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Barefoot, in Blue Jeans

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Garrus lay face down on a beach towel on the hot sand, arms up under his head, keel bone firmly entrenched in the sand underneath him. Asleep, but not. Awake, but not. The sun’s heat beat down on his plates so that he was feeling like he might be-just slightly-beginning to bake. A sigh of languid contentment caused his carapace to rise and fall before his breathing returned to the slow, shallow breaths of someone nearly asleep. He was so relaxed he doubted his ability to move, fairly certain his bones had turned into wet noodles.

Footsteps padding in near silence on the beach caused him to smile slightly to himself, but his eyes remained closed. The footsteps stopped at his feet and then a body flopped down on the towel next to him, droplets of seawater spraying out against his back along with a few grains of sand.

"Garrus."

He remained silent, but sighed again, mandibles fluttering slightly.

"Goddamnit, Garrus."

"Mnn..." He cracked one eye open slightly, the figure next to him blurry and sunwashed. "What?"

"Just checking. Thought you might be dead. You haven't moved for three fucking hours."

"That's not true. I scratched my ass an hour ago."

"No. That was three hours ago. I fucking watched you. It’s the only interesting thing you’ve done all day."

"Pervert. Ass watcher. Skeevy old man-"

The body next to him rolled closer and a low, gruff laugh barked out. "Fucking hell, Garrus. I'm not old."

"Interesting that you don't deny the skeevy, ass watching perv business."

He felt a finger tracing up along his side, along the more tender hide between his plates and Garrus trilled in delight. "Well, it's a goddamn fine ass. But I didn't say that or your head will swell up-"

"Too late. And I know. And it's about time you mentioned it. I was beginning to think you were ambivalent about the quality of my ass."

Zaeed moved closer. His hand slid further down and grasped said ass lightly through Garrus' swim trunks. "Definitely not ambivalent."

Garrus managed to open one eye fully to look at his companion. Zaeed was on his side, head propped up on his hand, elbow dug into the soft sand. He was close enough that he could feel his slightly damp skin where he was casually pressed against him along a splayed leg. It was two years after the Reaper War. Five months after a very interesting game of "I Never" at James Vega's N7 graduation party with James, Zaeed, and Karin Chakwas-of all people. The result of that night being this whole whatever this thing was between the two of them. And there was no one more surprised than Garrus to find himself and Zaeed Goddamn Massani on a secluded beach on the small island of Anguilla in the Caribbean.

"How was your swim?"

Zaeed quirked an eyebrow. "Energizing." The hand on his ass gave a small squeeze.

Garrus felt a shivered thrill at the touch. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to start something.”

“Goddamn right.”

“But I’m made of jelly. I can’t move. It’s physically impossible for me to move from this spot.”

The hand on his ass gave a little rub. “Well then, I guess I get to bugger you right here-”

Garrus gave an alarmed trill from his subvocals. “When I said I’d never had sex on a beach, it wasn’t really something I needed to have corrected. I’m good with sex near a beach, in a room, with walls and curtains in the windows. And room service. And no sand to chafe.”

The hand on his ass ghosted up along his spine, between his shoulders, over his carapace to the spot just below his fringe. Oh that was so unfair. “Know the great thing about Turians?” Zaeed murmured.

“Uh, everything? There’s so many things to choose from. You want to pick one?”

“Mmm...this,” Zaeed’s fingers gave the lightest of touches against the thinned hide on the back of his skull. “On switch.”

Really unfair. Garrus was not immune to the touch, but maintaining composure was part of the game. Still, he had to suppress the desire to shiver. “You know that doesn’t instantly make me hard, right? You’re going to have to do better than that. On switch, my fabulous Turian ass.”

Zaeed chuckled, this time there was a definite wickedness to the sound. “Garrus,” the touch at the back of his head became more insistent and he moved in close so that his breath puffed against the scars on Garrus’ cheek. His voice was a growling purr, “Gonna make you moan my goddamn name. All. Night. Long.”

Garrus managed to keep his voice from hitching, for which he was immensely proud of himself. “Promises, promises.” But Zaeed was already gone with a laugh, picking up the towel and moving off back to the bungalow.

Goddamn Zaeed fucking Massani does not play fair. Garrus realized he’d been holding his breath and he took a gasp, using all his muscle control to keep his plates from spreading apart. His dick wouldn’t have anywhere to go, pelvic plates pressed up flush against the sand. But it was the principle of the thing. Zaeed’s words echoed through his head, not helping in the least. He took a few calming breaths, trying to think about anything other than the image of Zaeed banging him into the mattress. James once said he concentrated on baseball scores when he was trying to think of non-sexy things, but Garrus had no idea what baseball even was, so that didn’t help. He thought about the gun on the Normandy, the incessant need for calibrations, algorithms, sines and cosines, tables of code.

