A/N: This was for a prompt by biggestdisappointmentinwarfare on Tumblr. The prompt was: "I swear it was an accident" for Shepard and Garrus.
Huge thanks to Suilven for beta reading and her unwavering support. :)
If somebody had asked Commander Shepard what her favorite part of the brand new, carefully rebuilt Normandy was, her answer wouldn't have been the highly advanced engine room or the well-stocked armory, or even her spacious private quarters with her own, personal bath and that enormous fish tank (the height of luxury, in her opinion). No, it would have been something even better: the port observation room with the unexpected gem of a bar. Especially that bar.
She didn't often imbibe alcohol, but once in a while, after a grueling day of shooting enemies, shutting down incompetent politicians, and general ass-kicking, it was nice to take a seat at the counter and have a drink or two.
She just wished the place hadn't come with the nosiest, most meddlesome thief this side of the galaxy had ever seen.
Not that she didn't enjoy talking to Kasumi Goto. Dealing with all those status reports, requisition requests, and mission logs often set off a dull ache behind her eyes and in the back of her head, and it was nice to, every once in a while, get a fresh, personal perspective on matters relating to the ship and her crew.
And Kasumi certainly had an interesting perspective. Shepard wasn't sure she needed to know the details about Jacob's abs or the petty rivalry between crewmen Hadlick and Cruz but, most of the time, it was fun to chat about something other than the Collectors' motives and all the possible strategies of dealing with them.
Except tonight. Tonight, after an exhausting day of chasing ghosts on Pragia and, later, preventing Jack and Miranda's spat in the XO's office from blasting a neat little hole in the hull of the ship, she really would have preferred to have her drink in peace.
Alas, Kasumi seemed to have other ideas.
"So," the resident thief and gossip queen said, filling up a glass with some pink liquid from a fancy bottle and sliding the drink over to her guest across the countertop, "you and Garrus known each other for long?"
Shepard tipped her head, wrapping her fingers around the glass. "Yeah. He was on my team when we defeated Saren."
"You two seem to be pretty close."
Shepard nodded and took a sip. The alcohol slid down her throat, burning a blazing path to her stomach. She shook her head and lifted the bottle, examining the label; it was some kind of asari liquor, straight from Thessia.
"Wow. The Illusive Man thought it was important to have some expensive booze stocked on the ship, but when I want to get a few weapon upgrades, I have to rifle through the pockets of our dead enemies and hope that I'll find some credits so I can afford them." She raised her glass and tossed the rest of the pink liquid down her throat. "Priorities."
Kasumi chuckled, and poured more liquor into their cups. "So, you like him?"
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "The Illusive Man? You serious? I can't stand that assho—"
"Oh. Yeah. Of course. What's not to like? He's smart, loyal, dependable, and not to mention, a wicked shot. I trust him more than anybody else on this ship. No offense." She grinned, lifted her glass in a salute, and cocked an eyebrow before she sent a long gulp down. "Why? You interested? Better get in line—Chambers apparently has the hots for him, too."
Kasumi's lips curled up in an amused smile as she leaned forward, resting her forearms on the top of the bar. "Actually, I think you and Garrus would make a great couple."
Shepard sputtered, nearly choking on her drink. She coughed and wheezed, and waved her hand in the air dismissively until she could talk again. "You're joking, right? He's a friend. Besides, he's a turian. Practically made of metal. I don't even know how… that could work between us."
Kasumi's smile widened and her eyes glinted with mischief under her hood. "Trust me, it would work better than you'd think. Yes, their skin is rougher than ours, but they're not made of metal. Their plates are flexible enough, and they do have all the necessary parts."
"Yeah? Speaking from experience?"
"Not first hand." The thief sauntered over to her sleeping area and pulled out a magazine from under her mattress. Holding it up with as much pride as though she'd just retrieved a priceless, ancient artifact, she waved the colorful publication in the air.
Shepard's hand flew up to her face to cup her forehead. "Oh, my god. Tell me you didn't spend the credits I gave you on buying Fornax. I thought you were getting a new mod for your pistol when you said you needed to do some shopping."
"Oh, so you're familiar with this fine example of journalistic excellence." Kasumi snickered, ignoring Shepard's groan. "Well, have you seen the turian issue?"
"No. And I don't intend to." Shepard finished her drink, slid off her chair, and held on to the bartop to keep herself from swaying. That liquor was definitely stronger than its cheerful color had suggested.
"Aren't you at least a little bit curious?"
"Nope." She pushed away from the counter and walked to the door, carefully putting one foot in front of the other.
