Commander Shepard was used to long days. As she rubbed the back of her neck on her way toward the elevator she reflected that people seemed to think she was invulnerable. When you were the savior of the galaxy several times over, people tended to forget that you needed little things like food and rest. It was as if they expected you to be able to live on heroism alone.
At least she finally had some time to herself. After chasing a group of slavers down, coming back to find the Alliance brass was waiting to speak to her over the comm, and arguing with them for another hour, she was able to end her shift. She was going to go back to her cabin, finally get a hot shower, then fall into bed.
However, when she finally reached the elevator, Traynor was standing in front of it with a baby.
“There you are Commander!” she said, brightening when she saw her. “We were looking everywhere for you!” She nodded down at the infant in her arms. Shepard knew that even an ordinary baby being on an Alliance military ship would have drawn some commentary. That this baby happened to be a turian would probably have shocked some people speechless.
“Why? What’s the matter?” was all she said. It couldn’t have been a medical issue. Traynor would have brought him to the infirmary if that had been the case. But if it was Traynor and she had come looking for her specifically…her gut twisted uncomfortably. “Did we finally hear something about his family?” They had been trying to track down any family he might have, or even find a place to take him to, since they had managed to rescue him. His mother had died before she could tell them anything solid. EDI, Liara and Garrus had been looking for anything, but so far no luck.
For some reason the thought they had found something filled her with a combination of dread, anger, and loss. It made no sense! A baby was a distraction at the best and an outright danger out worst. She should be glad to get him off the ship, not feel like she had something important ripped from her.
Fortunately she was saved from having puzzle out what she was feeling by Traynor shaking her head and walking over to meet her. “Oh, no, not that,” she said. The baby turned and seemed to see her, reaching out for her with one of his tiny little arms. Involuntarily she took a step towards them. Traynor grinned and the next thing she knew she was holding the little Turian. At least she had enough practice at it now that she didn’t freeze up, sure she was going to drop him or that he would shatter like glass the moment she made a move.
“What the hell Traynor?” she demanded as the tiny baby snuggled close to her.
“Aetius had been fussing all day,” her assistant said brightly. “I thought he might be missing you. I feed and changed him, so I didn’t see what else it could be.”
“Oh come on,” Shepard tried to adjust her hold on the baby without disturbing him much. “I don’t think he’s old enough to miss someone yet! He was probably just cold or..or something!” Aeitus was the name he had ended up with when everyone had agreed the baby needed one. His mother hadn’t survived long enough to tell them what, if any, name she had decided on. And, despite what the rest of her crew seemed to think, she was not an expert on Turians. Let alone baby Turians. She didn’t see why they assumed that he would have attached to her just because she had an adult of his species sharing her bed.
“I think he’s smarter than you’re giving him credit for,” Traynor sounded more amused than anything else. “Just look at him now, Commander! All quiet and being as good as gold!”
Involuntarily Shepard did glance down at the tiny Turian in her arms. He gazed up at her with huge eyes and just stuck a claw in his mouth as he looked at her. She felt her heart give a lurch as something that felt uncomfortably like protective urges gripped it.
Immediately she looked up and shoved it away. No, no, no! There were going to find his relatives and hand him over to them. Even though it felt like someone was trying to rip out her heart when she even thought about that, it was the best thing for him. It had to be.
“What do you want me to do with him?” she demanded out loud, mostly to distract herself from the emotions that threaten to break out if she thought about things too hard.
“Whatever it is you usually do to calm him down?” Traynor suggested grinning wickedly. “You’re the one he always listens to best. You’re a natural.”
“Tryanor!” her growl made the baby fuss and let off soft distressed noises. As she turned to hush him she caught the communications officer throwing her a salute out of the corner of her eye.
“Sorry Commander!” she said, smiling, “have to get back to work!”
“Traynor,” she hissed softer, but the other woman was already gone. She wondered if this was some strange sort of revenge, or if it was just because her crew seemed to find the sight of her with a baby that hilarious. At least a quick glance around her didn’t show anyone filming her or something similar. “You know,” she said, turning her attention back to the baby, “I was looking forward to relaxing for a bit. Do you like disrupting my life or something?” Of course the kid didn’t answer her with more than a curious tilt of his and a string of turian infant sounds.
