“Garrus...Garrus stop pressing your face to the glass, please.” Kerica whined in the back of her throat, and for the hundred millionth time, wished she’d signed for a tour instead of free reign. She half expected to hear fire alarms going off, gunshots, screams of terror either way.
“Afraid I’m scaring the birds, Kerica?” Garrus looked over his shoulder at her, his fringe shooting out as he grinned wide. He stepped back, his hands that were also on the glass falling away, “You’ve been on edge the whole time. Relax. That’s why you brought us all here, right?” Snickering, he slinked over and slipped his arm around her waist, bending down to meet his tiny human with a head-bump, “Breathe. It’s hard to have fun when you’re over here turning grey with worry.”
“Excuse me!” Kerica smacked his chest and he hopped away from her, making an odd laughing/wheezing sound and his hand was over his face, unsuccessful in stifling the sound. “My hair is not turning grey!”
“You’re right, it’s turning white.” Garrus purred at her, “And the shine in the sunlight. I can always see them because of it.”
“It’s all because of you and the dozen and a half crewmates that all thoroughly enjoy giving me heart attacks.” Kerica harrumphed at him, hands on her hips, and then they both froze when there was an announcement over the intercom.
“Commander...Commander Shepard. If you could come to the Reptiles Exhibit, that would be wonderful, thank you.”
It cut out, and Kerica’s face turned dark as she stared Garrus down. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly like he does. “I owe you.”
“Damn fucking right you do. Let’s go. Grunt?”
Indeed. It was Grunt.
Grunt...Grunt had somehow or another managed to get a crocodile to attack him. Then bite his arm.
There was...blood. Yet as Kerica stared at the scene, she couldn’t quite tell if it belonged to the krogan or the croc. There was definitely a mix of both. The crocodile’s teeth were wedged into grunt’s armor, and there had to be some broken or knocked loose.
Grunt? Grunt was just…grinning like an idiot.
“What did you do?!” Kerica waved her hands and motioned to the croc, “Why?! Just one day, Grunt! One day!” she held her pointer finger up at him and shook it, her emotions rattling her body.
“I am doing what you said! I am having fun!” Grunt lifted his arm, still grinning, the croc dangling precariously. Bystanders gasped and the Zoo employees were not pleased, “I made a friend! He is a good fighter! Can we keep it, battlemaster?”
“We cannot have a crocodile as a pet, Grunt.” Kerica groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Be gentle with it. It’s good you’re having fun, but you need to follow the rules of the Zoo. Now be still and let them get the crocodile off of you. They need to give it medical attention.”
“Aw, alright, alright. Fine.” The young krogan huffed and settled down, being still as the workers started taking care of the situation.
Then there were suddenly screams and people running. Grunt perked up but Kerica didn’t even have to say anything, just held her finger up at him again with a look that said ‘don’t you even’.
Kerica turned to look at Garrus slowly. “I wonder just how many bets you’ve won or lost by the end of all this.” His mandibles flicked, and he didn’t respond. “Joker?”
“One of them.” Garrus admitted quietly.
The brunette just made a ‘uh-huh’ hum and clicked her tongue. Outwardly she was unamused, but inwardly she did find it a little funny that Garrus had made bets with multiple people. She was about to go against the grain of running people when she saw a giant-ass snake come around the corner.
“It was not my fault!” Jack’s voice was gruff, defensive.
“You let your temper get away from you and your biotics broke the glass!” Miranda’s voice was high with annoyance.
“Because you were the one who pissed me off!”
Kerica watched them come around the corner after the snake. “Hey! You two! Stop arguing and one of you put that snake in stasis with your biotics right now !” The two women stiffened hearing her voice and Miranda was the one to do so immediately, quicker on the draw. Walking around it, she went to the two of them, “Just what were you arguing about this time that broke the glass?”
Jack, rightly so, ducked her head. Miranda’s face remained stoic and she replied with as much of a professional tone as she could, “Over which animals to go visit in what order, Shepard.”
