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“You can say ‘no’ all you want, Shepard,” Jack said, crossing her arms. “It’s still happening.”

Garv resisted the urge to scrub both hands across his face - and resisted the urge to glower at Garrus’ barely-audible snicker. “Jack…we don’t have anywhere to put it.”

He will stay down in the cargo hold with me,” she said firmly.

“He’s a varren.”

Jack snorted. “Figured that out all by yourself, did you?”

The varren in question stood between them, grinning up at them with a mouthful of six-inch razor-sharp fangs. The dust coating Garv's armor and Jack’s vest was smeared with streaks of slobber where Urz had swiped them with his tongue in enthusiastic greeting. He hadn’t quite managed to reach Garv's face, but he’d made a valiant effort, and his claws had left scratches on the chest plate that would need to be buffed out.

“I am not taking a varren onto the Normandy.”

“You’re not. I am.”

Garv shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Jack…”

Jack scowled. “You don’t hear me bitching about your hamster, do you?”

“It’s…I…he’s a hamster! He lives in a cage. He eats seeds. How are you going to feed a varren?”

“Cerberus was able to foot the bill to bring you back,” Jack said, mouth curling in disgust - although Garv knew (or at least was pretty sure) that her expression was for Cerberus, not for him. “They can afford to feed one varren.”

“It’s going to crap all over the cargo hold.”

“Well, that’ll be my problem, not yours.”

“Actually, Shepard,” EDI chimed in, “varren can be trained to use litter boxes or designated latrine areas much like cats. It is unlikely that Urz will create a problem.”

Garv gritted his teeth. “Thank you, EDI.”

“We’re not leaving him here,” Jack said firmly. “His handler’s dead, and they’ll just make him fight.”

“Taking on a homeless varren does seem to fit with your M.O., Shepard,” Garrus said. “You tend to pick up strays wherever you go.”

Garv turned an incredulous glare on Garrus. “Does that include you?” he growled, stubbornly resisting even though he knew he’d lost the argument after Jack’s last comment.

“The way I remember it, I recruited you,” Garrus replied, casually brushing a few particles of dust off his assault rifle.

Garv gave him a flat look. “You joined my crew.”

“I did. After you became part of my investigation into Saren.”

“Wait, that’s not…I didn’t…” Garv frowned, trailing off in confusion.

“If we’re done here, the shuttle is about to take off,” Jack said. “Urz, heel.” She punched Garv in the shoulder as she walked past, Urz gamboling around her feet. “Don’t forget the pyjack meat.”

“If you think I’m gonna carry a crate of dead rodents onto my ship, you’ve got another thing coming,” Garv called after her. Jack climbed into the shuttle without acknowledging that she’d heard. Urz bounded in after her. Garv let out a long sigh and buried his face in his hand.

“You know, you didn’t have to give Urz that dead pyjack,” Garrus pointed out.

Garv let out a muffled groan. “I know.”

“If you’d just kept walking, he wouldn’t have started to follow you around.”

“I know. But he was giving me a look and I figured it was either throw him the pyjack or risk having him try to eat me instead.”

“You would’ve been fine. If you’d paid attention to his body language, you’d have been able to see that he was friendly. He wasn’t going to eat you.”

Garv lifted his head to glare at Garrus again. “How is this helpful?”

Garrus tilted his head in a way that Garv had learned to interpret as a shrug. “For future reference?”

“Great,” Garv said flatly. He sighed, gloomily regarding the crate full of pyjack meat that he’d acquired after helping the scout defend the camp’s food supply, then cupped a hand around his mouth as he called, “Hey, Grunt! Time to get going!”

Grunt waved to acknowledge that he’d heard, exchanging a few last words with the Shaman before tromping over to join them. “I am ready, Battlemaster.”

“Good.” In spite of his irritation (and the knowledge that he’d have to share a shuttle with a varren), Garv found himself smiling at Grunt’s earnest enthusiasm. “Hey, do me a favor - you wanna grab that crate and bring it with us?”

Grunt hoisted the heavy box into the air with little effort and carried it toward the shuttle. Urz caught the scent of dead pyjacks and let out an enthusiastic yowl, which was all but drowned out by Grunt’s surprised but pleased bellow of laughter to find a varren waiting to greet him.

“Well,” Garrus said, “I suppose this means the Normandy has a mascot.”

“Shove it, Vakarian.” Garv heaved a resigned sigh and started trudging toward the shuttle.

Garrus jogged forward to fall in step beside him. “Jack did have a point about the hamster, you know. Why did you buy it in the first place?”

“What’s that, Garrus? You think we should store Urz’s food in the main battery?”

“You wouldn’t.”

Garv glowered up at Garrus from beneath lowered brows. “I just had to fight a thresher maw. On foot. I was attacked by a bunch of rebellious krogan. There is a varren waiting to come aboard my ship. And I smell like dead pyjack. Do not test me.”

“Duly noted, Commander.” Garrus paused for a moment before saying casually, “Though if it makes you feel any better, you don’t smell any worse than you usually do.”

Garv gave his friend a withering glare, but it didn’t last long, and he couldn’t suppress a snort of laughter. “That’s what I like about you Garrus. You’re a silver-lining kind of guy.”