"You don't know what you're missing!" she heard Kasumi yell after her as the thick metal panels closed behind her back.
Shepard decided to skip the rest of her tour around the ship and head straight up to her cabin. It was late, she was tired, and the slight buzz from the alcohol made her eyelids heavy.
She didn't think about Garrus and her conversation with Kasumi until fifteen minutes later, when she padded to her empty bed and lifted up the covers. Yeah, it would be nice to have someone to cuddle up with after a hard day, but Garrus? She stood, back bent and hand grasping the corner of her blanket, as she thought about her friend—the only friend she had left in this galaxy. She'd never considered a cross-species liaison before. Would something like that really work? With a turian? And what would he think about it? Would he even be interested?
Nah. It was crazy. Kasumi was crazy. She shook her head with an annoyed groan, slid into bed, and asked EDI to turn off the light.
She fell asleep within a few seconds, and dreamt about Kasumi Goto chasing her around with the picture of a naked turian.
She should have known that Kasumi wasn't done with her matchmaking efforts. And yet, she suspected nothing when the thief invited her to her quarters for a game of Skyllian Five, or when it turned out that Gabby and Ken had been held up in engineering with some unexpected glitch in the system and they weren't going to be able to make it, so it was only her, Garrus, and Kasumi that ended up sitting at the bar.
Everything seemed normal at first. They poured themselves some drinks, and they joked, laughed, reminisced about past missions, and listened to Kasumi's colorful retellings of her riskiest heists.
It was well into their third or fourth drinks when Kasumi made her move, and Shepard finally came to realize what this whole invitation had really been about.
Everything happened so fast. The scheming little busybody leaned over the counter to hand Garrus his refill—some turian brandy with a bright blue color—, tripped over something, and dumped the entire contents of his cup right onto the front of his tunic.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I swear it was an accident!" Kasumi said apologetically, rushing around the counter with a napkin to dab at the liquid soaking into the fabric of Garrus's shirt. "You know, this is going to leave a nasty stain unless it's treated right away. Here, let me help you take it off and I'll go fix it."
"It's fine," Garrus tried to protest, doing his best to wave her off, but Kasumi would have none of it.
"It's my fault. Please, let me help," she insisted, her deft fingers searching out snaps and fasteners in the turian fabric Shepard hadn't even been aware were there.
"Kasumi," she growled through clenched teeth. "The hell are you doing?"
"Trust me, you don't want this to set," Kasumi went on, ignoring the murderous looks Shepard was sending her way. "I have a secret recipe for stains like this. But if you have so many civilian clothes on board that you can afford to throw one out…" She stepped back with a shrug, waved a hand, and waited.
After a moment of hesitation, Garrus took the bait.
"Uh… all right."
He undid the rest of the snaps and pulled the tunic over his head. Kasumi snatched the item from his hand with a victorious grin and in less than a second, she was out the door, leaving a fuming commander and a half naked turian in her wake.
Shepard shook her head and blew out an annoyed puff of air through her nose.
"I'm gonna kill her."
"That's a little harsh, isn't it?" Garrus said, picking up his abandoned glass. She tried not to look, but she was keenly aware of his half-naked form in her peripheral vision as he walked around the bar to snag the bottle of brandy he'd been enjoying until Kasumi's little mishap. "Come on, Shepard, it was just an accident."
No, it wasn't, she wanted to point out, but that would have required some awkward explanations, so she decided to keep her mouth shut. With a harrumph, she lifted her cup to her lips to gulp down a good portion of her wine.
An awkward silence fell on the room as she stared at the countertop, tracing the circular patterns of water drops their glasses had left on the surface with a finger.
"I… hope I'm not making you uncomfortable," Garrus said, his voice suddenly uncertain.
Shepard's eyes darted up to his face. "What? No. Why?"
He gestured at his exposed torso. "Well, ah, depending on how much you know about turian physiology, I might either look devilishly handsome or disgustingly weird to you right now."
She laughed, and finally allowed herself to slide her gaze from Garrus's face down his chest. Of course, she was somewhat familiar with his species' characteristics, but her military education had mainly been about the different alien races' pressure points, vulnerable areas, and spots you did not want to come into close contact with during a fight. She'd never actually seen a real, live, naked turian in her life —until now —, and, as much as it pained her, she had to admit that Kasumi had been right about one thing: turians were definitely not made of metal (which, of course, had been a hyperbole; she was well aware that they only had trace elements of thulium in their carapace). Even with that knowledge, though, she couldn't help but be surprised now how much more pliable Garrus's exoskeleton looked than she ever could have imagined.
