Garrus scrambled off the couch as Jane stormed through the door, throwing her jacket down.
"I'm sorry, Mistress, I didn't –"
"Garrus, I'm not yelling at you, you're fine."
"What's wrong?" Garrus had shifted closer to her, his hand hovering but not quite petting her. Well, at least he'd learned not to touch her constantly over the last couple of weeks.
"How are your letters?" she asked instead of answering his question.
Garrus picked up his workbook to show her. "I can read all of them, but I can't write all of them yet."
"Good, good." She flipped through the book, examining his penmanship. He'd been working on it since she discovered he was sapient and he was getting quite good. And he was reading better, although since he was still speaking his own language, there were some funny translation issues sometimes. Still, it was a step up from being completely illiterate. And he'd started to learn to assert himself and that he didn't have to please her at every moment. He had even stopped calling her "Mistress," most of the time. Everything was starting to come together.
"Tell me what's wrong?" he asked.
Except her project.
"I failed," she muttered. "Can't get an appointment with the Council, and every university I managed to contact about turian intelligence laughed me off the communicator. No one will believe me." She sank down on the couch.
Garrus sat down next to her and put his arm around her. "It's okay. It's not that important."
Jane flung his arm off her and jumped up to attack the liquor cabinet. "It is, though. Every single turian is just – how can you not –"
"I'm happy where I am." Garrus shrugged, a gesture he'd picked up from her recently.
Jane considered the whiskey glass a moment, the effort involved in pouring a glass, drinking, then pouring again, before deciding to just drink out of the bottle. "You drink? I've got some dextro stuff here. I keep it for Tali."
"Tali is your quarian friend?"
"Yes. Daughter of Admiral – Oh, shit." Her eyes went wide as she realized.
"Mistr – Miss Shepard? Did you think of something?"
"Tali!" Jane was already shouting into her omni-tool.
"Keelah, what? Are you ready to tell me about your secret project yet?"
"Yes. I mean, no. Look, I need to speak to the Council. I can't get in. Can your dad?"
"Oh, Jane … I don't know. I mean, we're barely allowed an embassy, since the Morning War … if we start bringing up any issue someone –"
"Tali, this is important. I have never asked for anything like this before." Shepard swallowed hard. Normally, she didn't even ask for things, she just told people what was going on. The last couple of weeks, she'd been begging everyone to just listen to her about this. Her eyes were unfocused; she didn't even see how tense Garrus was as he stood in front of her. There was a long moment as Tali considered.
"All right. If it's important, I'll manage something."
"Thank you, Tali."
"Mistr – Um, Shepard? Will you be able to talk to the Council, then?"
"Yes. We're going to go to the Council, and after I explain my case, you'll talk to them. You're going to be free." She threw her arms around him. She was going to be able to fix this.
When she drew back, Garrus wasn't quite ready to let her go. He stroked her hair gently, one hand still on her waist.
Oh, shit. He doesn't still think he has to make his Mistress feel good, does he?
"After … after I'm free, Mi –" He paused, swallowing hard before continuing. "Jane. I do want you. You said I can't know what I want, but I do."
Jane smiled. Apparently, she'd finally managed to explain to him the concept of not making these kinds of decisions as a brainwashed slave, even if he still didn't agree.
"You know what? Once you're free, if you wanna ask me out, I won't stop you."
Garrus's mandibles spread wide in a grin. His forehead came to rest gently on hers.
A moment later, Jane's omni-tool beeped; she played the message Tali had left.
"Tomorrow. Ten in the morning. It had better be worth it."
"Remember, don't say anything until I tell you to. If you start talking early, they'll just be distracted by the unaltered turian. Got it?" In the short walk to the Council chambers, she had gone over the plan, making certain he understood fully.
"You've explained it three times," Garrus grumbled, rolling his eyes.
Jane smiled to herself. He was showing less of his brainwashed attitude since the meeting had been arranged. "There's Tali. Keep it down," she muttered.
Tali was clearly agitated, fidgeting as she approached. "I really do not know about this. Are you sure you cannot tell me what is going on?"
Jane flopped down onto a bench. "You'll find out in a minute. Is your father –" she stopped asking as a group of suited quarians walked by. Tali yanked her to her feet to follow them. Garrus was right behind her, but Jane motioned for him to stay a few steps back; they weren't going to be happy about a turian in the council room anyway, so they might as well keep him as out-of-sight as possible.
"What is this meeting about?" Tevos asked before the quarian-and-Jane party could get settled. The salarian councilor on her left looked limpidly at the group before them, and the batarian councilor on her right glared at Garrus.