By the time he’d managed to get himself under control, the sun was beginning to lower, still hot and persistent, but the air wasn’t quite as wonderfully oppressive as it had been an hour ago. He managed to pull himself up, dragging the towel behind him with languid limbs and his head feeling like it was full of cotton wool. He dropped the sandy towel at the door to the bungalow and made his way to the bathroom. From the corner of his eye he could see Zaeed, towel around his waist, hair wet, smelling of fresh soap, the tattoos of his arms and chest and back on glorious display.

“I ordered dinner.”

“Mmhmm…” He dropped the swim trunks and moved to the shower.

“Garrus.”

“Mnn….”

“Alright, love?”

“Mmhmm…” but suddenly he was not alright. When had Zaeed ever called him an endearment? His heart stuttered a bit, but he continued on and hit the shower, head full of racing thoughts.

Since that first night, The I Never Night as he called it in his head, they had only managed to be together a few times, and only one of those times had actually been what anyone would have called a date. They were hardly ever in the same place at the same time. So when Zaeed had brought up the idea of an extended weekend, somewhere they could spend uninterrupted time together, Garrus had jumped at the chance. Zaeed had been invading his thoughts to a point that was bordering on obsession, their short visits leaving him unsatisfied, needing so much more. Having him to himself for even a few days, well, the idea was pure euphoria. But now Garrus was beginning to have doubts. That he was beginning to become strongly attached to Zaeed, there was no question in his mind. But where he stood with the grumpy merc-even in light of their conversation on The I Never Night-that was another matter entirely. They had never discussed it. Garrus wasn’t sure he wanted to.

Garrus stepped out of the shower and dried off quickly, tucking the towel low around his waist. He looked down, adjusting it further so that the top of his pelvic plates were just peeking out. Payback’s a bitch, Massani. Now if it would just stay on while he swaggered around. He took a couple steps back and forth, exaggerating the roll of his hips with each step. The towel slipped a bit so he tucked it in more firmly and took another step-

“What the fucking hell are you doing, Vakarian?” Zaeed had come to a halt in front of the bathroom door, which had been left wide open.

Garrus froze mid-stride, eyes wide, mandibles fluttering nervously. Shit. “I, uh-” he stretched a leg out, tapping a toe claw on the tile floor. “Leg cramp.”

“Leg cramp.” Zaeed obviously wasn’t buying it.

“Mm. Yup. Helps to uh-you know-stretch it out a little.”

“Uh huh.”

“Much better now!”

Zaeed’s eyes narrowed at him, looking all the more menacing with his dual-toned eye colors. “I’ll bet. Put some goddamn clothes on. Dinner’s here.”

Garrus sighed. So much for payback.

Dinner was set out on the small patio table overlooking the beach. Zaeed had done his homework, not only managing to find the recently reopened resort that afforded plenty of privacy, but was also owned by a Turian/Human couple who employed a chef from Palaven in addition to their other staff. So the food they’d had over the past two days had been bliss for Garrus and tonight looked like no exception. “Is that-”

“Opay stew, I think they called it.”

Garrus stuck his face right down above the bowl and took a deep breath. “Oh...shit, Zaeed. It smells just like how Mom made it.” He looked up to find the man across the table from him grinning like an idiot, which really didn’t do much for his scarred-up face, but Garrus could overlook that. “What?”

Zaeed reached out and filled both their glasses with levo/dextro wine. “Nothing. Just nice is all.”

“Nice? Zaeed Massani thinks something is ‘nice’. I believe I must be dead.” He took a bite of the stew and hummed happily.

“Shut the fuck up and eat your dinner.”

“Mmm. I'm definitely dead cause this stew is heavenly. What did you get?”

“Shit that will kill you. Now eat.”

Garrus took a sip of the wine. “Ah. Well. This isn’t as bad as it could be. You’d think they’d stop trying to make it palatable at all and just go straight for the flavor of sewer water.”

“That bad?” Zaeed took a gulp and tossed the rest over the edge of the balcony. “Fuck. Sorry.” He got up and went inside, bringing out two bottles of beer from the mini-bar, one with a dextro stamp on it for Garrus. Except for Garrus’ happy humming, they ate in silence, content to listen to the waves rolling in on the beach.

They had agreed before they had come here-no work talk, no reconstruction talk, no discussion of relays down or up and down again. Guns were ok, they both could talk for hours on mods and rifle specs. And knives were good, ok any type of weapon really. And Zaeed was approved for storytelling of past exploits-the man loved to weave a good yarn. But Garrus had found that he didn’t mind sitting in silence with him either. Zaeed was a big reader and the past few nights had found them stretched out on a wide lounge chair, feet up, shoulders together, datapads in hand. Until one would take the other’s datapad away and lead him inside to the enormous bed (Turian-grade, extra tough sheets) where they seemed to be able to keep each other entertained for hours.

