“Garrus!” Chloe Michel cried, throwing her arms wide and giving the turian a great hug. Garrus started, then gave the doctor an awkward pat on the back.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said, her French accent thick as she smiled at him. “And Commander Shepard! Such a pleasure.” She grinned as she shook Shepard’s hand, then turned back to Garrus expectantly.
Shepard smiled in amusement at Garrus’ obvious puzzlement. This had been a good idea, she decided. Garrus had been quiet and reclusive ever since they had finished dealing with Sidonis and Fade. Shepard felt that the decision he had made there was the right one, but she could tell that Garrus wasn’t so sure. So as long as they were stuck with one another in the Zakera Ward until they heard back about Bailey, Shepard had no intention to spend her time watching Garrus brood. A brooding turian, she decided, was far too much angry plated muscle for a woman to feel comfortable aorund. And given the way the doctor was animatedly chattering, Shepard felt she’d finally found a way to draw Garrus out of the shell he’d retreated into recently.
“I had the pleasure of seeing one of your crew, the other day,” Doctor Michel was saying brightly. “A…Aleeno?” Is that it?”
“Alenko?” Garrus supplied as Shepard blinked, suddenly drawn into the conversation.
“Kaidan was here?” she asked, sharply. “Where?”
“That’s it. Alenko.” Doctor Michel nodded. “He was picking up one of my assistants for a date.”
Shepard felt as though the floor had fallen out from under her.
“He what ?” she practically shouted.
Garrus’ head swung from the red-headed human to the blond one.
“He…” Shepard fought to get herself under control. She realized the doctor was staring at her and she could think of nothing to say to smooth this over.
“When was this?” she asked, trying for a nonchalant tone.
“A few weeks ago,” the doctor said, now clearly a little rattled. “He’s come here before, of course, only I don’t know if…”
“I see,” Shepard said, cutting her off swiftly. “Well,” she said, with a forced smile, “Garrus, don’t let me keep you. I’m sure you want to get caught up with your friend. I’m going to…go pick up that mod…thing I saw in the shop outside. I’ll meet you back at C-Sec.”
“Shepard…” Garrus began, looking at her in concern – or maybe it was panic. It was hard to tell.
“Give me a minute,” she told him, then she walked out into the ward, scarcely noticing where she was going.
What the HELL? Shepard’s mind seemed to scream. She gritted her teeth, staring straight down the promenade, not noticing the people who got out of her way with nervous glaces.
So Kaidan had gone out with this doctor of his after Horizon? Only a few weeks ago? Shepard briefly considered going back in and grilling the doctor for more information, but she simply couldn’t bring herself to do so. If Kaidan had moved on, then he’d moved on. Then again, she thought, wildly, maybe he hadn’t moved on. There could always be another explanation as to why he took the doctor out for a date after he had known that Shepard was alive.
Shepard scowled. She couldn’t think of another explanation. But really, why should she? Kaidan had given her nothing to go on there. He had said he didn’t know about the future. He had been as vague as possible in that stupid email of his and now this revelation from the doctor had clarified things a bit.
Shepard stomped down the hallway, desperately wishing she could just shoot something. She had a sudden desire to find a public extranet terminal and reply to Kaidan’s email at last - to give him a good piece of her mind. She was sure she had a few good messages on her omnitool that she could send to him. Several had used the words ‘Hey bastard’ as the salutation, so that might be a good place to start. But then again, if Cerberus ever found her message, they’d then know how easily Kaidan could hurt her. Somehow, showing that side of herself to the Illusive Man just made her bristle with wounded pride.
“You okay, Shepard?” Garrus’ turian twang sounded beside her ear.
“Fine,” Shepard said, curtly, not breaking her stride.
“Shepard, what Doctor Michel said that Kaidan…”
“Garrus, I don’t want to hear it.”
“If he was here recently, might be here on the Citadel,” Garrus told her. “Maybe you could ask Anderson…”
“As if Anderson would tell me anything,” Shepard said, bitterly. “Just drop it, Garrus.”
