having problems, you can talk to me. You know that, right?
02:24: G: Even love problems?
02:26: S: Especially love problems.
02:27: S: Wait a minute, you're having love problems?
02:28: G: Appreciate the help with the flowers, Sol. I owe you one. Big time.
02:30: S: Hey, stop avoiding my questions!
02:31: G: I should let you get back to bed. You must be tired. Night.
02:31: S: Garrus Vakarian, you are not leaving until you give me an explanation!
Garrus Vakarian is now offline.
Attempting to hack account 'Garrus Vakarian'.
Congratulations! Name successfully changed from 'Garrus Vakarian' to 'Sir Lovesick Flower-face'.
Solana Vakarian is now offline.
And another one! Don't think I've written so fast before. xD
This was my initial plan for Afterlife's Valentine's fic but I ultimately decided to go with Keiji and Kasumi instead (that story can be found on my profile, if you're curious). But here it is anyway because I just felt like writing it out. :D
Intended to be a one-shot, but ended up rather long so it's split into two. The second part will be up at this time tomorrow. :3
P.S.: About the cueboning thing - it's kind of an inside joke at Aria's Afterlife. But one of our regulars has submitted the definition somewhere on the internet... ;D