For the tenth time in the last half hour alone, Shepard put down her book (well, technically not her book—she'd found the trashy romance novel in the abandoned little house the Alliance had issued to her and Garrus for the time she needed to stay close to the hospital for her physical therapy visits) and opened up her omni-tool to check the clock.
Her assessment of the situation was the same as before, although with a bit more frowning and lip-chewing. Garrus was late.
Ordinarily, she wouldn't have worried. They'd been through, what? Three suicide missions? And yet, they'd both come out alive in the end—granted, with some bruises and broken bones and scars, but still. On the other hand, he had nearly died right in front of her eyes on Omega when that rocket had hit him square in the face, or when he'd taken a gut shot on the Collector Base, or when a Reaper blast had almost blown off his leg just before she'd made the run for the beam.
She wished she'd insisted on accompanying him to his meeting with the primarch. They were supposed to visit one of the turian camps in the city to check on the supplies and the morale of the troops trapped on Earth after the Reapers' destruction. Judging by what she'd heard about the neighborhood, it wasn't exactly a safe place during peace time; with still a few Cerberus cells remaining in scattered pockets of resistance, not to mention the desperate looting and emerging piracy and black market operations that had sprouted up as soon as the euphoria of victory had died down and the grim reality of after-the-war hardships had set in, she could just imagine how dangerous the place had to be now.
Not knowing where Garrus was and what he was doing was worse with her stuck in her wheelchair. She'd considered trying to send him a message, but extranet access wasn't exactly the same as it used to be, and she'd already used up her quota for the day when she'd made a long call to Tali earlier in the afternoon to inquire about the repairs her quarian friend was overseeing on the Normandy.
So now, here she was, sitting by the window, chewing on her fingernails, peering out at the rubble-strewn street, ready to set out and roll her wheels over to wherever the hell that camp was—when she finally caught sight of their beaten-up skycar as it landed at the front gate and Garrus climbed out of the front seat.
"Thank you," Shepard mouthed to no-one in particular, turning her chair to face the door and picking up the book once again, pretending to be immersed in the love story of Anna and Eric and not at all anxious about her own mate's late arrival home.
The first sign that this was not going to be the kind of entrance she'd expected was the sound of fumbling and cursing on the other side of the thick metal door. The second, Garrus's triumphant whoop when the lock finally turned green and the panels slid open, and he stumbled in on unsteady feet, raising his arms in an air hug as he yelled, "Shepard! Sweetie! I got us a new roommate!"
Shepard nearly dropped the book onto the floor. "You did what?"
Garrus chuckled happily as he walked over to the kitchen, leaning his back against the counter for support. "She's a pretty little thing. She has really long hair and it's... so soft. And her eyes are green! Just like yours." He thought for a moment, crinkling his nose as he considered what he'd just said. "Except hers are bigger. I think."
Shepard's eyes, apparently too small for Garrus, went wide as his words echoed in her head, bouncing around and dissolving and merging together until they formed an incoherent, incomprehensible mess. "Excuse me?"
"See, at first I wasn't going to do it," Garrus said with the wave of a hand, "but this woman kept saying she was cheap and I could take her home and she kept pushing her to me and she looked at me with those eyes—did I say they're green, like yours?—and she, I mean, Rosie, I think that's her name, talked to me and when I stroked her hair, she kissed my hand and I wouldn't have thought I'd like it, but I did, and—"
If only her legs worked like they used to, Shepard would have gotten out of her chair and pulled up to her full height, staring down the turian in front of her with her most frightening Commander Fucking Shepard look. Instead, she glared at him, and barked out the one thing she'd previously promised herself not to say to him if only he got home safe and sound.
"Where the hell have you been?"
Before Garrus could reply, she raised a hand and pointed her index finger at his chest. "And what the goddamn hell are you talking about? I thought you were supposed to visit a turian camp, not the Red Light District. I certainly did not expect you to come home with a..." she curled her fingers into those air quotes Councilor Sparatus used to torment her with, "new roommate."
"The what?" Garrus drew his brow plates together in confusion. "Don't know anything about a Red Lamp... Area. No, no, no, we took a tour of Camp Twenty-six. Adrien was there, and Oraka, and... and... someone else I can't remember. And we talked to the troops and they invited us for some drinks, and then Oraka wanted to show us this place he found near the camp, and we all went—I thought it was going to be another camp, but no, it was a bar, but I didn't want to stay because I wanted to come home to my sweetie—" He wavered on his feet as he made a wide gesture in Shepard's general direction. "You're the love of my life, you know that?"
Shepard bit into her lips, desperately trying to keep the scowl on her face from turning into a smile. No. No smile for him. Not yet. Not when there was still the question of who the hell he thought appropriate bringing into their home.
Garrus's eyes lost their focus as they wandered away from her face, his brows tightening into a frown. "Where were we?"
"Rosie," Shepard ground out through clenched teeth. "The chick you apparently picked up from a Madame."
Garrus bobbed his head enthusiastically. "Ah, yes! Rosie. But she's not a... chick. She's a..." He stopped and looked around, his mandibles fluttering in puzzlement. "Where is she?"
Had she not been so annoyed, Shepard might have laughed. But, not this time. "Yeah. Where is she? I'd like to have a nice little chat with her."
Garrus raised a finger into the air, and pushed away from the counter. "The car. I left her in the car. I'll go get her."
"No." She might have been a cripple confined to a wheelchair—at least for a few more months—but Shepard's voice, sharp and severe, still managed to stop him in his tracks. "I'll do it."
Gaze stubbornly held ahead, she rolled across the room, out the door, down the ramp, and straight to the skycar in front of the house. She could hear Garrus's unsteady footsteps behind her as he trailed after her, but she ignored him as she laid her hand on the lock and let the sensor read her palm print before she popped the door open.
The front seats were empty.
Frowning, she peered into the back, a few choice words ready to roll off her tongue. A pair of the prettiest green eyes she'd ever seen looked up at her, and for a moment, all she could do was stare back.
"Mrroww?" Rosie finally said as she clambered up from her sleeping position and stretched her neck to smell the stranger who'd just awakened her from her peaceful slumber.
Shepard laughed, her vision suddenly blurred from an unexpected tear welling up in her eyes.
"Rosie, I presume?" She extended her hand, letting her new roommate take a sniff of her scent before burying her fingers into the fluffy ginger and white fur and giving a thorough scratch to a spot behind the kitten's ear. Rosie purred and closed her eyes, pushing her head into Shepard's hand.
"She's beautiful," Shepard whispered. "She reminds me of my cat on Mindoir."
"I thought she could keep you company when I'm not here," Garrus said, laying a hand on her shoulder.
Shepard cocked her head, touching the side of her cheek to her mate's gloved talons. How could she ever have doubted him?
"Let's take her inside and find her some food." She picked up her new pet still purring up a storm, settled her down on her lap, and began rolling back to the house.
"So, she can stay?" Garrus asked, trudging after the wheelchair.
"Yes. And you won't have to sleep on the couch after all."
Garrus's footsteps stopped as he came to a sudden halt. Shepard looked over her shoulder, nearly bursting out in laughter at his dumbfounded expression. He had no idea how close he'd come to getting kicked out of their bedroom and why.
Maybe she would explain it to him later, in bed. After she'd showed him her appreciation for the wonderful person he really was.
Behind closed doors, with no new roommate inside.