The women were getting rowdy. It was partly the alcohol’s fault and partly the fact that all the women…were in general rowdy. They’d been sitting in the mess for a few hours at least, talking, drinking and telling stories. Jack had just gotten back from Pragia and she and Jane had settled down for a talk and then gathered a crowd. There was a lot of cackling. Kasumi, Tali, Kelly had settled in and even Karin Chakwas had been lured out of the Med Bay. Miranda had declined, and that was fine by Jane. Miranda was not her favorite person and she seemed unwilling to socialize, to break down the wall of discipline and perfection she seemed to want to erect.
Erect. Funny word. Okay, she was drunk.
She was drifting a little bit until she heard Tali say “Whose voice do you like more, Garrus or Thane?”
Jack said “Do I have to like them for their voices? Can I pick something else?”
Tali shook her head determinedly “No. Voice.”
Jane flashed through their voices. Garrus had once said “If there’s anything else I can do to help…anything…just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” Her thighs squeezed together. She’d known he had been talking about Saren, but his…emphasis on the word ‘anything’ had taken her to an entirely different place. She’d felt unintentionally turned on and almost irritated with his naïve plea. Then had come finding him on Omega, hearing his rough, tired voice and being so overjoyed to find him, taken aback at the teasing in his voice “Besides…you were taking your own sweet time. I needed to get you moving.”
Well…it worked. It had gotten her moving. And thinking. He was no longer so earnest that she felt she’d be taking advantage of her position, afraid he was so Turian he wouldn’t dream of saying no to a superior officer. Not that the idea of not being able to say no didn’t have its appeal…
Okay, she was really, really drunk.
Then there was Thane. He had the easy, fluid strength born of solitude and confidence. And then there were his hands. Don’t think about his hands. Crap, I thought about his hands. His voice had warmth and measured restraint that broke and revealed the man underneath, to be covered up at the next word. He spoke with none of the camouflaging humor or defensiveness of other people she knew, even herself. He spoke or he did not speak, and he told her no enough that she perversely wanted to hear yes. Yes, Thane, you should talk to me. She hadn’t acted on it, once again unwilling to press a command advantage where one did not belong. What did it say about her that she had been interested in him from the moment she’d seen him drop to the floor and kill several people within seconds?
Let’s say she had a healthy libido and fantasy life? She needed it on this ship.
Kelly said “They could both read the ship manifest, by the time they got to my name, I’d be gone.”
Jane snorted and said “Let’s find out.”
Tali said “What? What…no!”
Jack said “Now we’re talking.”
Karin just took another sip of her drink and Kasumi looked like she was readying her Omni Tool to record. Resourceful people, her crew.
Jane called Garrus and Thane over, and they stood curiously, Jack looking at them appraisingly, leaning back like a contented Pasha, Tali looking like she was about to escape.
Jane said “Tali has a question.” Tali sputtered and Jane held up a hand “Tali has a question, but now we all have a question.”
Tali subsided into embarrassed horror, but she didn’t run away, so there must be some fascination in there. Or she was too drunk to get up. Probably a combination.
Jane said “We were wondering which one of you had the better voice.”
Garrus visibly startled, brow plates drawn together and his eyes went to Tali, taking in the polite or impolite gazes of the women at the table, none of them backing down, and then his gaze went back to Jane. “Do you? And what’s the consensus?”
Thane said mildly “Yes, has it been put to a vote?”
Jane waved her hand and said “Well, no. We haven’t yet. I thought I’d give you gentlemen an opportunity to influence us. Although Kelly said you could read the ship manifest…”
Kelly burst out a laugh and then said “Well, yeah…but they can do better, right?”
Garrus’s brow went even higher and Thane smiled slightly.
Jane continued “All right, we are drunk, but we are curious.”
Garrus said “So because you’re drunk…”
Jane said “Because we’re drunk you can either take advantage of us in our weakened state of curiosity or go calibrate something.”
Garrus considered and then said “Well, if you put it that way.”
Thane pondered and said “And what is the reward for such a wager?”
Jane scoffed and said “Just knowing you took advantage of us in our weakened state. Sober we might not be as appreciative.”
Kelly said “I’d be very appreciative sober.”
Jack said “Don’t listen to Kelly, not like that’s news. I’ve seen you both checking out Shepard’s ass when we’re out on missions, don’t even try to deny it. Time for some payback.”
Garrus shrugged “Well, it is a nice ass, there are a few perks to my job.”
Jane laughed and said “Why Mr. Vakarian, how you do turn a girl’s head.”
He shrugged and said “Thankfully not all that often in this case.”
Thane’s lips twitched and Jane could tell they were both in.
Kasumi said “The question is, what material to use?”
Jane waved her arm “Up to them. They could go with the manifest or go with something…better suited to the occasion.”
Garrus waved an arm and said “Okay, Krios, I’ve got something in mind. How about you?”
Thane inclined his head “I believe I have something sufficient to the competition.”
Garrus said “Mind if I go first?”
Thane indicated yielding the floor with a hand “As you wish.”
Karin said with appreciation “They’re so polite.”