Garrus sat back in his chair, legs extended out underneath the table where he could rub the back of Zaeed’s calf with his toes. Zaeed reached into his pocket and pulled out two packets, tossing one over to Garrus. “Take your meds.”

“Yes, dear.” -and that was ok, because he was being ironic. He downed the antihistamines in one, chased them back with the last of his beer. They didn’t really know if they were allergic to each other, but it was best to be on the safe side. Rather than dead. Especially since Zaeed liked to swallow. He watched as the man took his own cocktail of pharmaceuticals, focusing in on his mouth. Yeah, Zaeed loved to swallow.

"There's pudding."

Garrus was brought out his dreamy, sexy reverie when Zaeed placed a slice of cake in front of him. "Pudding? This looks like cake."

"Turian chocolate cake to be exact."

"So why did you call it pudding?"

"Fuck, Garrus. Pudding is dessert."

"Oh! What did you get?"

"Creme Brule."

"That looks like pudding."

"It's custard. Pudding can be a sort of custard."

"So only you got pudding."

"Did you want goddamn custard?"

"No. I'm just confused."

"Don't overthink it, Garrus."

"Okie. I like the cake."

"I can fucking see that. Want me to leave you two alone?"

"Mmm. No. You can watch. I'm not ashamed of my love."

"You should be the way you're eating that thing. Goddamn obscene."

Garrus extended his tongue to wrap around the fork, trying to get as much frosting off as possible. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Zaeed laughed as he pushed himself away from the table and went inside. When he came out Garrus had finished the cake and Zaeed had lit a cigar. "C'mon." He took Garrus' hand and pulled him up from the table.

They did as they had the past few nights and walked out to the shoreline. From there they had a good view of the sunset. This time Zaeed kept his hold on Garrus' hand as they walked, which was something new. Also new was Zaeed sliding his hand around his hip as they stood there, bare feet in the warm water. Garrus put his arm around Zaeed’s shoulders and they stood and watched the sun go down, which was a beautiful display, but Garrus' head wasn't really in it.

He watched Zaeed from the corner of his eye. His thumb has started rubbing against the waistband of Garrus' shorts and he wondered if he even knew he was doing it. Of all the things that Garrus had learned about this man recently, the most surprising thing had to be Zaeed's enjoyment of and desire to cuddle. Underneath all that bluff and bluster and grouchy, hard exterior Garrus was beginning to suspect the man was just a big, fluffy bunny. And each time they were together seemed to bring it out a bit more. Garrus thought fondly back to their first time together, how pleased he was to find they had managed to entangle their limbs together during the night, how Zaeed had groaned low in his throat when he had woken up and had nestled in closer, his nose in Garrus' neck, arm tightening around his back. But that had been in private. Now he was showing these small public displays, and yes they were alone here on the beach, but it wasn't like they were alone on the island. That they had barely seen anyone for two days certainly created the illusion that they were alone, so perhaps that helped in lowering Zaeed's guard.

Garrus tightened his hold on Zaeed's shoulders, pulling him against his carapace. Zaeed looked up and as he did Garrus brought his mouth down into the crook of his neck, nuzzling him and breathing in his scent-cigar and sweat and soap. Zaeed tipped his head to the side, his other hand coming around to hold him lightly. "Garrus-"

"You smell good," he licked his skin, up his neck to the base of his ear. “You taste good, too.”

Zaeed groaned. "Shit, Garrus."

"Mnn..." Garrus nipped lightly along his jawline, one hand in his hair, pulling back gently to give him better access to the Blue Suns tattoo on his neck. He scraped his teeth along it, just enough to burn but not break skin and was rewarded when the other man gasped in a harsh breath and thrust his hips in closer. He licked over the scrape, one hand now on Zaeed's ass, the other moving up underneath his loose-fitting shirt, fingers lightly moving over skin.

Zaeed turned his head and nudged against his mandibles with his nose. “You gonna kiss me or are you just gonna be a goddamn tease?”

“Well, now that you mention it-” Garrus closed the gap between them, doing his best to eliminate Zaeed’s ability to breathe. Kissing Zaeed was like nothing Garrus had ever experienced before. There was tongue, but not so much that it got slobbery. There were teeth, but just enough to nip and pull. And there were his lips, sliding across Garrus' face plates, sucking his tongue into his own mouth. When he finally broke off the kiss they were both more than a little breathless, Zaeed’s eyes half shut. He moaned a little as the Turian lifted his head, moving in closer as if he didn’t want it to end.