Her mind was already supplying a list of people who could, and would willingly take the baby off her hands. Half her crew had been taking turns looking after him when she didn’t have him. Liara, Kaidan, even Vega of all people had taken turns with him. All she would have to do was mention that she needed a break and any of them would be more than happy to take Aetius off her hands for a bit. Garrus would be first to offer to care for him for a while and chase her off to bed. Why he was always so eager to help was a subject she shied away from thinking about. It was too big, too profound to try and make sense of in the middle of a war.
As if sensing her thoughts Aetius chose that moment to reach up, warp one of his tiny hands around a bit of her hair, and yank. She cursed, mentally kicking herself as soon as the words left her mouth since that was such a great thing to say to a kid, but Aetius just cooed up at her, apparently very pleased with himself.
“That hurts,” she told him, trying untangle his hold on her hair as she made her way into the elevator. “I think Garrus is a bad influence on you. He can’t leave my hair alone either.”
Yeah, logically she knew that there it would probably be better to hand the baby off to someone else. She was just very bad at being logical, and trying not to think too hard about why she didn’t want to hand the kid over.
Up in her room she was reminded of another reason that Traynor had decided to dump the baby on her. Aetius more or less slept up here now. Originally his makeshift crib had been down in the infirmary, but eventually someone had noticed that the little turian didn’t seem to sleep that well unless she was in the same room. Shepard couldn’t even say why the baby had suddenly decided she was the best thing in the galaxy. Someone had tried to talk to her about imprinting, but she had stammered an excuse about supplies and hurried off. That was not something she wanted to think about. Not right now, with everything else going on. Still, somehow Aetius had ended up migrating to her room, annoying baby things at all.
This time, Aetius appeared to want her attention more than anything else. He start that high pitched mewling cry of his whenever she put him down. It took a little over an hour before finally wore himself down and drifted off to sleep
“Finally!” Shepard tried to keep her voice down. Now she was even more exhausted, since of course Aetius wasn’t content to have her sit quietly while she held him, he had wanted to be moving around. At least now he let her put him in his crib. He looked comfy enough with the pillows and blankets they had managed to scavenge from around the Normandy. There was even that stuffed dog Vega had bought for Aetius tucked in with him. At least he wouldn’t be lonely.
When she was sure he was settled and not waking up, Shepard straightened up and stretched. Okay, exhausted and hungry, she could deal with those now. She pondered which was more important, food or sleep. The feel of her clothes sticking to her skin made her decided that ‘clean’ trumped all of them. She would take that hot shower she had planned, then asked Garrus to bring something to eat up with him. Asking him would make him worry, and fuss, which made her feel guilty but she didn’t see a choice. She just didn’t feel up to facing the rest of crew in the mess until she managed to get at least some rest.
A last check on Aetius to prove that, yes, he was staying asleep this time, and she headed towards her shower. Her clothes were shed piece by piece along the way. She would pick them up when she was clean. It wasn’t like anyone else would call her to task for it.
When she hit the controls in the shower and was drenched in a spray of hot water, she couldn’t stop the appreciative groan. Being in command did have a few perks after all! Getting clean, scrubbing off the sweat and dirt from missions, that made her start to feel like herself again. She had been fully intending to say under the hot water and let herself relax, but a shrill sound made her freeze. It was half screech, half yowl and it took only a second for her mind to register ‘Aetius’ before she was moving.
Her heart jumped into her throat as she raced out of the small bathroom, her mind already throwing up theories as to what could cause Aetius to sound that terrified. She almost fell down the steps, scrambled to the side of his crib, and stopped dead at the carnage inside.
The little stuffed dog had been dismembered and shredded. Its fluffy insides were spread all over the inside of the crib, and a few wisps of it had even somehow escaped outside to scatter across her floor. The pillows hadn’t fared much better either. One had been nearly totally eviscerated and its foam filling was leaking everywhere.