Rael'Zorah looked to his daughter Tali, and Tali in turn looked to Jane.
Jane stepped forward. Shit, she wasn't a public speaker. "Council … members. Um. I have an important … Look, the thing is …." She felt her face flushing, realizing that this was going terribly. Tali groaned; this was going to look bad for the quarians. Why had they let her call this meeting?
The batarian councilor Boer snarled. "If you have something to say, human, spit it out. We've very busy."
The Councilors turned their glares on Rael'Zorah, who began apologizing for the waste of time. Tali took Jane's arm and tried to pull her away before she could make it any worse.
"Head Councilor Tevos!" Jane shouted. The room froze for a moment. Jane licked her lips. Now or never. "Councilors, turians have had a great injustice perpetrated against them. They are an intelligent race that has been unjustly enslaved for ages."
"Oh, Keelah, no," Tali moaned; Jane had lost her mind.
Jane Shepard was ignoring Tali entirely, too preoccupied with the tableau in front of her.
When she had spoken, Tevos's eyes first went wide, then flashed to the batarian councilor. Now, Tevos had stepped back half a step, waiting for Boer to speak. Boer, from the Batarian Hegemony. Which had agreed to stop its practice of slavery when it joined the Council races, but kept a lot of turian pets.
You've got to be fucking kidding me. That can't be what this is.
Boer spoke quietly to Tevos, who nodded before addressing Shepard.
"We do not have time to listen to such ridiculous conspiracy theories. Rael'Zorah, please stay. We wish to discuss appropriate uses of the Council's time. The rest of you are dismissed."
"Get her out of here," Rael hissed to Tali.
Jane tried to struggle, but couldn't quite manage it; her arms were too heavy to lift and it was just easier to move where Tali propelled her.
Boer was not surprised at what she'd tried to tell them. The salarian councilor wasn't looking at any of them, and Tevos looked embarrassed.
They all knew. They all fucking knew and they were keeping turians as slaves on purpose.
"Keelah, I cannot believe you did this to me! I thought we were friends, why would you do this to me, to my people?" Tali started yelling the moment they were out of the council's earshot.
"Tali, it's true, I swear. Garrus –"
"I do not care! You have gone insane." Tali was pacing, looking slightly less-than-sane herself. "You think your turian is a person. Do you even realize how crazy that sounds? Go home, Jane. Or see a therapist. If we lose the embassy over this –"
"Stop," Jane said quietly. Garrus had opened his mouth to speak; of course, Tali thought Shep was speaking to her.
"Oh, fine. Do me a favor, and don't talk to me anymore."
Garrus put a hand on Jane's arm as Tali walked away. He understood her warning about him speaking, after the briefest meeting in the history of ever. His eyes were eloquent, though.
"Let's go," she said dully. "I have to get to work, anyway."
Jane Shepard glared at the krogan who was harassing the dancers.
"Look, I'm not in the mood for this. You were already warned to keep your hands to yourself, since you can't manage that, get the fuck out." She was all out of nice. She had an enslaved turian at home, and no way to get him recognized as a person.
"He was asking for it," the krogan growled. He wasn't budging from his seat by the stage. The drell who had been dancing was already off the stage, having some kind of breakdown in the dressing room.
God save me from aggressive, gay krogan.
"I'm not gonna tell you again," Jane said, putting a hand on his shoulder to guide him towards the door.
That was a mistake.
The krogan glared at her, biotic blue glow appearing around him. She had a single moment to remember that krogan battlemasters were serious business before he slammed her into the stage. The pain as her back hit the edge of the stage was incredible, but it was quickly overshadowed by the pain in her head as he slammed her skull into the stage again and again. Jane barely saw the two asari bouncers coming over to save her before she blacked out. She should have grabbed them right away. You do not mess with a battlemaster if you're not biotic.
As the asari pulled the krogan off her, Jane realized she couldn't feel her body anymore; she had a vague sensation of drifting floorward. She hoped he hadn't broken anything irreparable.
Oh, shit, who's going to take care of Garrus while I'm out?
Jane tried to bolt upright in bed the moment she awoke and immediately regretted it. Well, she had some major bruising, but if anything had been broken, it was fixed by now.
"Keelah, you're awake."
Her friend was curled up in the hospital chair, suit rumpled; she'd clearly been keeping vigil for a while.
"I'm sorry. I should not have reacted that way. I think you need to speak to someone, Jane, you have not been acting yourself."