The hand on Zaeed’s ass pulled him in tight and Garrus moved side to side a little just to give some friction. Garrus moved back in close, his mouth right up against Zaeed's ear. His voice was a whispered purr, "You know your little promise this afternoon? Well, just so you know-” he slowly licked all along the edge of his ear, then took his earlobe in between his mouth plates and pulled oh so gently- “I can outlast you.” Zaeed laughed deep in his throat.

Then Garrus stepped away and said, "Drink?" in a normal tone of voice. The look of confusion on the other man's face was almost enough payback for earlier in the day.

"What?" He swayed a little, reaching out to hold onto Garrus' arm.

"I could use another beer. Shall we?" He turned about face and ambled off down the path that led to the main buildings, heading for the bar.

"Garrus. Goddamnit! I'm fucking-shit!"

Garrus turned, back pedaling slowly down the path. "What's wrong?" He already knew the issue, had felt it before he had stepped away. But it wasn't his problem if some people decided to go commando in thin, loose fitting shorts. "Oh. Nice tent. But we already have a bungalow-"

Zaeed grumbled, “I’ll fucking meet you there, you fucking fuck,” and set off back to their bungalow, clamping his jaw down on the cigar.

“You’re not going to jack off are you?” Garrus called after him. “Cause I’d like to see that!”

“You should be so lucky! Goddamn fucking Turian-” the rest of his words were lost as he stomped away, but he could still hear that Zaeed was mumbling to himself.

Garrus grinned widely and made his way to the outdoor bar that was just a little way up the shoreline. He slid onto one of the barstools. One of the owners-the male Turian named Tranit-happened to be working the bar that night. “Ah! Mr Vakarian! So sorry about the wine at dinner tonight. Let me make it up to you. Will your husband be joining us?”

A couple thoughts went through Garrus’ head all at once. First, that it had been noted by someone that their wine at dinner had gone untouched. And second: husband what? “Uh, no-I’m mean yes, he’s on his way, but he’s not-we’re not-I mean we’re just-” what? fuck buddies? friends with benefits? fooling around? “He's not my mate,” he finally managed to spit out.

“Oh! Sorry about that. It’s just that you and your boyfriend are obviously so close, I just assumed you were mated. My mistake! What’ll you have?”

Ok, wait. Boyfriend? Close? Obviously?! Garrus managed to get “Beer” out, glad that Zaeed wasn’t around to hear the exchange. He sat in silence, staring at his folded hands.

A beer was placed before him and he took a long pull on it. “We’re setting up for skeet shooting tomorrow morning on the dock,” Tranit said. “Can I sign you and Mr. Massani up for it? 10 o’clock? Seems like something the two of you would enjoy.”

Skeet shooting? What the hell was a skeet? “Uh-huh. Sure. Sounds fun.”

He felt the pressure of a hand on his shoulder and at the same time Tranit said, “Ah, Mr. Massani! I was telling your boyfriend here-” Garrus’ subvocals erupted in an alarmed trill directed at the other Turian, who gave him a curious glance but continued, “-that I understand the wine we sent for dinner tonight was sub-par. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to send some champagne-triple filtered and wife tested and approved-to your bungalow this evening?”

Zaeed, nonplussed, slid onto the barstool next to Garrus, hand sliding down his spine before dropping down to rest on his leg. Garrus turned to look at him and saw that he had changed into a tight white t-shirt, muscles and tattoos just busting out, and-Spirits! jeans and bare feet. Should have never told him about that kink. Garrus swallowed thickly, pulse slightly elevated. He looked up and saw Zaeed was giving him a positively lecherous leer. “Yeah,” he said without taking his eyes off Garrus, “that would be much appreciated. Thanks. Could I get a bourbon on the rocks?”

“Of course.”

Tranit moved away and Zaeed leaned in. “What was that about?”

Garrus scowled. “What was what about?”

Zaeed grinned. “He said ‘boyfriend’-” Garrus trilled in distress again which made Zaeed’s grin widen, “and your subharmonics went through the goddamn roof.”

Wait. What? “You can hear my subharmonics?”

Tranit placed the bourbon in front of Zaeed and was gone. He took a sip of the drink, still grinning. “Yup.”

“Since when? How is that possible? Humans don’t have that ability.”


“Getting my face nearly shot off fucked up the hearing in one ear. Got a cybernetic hearing aid that just happens to pick it up.”

Garrus stared at him. “I-you-” He couldn’t even process this new information, just sat there blinking in disbelief at Zaeed. “So wait. Can you understand what I’m saying?”

