Everything was thick, wet, and warm. It would have been quite comfortable except for the hard floor beneath his rear. Garrus’s head even felt thick, and he scowled at the unfamiliar grey wall in front of his face.
"Udi...?" He muttered, trying to remember what he had been doing...and to find out where he was. "Quid accidit?"
A familiar feminine voice sounded beside him, a quiet laugh. She said something that he didn’t quite follow. Garrus shifted awkwardly, tangled in something wet, talons scrabbling on the floor like a fledgling. He tried to turn without smashing his fringe into the wall behind himself. Shepard continued talking as she stabilized him, helping him turn. She was kneeling beside him, hands braced on his chest, right calf wrapped securely around his right ankle, just below his spur.
Garrus clamped his mandibles tight against his jaw, even more confused. Why is she doing that?! Every new observation increased the likelihood that this would become some legendary awkward interspecies thing...especially if this actually was the shower in Shepard’s quarters.
“Animae, Shepard,” he groaned, trying to keep the increasing embarrassment from his voice, “quid accidit? Udi sunus?”
She said...something. It was clearly a question, and he slowly shook his head. He flicked his mandibles anxiously as she spoke again.
“Non intellego.” She still wasn’t making a damn bit of sense. The only word that he caught from what she said was ‘cold’. Hmm. Cald? Caldus? What was hot?
“Quod enim non intellego dixit,” Garrus enunciated carefully. “Qui caldus affectus est?”
Shepard tilted her head, apparently as confused and concerned as he was. There was hot air blowing into the small room from a vent in the ceiling, pushing strands of her wet hair across her face. She idly reached up to swipe one away, then stared at her wrist for a moment and groaned.
“Quid est?” he asked. The hot air felt good...very good, and he tilted his head down so that it warmed the back of his neck. Human ships were almost uncomfortably cool for a turian, and he welcomed the change.
She pulled at the warm, wet blanket around him, and he helped push it off his shoulders...which were bare. He groaned inwardly. Had he passed out in Shepard’s shower? This might manage to be more awkward than the first time he held her through the Prothean nightmares.
Eventually they freed him from the confines of the blanket and Shepard tugged at his left arm, tapping his wrist with two calloused, sandy-colored fingers. He looked at his wrist. She was tapping a oval indentation in his hide, darker grey from years of contact. Garrus shivered involuntarily.
“Non hic. Cur onni-instruntum kea non hic?” He asked, plates pulling together in a confused scowl.
Her own omni-tool glowed orange on her wrist, still translating everything he said in her mind. Toss it all, what had happened? What had he done that she took every possible tool away from him, and then... what? Threw him back in the shower?
“Qur?! Quid accidit, Shepard?” Garrus growled, anger rising through the frustration and confusion.
He had grabbed Shepard’s upper arm at some point, and she matched his grip. Wide brown eyes so much larger than his own stared back at him hard, but without a trace of anger. Her body language said far more than her untranslated words: “I’m in charge. You’ll be fine. I will explain.”
Even stronger, the message of her leg tight against his own, an anchor. “I’ve got you, Garrus.”
Shepard kept talking, using the same tones he’d heard her use on panicked colonists. He focused on the sound, trusting his instincts and a decade of military training to calm his momentary loss of control. He took deep breaths of the hot, humid air in the shower. “You’ll be fine, Garrus. I’ve got you.” Warmth vented down, smelling faintly of oil. His head and shoulders were dry now, but his skin felt tight and uncomfortable.
He leaned toward Shepard, pressing his head plates to her forehead for a brief second. It probably wasn’t entirely appropriate, but it worked. She stopped talking, eyes flickering over his face. He’d seen that look before too - assessing. Garrus nodded. He’d finally calmed enough to catch a few more semi-familiar words from Shepard, particularly “maintenance” and “lubricant,” and he remembered the chaos that was the past few hours.
“Unguen,” Garrus said, sighing. “Temoro erat unguen…”
Shepard sat back, mouth twisting in a very human expression he knew as a wry smile. He matched the sentiment with a sharp, sardonic flick of one mandible. She gestured as she spoke, clearly indicating that she knew he had managed to coat himself in the thick grease. It had sprayed everywhere when that pressurized coupling had failed, with him flailing like an idiot to block the worst of the hot mess from his face. The bandage had protected the newly healed tissue, thank the Spirits.
