A/N: I'm sorry it took me this long to add a new chapter to this story, and big, big thanks to all of you who are still here to read it. I was stuck on the next chapter for a very long time; I had an idea, but I just didn't like what I wrote. Then I got sidetracked by another story (Field Training), and I didn't have enough time to work on both at the same time.
This weekend, however, I got a prompt at tumblr which fitted this story quite well, so I decided to write it, and add that fill here. The prompt was, "I love you a lot, but please stop trying to cook me dinner, you suck" by Zendelai. I hope you'll enjoy this chapter!
Big thanks to Suilven for beta reading.
The first time Shepard tried her hand at turian cuisine, it nearly sent Garrus to the hospital.
He knew he was in trouble as soon as he cut into the chunk of haffa meat on his plate. The outside appeared to be cooked well enough; the inside, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. It sat in a bloody mess, rather raw and unappetizing, staring back at Garrus as he sat gaping at the... thing in front of him.
"Well? Dig in," Shepard said, chewing happily on her own food—which, despite it being one of those slippery noodle dishes he'd always found a little bit revolting, seemed positively more appealing right now than his own menu choice, chirality issues be damned.
Garrus took a deep breath and put a chunk of the oozing mess in his mouth. His ancestors used to hunt live game and eat their meat raw; what harm could it do to choke some of it down now?
As it later turned out, plenty. He spent the rest of the night in bed, writhing in pain, clutching his stomach in a futile effort to ease the cramps tearing at his insides and rushing to the bathroom every ten minutes to flush out the results of Shepard's culinary efforts from his body.
"I'm sorry," Shepard said, her mouth drooping down in abject misery as she sat by his side and ran an apologetic hand up and down his arm.
"It's all right," he whispered, barely able to talk. "I still appreciate the effort."
The truth, however, was that he hoped she'd never try cooking a turian meal again.
Unfortunately, the spirits refused to grant his wish.
A few days later, Shepard surprised him with another failed attempt.
This time, the food was actually cooked. Which was good; Garrus had no intention of going through another bout of cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea again. Alas, being thoroughly cooked was the only thing that worked in favor of the meal the love of his life had prepared for him.
His trouble started when he attempted to stab the piece of luceris with his fork. The tines of his utensil bounced right off, hitting the plate with a loud clink instead. That was a bad sign, a really bad sign, but he couldn't give in now: Shepard was watching, and he was not about to disappoint her.
So, he made another valiant attempt, holding one side of the food in place with his knife. This time, his fork pushed in, though it took quite an effort, and eventually he managed to cut a piece off. One glance at the charred remains of the precious ingredient Shepard had somehow acquired despite the limited supplies of dextro food available after the war confirmed his suspicion: the whole thing was burnt, through and through, with not a molecule of actually enjoyable part left for him to consume.
Nevertheless, he soldiered on and put the piece in his mouth, feigning a pleased hum as he scrunched and crunched the rock-hard, tasteless lump until he could actually swallow it.
"I might have cooked it a bit too long," Shepard said, smiling sweetly as she twirled a blob of spaghetti onto her own fork.
"No, it's fine," Garrus lied. "I'm just not very hungry right now. I think I'll eat it later."
Much later, he thought, when you're not around and I can get rid of it without having to put any more of this in my mouth.
Two weeks passed by without Shepard making any more attempts at cooking another turian dish, and Garrus finally started to relax, thinking that he'd dodged a bullet and there were going to be no more awkward dinner dates with uncooked food or pieces of carbonized meat for him to suffer through.
So, when he came home one evening after a grueling day of dealing with the issues surrounding the rebuilding and resupplying efforts of the turian fleet still stationed around Earth, wishing for nothing more than a plain old packet of rations and a bottle of beer and a lovely night with his wife, the last thing he'd expected was for his nostrils to be assaulted in the kitchen with the most foul stench he'd ever smelled—and that included the horrible odors he could still remember from his time on Omega.
He didn't even have to ask what that awful smell was; a quick glance at the dinner table was enough to confirm his worst fear—Shepard had played turian chef and failed, rather miserably, again.
"Surprise!" Shepard said, waving an arm at the table, her eyes shining and her lips curling into a pleased grin when she saw him walk through the door.
Garrus suppressed a sigh and strolled up to his wife to press his forehead against hers. "Uh, thanks."
She wove her arms around his neck and pulled his head down for a proper kiss, then she turned him around and pushed him towards his seat.
"According to Solana, this is your favorite meal. I hope you'll like it; I think it turned out pretty well!" Her hands slid down to his waist and lingered there for a moment as she leaned closer to his ear canal and whispered, her hot breath fanning the sensitive skin on the side of his neck, "Dessert will be served in bed."
She let go of him and walked over to her seat, plopping down with a satisfied smirk on her face.
Garrus shivered, mourning the loss of her hand and the warmth of her presence by his side, and reluctantly lowered himself onto his chair. How could he refuse eating this food now? The answer, of course, was that he couldn't.
He suppressed a sigh and took a bite, hoping that it was going to taste better than it looked and smelled. Unfortunately, it didn't. It was absolutely vile.
