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Killed the cat.

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Shepard isn’t sure what she expected to happen when, if, she ever found the Primarch on Menae. She’d been tasked with the near impossible—that wasn’t new—but it was a needle in the haystack situation… when the haystack was on fire and the straw was actually made of dynamite.

She’s not sure what she expected to happen, but it sure as shit never involved the leering glances of every Turian on the ground at base camp while she waits out the Primarch she came to collect.

They’re staring, she’s certain of it, in the kind of way that usually accompanies catcalls in bars on Omega, their eyes following her every move. It’s unnerving, especially when the gaze drops lower and they unabashedly don’t bother to look away. There’s mostly men left out here, she knows that, but it’s been her experience that Turians don’t exactly favor humans by and large. Maybe she should be flattered, Shepard thinks.

She almost comes to terms with it, too, except she’s sucking down a protein packet straight from the corner of the foil bag when the creamy sludge dribbles down her lower lip and chin. Before she can pull off her glove and wipe it away, there’s a private offering her a napkin.

“Thanks,” Shepard answers, and reaches for it, but the soldier dodges her hand and dabs at her skin with a gentle kind of precision. She can only stand still, mind vacant of the words to say in such a situation, until he decides the job’s done and leaves her be.

“Your lips, are they always that color?” He drawls, like its some kind of line he’s rehearsed, just waiting to use it.

The question is out of place in any scenario, the least not being on a war torn moon of Palaven with soldiers groaning nearby in the final throws of death only one pod over. “I—No. No they’re not. It’s uh… cold.”

She’s not one to be left with a loss of words, but the absurdity of the situation is so utterly confusing that Shepard beats it out of there, abandoning her lunch behind.

I’ll find Victus and help him pack a little faster, she decides, but runs into Garrus first and isn’t he just that tall drink of water in the middle of a desert. She resists the urge to stare like the soldiers had done to her, conscious of the way her gaze follows him from toe to fringe. Jesus, thoughts of that man had been a balm to her when she’d been locked up alone for all that time.

“Shepard,” Garrus greets, and she blushes. If he’s caught her staring, he doesn’t let on.

“Any word on Victus?”

“A half hour more, I’ve been told.”

She shakes her head, shoulders slumping with a sigh. “This fucking guy—excuse me—you’d just think he’d kind of understand time is of the essence. I mean, I only almost got nearly trampled by one of those big beasts four times to try to tell him he’s inherited the whole damn planet.”

“Four times?” Garrus asks, teasing.

“Twice,” she clarifies, “and look what it did!” Shepard prods at the side of her chest piece where it covers her stomach, or rather, where it used to. It’s not so much cracked as crushed, and she knows it’ll be a total replacement scenario. Garrus prods the carbon fiber of what used to be, and Shepard winces. He draws his hand away, blood on his fingertips.

“You just gonna let that sit until whenever you end up back on the Normandy?” he accuses, and much like her father had done to her as a child, he takes her by the arm and pulls her away to see to the damage. If only it were just a skinned knee this time.

They find a set of crates off to the side and there he unbuckles the plate, lifting it from her shoulders. She’s down to just the body suit below and without the armor in the way, a clearer picture is available. Minor tissue damage, mostly superficial, but still a wound that needs attention. Before Shepard can even move for it, Garrus opens the pouch on her hip and retrieves the medi-gel dressing just as he’d done dozens of times before for her in the middle of a particularly bad dogfight. Shepard tugs at the cord at the back of her neck, unzipping the suit before peeling it down to her waist.

It doesn’t occur to her that they’re out in the open like that until he’s pressing the dressing to the abrasion and she shivers from the cold. Goosebumps prick her skin and Garrus rubs his hands over her upper arms for a second before he stops and looks at her, then around them.

“Perhaps…”

Shepard follows his gaze, and a nearby pack of soldiers she’s sure are green enough that she could’ve mothered them herself, stare, mouths agape and mandibles twitching, subvocals harmonizing together. Garrus moves to pull at the top half of her bodysuit limply sitting in her lap, but Shepard shoves him off, stands up.

“Have some respect!” She shouts, and while it has the effect she dreamt of in shaming the original group to at least look away, it also draws the attention of others nearby. “You want to see some tits, use the extranet like everyone else!” Her open palms smack right into the fabric covering her breasts, like some primitive call to challenge her.

Before anyone has even the chance to think of accepting such a proposition, it’s Garrus who’s picking her up by an arm around her waist until her feet no longer touch the ground. She squirms, and only after he pulls her into a self contained pod and shuts the door behind them, does Shepard realize how ridiculous it all must have looked. Commander Shepard, half undressed, carried off like a wriggling child.

“What was that for?” She huffs, pushes herself away from him when his grip finally loosens. He tosses the remainder of her armor at her feet.