Then it had happened again, with more of the now-cooled lubricant flooding down into his armor. Some incompetent pyjak had tightened the couplings on the upper section of the thermal-expansion hydraulics system, but not latched the seals in place. His calibrations had caused shifts in pressure everywhere, with several of the couplings sliding free.
“Ignosce ke, Ductor Shepard,” he said formally, subvocals humming with chagrined respect underneath his obvious exhaustion. “Donna, venire huc, teccavi.”
She was shaking her head no, but he was right.
“Vero, Ductor Shepard.”
It was horribly rude. He should never have come into Commander Shepard’s room and made a mess --- Blessed spirits, he had barged into the personal quarters of a Council Spectre and used her shower, then taken over her bed! Even with as close as the two of them had once been, his muddied turian mind was still telling him that it was very, very, wrong, and he tried to finish disentangling himself from Shepard.
Thankfully, she cooperated with him, tugging the soaked towel away and gripping his forearm. Garrus flexed his feet hard against the ceramic floor, unsteady as she pulled him to his feet. Despite still being blasted by the warm air vent, he shivered.
Shepard stepped back slowly, eyeing him critically as she deposited the wet towel in a drying cubicle on the wall. She shook a dry towel open with a sharp snap, and it puffed from a thin sheet to a thick, absorbent, rectangle of blue fabric. He took it gratefully, and nodded as she backed out of the restroom with a second towel in hand.
Garrus took stock as the door swished closed with a sharp click. His thighs were covered by the dark grey undershorts that had been his only piece of clothing untouched by the grease, and they were quickly drying in the stream of warm air from the walls. Well, that was something good, at least. He draped the towel around his shoulders and stepped to the small mirror, gently probing his injured mandible. Oww. Still tender, but no more so than usual. His hide, however...he rubbed one taloned hand over the long spikes of his fringe and winced. It felt as though someone had shrunken his skin, leaving it tight and itchy. The feeling was distinctly uncomfortable, and he gently scratched at the back of his neck.
The silvered line of an old scar cut across the length of his left biceps, a remnant of the fight with Saren on the Citadel two years ago, but otherwise he seemed normal. Exhausted, but fine. He glanced around, rubbing himself down with the towel briskly in the hope that it would alleviate the itching. The room was a fairly spartan affair, but still showed evidence of the apparent chaos he’d caused. Pockets of water were drying rapidly, and he straightened the nozzles, tucking scattered sundry items back into a cubicle on the far wall.
He flicked his mandibles with a long, uncertain sigh. How was he ever going to live this down? And why had they ended up in the shower at all? He definitely remembered being dry and taking over the Commander’s bed...unfortunately. Shivering again, he draped the towel over his bare shoulders. Cold blasted ship.
The vague sound of Shepard speaking to someone at the door drew his attention back outside, though without his omni-tool to translate it didn’t mean much. The outer door slid closed, and he reached out to open the privy door just as Shepard knocked lightly. She looked him over critically, mouth twisting in another wry, apologetic smile. Before he could speak, she held out his omni-tool. It had been cleaned recently, but not meticulously, so he assumed its removal had been tied to the… shower incident.
Garrus settled his omni-tool onto his wrist and it immediately glowed to life, an alert flashing to indicate that it had been removed nearly an hour ago: Security override - Council Spectre Rhyver Shepard. He scowled, returning his gaze to Shepard. She was in dry clothing, a loose sleeveless shirt and pants like he had seen her sleep in many times before.
“Commander, please tell me what in the galaxy is going on?” Garrus pleaded. “I never should have barged in here and used your room, and I apologize, Ma’am. I’ll leave as soon as I collect my things, but I need to know what happened.” Anxiety bled into his subvocals as a high-pitched hum. “Why am I missing over an hour? Why were we in the shower?”
Shepard held up a large, clinical-looking container by way of an answer. “I will explain while we re-oil you, if that’s alright.”
“While we do what? Haven’t I been covered in enough grease for one day?” He remained in the doorway.
“Garrus, I sincerely apologize for removing your omni-tool.” Shepard sighed sharply. “I admittedly did not think that decision through, and it probably made things worse, but EDI called me in here for biometric alarms going off because you were freezing and unresponsive!”
Shepard stepped back and pointed commandingly toward the rumpled bed.
Garrus shivered, still belligerently standing in the doorway.
