Title: The Heart Asks for Pleasure First
Summary: A month after taking down Saren, Shepard spends Christmas shore leave with her favourite turian C-Sec officer on the Citadel. Movies are watched, gifts are exchanged, and two war heroes celebrate their unlikely friendship.
Pairing: Garrus/Shepard friendship, flirting, mentions of Kaidan/Shepard
Spoilers: All of ME1
Timeline: post-ME1, pre-ME2
A/N: I'm back! And let me just say WOW. 40 reviews, 70 favourites, and 109 alerts, all on the FIRST CHAPTER of this story. I've never had so much support. Thank you all so much and I hope you enjoy the rest of the story :)
Deck the Halls
December 25th, 2183
Garrus's omni-tool blinked. Three words in flashing white type scrolled across the inside of his wrist. New Message Received.
Yawning, he gave himself a minute to stretch. The holographic display on the opposite side of his office told him that it was almost four o'clock; he was nearly free. His partner, Johannes, had already left to meet his family at the civilian docking center. Always the fastidious one, Johannes had tidied up his side of the office before leaving; paperwork neatly sorted into stacks, chair folded and slotted under the desk, computer systems powered down, holo-pictures on the walls straightened and meticulously dusted. The contrast between his side and Garrus's was painfully noticeable. Garrus wasn't usually disorganized—he was a turian, after all—but in the weeks leading up to his approaching holiday leave, he had let things slide a little. Loose sheets of paper covered the floor around his desk, a half-eaten slice of blue cake on an expensive ceramic plate adorned the top of his private terminal, and a pair of unlocked handcuffs twisted idly, catching the light, from a statuette of an asari matriarch that he had recently liberated from a smuggling ring but hadn't gotten a chance to turn over to Customs and Contraband yet. The ugly grey rug underneath his desk needed to be replaced; it was stained blue from an injury Johannes had helped him patch up last week. He hadn't told Shepard about that one; she had enough on her mind as things stood.
His omni-tool was still blinking. Garrus pushed the button that brought up the interface, dimming the brightness so that the orange glow didn't blind his tired eyes. His spirits picked up when he saw that the message was from Shepard, not another bureaucratic notice or a memo from Chellick telling him that his report was late again.
Joker says ETA forty minutes. Meet you at the docking bay? Or are you too swamped in paperwork to leave the office.
Garrus checked the time again. Can't make it. We'll meet later, he sent. He wanted to surprise her.
It took about six minutes for Shepard to respond. The Alliance kept a decent extranet connection rigged up to its fleets, but there was always a delay of a few minutes or so. Add in the fact that Shepard didn't always wear an omni-tool, not being the most tech-savvy Marine in the galaxy, and Garrus was actually impressed at how quickly she usually replied to his messages. Kaidan says hi.
Garrus smiled. He liked the lieutenant well enough; even if Alenko couldn't swing a rifle like his compatriot, Williams, he was still a skilled biotic and technician. Kaidan had also never treated Garrus with disdain or disgust, unlike some of the other crew members—including Williams initially, though she had warmed to him and the other non-human crew after a few months of fighting side by side. Garrus remembered how distraught Shepard had been after Ashley's death; he had been sorry, too, sorrier than he expected to be about the death of a human soldier who had once treated him so coldly. By the time it was over, he had called her a friend.
Good to hear from him. Will he be joining us for dinner later?
Her reply was prompter than usual. She was probably sitting in her cabin in front of the terminal, bored to death. There wasn't much for a ship's captain to do while they were waiting in the docking queue. I don't think so. He's visiting family.
Right, Garrus typed. Well, tell him I said hello.
He glanced at the time. Four o'clock—he was finished, free, done for ten whole days. During his time on Shepard's crew, he had forgotten how the work day at C-Sec dragged on. When there weren't bomb threats or hostage scenarios to deal with, the life of a police officer could be incredibly dull.
So what's first on our schedule? Shepard wanted to know.
Garrus stood up, stretching, and pushed his chair under the desk without bothering to fold it. He could come back later and straighten things up. The Normandy had been reassigned to a different docking bay, now that Shepard wasn't on a critical time-sensitive mission anymore; Garrus couldn't just pop next door and meet her there. He had to go all the way across the Citadel and transport traffic could be pretty bad this time of day. He might need those forty minutes.
I thought we'd drop off your things first. Then if you're hungry, we could go out for dinner. Catch up over drinks.
