Tali woke up, not quite sure where she was. Not her usual bunk. She was surrounded by warmth, but there was something hard, with noticeable edges, pressing into her on one side, and something lying across her waist. She opened her eyes, letting them adjust to the dim light. Blue light, coming from a large oblong object ahead of her and to the right...
Shepard’s fish tank.
What was she doing in Shepard’s quarters? What was she doing... on Shepard’s bed?
She turned her head. Shepard was lying on her right. The weight lying across her was Shepard’s arm. His face was turned toward her, his mouth open a little. She almost smiled at the utterly slack expression. So if Shepard was there... she turned her head the other direction.
Garrus was lying on her left, his back toward her. Well, that explained the hard edges. It didn’t quite explain what they were all doing there. Keelah, how much had she drunk at Eternity last night? She tried to remember. She and Garrus had been swapping stories for an hour or two, and she’d been having a nice quarian liqueur, and then that other turian had come by, and then Shepard had joined them. Somewhere in there Garrus had insisted she try turian brandy. She had a hazy memory of the asari bartender threatening to biotically shove the lot of them out of the club, and another of the three of them staggering down Illium’s streets, laughing. Garrus had actually been much further gone than she was, by that point. She was relieved that quarians didn’t suffer after drinking the way most other species did.
She didn’t actually remember getting back to the Normandy, though, nor what had possessed them to sprawl on Shepard’s bed together.
Carefully, she picked up Shepard’s arm and tucked it down next to his side. She stared at his hand a moment. So many fingers.
Now she could move, but she hesitated, looking from one friend to the other. Both men, she realized, had stripped down--not completely, but both were out of armor. She felt a moment’s sharp envy of both of them, that it was so easy to peel off their layers, expose skin. Shepard was wearing some kind of shorts, and that was all. She stared at the broad expanse of his back, bared skin covering muscle and bone. Her eyes were adjusted to the light now; she could see fine surgical scars, the remnants of his resurrection. Garrus, on the other hand, was wearing his underarmor. It covered most of him, but was so snug it didn’t conceal much. He looked smaller out of armor. Shepard was less bulky, too, but the turian was all trim, lean angles, looking strangely vulnerable. The blue light from the tank cast shadows over the rough scars on his face and neck.
She sat up, cautiously, but neither man moved. She hesitated, considering a certain temptation, and gave in. She ran one finger down Shepard’s spine, from neck to waist. He sighed a little, but didn’t stir. Emboldened, she reached for that strange human hand, running her own fingers over his thinner ones. His fingers twitched, and she quickly pulled her hand away.
She let Shepard settle, and turned her attention to Garrus. Something felt incomplete about touching one, but not the other, and she was curious what that tough turian hide felt like in contrast to smooth human skin. She traced her fingers lightly along that ridge that lay around his neck. To her surprise, she heard a low rumble start in his chest, and felt him shift slightly, into the touch rather than away. Startled, she stopped moving, and felt her friend relax back into the bed.
What to do now? She didn’t want to wake them. Carefully, she scooted herself forward, until she could clamber off the bed. She checked her suit then; all seals intact, no loose connections, in spite of sleeping pressed against two companions. She turned and looked at them again. Garrus half rolled over into the space she’d vacated, with a little grumbling noise that brought her a wave of affection. She felt a little shame, too, for giving in to her curiosity when they couldn’t refuse. Quietly, she slipped out of the room.
Tali busied herself with work the rest of the cycle, brushing off Ken’s jokes about coming on-shift so late. But she felt strangely unsettled, her mind flitting back to waking wedged next to a warm body--how strange that was, even after the cramped conditions of the Flotilla, and yet how comfortable.
When her hands were busy with routine maintenance and systems checks, she thought back to the day before. It still amused her that he had assumed she and Garrus were a couple. She idly wondered what it would be like, a turian and a quarian together, and then dismissed it. Intimacy was hard enough for quarian couples. She hoped that turian on Illium knew what he was getting into. What assumptions he’d made... did he think any male and female out for drinks were an item? Of course she loved Garrus, she could hardly ask for a better friend, but he was also the one who’d needled her about the geth and the Morning War and her immune system until she threatened him with a shotgun, and who was too cocky for his own good, and who was irritatingly uncommunicative when he chose to be. It was ridiculous to think they were anything more than friends. Garrus had looked terribly annoyed when she started laughing, though... she should check in and make sure he wasn’t really upset. It would be easy to tell if he was, because of the silent brooding.
Midway through the shift, her terminal lit up with the signal that Garrus’s was on. She had an alert set so they could check in about the weapons systems. Or, sometimes, just chat.
tzorah: not too hanged over from last night I hope.
gvakarian: hung over. I’ll live.
tzorah: think i drank you under the table
gvakarian: I honestly don’t remember
tzorah: how’s shepard
gvakarian: also alive
tzorah: check the power draw from the main array for me when you get a chance
gvakarian: will do
She felt more relaxed, then, the world of the ship back in its proper routine. At the end of the shift, she let Ken and Gabby head up to the mess for dinner without her, finishing up a last bit of work, and then went up herself with a bounce in her step. Shepard and Garrus were sitting at the same table, side by side. Tali smiled to herself and headed to join them. The two men were talking; she saw Garrus lean toward Shepard and say something with a lopsided mandible flare, and...
... was Shepard... blushing?
Tali froze in place for a second. There was a thread of intimacy running between the two that made her breath stutter and her heart clench.
What had happened after she left Shepard’s quarters?
Had she... missed something?
Shepard looked up then, saw her, and waved her over. The world restarted, snapped back to normal. She joined them, and teased Shepard about his drunken singing the night before, and everything was as it should be.
Except she couldn’t help feeling that something had changed, somewhere. She just wasn’t sure what or where.