On her first night together with Garrus, Shepard had been mildly concerned about the talons that she knew turians possessed. She trusted Garrus with all of her heart and knew that he never intentionally harm her, but there was that instinctual distrust of sharp claws near her softer human flesh. Of course she had been thinking of entirely different things by the time that evening reached the stage where his gloves came off, and then she didn’t’ have the luxury to think about minor details until after they had blow the Collector base to bits.
Being under house arrest had given her more than enough time to think, and Garrus was one of the happy memories she had she to stave on the crushing boredom. One of the questions those memories brought up was if turian anatomy charts and Alliance descriptions of turian talons as ‘vicious natural weapons’ were overly exaggerated or if Garrus had blunted his just for her. It would have been just like him to think of that little detail before she even brought it up.
When she got out again, when they were on-route to Paleven, she remembered that question and seized those few minutes to look for information on the extranet. It helped distract her, keep her from being consumed by the knot in her gut that kept reminding her that last she knew Garrus was on Palaven and she hadn’t heard from him. According to what she could find, trimming talons and filling them down was just something that some turians did. Not all of them naturally, but enough that it wasn’t considered unusual. Maybe it was just something Garrus did and had nothing to do with her.
She wasn’t sure why that made her feel a little disappointed.
In the rush of relief when they found him again, alive, unharmed, and happy to see her, she forgot all about her questions about his talons. Even after he all but moved into her quarters, she was so distracted that it was a surprise to exit her shower one day to find him seated on her couch, bare from the waist up, rasping a file across his claws.
She paused at the top of her stairs.
“Huh,” she shook her head and started down the stairs. Even though she didn’t mean too stare, it was hard to keep her eyes off the strange sight. Garrus must have noticed her gaze because he flicked a turian grin at her.
“See something you like?” he said teasingly.
“I’ve just never seen you giving yourself a manicure before,” she crossing the room to sit next to him.
“Even natural perfection needs a bit of help sometimes,” he retorted as she grabbed a datapad off the table. There were a couple of clippers lying on the table top near it, and she assumed that they belong to her turian. They were much larger and shaped differently from the ones that humans used.
“And of course you have to be perfect at all time,” she teased as she settled back to glance through the datapad.
“Naturally,” Garrus gave a pleased hum and reached out to run his half buntled talons through her hair before going back to work. He had been fascinated by it since that very first night, but it was only lately that he’s started being comfortable enough to indulge his curiosity whenever he wanted. She didn’t mind, not really. Having him play with her hair actually felt nice, in a way.
For a while they worked in relative silence. The rasp of file really wasn’t all that loud or distracting but she was forced to admit, to herself at least, that when curiosity about something got a hold of her it was nearly impossible to ignore it. Her eyes kept flicking over to watch what he was doing. Worse, she was sure that Garrus knew what was happening. He kept shooting her amused glance that she was pointedly ignoring.
After a while her tongue decided to take on a life of it’s own. “Does that hurt?” She nearly winced the moment the words left her mouth. It was such an inane and childish question. Garrus’ snort didn’t help much.
“Yes, because you know I love pain so much,” he began then saw the look on her face because he said quickly.“..Wait. Don’t answer that. I’m not that bad. Just think of talons as bigger versions of those finger nail things humans have.” He paused for effect. “Although I’m not sure how you can really compare them. What use are those things anyway? They’re too small and soft to be real weapons. Seriously, you humans are one weird race.”
She couldn’t help chuckling. “You just haven’t seen what long human nails are capable of. This ship? All soldiers. We don’t have the luxury to have pretty nails. Civilians though, I bet a could find a few that would make even a turian pause.” Shepard curled her own hands into mock claws but all she got was a chuckle.
“I’ll believe that when I see it, Shepard.”
“Hmm,” she said, going back to watching him. Then curiosity got the better of her again as she remembered one question she hadn’t ever asked. “Hey, Garrus…”
“Why do you do that? Is it because of us, or…?”
He looked up at her. “You mean my talons? I’ve been keeping them blunted for years. But lately? Yeah, you’ve had something to do with it. I.. A turian is taught self control in the military. Even the great Commander Shepard hasn’t been enough to make me lose that, but I still…”
“Yes,” she corrected, grinning. “I haven’t made you lose completely control yet. I’m sure I can figure it out, and” she dropped her voice into a purr, “I look forward to doing it.”
That cause Garrus to jerk and give her one of the looks that she had come to appreciate. The heated ones that only she got to see. Still it looked weird when coupled with the file he held so she couldn’t help laughing as he shook his head. “You enjoy distracting me, don’t you?”
“You’re only just figuring that out?”
He shook his head and went back to filing. “…That’s why this is extra important to me now. I’m not hurting you Shepard. Not because I was stupid, careless and let my emotions overcome common sense. You’re the best thing I have in this galaxy. I’m not doing that to you.”