Aetius had apparently moved his gleeful destruction over to the second pillow before his claws got caught in the fabric which had effectively ended his reign of terror. When he caught sight of her leaning he let loose another of those long yowling cries, and gave a futile tug on his stuck claws. His eyes were the roundest she had ever seen on a turian, and his mandibles splayed in distress.
“What the hell did you do,” she couldn’t help saying a she finally came out of her shock and dropped to her knees beside the crate. She leaned inside to scoop the infant up only to have him screech, loudly, in her ear as his claws refused to come out and yanked on his little hands. With a frown, she just scooped the pillow up with him, and moved over to the couch. She wrapped the half forgotten towel around her as best she could with one hand, and got to work extracting his tiny claws. Thankfully they came out surprisingly easily, without him screeching over it. Instead he gave a relieved little squeak as she finally freed him from the offending article.
“I guess Garrus was right,” she told him softly as he curled up against her. “ You are going to grow up to be a fighter. Just try to find better opponent's next time? Ones that don’t make so much of a mess.” Aetius chirped something she could barely hear and snagged part of her towel with his claws. With a headshake she reached out to free them from the cloth. “You need to stop doing that,” she said absent mindedly as she noticed a bit of foam still clinging to one of the claws and wiped it away. Aetius made a noise that sounded almost like agreement and brought one of his claws up to his mouth. Shepard caught his hand gently, noticing that there was a bit of white fuzz still clinging stubbornly to his claw. Aetius gave a growl of displeasure and tugged as she gently plucked the fluff off.
“That’s your own fault,” she told him. “I’m not going to let you eat…” she suddenly went cold, heart jumping back up to it’s previous position in her throat. “Please don’t tell me you already swallowed some of it.”
The next couple of minutes were spent trying to pry Aetius’ little mouth open without hurting him. She was too busy running through all the horrifying scenarios that him ingesting foam or fluff could lead to, and trying to mentally calculate how close the nearest planet with a turian compatible hospital was to pay attention to the displeased noise he was making over the intrusion. Once she had assured herself that he hadn’t managed to get any of it into his mouth, she settled back against the couch. Aetius was still making displeased sounding chirps and chewing on his claws while giving her baleful looks.
“Hey, I’m not the one that shredded everything,” she told him, stroking his still-short fringe. “That’ll teach you not to do it next time.” She glanced down at him, trying to figure out what to do next, only to have her thoughts interrupted by the sound of the door to her loft opening.
Immediately she froze in place, skin flushing. She was still half naked, damp, and she was sure made a totally undignified picture. This was state she did not want to anyone to see her. Commander Shepard was suppose to be in smooth, in control, and heroic. She was pretty sure that none of those words really fit her at the moment. Explaining this to any of her crew was going to be a battle, and she was sure how she would even start to..
Then a familiar figure stepped into the room and she felt all the tension drain from her in a rush. Well almost all the tension. This might not be as embarrassing as it could have been, but she wasn’t going to get away without comment.
“I..Ah…I’m not sure I want to know what happened here,” Garrus’ familiar flanging voice was normally comforting but the amusement in it told her that yep, her guess about getting some sort of teasing about it were going to be correct. He walked down the few steps, mandibles flared in that turian grin. “And here I thought I was the only man who could get you out of your clothes.”
“Very funny,” she said flatly, adjusting her hold on Aetius when he gave a little chirp at seeing Garrus and latched onto her bare skin with little claws that scratched and made her wince. “As long as you’re here, maybe you feel like telling me why this little guy suddenly decided he hated his toys?”
“What?” Instead of explain, she nodded toward the make-shift crib, and watched as the older turian came over to peer inside. Garrus’ mandibles flared in surprised for a moment before he turned to look at the baby again. “Maybe he just likes causing trouble?” he suggested innocently.
That brought out an amused snort. “What, like someone else I could name?” then she shook her head. “But seriously, Garrus, he’s been in there for weeks. Did something in there hurt him? Do all turian infants turn into balls of destruction?” She really, really hoped the latter wasn’t true. If there was some weird stage in turian development that would make Aetius tear up anything near him, then she was going to have a lot more trouble finding reasons to keep him board.
