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If there was one thing the Citadel was good for, it was an escape, and a little escapism in the right amounts was healthy enough.

After all, Shepard wasn’t oblivious. She knew that there was no running, no escape. She knew what was truly out there, always watching. Always waiting.

A threat that the rest of the galaxy had ‘dismissed,’ as Sparatus so eloquently put it. Not that she could blame him. Shepard had experienced it all firsthand, yet the Reaper threat still sounded crazy even to her.

But she knew her limits, if nothing else. She needed some shore leave, just a short break, before they threw themselves back into the fray.

Most of the squad was prepped and ready to go in regards to their upcoming assault on the Collector base, their personal matters taken care of and set aside for battle awaiting them.

However, getting to that point had taken its toll on all of them. Mentally, physically, emotionally…

Shepard had to ensure that her crew was at their peak performance when they hit the Omega-4 Relay, so she had insisted that they all get a little R&R. No exceptions, and that was an order.

Everyone agreed, some more begrudgingly than others, but they knew not to argue.

Besides, this was a perfect opportunity for Shepard to get some last-minute upgrades installed aboard the Normandy while everyone was away. Thankfully, she still had enough pull and influence as a Spectre to request the best servicemen available through the Citadel.

After she transferred them the appropriate funds, schematics, and resources, she set out for her leave, the rest of the crew already long-gone by the time she finished discussing the details.

Well, not all of the crew.

As she stepped out into the docking bay, she wasn’t even surprised to find Garrus and Thane still lingering there. They were sitting in the main waiting area, heads ducked low and close together. They spoke in soft whispers, but Shep was still able to discern a little of their conversation before they noticed her, faced away from the doors leading to the Normandy.

“How is she?” Thane asked, solemn yet attentive.

Garrus sighed, staring into the distance for a bit. He contemplated his answer before responding.

“It’s being handled,” he said. “You don’t need to concern yourself with that.”

Who were they—

“She’s your mother,” Thane answered in kind.

Ah, yes, that.

Shepard frowned. She knew that she shouldn’t eavesdrop, but aside from the whole Sidonis ordeal, Garrus still tried to keep so many of his problems to himself. He refused to lean on both Thane and herself for support when he really needed it, thinking himself a burden. Sometimes, he would close himself off until they pried the information out of him, or he would simply change the subject to another matter entirely.

Not the best method of communication. Shepard hated feeling as if she was coercing anyone into sharing something that they didn’t want to, but how else could their relationship progress when the give-and-take wasn’t being evenly distributed?

Just as Shepard should be able to rely on Thane and Garrus with her own problems, they too should be able to count on her for the same support.

It’s something they needed to work on for sure, but it wasn’t necessarily anything new or detrimental to their relationship.

Thane continued, “Your mother is important to you, roshun. She’s your family. It’s only natural that Jane and I would be concerned about her well-being.”

“You never did tell me what that meant,” Garrus replied, voice dry.

What was that Jane said about changing the subject?

She shook her head at his antics. The man wasn’t exactly subtle, was he? Then again, maybe that was the point in instances such as these. He wasn’t really trying to hide his disdain for the conversation, speaking bitterly about an enemy that he couldn’t confront on the battlefield.

Helpless. Useless. Maddening.

Jane knew that feeling all too well.

“And you never told me how your mother’s last treatment went,” Thane countered, more than willing to push back against the unspoken challenge. “So I guess we both have information the other wants.”

“Fair enough,” Garrus sighed. He turned his head slightly to the side, not even once glancing back at her. “You can come out now, Jane.”

Thane smiled at her responding huff.

Emerging from her hiding place, she crossed her arms over her chest. Her biceps flexed underneath her skin, out on display in her black muscle shirt. Her old dog tags fell down over the fabric, a sentimental novelty more than anything, especially since an implant could identify her remains just as easily as a scrap of metal.

Perhaps it was bad luck to wear the tags that she had died with, but Shepard liked to think of it as a personal challenge.

After all, surely her luck couldn’t be that bad that she died twice with them so soon, right?

Yeah, even she didn’t believe that bullshit.

Standing before her— What were they? Partners, lovers, boyfriends? Not that it mattered much. It was all semantics at the end of the day.

Standing before her two idiots, she watched them closely, unable to contain a small, tender smile.

Because, despite how those two bickered, here they were, fingers interlocked with little-to-no space left between them.

Shepard feigned a pout.