“It’s Kerica and look, we’re sorry.” Jack huffed, crossing her arms, “We’ll get it taken care of.”
“You damn well better. Now I’m going to go with my damn fiance to see if we can enjoy ourselves. You two get to sit with Grunt until they can deal with the snake. Good job.” Kerica was sarcastic and she turned on her heels, going to Garrus’ side. He had perked up when she said ‘fiance’ and she rolled her eyes at him, “Why does every family gathering have to deal with some disaster?”
“Oh, I don’t think this holds a candle to the time when your evil clone rampaged on the Citadel and stole the Normandy.” Garrus rumbled and held her close around the shoulders, heading off with her in some random direction.
“I thought that was on the ‘let’s never talk about it again’ list?” She grumbled.
“Oh, I dunno, I like hearing about how Traynor got you into the Normandy with her toothbrush .” When she elbowed him he grunted because she hit him in a soft spot between his plates and hide, “Right, right, ‘never talk about’ list.”
“Jerk.” Kerica wrinkled her nose at him.
“Bitch.” Garrus smirked right back.
They found Samara by the tigers. The woman had gotten a white tiger to come up to her, and she was scratching it under the chin. Kerica could hear the rumbling purr from five feet away. “At least it’s not trying to bite your arm off, or trying to escape the Exhibit.” She quipped as she came closer, but leaned on the railing, Garrus right behind her and continuing to touch her arm.
Samara gave a light chuckle, continuing to pet the giant feline, “I am surprised that you have not been kicked out if there are already troubles.”
“Oh no. I may have covered Grunt’s ass when he broke out of the hospital, but I am not going to be kicked out because he had to aggravate a crocodile. Or because Jack bitched at Miranda again and shattered a snake tank.” Kerica shook her head violently.
“Oh, I see . All the more reason to avoid the reptile section, then.” Samara finally looked at Shepard, amusement in her pale blue eyes, her lips quirked just slightly .
Kerica knew that look, “If they force me to leave then I’m taking you all with me.”
“Of course you are, Kerica. I am certain that at least most of us understood that when we came in.” The Justicar finally stood up, “I am going to go look at what other Earth creatures are available here, while I still have time. It was good to cross your path.” She bowed and took off through one of the exits.
“Well, she’s talking like we’re already walking out the front door.” Kerica pouted. Turning in Garrus’ arms, she was going to kiss him when her omni-tool went off. A call. Looking at it, her brows furrowed and she answered.
Immediately, there was peeling laughter that could be heard. Was that...Vega? “Ashley?” Kerica blinked in confusion.
“Ah...I’m...I’m sorry, Keri...James, will you shut up !” A muffled ‘ow’ was heard and then more laughing, “We...James and I...we got caught making out in...the...gift shop.” She sounded extremely embarrassed.
“By the stuffed animals , Lola!” Vega’s voice was close but only briefly as there was the sound of scuffling.
“So we’re going to leave early. I’m so sorry. We’ll try to make it to dinner, like you wanted.”
Kerica was pressing her mouth firmly together, trying not to laugh. It took a second and she breathed in through her nose before responding, “Take care, Ash. If you’re late, I know why .” She made sure to say it very intently and was not surprised when there was some giggling before she cut off the line.
“Well, that’s something I didn’t want to know.” Garrus shook his head in disbelief, “The stuffed animals ?”
“What did they ever do to deserve such a travesty? Watching them make out like horny teenagers?” Kerica agreed, laughter in her voice even as she tried to keep it in check. “Let’s get going.”
It was no surprise that Thane and Kolyat were by the ducks, feeding them and just generally being quiet as they watched the water. Kerica smiled softly and tugged Garrus so they would let them be, but ever-aware Thane was already turning around. “Kerica, I was wondering how long it would take for you to come by. Join us.”
He always knew, somehow. His expression was a gentle one, inclining his head and holding his hand out in gesture, “Alright.” Kerica came on the other side of Thane instead of between him and his son. Garrus kept his hand on the small of her back. “I’m not surprised you found this little nook.”
