The first time it happened, Shepard had an internal laugh over it, but mostly wrote it off. She wasn’t even completely sure that General Oraka was serious. Turians had weird senses of humour sometimes, but even if he meant it, she by no means took it as some kind of herald of things to come. After all, the first time she met the good general he’d been pining after the asari consort, so maybe he just had an alien fetish or something. Not a big deal. Just a little funny.
“General Oraka made a pass at me,” she told Garrus afterwards anyway, mostly to share a laugh at how absurd it was.
Garrus froze up at his station.
“What?” he asked.
“General Oraka. You know. The guy who was all broken up about Sha’ira’s rejection a few years ago? He’s helping with the war effort now. I did some business with him, and I swear, he flat out propositioned me. Tacky pick-up lines and everything.” She nudged his shoulder, but when she looked over at him, his eyes had gone a little narrow. “Maybe he got confused and forgot he was the turian General, not the asari madam?” she tentatively suggested, wondering if she’d unwittingly crossed some cultural barrier or another.
That, at least, got a chuckle out of him. A strained one.
“So what did you do?” he asked, his tone suspiciously casual.
“I told him I was flattered, but that my bed already has a turian in it and there isn’t room for any more.”
Reaching over, she wrapped an arm around his back. He relaxed, then, chuckling more naturally, and turned his head to press his mouth against her temple. It was a gesture he’d picked up from her, and even though there was no warm weight of fleshy lips, it still sent a flood of affection through her.
“Good,” he said. “I’d hate to share.”
Shepard smiled, and then the conversation steered itself onto more serious topics, business and the war and the turian refugees. She made a mental note not to mention Oraka’s weird little come-on again, since apparently Garrus could laugh off asari flirtation and Vega’s joking passes, but things got a little tense when another member of his own species was involved. There were plenty more things to get upset about, anyway, and the topic didn’t come up again until about a year after the war.
The new primarch after the dust had settled was a man named Oraeus, and Shepard liked him almost immediately. He had a similar colouring to Garrus, though his markings were intricate silver-white instead of blue, and he’d distinguished himself during the war by surviving three ‘suicide’ runs on Reaper ships. The Normandy spent about four months running between Palaven, Tuchanka, Illium and Earth, helping to coordinate clean-up and make sure the right aid and supplies were getting to the right places. Oraeus asked for a tour before they were scheduled to head on to what was left of batarian space.
“After a successful project like this, our people should have done more to cooperate,” he said afterward they finished rounds aboard the ship, sitting comfortably in the lounge while Garrus grabbed them drinks. “The Normandy was clearly one of the most effective assets at play during the war. Though, I suppose a large portion of that effectiveness must be attributed to her commander.”
“Thank you, Primarch,” Shepard replied, tipping her head to acknowledge the compliment.
“Please, it’s just ‘Oraeus’ to you, Commander.” He smiled the turian approximation of a smile, and, to her immediate consternation, scooted closer to her on the couch. Garrus came back then. He gave the primarch a narrow look, which only seemed to amuse the older turian as he accepted his drink. “I have always felt that interspecies relations are an under-valued asset. Though, far less so these days. I understand you’re rather gifted at them yourself?”
Shepard fought off the urge to gape at the definitively suggestive lilt to his tone. When Garrus sat down next to her, tense as a board, she glanced sideways at him. He was glaring like no tomorrow. But he didn’t say anything.
“I’m just lucky enough to know the right people,” Shepard answered after the shock wore off, leaning back reflexively until her leg had brushed against Garrus’.
The primarch backed off then, laughing and returning the conversation to steadier tracks, and Shepard mostly tried to write the whole incident off as a misunderstanding. Though Garrus was unusually affectionate that night, all laughter and rumbling purrs and long, slow sex that left them both languid and satisfied. He licked a path down her body and then curled his tongue inside her, patient and teasing until all she could do was moan his name, and when he was finished she pushed him up against her pillows and returned the favour so well that he ripped a hole in her sheets. Sheets which had long-since been replaced with durable turian fabrics. So on the whole, not a bad turn of events.
It didn’t end with the primarch, though.