“Commander Shepard,” a throaty voice crackled over the comm. Shepard didn’t stop walking as she clicked open the comm link.
“Shepard here,” she said shortly. “What is it, Krios?”
“Bailey just got to his desk. I would speak to him, myself, but I would greatly appreciate…”
“I’m on my way,” Shepard replied. “Shepard out.”
“Thank you,” Thane’s voice replied politely, and the comm cut out.
“We really going to help that…assassin?” Garrus asked, mandibles flaring as he followed Shepard down the hallway.
“I am,” Shepard replied. “But if you don’t want to come with me…”
“I’m coming with you,” Garrus told her, firmly.
Shepard shrugged by way of reply. Garrus watched her closely.
“You really okay, Shepard?” he asked again.
“I’ll be fine,” she replied. “Just realizing that I could have done with a lot less brooding and a lot more action if it’s come to this.” She let out a sigh and shook her head. “Let’s just talk to Bailey, take care of Krios’ little problem, and see if we can’t talk to Anderson before we leave. If not, screw Anderson and the Council.”
“And Kaidan?” Garrus asked.
“Kaidan can wait,” Shepard snapped. “He’s certainly made me wait,” she grumbled in an undertone.
Shepard was so intent on striding on down the hallway that she entirely missed Garrus’s small, hopeful smile behind her back.
Thane’s great dark eyes seemed to bore into Shepard’s own. He reached up and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. Shepard shivered. Kaidan used to do that, she thought, absently. It was hard not to be aroused by the touch, even as she immediately felt awkward that she was.
It should be Kaidan, she thought to herself. Damn him for not being here. Damn him for not caring anymore.
“Thank you, siha,” Thane murmured, bowing his head to her. “You have done a great thing for me.”
Behind her, Shepard heard Garrus growl a little. Thane looked at the turian, gave him a curt nod, then walked away to join his son, who was standing a short distance away near Captain Bailey’s desk.
“Do you always let strange men touch you like that, Shepard?” Garrus snapped the moment the assassin was out of earshot.
“Of course not,” Shepard said, pulling her hair back over her ear just to try and erase the touch.
“I’m surprised you didn’t slap him.”
“I would have. It just surprised me.”
“And what does ‘siha’ mean, anyhow?” Garrus asked her.
“No idea,” she replied.
Garrus glared after the drell. “Just…watch your step with him, Shepard,” he said.
“I think he’s proving trustworthy,” Shepard said, “But yes, I fully plan to keep an eye on him.”
“How close an eye?” Garrus grumbled. His voice was low, but Shepard caught it all the same. Her gaze swung to his, and he quickly looked away, mandibles flaring.
“Come on, Garrus,” she said, half laughing, “You don’t actually think I’m interested in Thane?”
Garrus glared at her. “Aren’t you?” he snapped.
“No! I mean, he’s got impressive…skills.” She gave a half smile in the drell’s direction. “But that’s about it.”
“Really? Because Kelly said…” Garrus stopped suddenly, then looked at Shepard guiltily.
“Kelly said what, Garrus?” Shepard asked, her voice holding a slight warning.
“She said that you thought Thane was…sexy,” Garrus said the word like it was something slimy he didn’t want to touch.
Shepard shook her head, laughing. “I swear, that woman…” She looked back to Garrus, eyes narrowing. “I believe it was Kelly who said that Thane was sexy. I told her to shape up and act like a professional. We’re not Alliance, but still, we have standards. Well, I have standards, anyhow.”
“But Kelly said…” Garrus stopped himself again.
“Kelly said that you told her you liked dangerous men,” Garrus said, watching Shepard closely.
“You know, I never knew you were such a gossip, Garrus.”
“So you do like dangerous men,” Garrus pressed.
“If you must know,” Shepard said, lightly, “I told her that I meet a lot of dangerous men in my line of work, but I also told her that Thane wasn’t my type. She asked who my type was…” Shepard broke off, frowning.
My type turned out to be just as much a jackass as my boyfriend and all the guys in Basic , she thought, suddenly furious. I thought I’d learned something over the years, but apparently not.