“How did you know it was me?”

“The infamous Commander Shepard isn’t exactly known for her stealth,” Thane noted.

“Or her subtlety,”Garrus added.

“Yeah, yeah,” Shepard huffed. “Everybody’s a critic.”

As they got to their feet, Shepard simply slid into place on Garrus’s other side, leading the way through the security checkpoint.

After their arrival was logged into the system, Shepard turned her face up towards Garrus, squinting at him.

“You realize you don’t have to fight these battles on your own, right?”

Against one of them, it was difficult for Garrus to refuse. Against them both, though? He was powerless.

Sighing, he squeezed them both against him.

“I know. I understand that,” he told her, “but you two already have enough on your plates—”

“As do you,” Thane reminded him, “but it would be no trouble at all to add one more thing to the list.”

“Especially since this is your mother we’re talking about,” Jane interjected. “Don’t worry, though. We’re not gonna push the subject anymore. Just know that the offer is there should you need it.”

“Thanks,” Garrus said, grateful for her thoughtfulness. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Although, speaking of families…” Jane trailed off, eyeing Thane purposefully.

“Kolyat is fine,” he stated, voice clipped.

Garrus chuckled, all while Jane rolled her eyes at the both of them.

“You two are impossible.”

“We can discuss it more later, if you’d like,” Thane offered. “Just not here.”

“Fair enough.”

“The real question,” Garrus stated, “is what did you have in mind for this impromptu vacation of ours?”

“A spa day, obviously,” Shepard deadpanned.

“Ah, yes, saunas.” Thane shuddered. “All of that hot steam. It sounds like the perfect place for me.”

Garrus nodded solemnly.

“Proof that Jane is out to kill you.”

“Unsurprising. She did hunt me down to ask for my help on a supposed suicide mission, after all.”

“Okay, you two. Haha, we get it,” she snorted, narrowing her eyes at them. “Are you both done being wiseasses?”

“Is there a way to stop?” Garrus asked, as if he had never even considered the possibility of that before. “Huh.”

“There is, but you simply lack the self-control to do so,” Thane muttered.

As Shepard led them aimlessly through the crowds, she soon found a skycar terminal, stopping them to summon a cab through her omni-tool.

Garrus chuckled in the back of his throat, low and deep.

“As if you don’t think that’s part of my charm,” he teased. “My witty humor and dashing good looks.”

“And here I thought it was the voice and scars.”

“Well, there’s that too.”

Shepard shook her head in amusement, watching as their ride arrived. She took to the “driver’s seat,” then casually glanced out at them.

“Come on, you two. Get your asses in.”

“Still never said where we were going,” Garrus grumbled, but he ducked into the car nevertheless, Thane following closely after.

Once they were seated, the doors slid closed with a quiet rush of air. After inputting their destination, the car’s VI interface answered for her.

“Now enroute to the Grand Nova Square.”

“Really, Shepard?” Garrus droned. “We’re going shopping?”

“Among other things,” she reassured him, watching in delight as they passed by various buildings and different architecture. “I wanted us three to have a somewhat normal date today.”

“Ah, so that’s what this is,” Thane said. “Interesting.”

“That’s okay, right?” Shepard asked, uncharacteristically nervous, focusing on the car’s control panel instead of them.

“Of course it is,” Garrus said, Thane nodding along in agreement. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“I don’t know, but it never hurts to ask.” She paused. Her hands hovered carefully over the panel, fingers poised yet trembling. “I just thought it would be nice for us to spend some actual alone time together before—” She swallowed thickly. “Well, you know.”

If she had to hear about the Omega-4 Relay, their impossible odds, or the so-called suicide mission one more time, she was probably going to lose it.

She knew their odds. After dying and being resurrected as Cerberus’s unwilling puppet, the last thing she needed or wanted was for it to be constantly thrown in her face that they only brought her back to sentence her to near-certain death again. She knew what was at stake. She understood the gravity of their situation, probably better than any other.

Shepard didn’t need it brought up every five fucking seconds.

Thane reached out and rested his hand upon her shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze.

“A little calm before the storm?” he asked.

“Exactly.”

“Sounds good to me,” Garrus said, shifting in his seat to get comfortable. “I think we've all earned a break, no matter how brief.”

“I thought you’d be more concerned about the ‘alone time’ part,” Thane teased, his expression as calm and collected as ever.

“Yeah? Well, I think you are projecting.”