“Oh? Why is that?” Thane smiled just faintly at her.
“Water is calming. It’s nice and peaceful over here.” she explained lightly.
“Why are there even ducks in the Zoo?” Garrus tossed some crumbs at the birds.
Kerica chuckled, “They’re drawn to water, so there’s always going to be ducks in these lakes and ponds. Sometimes there’s geese and swans, too. It’s just how they work.” She looked back at Thane, “I’m glad you decided to come.”
“Of course. I didn’t have a reason not to.” Thane pointed out.
“It got you out of that hospital for a while, too.” Kolyat grumped from the sidelines.
Thane sighed, “As long as I take it easy, I am fine.”
“Makes sense. Anyway, good to know you two are enjoying yourselves.” Garrus nodded to Thane and Kolyat, “There’s a lot more to see.”
Kerica reached out and gently hugged Thane, “We’ll see ya when it’s time to meet up.” He tilted his head in acknowledgement, and they went their separate ways.
“Kerica, it’s cold . Why in Spirit’s name would you want to go in there ?” Garrus had firmly planted his feet before his tiny human could drag him into the Exhibit where the more Arctic creatures dwelled.
“Penguins are cute, Garrus!” Kerica waved her hand towards the sign, “They’re a more adorable version of a volus. They’re short, fat, and waddle. They also don’t bitch about you behind your back. Polar bears are big and floofy, too!”
Garrus snorted indignantly, “A cute volus. Now that’s a new one.”
“I don’t like cold, either, but come on! We’ll be quick.” Kerica pleaded.
“Don’t beg, it’s not like you.” Garrus rolled his eyes.
“You like it when I beg in bed.” She wiggled her brows and laughed when he made a sound in his throat, his harmonics vibrating.
“ Alright , alright. Let’s get it over with.” With a grumble, he finally moved forward towards the entrance.
Tali and Liara had decided to stick together for their trip through the zoo instead of going their separate ways. They were giggling and pointing at the penguins, Tali’s hands waving animatedly and Liara’s hand over her mouth as she held back her laughter. They noticed Kerica and Garrus, waving to them as they got closer. “Keri! Keri, Keri, Keri, Look at them! They’re like tiny volus! But they’re cuter!” Tali clapped her hands together.
Liara was amused when she saw Kerica nudge Garrus’ side with a grin and the Turian just shook his head, “We also saw the giraffes. Their necks are so long, it’s a wonder how they even stay balanced.”
“Brontosaurus also had huge long necks, but then again their bodies were bigger, too. I dunno, giraffes are weird.” Kerica agreed with a shrug. She got to the fence and bounced on her toes as she watched the penguins waddling around, a few of them climbing on top of a little snow bank and sliding down into the water. She and Tali both giggled at the scene.
“What happened at the Reptile Exhibit, anyway, Kerica?” Liara tilted her head, eyeing her like she already knew.
Even while taking a vacation Liara was always in-the-know. Kerica snorted. “Grunt got bit by a crocodile. Jack let loose a python. I haven’t bothered to see what happened after I left.”
Tali snickered behind her lavender-tinted mask, and looked like she was about to say something when the intercom went off again.
“Commander Shepard...to the Monkey Exhibit, please.” This time, the voice sounded exhausted.
Kerica’s hands went to her hair, “I was just starting to relax! Why?! WHO?!” She didn’t wait this time, just took off towards the exit.
Garrus looked at Liara and Tali, “So much for looking at the polar bears.” But he shrugged and took off after her. Damn could she run, but he had longer legs, so it didn’t take long to catch up.
Chaos. It was...chaos.
Thankfully, unlike zoos of the past, each animal had its own indoor climate to make it feel like it was natural. The gates had been shut for the monkeys on the entrance and exit. When Kerica got there, it was opened quickly by a member of staff. Each monkey had its own caged habitat, as there were different types of monkeys on display.
Someone had let the monkeys out of their cages. All of them.
“Sir! Sir, you cannot harm the monkeys! Please stop using your biotics!”