He shook his head. “Translators aren’t equipped for that.” Zaeed’s leer came back full force, “But sometimes I can guess.”

Garrus’ heart thudded in his chest. What had Zaeed been picking up on? What had he been projecting unintentionally, thinking it was safe to vocalize through his subharmonics? He rubbed his sweaty palms against his knees.

“Garrus.”

He trilled nervously, then snapped his mandibles shut and froze.

“Garrus. Love. It’s okay.”

Garrus shook his head and pushed Zaeed’s hand off his leg. “No. It’s not. Why didn’t you tell me before?”

Zaeed sighed. “Never came up. Been that way so long I didn’t even think of it as being a thing. I wasn’t trying to fuck with you.”

He rested his head in his hands. “So why say anything now?”

“Because Tranit said ‘boyfriend’-” Garrus trilled again, “-and you did that same thing then as you did just now. What is it about the word ‘boyfriend’ that gets you all riled up?”

Garrus shook his head, looking despondently down into his beer. He didn’t want to have this conversation. He didn’t want to rock the boat.

“Garrus.” Zaeed’s voice lowered, “Fucking talk to me, goddamnit.”

He shook his head again, whispered, “I don’t want to lose this.”

“Lose what?”

“This.” His heart was nearly in his throat, threatening to jump out of his body. “Us. You,” he whispered.

Zaeed was still next to him and he could feel that hard gaze boring a hole right through him. He was quiet for so long that Garrus risked a glance his way. Sometimes it was hard to read human emotions, even after all these years of spending time with them. But when he looked at Zaeed he knew what he was seeing. The man looked stricken and his heart gave a lurch. "Why would you lose this?"

"Because Zaeed Massani doesn't do commitment," Garrus hated the words as they were uttered, hated the hard, closed-off look that came over his face.

His eyes narrowed. "That's what you think?"

Garrus said nothing, trying to quell the nausea that threatened.

“Know me well, don’t you?” The sarcasm in Zaeed’s raspy voice nearly made him throw up. “I guess you’ve got it all figured out-”

Garrus slid off his seat, didn't want to hear the rest. "See you around, Massani. It's been great."

"Garrus! Don't-"

"Give me five minutes and I'll be out of your hair."

The silence behind him as he walked back to the bungalow was so incredibly loud. Or maybe that was the ringing in his ears. Either way, his brain didn't want to work right. There was nothing in it except a giant, enveloping emptiness. In the bungalow, he managed to throw a bag on the bed, then stood there and stared down into it, unable to move. His mandibles hurt from holding them tight and his throat ached with the need to keen a cry of anguish. Why had he said anything? Why couldn't he just go with whatever was happening and just enjoy the ride? But he knew the answer. He wanted more. With Zaeed he wanted it all, and that was never going to happen. He'd been a disillusioned fool to think that it might.

"People always seem to know what I think before I get a chance to know what it is I'm supposed to be thinking, and it fucking pisses me off." Garrus froze when he heard Zaeed speak somewhere behind him. “That’s probably my own goddamn fault. I talk a lot, but I don’t often say anything important. Hard for me. Had people turn on me too many times. Part of the job, I know. But it makes for a goddamned hard heart. I thought maybe it would be different with you, that what I said at Vega’s party had sunk into your thick Turian skull. Guess not. I guess I’m disappointed that you would feel like you couldn’t ask me what I was thinking. Or what I want.”

Garrus heard the door shut and for a moment he thought that Zaeed had left, but then he heard him breathing, heard the rustle of his clothes. He didn’t turn, didn’t want to see the look on Zaeed’s face, especially now after saying he was disappointed. His heart was going crazy again, hands trembling. “Maybe I’m afraid to ask.”

He heard the tremor in Zaeed’s voice when he said softly, “Maybe you don’t need to be. Maybe I need you to ask.”

Garrus did turn around then. Zaeed was a mess, leaning back against the door. His hair looked like it had been combed through with his hands several times, there was a tight line at his mouth, his brows down in a scowl, his body tense. But it was the look of hurt and pain on his face that broke Garrus’ heart and he felt himself deflate a bit. He did keen then, just a little, but quietly. He took a small step forward. “Okay. Zaeed, suppose I were to ask you?”

He watched as the man’s adam’s apple bobbed repeatedly and it seemed like maybe the color had gone from his face, but it was hard to tell in the dim light of the room. “I’m not any good at this, Garrus.”

Garrus allowed himself a small grin, mandibles spreading slightly. “Apparently neither am I. So who am I to judge?” He took another small step, but Zaeed was all the way across the room, still leaning back against the door with his hands behind him.

A twinge of a smile quirked one corner of his mouth, but he looked away from Garrus off into the corner of the room like he was searching for something. “Fuck. This was easier when your back was turned.”