Shepard gave him a pointed look, tilting her head and glaring up at him with her lips pressed into a thin line. Her dark hair was still loose, and spilled sideways over her shoulder. It should have softened the glare. It didn't. Good thing he was just as stubborn as she was.
“Just tell me what happened, and I’ll be out of your way, Commander,” Garrus tried again. Nothing was lining up, and he needed to get… somewhere safe. Somewhere he could hole up and straighten his head out, where ever that was.
Shepard rocked her jaw back and forth, clearly exasperated, but tears welled up in her eyes as she drew in a ragged breath. “Please, Garrus. I swear on all the stars that I am not angry with you.” She dropped her hand to her side in defeat.
“In short, being coated in the thermal lubricant dropped your body temperature dangerously. It's designed to absorb a ton of heat, quickly. Then you exacerbated the problem by stripping off all of your hide’s own oils with the solvent you used to shower it off. Based on the security footage, you were still visibly shivering when you made a blanket-nest of my bed.” She quickly swiped away a tear as he shivered...again. “EDI called me and Dr. Chakwas because your omni-tool was sending up half a dozen alerts for your safety.”
“Your hands were ice, Garrus.” Shepard met his eyes again and he saw the same pain and fear he had felt when she went missing in the destruction of the Normandy.
“Between the grease trapped under your omni-tool and EDI pinging security footage, we got the bones of the story.” She sighed and fidgeted with the container. “The shower was an easy source of heat, so...yeah. I did what was necessary to help you. You didn’t really even seem conscious of your surroundings until you woke back up, just now.”
“I… hmm.” Garrus ducked his head, embarrassed. He knew she cared. Hearing her greybox entries had removed any lingering doubts he might have harbored about their friendship, but seeing it in her eyes was raw.
“Thank you.” His voice was softer, subvocals humming with the usual flare of contentment he felt around Shepard. “For everything, Rhyver. I’m not really at my best right now, so I’m sorry for being an jerk… as well as for invading your room.”
Her teeth showed in a quick, fierce smile despite the tear she dashed away. She waved the container at him. “Please?” Well, at least Shepard already knew where on his body to avoid, such as the sensitive skin under his fringe, as that conversation had happened long ago.
It took a quarter of an hour, but the two of them thoroughly coated him with the ointment. It was nearly identical to the cream he routinely used on rough, dry areas of his hide, except for a stronger smell. It wasn’t a bad smell at all, just...intensely turian. He wouldn’t put it past Mordin to have synthesized actual turian body oils as the simplest solution to making the ointment, and the result was overwhelmingly good. Between his exhaustion and Shepard’s strong, dexterous hands all over his body, there was a very primal part of his brain that was deeply attentive to the person beside him. Yours , his brain asserted. Your scent and hers -- he pushed the thought aside again.
“I have to ask, Shepard...why did you hook your leg around mine in the shower?” That was a more important question to consider anyway.
“Because it worked, Garrus. You were confused, upset, and so dangerously cold that you didn’t know where you were.” Shepard snorted, the sharp noise remarkably similar to a turian chuckle. “Chakwas didn’t think it was a good idea to sedate you, obviously, but you lashed out whenever she tried to help me with your scaly grey ass.”
“Great…” he drew out the word, “this just gets better and better.”
“I finally had you pinned to the wall in the hot water, and didn’t want you to throw me off again.” She rolled one shoulder with a wince, and the guilt in his subvocals deepened. “There’s a reason we rarely spar, Garrus. Anyway, I hooked my calf around yours and it seemed to throw a switch. You were still really tense - but you cooperated with me instead of fighting.” Shepard met his eyes with a tired smile, and his heart skipped a beat at how vulnerable she looked. “Like you knew to trust me, even amidst the chaos.”
He must have looked as shocked as he felt. She bumped her arm lightly against his and glanced down at their legs dangling off the side of her bed.
“I can tell I’ve missed something, because you’re making a big deal out of this.” She toed the back of his calf with her bare foot, pale, nubby toes brushing against his leathery grey hide. “Is there a turian ‘footsie’ taboo you’ve never mentioned?”
