Entregarme: In tango terminology, to give oneself over to the leader's lead.
Let's unwind, he said. Have a few drinks, he said. Blow off some steam, he said.
Funny how It'll be fun bore such a striking resemblance to death by humiliation.
And then he was pulling—and what the hell was that about?—her onto the dance floor, completely ignoring every last damned one of her many protests. All Thena can think is that the turian Hierarchy naming Garrus its Expert Reaper Advisor must've gone to his head in a big way, because he knows she doesn't dance, he knows that and still he's pulling a stunt like this and goddammit, Garrus—
But no, here they are, on Dante's Eighth Circle of Hell, made up to look like a bar, of all things, and there is a dance floor and she's on it—which makes sense, because hell.
The only thing that doesn't feel like imminent disaster is Garrus' arm firm about her waist, his hand holding hers confidently. Which is good. Confidence is good. Someone deserved to be the confident one here, since it sure as hell isn't her. And, really, all she wants to know is why? Why drag her out here? Garrus knows—he knows she doesn't… do this. If she dances at all, it's not in public—moving like this together, it's too personal, too intimate, and when all's said and done, she'd much rather shuffle back and forth a little and endure the teasing with a smile. It's not as if she's laboring under any sort of misapprehension that she can dance. And this? Is dancing. Real, actual, honest-to-god dancing. With people watching them. And steps. This isn't some mindless back-and-forth two-step, and this sure as hell isn't her and Garrus alone in her quarters in varying stages of undress with the music turned up. There is form and there are steps and god help her, possibly things like twirls. Or spins. Possibly dipping.
"You're going to pay for this later," she says in an undertone. He doesn't look surprised, and Thena realizes he's… planned this from the start. The fidgeting, the nervous looking over his shoulder when the music queued up—he planned this.
Yes. Yes, Garrus Vakarian is definitely going to pay later. And she's going to end whoever gave him those lessons. Dishonorable discharge, right after she's keelhauled them. Keelhauling is absolutely part of the picture at this point. Might not even make it to the discharge.
The only—the only—good thing about any of this is the sour look on that female turian's face right now. Thena would've smiled—all right, smirked—if she weren't so sure smiling would redirect necessary brain power in charge of physical coordination. And she needs every last cybernetic implant on the job right now. No slouching, guys, she thinks at the implants. Gotta get me through this without a busted ass or a broken ankle.
It's not as if the Reapers would understand if the intrepid Commander Shepard had to take a few weeks off the war to heal a debilitating tango-related injury. And speaking of dishonorable discharges.
But the longer Garrus guides her through the steps, things seem to be going… Thena doesn't want to say they're going well, because that's too optimistic and optimism feels dangerous just now. But nothing seems to be going horribly wrong, at least. And Garrus… seems to know what he's doing, knows how to lead. Granted, she's always known Garrus knows how to lead. No surprise there.
The better question is whether she knows how to follow.
And maybe that's half her problem. Oh, Thena can follow orders as well as any good soldier, that's for sure. But for a long time now she's been in the position of giving orders, of being the one who leads, of shouldering the burden of command. She's never had any doubt whatsoever that Garrus was capable, and would be a damn fine leader, to hell with what the Shadow Broker's dossier had to say about it. But she'd never given much thought to whether he could lead her, whether she could let him.
It's not a question of trust. Thena trusts Garrus. She trusts him to watch her six. Trusts him with her life, no hesitation. She'd trust him with command of the Normandy, if it came to that. But what Thena isn't so sure of, and the realization prickles down her neck like so many icy needles, is whether she trusts Garrus with this, with something so… intangible. Does she trust him not to let her make an idiot of herself? She trusts him with her heart, her life, and her body. She's never thought about trusting him with things like her dignity. Her pride.
To be honest, she doesn't know if she does—if she can.
And then the music changes suddenly and Garrus steps, and Thena steps with him and the room is suddenly a blur because Garrus Vakarian is twirling her on a dance floor, and this only because someone—and it's a member of her crew, she's sure of it, and once she finds out who, there is going to be no end to the keelhauling—thought to give him lessons. On the side.
God damn it.
It's while Thena's preoccupied with both keeping her feet under her and mentally reviewing all she knows about keelhauling that the unthinkable happens: the momentum of the move—of the twirl; what the hell, Garrus—has sent her forward and suddenly Thena can't feel Garrus' hand anymore. She's standing alone in the middle of the floor, and there's music and people watching her and she hasn't got armor or a weapon or any damn thing that might make this remotely bearable. As she gropes back for him, fingers stretching, reaching for him, an eternity ticks by, and then another, and there's a moment, a horrible, sickening, sinking moment when her stomach turns to ice and her heart thumps hard in her chest, adrenaline sluicing cold and prickly down her arms and this—this is what she was afraid of. This is what she knew would happen, and it's time to walk away, time to get the hell of the floor, to go, she has to leave—
Then there's Garrus' hand, warm and sure and confident as ever, gripping hers and pulling her smoothly back towards him.