A young new C-Sec officer practically fell all over himself when their new security system went haywire at customs, and she opted to politely wait it out rather than call in the ‘Goddamn Commander Shepard’ card. At first she assumed it was the usual hero-worship – Conrad type stuff. Until he finally got the system back on, and concluded the whole ordeal by asking her if she’d like to go out for drinks. Then it happened again, when they caught up with a band of pirates that had been tormenting the edges of salarian space, and the leader – a dark-faced turian with red markings – offered her a cut of his profits in exchange for letting them go. He offered himself, as well, and Shepard turned him down in utter disbelief, Garrus silently glaring daggers over her shoulder the whole time. When they recovered a turian scouting ship that had been attacked by a group of Indoctrinated elcor warriors (no, it was not hilarious, yes, they were terrifying, even when their translators were shouting ‘with murderous intent’ in front of everything), the captain of the ship – a female turian, for a change of pace – had invited her back to her quarters as ‘thanks’.
Finally, when the turian counsellor made a passing comment about her waist while she was considering the Council’s latest request, she decided that she’d had enough.
“Okay,” she ranted as she marched into the main power battery, closing the door behind her and fixing Garrus with a look. He blinked. “I could handle all the asari, because they’re just like that. And I could handle it when it was half the crew of the Normandy, because, well, tensions run high in our line of work, and sometimes that means hormones do, too. But why does every damn turian we meet hit on me now?”
Garrus tensed up and got that look in his eyes again, like he was shooting imaginary targets in his head. Turian-shaped ones.
“Who was it this time?” he asked.
Shepard ran her fingers along her temple.
“Let’s just say that my meeting with the Council ended on an inappropriate note, and leave it at that,” she replied.
He muttered something low and ugly-sounding that her translator didn’t catch. She glanced at him. He was still glaring, though she knew him well enough to know that even though he was looking in her direction, she wasn’t the focus of his ire. Hopefully.
“So?” she pressed. “Any valuable cultural insights? Have I been showering in turian catnip unawares?”
Shaking his head a little bit, Garrus’ glare transformed into a confused frown.
“That didn’t translate. Cattanip?” he asked.
Shepard waved a hand vaguely through the air.
“It’s a common metaphor, something certain animals on Earth go wild for. Basically it just refers to anything that’s guaranteed to attract someone.”
“Oh,” Garrus replied. “Uh. Well, I guess you could say that dependability is sort of like cattanip for most turians. And, it just so happens that you are probably the most dependable person in the galaxy right now. Everyone knows you were always right about the Reapers. Everyone knows you were the one who brought us together and finished that fight. You’re easy to look at for a human, too, not too, um… squishy. They also know that you’re… willing to try turians, because of you and me. So. It makes sense that they’re interested,” he explained, looking like every word that left his mouth was highly distasteful.
She digested the concept for a couple of seconds, frowning over the content of his answer.
“Wait,” she said. “So they know that I’m with you, and they don’t see a problem in trying to go after me?”
Garrus shifted uncomfortably. Then he sighed, and shrugged. She folded her arms across her chest, settled in to wait for an explanation.
“They probably just think we have a casual relationship,” he replied. “Ordinarily I’d… that doesn’t matter. The important thing is, I trust you, and I know you’re not going to leave me to go running off with the primarch or anyone else anytime soon.” He chuckled, just an edge of nervousness to the sound. “Right?”
For a few long, silent minutes, Shepard just stared at Garrus, her own eyes narrowing for a change. Oh, goddammit. This was a thing. There was a thing going on. With an internal sigh, she pulled up a seat next to his workstation, and settled in for the long haul. Garrus went from standing there uncomfortably to honest-to-god fidgeting, like he hadn’t done since the days when he was still calibrating the mako’s guns and complaining about red tape. Some days, she felt like there was nobody who could ever be on the same page as her as much as Garrus was. And some days, she was abruptly reminded that they came from two totally different species, and also that they were both kind of idiots about some things.
“Two questions,” she began, holding up a hand with two demonstrative fingers. “Why would they think our relationship is casual, when I’m pretty sure I said ‘yes’ to that whole ‘one turian kind of woman’ thing, and what would you be doing in these situations that you aren’t doing now for some reason?”
Garrus twitched a little.
“I guess the good news is that they both have the same answer,” he told her.