Garrus lifted his chin at once. “Let me guess,” he said, his voice disgusted. “Kaidan?”
Shepard sighed in spite of herself.
“Kaidan wasn’t dangerous, Shepard,” Garrus said, glaring at her.
Shepard turned to him and raised an eyebrow.
“Okay,” he amended, “He could fight, but he wasn’t really…” Shepard raised both her eyebrows now.
“What?” she asked, her voice a little hard. “He made his first kill at seventeen. He was a special forces marine, a tech expert, and a stable L2 biotic, - one of the strongest human biotics in the Alliance, I might add. He could toss a whole room of asari commandos on their asses. He rigged a bomb out of an engine core. The man was every kind of deadly that there is, Garrus. You should know that. You fought by his side for almost a year.”
“Yeah, but that was just on the battlefield.”
Shepard snorted. “I realize some people think you have to act tough to be tough, but Kaidan was every inch a badass.”
“Bad ass ?” Garrus repeated. Clearly his translator was not making sense of the word.
“A mature, reticent badass,” Shepard went on, half to herself. “But a badass all the same”
Garrus stared at her without speaking. Shepard tried to push the thought of Kaidan and his badass ways aside. Apparently, the mature, quiet side of him hadn’t made up for the fact that he would gladly move on to the next woman when things didn’t go his way. She just felt sick at having been his next-to-most-recent fling.
“Anyhow,” she said, lifting her chin. “My point is that Kelly got it wrong. Thane’s nice enough - for a guy with a dark past who is trying to make amends, but I’m not really into…” she broke off, uncertain how to explain.
“Aliens?” Garrus snapped, his voice sharp and yet hurt at the same time.
Shepard looked up at him, surprised at the bitterness in his tone. Garrus gazed at her a long moment – a long, telling moment – then sharply looked away.
And suddenly, Shepard understood.
Oh, my God , she thought, as the truth suddenly dawned. A moment later she wished she could forget it, push it all away. She had guessed, but not really considered. She’d managed to avoid looking it in the face, but now…
” You have a really good read on people when they’re dealing with each other, huh skipper? But not so much when they’re dealing with you.”
Ashley’s words came back to her from across the years, suddenly startling her with their accuracy. She really didn’t pick up on things like this, Shepard thought, and least, not in regards to herself. Call it Puritan modesty, but she’d always gone out of her way to avoid noticing anything resembling sexual interest most of her life. Only in those early days of Basic had she allowed herself to see it. If you didn’t notice sexual attraction, you couldn’t return it, thus couldn’t be unprofessional and act on it. Of course, that hadn’t worked so well with Kaidan, she thought. And, it seemed, it hadn’t worked so well with Garrus, either.
Oh, my God, Shepard thought, remembering her earlier conversation with Garrus about Kaidan. No wonder Garrus had gotten so angry. And then, before that, there had been all those arguments and moments of flirting that had happened between her and Kaidan when they thought Garrus wasn’t listening in. But he probably had been. She simply couldn’t imagine what she’d been putting Garrus through – and she hadn’t even known.
At what point, she wondered, had she said or done anything to encourage this cross-species crush? She hadn’t intended it at all, though not because Garrus wasn’t human. That wasn’t it, she told herself. Even now, looking at him, she had to admit there were a few physical features that gave her pause. He was tall, which she liked, and strong, which was comforting. She had to admit that his voice was quite…nice. Not as nice as Kaidan’s, but it was deep and thrumming. But then she shook herself. Garrus also had fangs – and the span of his hips…
Shepard caught herself looking Garrus over and froze. Garrus apparently saw it too, because he suddenly stiffened. Shepard was sure she blushed. They just stood there, at the edge of the C-Sec offices, where the customs area met the main shopping district of the Zakera Ward, looking at each other in awkward silence.
Oh my God , Shepard thought again. I am such an idiot.
She took a deep breath, then decided to go for a direct approach.
“How do you want to play this Garrus?” she asked.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Ah,” he seemed to cough and laugh at the same time. “Well, what do you want Shepard? I mean, now that you know about Kaidan and that doctor, maybe you’re…” He stared at the floor for a moment, then lifted his eyes to hers.