“You’re deflecting. And I’m not turning around.” He crossed his arms and cocked his hip.

"Okay, so," he took a deep breath, "ask me again."

Garrus dropped his arms. "I want to know what you think about us," and then, because he knew now that Zaeed could hear him, he purposefully hummed a note of reassurance in his subvocals. Even if he didn't know what it meant, maybe he could deduce the intent behind it.

Zaeed gave him a sidelong glance and finally stood up from his lean against the door. "I think I'm-No," he shook his head. "Start over. I'm going crazy because I can't be around you as much as I want. It's torture when we do meet, because we only have a short time together and it's torture when we part because it's going to be too many weeks being fucking alone before I can see you again. You're the best and the worst thing to happen to me in my life and goddamnit I don't understand that, so please don't ask me to explain. I don't need much in life. Never have. But Jesus Christ, Garrus, it’s a helluva thing to I know I need you. Like you've added some sort of spark to dry kindling and now it's burning out of control and I don't give a shit because it feels so goddamn good." He took a deep, shaky breath, but the wash of words continued. "I'm just a mangy old mutt, but if you want me then I'm yours for what it's worth. If you want more, then that's yours too because I goddamn fucking love you and I-Oof!-"

Garrus had slowly been advancing, smile spreading his mandibles wider and wider as Zaeed spoke so that by the time he had said that thing about love, he could reach out and pull him into a tight hug and bury his face in his neck.

"Garrus."

"Say it again."

"Can't breathe."

He let up the pressure a little, but not much. "Say it again."

The other man's arms came up around him, hands splayed against his back. "Say what?"

"Don't be a dick. Say it again."

He could hear Zaeed laugh a little. "I love you, Garrus." He almost sounded relieved when he said it.

Garrus moved to rub his crest against Zaeed's forehead and they breathed the same air for a few moments. He closed his eyes and rubbed against the man's cheeks and hair, down his neck then back to his forehead. "I love you."

"Mnn. You fucking better. What's that smell?"

"I'm kind of-um, marking you."

"Oh. Smells good, like cinnamon and cloves."

"Glad you like it. It's all I've got."

A loud knock at the door made them both jump and break apart. "Shit! What?" Zaeed yelled.

"Room service!"

"Goddamn, motherfucking-" he pulled open the door to find Tranit standing with a tray holding champagne on ice and glasses. "Oh, it's you. Over there."

Tranit moved into the room and placed the tray on a small table. He caught Garrus' wide-eyed look and grinned, obviously smelling the Turian's scent. Tranit's mandibles fluttered in delight, but he kept silent. He backed out of the door with an "Enjoy!" and pulled the door shut behind him.

Zaeed watched the whole thing, eyes tracking Tranit through the room until he was gone. Then he turned his eyes on Garrus. "He could smell that." It wasn't a question.

If Garrus could have blushed, he would have. As it was, he trilled nervously. "He did."

Zaeed locked the door and stepped back towards Garrus. "He seemed pretty goddamn happy when he left. What does he think he knows about us that he didn't before?"

Garrus swallowed. Hard. "Yeah, um. He thinks that we are now, um-" Garrus cleared his throat. "Mates."

"And by mates you mean-"

"Bonded."

"Bonded."

"For life."

"Married."

Garrus trilled again, subharmonics trying to sooth both himself and Zaeed. "If you want to wash it off-"

"Did I fucking say that? I just-we just- You need to tell me these things." He sighed and pulled the Turian close. "We both fucking suck at the important shit."

Garrus wrapped his arms around him. "So you don't mind that he thinks that?"

"Why the hell would I? I told you, if you wanted more you could have it. Do you just not listen to me?"

"I kind of got distracted by the 'I goddamn fucking love you' bit."

Zaeed laughed deep in his chest. "I can think of other ways to distract you."

"You in those jeans for example."

"Don’t forget the goddamn bare feet."

"With the bare feet. Thanks for thinking of me."

"Yeah, well. I was hard as a rock and fucking pissed at your goddamn ass. It had to happen."

Garrus turned his head and kissed Zaeed, sweet and long and full of everything. He let it go on for quite a while, feeling Zaeed relax against him. When he finally managed to pull away, he found his fingers were buried in his hair, holding on maybe a little too tightly to tip his face back. But there didn't seem to be much complaint so he dove back in. Zaeed moaned into his mouth, flicked his tongue along the sharp edges of Garrus' teeth and Garrus sighed, trilling contentment from his subharmonics.

Zaeed pulled back just a little and looked at him long and hard. "That's a new one. Never heard you make that sound before."

"Haven't I?"

