A/N: So, another femShep/Garrus story... Well, what can I say? I just love this couple. :D
I wrote this story because I wanted to explore a Mass Effect universe where there are no Reapers, but several of my favorite characters are still brought together by one circumstance or another, and where they still develop that special kind of relationship that made the games so memorable for me. This is a Garrus/FemShep story, so if you're a fan of that couple, I hope you'll enjoy this fic. To the readers who are only here for Kasumi and Jondum Bau, I'm sorry to disappoint: although they both appear in Field Training, they are not a pair in this story. Even so, I hope you can still enjoy the fic for Garrus and FemShep and all the other characters that pop up here and there.
Big thanks to Tuffet37 for being my advisor/sounding board, and to KabiViolet for beta reading.
Jondum Bau could never understand other races' irrational need for darkness during the Presidium's artificial night cycle. Granted, the carefully-simulated black sky provided a pleasing backdrop for the shimmering lights that outlined the offices, shops, and other establishments in this part of the Citadel during the late hours, but as far as he was concerned, it was all just wasted resources that could have been better spent on other things.
Like actual, proper exterior lighting. He definitely could have used some of that right now.
He let out a rather undignified groan as he rubbed his foot and softly cursed whoever it was that had left something so hard and unyielding right next to the entrance door. His aching toes sufficiently soothed, he lifted his left arm and fired up his omni-tool to enter his access code to the apartment's VI. The system went through the extensive verification procedure he had set up for his security system, and in a few moments the lights finally came on with a comforting hum.
He blinked a few times to let his eyes adjust to the sudden brightness, and once he got his vision back, he walked around, evaluating every piece of furniture, every little detail in the spacious room.
All seemed to be in order, except for the entry table that he had stubbed his toes on. He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes as he contemplated this new variable; he was certain that item had not been so close to the door before he'd left for his last mission.
He carefully deposited his bag on the floor and, without taking another step, brought up his omni-tool once again to scan the table and its surroundings for an explosive device. The results were negative, which was somewhat comforting, but it wasn't quite enough to put him at ease, so he tiptoed to the offending piece of furnishing and examined it inch by inch.
There were no outward signs of any tempering with the structural integrity of the item, but that didn't mean that somebody hadn't had an ulterior motive in changing its position. Maybe they'd put a listening device behind it on the wall; it wouldn't have been the first time, and certainly not the last, for an adversary to try to get the upper hand by such devious methods.
He grabbed the top and gently pushed until the table was back in its usual place. The wall behind it was clear; the carpet under it, however, was not.
"Chel," Bau growled in exasperation as he examined the bright blue stain blooming in an abstract shape on the light beige flooring. It appeared to have come from some kind of a cleaning fluid. If he looked closely, he could even see the faint outline of a bucket that had pressed into the lush carpet's pile, leaving a tamped down ring and a few more drops of blue splotches in its wake.
He straightened up, shaking his head, and headed into the kitchen to make himself a cup of herbal tea. This was what you got when you gave in to your family's nagging despite your reservations: an idiot cousin for a housekeeper who could never do anything right.
Bau settled down in front of his computer and allowed himself a sip of the steaming liquid before he deposited the mug onto the desk and turned on the display to check his mail. A quick scan revealed a few encrypted notes from some of his contacts, a notification from the Requisitions Office about a new weapon he might consider purchasing, and a message from the Council that flashed an urgent red.
Having just returned from a grueling trip, he wasn't really looking forward to another lengthy assignment so soon, no matter how much he loved his work, but he dutifully clicked on the subject line and opened the missive.
'Spectre Bau,' it read, 'Please contact me at your earliest convenience.'
His heart nearly skipped a beat when he got to the signature: the letter was from Councilor Tevos.
He swallowed past the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat and entered the code with unsteady fingers to put in a call to the beautiful asari.
"Ah, Spectre Bau," the Councilor's smooth voice drifted from the holo display as her image shimmered to life. "Thank you for answering my message. I need your help."
Bau sat up a bit straighter in his chair, thrilled beyond words that she was asking for his assistance with whatever it was she needed, and gave an encouraging wave of his hand. "Anything. Anything at all."
Tevos awarded him with a smile, which did wonderful things to his chest. "It's about two new Spectre candidates. Both of them are on the Citadel at the moment, and they both were supposed to start their training tomorrow. Unfortunately," she continued, pressing her fingers together in a graceful gesture, "neither Spectre Kryik nor Spectre Vasir have returned from their respective missions in time to begin the mentoring program."
Jondum tilted his head as he drank in the asari's words. She had a very pleasant voice, and those patterns on her face were so delicate—
"I know this is a bit sudden, but I was wondering if you would be willing to step in and lend us your knowledge and experience in training one of these candidates? They have both taken leave from their official positions and are ready to go out in the field. You could have your pick of the two; we'll try to find another mentor for the one left behind."