"Promises, promises," he murmurs, and she knows the look he's giving her, knows it too well, knows what it means. I've got your six, it says, and she feels the uncomfortably warm mixture of foolishness and… and guilt for that moment of panic, and worse, of doubt. The adrenaline coursing through her veins suddenly has nowhere to go, leaving her lightheaded, but Garrus is right there, watching her metaphorical six, and his hand is flat and warm on her back. He's moving her through the steps like he could do it in his sleep. And maybe he can—it's not as if he's ever been a slouch when it comes to research.
He can lead her and more importantly, she trusts him to lead her, even into unwelcome, unfriendly, and unfamiliar territory.
Shepard and Vakarian. It's been that way for so long that Thena's never given thought to Vakarian and Shepard before. But there it is, and it's got a pretty good ring to it.
Once that realization hits her—that nothing horrible is going to happen, she's not going to trip, she's not going to stumble, and the world won't end if she cedes control—once she reaches that point, the tension in Thena's shoulders, the rigid, uncomfortable tightness bunched up down her spine and knotting through her core, slowly relaxes into something more natural. And once that happens, once she can breathe, once she eases into Garrus' arms and can really feel where he's guiding her, forward and back and around the floor. When she realizes the steps repeat themselves, following Garrus' lead turns into something almost instinctive. Like moving into position as they charge into a firefight; they may not have enemies to flank, but this is still an exercise in teamwork.
The music pauses a beat, and as he turns her, she slides her leg up his, nearly to his hip. Garrus' expression doesn't change, save for the sudden heat in his eyes, as if to say, So you want to play it that way, huh?
Yes, she decides, shooting him a grin as she settles against him. Her grin widens into a smirk at the scandalized gasps around them. Yes, she absolutely does want to play it that way.
Garrus has her six; he's always had it. But this is different. This is something else, something that's at once deeper and broader and new and different,and she likes it. Thena trusts Garrus, not only with leadership—which was never a new concept—but she trusts him implicitly, without compunction or hesitation; even more than that, she trusts him to lead her. The world won't end. Nobody is going to burst through the doors and shoot up the floor, sending her through it.
She trusts Garrus to lead her through this, because what is love, what is intimacy without vulnerability? And there's not the slightest doubt that Thena's vulnerable out here, without cover, without any sort of defense. And yet, she knows by the way Garrus' hand is curled around hers, by the way his arm is wrapped around her waist—no, he will not bruise her pride or trample her dignity, and though she's neck-deep in unfamiliar waters, Thena knows Garrus can navigate them. And she trusts herself to follow whatever steps he leads her through.
Strangely, or maybe not, the more she relaxes, the more easily the steps come. She listens to the music, she stops giving a damn about all the people—managing that is remarkably like targeting a headshot through her scope; the noise of the fight fades away and there's nothing but her target, her heartbeat, and her breath—and the more she's able to do that, the more it feels as if she's alone with Garrus out here. She's stopped noticing them, stopped caring about them and has actually managed to start having a little fun.
"Now you're getting it," he rumbles, sounding pleased and entirely unsurprised. As if he knew the whole while she'd eventually catch on, and Thena can't help but wonder for a moment what Garrus knows that she doesn't.
"You doubted me?" she murmurs under her breath.
"Not for a damn second."
It's not hard to follow Garrus' steps across the floor; he's holding her flush against him, and when they move together, it's as a single unit, and though he's right in front of her, looking too damned pleased for words, it's the same sort of feeling she gets when she knows he's behind her in a fight, his eye to the scope. The same sort of feeling as when the mattress dips beneath their combined weight and the bedsheets tangle around them. They move well together, and Thena can't remember a time when they didn't.
Though she's managed to blot out most of their onlookers, as they move across and around the floor, Thena catches sight of Vega out of the corner of her eye. Vega, standing by the music selection kiosk. And before she can form a single coherent thought as to what the hell he's doing up there at all, the pieces click into place. Vega. And damned if he doesn't look like the cat that ate the canary with relish.
Well, she thinks. At least I know who to keelhaul now. Of course, hard on the heels of that thought is another: Wait. Vega knows how to tango? The hell? Exactly what goes on in the shuttle bay when I'm not looking?
The lieutenant's come to the edge of the floor for a closer look, arms crossed, expression critical, as if he's checking up on his student's work, and maybe he is. And if he is…
Thena and Garrus turn together, and momentum sends her out again, away from him, and this time she lets go—there's no worry she's going to make an ass of herself—letting her strides carry her to the edge of the floor, as close to Vega as she dares, and as she lifts her chin and meets his eyes, she's completely, undeniably certain he's Garrus' partner in crime for this particular endeavor.
Oh, there will be payback for this. Thena's certain of that much. There will be payback, and it will be sweet.
She's still grinning when Garrus snags her arm and pulls her close. And then, all too soon, the song is slowing, and as the notes stretch out, their own steps slow, and she's bending back and back, knowing the hands braced against her aren't ever going to let her fall.
You lead, I'll gladly follow, Vakarian. Anywhere you want.