A/N: Welcome to the fifth chapter of Affection! I'm probably going to let this go for about ten to fifteen chapters, then wrap it up so that I can work on some other stories. Don't think this means that this universe is done, however, for there might be a sequel already in pre-conception stages! Not saying anything more on that, though. At least not for now.

I'd also like to thank Rogen80 and anonymous guest reviewer Beo the Wulf for their contributions via feedback. Your reviews of my story help me make it a little better each time, and for that I express my most sincere gratitude. Thank you.

At any rate, please enjoy this next chapter in the series, and I hope to hear feedback from all of you! Allons-y!


Reassurances

Written by Alistair Lowary

The bed was comfortable, and Tali loved every single minute she spent in it. And with Shepard at her side, every night's sleep was better than the last. So why was she still awake, staring at the ceiling hours after her lover had fallen into slumber? Her hands fiddled together, her fingers roughly massaging each other. She was nervous about something, though she didn't know what. That was something she hated, when unknown thoughts kept her up at night.

The quarian looked over at her boyfriend, who was snoring quietly. His arms were curled around her, his fingers laced together at the small of her back and hugging her tightly. His eyes were closed, and his expression was one of peace and tranquility. He murmured a few things in his sleep, likely bits and pieces of his dreams.

He was simply wonderful, Tali thought. He was a miracle in her life, someone who had come along two years ago and had saved her from death. He had taken her out on adventures aboard his ship, he had trusted her with his life. And then he had died. A frown crossed her features as she remembered his demise, the attack that had taken him from her. She hadn't even found the courage to hell him how she had felt about her, and then he had just... he had just gone.

But he had returned to her, even after all of that. Even after death, he still managed to come back to her. He had found her on Freedom's Progress, he had helped her rescue her friend. Shepard had even let her take Veetor back to the flotilla, despite the objections from his second-in-command. And his facial expression when she had so coldly refused to accompany him on his mission, that had killed her a little on the inside. It hadn't been anger, or disappointment, or any of those things. It had been sadness, pure and simple.

But then on Haestrom, Shepard had found her again. He had rescued her from near death, had kept her safe. And then they had gone off together, just like it had been in the old days. And then Shepard had told her the words she had waited to hear for the past two years of her life. He loved her. She remembered how shaken she had been at his confession, and how the first thing he had done was embrace her to quiet her tears. He had whispered soothing murmurs into her ear, so lovingly rubbing her back at the same time.

He was just so... so perfect, such a good man. Tali sniffled a little bit. She didn't deserve him, and she knew it. And she was certain it was reciprocal, as well. She did not deserve someone as good as Shepard, and he did not deserve someone as low as her. She couldn't provide him with kids, a family, anything. She couldn't even kiss him when she wanted to, and she knew that he was suffering because of her.

A tear fell down her cheek. She felt guilty. It was irrational, she wanted to believe. Shepard had told her that he'd love her, no matter what. But it seemed to her like he had said that to make her feel better about himself. There was no way he was truly happy with her, he couldn't be. Someone like him deserved someone who could provide for him, someone who could be with him without risk of death or serious illness.

She sobbed silently, shaking ever so slightly. Why did it have to be this way? Why did he let her bring him down like this? Why couldn't he just reject her like she knew he wanted to? "Damn it, Shepard... why do you have to be so sweet to me, especially when I don't deserve it?"

Tali could feel movement next to her, and Shepard's arms pulled even more against her, drawing her closer to him. Without any thought, she pushed him away and rolled over onto her side, her back facing her lover. She heard a sharp intake of breath, followed by Shepard sitting up in the bed. A hand rested on her shoulder, and she quickly jerked it away, biting her lip as she did so.

"Tali?" Shepard asked quietly, tentatively. "What's wrong? Are you all right?"

"I'm - I'm fine." She lied, burying her face in the pillow, trying to quiet her sniffles. "I just - never mind, Shepard." She let out a louder sob, and she curled her knees to her chest. She tried to pull the covers over her, trying to hide from the human.

"Please... please don't cry, Tali." Shepard said, concern evident in his voice. "Please... please let me help."

"No!" She cried out, much louder than intentional, as she turned to face him. "No, just... stop helping me! You do too much for me, and I... I can never repay you for all of it!" She lowered her head, crossing her arms across her chest. "You deserve someone who can, Shepard. Make you happy, I mean. I know that you say I make you happy all the time, and you take me out on dates and all, but..." Another sob wracked her body. "But I know I don't really make you happy. You just try to make me happy because you love me, and I can never do the same for you, and..."

"Tali," Shepard replied quietly, touching her cheek gently. "You do make me happy." He cupped the side of her face in his hand and caressed it carefully. "You make me so, so happy. If anything, the things I do for you pale in comparison with the things you do for me!"

She shook her head, tears falling down her cheeks as she sniffled. "That's impossible... I can't touch you during the day, I cannot kiss you when you want me to. I cannot do anything outside of my damn suit for a long time, I have to deny you the things you want most from me, and..."

"No..." Shepard whispered, taking her chin and bringing her head up to look at him. "All of the kissing, the sex... that's not what I want most from you, not at all." He smiled softly. "I want to love you, not just make love to you. Sometimes I just want to stand next to you and hold you in my arms, and I don't need you out of your suit for that." He chuckled, rubbing her arm lovingly. "Besides, you can still get out of your suit once and a while, and that just makes the time we have together that much more intimate."

"So, I really make you happy?" She asked, her voice hopeful and her eyes shining with love.

"More than any woman in the galaxy, Tali." The man pressed his lips to hers, and she savored the feeling. "When I say that I love you, I don't mean I love the sex we have. I do, of course, but it's not what I mean. I love you. As a person, not as an object. You are the most beautiful woman I've ever met, and even if I could never see you out of your suit again, my love for you would never change."

She felt as if she were about to cry. Her fears had been pushed aside, and she had been completely comforted by her boyfriend, the man she loved. "John Shepard, I love you too."

The commander smiled, then turned to look at his clock. "Tali, we've got six hours before we've got to get up and get you back in your suit. How about we just sit here and cuddle for a while?"

She beamed, and crawled across the bed to nestle herself in Shepard's arms. He kissed the top of her head, through her raven-black hair. "Promise me you'll never, ever change." She murmured, smiling up at him.

"Only if you can promise the same."

"I think I can manage that."


Chapter End Notes: Yeah, every story's got to have one of these conversations... I only hope I wrote it to your liking. Feel free to drop off a review! Keelah se'lai!