The admission was quiet but made her chest ache all the same. She couldn’t name all the emotions those few little words brought out. They hadn’t had a chance to really talk about what they had, whatever they were to each other. There just hadn’t been time lately. She was almost afraid of what would happen if they tried to bring it up. With the Reapers breathing down their necks she hadn’t wanted to risk it. Still, his words caused a lump to form her throat. She set the datapad aside, and unable to get any words out, scooted closer him and reached out to trail her fingers over his mandible.
He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch for a moment before pulling away. When he looked at her again, there was something in his eyes, something that she knew mirrored her own.
“Besides, Shepard,” he said, trying to keep his voice light. He was afraid to say anything wrong, risk drawing her into something deeper than she wanted. That was something she didn’t know who to respond to. “Keeping these short,” he wiggled his fingers at her, “makes it easier to work with things like the Thanix cannon. They get in the way otherwise.”
“So that’s why you’re so good at your job,” she teased, leaning against this shoulder and just watching him again.
“Nah, that’s because of pure skill,” he said proudly, distracted from what he had said earlier. “This just helps.” She decided not to bring it up again. Not now at least. Instead she just enjoyed the heat coming off him and watched. As he finished with one talon and switched to another she shifted nearer.
“You want some help with that?”
He paused. “What?”
“I said ‘you want some help with that?’” she shifted so she could look at him. “I let you play with my hair, Vakarian. It’s only fair you let me play with your nails. Or is there something wrong?” The last was said when she realized there might be some cultural thing going on their. There hadn’t been that any interspecies misunderstandings between them, but she was pretty sure that had more to do with how relaxed Garrus was with her than her own skills in cultural sensitivity.
“Ah, no, not really,” he said to her relief. “It’s just that we….it’s not really something that comes up a lot. But if you want to, I don’t see why not. I’m just not sure why you would. Filing my nails isn’t exactly thrilling.”
“Ever think it’s just because I want to do something for you for a change?” she asked softly. That made him pause then wordlessly hand the file over to her. He half raised his hand, as if to offer it to her, but a much better idea had just occurred to her. She moved over and took a seat on his lap. He gave a surprised grunt but didn’t make a move to push her away.
“Lost interest in my nails already?”
“Not at all,” she grinned and grabbed for once of his hands, “I’m much more comfortable this way.”
Garrus scoffed, “I doubt that.”
She just chuckled. While he wasn’t nearly as soft as soft as the couch would be, the warm radiating off him more than made up for that loss. It was soothing. She drew her feet up off the chilly floor of her and leaned back against him. “Maybe I just like being close to you,” she muttered as she grabbed for one of his hands.
He didn’t say anything as she paused for a moment with his hand in hers and studied. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t seen his hands without gloves before. She’d seen that plenty of times. This was just the first time there weren’t…other things occupying her attention. His hands didn’t look human at all and she actually liked noting those differences. The way the plates covered the back of his hand, a natural armor all his own. The way the slightly rougher skin of his palm felt against hers, and how even though they two of them were so different, his hand seemed to fit perfectly against hers.
Her thumb was rubbing absently against the side of his hand by this point and let herself relax against him.
“Not that I blame you,” Garrus muttered softly into her hair after a bit, “but are you going to help or just gaze at me in admiration? Not that I mind you being here either way, but it would be good to know.”
“Can’t I do both?” she said coyly as she tucked her feet in on his lap and went to work. She tried to copy the strokes and movements she had seen him doing. Filing turian talons wasn’t exactly something that was taught to N7 members and she was half afraid she was going to mess it up somehow, so she went slowly.
Normally she would have expected Garrus to make some sort of remark about it, but he was unusually silent. For a while she wondered why that was, but then heard, and felt, that faint, pleased rumbling sound he made when he was truly relaxed. It sounded a bit like purring actually. His free hand drifted up to rest on her knee, his thumb rubbing distracting circles on her skin. She would have called it revenge for earlier, but that didn’t really seem to fit. Nothing about him said he was trying to distract her, so she just gave a pleased hum and relaxed against him. He didn’t do anything else.
When she finally got the talon she had been working on looking something like the one Garrus did, she sat back to appraise her work.
“Like that?” She asked, and turned her head a little so she can see Garrus’ reaction.
“Mm-hm,” was the only reply from him. His eyes were half closed. When he saw her looking he didn’t even say anything; just moved his free hand around her waist and nuzzled her gently. This was a reaction she hadn’t been expecting.
“So, I take it you like being pampered?” she asked him softly, not really wanting to drive him off.
“Maybe just a little,” he admitted. “Didn’t think it would be this…relaxing.” He rested his chin on her shoulder.
“Good,” she tried not to let the relief creep into her voice. “You fuss over me more than I deserve. I just wanted to return the favor.”
“Shepard…” Garrus rumbled and he buried his face against her neck, “I have you with me right now. That’s more than enough.”
There was that lump in her throat again, the one that stole her words. It made her chest ache too, and she went back to her task as she tried pushing it aside. She wanted to tell him that she felt the same, that he had come to mean more to her than she could put into words, but she couldn’t find the right way to say it. So instead, she would just do this for him.
Out there, in the rest of the galaxy, a war for everything they held dear was raging. But for now, right here, she was going to forget all that. Right now, she would just be content to be with her turian.