"Hey, Kasumi," Shepard said, peeking into the port observation deck. "Got a min—oh, hey Garrus." The turian waved at her over a bottle of some very interesting chartreuse-colored liquid that looked to contain an entire tablespoon of glitter. "What the hell is that?"

"Dextro beer."


He tipped his head at the shiny stuff he'd been drinking and said, "It has alcohol in it."

"Uh huh. Anyway, I'll just come back later if you're busy."

Kasumi was up off her couch like a shot and pulled Shepard into the room. "Don't be silly, you weren't interrupting anything, and we can always use more conversationalists. Right, Garrus?"


"See? Told you." She gestured for Shepard to sit down and she obeyed with more than a little confusion. "What's up?"

"I want another one," she said, fingering the thin saddle plugs that decorated her earlobes. She had two in each ear that she planned to stretch so the bottom one was larger than the top, and she had an industrial post in her left ear along with a ring in her tragus. In her right ear were three posts in a line along the outer shell. There was also a small screw in her nose.

And those were just the ones you could see.

She had only ever worn a pair of studs until a month ago, but she found the process addictive: the planning of where to put the next one, the anticipation of having it done, the actual piercing itself, and then admiring it in the mirror afterward. Shepard had fallen in love with the aesthetic, and it was all thanks to the thief, who had a few very nice ones herself under her hood and catsuit.

"Where do you want it?" Kasumi asked, reaching for her kit.

"In my tongue."

Garrus took another swig of his girly beer and turned to watch. "What are you two talking about?" It sounded vaguely naughty, and he wasn't sure whether to be creeped out by the idea or really intrigued.

"Shepard wants another piercing."

"What, like the fifty others she already has?"

"Hey, I only have . . ." she ticked them off on her fingers, ". . . thirteen. Which isn't a lot, really."

"For a military officer, it is." He counted the ones he knew about and could only come up with ten. He was going to ask about it, but the two girls looked busy just then. Shepard went around the bar and got a cup of warm water into which she mixed a large quantity of salt while Kasumi laid out her tools. They looked like instruments of torture: a small pair of tongs, a needle, a surgical steel barbell, and some gauze just in case.

"Okay, ready?" Kasumi asked after Shepard had rinsed out her mouth. The commander nodded and stuck out her tongue, which was seized by the tongs and pressed flat. Kasumi positioned the needle over the spot she wanted and counted to three before shoving it through the thick muscle. Shepard never flinched, but her eyes closed and she made a sound that sent shivers down Garrus' spine. He watched the whole process while cringing and wondering if all humans were into pain like this. As Kasumi screwed the ball end of the barbell on, Shepard looked positively transported by bliss.

"Okay, all done." Shepard leaned back and rolled her new piercing over her teeth, smiling at the tiny clacking sound it made. "How are the others doing?"

"Pretty good. The one on my left—" she flicked her eyes over to Garrus and cleared her throat before continuing, "—uh, nipple looks like it might be rejecting, though."

"Really? It's not supposed to do that. Let me see." Shepard looked over at Garrus, who had frozen in a deer-in-the-headlights pose with his beer in one hand and the other poised over the bar as if it was on the way to something and forgot at the last minute what it was doing.

"Hey, don't mind me," he said, regaining control of his motor functions. "Turian, remember? No interest in squishy people." Not much, anyway. No, really. Go for it, he thought.

Shepard, who had lost much of her shame long ago after being made to take group showers and hot bunk her way through dozens of tours, whipped her shirt up over her head and started taking off her bra while Garrus tried not to look like he was staring. She got the hooks undone and stripped it off, baring her upper half to god and everybody. As much as Garrus tried to tell himself that humans didn't spark his interest, he couldn't help but admire the aesthetics of Shepard's form. He was wired to prefer plating, but those curves and smooth contours were certainly easy on the eye.

"Like what you see, big guy?" Shepard asked, and Garrus shook himself. He'd been staring.

"Well, from a purely artistic standpoint, you're very attractive." He mentally facepalmed, because that didn't sound creepy at all.

"I wouldn't have pegged you as the artsy type." Kasumi had Shepard's left breast in her hand and was closely inspecting the silver nipple shield for any signs of infection or rejection. It was terribly distracting and Garrus had to tear his gaze away several times.

"Uh, yeah." Don't stare at her waist, don't stare at—oh, hell, she's already never gonna let you live this down, might as well get the most out of it. "Back in school I wanted to take up painting, but there isn't a lot of opportunity to learn about shading and color palettes in basic."

"Really? Huh." Kasumi judged her tits to be healing well and prescribed a saltwater soak for the crusty stuff at the edges of the piercing. Shepard started putting her clothes back on and Garrus was both grateful and disappointed when she tugged her shirt down over that fantastically curved waist of hers. "I always wanted to take up the guitar. Had one all picked out and everything—a vintage Fender Jagstang in mint green. Damn, that thing was sexy." The way the word sexy rolled out of her mouth made the muscles in Garrus' midsection quiver.

"I'll bet," Kasumi said, watching his reactions out of the corner of her eye. "Well, enjoy the new hole in your head."

"Yep. I'm gonna go play with it." She left with a grin and a wave and Garrus turned to Kasumi. The thief had a huge grin on her face and he groaned with embarrassment.

"That . . . was evil."

"After what you told me earlier, you can't sit there and tell me that you didn't enjoy the show."

"I swear, if you breathe a word of that to her—"

She threw her hands up to deflect his threats, but the grin stayed put. "I collect secrets, but I don't share them. Usually. Although, I could let a little something slip, maybe hint around, get her interested? Hmm?" She wiggled her eyebrows at him—at least, he thought that's what she did. It was hard to see under her hood.

"Good night, Ms. Goto." He finished his beer and threw the bottle into the trash chute.

"So that's a yes, then?"

"Good night, Kasumi."

"I'll just go ahead then, shall I?"

Before he left he turned back and glanced at her over his shoulder. "Just . . . no details, okay? Nothing too obvious."

"You got it, Garrus."

The doors hissed shut and it took until he got all the way back to the battery that with the nipple piercings, that still only accounted for twelve of the thirteen Shepard had claimed she had.