He did have that same silver colored plating on the most vulnerable parts of his body as he did on his face, covering a large section of his chest, stomach, and back, and a few smaller patches on his muscular arms as well, but there were plenty of areas with a much softer looking, tan colored hide, too, that looked just like the skin on his neck. Those patches looked like velvety, well-worn leather, supple and inviting, and Shepard had to hold on to her glass a bit tighter to resist the temptation to reach out and touch them.
Garrus cleared his throat, and she tore her gaze away from the intricate pattern of his plates and the soft hide on his thin waist (damn, his armor, and even his civilian clothes, did no justice to his amazing shape) to look back up into his eyes.
"Sorry," she said, her blood rushing to her cheeks. "Didn't mean to gawk. I've just never seen, uh, your kind without clothes before. And no, you're not making me uncomfortable. And you're not disgustingly weird."
"Devilishly handsome, then?"
Garrus grinned, and she laughed, and took a sip of her drink before she answered. "I wouldn't go that far."
A strange ripple that seemed suspiciously like a shiver rushed over Garrus's body, showcasing how flexible his plating really was, and he put down the bottle and his glass to rub his arms.
"You okay?" Shepard asked, trying not to gape at his ropey muscles as they flexed and contracted in his upper arms with every movement.
"Yeah. Just a little cold."
"I'd offer you my jacket, but I don't think it'd fit you." She smiled and turned her head towards where she supposed the built-in comm system was in this room. "EDI, raise the temperature in here by five degrees."
"Yes, Commander. Anything else?"
"That will be all."
"Logging you out."
There was a small click as the heat kicked in, and she could already feel a surge of warm air from the registers. Garrus was still rubbing his arms, though, holding them close to his body to expose as little of his skin's surface to the cool air as he could.
"How about you?" Shepard asked, just to take his mind off his body temperature. "Have you seen any human without clothes?"
His gaze drifted off for a few moments as he pondered her question. "Well, I've seen a few scantily clad females in the seedier bars on the Citadel, but no, I don't believe I've seen any of them entirely naked." His mandibles flared out in a smirk as he turned his attention back to her, his blue eyes boring into hers. "Why, are you volunteering? It would only be fair, given that you're getting an eyeful here."
Shepard could feel the tips of her ears heat up, but she managed to squeak out a chuckle. "You wish."
To be honest, she was getting hot. Her insides had already been warmed up by the alcohol she'd consumed; now, the extra heat made her feel as though she'd been dropped into an oven. Those weren't the only reasons, though, why her cheeks were burning up and sweat was beginning to pool between her breasts and soak through her clothes. The other, more important cause, as reluctant as she was to admit it, was the half-naked turian standing in front of her just across the counter, close enough for her to touch him and run her fingerpads along those intricate scales and his soft, leathery hide.
Shepard wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, and blew out a huff of air. "Actually, I am pretty hot. This temperature might be more comfortable for you, but it's a bit too much for me." She pulled down the zipper on her jacket, and began pushing the sleeves off her shoulder, exposing her black tank top beneath. "Don't get any ideas, Vakarian. This is for my benefit, not yours. And I'm only taking off my top layer."
Garrus chuckled, but kept his intent gaze on her as the naked skin on her shoulders and upper arms came into view.
Naturally, that was the exact moment that Kasumi just had to walk back in.
"Oh," she said as she stopped in the doorway, her voice tinkling with amusement. "Sorry. I didn't know you two needed some privacy. You could have hung a sock or something on the outside of the door if you wanted to be left alone."
Shepard yanked her jacket back on, and shot a scathing glare at the thief. "You done?"
Kasumi's face split into a grin under her hood as she held up Garrus's tunic. "Yep. All fixed."
Shepard gave a stiff nod and slid off her chair. "Good. I'm going to bed. EDI, set the temperature back to normal."
She marched through the door with as much dignity as she could muster, but the only thought that kept repeating in her mind as she made her way to the elevator was that she was definitely going to kill Kasumi Goto.
The next few days were hell—and not because of the nearly impossible situations they had to extract themselves out of nearly every time they went on a mission. Those were becoming so commonplace by now that if they weren't ambushed by a small army of mercs or lured into a trap by the damn Illusive Man himself, Shepard began to grow suspicious that something just wasn't right.
No, it was because of the bug that cursed thief had put in her ear about turians, and one turian in particular.
She tried not to think too much about what Garrus looked like under all that armor or how intimacy might actually work between their species, but she couldn't help sliding her gaze up and down his body every time they had a little breather on a mission or when he walked by her table in the mess hall.
She hoped nobody noticed. Especially not Garrus.