Garrus walked with a slight swagger to stand behind Tali and he put his hands on her shoulders. She visibly jumped and he smirked briefly, looked to Shepard to catch her grin and then lowered his head to speak at her…well…her helmet, where her ear would be. Garrus said with a smooth, silent voice with yearning spread over like dripping honey “It wasn’t when I first saw you that I loved you, fool that I am. I was born from the hard soil of Palaven and my eyes were not wise. It was not when I first heard you that I loved you, for your voice was so different from those I had known. My ears were not wise. It was when I saw you act, when I saw you in the world, that my heart awoke to knowing there was nothing so fine…” His eyes strayed to Shepard again and even her foggy mind could pick out what this was from “Fleet and Flotilla.” This was the monologue of the Turian declaring his love for the Quarian woman. Tali was visibly trembling. Shepard was on her way there. Jack was grinning. Kelly looked about ready to fall over, Kasumi was recording avidly and Karin had a delighted smile on her face.
Garrus took an expressive breath and continued “Nothing so dear as to watch you act from your heart, to give of yourself, to risk your life and look to the future. Forgive this hardened and dull Turian for not knowing immediately that the greatest thing he could do with his heart would be to give it to you.”
When Garrus released her shoulders and stood up, Tali thunked her head down dramatically on the table, Jack laughed and started to clap, and then everyone was clapping, including the stragglers who had stopped by to watch, and also Thane. Garrus bowed briefly. Jane clapped enthusiastically. “Damn, Vakarian. I’m impressed.”
Garrus rubbed Tali’s shoulders comfortingly, as though to apologize for embarrassing the hell out of her, and said “I’m at an advantage, I’m not sure Thane can pull a popular movie out of his pocket about a Drell and someone of another race.”
Thane shook his head and said “Nothing so well known, of course. It is not likely anybody here has heard Drell poetry.”
Drell poetry was never translated into other languages and this was a huge breech of tradition.
Garrus said “Oh come on, he’s lying, he’s just going to make something up. He’s not going to risk…”
Thane raised a brow “I’m not going to risk…?”
Garrus said “Oh, never mind. I imagine the last thing you need to worry about is a cultural attache to rap you on the wrist for a historical transgression.”
Thane said “Indeed, that is my thinking as well. In order to censure me, they must find me, and as long as Ms. Goto does not post her video…”
Kasumi said “Absolutely not. Private stock.”
Jane said “I get a copy of course.”
Kasumi laughed and said “On it.”
Jane said “That’s right, it’s just…cultural exchange for the condemned.”
Jack said “Finally, something good for being about to die.”
Thane inclined his head and said “Of course.”
He sat down on the edge of the table, looking at Jane, almost close enough to touch his hip to her arm. She could feel the heat radiate from his body. He said quietly, softly “Draw your eyes to me, my love, that you will remember always what you see in mine, that love brightens and warms, like the sun to the sand. That your doubts flee before the strength of that warmth. Draw your hands to me, my love, and feel what belongs to you, my strength and resolve at your command. Draw your lips to mine, my life, that you can taste the man that is yours, a man who will remember your eyes, your hands, your lips as a Gods-granted gift, always treasured, never lost.”
There was a long pause and Jane was speechless, nearly reaching out her hand to him, interrupted by Jack saying “Oh hell yeah.”
There was laughter, and clapping.
Kelly vigorously mimed fanning herself, Garrus’s hands had stilled but were still on Tali’s shoulders and she was not considering asking him to take them off. Karin clapped and the spell was broken, Thane inclining his head briefly and standing, patiently awaiting the verdict.
Garrus said “Oh come on, that’s not fair.”
Jane said “None of this is fair, Garrus, we’re drunk as hell. I’m not sure I remember your names, who are you guys?”
Thane laughed and Garrus teased “The saviors of the Galaxy, apparently.”
Jane said “Come on now, don’t write a check with your mouth that you can’t cash.”
Garrus answered “Apparently I can write really big checks with my mouth.”
Jack said “Oooooo. Big talk. Okay, I vote Garrus.”
Karin said “Thane has my vote.”
Tali said weakly “I vote for Garrus.” Garrus squeezed her shoulders and continued to massage them and Tali said “I believe I have been unfairly influenced.”
Thane smiled at that, and Garrus smirked.
Kelly said “I have to vote Thane.”
Kasumi said “I’m a huge “Fleet and Flotilla” fan, I have to go with Garrus.”
Eyes turned to Jane and she thought a moment, saying slowly “I’m going to…okay, I’m going to vote for Thane.”
Garrus looked slightly disappointed until she said “Only because I have to make it a tie, there’s no way either of you gentlemen should lose that.”
Garrus said “Well…I can live with that. You okay with that Krios?”
Thane said “Of course, and I could not be in better company.” He was looking at Jane when he said it.
Oh shit, she now had a lot. A LOT…to think about. And fuel for fantasies to last likely for the rest of her statistically short life.
Thane and Garrus turned to speak to those on the fringes that had come by to congratulate them and comment. Jack leaned in and said “Come on, Shepard, pick one so we can figure out who gets the other one.”
Jane said “I’m seriously not sure I can do anything but think we have a tie here.”
Jack said “That’s selfish as hell, you know that?”
Jane scoffed “I’m allowed to have a dying wish.”
Jack said “This would be your second dying wish, right?”
Jane said “Oh yeah. The first dying wish was ‘FUUUUUCK, I NEED AIR’”
Tali’s head jerked up and Jane was afraid she’d shocked everyone into a silence until Karin started to chuckle and then Jack let out a deep belly laugh and even Kelly joined in. Tali’s shoulders were trembling and she was trying not to laugh, but she failed. Then she said “Come on Shepard, you can’t have both of them.”
Jane thought and said “It’s usually not a good thing to give me a challenge like that. If I can talk Saren into shooting himself in the head, I can probably wrangle a few friends into bed. Especially after that performance.”