Setting herself down on the cushy armchair by her bed with a muffled thump, Shepard yawned and stretched luxuriously. It had been a long day; the mission reports she was supposed to be submitting to Miranda had been piling up for weeks and the XO had finally put her stilettoed foot down and insisted on having them by the end of the day or have the commander face the consequences. Shepard didn't fancy the water to her personal bathroom cut off, so she complied.
The result had been a full day of chair-warming at her desk as she filed report after report, stacking datapad upon datapad. The work had caused her to miss out on the Vaentine's Day celebrations held in mess hall. Who would have known even Cerberus employees had a thing for Valentine's Day? Judging from the ruckus audible even from two floors above, she must have missed quite the party. Pouting slightly as she kicked at the leg of her bedframe, Shepard mentally cursed herself for not doing the reports when they were supposed to be done and letting them get all backlogged like that. But it was so much easier to curse Miranda and the Illusive Man for needing them in the first place so she did.
She was still picking at the Illusive Man's many faults, smoking addiction and other infuriating habits when she heard her door open with a quiet chime.
"Shepard? Are you in here?"
There was no mistaking that rumbling flange. Garrus. Just the sound of his voice was enough to lift her spirits and put a smile on her face. The tiredness seemed to evaporate from her bones while her heart seemed to want to work overtime, speeding up in her chest and making her stomach twist up in knots. Weariness forgotten, Shepard hopped to her feet and strode over to the stairs. "Hi Garrus, I'm glad you- "
Only to stop short at the last step.
Garrus stood by the fish tank, obviously nervous – she could tell from the way his good mandible was fluttering as if trying to get rid of an irritating fly – and his clear blue eyes were darting all over her cabin and looking at everything except at her. As entertaining as his behaviour was, her interest was instantly drawn to the thing he held in his hands.
"Ah, Shepard. There you are." said Garrus in a voice that was pitched higher than his usual baritone, still desperately avoiding eye contact. He seemed to find the fishes wading around in the tank mightily intriguing. "I didn't see you in the mess hall and EDI said something about you being in your cabin so I – er, the thing is, I wanted to give you something."
He took a step forward. "Spirits, I hope I'm doing this right. Here, this is for you." he said to the Paddle fish as he extended his arms towards her, offering the flowers. "Happy Valentine's Day."
Shepard was fairly certain they were flowers, though she had never seen the likes of them before. Six stalks had been bunched together, each bearing a bloom of the richest, deepest blue she had ever seen. The flowers, fully bloomed, were each as large as her hand. Innumerous, circular petals as tiny as her pinky fingernail grouped tightly at the soft centre, growing larger as more extended outwards – with the biggest ones on the outermost row being the size of a jam jar lid. The royal blue petals were flecked with an impossibly darker blue shade, almost black. The flowers had been bundled together in two sheets of pale blue and white craft paper, but what was visible of the sepals and stems was argent. Where a normal flower from Earth would have been green, these flowers had a dull, silvery sheen – like a film of precious metal on the living, breathing surface.
In fact, if it were not for the great difference in colouration and slight variation in shape, Shepard would have said they resembled roses.
Speechless with surprise, Shepard relieved Garrus of the bouquet and took the flowers into her arms. The bouquet was a little long – about two feet – but she managed. With the blooms closer to her face, she could pick up their fragrance; the exact scent eluded her, but the closest she could come to describing it was the smell of rain, the tang of fresh earth and if she concentrated, traces of what smelled like apples and peaches.
Garrus finally looked at her and she could see the anxiety in his eyes. He began babbling, twisting his fingers together. "I, er, heard that today is some kind of human, romantic holiday. I did some research and... I found out that you usually give each other gifts to express affection and I… I thought of you and… well, I thought it would be nice if I er, got you something to celebrate. They're flowers from Palaven, really difficult to grow. Most turians will tell you that this flower species is the most beautiful you can find on my homeworld." His mandibles flared fretfully. "I… I hope you find them okay. "
Finally finding the sense to move, Shepard slowly set the flowers down on her desk, not taking her eyes off him. Before he could have too much time to worry himself to death, she threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his cowl, pressing their bodies together in a big hug.
The look on his face was priceless – his jaw went slack and his mandibles splayed downward, with the mending one extending further than the other, while blue eyes went round and blocky brow plates shot upward. Shepard broke out into fits of laughter and tightened her grip on him, standing on the tips of her toes to do so. His armour was hard under her touch, the skin of his neck was rougher than a human's and had less give to it. The whole contour of his body ill-suited hers and served to remind her that they were aliens to each other, that both biology and society suggested that they shouldn't belong together.
But they had grown accustomed to one another's physical eccentricities over the weeks, adjusting and adapting as they went along. In fact, over time, Shepard found she had she liked him better that way. It was no matter that he was not human, that he did not have lips to kiss with or a soft body to comfortably cuddle into on nights they shared together. Garrus was who he was and as long as that held true, Shepard wished for no one other than him to be the one to have her heart.
When at last, he seemed to get over the shock of her reaction, his arms came around her as well and she heard his voice in her ear, his cheek brushing against hers as he chuckled. "I suppose that means you like my gift?"
A snort escaped her as Shepard dropped back down on her feet and look at him straight in the eye. "Are you kidding? I love them!" she spun away to pick the bouquet back up from the desk, bringing the blooms up to her nose and breathing in their rejuvenating aroma. She couldn't remember the last time she ever received flowers, though she did have a vague memory of a pre-Alliance crush back on Earth who had presented her with a wild daisy once. "What are they called? And how did you get them?" she asked, allowing her eyes to drink in the rich blue tones. The Palaven flora were exotic, a captivating sight. In her eyes, they bested even the most elegant of roses and filled her with joy. She felt like a giddy schoolgirl all over again.
A growling sort of chuckle was her reply. "Even if I told you their name, you probably couldn't pronounce it. As for how I got them… that's a story for another day."
She quirked an eyebrow at him in challenge as a cocky smirk broke out on her lips. "Fine then. I'll just call them Palaven Roses, if you won't tell me."
It was Garrus' turn to let out a bark of laughter, reaching for her and pulling her close. "Guess they'll be called Palaven Roses from now on, then."
Shepard returned his smile before she reached up with her free hand to gently stroke his good mandible. "Thank you. For bringing the flowers. They… they make me happy. Really."
"I'm glad then." said Garrus in a tender tone, which in his turian voice came out almost like a contented purr of a cat. The his eyes brightened as he grinned. "Didn't think you'd had a taste for alien plants, Shepard. You never showed an interest in them before."
"It's not just because they're alien flowers - it's because they were from you." Shepard replied quietly, feeling a slight blush rising in her cheeks. She found herself stepping closer and looking straight up at him. He returned her gaze, angling his head down to her in turn, meeting her eye to eye. Then, by some invisible signal only they understood, turian and human slowly and gently pressed their foreheads together.
The toughened hide of his forehead felt hot against her soft skin – regular turian body heat had a higher average than human – and as he let out a contented humming noise, the sound resonated in her ears and seemed to fill her entire being. She hummed back in response, caressing the side of his face with ghosting fingers while her other arm still cradled the newly dubbed Palaven Roses between them. They stayed in that position for a while, content not to move. Until at last, Garrus broke the silence.
"What's a 'goo-goo eye'?"
Well, there we have it - the anti-climatic conclusion. Though I have been thinking about writing the actual crew Valentine celebrations... and someone gave me an idea about a role-reversal between Garrus and Joker. Hm, so many interesting stuff to write about and not enough time... D: