Garrus leaned against the wall next to the locker room. For once, he had finished his shift before Lily. His eyes wandered around at his fellow officers as they went about either starting or ending their shift. One foot tapped idly as he waited. Working in C-Sec wasn't exactly as he pictured it, but it did have a few perks going for it. Namely, a lot more time off duty that he could spend with Lily. The only thing they still struggled with was cooking. Apparently, neither of them was capable of producing anything even remotely edible on their own. He snorted in amusement at what their attempts the previous night had looked like.
"Most people don't find it funny when they get stood up," a feminine voice said from behind him.
His hand instinctively dropped down to his hip at the sudden intrusion into his thoughts; of course, he was off duty, so there was no gun for him to grab. Instead, he tried to make it look like he hadn't just gone for his gun as he turned to see who it was. The asari stood a little too close for his taste, but perhaps it was acceptable by her people's standards. He racked his brain trying to remember what that briefing had said was normal for interactions with asari. She gave him a warm smile. Her facial markings looked familiar and he was pretty sure he had seen her around before. At the tilt of her head as she waited for him to answer, he finally realized she had been talking to him.
"Hmm, no. I just finished first for a change is all. Err-"
"Officer Ayala T'Iomi."
"Right, you work Shalta ward. Garrus -"
Her smile widened. "I'm impressed you remembered. And it's Garrus Vakarian, one from the new class that just started. So that snort was about being done for the day?"
"Ah, no, it was amusement over last night's attempt at dinner."
She laughed. "That bad?"
"Oh, yes. The food vendors are making a fortune from us."
"You know, I could help you out."
"I had a roommate that was a turian. I was bored and she taught me how to make a few simple dishes."
"That would be great! I dreaded calling my mom for help. She'd tell my sister -"
"Oh, and that wouldn't be pretty."
Garrus laughed and shook his head. "No, it wouldn't."
"Why don't you come over, in, say, two hours. That should give me time to get some things done."
"Sure. What should I bring?"
"Here, let me send you a list and my address."
His omni-tool pinged and he pulled up the message. "Great, and thanks. I'll -"
"Leave your girlfriend at home. My kitchen is tiny; there won't be room for all of us and she would just be bored sitting around while we cook."
"Oh, okay. I know what you mean; we call our kitchen a closet."
"See you later, Garrus," Ayala said, her words accompanied by a little wave of her hand.
Garrus was still grinning when Lily finally emerged from the locker room. She gave him a small smile when she spotted him.
"I know, I know. You beat me today."
"Better than that, someone offered to teach me some simple turian dishes."
"No way! Your partner?"
"No, another officer - Ayala T'Iomi."
"Wait - isn't she the asari that works Shalta ward?"
"Yeah, she had a turian roommate and learned to cook from them and she offered to show me what she knows. I've got to pick up some stuff on the way home before I head over there."
Lily sighed and bumped him with her shoulder. "Lucky bastard. You're just afraid your mom will laugh like mine did."
Garrus chuckled. "I thought she was going to pass out from lack of breathing when you told her what happened to - what did you call it?"
"Pasta. How was I supposed to know that keeping it warm in the water while I finished making the sauce was a bad idea!"
"Right. Anyway, I didn't want my mom to hurt herself laughing, so now maybe I won't have to call her."
"I hate you."
Garrus dropped his arm around her shoulder. "Now, now, don't be like that. You'll figure it out...some day."
He dodged the elbow directed at him with a little side step as they headed out into the Citadel proper. Still laughing at her grumbling, they made their way to the market they frequently stopped at on their way home. There they had to split up as they each searched for what they needed. At the checkout, they fell into line behind each other. Garrus looked over into Lily's basket and saw that she had settled for packaged meals for what looked like the next few days. The list that Ayala had given him had seemed an odd mix, but he couldn't really say anything, since all his attempts at cooking had been just as disastrous as Lily's.
After Lily paid for her shopping, Garrus placed his items on the counter. The old turian laughed and shook his head at the jumble of things he was buying.
"Making another attempt, are you?"
Garrus grinned. "Yes, but this time someone is showing me what to do."
"Too bad. I was hoping to retire on your failed cooking."
"Ha! Very funny."
He bagged up his groceries and handed it to Garrus. "Who's joking?"
Garrus shook his head with a small laugh. Lily fell into step beside him.
"See, even the local grocer thinks we are doomed to packaged and take-out the rest of our lives."
"He's hoping anyway. So, how was your patrol?"
"I got to chase a pickpocket across half the station. At least it seemed that way. Let me tell you, salarians are not long distance runners."
Garrus laughed. "Your partner couldn't keep up?"
"Hell, no. I had to radio him when I finally caught the guy. He at least brought a squad car to pick us up. How was yours?"
"I had to convince a hanar that he wasn't allowed to preach without a permit and, well, not where he was either. That was my highlight."
She laughed. "Hard to believe we gave up chasing space pirates for this."
Garrus gently laid his hand against where he knew her scar lay. "I'm not sorry."
She smiled up at him. "Neither am I."
They had just arrived at their apartment when Garrus glanced down and saw the time.
"Crap. I've got to go or I'll be late."
Lily stood on her tiptoes in order to plant a kiss on him. "Try not to destroy her kitchen."
"Who, me? When I return, I'll hopefully have mastered at least one dish."
"If I were you, I would just hope for something edible."
He leaned down and nuzzled her neck. "You're just jealous that I'll be eating something fresh tonight." He gave her neck a lick. "Hmm, maybe more than one thing."
"You better hurry off then so you can get your ass back here to fulfill that second promise."
He gave her a crisp salute and headed back out. His strides lengthened as he tried to make up time from his dallying with Lily. It didn't take him long to find her apartment and he knocked. The door slid open and Ayala beckoned him in.
"Thank you again for taking the time to teach me."
"It will be fun," she said with a smile.
His gaze roamed around the space, easily three times where he and Lily lived, but then, she had been in C-Sec far longer than he had been alive. Soft music played in the background and he had to stop and listen for a moment.
"Wow, I haven't heard that in ages. My sister loved this group when I was growing up."
"Oh, what about you?"
"Not so much at the time. They mostly sang love songs."
"Ah, and now?"
Garrus gave a soft laugh. "I have more appreciation of them. Although I'm surprised you listen to them. Most non-turians can't hear all the nuances in the singing."
"I appreciate what I can hear and this was another gift from that roommate I told you about."
She drifted over to a counter and poured two glasses of something. She offered one to Garrus and he placed the bag of groceries down on the counter so he could take the glass. He took a tentative sip and when the liquor hit his tongue, he sighed with the richness of the taste.
"Oh, this is the good stuff. I probably shouldn't have any if I'm going to be cooking."
She shook her head with a grin. "Trust me, a little wine to relax you will make things go much easier. If you're too tense then that is when things tend to go wrong."
"Hmm, okay. You're the boss."
He lifted his glass in acknowledgement and took another sip. She emptied the groceries and put those that needed to be refrigerated away. He watched for a moment, his wine slowly disappearing.
"So, where do we start?"
She chuckled. "That's what I like about turians. It's always about making a plan of attack. Like a few other things, cooking can't be rushed."
An embarrassed hum left him. "Yeah, I found that out the hard way. Turning the oven up to make it cook faster doesn't really work that way."
She waved her hand and gestured to the bag of rortor in front of her. "Cut these up."
"That I can do."
She handed him a knife and cutting board. He opened the bag and proceeded to attack the poor vegetables. She laughed and moved in closer and stopped him from further destroying the innocent greens. She rested her hand over his and showed him how to cut with a smaller motion, which resulted in less crushed rortor. When her other hand moved in to caress his waist, he jumped away, his arms flailing about and nearly knocking her over in the process.
"Oh, um. I'm sorry, there must be a mistake -"
She laughed a rich, deep sound full of invitation. "I certainly hope not."
He shook his head and backed away from her as she stalked towards him. "No, I'm with someone. I really just came to cook. I'm sorry if you thought it was something more."
"This doesn't have to be complicated," she said as she followed him. "Just a little fun, and afterwards I'll teach you a dish so you won't have lied to her."
"Turians have more loyalty to their partners than that," he said with an angry shake of his head.
"Only when they are serious about them."
She took in the expression on his face and backed away. "Goddess, you are serious about her."
Garrus didn't answer her, just left the apartment as fast as he could. His appetite vanished somewhere along the way home. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of the door to their place. He keyed in the code and entered. Lily was on their sofa, they had bought it together, he thought vehemently, her dinner in her hands. Her eyebrows shot up at his sudden appearance. He dropped down heavily next to her. She bumped her shoulder against his side.
"She kick you out because you destroyed her kitchen?" she laughed.
He shook his head. Where had he gone wrong? "She wanted to teach me more than cooking. I got out of there as fast as I could. I'm sorry."
She wrapped her arm around him. "You have nothing to apologize for. You didn't take her up on her offer."
He tugged her onto his lap so he could bury his face in her neck. "Of course I didn't. I'm a terrible cop. I refused to see the signs."
"The soft romantic turian music. The wine. I bolted when she tried to grope my waist though."
"Garrus, it's okay. If someone offered to teach me how to cook, I would have gone as well."
"I mean she knew about us. It's not like we are subtle after work. I thought she understood that we are -" The word he wanted to put in there hung in his throat.
"More than that," he said. His voice was quiet, but rich with the tones he knew she couldn't hear.
She tugged on his chin until he lifted his head so she could look him in the eyes. "It's okay. She was a fool if she thought you could be lured away."
"She didn't want me, not really. She just wanted something casual, something meaningless. She didn't understand what you mean to me."
She smiled at him and pressed her forehead to his. "The same thing you mean to me. I guess we just muddle along until our mothers stop laughing long enough to give us some useful advice."
"Agreed. I'll call her later and you can listen to her tease me. Of course, that will be nothing compared to what Sol does when she hears."
"Sometimes it's good to be an only child."
They sat entwined a little while longer, neither of them willing to give up the touch of the other. Well, until Garrus's stomach made a loud noise of displeasure. They both chuckled and she climbed off his lap. He pressed his lips against her and left her on the sofa so he could find one of his packaged meals. They weren't so bad, and it was far better than the thought of losing her. He still hadn't told her how far he had spiraled down in those few days he had believed her gone from his life forever. She had never asked, and he wasn't quite ready to talk about it yet. Someday soon, he would.
~Thanks once more to Mordinette for her work as my beta, thank you!~