That she had been making excuses to keep him here with her was something she would rather avoid thinking about. It was almost easier to think about the lump in her throat and the outright fear that gripped when she thought about having to leave him behind somewhere.
Okay, maybe thinking about that wasn’t a good idea. Thankfully Garrus just shook his head. “Ah, I don’t think so,” he said as he made his way over to the couch. Aetius insisted on bouncing and wiggling, making those chirping sounds until the elder turian reached down to run the back of one finger over his tiny crest. “I think he just figured out what his claws are for.” Garrus moved his hand down towards Aetius, and the little turian reached up to grab one of his fingers. “See?”
Shepard shifted a little closer, eyeing the tiny curved claws. “I suppose they are getting pretty long…” she glanced down at the tiny scratches on her arms. “Explains why I look like I got into a wrestling match with a cat. Even you don’t mark me up like this…most of the time.”
That brought out a chuckle as he looped his free arm around her shoulders. “I can if you want me too. Just say the word.”
“Yeah, that would be so easy to explain to the rest of the crew,” she leaned against him, watching as Aetius decided the finger he was holding would make a great chew toy. At least he couldn’t possible get through the glove. “But tell me, how long am I going to have explain his marks to everyone? I think Dr. Chakwas is going to start wondering if I did sneak a cat up here at some point.”
“He’s only hitting you so much because he’s too young to know what ‘control’ means,” Garrus gently pulled his hand away from the younger turian, how responded with a demanding burble and baby talk. He nuzzled the scratched part of her shoulder gently. “I can kiss it better if you want.” His voice had a rumble in it that sent a shiver through her. If it had been any other time she would have been pondering giving Aetius to someone else to watch for a few hours. Right now, however, she had other concerns.
“What I want is to figure out a way for you to make him stop it. I would rather not have to wear armor when holding him,” she stroked Aetius’ tiny crest, but he was too busy playing with a corner of her towel to notice.
Garrus paused and looked thoughtful. “Maybe trim his claws? I think that’s what some parents do, at least for the first couple of years, until junior figures out that shredding everything isn’t exactly productive.”
“Wait, you knew about this already?” Shepard sat up a little straighter and glared at him. “I know you trim your own claws. Why the hell didn’t you do his at the same time?”
“Because I only just remembered it?” Garrus shook his head. “I told you that I didn’t know anything about babies Shepard. The little guy and I might share a species but the most time I spend around a baby was way back when my sister was born. It’s not exactly something we learn in basic.”
“Fine, okay, but you remembered it now. Trim his claws.”
“That’s going to be kind of hard,” Garrus rumbled, but his voice sounded only half there and he had buried his face against her neck again. “My nail set is for someone my size. Little bit of difference there, don’t you think?”
“Then we’ll have to pick up something when we dock at Citadel. I am not...” her words turned into a gasp as a rough turian tongue dragged gently across one of the deeper scratches on her shoulder. She shuddered, wonder if that had just been some weird comfort thing, but then decided that was not anywhere near the truth when he gave a pleased little purr and started to lick up her neck.
“Garrus,” she said warningly, trying to ignore how nice it felt as she moved away slightly. She looked down pointedly at Aetius after she caught the older turian’s eye. “You’re really going to do that now?”
He sighed, breath hot against her neck. “Sorry, but you’re naked, wet and right next to me. Little hard to keep my mind on other things.” There was a grumble but he did pull back to his original position.
A thought occurred to her and she grinned. “Then how about you,” she scooped Aetius up and handed him off to her lover, “take care of him while I remove that distraction for you.” Aetius giggled, almost as if he understood what was happening. She game the younger turian a gentle pat on the head before standing and tugging the towel free.
“Now that’s not fair,” Garrus said as she wrapped the towel around herself.
“When have I ever been fair?” she called over her shoulder as she headed back toward the bathroom.
“Hear that Aetius?” she heard him say from behind her. “Your mom is being cruel again.”
The deafening silence following that sentence must have warned him because she heard him mutter something to himself. “Shepard...”