”…ready to move on?”
Shepard stared at him, blankly. Garrus chuckled slightly and lightly touched the broken side of his face.
“Unless you’re not interested in men with scars?” he added, softly.
Shepard knew it wasn’t fair of her, but her mind instantly went to a certain pair of scarred lips that she had once kissed. Kaidan’s lips had been criss-crossed with fine, white lines that stood out against his tanned skin. She had loved those scars - those lips. It had amazed her that something so soft could hold evidence of such strength. In that respect, his lips had been like Kaidan as a whole, she thought.
Shepard’s eyes were full of pain as she gazed back at Garrus – at her dear friend, who had been there beside her throught so many battles, even the ones where Kaidan had been absent.
And she found she could think of nothing to say.
“Damn,” Garrus murmured. “I guess that’s my answer right there.”
“Garrus…” Shepard choked out, suddenly feeling weary and sad all at once. “I didn’t mean to…”
She felt her heart breaking for him – for both of them.
“Shit,” she said softly.
Garrus just swallowed and looked away.
God, what a mess , Shepard thought. This wasn’t what she wanted. She wished she’d never… what , exactly? she wondered. What had she done to encourage this? *But I * didn’t * encourage it,* a part of her mind protested. Then again, she realized she hadn’t exactly dis couraged it. But then, she hadn’t exactly counted on interest from a turian. She was used to avoiding the advances of human men, but aliens – first Liara, now Garrus… That really threw her. She’d have been flattered by the attention – if it wasn’t just so awful to turn down a friend.
“Shit,” Shepard said again, running a hand through her hair.
“Just stop, Shepard,” Garrus said, quietly.
“Well,” she said, pursing her lips, and attempting to make a joke of it, “You know, there’s still Kelly. She’s had a thing for you since you got on board.”
“What?” Garrus turned to her, startled.
“Yeah, and I probably shouldn’t go gossiping,” Shepard added, “but Doctor Michel seemed pretty into you, too. Why do you think I suggested that we visit?”
Garrus glared at her, his mandibles flaring. “I don’t have some human fetish, Shepard,” he snapped at her, his voice angry. “I don’t even like… I mean, I wanted…” He broke off and Shepard found she had no idea what to say.
“Shit,” she muttered again. “I’m sorry.”
“So,” Garrus said, laughing humorlessly. “I guess Kaidan was the only choice for you all along, huh?”
Shepard’s gaze flew to his, her eyes wide and startled. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Garrus said, looking at her in disgust. “You’re still waiting on him, aren’t you? Even though he went off with some doctor and…” The turian made a gesture Shepard had never seen before, but even without a translation for it, she realized at once it was lewd.
“Hey!” she said, growing angry. “You don’t know that! He might have been…” But words failed her, because she just didn’t know. Then she saw the bleakness in Garrus’ eyes and could go no further. She shook her head and sighed.
“Damn,” she said, softly, “we’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”
Garrus stiffened at her words. “Not quite a pair,” he murmured.
She winced. “Sorry Garrus,” she told him. “I didn’t mean a pair pair. Just a pair… Shit.” She winced again at her own lack of eloquence.
They stood there in silence for a minute, as the crowds in the Wards passed on by and the C-Sec officers went about their business.
Finally, Garrus shifted and spoke. “So you’re going to take your chances on Kaidan?” he asked, softly.
Shepard sighed. “No,” she said, burying her fingers in her hair. “Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. Maybe Kaidan and me was just the mission, you know? Just me needing someone – anyone. And if he’s found someone else…” She broke off, let her hand drop. “Damn it, you don’t need to hear this.”
Garrus turned his gaze to the Wards. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. Because finally, Shepard knew exactly what he wasn’t saying.
“God, Garrus,” she murmured. “I’m…”
“Don’t,” he said, flatly.
“I am sorry,” she snapped at him. “Look, like you said with Sidonis: life isn’t black and white, it’s gray. And this – all of this – is really damn gray, Garrus.”
