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A Three-Pronged Attack

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Shepard was losing horribly at whatever video game they were trying to teach her to play, but for once she didn't mind.

"How can you be this bad?" Tali asked incredulously for what had to have been at least the third time in the past hour.

"Be quiet," Garrus said, shushing her. "This means we might actually beat her at something for once. Don't ruin it."

Shepard threw her head back and laughed, not caring in the least bit that doing so meant her character died yet again the moment she stopped paying attention to the screen.

Tali muttered something under her breath that Shepard couldn't quite hear through her mask. Knowing Tali as well as she did, though, she was fairly certain it was cursing.

Garrus's mandibles twitched in obvious amusement.

"Okay, okay, okay," Shepard said, holding her hands up in appeasement. "Want me to try again?"

Garrus's reply of "yes!" overlapped almost comically with Tali's "Keelah, no!"

The three of them sat there in silence for a long moment before all of them burst out laughing.

Shepard sighed as she leaned against Tali's side, Garrus's arm thrown over both their shoulders from where he sat at the far end of the sofa. They didn't get the chance to do this very often, what with everything that was going on with the war. Still, even the Normandy needed to stay docked at the Citadel for supplies every now and then, and what was the use of Anderson giving her such a gorgeous apartment if she only used it once?

"You're thinking too much," Tali said lightly, running her hand along the side of Shepard's face.

Her suit felt odd against Shepard's skin, even after all this time, soft but with a slight roughness to it that couldn't be disguised. It wasn't unpleasant by any means, simply different.

Tali absentmindedly moved her hand a little higher up, playing a bit with one of Shepard's dreadlocks. It never ceased to amaze Shepard just how sensitive her suit must be, to the point where she could literally feel someone's hair when she touched it.

Among other things, that was.

As if he could read Shepard's mind, Garrus glanced at her over Tali's shoulder and grinned. Shepard smiled and gave a tiny nod.

She wasn't entirely certain where his hand disappeared to, but judging by the sound Tali made a moment or two later, it had to have been somewhere pretty damn sensitive.

"Garrus!" Tali said laughing, turning away from Shepard to bat at him. "What are you doing?"

His mandibles fluttered a bit, and he practically radiated amusement. "If you couldn't tell, then I must have been doing it wrong."

Tali shook her head, still laughing.

Which was when Shepard wrapped her in a hug from behind, making certain to aim her hands for the spots on her sides that she knew were ticklish.

Tali let out a shriek of laughter. Garrus met Shepard's eyes and grinned, shifting a little so that he could still reach both her and Tali.

"Or maybe I was being a distraction," he said thoughtfully to Tali, who wasn't paying him any attention just then.

Shepard felt her mouth twisting upward into a grin.


Shepard woke up from yet another nightmare with a scream echoing in her mind and her heart beating wildly in her chest. The scream was only in her head, though, which was a definite plus over some previous nights. Still, it wasn't exactly a pleasant way to wake up. Especially not in the middle of the night.

Not for the first time, Shepard was glad that she insisted on not sleeping in the middle of the bed. She carefully extracted herself from Tali's grip, moving slowly and quietly enough not to wake her. Then she slipped out of bed and stood up, carefully picking up her discarded clothes from the floor before turning back towards the bed to take a look at it.

Garrus and Tali were both sprawled out asleep, their breathing slow and even. Good. Shepard always felt guilty when she woke them up with her nightmares, even though she knew realistically that it wasn't her fault. When given the choice, though, she'd rather let them sleep.

Not bothering to turn on the lights, Shepard made her way over to the mirror on the far side of the room and started getting dressed. The scars on her skin from Cerberus bringing her back were mostly healed, but there were a few here and there that still flickered red. Enough for her to see with, at least.

There wasn't any point in going back to bed. She was well aware that she wouldn't fall back to sleep. Months of experience had taught her that lesson well.

Maybe she'd go try to play that video game again. They'd abandoned it for other pursuits earlier in the evening, but everyone always said that practice made perfect. Who knew? Maybe the saying was as true for the Blasto Strikes Hard IV video game as it was other things.

Shepard took a second or two longer than normal to adjust her clothes, making certain they showed exactly what she wanted them to show and nothing more or less. Sometimes she didn't bother taking that extra step, on days when she didn't feel like she needed that extra bit of armor to feel comfortable in her own skin, but on the bad days... well, on the bad days, every little bit helped. Anything to fight back against that little voice in her head.

And, well, she suspected it was going to be one of the bad days. There had been a lot of them lately.


She froze at the sound of Garrus's voice coming from behind her. After a long moment, she reluctantly turned back towards the bed.

Garrus was sitting up, watching her with a worried look on his face. Tali was still lying down, but Shepard could tell by the way she was holding herself that she wasn't asleep any longer.

"Bad dream," she said, trying to keep her voice as casual as possible. She didn't think she succeeded all that well, based on the way both Garrus and Tali tensed. "I was going to go downstairs and try to get better at not getting Blasto killed."

Tali shifted, propping herself up on her arms. "Good idea," she said cheerfully, and Shepard might not have heard the tiredness in her voice if she didn't know her as well as she did. "Come on, Garrus. Let's go watch Shepard blow herself up some more."

Shepard opened her mouth to argue, to tell them to go back to bed because there was no need for them to stay up all night just because she couldn't sleep.

Then Garrus shot her a glare that she suspected could have stopped a banshee in its tracks, and she closed her mouth. She knew when she was beat.

"Last one downstairs plays the sidekick?" Tali suggested as she rolled out of bed. Garrus followed her a moment later.

Shepard grinned. "You're on."

Garrus just took off running.

Tali let out a shriek of laughter and sprinted after him.

"No fair!" Shepard called out, laughing. Then she took off after them.

She was almost completely certain neither of them would try jumping over the railing as a shortcut. She could still win.