“I’m not his mother,” the words were sharp and she was surprised she could get them out around the lump in her throat and chest. She didn’t turn around as she finished the journey into the bathroom. A glance at the mirror inside showed her that her eyes were wet and her hands were shaking slightly. This was something she didn’t want Garrus to see. They had enough to worry about as it was, and she didn’t want to risk their relationship over something that wasn’t hers to have.
Thankfully she managed to get herself back under control by the time she was dry, dressed, and back in some sort of order. She didn’t bother to with her uniform this time, just threw on a pair of sweats and a tank top before heading out. She found Aetius sitting on the couch with Garrus keeping an eye on him as the older turian tried to clean out his make-shift crib.
Garrus looked at her and spread his mandibles in concern. “Hey, Shepard, look...”
“Let’s just forget about it and not think about it at all” she said firmly, “No harm done, right?”
Shepard ignored Garrus’ tone and instead focused more on the happy chirps that Aeitus was now making. He bounced a little and reached out towards her. She knew Garrus was watching her, she could feel it. There was an uncomfortable feeling in her chest as she looked down at the baby but she couldn’t look away. Mutely she found herself obeying the infant’s command, picking him before she headed over to her bed.
Garrus was still looking at her with that strangely intense gaze when she sat down near the head of the bed and set Aetius in her lap. The little turian gave her a chirp and cocked his head at her as he plucked at her tanktop.
“Yeah sorry, I’m not getting anymore wounds from you. Deal with it.”
There was a soft chuckle that broke the tension and Garrus went back to straightening things up. Shepard just gave him a look before she readjusted herself and settled back against the pillows on her bed, Aetius cradled on her chest.
Garrus paused in his clean-up to look at them, and she focused her attention back on the baby she was holding to keep from seeing the expression on his face.
By the time Garrus had finished his self imposed duty, Aeitus, already worn out from the excitement, had fallen asleep again. The older turian stood and came over to sit on the edge of the bed next to her. She made the mistake of looking at him when he reached over to rub the baby’s back. The look on his face struck her to the core. Tender, happy, and something so delicate that she never knew what to say to it. Half of her wanted him to stop looking at her like that. It brought on those emotions that floored her whenever she thought about that. He knew that she loved him with everything she had. That he could feel the same way with her made her speechless. She knew how she looked, cradling a turian child and what it probably meant to him. She couldn’t let him build up hope like that.
Then there was the part of her that wanted him to keep looking at her like that and never stop. Too many emotions. To many that were huge and she didn't want to think about.
“...Hey,” he said hesitantly after a period that felt both too short and too long at the same time. “About earlier....”
“I told you not to think about it,” she said, unconsciously running a thumb over Aetius’ mandible, making him twitch.
“Yeeeah, I heard that. You know me though, not always the best at following orders. Besides, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.” Garrus looked at her earnestly.
“It’s a great idea.”
“No, Shepard, it’s not,” he fluttered his mandibles. “You’ve been getting more and more wound up over this as time goes along. I don’t think anyone else has noticed anything but well...what are you going to do when one of them calls you ‘Mom’ to your face? Half the crew already jokes about him,” he nodded toward the baby, “being your son. If you start snapping at them, someone is going to notice.”
“I didn’t snap,” she protested. “Besides, you know me Garrus. I’m not about to fly off the rails in front of my crew.”
“Right. Consummate professional who never lets little things like emotions get in her way,” he quirked a half smile at her.
“...Shut up, Garrus.”
“Fine, but only if you answer one question.” He shifted a bit closer to her. “...Do you really hate being his Mom so much? You could have found somewhere to take him. You didn’t have to keep him around. I could even put in a call to the Primarch, if you want. Bet Victus could find somewhere or someone who’s willing to take him.”
“No!” the word was out of her before she even thought about it. She cleared her throat quickly. “He already has a lot on his plate Garrus. No need to drag the Primarch into this.”
“Is it really the Primarch’s workload you're concerned about? Or losing him?” Blue eyes were locked on hers with a predatory intensity. She didn’t want to mention how her heart jumped and her breath caught when she thought about just handing Aetius over to anyone, never to see him again...
She didn’t bother to answer. Garrus would pick out any lie she tried to say. He was becoming scarily good at that. It was actually sort of annoying.
