When Shepard entered the hospital room, she was surprised to see Grunt sitting up in bed, looking no worse for wear, with a book in his hands. The sight was so confusing, she stopped in the doorway to study the young krogan—yes, those were his plates and unique blue eyes, a new scar marring the skin underneath the right one—but she had the right room. It was definitely Grunt reading a book.
He looked up from the book and welcomed her in with an unabashed grin. "Shepard! I didn't expect you to get my message so soon. Thanks for coming by."
"I would never ignore my favorite krogan," she replied with a small smile.
"Don't let Wrex hear you say that. You'll hurt his feelings."
"Bakara would be there to nurse his ego. Not that he needs any nursing now. I always knew Wrex was destined for greatness—I just never thought he'd be the one to unite the krogan clans." Shepard took a moment to pull the chair in the corner up to the foot of the bed and sat down. "It's nice to see you up, Grunt. I admit you had me worried. Not just anyone can charge into Reaper-infected rachni and live to tell the tale."
He chuckled. "Yeah, thanks for waiting for me."
"I never doubted you for a second. How's hospital life treating you? Playing nice with the nurses?"
"The staff are intimidated, the food sucks, and I'm stuck in a bed for three more days. How do you think it is?"
"I thought you might enjoy a little R and R. It's not every a day squad leader gets a break."
He grinned, showing all his teeth. "You'd know something about that."
"Still living it," she replied with a shrug. Truthfully, she was running herself ragged trying to unite the galaxy on a time limit, but Grunt didn't need to know that. She liked that he believed her to be infallible; it gave him confidence in himself that his battlemaster was indestructible. "So, uh, I have to know. What kind of book is good enough to get a krogan to read?"
"Oh, this?" Grunt lifted the book from his lap and showed her the cover. It was written in alien text. She waited for him to explain. "Wrex brought this by as some 'get well' gift. When I'm not leading his best warriors, he treats me like a child and says I should familiarize myself with childhood stories. They're fairytales."
Shepard balked. Whoever heard of krogan fairytales? "What are they about? Fighting for breeding rights? Goldilocks and the Three Thresher Maws?"
He held his place with one finger while he flipped through previous pages. "No, and there are no great war stories, either. They're stupid cautionary tales—mindless dribble mostly written by asari who had a krogan in their life. But there is one I like." He stopped turning pages when he found one with more alien text and a picture of pyjaks surrounding a worm. "It's about a baby thresher maw that got lost in the desert and stumbles right into a herd of pyjaks. It begs them not to eat it, but the pyjaks throw it into a stew."
"Sounds like a cautionary tale to me. Why is it your favorite?"
"Because it has killing—the other tales are weak. And I can relate to this one because I've seen baby thresher maws. They haven't grown their plates so they're just ugly slimy worms—makes a satisfying crunch under your boots, though," he said with a dark chuckle.
Shepard sat back in the chair. Grunt had obviously found a place within Clan Urdnot, and she was glad Wrex wasn't favoring him as if he were a special case, but respecting him in a way only krogans are capable. That Grunt was showing leadership and bowling over his foes made Shepard proud.
"Shepard, can I ask you something?"
She leaned forward, her elbows on her knees and hands folded under her chin. "Shoot."
Suddenly he wouldn't make eye contact with her and he shifted as if he couldn't get comfortable. If a usually blunt krogan couldn't ask her something, did she really want to know what it was about?
"Uh, I don't really know how to say this without sounding stupid," he said.
"You know me, Grunt. I'm not going to judge you. Whatever you have to say, just say it."
"Would you, uh … would you read me a story from this book?"
That was unexpected. She couldn't stop herself—the confusion slipped through her shock. "What?"
Grunt slammed the book closed and threw it across the room. It smacked against the wall before landing on the floor, the cover splayed. "Damn it, I'm an idiot. I knew it would sound stupid!"
Shepard stood and placed a hand on his shoulder. He looked ready to jump out of bed, and that was the last thing she wanted an injured krogan to do—incredible healing abilities or not. "Calm down, Grunt," she said softly. "I was just confused, that's all. Don't beat yourself up for it." She retrieved the book and returned to her seat. She opened the book and set it on the bed beside him, pointing to the words. "I'm human and this is written in the krogan language. I might be able to understand you when you speak, but I can't read the same language."
He sighed and gathered the book in his hands. "Right." He slammed his fist against his crest as he muttered, "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
Watching him, Shepard wasn't sure what to think. In some areas, Grunt had grown into a proficient young man—in others, he still struggled. Some things could only come with age and maturity, and a little life experience on the side.
Shepard waited for his tantrum to subside and then said, "If you'd like to teach me a little, I wouldn't mind reading with you."
He turned those blue eyes onto her with a grin that reminded her of a sheepish little boy. "You'd do that for me?"
"Anything for my favorite krogan."