“Yeah,” he said, bitterly, “It is.” He paused a moment, then, still looking at the Wards said, “Shepard, would you…?”
“Yeah?” she prompted when he didn’t go on.
“Come on, Garrus,” she said. “What?”
He blinked, narrowing his eyes at some spot far beyond her vision. “If it weren’t for Kaidan…” He trailed off.
“Would I have…?” She trailed off as well, and Garrus said nothing.
She considered that a long while, looking out at the view.
“I guess that’s my answer,” Garrus murmured, his voice bitter.
“That’s not your answer,” Shepard said, frowning at him. “That’s me thinking. And honestly, I don’t know. I mean…” She thought about it a moment, then decided to say exactly what she thought. She owed Garrus that much, she figured.
“Truthfully, Garrus, I think you and I are more alike than I realized at first. And I think that’s what’s made us such good friends. We see the bad stuff in the galaxy and we just want to rush in a fix it. But then there’s the fact that…”
“I’m a turian,” he said, his voice cold.
“I can’t say I hadn’t noticed,” Shepard said, giving him a wry smile. “What I was going to say was that in other ways, the fact that we’re so alike means we both go off the deep end at the same time. It makes us both the unstable one. Much as it annoyed me at times, Kaidan’s caution grounded me. He saw things a little differently that I did. I respected that. Not that I don’t respect you. I just - God, I’m making this worse.”
Garrus said nothing.
“I won’t pretend that I’m into turians, Garrus,” Shepard told him, now looking at the wards. “You have a nice voice.”
“A nice voice ?” Garrus blinked at her.
She shrugged. “Yeah. But I happen to have a serious weakness for human men.”
Garrus cast a sidelong glance at her.
“I know,” she said. “Go figure. They’re complete idiots. But you can’t argue with several millennium of evolution and hormones. I have this weakness for chest hair.”
“Chest…hair?” Garrus asked, as if this was something he didn’t want to think about. Still, he almost sounded like he was laughing a little.
“I know,” Shepard said. “What’s a woman to do?”
When Garrus just shook his head, she gave him a tight smile. “Look, Garrus, I’m flattered. But, damn it, I’d make you miserable. I’m a handful on a good day. When I stop acting like a commander and unload on somebody, it’s a scary, scary sight.”
Garrus considered that. “You never acted like anything but a commander around me,” he said at last.
She shrugged. “No,” she said simply.
“But you did with…” He didn’t get any further.
“What do you think it was that Kaidan and I fought about?” she asked him.
“I thought it was because you didn’t get along.”
“Actually,” she said softly, “It’s because he got so close. I let him see me as…me.”
Shepard swallowed, then smiled at him ruefully. “Really, Garrus, I don’t think you really want what you think you want from me.”
“That’s not fair, Shepard,” he told her. “You don’t know what I want.”
“You’re right,” she said, holding her hands up. “I’m sorry. I don’t know. About anything.”
“Except that you don’t want me,” Garrus said.
She looked at him, certain that her eyes were full of pain, but surely not as much pain as his.
“So what is it that you wanted, Garrus?” she asked him quietly.
Garrus just looked away, his eyes narrowed and unfocused. He fell silent for a long time, then finally his mandibles flared.
“I guess I just wanted to mean as much to you as you mean to me,” he said at last.
Shepard swallowed and let out a heavy breath.
“Garrus,” she said, “You mean a lot to me. You’re my best friend…”
“After Kaidan,” he interrupted shortly.
Shepard found that she couldn’t deny it. Even now, she thought, she couldn’t deny it. Kaidan had been closer to her than anyone had ever been. And whatever revelations the day had brought, she knew that nothing would erase the memories of him from her mind.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Garrus shook his head. “Can we just forget this whole thing?” he asked, his voice nearly breaking on the words.
“Doubtful,” Shepard replied, trying her best to collect herself. If Garrus lost it, she was sure that she would, too. “But we can move on, if you like.”
“Yeah,” Garrus said, stiffly. “Let’s…do that.”
“Okay,” Shepard said, softly. She turned to him and gave him a weak smile. “Let’s just move on.”