Chellick was still in his office; Garrus didn't think he ever went on leave, and anyway, Christmas wasn't a turian holiday. Garrus had been forced to jump through dozens of bureaucratic hoops, citing religious freedom multiple times, to successfully file his application for holiday leave. Once he had managed to get his application into the system, it had gone through and been approved shockingly fast. Garrus didn't have any proof, but he was pretty sure he could smell Spectre involvement. Whether Shepard had actually intervened or his involvement with her had stood on its own, he wasn't sure, and didn't particularly care.
"I'm out for the next ten days," Garrus called through the open door.
Chellick looked up. "I hope you cleaned your office."
"Of course," Garrus lied. "See you next week."
His omni-tool blinked; Garrus opened up his message terminal as he headed for the elevator. Sounds perfect, Shepard had replied. I haven't had a decent drink since I left the Citadel last time.
Well, we can't have that, Garrus typed, stepping into the elevator. He thought suddenly of the incident-that-was-never-to-be-mentioned, and chuckled a little to himself. Shepard was lying through her teeth; that had to be a first, at least that Garrus knew of. I'll get the bartender to mix up something special for you.
Elevator rides on the Citadel were abominably long; Garrus had never quite figured out why, but he suspected the blame lay somewhere in the bureaucratic chain of Citadel planning and administration. Once the elevator finally arrived at the transit station, Garrus threaded his way through the bustle of commuters—many of them human travellers on Christmas leave—and boarded a sky-car to the docking bays on the other side of the Citadel. He ended up on a VI-driven shuttle with three other passengers: two asari and a male human wearing a brightly colored knit jumper. Breathing in the stale scent of body odor and various perfumes from many different species that haunted public transit, Garrus amused himself by attempting to decipher the strange patterns on the human's jumper while the shuttle glided toward their destination. The human's clothing appeared to sport some kind of large brown animal with tall, branching horns, as well as oddly shaped, jaggedly triangular trees adorned with small, blinking holo-lights. Garrus had never seen anything quite like it before and could not seem to stop staring.
"It's a Christmas sweater," the human said at last, apparently irritated by Garrus's probing stare.
Garrus blinked. "What's that?"
The human raised a furry eyebrow. Despite having dealt with millions of humans by this point in his career, Garrus still did not understand the point of eyebrows. Even Shepard hadn't been able to give him a satisfactory explanation for their existence. "It's traditional." He settled with a huff back into his seat.
Garrus wasn't about to be rebuffed. "What do you mean, traditional? Do all humans require them for their holiday celebrations?"
The human snorted. "Sure, turian. Whatever you say."
Satisfied, Garrus thanked him and leaned back against the synthetic backrest. He had already ordered Shepard a welcome-back gift, but now perhaps he could offer her something with real meaning for humans. Pressing the button that summoned a holograph of the shuttle's navigation VI, Garrus addressed the shimmering blue image. "VI, after you've dropped off the other passengers at the docking bay, reroute to the lower markets in the Wards. Locate a shop selling human Christmas sweaters."
"Understood, Officer," chirped the VI. "Is that all you require?"
"Yes. Thank you."
"Have a nice day!" The VI dissolved away into blue bits that quickly faded from sight.
The human and both the asari were staring at him now, but Garrus didn't care. He was too busy imagining the look on his commander's face when he presented her with a gift tailored specifically for humans. It was difficult to impress Shepard, who had seen just about everything in the galaxy at least twice, but perhaps Garrus's knowledge of human customs and tradition would give her pause—and allow him a brief moment of satisfaction.
Today was looking better and better.
December 25th, 2183
Shepard hadn't wrapped a Christmas present in ages. The last time had been five years ago, when she had served a stint on the SSV Paris, and taken part in a mandatory crew-wide Secret Santa exchange, orchestrated by the ship's resident psychologist (of whose sanity Shepard had never been entirely assured). Her technique had apparently failed to improve with age. By the time she was finished, the package looked as if someone had massacred a wrapping-paper factory, picked up a piece of debris, and attached a silk bow.
Well, it didn't have to be perfect. After all, she was giving it to a turian who had probably never received a Christmas gift in his lifetime.
Knowing that Garrus would probably appreciate utility over frivolity, she had purchased three rare mods for his rifle, each of which were so powerful that they could not be used in conjunction without serious risk. Her Spectre discount had cut the price in half; it would most likely have taken Garrus years to save up enough to buy them on his own. Rather than making her feel guilty, the exorbitant spending had actually felt good; after the highly lucrative hunt for Saren, Shepard had been left swimming in so many credits that she didn't actually know what to do with them all. As a Spectre, she was no longer required to turn over contraband to the Alliance, so she had sold it to trusted, legitimate dealers instead. At the time, she'd had no idea that the weapons and armour she confiscated from dozens of merc bases and enemy hideouts could be worth so much. To think she and Garrus had used the suits of armour for target practice!
