Amala sat next to Garrus on a cot amidst all the turians in their makeshift hospital. Nihlus slept off to one side, Saren at his side waiting for him to wake up after his surgery. Dr. Chakwas informed her she would be the last, as the operating theater was currently set up for turians and they didn't want to have to switch back and forth. That suited her; she was just glad that they were getting the help they so desperately needed after everything that had happened.

They had come for Garrus a few times, but he had declined, saying to take the others first.

Chakwas's gaze settled on them sitting before she wove her way through the cots towards them. Amala nudged Garrus.

"Looks like you're next."

He groaned as he caught sight of the doctor heading their way.

"Come on, you're not afraid of her, are you?" Amala asked with a laugh.

He stood up to meet Chakwas before he turned to look at her. His mandibles were tight against his face. "Some things even they can't fix."

Amala's mouth opened to ask him what in hell he was talking about, but he was already at the doctor's side. Chakwas guided him into the little operating room they had created and he disappeared from sight.

Her gaze drifted over the rest of the inhabitants of the little 'hospital'. She spotted a familiar face (at least she was pretty sure it was Sidonis) watching Garrus walk off. Carefully easing her battered body upright, she hobbled over to where Sidonis rested on his cot. He edged his body to one side so she could have somewhere to sit. She sat down with a grateful sigh.

"So, what are you in for?" she joked.

"Excessive taunting of asari in armored vehicles."

Amala laughed and winced at the protest from her body. "I'm sure they deserved it. I saw you watching Garrus and hell, I don't know if I'm reading your facial gestures correctly, but you looked kind of sad."

"Uh, well, I feel kind of bad for him."

"Huh? Why? He's not any more banged up than you were. Is it because of the marks they put on his face at the camp?"

"No, I kind of like those. Makes him look kind of mean, you know, like you wouldn't want to mess with him," he said. He paused a moment before he lowered his voice so it wouldn't carry, "To be honest, it's his fringe."

"What? A couple of spines got broken off is all."

"Yeah, well, we used to break them off after we defeated each other a very long time ago, but some of the stigma remains."

Amala's eyes narrowed at Sidonis and he nervously gulped. Spirits, but the human could look scary when she wanted.

"So you're telling me that you guys think, he's what, a loser after he survived a rocket that took out the ledge we were on and a fucking boulder broke his fringe?" One hand waved about faster and faster.

"Well, when you put it that way, uh, I don't."

"Glad to hear it. You tell anyone who thinks that to come see me and I will personally set them straight. Broken arm or not."

Lantar nodded. "Right, I will happily send any your way. Might I add I'm glad you are on our side?"

Amala gave him a crooked grin. "I'm sure the asari are sorry now that I was assigned to take out Nassana."

"Who is that?"

"She was the asari holding Saren and Nihlus as slaves."

"And that cascaded into all of this," he said with a wave of his arm.

"Yeah, we got lucky and we were able to retrieve your language from the implants they put in them," Amala said.

She paused for a moment and then with a smile proceeded to tell Sidonis how Garrus had volunteered even though there was a chance that his implant could explode. His mandibles fluttered for a moment - in confusion or what, she wasn't sure. However, she had noticed others listening intently to her tell the story.

"Spirits! You mean he still has a bomb in his head?"

"Well, a really small one, but yes, basically all three of them do. We have to get the asari to tell us how to remove them safely and put in standard issue translators that don't explode."

"So most everyone uses them?"

"Sure, it makes it easier than trying to learn a bunch of languages and some can't be imitated easily," she said. She showed him where hers was located on the side of her neck, just under her ear. "And it's better than using an omni-tool for a translator."

Out of the corner of her eye she caught the glimpse of some movement coming from the operating area. Amala looked up to find several medical assistants helping Garrus walk to an empty cot. Before she could go see how he was doing, Chakwas had crooked a finger at her. She stood up and shuffled her way to Chakwas.

"How is he?"

"He'll be fine. The painkillers just made him a little woozy and I didn't want him to fall and undo all our hard work."

Chakwas pulled the curtain closed behind her. The team sprang into action, removing the battered pieces of her armor.

"Hey doc, can you guys do something to fix his fringe?" Amala asked, ignoring those who were stripping her down.

One of the turians, Amala guessed she was a doctor, came to her. "We can. If they find the pieces we can easily reattach them. I've asked those top side to keep an eye out for them."

"I can help. Not like I can shoot right now."

Chakwas injected one vial into her bad arm, causing Amala to hiss. "No, you may not. In case you forgot, your armor is beyond useful and the sun will fry you in a short period of time."

"Crap, don't you have something, a cream, anything, so I can at least do something useful?"

"I'm afraid not, Commander." Chakwas poked her once more drawing another grunt of pain. "You can feel that still?"

"Yeah, I take it I'm not supposed to?"

"No, you are not. Right then, another shot."

After that, things were a blur. Amala drifted in sleepy fog and before she knew it they were helping her back out into the main room, her arm in a cast now. The attendants dropped her off on an empty cot. Amala closed her eyes for a moment before she opened them to find out where Garrus was. She needed to tell him that they could fix his fringe.

She spotted him sitting with his back to the wall, more withdrawn than she had ever seen him look. The only thing that made sense was him trying to come to terms with his fringe in the eyes of his people. Her head still spun a bit from the pain medication the doctor gave her. She tried to remember what it was called, you know for scientific purposes, but it eluded her at the moment. That stuff would be handy when she got shot next - no sense denying it, there was going to be a next time.

She rolled off of the cot and managed to get herself upright. She banged her knees several times on the way to his side. They were both out of their armor, the broken bits discarded as useless, so only the dark skin-tight undersuit remained on them and even that had been cut to accommodate their casts. Garrus looked up at her rather erratic approach. She clung to his shoulder while she tried to stay upright.