“Oh Spirits.” Kerica and Garrus echoed each other. Hurrying over, Javik was flaring bright with biotics and there were two monkeys attached to his person; one on his leg and one on his back. He looked absolutely livid.
Seeing them, he shouted, “Shepard! Get this primitive species off of me immediately!”
“I will, I will, just...hold still.” Kerica held her hands up and approached slowly. That was when her sniper eyes spotted a quick shimmer by one of the cages and she snapped to attention, “Kasumi Goto! Get your ass over here right now .”
The shimmer became more obvious for a second before it faded and Kasumi appeared by the cage, a grin wide on her lips. She came to them and held out her arm, the monkey on Javik’s back hopping to her instead, and the employee of the zoo took it from her next. They managed to get the one off of Javik’s leg and Kasumi waved at Kerica, “It’s good to see you. I was just having a little fun.”
“A little fun, my foot!” Kerica grumped as Kasumi disappeared again, “Get out of here while you can, Javik.”
“I intend to!” Javik hissed and turned on his heel, using a biotic shield to expel anymore monkeys that tried to jump onto him.
Kerica sighed deeply and felt a furry tail against her cheek. Looking over she saw Garrus holding one of the monkeys on his cowl, and he looked sheepish. Smiling softly in reassurance, she reached up and twisted the tail around her hand, feeling the soft fur, and then she helped a worker get the monkey off, “I’d offer to help, but I’m on vacation. I’m sorry for the trouble.” Nodding to them, they made their way out of the Monkey Exhibit. When they were safe, she leaned up and kissed Garrus, “Let’s take a break and head to the food court. I’m thirsty.”
“Sure thing.” Garrus purred, rubbing her arm gently before hooking it in his own.
“At least you’re not trying to set the Zoo on fire.” Kerica slid into a table where Joker was lounging, a cup of ice cream in her one hand, a soda in the other.
“I’ve heard your name over the intercom twice now. Sounds like they’re really giving you a run for your money, Kerica.” Joker nodded, tipping his had to her.
“I see you have some ice cream, Kerica.” EDI came over, a tray in her hands and she set it down on the table. It had a small burger and fries on it, as well as a small container of ketchup, that Joker grabbed at with a grin., “Did you require something sweet in order to make yourself feel better about what has been happening in the Zoo?”
Kerica nodded, “I sure did. I really needed the pick-me-up.”
“Where’s your fiance ?” Joker smirked at her, “You two should be married already.”
“Planning the wedding is proving to be hell since we have to plan around everybody’s life. Garrus is finding himself a snack he can enjoy, too. I needed to sit down and breathe.” Kerica motioned over to a different stand with a Turian vender. “So what have you managed to see together?”
“It is a miracle we all managed to even come to the Zoo.” Joker had to agree around a mouthful of burger. “We went and saw the cheetahs and the turtles, and I made references to the Normandy and her speed. EDI was the one who wanted to see the turtles, and she also mentioned the Normandy since the turtles are speedy little fuckers under the water.”
“Well, not all. Wrex and Zaeed are only coming to the dinner, and that’s because it’s to celebrate the engagement. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact you’d all bitch at me for it, I’d have a private wedding with a few select people and call this the reception.” Kerica stuck her ice cream spoon in her mouth, humming at the sweet, sweet taste of oreo. “Cheetahs and turtles sound fun. Of course you’d talk about the Normandy.”
“Chakwas is also only coming to the dinner, but I believe that’s because she is out buying wine.” EDI added.
“Yeah, different wines to bring to the dinner with different kinds of species.” Kerica snorted.
Joker laughed and took a drink of his own soda, “Ain’t that the truth! Man, tonight’s going to be a wild ride. If you’re having such a hard time with the Zoo, how are you going to handle everyone being drunk?”
“The same way I did when we were all at my apartment on the Citadel. Sit back and relax and let everyone make a fool of themselves. I bought the restaurant because we’re going to be loud and boisterous.” Kerica hummed around her spoon.
“Good thinking. Cheers to that.” Joker held his soda up and they bumped their cups together.