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Unfortunate Liminality

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Rating: M, for canon-typical violence and language, as well as adult themes/situations.

Pairing: f!Shepard/Garrus

Warnings: None.

A/N: Set after ME2. Assumes 'Arrival' has been completed. Written for a prompt; end notes to follow. A huge thanks to K, for proofing something outside of her fandom. All remaining errors are mine.

I welcome constructive criticism, feedback makes me dance in smarty pants, and I always answer each message.


Unfortunate Liminality

Garrus is in the battery, mid-way through a simulated firing sequence when the console alarms, telling him he's tweaked the electromagnetic field beyond tolerance.

Scowling, he punches in a series of commands, poking at the console until the alarm abruptly silences. If he'd been running the sequence live, he would have cooked most of the power cabling between the battery and the core. It wouldn't surprise him if he got a nasty call from the Tali for even thinking of drawing power like this.

"Crap," he says, realizing that's the third time in as many hours that he's let himself get so off-task.

He'd be lying to himself if he said he didn't know why he kept getting distracted. One minute he was concentrating on monitoring data, and the next he's trying to puzzle out this... thing with Shepard.

Other than the fact that he was starting to feel seriously sleep-deprived, the problem wasn't with the sex. Shepard hadn't been joking about testing reach and flexibility, and one thing Garrus had always appreciated about the commander was that when she put her mind to something, it happened.

The first time - hell, the first couple of times - it hadn't worked out for either of them. Their bodies were never meant to fit together and sexual frustration didn't seem an adequate description for the panting, sweating mess they'd made trying to overcome issues of friction and pressure and oh-fuck-almost...

She had flopped back on the bed, red-faced and frustrated. Evolution is a cold-hearted bitch and can get fucked, she'd said. He'd seen the deliberate opening and as he'd leaned in to nuzzle the damp skin of her neck, he'd made her laugh with a warm purr of, Because neither of us are.

But somewhere in the middle of it, they'd found a rhythm that worked with the ways they could fit.

Sometimes they took it sweet and slow, time marked only by the passing of cold stars above and the hum of the ship. Other times it was hard and fast; nails, teeth, and talons. Aggression checked only by the limits of their bodies as they pushed one another over the ragged edge.

Y'know,she'd teased, I figured you'd be good for at least some loud moaning, but you're so quiet.

He'd chuckled at the sheer human naivete of the statement. Old habit. Turians hit puberty in the military. Open barracks, ten recruits each. And until I was promoted, I bunked in common crew quarters. Turians like their sleep; you get good at being quiet and discreet when you get off.

So, she taught him to scream her name.

You ever think of letting me run this show? he'd asked, tracing a line across the sweat-slick curve of her hip. No complaints, obviously. But, turians... there are things we do that would... translate, if you're willing.

Something undefinable had flickered in her eyes. I've never been good at the concept of 'sleep while you drive'.

So, he taught her that power can be found in ceding control.

He's jarred from his thoughts when the console alarms again. Shaking his head to clear it, he checks some data and after adjusting the power input a bit higher, begins the next run.

The real problem is that he's starting to feel like the thing with Shepard was becoming a little more than two shipmates easing tension, or - to use the human phrase Joker had so helpfully provided over a game of cards - friends with benefits.

He'd always respected her, that wasn't even in question. He didn't have a better friend. She was a hell of a commander with a talent for inspiring those who followed her. These were all solid, concrete facts.

But, for a turian who likes things black and white, it seems like the equation is starting to get a little gray, because, somewhere in the middle of all those facts, he thinks he's starting to have feelings for her.

Feelings that went well beyond friendship, mutual respect, and mind-blowing sex.

"And that's perfect timing," he mutters.

They're facing a war fifty-thousand years in the making, and he suddenly realizes he's falling for the person who was for all intents and purposes his commanding officer. And, even if she felt the same way about him, it wasn't as if either of them needed any more complications in their lives, especially the kind of complication that got soldiers killed.