Garrus clears his throat and idly rubs his fringe before he answers. “Just trying to prevent you from causing another intergalactic incident.”

“What the hell is going on out here?” Shepard questions, and now that they’re alone she doesn’t bother trying to redress. “Did Fornax do some top ten incarcerated cunts you just have to try issue or something?”

He nervously laughs, paces, draws up his omni-tool for half a second and closes it. The process starts all over again, like he’s not sure what to do with his hands or himself. Shepard watches him, eyes squinted, lips pursed. She knows he realizes he’s in trouble when their eyes meet.

“You!” Though her voice is raised, it’s not angry like before. “You did this.”

Garrus shakes his head, a weak shrug to his shoulder. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Look at you, you’re practically sweating.” Despite his larger size, he easily allows her to back him up against the wall. It’s an admission of guilt if she’s ever seen one.

His lower jaw hangs open, and she lets the silence extend between them, an old, simple interrogation technique. Garrus breaks first.

“It was just locker room talk…”

From the way his eyes shut tight, she can tell he’s expecting to flinch from her impending open palm. Shepard just steps back and god she can’t help it, she just laughs. Laughs til there’s tears in her eyes and a new cramp in her side, her lungs burning from the oxygen they’re desperately not getting.

“I can’t make this shit up,” she says between gasps of air, head shaking. “This is my life right now.” Shepard looks up toward the heavens, or where they’d be if she wasn’t indoors, and continues to laugh.

Garrus doesn’t move, remaining eerily still until Shepard has regained some measure of composure and glances back in his direction.

“Are you mad?” he ventures.

“I’m just saying, a warning might have been nice.”

“Well, it’s not like I thought this was going to happen.”

“Bunch of horny young men on the verge of death and you didn’t think this would happen?”

He heaves a sigh and takes a seat on a nearby cot.

“As I recall…” and Shepard sidles on up to him, catching him under the chin so he has to look up at her. She dreamt of those bright blue eyes. “That thought of death was what finally lit a fire under your ass, too.”

It’s almost a direct callback to a moment from that evening before the Omega-4 Relay the way his hands find her backside, armored though that part of her is, and he leans in, face nuzzling her bare abdomen and the bottom of her concealed breasts. Shepard’s hand comfortably rests along the back of his skull beneath his fringe, keeping him close.

“I missed you,” she confides. “Is that something we’re saying?”

“I missed you,” Garrus confirms.

Shepard leans forward to kiss the top of his head, pulling away only to start covering herself back up. She turns her back to him and Garrus obliges her just as he’d done a million times before as they prepped for a mission, zipping her up. “What exactly did you tell them? I really hope you doctored up these stories to make me sound a lot better than I am, at least. Give them something good to jerk it to at night.”

“I, uh, I think they’ll be using that one for a long time.”

She can feel the heat in her chest, imagines how that redness is creeping up her throat without even needing a mirror to confirm. “You’re a dog,” she bites, smiling all the while. It’s a ridiculous thought, but the curiosity gets to her. “What was their favorite part?”

“That thing you did with your mouth.”

By how quick he answers, Shepard can tell it wasn’t just their favorite part, it was also his. It’s a distinct choice when she licks her bottom lip, lets her top row of teeth bite the side. It’s also a choice to catch his eyes as she does it. “You don’t say. What else?”

His pupils dilate ever so slightly, and there’s no pulling his gaze from her even as she piles the layers back on, buckling her chest plate back around her.

“How you were practically dripping wet.”

She smiles coyly, turning away from him as she tries to play it cool. “And?”

He falls right into the trap she’s set, coming up behind her and taking her in his arms. Shepard stretches an arm up and back until she’s palming his mandible, her head tossing back into him. The armor between them is a curse.

“And I swear to god, Shepard, I’d have you right here if I could.”

“Listen Garrus, I only said I missed you. Don’t get ahead—“

A ping from her omni tool cuts her off and Shepard disengages from him, stepping away to read it. Sometimes she hates how easy it is to compartmentalize her life.

“Victus is ready,” she supplies, then makes move for the exit. She stops just before hitting the door release, threading her fingers through her hair, leaving the strands tousled and out of place. Shepard rocks up onto the toes of her boots and uses the slight reflection of his visor as a makeshift mirror. “How about now?”

He raises a brow plate, tilts his head. “How about now what?”

Her fist rubs to each of her cheeks, until they’re warm and pink again. “Do I look freshly fucked?”

Garrus coughs, but Shepard doesn’t hear his reply before she’s out the door, leaving him trailing behind. This time, even though she attracts the stares and attention of the Turians she passes, Shepard cocks the best tight lipped smile she can to the corner of her mouth. Now that she knows what they’re thinking… she has to admit, it’s a bit unsettling, but thrilling just the same. Unsettling and thrilling: if those two words didn’t just describe most of her life.