After she'd made the purchases, however, it had felt like there was something missing. Just giving Garrus rifle mods for a Christmas gift felt a touch impersonal. She had acquired presents with a unique touch for all of the other important figures in her life—a case of incredibly rare brandy for Anderson, ancient first-edition texts from multiple races for Liara, and a spot on the VIP list of several exclusive weapons dealers for Wrex, just to name a few—and she thought Garrus deserved the same treatment. He was her best friend, after all.
Running into a turian antiques dealer refueling his ship at the same station as the Normandy had been a stroke of luck. Since the dealer was between ports, Shepard had been able to negotiate a slightly lower price for the item she had eventually chosen. She didn't quite understand the significance of the gift in turian culture, but the antiques dealer had assured her that it would come across as an extremely thoughtful gesture for a close friend. Shepard had decided to trust him; the stones were quite pretty, and she was out of other ideas.
Now that everything was wrapped, she had some time to relax before the Normandy docked. Humming to herself—dammit, Joker's Christmas carols had embedded themselves into her brain and now they wouldn't go away—Shepard checked her terminal. Garrus had sent a message.
Well, we can't have that. I'll get the bartender to mix up something special for you.
Nothing too special, please, Shepard typed, before deleting the draft. She was not even going to hint at the events of several nights before, and the multiple embarrassing messages she had sent—hopefully Garrus would forget about it. You spoil me. Catch you later? she eventually sent.
Garrus's reply was prompt. In the middle of some very important reconnaissance. I'll message you when I have a time and place.
Shepard took a moment to wonder what sort of reconnaissance he could possibly be involved in on Christmas Day—the smuggling of Christmas trees by black market holiday specialists, perhaps? She was slightly disappointed that he wouldn't be able to meet her at the docking bay, but she knew that it was childish. Patience is a virtue, she chided herself. Of course, since she had thus far made a career out of getting things done on a severe time crunch, the advice rang a little hollow. After a year of life happening at lightning speed, Shepard wasn't quite ready to slow down.
I'll be waiting, she messaged back, then turned off her terminal, because Garrus was obviously busy and she didn't want to disturb his work.
Joker's estimate of forty minutes proved to be a severe understatement. Traffic on the Citadel was even more backed up than usual, and Shepard found herself with about another hour of nothing to do. Restless from her uncharacteristically long night of sleep, she roamed the ship for a while until she ended up in the cargo bay. The crew, who were accustomed to Shepard's habitual wandering, barely took notice of her beyond a nod and a salute. Inspecting the row of firearms laid out on the table in the corner, Shepard felt a brief pang in her chest at the sight of a few miniscule specks of dust on the barrels. After Ashley's death, she had assigned a rotation of junior officers to fulfill the gunnery chief's role of cleaning firearms until Shepard could find a replacement, but they just didn't devote the same care and attention that Ashley had.
Hoping to assuage the ache in her heart, Shepard picked up a polishing rag and got to work on the guns. As she methodically picked over each weapon for bits of dust that could possibly affect targeting or other systems, her eyes fell on the lockers adjacent to the table. All of them were completely cleaned out, apart from Kaidan's and Ashley's—Kaidan's because he was still onboard the ship, and Ashley's because Shepard hadn't ordered anyone to clean it out yet. It would have to be done eventually; there was no room for sentiment onboard an Alliance frigate, and a deceased soldier's weapons locker couldn't be left untouched indefinitely.
She would wait until Garrus was back onboard. It was something Shepard knew she had to do herself, but she didn't want to do it alone. Having Kaidan with her would just make it more difficult for her to maintain her composure. Garrus, though… Garrus would keep her in line, and he wouldn't stare with wide brown eyes if his commanding officer showed a little softheartedness.
"Commander," crackled Joker's voice over the ship-wide comm. "We're clear and ready to dock. Awaiting confirmation."
"Confirmed. Proceed," Shepard said, still bent over a particularly stubborn speck of gunk on the butt of a sniper rifle. Snatching up the bottle of gun polish with one hand, she gave the speck a thorough spritzing—but it refused to budge. "Just a minute, let me nuke this thing."
"Should I be worried, Commander?"
"Don't worry. I'm a responsible adult."