“Ahhm… Not taboo. Hmm, turians don’t have taboos, really. Just very stern glares and a strict code of responsibility.” Her eyes smiled, and he couldn’t quite bring himself to pull his leg away from hers. “It is intimate, though. Ehh,” he flicked his talons uncertainly, “well, it isn’t sexual but it also isn’t something anyone besides your mate or lover would usually do. Maybe family. It’s a gesture of trust. Security, protection, saying ‘I’m here, I’ve got you,’ in a way. I don’t know Shepard, it’s just a turian thing. Touch is important to us...to me.” Garrus rambled.
“Spirits, I’m not upset, just... confused.” He met her eyes and pulled the blanket higher around his neck. “I haven’t woken up to that in a long time.”
There was a pause long enough that he began to think he had crossed a line and upset her instead.
“I have.” She was still smiling, but he didn’t know how to interpret the rest of her expression.
“Woken up to someone’s foot tucked securely over my ankle!”
“Is...this a human thing too?”
Shepard burst into laughter, dropping her head on his shoulder. “Stars, you did it to me all the time!”
He snapped his mandibles in tight, suddenly flooded with uncertainty. “I did?”
She nodded against his arm, laughter slowly fading into a wide grin as she sat back. “Honestly, it got to the point where I was surprised if I didn’t have to extricate myself from two sets of talons when I woke up.” She shrugged. “And yes, humans do that too, but I’ve always just thought of it as a normal part of cuddling. Which is also considered intimate, I’ll admit.”
“You’re not joking.”
“How could you not know?” she asked. “Nevermind. Clearly we have a lot of evidence that I was more aware of how close we were back then.” She paused a moment, continuing when he didn’t respond. “Am I making you uncomfortable, Garrus?”
He didn’t know how to respond. His thoughts were stuck on what she’d said, his mind as thick as the grease that had covered him a few hours ago. “I don’t -- no, you’re not, but yes…” he trailed off with a pitiful whine of discomfort. “It’s a lot to process right now, Rhyver.”
Shepard pulled one knee up against her chest, planting her foot on the bed and turning to face him. “Stay here, Garrus. Take a break.” She smiled crookedly at him, with a look that he was fairly certain was fondness. “You’re safe here, and having your own space to sleep and heal will do you several worlds of good. I doubt you really want to be on Omega with Samara around anyhow. We’ll be back inside a day, maybe two.”
When he failed to respond, she rubbed a hand firmly across the blanketed ridge of his crest and down the plates of his back, and he leaned into it automatically. “Come on. Under the blankets, my Archangel. Cerberus even sprang for extra pillows.”
She set the container of ointment beside her music player, piling up pillows as he complied. Turian anatomy was not particularly compatible with human beds, but they’d made it work before, and with fewer resources on the original Normandy. They had shared a bed for several months, both before and after the battle of the Citadel, but their reasons had always been clear. He was her anchor through the mind-wracking prothean visions, and she was his trusted partner on and off the battlefield. The fact that this relationship included their sleeping arrangements had seemed natural to him, if unusual, though he had occasionally overheard comments from Shepard’s crew - particularly from lieutenant Alenko.
“EDI, keep my quarters at this temperature unless Garrus tells you otherwise,” Shepard called out to the AI.
“As you wish, Commander Shepard.” EDI’s voice replied from near the door.
She draped another blanket over him and he pulled his legs in close, curling up and burrowing into the warmth of her bed. “I’ll make sure there’s food and fresh clothing in here for whenever you wake up.”
It truly showed how slowly he was thinking that Shepard was halfway across the room before he realized that he hadn’t responded to anything she had said for several minutes.
“Rhyver?” Garrus leaned up onto one forearm, and she came back to the bed, smoothly twisting her hair up into a dome as she walked. He watched her, the plates of his forehead pressing together uncertainly. “Ah, hmm.” Shepard sat on the blankets beside him, lips curved in a small smile of amusement.
“Well, it’s just...ah, thank you.” He scooped her hand up in his larger one quickly, before he could consider the wisdom of the decision. “For everything. All of it, before with the Citadel, and Sidonis, and now… just…” he stammered. “I miss this. Whatever this was, Rhyver, I miss it.”
Shepard squeezed Garrus’s hand. “Me too.” Then she leaned in and pressed her mouth against his forehead, lips soft. He drew in a startled breath, mandibles fluttering - Spirits, she smells like sun-warmed stone and me - and by the time he had gathered his thoughts she was gone, the door sliding closed with a swish. He drifted asleep wondering idly what Shepard would think of curved, swinging turian beds...