Victus is signing a finger across a data pad before he hands it off when she approaches, but from the second look he gives her, Shepard knows he knows too. It’s quick, the way he does it, a flick of his eyes to her hair, to her skin, to the bare bit of stomach peeking out where her ripped bodysuit and crushed armor fragments used to sit. His eyes snap back to meet her own.

“Commander Shepard.”

“Primarch. Have everything you need?”

“Yes,” he answers as they walk back towards the tail end of the camp where the shuttle awaits. “I’d like to thank you again for allowing me to make some preparations before we leave.”

Shepard takes her seat and fastens the buckles of the restraints while Garrus and Victus do the same. “It’s nothing, I had a bit of my own project to take care of, as it turns out.”

“Oh? I wasn’t aware the Alliance had any other missions on Menae.”

“No, no, this was personal,” Garrus nudges her knee with his own, but she ignores him and continues on, “something from my own heart, a cause very important to—“

“—She knows,” he blurts out from beside her, before Shepard can say anything else.

“Fuck you, Garrus,” Shepard snaps and simultaneously elbows his side, a minor consolation prize.

“Far be it for me to interfere,” Victus responds, just as quick and coolly from across the aisle, like not a thing was amiss, “but isn’t that what started this whole thing to begin with?”

Shepard laughs, gear rattling as her chest shakes, but Garrus only levels a stern gaze at his superior.

“He’s right,” she says, “and here I was, thinking you Turians were all about honor and duty,” the corner of her mouth quirked, “respectable people. You get a taste of freedom, Garrus, and the first thing you do is tell an entire platoon about fucking your boss.”

That blush that covered her skin earlier, she swears she can see something of it darkening his neck, tinting his skin from grey to blue. Garrus makes a strangled sound of embarrassment. Perfect.

“I bet you said lots of titillating things about me,” she slips a hand to the thigh of his armor, slides it up until it meets the junction of leg and groin where the only thing between her and him is the reinforced fabric of his undersuit. He tenses at the touch. “Did you even tell them all the places you put that tongue? Frankly, if they knew what really happened, they’d be calling you a disgusting little xenophile—”

He shuts her up the only way he knows how, pressing his mouth to hers, and given that its a human custom and not a Turian one, Shepard only smiles into it as he helps prove her point. It works though, in part because he kisses her so damn thoroughly she almost swears he’s been practicing. It’s hardly appropriate, especially not with his tongue in her mouth, but… fuck appropriate. Shepard pops the release on her restraints to pull herself half atop him, one hand at the back of his neck, until Victus clears his throat. Shepard wipes her glove across her mouth and settles back into her jumpseat.

“I’m glad someone is enjoying this war,” Adrien says when they pull apart. “And I understand why you always spoke of the Commander so fondly, Vakarian, what with her enthusiasm for seeing all those under her satisfied.”

“You are correct,” Shepard pats Garrus’ knee, then reconnects the harness. “And given your blessing, I’d be thankful to have Garrus back on the Normandy, to serve under me again. Isn’t that right?”

“I hate you both,” he answers from beside her, arms crossing over his chest.

“Come on now, Vakarian,” Adrien says. “I’m sure given the chance, the Commander here would also love to serve under you.”

“Oh he’s right on that. Under. Over. On—sorry—by your side. Hell, I think I’d be inclined to beg on my hands and knees for such a chance.” She’s laughing, Victus along with her, as she goes on. Shepard finally calls it off with a wave of her hand, a motion to clear the air. “But really, sir, Primarch, I intend on keeping Garrus with me. And if those aren't acceptable terms, then perhaps I’ll have to rethink your presence on my ship.”

“You’ll have no objections from me, Commander. Garrus is his own man in this.”

“What do you say?” In truth, she assumed the moment she set her eyes on him that he would be taking up his usual place by her side. This is his planet, however, his people… she would understand if he feels it his duty to return to that moon. She also knows if he does, it’s unlikely she will see him again. Maybe ever. Still, the choice isn’t hers to make.

“Shepard—of course,” and that is what she loves so much about him—Fuck, love? She has to think about that later—he was devout. His blue eyes lock with hers, even as they bump and rattle around as the shuttle breaks from the atmosphere back into space. Yeah, maybe it is love. “I’m with you.”

“Good,” she relaxes back into her seat as that familiar weightlessness kicks in. Through the side window, she can spot the Normandy coming into view. Shepard’s face eases into a wide, wicked smile. “Here’s the thing… I’ve got a new guy on board, Vega. He was something of my jailer when I was on Earth, keeping an eye on me for the Alliance. He’s a good guy, but he’s a talker and, well, I didn’t have a lot to do down there, so I might have told him a few things…”