She waited for a few seconds, expecting the salarian to say something, but he merely stared at her with those big, black eyes, so she cleared her throat and went on. "Naturally, you will be compensated for your efforts and will be provided with all the resources and support you need. So, can I count on you, Spectre?"
"Oh," Bau finally croaked out, "of course. I'll be happy to assist."
"Excellent." Tevos raised her arm to activate her omni-tool and tapped on a few holographic keys. "I have sent you their files. Please look through them carefully, and once you've made your decision, let me know which candidate you would like to work with. And thank you."
She flashed him a wonderful smile before her visage disappeared and Bau was left staring at the flickering static on his holo display.
His reverie was interrupted by a ping on his computer. A glance at the interface confirmed that the files had arrived, and he opened the first folder to check what exactly he had agreed to.
'Shepard, Jane. Human. Commanding Officer of the SSV Normandy under Captain David Anderson, Systems Alliance.
Born: April 11, 2154, Mindoir. Entire family killed during a batarian slavers raid on the colony.
Joined the human military at the age of 18. Graduate of the Systems Alliance N7 special forces program.
Trained in biotic and tech powers and a wide range of weapons. Exhibits outstanding military and leadership skills.
Recipient of the Star of Terra award for her heroic actions during the attack on the human colony Elysium.'
Bau's head bobbed up and down as he read the commander's psych profile and service record. Oh, yes, he knew who this was. He'd seen plenty of news reports and salarian reconnaissance files about her: Hero of the Skyllian Blitz, talented officer and charismatic leader—one of the best in the Alliance.
And now, with his help, she could become the first human Spectre as well.
He closed the files; he'd read enough. A heroic soldier who had both biotic and tech talents? He was definitely intrigued.
Whoever the other candidate was, he couldn't imagine that they could be any more promising. It would have been unfair of him, however, to not even glimpse at the second file before he made his choice, so he opened up the folder to take a quick look.
His lips stretched into a wide grin when he read the name. Well, well. It appeared that little Garrus had grown up and was ready to play Spectre now.
He wondered what the older Vakarian thought of his son's decision. Bau still remembered the arguments he used to have with his ex-partner about the near-absolute powers of Council Spectres, as well as the less than amicable manner they'd parted ways when he'd quit C-Sec for his own training.
Regardless of their history, his job at the moment was to make an unbiased assessment of the two candidates, so he buried himself in the files and absorbed every detail about what Garrus Vakarian had been up to all these years.
The salarian leaned back in his chair with a sigh. This decision had turned out to be much harder than he'd anticipated.
Though Garrus did not quite have the same amount of special training and battle experience that Commander Shepard did, he unquestionably deserved to be a candidate for Spectre training. According to these documents, besides having an admirable track record as a young detective in C-Sec's Investigation Division, he was also a top-ranked hand-to-hand specialist, an excellent sharp-shooter, and a talented tech expert.
Bau picked up the mug that had been sitting abandoned by his console, and took a slow slurp of the now-cold tea. This was indeed a difficult choice. As much as he looked forward to working with the human commander, he had an almost irrational urge to take young Vakarian under his wing. Not only for the outstanding abilities and sense of integrity the turian had exhibited, but also because, despite Bau's best efforts to disregard his past with his former C-Sec partner, he couldn't help but feel a small tickle of glee in his chest at the possibility of training Taius Vakarian's own son to become exactly what the old curmudgeon had always riled against.
A soft chuckle escaped Jondum's lips and his eyes lit up when a radical idea took hold of his brain. He placed his drink down on his desk again and tapped on the interface to put in a call to Councilor Tevos.
The asari's face soon came into view. "Spectre Bau," she greeted him with a slight tip of her head, "have you made a decision?"
Bau couldn't hold back the grin as he gave her the news. "Yes. I'm going to take both."
Commander Shepard had just about had enough of this day. First it was the Council giving her the runaround about her upcoming Spectre training, then Udina had to drag her into his office to lecture her about her "insolent behavior", and now this. She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut for a second to try to calm her nerves before she was going to explode.
It didn't help.
"How can they be gone already?" she burst out, staring daggers at the shopkeeper across the counter. "Didn't these just come in today?"
Etarn Tiron opened his arms in what he hoped was a placating gesture. The commander had dropped enough credits in his store on her previous visits to the Citadel to make her one of his best customers, and he wasn't keen on losing his good standing with her over a sniper rifle mod, no matter how state-of-the art it was. "Yes, they did, but we only received a few. It's a brand new item—highly sought after. The gentleman that was leaving just as you came in? He bought the last one. I'm sorry."
"Dammit." Shepard let out an annoyed puff of air as she glanced over her shoulder. Yes, she remembered the turian in the blue armor. She'd bumped into him in the doorway when he was leaving the store just as she finally got to Rodam Expeditions. She'd had no idea what treasure he was getting away with when he brushed by her and went on his merry way. And of course, he was long gone by now.
She threw a wistful glance at the kiosk's display. She'd really wanted to get her hands on that piece of new tech. It was a thermal scope that was supposed to reveal enemies through walls and smoke, and she'd had her eye on it ever since it had been announced by the manufacturer's research department.
