Author's note: Happy birthday, dear Reyavie! Have some adorkable Garrus and Shepard on me!
Miranda had once had ears all over the Normandy, and not a few eyes. Standard Cerberus operating precautions – somebody had to know everything that was going on, and Miranda preferred to be that person, particularly after that little Wilson incident on her previous project. If Nobhi hadn't died during the event, Miranda would have executed him for letting it happen.
Her coverage of the Normandy was no longer as complete as she would like. So many aliens on board, and a few of them were quite disturbingly intelligent. Mordin, for example, had politely dropped one of her most expensive bugs on her desk, cheerfully prattling about the superiority of ocular nerve flashbangs over cyanide capsules for operative damage limitation (she'd included that suggestion in her report to the Illusive Man). Tali'Zorah, on the other hand, had swept the engine room completely clean, conducted irregular checks, and glared at Miranda whenever they met. If it weren't for the micro-bugs on Daniels's and Donnelly's uniforms, she wouldn't have a clue what went on down there.
The quarian had cleaned out a few more areas, like Shepard's cabin and the main battery where the turian nested, but didn't double-check them, allowing Miranda to re-establish her bugs there. They were of limited use, admittedly. Shepard spent very little time in her cabin and Miranda only had audio there anyway (Shepard's starving fish had twice eaten Miranda's camera before she'd given up on it), and there was a lot of extraneous noise in the main battery. Vakarian was also the dullest surveillance subject Miranda had ever known; he ate, slept and calibrated when Shepard wasn't around, and reminisced when she was.
Miranda kept an ear on them anyway, for the principle of the thing. There was nothing to concern her, until a certain conversation one day sent her scurrying back to her files on one Janeway Shepard (parents Inara and Vader, brother Sisko - colonies and their naming conventions!) to try and discover how she could possibly have missed the fact that Cerberus, the foremost human-supremacy group on the galaxy, had spent an ungodly amount of money to resurrect a raging xenophile.
It started innocently enough. Shepard was keeping him company as he worked, her bendy human legs tucked up under her in that way that always made his eyes water. If Garrus had tried it, he'd be lucky just to break a spur. Almost absently, his head full of firing algorithms, he was telling her a story about some of the differences between a turian ship and a human one.
"... ended up holding a tiebreaker in her quarters," Garrus said, his mandibles flexing at the memory. "I had reach, but she had flexibility. More than one way to work off stress, I guess."
Shepard tilted her head – another of those weird human gestures. "Well, never let it be said that I don't pay attention to the traditions of the non-humans aboard." Her voice turned low and husky, as though she was trying to imitate the resonance of a turian voice. "Let me ease that stress you're carrying, Garrus."
His mandibles fluttered. Had she just – surely she didn't mean - "I, ah, didn't think you'd feel like sparring, Commander."
She shook her head. "Let's skip right to the tiebreaker," and damn if she didn't hit just the right note to get him all hot under the crest. "My quarters. We can test your reach and my flexibility – Earth style."
"Earth style?" he parroted back, too flustered to say anything intelligent, certain he was missing at least half the context. Surely Shepard wasn't really hitting on him? Surely he wasn't...
"Oh, yes," Shepard said, with a grin Garrus had seen often enough to categorise as pure evil. She stepped in. "Do a little research for me, Vakarian, and let me know." He could feel her warm, strangely-scented breath against the side of his face as she murmured one word. "I won't hold it against you if you don't want to play. But consider yourself challenged."
"Well, you know me," Garrus managed to get out. "Can't resist a challenge."
"I do know you," Shepard purred, one hand on the battery door. "I look forward to knowing you even better, Garrus. Seeing just what... you're made of. What you can handle in really close quarters." She sauntered away, soft human rump swinging.
Garrus stared after her, mandibles hanging slack.
The only thing he was sure about was that he had some serious research to do.
It took a while – there was some business on Illium to take care of, and a prolonged trip to medbay after too close an encounter with a canister of red sand. Then there was a new member of the crew to meet, and privacy, in short, was hard to come by.
Eventually, though, after a few mishaps and detours on the extranet, including catastrophic atmospheric conditions on Earth and a human extruded snack product, Garrus found what he was looking for. Some of the pictures... Spirits. And when he substituted Shepard and himself for a pair of the... participants...
He was a bad, bad turian.
He sent some incoherent jumble of words to Shepard's omnitool, and she showed up in the main battery a bare hour later.
"Look, Commander," Garrus said as she leant on the closed door, "I have to admit this is a little... strange. Awkward interpecies thing. I mean, you humans really do this? For fun?" He couldn't seem to stop his mandibles from fluttering. "This isn't more of your weird Earth humour, is it?"
She did that thing where her eyes got bigger. It seemed to be a trick to invoke the vulnerability of young mammals and inspire protective feelings. Fortunately he was the wrong species for it to be effective; he just wondered whether her eyes could fall out of their lids.
"Would I do that?" Shepard asked.
"Okay, yes. I would," she admitted. "But I'm not. Back on the old Normandy, I talked Liara into it-"
"Shepard, in those days you could've talked Liara into anything."
"- plus Ashley."
"All three of you? Together?" The mental image was... intriguing. He'd never thought of himself as a pervert or a xenophile (although he was starting to) but he just had to ask. What was that nonsensical human saying? Something like 'asking questions leads to dead cats'? "How did you all... fit?"
Shepard grinned, as if she'd anticipated the question. "Very carefully. And with a certain amount of pushing and shoving."
"Ah... rrright." Change of subject. Right now.
Well, maybe only a little.
"So when do you want to hold this... tiebreaker?"