"Fine, yeah. I'll do that. Garrus –"
"He is … safe. Just rest, all right? You cannot get up yet." Tali frantically pressed the nurse button. "You should not even be awake yet. Keelah, you need sleep."
Shep's eyes narrowed. "What aren't you telling me?"
"Please, Jane. Can it not wait until you are better? I told you, he is … safe."
"Why do you keep hesitating before the word 'safe?'" Jane's voice was low and dangerous; she watched as Tali wrung her hands.
Finally, Tali broke. "It was not my fault! I swear, I was just trying to watch him while you were gone, I promise!"
"What happened to him?" Jane asked, stomach sinking. If anything's happened ….
"He … After I got your animal, my father came over. When it started making noise, my father said he had to take it to get its voice fixed."
Jane blanched. "He must have told you he was intelligent."
"Jane …." Tali hesitated before placing a hand gently on Shepard's shoulder. "Jane, sweetie, he is a turian. They cannot talk."
Fuck, of course. The translator is on my omni-tool.
"Where is he?" Jane sat up with difficulty, struggling to get out of bed. When Jane didn't get an answer right away, she turned her cold gaze on her friend. "I am going to go get him now. Help me or we're done."
"I will take you to the shelter," Tali said.
Garrus's eyes were distant when Jane picked him up from the shelter. She paid the fine and told Tali she'd meet her later, wanting to speak to Garrus alone as quickly as possible.
"Garrus, I didn't know. I was in the hospital. Garrus, I promise you, we can fix this." She knew her tone marked it as a lie. No one was going to illegally un-mute a turian on the Citadel. Even if she could find a doctor to do it, it would cost Hell's own money.
"Garrus, you can still write. We'll still find a way. It'll be okay."
Garrus gave no indication that he could understand her. He stuck close during the walk home, behaving on leash as though he were nothing but a well-trained pet.
"Garrus, please," Jane pleaded. She took his leash and collar off the second they were in the door. She grabbed a notepad and thrust it into his hands. "Please, talk to me. Something. Anything."
Garrus looked at the notepad, then raised his eyes to hers. The grief in them was palpable. He let the notepad drop.
"Garrus, dammit, I know you can read and write." She reached down to grab the notepad. She could still fix this. She just needed him to work with her. "I taught you. We can figure something out –" She stopped cold. While she was reaching for the notepad, Garrus had picked up his collar from its hook by the door.
"Don't you dare. You can't go backwards. Don't you do it."
Garrus looked at her steadily as he buckled the collar around his neck. His intent was clear.
"You are not a pet, dammit."
Garrus started to walk away. Jane grabbed his arm, trying to think of the right words. Something had to convince him that he didn't have to be a pet just because he could no longer speak.
Instead, he nuzzled her hand, stopping her speech. She didn't know what to do after that. She went through the motions of an evening at home, fixing his dinner and her own, sitting down in front of the vidscreen. After a while, Garrus moved up onto the couch with her. She had a brief moment of hope, but he didn't put an arm around her like he had been doing, instead only nuzzling close like an animal.
Goddamit. This isn't right. Garrus's tags jingled as he continued to nuzzle her. Jane tried to figure out a way.
She'd let him think it over for a while. This was a huge setback, but in a few days, he'd realize that it wasn't an insurmountable obstacle. Even if the Council clearly knew that turians were sapient. Even if –
By now, Garrus had worked his way up to nuzzling at her neck, and his hand was sliding up the inside of her thigh.
Garrus pushed her down against the couch lightly. Jane tried to think of a reason to resist. She knew he knew he wasn't supposed to be a pet. But he was still brainwashed. And he was still going to be legally a pet. She couldn't –
Garrus kissed her deeply, one hand working its way inside her pants. She started to forget what she wasn't supposed to be doing.
It wasn't that bad, right? He was sapient. He wanted her. He could make the decision; he wasn't that brainwashed. She wasn't forcing him.
He felt her relax, no longer opposed and he worked her pants all the way off. He was panting harshly now. He needed this, so how could she say no when she didn't even want to refuse him?
His tags jingled above her face as he moved within her and she felt a twinge of guilt. He was still brainwashed, wasn't he?
She started to say something, but his thumb found her clit and the combination of lazy circles there with his steady thrusting left her unable to speak. She gasped, her body straining upward to meet him.
She moaned, letting her arms go around his neck. She started playing idly with the sensitive spot underneath his fringe, and he buried his face in her shoulder, his pace getting more frantic.
Well, it's better than him having to live on the street as a feral, isn't it?