"Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood." -Laurence Sterne
After an evening spent cleaning their guns in her quarters (the height of romance: "Pass me that oil, will you?" no double-entendre intended), the next morning (well, perhaps some double-entendre intended) Shepard found a scope mod she was certain didn't belong to her. It made her smile a little, because Garrus must have been very distracted if he'd left tech behind. Tucking it into her pocket, she headed down to the battery.
When she entered, she found Garrus on his back, torso hidden within one of the crawlspaces beneath the Thanix, elbows-deep in wiring.
"Shepard?" he asked, voice muffled. "That you? Need me for something?"
She crouched down beside him and passed him the tool he was blindly reaching for. "Nope," she said. "Just returning the mod you left behind before you panicked and wondered where the hell you put it."
Shepard only noticed the way he froze—just for an instant—because she was already looking at him. And because it was so very, very rare to catch Garrus Vakarian off-guard.
"Left it for you, actually," he said, after a heartbeat too long and in a tone just a little too strained to match the casualness of the words themselves.
"Really?" She peered at the little device. Sure enough, now that she looked closely it was definitely calibrated to fit her Black Widow and not his Mantis. Huh.
Garrus hauled himself out from under the machinery. This, too, made her smile. Only he could manage to maintain an above-average level of cocky swagger while half-sprawled on his back, propped up on one elbow, with some kind of mechanical fluid smeared across his nose and down his unscarred cheek.
"Noticed those Cerberus smoke bombs were giving you some trouble last time we were out." She knew him well enough to recognize the vague discomfiture when he continued, "It's thermal. Uh. It's got a pretty good optical zoom on it, but I couldn't quite get it to auto-target with the same sensitivity as your old scope. Not that it matters, right? It's not like you need the help—"
She shut him up with a kiss.
It was, truthfully, her very favorite way of shutting him up. Always so damned effective.
He blinked at her. "It's nothing, really," he insisted, with just enough emotion to give voice to the whiteness of his lie. Instead of drawing attention to it, she kissed him again.
"It is customary," she said, "to let someone know you're giving them a gift. You don't just leave it where they might never notice it and hope for the best."
After using the end of her sleeve to scrub the worst of the oil from his face, she pressed a third kiss to his flat nose. It twitched beneath her lips and he gave a little shiver. "What's all that for?" he asked, in the lower, huskier voice he rarely used but that thrilled her every time it made an appearance.
"It's also customary for a gift receiver to show gratitude to the gift giver." She grinned. "You know, once she realizes a gift's been given and her boyfriend's not just a slob who leaves his shit lying around."
This time she was close enough to actually feel him go still. One second of silence became two, then three. "I've seen the state of your bathroom," he finally murmured before the silence became awkward, sitting up and wrapping an arm around her waist, pulling her onto his lap. "No comment."
She sent a slantwise glance at the door, but Garrus only chuckled against her shoulder. "Locks automatically when you come in," he explained. "You know. Just in case you need me for some uninterrupted top-secret war talk."
"Mmm," she said. "I could definitely go for some uninterrupted top-secret war talk, come to think of it."
He smirked. "You're in luck. I had a message from the primarch this morning outlining troop movements near—"
She kissed him again. He obliged her by once again shutting up and, instead, turning his attention to momentarily more important things.
Worked every time, kissing.
A few weeks later, after an eternally long day spent playing politician, she stumbled up to her quarters in a haze of hunger and exhaustion. The idea of braving the mess was beyond her, so when she opened the door and found Garrus reading at her desk with a covered plate of food—real food, even, not one of the ubiquitous protein bars swiftly becoming the primary staple of her diet—at his elbow, she felt tears prickle her eyes.
"Tell me that's levo," she pleaded, blinking the tears away before he noticed them. Or before she admitted to herself they were there in the first place.
(Exhaustion and hunger did strange things to a person. Under normal circumstances food would never make her cry. Or so she almost succeeded in convincing herself.)
Garrus glanced at her over his shoulder and smiled. "If it isn't?"
"I will have you court-martialed for… for torture of a commanding officer. Or something."
He nudged the plate toward her. "Sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare."
She was half a dozen bites into reconstituted spaghetti and tomato sauce before she found voice enough to ask, "How did you know?"
"Unparalleled powers of observation." He gestured with his omni-tool arm. "Also, I have spies."
She snorted and nearly choked on a noodle. "That court-martial's not entirely off the table."