"Whenever you're game, Garrus." She grinned at him. "Just give me enough notice to set up and brief EDI."
"It is a tiebreaker. We need somebody to adjudicate."
The glowing form of the ship's AI popped up. "I am also fully versed in both human and turian physiology, and can assist you in finding maintainable positions."
Shepard frowned at it. "EDI, that's cheating. Log us out."
"Logging you out, Shepard."
"I swear, I've never once logged in." Shepard huffed her breath out her nose, one of those non-verbal signals (humans had so many!) Garrus had never decoded. "Don't wear your armour, Garrus. It'll only make things... harder for both of us."
"Hard isn't all that bad," he said, and flexed his mandibles in embarrassment at the tone he could hear creeping into his own voice. "This is a challenge, after all."
"I'm going to enjoy winning, Vakarian," Sheppard said, and blew him a kiss (he just happened to recognise that one) on her way out.
It took a couple of weeks for Garrus to admit that he was probably as prepared as he was going to get – weeks that he spent researching all sorts of things he'd never admit in public, and practicing some very odd stretches.
He snuck up to Shepard's cabin, feeling furtive and very exposed without his armour. It'd been years since he'd worn civvies aboard a ship, and he'd forgotten how light they were.
He knocked, and heard EDI's voice through the door. "Shepard, Officer Vakarian is requesting entry."
"Let him in."
The door hissed open, and there was Shepard, frowning at the dead fish in her tank. Between its blue light and the skin-tight black fabric, Garrus could see every alien curve of her body, the outline of her muscles – spirits, humans liked to advertise their vulnerability, didn't they? How had a species so soft, its weak spots so clearly advertised, survived so long?
Yeah. He thought very hard about the scientific aspect, not about the fact that he was here in Shepard's cabin at night, at her invitation, she was rather underdressed – by her usual standards, at least – and that her short hair was sticking out in spikes that looked almost like a female's crest...
He made some moronic comment about the floor-covering, and her grin widened.
"Ready for me, Garrus?"
"You're going down, Shepard."
As the audio feed from Shepard's cabin trickled into her earpiece, Miranda was fiercely glad that she no longer had visuals. Duty dictated that she would have had to review it, and - well, there were some things no red-blooded human should be expected to see and remain sane. Unfortunately, Miranda had an excellent imagination.
"Garrus, your spur is sticking in my – "
"If you will move your feet to the position indicated," EDI said, "you should both find yourselves a good deal more comfortable."
"I can't do that," Shepard told her flatly. "In case you haven't noticed, my legs don't bend that way."
"Well, that explains a lot," Garrus muttered.
"Like the time you broke your leg on Altehe."
"You bastard! You swore never to mention that again!"
"If you follow these steps – " The AI interjected quietly.
"EDI!" Shepard snapped. "No cheating!"
"Damn, was that blue or red?"
"It was blue, Officer Vakarian."
"Get your own spot, Garrus. This one's mine."
There was grunting. There was giggling. There were so many things Miranda didn't want to think about.
"My hand goes where? I can't reach that, Shepard. You'd have to spread your legs much wider for me to have a hope of reaching that!"
"I'm practically doing the splits as it is, Vakarian, and I'm really not comfortable in this position!"
"So much for your vaunted flexibility."
"Your reach isn't looking much better, turian."
"Commander Shepard, Officer Vakarian, please regard this helpful diagram."
"Not that hand. That hand is fine where it is. Move the other one."
"Ohhhh, that's much better."
"Get off, Garrus, you're squishing me!"
"I'm going to fall over, I need to put a knee down!"
"According to the database, Officer Vakarian, that would indicate your surrender."
"Not happening, Shepard."
"That's not how you're supposed to do it, Garrus."
"How am I supposed to know that? I've never done this before! And there is something terribly wrong with any species who considers this recreational."
"I thought you were enjoying yourself?"
"Yeah, but I'm a bad turian."
There was not enough ryncol in the galaxy to blot this out. Miranda found herself wondering if a lobotomy would help. She diverted the rest of the feed to the Illusive Man – let him handle it, while she went and found a large hammer to apply to her forebrain. She wasn't getting paid enough to listen to the sordid sexual perversities of an alien and a zombie.
"You can't keep this up forever, Vakarian!"
"Oh, I can go all night, Shepard. I've barely started. The question is, can you keep up?"
Eventually they collapsed, laughing and panting, into a tangle of aching limbs. Her head was on his waist, one of his spurs was trapped between her thighs, and he didn't mind at all. Stress? What was that?
"Next time -" Garrus said, with a certain hesitancy.
"What makes you think there'll be a next time, Vakarian?"
"Because I won, and you're too competitive to let that stand."
"You..." Shepard sighed. "You know me too well."
"For my sins. So, next time, can we invite Tali?"
He didn't have to see her face to know how she would be grinning. "And Mordin."
Garrus paused and considered this. "Do you think he would?"
"For science? Fuck yeah he would."
He carefully detangled himself from Shepard, and offered her a hand up, off the somewhat crumpled plastic sheet with its rows of coloured dots. "Humans have the oddest ideas." He stood looking down at her, small and laughing, alien, familiar, his best friend in the whole galaxy. "I have to admit, when I started searching on 'Twister', I expected to turn up some exotic sexual practice."
"Oh?" Her voice dropped into that husky lower register again. "Disappointed?"
"Ah..." Well. This was Shepard. He could say it. She'd understand. "More than a little."
Her hand brushed over his ruined mandible. "Well, I'm game for that, too."
"Oh, really?" Not his smoothest line, but the best he could manage with his mandibles attempting to fall off his face. "Then I've got an awful lot of research to do."