Fraternization regs existed for a reason, and even on a turian ship, there were limits. When soldiers crossed the boundary from physical to emotional, when easing tension became falling for judgment was impaired. At best, impaired judgment might result in a compromised mission and injuries. At worst, things really went wrong and innocent people died.

Turians – good turians – knew when they crossed the line. The solution was black and white. One of two choices. Either one of the parties asked for a transfer, or they ended the relationship.

He already knows he's not a good turian. What he can't quite get a fix on is if he's even crossed the line beyond friendship. Defining what he feels for her is proving to be impossible, and counting on previous experience isn't helping; it's not like he's made a habit of falling in love with his bed partners.

He stares blindly at the console, thoughts turning facts over and over like a poorly programmed algorithm stuck in an infinite loop.

She depends on him, on and off the field.

He refuses to abandon this mission. Not while she needs him.

If this thing is getting too close between them, could he really walk away, be only her friend? A dull weight settles in his stomach at the thought.

The battery doors open behind him and he clears his throat, hoping his emotions don't color his words when he asks, "Shepard. Need me for something?"

It's become a joke between them, like a script they follow, and as he glances up from the console, he sees she's smiling. She's holding two cups of steaming liquid, and as he keys a final sequence in, she sets one on the console.

He nods in appreciation, but he can't help noticing she doesn't look tired, or even remotely distracted. He wonders if that's a human thing or a Shepard thing or if out of the two of them he's the only one over-thinking the issue. Maybe he really is just sleep-deprived and jumping at shadows; that makes more sense than thinking he's falling for her.

"You got a minute?" She holds the second mug between her palms, lacing her fingers over a faded N7 logo. He wonders vaguely if the heat of the cup will turn the skin of her palms as pink as the hot water in her shower does her back and neck.

"Just busy with the usual. You know, calibrations," he tells her, picking up his cup, breathing in the citrus scent of it. Something herbal, he thinks. "Thanks."

"Gardner said it's dextro-safe." She lifts her own drink; the coffee's surface ripples in tiny waves as she blows across it, chasing away the tendrils of steam. "Ask me, though, it smells like something a varren leaves when it lifts its leg."

"Like that crap you drink is any better." He takes a drink of his tea, surprised at the taste. Herbal, yes, but when had she figured out exactly how much sweetener he likes? "Thanks."

He looks back to the console and taps another command in, pretending to analyze at the data.

"So." She leans her hip against the rail beside his station, watching him work. "You feel like some time off the ship?

"Take it that you found something to steal from Cerberus?" he asks, mandibles flexing in a smirk he really doesn't feel.

He knows she doesn't even need that much of a reason to go planet-side. When Shepard hears 'anomaly detected' she practically bounces on her toes like a prize fighter getting ready for a bout. Of course, pissing the Illusive Man off has become her new hobby, so stealing from Cerberus has to be a special bonus for her.

"I really need to work on my poker face." She blows on her coffee again, forehead wrinkling. "Nothing major. Some cargo stashed in an abandoned fuel refinery on a dead planet, and a few Blood Pack mercs. Plus, Jack's climbing the walls and I want to try out that scope upgrade."

He nods. Last time he was in engineering, Donnelly wouldn't stop complaining about the noise Jack had been making, and it would be a lie if Garrus said he wasn't interested in seeing the upgrade to Shepard's rifle.

Besides, getting off the ship would be a welcome distraction from his own thoughts.

"Yeah. I'm in," he says, tapping at the console as it chimes again. He knows the words to say to make her grin, divert her attention. "You know me. Never pass up the chance to blow off some steam."

Shepard coughs, trying to cover a laugh. He sighs, on cue, and looks at her. "Right. I keep doing that, don't I?"

"Hey, it's not like I'm complaining." She takes a careful sip of coffee that doesn't do anything to disguise the warmth of her smile."Meet you at the Kodiak in... twenty? Give you time for breakfast?"

When the door closes behind her, he takes his visor off and rubs his eyes, trying to get his head on straight.

Shooting something will definitely help.