With an outward sigh of his own, Garrus began to pace. It was his slow, ‘damn-I-don’t-want-to-talk-but-I-have-to-anyway’ pace, the one that was usually reserved for confessions of past misdeeds and awkward revelations about turian culture. Oh good, she thought. I needed more headaches.
“Okay. In most turian relationships, when someone propositions someone you’re… serious about, the partner of the person who’s being propositioned is supposed to make their objections known. If they’re present and able to. Depending on how overt the propositioning is, the reaction can range from a mild warning to a no-holds-barred beat-down. If the competing party doesn’t object, then it’s usually a sign that the relationship isn’t serious,” he explained.
When it became apparent that there wasn’t any further explanation forthcoming, she frowned.
“Yes. That’s the same with humans,” she replied, leadingly.
Garrus froze mid-pace.
“…What?” he asked.
Shepard shook her head a little. “This is why we have to discuss these things, Garrus. If a human is in a relationship with somebody, and someone else comes up and propositions them, it’s expected for the partner to object. Or for the person being propositioned to say that they’re taken. Or both. That’s how it works.”
He gaped at her for a moment, his mandibles twitching in agitation.
“But Liara said that humans think possessive or jealous behaviour shows a lack of trust,” he blurted.
Shepard raised an eyebrow at him.
“Why were you talking to Liara about this?” She demanded, torn between laughing and reaching over to strangle him. “One of the first times I spoke with her she implied that she’d really like to dissect my brain! As much as I care about her, Garrus, she’s not exactly an expert on human social mores. Humans don’t like jealousy, that’s true, but it’s completely fair to go up to someone who’s making a pass at your partner and tell them to back off. Jealousy would be accusing your partner of messing around, or attacking their friends because you’re worried about them getting ‘too close’. That’s the kind of thing that shows distrust.”
At the look of misery that was swiftly overtaking his face, Shepard stood up, and rested her hands over the armour on his chest, hooking her fingers near his collar. Then she leaned up and pressed her lips to his mouth, her brow to his brow.
“I wish you’d asked me,” she said.
Garrus gave a humourless little laugh.
“So do I,” he agreed. “I guess I’m still worried about messing this up. Of course, then I go and do something to mess it up anyway. Another brilliant tactical maneuver in the game of romance by Garrus Vakarian, master of the craft.”
“You didn’t mess anything up,” Shepard assured him, moving her hands down his armour so she could grip his fingers instead. “And I happen to like your particular style of romance, Master Vakarian. There’s only one turian I want, and he’s right here.”
Garrus let out a breath, looking into her eyes for several seconds. Then he leaned forward and brought their mouths together again, darting his tongue between her lips as he moved his arms around her. The hard lines of his armour pressed through her Alliance fatigues, a little uncomfortable, but not enough to distract her from the rough rasp of him inside her mouth. She worked a hand up towards the back of his neck, ran her fingers over the sensitive skin at the base of his fringe. The other she rested on the top of his hip, even though she knew he couldn’t feel it through the thick material there; the implication of the touch was usually enough. He moaned and pulled back a little, rested against hers. She kept her hands where they were.
“We keep this up, and I’m not going to be able to get back to work,” he warned.
“Can’t have that,” she smirked, trailing the tips of her nails gently across the arch of his neck as she let him go. He groaned again.
“I never knew you were this evil, Shepard,” he protested.
“Yes you did,” she replied.
There was a decided swing to her hips as she left him in the main power battery, looking forward to what was going to happen as soon as they got off shift, barring any unexpected catastrophes. She passed Ken and Gabby in the mess hall. Gabby gave her a thumb’s up and a grin.
The next week, when the turian ambassador to the flotilla told her that her fringe was an absolutely fascinating colour, Garrus punched him in the stomach, then pile-drove him straight to the floor, before snarling and adding a couple kicks to the ribs for good measure. After Shepard had finished gaping in shock, and the ambassador had picked himself up off the floor and limped back to his ship, Garrus looked so utterly content with the universe that she couldn’t even bring herself to tell him off. She realized, of course, that there may have been a few more miscommunications between them regarding the severity of reaction in relation to the overtness of the propositioning. And it might always be like this, too, that just when they thought they’d figured it all out, both of them were misreading some important part of the puzzle between them.
But that was okay.
They’d gotten this far. They’d work out the rest of it, too.