"Want to tell me what it means?"

"Um-so, contentment, but more than that. Like being home, being safe," He took a deep breath, his heart skipping a beat. "Being loved."

Zaeed blushed-which was a sight to behold-but couldn't seem to keep the smile off his face. "Yeah. Gonna remember that one." He reached up to rub his thumb along Garrus' jawline. "Listen. Garrus. Sorry I didn't tell you earlier about the hearing thing."

Garrus leaned into Zaeed's touch, light as it was. "It's okay."

"No. Can't imagine if someone told me they could hear things I'd said that I thought were private that I would feel particularly charitable towards them."

He hummed a little in acknowledgement. "For a bit there, I was kinda creeped out. It did feel a bit like you'd been listening in on my thoughts. But it really is okay. So. Need to tell me anything else? Your eye can see through my clothes, can't it."

Zaeed laughed and it made Garrus' breath hitch just to hear it. "No. It's just a regular eye."

"I've always wondered-"

"Why is it a different color."

"Uh. Yeah."

"Donor. It's a real eye. Off some dead guy who'd had the same blood type as me. Simple as that."

"Oh. Huh." Garrus studied him closely, looking back and forth between the two colors, then leaned in and kissed the damaged side of Zaeed's face, over the scar tissue, gently over his closed eye. Zaeed grunted, hands fisting tight on Garrus' shirt before finding and unfastening clasps so he could remove it.

"So."

"So?"

"What other things do Turians do when they form this lifelong bond?"

Garrus continued kissing his way across Zaeed's face. "Well, they might drink a celebratory beverage."

"Good thing we have that."

"Indeed. And then, the couple might engage in an robust sparring match."

"Would that be obligatory?" His hands were roaming over his back, one hand slipping down inside the waist of his shorts.

"Not at all," Garrus pulled Zaeed's shirt off and traced over the myriad tattoos that covered his arms and chest.

"So what then?"

"Well, then they would most likely spend the rest of the night with their clothes off, on the bed, giving each other amazing orgasms."

Garrus realized that Zaeed's other hand had slid up behind his head, just under his fringe. "Sounds like a really good idea. Anything else?"

"Well. They might mark each other-with a, um-bite." Garrus managed to unfasten Zaeed's jeans, pulling down on the zipper, feeling the growing hardness underneath his boxers as his finger brushed against it. He flicked his tongue along Zaeed's jaw and the man tipped his head back.

"Hmm. I can't really bite through your plates, Garrus." His fingers played at the back of his skull, dancing over the sensitive hide.

"Yeah. No." He slipped his hand in between his jeans and boxers, sliding against the fabric so he could cup his ass.

"Garrus," he heard the tremor in the man's voice.

"Yes."

"I want you. In me. I want you to mark me."

Garrus drew away slightly, looked closely at him. His lips were swollen, face flushed, eyes half-lidded. But he didn't waver in his gaze as he looked back at Garrus. This was also something new. "But we've never-have you ever-? Are you sure?"

"I-no. Yes. I trust you, love."

"The bite will hurt."

"Seen your goddamn teeth. I know what I'm in for," his hand slid up and around to Garrus' sensitive waist and squeezed.

Garrus' eyes practically rolled back in his head. His pelvic plates were loose and spreading and he didn't want to hold back anymore. "Fuck." He pushed Zaeed back on the bed then followed, landing on top of him, knees straddling his hips, hands holding the man down by his upper arms.

Zaeed leered up at him. "So skipping the celebratory drink then?"

Garrus' grin as he looked down at Zaeed could only be described as feral. "Later."


Later (much later)...

“I told you, keep that shit away from me.”

“But it’s going to get infected.”

“Goddamnit, Garrus. You’re not putting medigel on it. I’ll take some antibiotics tomorrow. It’s fine. You can medigel the shit outta the next ones, but we’re keeping this one.” Zaeed's voice was wrecked, gruffer and more gravely than normal.

“It’s swelling up. It looks like it hurts.”

“Well bring me some ice then.”

Garrus managed to salvage some ice from one of the champagne buckets-there were now three in the room-and wrapped them up in a washcloth.

“Sit up, mister stubborn dumbass.”

"I love it when you talk sexy," Zaeed groaned as he managed to haul his tired, sore self up.

Garrus climbed in behind him and leaned back against the headboard, adjusting pillows to make himself comfortable. “Scoot back a little and lean against me.” Zaeed groaned some more, but did as Garrus said, scootching between his legs and laying back against the Turian’s warm plates.

Garrus winced as he got a good look at the bite mark he had inflicted on Zaeed, just at the crook of his neck. Zaeed hissed as he gently placed the ice over it. “Jesus, Garrus.”