"They can fix your fringe. Bastards won't let me go look for the bits," she tried to whisper, however her voice was well above that.

"I know," he said, his voice soft. "They'll never find them. I'll have to learn to live with it as is."

She didn't know if she could fix this, but she at least could let him know she didn't give a damn. The room wobbled a bit as she dropped down to straddle his lap. He helpfully stopped her from pitching too far off to the side and down to the floor. His mandibles flared in a brief smile as he wondered what she was doing. Using her good arm, she righted herself and then brought his face down to meet hers.

"When the asari captured you and marked you," she said, her words punctuated by the feel of one finger tracing the markings on his face, "you stayed strong. Fierce and unbroken. When they stripped you and hung you in a room to be tortured with only the company of the dead or dying, they could not break you. And finally, when they tried to kill you with a rocket, you survived. You are strong. You are unbroken; don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. And if they dare, you kick their ass."

Garrus could only nod as he stared into her eyes, fierce as he had normally only seen in combat. Her eyes closed and then she pressed her mouth to his. Before he could decide what he thought about it, she had pulled away. He touched her mouth with a finger.

"That - that thing you did with your mouth, what was that?"

She smiled. "It's a kiss. A sign of affection among humans. Can be between lovers, friends, or just family, all depends on where and what intent. Do turians have something like that?"

He nodded and cupped the back of her head bringing their heads together as he gently touched his to hers, his eyes never leaving hers. He didn't care that they were in a room full of injured with several different species of doctors attending to them. No, the only thing that was important was this thing between them. It gave him hope, strength, and peace. He couldn't form any words that were adequate enough to use. He wished she could hear the hum that refused to be quelled that rolled from his chest, a veritable declaration to another turian.

The only thing he could do was show her the way she had just taught him. Mimicking her actions, he closed his eyes and gently brushed his mouth against hers. He pulled back to find her smiling at him.

"When we get a little more privacy, I'll have to show you some other things," she said. "Don't want to get too fired up when there is no privacy to be had in here."

"Fired up? Oh, you mean keep it in the plates."

"In the plates, huh?"

"We, uh, enjoy teasing each other and since we have protective plates over things, well, we like to see who can be coaxed open first."

Her head tipped backwards as she laughed. "Oh, yes, that does sound like a fun game."

"Yes, but you lost already, since you, uh, crap, I mean, I assume you don't have any plates."

She kissed him on his nose with a giggle. "No, no plates. But that doesn't mean we can't think of something else."

She clapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide and only a little unfocused. That noise did not just happen. No, a giggle did not just escape her lips. She did not giggle, ever. He laughed at her expression.

"That! What was that?"

"Nothing," she grumbled.

"Didn't sound like nothing. I liked the sound of whatever it was."

Amala pressed her forehead to his with a smile. She wrapped her good arm around his neck and pressed her face into his neck with a small sigh.

"Sleepy," she said against his neck.

A laugh escaped him. "Perhaps you should go lie down then?"

Another soft sound came from his neck before her body shifted. He expected her to stand up and move away, but instead she placed her head on his leg and sprawled next to him. She wiggled about until she found a spot she liked and her eyes closed. His good hand drifted down to gingerly touch her head. He was fascinated by her hair springing back as he moved his fingers gently to and fro among the strands. A contented sigh from Amala reassured him that she didn't mind, and soon his fingers were busy learning the nuances of her hair. He shouldn't find it relaxing, but he did.

His thoughts drifted to all those talks with his mother. She had always told him someday he would find someone who understood him and accepted him as he was. The right one, she said, was the one who would laugh at his worst jokes even as they complained about how terrible they were. His sister, of course, had added, or maybe they were just as insane as he was. He wondered what they would think of Amala.


Desolas strode over to the individuals his brother had pointed out. The pair conferred over a map but looked up at his approach.

"General Arterius," he said with a nod of his head.

"Wait? But-" the human stuttered out, a hand pointing behind him. He turned to see he was pointing at the back of his brother as he headed into the cavern.

"Ah, yes, Saren is my younger brother."

The human nodded, his lips spread wide in that human smile. He had seen it a few times with Shepard. "Lt. Vega. I am in charge of the Alliance soldiers here."

"Urdnot Wrex," the krogan next to him said, his eyes watching him closely. "Your brother has quite the quad on him."

The confusion on Desolas's face must have been apparent even to them, because the human answered his unasked question.

"Krogan have four cojones, uh, testicles. So basically he said that Saren was as badass as a krogan - quite the compliment."

"I will take your word for it, but yes, my brother is quite skilled. Do you have any news on our enemy's movements?"

Vega cocked one hip and gestured to the map. "Wrex and I were just discussing how best to greet them. Seems they are under the mistaken impression that we are isolated here without backup." Vega coughed into his hand. "Of course, I think the salarians may have encouraged that impression."

"What do you mean?" Desolas asked.

"The salarians may have planted some false information in their communications."

"Slippery little bastards," Wrex growled out.

"Three armored vehicles are not to be taken lightly," Desolas said, looking at the map.

"No, but up here they are not as effective as, say, on the plains below. I was thinking, we have some people act as if they are working on them to make the asari think they are not fully functional. We have the krogan hiding here and here," Vega said, pointing at the map.

"And when they try for the cavern, we will be ready," Wrex said with a gleam in his eye.

Desolas smiled. "Now, how best to position my people. If there is to be a rout it would be good for them to be a part of it."

Wrex let out a hearty laugh. Oh, this was going to be fun.

~A thank you to Mordinette for all her help and another to the readers. I appreciate all of the reviews, follows, etc!~