“Remind me again which one of us went to Professor Solus for a casual briefing on interspecies sexual education.”

“Oh, that’s easy. Jane.”

“Hey!” Shepard snickered as she butted into the conversation. “Mine was definitely less planned on my part and more of him fucking with me as a sidenote.”

“Arriving shortly at your destination, Commander,” the VI chirped, its voice happy and chipper.

Oh, to lack the sentience to understand their current conversation. Perhaps it was for the best.

“Listen,” Garrus huffed, “I’ve never been with another species before. I figured it would be best to be prepared ahead of time before we got into this— No, wait, scratch that. That sounded like some horrible innuendo.”

“Are you saying it wasn’t meant to be?” Thane quipped. “Besides, isn’t that what the extranet is for?”

“Yeah, because the extranet is so trustworthy when it comes to that sort of thing.”

“Fair point,” Shepard said, “although I’m going to start keeping a running tally on all of the supposedly unintentional double meanings we get out of this conversation.”

“Please do,” Thane chuckled.

Garrus groaned in chagrin.

“At least tell me that you asked someone else other than Mordin about this, Garrus,” Shepard snorted.

“Of course,” he said, now on the defensive. “I asked EDI.”

Simple enough. If anyone was to be impartial about it, it would be her. She might not-so-subtly tease him about it later, but she was reliable enough to keep it as secretive as possible while weeding out all of the bullshit inaccuracies that the extranet would provide.

Maybe she might spill the beans to Joker, but overall not a terrible choice, given their limited resources.

At least it wasn’t—

“And Dr. Chakwas was surprisingly knowledgeable.”

Shepard blinked owlishly at that, gaping like a fish out of water.

It was silent for a moment or two before she finally responded.

“Garrus!” she shrieked.

“What?” he retorted, arms crossed over his chest. “The woman knows her stuff.” He paused, narrowing his eyes as he recalled their earlier conversation. “As a matter of fact, one might even say she’s too knowledgeable.”

As if Shepard was going to take the time out of her day to think about what that meant.

As the old saying goes, ignorance is bliss.

Meanwhile, Thane was barely keeping it together in the back seat. His hand was clamped down over his mouth, undoubtedly hiding his wide grin, but that didn’t matter one bit. With the way his shoulders shook, it was clear that the fucker was trying to muffle his laughter.

Lucky for him, Shep was too focused on a certain turian at the moment to care.

“You told her about our sex life, Garrus?!”

“Well, I didn’t mention you by name…”

He shrugged, unconcerned.

“Who else would you be talking about, though?” Shepard asked, running her fingers through her hair. “It’s not hard to put two and two together!”

“Yeah, you two aren’t exactly subtle,” Thane said, somehow managing to get the words out through his wheezing laughter.

Hmph.

When it was so rare to see Thane actually cut loose and relax, Shepard couldn’t even keep the fire going for long, his joy alone making her melt from the inside-out.

“Still, this is Chakwas we’re talking about.” She was about the closest thing Shepard had to a maternal figure. If not like her own mother, then an aunt at the least. Their next conversation was sure to be something. “What are you going to do next? Go all old-school and ask Anderson or Hackett for my hand?”

“Why would I want a detached hand?” Garrus wondered, although she knew that he was screwing around with her now, especially if that shit-eating grin of his was anything to go by. “Come on, Jane. She’s a professional. She’s not going to rag on you for having relationships.”

Before Jane could respond, the skycar touched down, their trusty VI coming to the rescue.

“We have arrived at Grand Nova Square. We thank you for using our services and hope that you have a pleasant day.” As Shepard checked that the credits had cleared for the ride, the VI continued. “Please, when you have a moment, take the time to rate my services. A link has been sent to your omni-tool that connects you to our company’s survey. Your feedback helps ensure—”

“Yeah, yeah,” Shepard said, rolling her eyes as she stepped out of the car. “Thanks for the ride.”

With that, the others stepped out beside her, Garrus closing the door behind them.

As they started walking through the shopping center, Thane chuckled to himself.

“You know, Garrus, I’m surprised that you didn’t message Dr. Michel about your questions. She seemed especially eager to speak with you again from what Jane has told me.”

Shepard scowled at the reminder, recalling that last message she had received from her.

“Is that so?” Garrus asked. He kept his gaze trained straight ahead, but there was no denying how the hide around his neck took on a bluish tint where the plating was less concentrated. “That’s news to me.”