For a brief moment, he considered forcing himself to eat the rest of the meal and lying about how much he enjoyed it, just to make Shepard happy. She did manage to cook it through without burning it to a crisp, after all, which was definitely some progress. But then, the image of a thousand more horrible dinners flashed up in his mind, and he decided that he just couldn't take that. He just couldn't. This had to stop, here and now.
He put down his fork and reached over to gently cover Shepard's hand with his own.
"Sweetheart," he said, hoping that what he was going to say wasn't going to send him to the couch for the next two weeks. "You know I love you. A lot. But please, stop trying to cook me dinner. You suck at it."
To his relief, Shepard merely tilted her head and smiled. "I admit that cooking is not my strongest suit, and I'd be lying if I said I actually enjoyed it."
Garrus's shoulders relaxed and he couldn't help releasing a pleased sigh. Unfortunately, Shepard was not done yet, and what she said next made his mandibles clamp down close to his face again.
"But," she went on, "that doesn't mean I don't want to learn and get better. And I'll be damned if I give up so easily. If you could learn to cook human dishes when I was recovering after the war, then so can I. I mean, cook turian dishes. You'll see."
Garrus almost let out a disappointed groan, but caught himself in time. He shook his head instead and decided to try to reason with her. As stubborn as she could be, she was also one of the smartest, most practical people he'd ever known—so, maybe, with the proper approach, the situation could still be salvaged.
"Yes, but I had help," he said. "Kaidan was there to teach me. You don't know how many mistakes I made before I actually cooked my first edible levo meal. You, on the other hand, have nobody to teach you. I'm not exactly the best cook, and I don't know anybody else who could—"
Shepard gave him a grin and waved a hand. "I do."
"There's someone who could teach me. And she knows exactly what you like."
Garrus's browplates lowered in a frown. He knew that look. She was up to something; something he was not going to be too happy about. He was almost afraid to ask, but there was no turning back now. "Who?"
Well, he'd been right. He did not like where this was going. "My sister is on Palaven."
"Yes, she is. And she's been trying to get us to go and visit them for quite a while. Maybe it's time to do just that. And before you say you're too busy," she added, raising a hand to stop any complaint on his part, "I've already talked to the primarch. He said it would be a great idea for us to go to Palaven. There's plenty to do there, too, and it would help morale if the people saw one of their most famous war heroes visit their planet."
Garrus leaned back in his chair and folded his arms in front of his chest. "It won't be that easy, you know. Sure, my sister has been rather approving of our relationship, and apparently has been quite chatty with you," he shook his head, wondering what else these two had been talking about behind his back, "but my father's attitude towards our bonding is an entirely different matter. If we visit Solana, we'll have to visit him, too. And that will be no fun, I can assure you."
Shepard's lips pulled back into a confident smile. "I think I can handle him." Her expression turned more serious and she reached across the table to touch his hand. "It's time to go home, Garrus. It will be fine, you'll see."
He gave her a long, uncertain look before he huffed out a resigned sigh and dropped his arms onto the table. "Fine. I'll make the arrangements tomorrow."
"Good." She stood up and walked over to the fridge, pulling out a box. "I got this for you just in case my newest cooking effort turned into another disaster. I hope you'll like this one better than what I made."
She took his plate and put the box down in front of him, and Garrus opened it with unbridled curiosity. He had to swallow as his gaze fell on the contents; it was a full shank of smoked and expertly aged corious ham, gloriously dark and spicy and alluring as it lay stuffed into the confines of the container.
"Where did you get this?" he asked, unable to stop himself from tearing into the flesh and stuffing a sweet, sweet chunk into his mouth.
Shepard laughed as she dumped the contents of her culinary experiment into the recycling unit. "You like it? Adrien found it somewhere. I think it used to belong to the private stash of an indoctrinated government official." She turned around to face Garrus and gave him a wink. "It's all yours now."
Garrus swallowed the piece and took a gulp of water, but before he'd put the glass back down on the table, his hand froze in the air and his eyes narrowed as he stared at his wife. "Wait a minute. Did you make all those terrible meals just to get me to go to Palaven?"
Shepard clutched her chest in exaggerated hurt. "Of course not. I'd never do something like that to you. Well, not the first two times, at least." She chuckled at Garrus's exasperated groan, and went on. "I really did want to learn how to make you some turian dishes. You were so sweet when you cared for me while I was recuperating; I wanted to reciprocate somehow. Then, after my second attempt, I asked Solana for help, and she said she could teach me if we visited them. I figured that would be as good a reason as any to finally get you to go. She misses you, you know. And I want to meet her and the rest of your family. Even your father."
Garrus licked his fingers and sighed. "Don't say I haven't warned you. He won't be fun. At all."
"I know. But still."
With his belly full and the air cleared (and the promise of no more horrible meals he'd have to suffer through) Garrus felt much better now. He tilted his head and raked his gaze up and down Shepard's body. "So… how about that desert you promised?"
Shepard's lips quirked up into a smirk. She opened the fridge again, pulled out a small tub, and held it up into the air. From his position, Garrus could just catch the description on the tub. Edible body paint. "You like turian chocolate, right?"
Without waiting for an answer, she sashayed out of the kitchen and headed to their bedroom, taking the tub with her.
Forget that beautiful chunk of corious meat; chocolate, especially if it adorned the body of his love, was definitely Garrus's favorite food.
"Do I ever!" he yelled after his wife, and hurried to join her in their bed.