this was supposed to be fluff. somewhere along the line, though, it turned into headcanon-meta about biotics. i'm not sure how.

also, i really, really miss being able to upgrade bio-amps.

(takes place... sometime in the middle of 3, though the mention of Javik is the only reason for that. It could be any time after they've hooked up, really.)


The Normandy is about twenty minutes out from the Citadel on a course for the Caleston Rift, which means nearly three hours in uninterrupted transit. Shepard is glad for the break; they've been jumping between proximate clusters for almost a week, and a relatively-long stretch of quiet will be a welcome respite.

She's sitting cross-legged on the bed in her bra and cargo pants, bent over uncomfortably as she fumbles with her amp release. She used to have nails, but she's recently picked up the terrible habit of biting them and is really starting to regret it. She's just about to give up when the door whirs open behind her.

"Hey, Garrus."

"Hey, Ell— what are you doing?"

She looks up at him, raising her eyebrows. "You've seriously never seen someone change their amp before?"

Garrus shakes his head and flares mutely, still watching her in apparent bewilderment. "Never really had the opportunity, to be honest," he says. "Biotics are looked down upon on Palaven, and there were only a few in C-Sec. Apparently it's a 'waste of their training'." He makes the short hissing noise that is his equivalent of a derisive snort.

Shepard grins at him. "Well, now you have the opportunity. Serrice just put out a new Savant, and I can't keep my barriers up with this old Gemini, so I treated myself. C'mere, help me change it."

"I have no idea what you just said," Garrus says, but he crosses the cabin to sit carefully on the edge of the bed next to her. Shepard pulls her hair up out of the way, revealing a flat black slab about the length of her index finger, slotted neatly into the port between her shoulder-blades.

"See the little catches at the top and bottom?"

"Uh. I think so?"

"I can't get my fingernails around them to take the amp out. You've got claws, you do it."

She can feel the weight of Garrus's apprehensive stare on the back of her neck. It's kind of cute, actually.

"I don't want to do something wrong. You're sure I won't hurt you?"

"Garrus, I got my first amp for my thirteenth birthday. I've been doing this forever. Trust me, it'll be fine."

His assent is doubtful, but then the pads of his fingers brush around the edge of the port, making the fine hairs on the back of her neck stand up. The amp releases with a short sharp pinch, and slowly all the energy starts to leave her. Garrus hands her the little black stick, and she drops it on the bed before passing him the blue-gray replacement, its surface stamped with the silver Serrice emblem.

"There should be a little arrow etched at one end. See it?"

"No— yes. That faces up?"

"Yep. It's polarized, so just lay it over the port and it'll align."

He does so, and Shepard reaches back with the hand not holding her curls out of the way and presses down sharply. The amp clicks into place; there's a brief pause, and then her heart starts to race as her nervous system adjusts to the new set of connections. Light roils across her skin as the atoms around her heat and warp, and Garrus scoots backwards in alarm.

"That's supposed to happen," Shepard tells him, laughing, before he can ask. "Technically it's bad form not to control it, but all it means is that my body hasn't rejected it."

"Does that happen?"

"Occasionally, and it isn't fun." She lets her hair fall back over her shoulders and stands, breathing in as her power returns. Serrice makes exceptional amplifiers: already she feels like she's downed a double shot.

Usually that would be that, but Shepard's got an audience this time, so she concentrates, lessening her own mass until her head spins and she lifts gently off the ground. She floats for a moment, but showing off like this plays havoc with her equilibrium, so she lets the affectation go, dropping to the floor with a soft thump. Garrus is still staring at her, wide-eyed, and she laughs at him again.

"Jealous, Vakarian?"

"Mm. Maybe a little."

Shepard waves her fingers at him like an old-vid magician. "Just say the word."

"I'm fine, but thanks for offering," he says dryly. He pauses for a moment, flaring; then, "What's it like?"

"Being a biotic, you mean?"

He nods, but doesn't offer anything more. Shepard sits back down on the bed and stares at her knees, suddenly stumped. It's like asking what being left-handed is like, or what having knees is like. She's not sure she can even answer.

"I think Alenko might be able to give you a better answer," she says after a moment. "Biotics ran in my family, so they came naturally to me. It's like... like having another limb. You may as well ask Wrex what having a tail is like, or Javik what having four eyes is like."

"I think if I did that, I'd end up out the airlock," says Garrus, and Shepard laughs.

"Well, maybe not Javik."

"But what does it feel like?" He says. "Doing what you just did, or picking someone up and throwing them. Or that barrier dome you learned from that woman on Omega," he adds, a touch of reproach to his voice. He's still sore about being left behind, then. Not that she can really blame him; if it had been him running off with Aria T'Loak, she probably would have torn the entire station apart in pursuit.

"It's tiring," she says, after a minute's consideration. "Creating an affectation feels just like moving my hand around, but keeping it active... buzzes, like my legs have fallen asleep."

Garrus blinks at her for a moment. "Oh, that's an idiom, isn't it?" He shakes his head, grinning at her. "I thought for a moment there was something very strange about human anatomy."

"It was an idiom," Shepard says, grinning back, "but maybe you'd better check, just in case."