"I've put in a new order for another shipment," Etarn said, trying to sound as encouraging as he could. "Since it's a novel item, supplies are limited and it might take a while to get them, but I'm confident that we can outfit you with this model as soon as possible."
The commander shook her head with a sigh. "I don't know how much longer I'll be here. And I really could have used it now. But I'll check again whenever I'm back on the station."
She gave a sad nod to her favorite shopkeeper and walked out of the store. She really, really needed a drink right now. Or two. Or several—whatever it took to make this shitty day at least a little bit better.
"Hit me," Shepard said, slurring her words slightly, as she blinked up with unfocused eyes at the turian. The bartender unscrewed the top of the bottle and poured some more of that green liquid into her glass. She sent it down the hatch with a grimace, slammed the glass down, then slumped over the counter again, leaning an elbow on the bar and holding her head up with one hand.
This sucked. Hanging out aimlessly on the Citadel, waiting for the Council to get their act together while her friends and crew were off doing actual missions, was not the way she'd imagined this whole Spectre business. She wished she was back on the Normandy. She missed the action, the excitement, her friends—it was hard to believe, but she even missed their pilot's snarky attitude and bad jokes.
Her eyes wandered around the room. If at least there were some Alliance soldiers here on shore leave, she could join them for the evening. It would sure beat drinking alone.
Dark Star Lounge was definitely filling up, but she didn't see any human military personnel; what she did see, however, was a familiar turian in blue armor, drinking with his buddies at the far end of the counter.
Her hand tightened on her glass as she remembered how that jerk had snatched up the last MX-117. Her mod. He probably didn't even know how special that thing was. Her eyes narrowed as she watched him down his drink and clap another turian on the shoulder. Their little group burst into laughter at something he said, which only served to irritate her even more. Funny guy, huh? That asshole.
At her gesture, the bartender filled her glass again. She was about to pour the burning liquid down her throat when a light bulb went off, shining brightly, in her head. Maybe she could buy the damn thing off him. She could offer him a price that was more than what he'd paid; surely he would want to make a profit, wouldn't he?
Happy with her new battle plan, she picked up her glass and sauntered over to the group, trying very hard not to trip over her own feet on her way there. Luckily, she managed to make it without spilling too much of her drink.
She sidled up to her target's side and gave him a bright smile. "Hi."
He blinked at her with his beady little eyes and murmured a "Hello" before he turned back to his friends.
Shepard tried to come up with some witty things she could say before she'd throw her brilliant idea at him, but she came up empty. She was a soldier, damn it, not a politician; besides, he didn't exactly make it easy for her to chat him up.
To hell with it; she decided to just come out with her offer and get this over with. "Hey," she said, tapping him on the shoulder. "I have a proposition for you."
He turned back towards her with an annoyed sigh. "I'm not interested."
Shepard's eyebrows pulled into a frown. "You don't even know what I was going to suggest."
The turian's mandibles flared out, showcasing his sharp teeth, and his eyes slid up and down her body with what looked like a totally inappropriate smirk. "I'm pretty sure I do. But like I said, I'm not interested. Sorry, but I'm not into humans."
Her eyes went wide and her jaw hung open for a second at his ridiculous insinuation. Yes, she was out of her armor, wearing a rather form-fitting set of shirt and pants—an early morning decision on her part that she started to really regret now—but still, that didn't give him the right to talk to her like that.
She leaned closer with a snarl. "I'm not into turians either, you asshole. I wouldn't be interested in you if you were the last man alive. Or turian. Whatever." She rubbed the back of her neck with a sigh. This wasn't exactly going like she'd planned it. "Look, all I want is that sniper rifle mod you got at Rodam Expeditions. I'm willing to pay double price for it."
He seemed to digest this new information for a moment before he shook his head. "Still not interested."
His friends laughed, he turned away from her, and Shepard had to dig her nails into the palms of her hands to prevent herself from throwing the bunch of them straight across the room.
"Idiots," she growled as she marched out of the bar, her biotics crackling an impotent blue around her clenched fists.
By the time she got back to her hotel room, all she wanted was to take a shower, get under the covers, and sleep. This day couldn't end soon enough.
She kicked off her shoes and was about to head to the bathroom when her omni-tool went off with a ping. She fired up the interface and sat down in the armchair by the window to read the message.
Halleluiah. Finally some good news. Spectre training was starting the next morning, and she was to meet Jondum Bau at his ship at Docking Bay D-36.
Her lips pressed into a thin line as she read the rest of the note: in an unprecedented gesture, the Spectre was taking on two candidates to train at once.
There were also a few files included about the other person, and Shepard wasted no time opening them up.
Her heart nearly froze in her chest when she saw the picture of the other candidate. Her future teammate was none other than that insufferable, obnoxious, mod-snatching turian dick in the blue armor.
Her shoulders slumped and she dropped her head into her hands with a groan.
It was official: the universe really, truly, absolutely hated her.