Surprisingly, it was Thane who responded, beating Shepard to the punch.

“Sure it is.”

His voice was clipped, his displeasure about as subtle as a slap to the face. It was honestly surprising. Thane rarely voiced such thoughts out in the open, but maybe that had more to do with letting the crew see him like that. Right now, they were off the clock, and they had little-to-no reason to worry about keeping up appearances.

It felt freeing in a way. Like being able to finally take a breath of fresh air.

Garrus chuckled, tossing his arms around both of their shoulders.

“Come on now. Are you getting jealous on me, Krios?” he hummed, pressing his mouth plates against Thane’s temple while his voice reverberated low in his chest.

Okay, now that was just unfair.

Shepard watched in amusement.

“No, why would you think that?” Thane asked, holding himself stiffly, but even Shepard could see that slight tremor that trailed down his spine.

Poor Thane never stood a chance.

Garrus shrugged nonchalantly, righting himself.

“No reason,” he replied, mandibles fluttering as he resisted the urge to smile.

Shepard scoffed at their antics, taking the lead once more.

“Enough wandering around,” she said, jerking her chin in the direction of the store she had in mind. “Let’s go.”

Of course, their version of shopping was a lot different than your average civilian’s. While clothes were indeed a necessity, they probably only got through about two outfits each before they all grew bored of the casualwear. It wasn’t long before they ended up in more familiar shops, perusing their select brands of armors, weapons, and mods. Occasionally, they would stop at an electronics store, overlooking the latest in bio-amp and omni-tool technology.

Shepard purchased a few weapon and ammo modifications, figuring that some last-minute prep wouldn’t hurt. After arranging to have that shipped back to the Normandy, Garrus bought a new software update for his omni-tool, getting a copy for Tali as well.

He claimed that the last thing he wanted was to get chewed out because he “forgot about her” while on their trip.

A conversation that they obviously had before, although Shepard had to say that Garrus’s Tali impression was as laughably terrible as always.

At least it got a decent chuckle out of her.

By the time they found Thane again, he was in a jewelry store, of all places.

Shepard’s heart dropped to her stomach.

She and Garrus exchanged a wary glance before approaching him.

Garrus wrapped his arms around him from behind, his chin resting on his shoulder. Thane only tensed the slightest bit before relaxing into his warm embrace, Jane standing by his side as she scanned the contents of the brightly-lit case before them.

It was a welcome relief and admittedly somewhat a disappointment what they did find instead.

Piercings.

That’s all that it was. A whole collection of various piercings, labelled for each respective species who used them.

“Thinking about getting one?” Garrus asked, surprised yet curious as to why he chose this case of all others.

“Hmm…” Thane cocked his head to the side, focused on the rows of gleaming metal. “No need. I used to wear them when I was younger. It’s been a while, though.”

Call Shepard overly optimistic, but she couldn’t let the conversation die there.

“Maybe one day you can show us yours,” she said, “if you’d like.”

Thankfully, Thane indulged her thoughts of a future together, playing along easily enough.

“Yeah, maybe one day.”

But for right now, Thane swiped at the shopping kiosk, purchasing a simple platinum ring. The salesperson maintaining the store retrieved the piercing in question, bagging it up for him and sending them on their way.

Once they were out in the square again, Thane slid the piercing into place with only a little resistance, wearing it proudly on display.

From there, they strolled around, stopping at a huge, colorful stand that sold snacks and treats of all shapes and sizes. Shep got some vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate, a treat unheard of for someone from the colonies. Meanwhile, Garrus bought some kind of turian pastry, and Thane had what looked to be candied insects of some kind.

Shepard tried one out of curiosity, only for the crunchy beast to suddenly burst open in her mouth.

Garrus laughed at her scrunched-up expression, Thane simply smiling with a mischievous twinkle in his eye when she winced.

As they ate, they walked and talked, discussing everything and nothing all the same. For once, they were in no rush to get anywhere or do anything, basking in one another’s presence for as long as they could.

With their food finished, they trashed the remains, Shepard taking both of their hands as she dragged them along.

“One last stop, then we can go hang out at my place for the station’s night cycle.”

“Your place?” Garrus echoed. “I didn’t know you had somewhere to stay on the Citadel.”

“Spectre-issued housing,” she explained. “It’s a simple apartment, comfortable even, but they’re designed to be low-key enough to not draw attention while the agent is here on the Citadel. It helps especially with undercover ops.”