Unfortunately, one person—the same person who'd sent her down this treacherous path to begin with, did. Of course she did.
"I thought you weren't interested," Kasumi cooed one evening as she sat down with her dinner tray next to her in the mess hall.
Shepard snapped her gaze away from the retreating back of her turian teammate and buried her nose in her steaming mug of tea. "I'm not. I was just making sure he's all right after that damn husk swarm on Aequitas. He'll never go to the medbay unless he's on death's door or I specifically order him to report to Chakwas."
"Uh huh." Kasumi picked up her knife and fork and cut into the strange looking chunk of meat on her plate. "That's why you were watching his butt. In case the husks have taken a bite out of it and he needed it patched up." Shepard scowled at the thief, but all she got for her effort was a light chuckle. "You know," Kasumi continued, unfazed, "I still have that issue. You can borrow it any time if you're curious about how it could work with—"
Shepard slammed down her mug, spilling some of the hot liquid onto her hand. She didn't even notice. The crewmen at the other table jerked their heads in their direction, but quickly turned back to their meals at the sight of the lightning rods shooting out of their commander's eyes.
"Why are you doing this?" Shepard hissed. "What does it matter to you if I'm interested in Garrus or not?"
Kasumi's smile didn't falter, but the glint in her eyes faded to a dull shine as she put her knife and fork down. "Because I like you. Because you helped me regain something precious to me, and now I want to help you, too. If there's something I've learnt in this life, it's that it all could be gone in the blink of an eye. Don't waste an opportunity to be happy now, because you might not get that chance later."
Shepard stared at Kasumi as the young woman's words swirled and echoed in her brain. Maybe the thief was right. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? Dying, especially on this suicide mission, was a very, very real possibility. There were so many things she hadn't gotten to do before the first time… when she'd perished in space; why make that same mistake again?
But… what if Garrus didn't want her?
"I don't even know if he wants me," she said, keeping her voice low. "To him, I'm the alien."
"You'll never know unless you ask. Besides, I think he likes you. Really likes you."
Shepard chewed on her lower lip as she considered it all. Finally, she nodded, and slowly relaxed her jaw as she made up her mind. "All right. Talk to you later."
She rose from her chair, gathered up her cup, and walked over to the sink to deposit it in the dish cleaning unit. The ceramic clinked against the polymer prongs as she dropped it in, but she hardly heard it over the wild beating of her heart.
Well. She had a turian to talk to.
She had no idea what she was doing. She'd come in here, determined to make a move on Garrus, so how on earth did they end up talking about the turian military and how they prepared for risky operations instead?
Of course, she knew why. She'd lost her nerve as soon as she'd looked into those piercing blue eyes, so now here she was, listening to his tale of his epic fight with that scout and the tiebreaker in his quarters— Wait, what?
Her eyes, fixed on his hips as he paced up and down the battery, darted up to his face. He stopped, turned around, and flared his mandibles at her in a cheeky grin.
"There's more than one way to blow off steam," he said, leaning against the console he'd been spending so much time at ever since he'd come on board this ship.
Shepard swallowed and took a deep breath. Take a chance. Don't let the opportunity pass you by.
"What if we tested your reach and my flexibility?" she said, doing her best to project the kind of confidence she was absolutely not feeling.
Garrus straightened up. "I…didn't know you were interested in sparring."
"That's not… I mean…" She shook her head and took a step forward. She could do this. She hoped. "I'm always up for some sparring, but in this case, we could just skip to the tiebreaker."
He gaped at her, and for a moment, she thought he was going to turn her down. He might make a joke out of it, and she would laugh along, pretending that she was just kidding. Then she'd go, find Kasumi Goto, and strangle her. Slowly and painfully.
"I, uh," Garrus started, his fingers curling and uncurling nervously by his armored thighs, "didn't know you had a thing for men with scars." He paused, and Shepard was about to tap out of this horrible, horrible conversation and leave the battery with her tail between her legs, when he continued. "Well, why the hell not? There's no-one in this galaxy I respect more. So, if we can figure out a way to make it work, then… yeah. Definitely."
It was difficult, but she managed to resist the temptation to clutch her chest in relief. "Okay. Good." She gave him what she hoped looked like a self-assured smirk instead of an idiotic grin, and slowly backed away towards the door. "So, we'll… figure it out. Then… yeah. Okay."
The door panels finally slid closed in front of her face as she exited the battery, mercifully hiding her flushed cheeks and burning ears from Garrus's watchful eyes, and she turned around, blowing out a deep exhale.
With a smile and a shake of her head, she headed down the corridor to talk to Kasumi.
She was going to need that Fornax issue after all.