With exaggerated patience, he folded his hands over his midsection, leaned back in the chair and explained, "Having some experience in these matters, observation told me you'd come here rather than dealing with the potential minefield of the mess. Private Westmoreland sent me a message when you left the War Room. And unless I'm mistaken, Traynor waylaid you long enough to ensure I'd already be here waiting with food by the time you arrived."
"Damn," she said, twirling her fork through the noodles. "Guess that explains why this is still hot. Think I'll just retire now and let you run the rest of this campaign. You seem to have everything well in hand."
"And let someone else take credit for all that Reaper ass-kicking?" He chuckled. "Eat your dinner, Shepard. We both know you're not going anywhere."
She winkled her nose, took a giant mouthful of food, and let herself wonder where the real cheese had come from and how Garrus had known exactly how much pepper she liked sprinkled on top.
Unparalleled powers of observation indeed.
Returning early from an N7 drop-and-retrieve mission with Vega and Kaidan, tired and sweaty and vaguely annoyed that someone with a little less on their plate couldn't have been dispatched for something as banal as information retrieval, Shepard found Garrus in her (their?) quarters, painstakingly detailing the favorite hardsuit she simply hadn't had time to fix herself since a badly timed tactical cloak failure combined with an exploding mech and a well-placed bullet put the chest-plate out of commission.
(It was better if she didn't think how close the same perfect storm had come to putting her out of commission.)
Garrus had repaired the hole, buffed out the worst of the wear and tear, and was repainting the scratched N7 designation. A quick glance told her he'd already done the stripe down the right arm; the red and white gleamed in a way it hadn't done since the first time she saw combat with it.
"Is this your version of turian Grissom Academy?" she asked, reaching for a joke because her heart felt suddenly constricted by his thoughtfulness. "I know you said you wanted to learn how to paint…"
The strange things his laugh did to her stomach had nothing to do with hunger or the remnants of combat adrenaline. "I'm not using Reaper blood, if that's what you're afraid of."
She watched in silence as he finished the last of the white and settled the armor on the table to dry.
"So tell me," she asked as conversationally as she could manage with her throat still tight, "is this a turian thing? Or a Garrus thing?"
His response was most definitely a Garrus-thing: he somehow managed to attain posture that incorporated both swagger and awkwardness at the same time, leaning back and crossing one ankle over the other knee (swagger), while his fingers drummed out an uneven rhythm against his thigh (awkwardness). "Don't know what you mean."
She lifted an utterly unconvinced eyebrow, giving the armor a significant glance, and he replied with a one-shouldered shrug. "I had time—"
"No one has time to paint perfect little N7s on old hardsuits."
His huffed breath wasn't quite cheerful enough to be considered another laugh. Leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, his bearing shifted until it was a little less bluster and a little more laid bare. He bent his head and whatever he saw on the ground between his feet was fascinating enough to keep him silent for several interminable moments.
"It's a Shepard thing," he admitted, and she squinted and made a face as she attempted to puzzle out the subtleties of his tone. He glanced at her and his mandibles gave a decidedly sheepish twitch. "It's… maybe it's a Shepard and Vakarian thing." He lifted his hands, almost placating. "I know how it looks—"
"Garrus, I'm not—"
He winced as he interrupted, "No one in the galaxy is more aware how capable you are of looking after yourself and I can see how it might seem like I'm, I don't know, second-guessing that competence by overstepping and—"
It took a leap down the short flight of stairs and two long steps to reach him. He was still murmuring something that sounded suspiciously like an apology, so she didn't hesitate, she merely flung herself onto his lap, straddling his hips, bringing her hands up to cup his face. It was almost as effective a method of silencing him as kissing, but afforded her a better view of his expression. His gaze met hers, unblinking, and she felt the flutter of his smile beneath her palms. Without breaking their eye contact, she brought her forehead to his brow.
Her words like a kiss between them, she agreed in a whisper, "It's a Shepard and Vakarian thing. I'm good with that. I… appreciate it. That's all. I really appreciate it."
His nod was so slight she'd have missed it if she were any farther away, and then he reached up and pulled the tie from her hair, running his hands through the fall as it settled around her shoulders. Leaning into his touch, she parted her lips to say more, but Garrus only laughed—a real laugh this time, low and thrilling—and brought his mouth to hers.
Kissing, she decided, was an excellent method of shutting her up, too, when it came right down to it.
Not that she was complaining.
Even if she was going to have a hell of a time cleaning up that spilled container of paint later. It was worth it.