“Although, for a trained eye, it’s not that subtle,” Thane commented. “In the past, I used to cross paths with Spectres while hunting my targets. Those apartments are tagged, but few know what to look for.”

“Thank the gods for that,” Jane muttered. “Imagine if we would have met earlier, though.”

“That would have been…” Honestly, Thane didn’t know what to make of that thought. Many of his years hadn’t exactly been all that great, mentally and emotionally speaking. “Interesting.”

“That’s one word for it,” Garrus said.

Before long, Shepard was hauling them into the local arcade, a steely determination in her eyes.

Oh, boy.

The next several hours were spent with them playing game after game together, most of them —if not all— competitive in nature.

As if one should expect anything else with those three together.

They had started with a simple racing game, the virtual interface placing them into skycars as they raced on different tracks stationed around the galaxy. Garrus and Shepard trash-talked the most, crashing and bumping their cars into one another while Thane sped past into the lead. Eventually, they caught on and started teaming up against him, which resulted in all three of them finishing last. When multiple rounds kept ending in such a fashion, they moved on.

A few rounds of Shattered Eezo later, and they were making their way to play some of the arcade's latest shooters.

Of course, that meant Shepard’s performance completely flopped, causing her to pout and fume with each consecutive loss.

That was when she challenged Garrus and Thane to laser tag, head held high out of sheer stubbornness.

A challenge they were more than willing to accept, well-aware of who was the better shot.

The second the lights went dark in the course, they scattered, finding their cover as the countdown began for the first round to start. Thane instantly took to the shadows, often sneaking up behind Garrus and Jane while they were searching, catching them by surprise as he ‘stunned’ them with a single shot.

He’d toss them a wicked grin, racking up points as he maneuvered through the darkness with ease.

They would get a shot at him every now and then, sometimes even landing it.

That left Garrus and Shepard to turn on each other in hopes of catching up, exchanging shots back and forth as the game continued on.

With time winding down on the clock, Garrus and Thane were clearly ahead of her, only a shot or two away from beating each other. At this point, however, it wasn't about winning, not in Jane’s eyes at least. It was more so about getting the last laugh, and that was it.

When Garrus broke his cover to take a shot at Jane, she smirked.

It was time to play dirty.

Her hands and eyes glowed a bright blue. She stood, using her biotics to pull Garrus forward, his gun suspended uselessly at his side. He didn’t even object, eyeing her as she approached him.

“Any last words?” she teased, laser aimed towards his sensor.

He cracked a smile then, his gaze heated as he appraised her appearance. Those bright eyes roamed over her body from head to toe, drinking in the sight of her.

“I have one final request actually.”

“Oh?” Shepard played dumb, studying her nails as she kept him suspended before her. “And what is that?”

“A kiss.”

“Hmm…” She pretended to think it over, despite how her heart did a small flip in her chest. “I guess I can spare one.”

Releasing him, he landed on his feet with a soft thud. He ducked his head down, his forehead pressed affectionately against hers. She cupped his cheek, staring deep into his eyes, lost in the moment.

Pressing her lips against his mouth plates, she lingered before pulling away.

It was then that Thane got two shots off, his laser hitting Shep's sensor first and then Garrus’s not even a second later, right before the timer buzzed to signal the end of their session.

Shepard grumbled, flipping him off as he joined back up with them, as smug as could be.

“Such a sore loser,” he chided, dropping a kiss upon Shepard’s cheek and then Garrus’s.

With his arms wrapped around them both, they decided to call it a night, gathering up their stuff as they headed towards the apartment Shepard mentioned. They grabbed a bite to eat on the way there, each of them all but collapsing onto the couch with their own container of takeout.

Garrus turned on the holo-screen, switching the channel over to some random movie network. However, the moment he saw that it was Citadel on, he flipped through to another channel, settling on one of the millions of Blasto movies currently out.

Settling in for the evening, they continued to watch movies, snuggled close together on the couch. After Shep sent a message out reminding the crew that they were going to meet up for breakfast later, they kept up idle conversations here and there, making the occasional comments about a certain scene or performance.

Glancing over at Garrus and Thane from her side of the couch, Shepard couldn't help but to smile.

This.

This is what truly mattered.

And if she were to die in her fight against the Collectors, this would be one of the memories that she would hope to look back on and remember in her final moments.

This was her moment of peace.

Her calm before the storm.