“Sorry.” He wrapped his other arm around Zaeed’s chest, pulling his legs up to make room for his spurs. Zaeed cocked one leg up and leaned his knee against Garrus’. His head fell back and he sighed. They sat there quietly for a few minutes in the dark, the air thick with Garrus’ musk and the smell of sex and sweat. Garrus’ fingers worried one of the scars on Zaeed’s chest, a memento of a battle long gone. "Why didn't you tell me it was hurting so much?"

"Seemed like you were having the time of your life back there. Hated to interrupt."

Garrus still felt a little dreamy from it all. They'd spent practically the entire night wrapped up in each other, flipping each other over, manhandling from one side of the room to the other, going beyond pleasuring into selflessness. Similar and yet so different from how it had been before. Two people giving everything to each other, whatever they needed. Zaeed’s generosity as a lover included taking full advantage of the Turian’s ability for multiple orgasms. He'd come so many times, even before Zaeed had again asked-demanded-to have Garrus inside him. Just the thought had been enough to make him hard and ready and slick. And when he'd been in him, trying to move slowly and be gentle, trying to stay in control, some part of his primitive brain had taken over. He'd clamped down with his teeth on the man's shoulder, barely registering Zaeed's cry, and he'd come hard, pumping into him for what seemed like minutes. If his talons had been sharp, he would have torn Zaeed's hips and chest to shreds. As it was, he'd left deep, dimpled imprints in his skin that promised to be ugly bruises.

"Don't think you would have heard me anyway. You were pretty far gone there for a bit."

Garrus nuzzled against the other side of Zaeed's neck. "I've never come like that in my life."

Zaeed laughed and turned his head, kissing-although it was more like just rubbing his mouth softly across- Garrus' scarred mandible. "Well then. All worth it, love."

"I'm still sorry."

"Don't. Don't apologize. I don't get off on pain, but this was different." He shifted slightly to reach for the sheet and pulled it up over them. A pre-dawn breeze had begun to ruffle the curtains. Garrus could see gooseflesh from where the air cooled Zaeed's sweat-dampened skin. He adjusted the sheet over the man's shoulders, settling more comfortably back against the pillows. Zaeed's head fell back again against his carapace. Garrus became aware of a deep rumbling in his chest, purring his pleasure. Zaeed hummed back, low in his throat.

“Shit. I’m exhausted. What time is it?”

Garrus craned his neck. “I think it says 4:11.”

Zaeed laughed, then groaned. He reached up and covered the hand that was over his chest, gripping tight.

“Ice helping?”

“Mnn. Yeah. A little. This is nice.”

Garrus hummed, snuggling his face against Zaeed’s shoulder.

"You know that thing you did with your tongue?"

"Wrapping it around your-"

"Yeah. That."

"Uh huh."

"Yeah. You can do that again. Anytime."

"Good to know. Positive feedback always welcomed. And just so you know, all that stuff you did. That was all good."

"All that stuff? Fucking eloquent, Garrus."

"Shut up. All that everything. Liked it all."

"Noted." The ice was beginning to melt, water dripping down between their bodies. "You can get rid of that. Fucking freezing."

Garrus tipped to the side to drop the cloth and cubes in a champagne bucket. When he returned to his position, he wrapped both arms around Zaeed's chest. "Okay like this?"

"Mnn. Yeah." He could hear the exhaustion in Zaeed's voice, could feel his breathing even out as he let sleep start to creep in.

A thought suddenly occurred to Garrus. "Oh. Hey."

"What?" The word was slurred and drowsy.

"I almost forgot. I signed us up for skeet shooting in the morning."

"Yeah. Okay."

"What's a skeet?"

Zaeed huffed a little in a tired laugh. "Skeet shooting? Clay pigeons."

"Skeet are pigeons? Is this like the pudding thing?"

"Yeah. Kinda like the pudding thing. You'll like it."

"Okie."

He sat and stared into the darkness. He hugged his mate-mate!-closer, his heart feeling a little bit like it was full to overflowing. He was so tired, but he didn't want the night to end. He thought Zaeed was asleep, could feel the steady rise and fall of his chest. He felt the pull himself, the need to go under and give his body a much deserved rest. His eyes felt like they had weights attached to them and finally he allowed them to close. But then he heard Zaeed say quietly, "You're goddamn beautiful, you know."

Garrus swallowed several times, blinking away the wetness at his eyes. His throat felt achy. He softly kissed Zaeed's shoulder.

"Zaeed?" he whispered.

"Hmm?"

"What happens now?"

"Hell if I know, love." Zaeed gripped onto Garrus' arms with both his hands. He turned his head and snuggled into Garrus' carapace. "Can't wait to find out though."