“So...” Garrus hesitated. “Why are you so against being his mother? We haven’t been able to find his parents. GIven where we found him...well...I’m not sure we ever will...”
“I know that,” she snapped,” I’m just taking care of him until...” she trailed off unsure what to say. She wasn’t sure what ‘until’ she was talking about. It was something she honestly hadn’t had the leisure or inclination to think about.
“Shepard,” Garrus sounded somewhere between amused and fond. “You have an entire crew on your ship. You’re the keystone to the entire war. You don’t have to spend your rare off-duty hours with him. I’m sure you could find someone willing to take care of him if you want keep him here so much. Why don’t you just do that?”
She didn’t have an answer to that, or at least not an answer she wanted to speak out loud. ‘I like doing it myself’’ came very, very close to the feelings that she had been trying to avoid dealing with. Instead, she just focused on Aetius again, watching the tiny baby. He was an innocent in all this. He had no idea what was going outside the ship that was his home for now, that the entire galaxy was close to falling apart. That was one of the reasons she was fighting so hard for this, so that children like him didn’t have to worry about things like the Reapers. She wanted to make sure they were nothing more than a bad dream, a nightmare that had vanished by the time he was old enough to start remembering.
A gentle claw reached out and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Shepard?” Garrus’ voice was unsure. “You still haven’t answered the why part of all of this. What has you so scared?”
She considered not answering that for a moment, but knowing Garrus he would find a way to get it out of her. Damn stubborn turian. It was something she both loved and hated about him. Hated more than anything right now since it meant bringing up all those feelings that she had been so very, very good about ignoring.
“Does it really matter?” she asked instead. “We have bigger things to worry about.”
“It matters,” Garrus rumbled at her as he gave her his most piercing gaze, “because I know you. Maybe the reapers are juuust a little bigger than this, but that doesn’t mean it’s affecting you any less. Talk to me...please?” He was fidgeting now, looking concerned.
She opened her mouth to tell him to leave, but she couldn’t get the words out. In some ways, he was right. If her emotions started getting tangled up and affect her performance, she wasn’t going to be able to justify keeping Aetius around. He was as safe as he was going to get in this war on the Normandy. If they left him on a planet, somewhere where ‘safety’ was only until the reapers hit and he was just one of many, many orphans left over from the conflict...she couldn’t stand the thought of him being all alone like that. But was keeping him here, tired to her, really any better?
She must have tensed or done something because Aetius stirred a little and looked up at her with a helpless little cheep. Quickly she moved to sooth him, rubbing his tiny cowl and making small comforting noises at him until he slowly drifted back to sleep. When she looked up again, Garrus was watching her with that tender look that made something squeeze her heart.
“I....this is...” she struggled to find the right words, to make him understand. “I can’t afford to be that selfish, Garrus. We’re in the middle of war. We both know that we really don’t have any idea what’s going to happen. All of us face the chance that we might not make it out alive. We’re prepared for that, but this little guy...” she brushed a hand across Aetius’ back, “I can’t put him through that. He’s already lost his mother once. If I take him in, and I don’t make it back...it would be fair to make him relive something like that.”
“You know, I think a lot of people would argue with that whole ‘selfish’ bit,” Garrus said softly. “Besides, after everything you’ve done I think you’ve earned just that tiny bit of selfishness, don’t you?”
“Not when someone else has to pay the price for it.” She shook her head slightly. “He’s already been through enough Garrus. I’m not giving him another mother that’s going to leave him.”
“Yeah, about that..” the older turian dropped a hand to cover hers as it rested on Aetius’ back. “See, ‘mother’ is just another word. The little guy is too young to really speak much. He probably doesn't even remember a whole lot. But he knows you. He loves you. I really don’t think he cares what word you use.”
That was something she had slowly been starting to realize but hadn’t wanted to acknowledge. Kids didn’t care about things like labels and names much. Aetius was already attached to her, and clearly had decided she was more than suitable as a replacement. Hell, young as he was he probably didn’t even remember anyone besides her. She should give him up now, when he was young enough that he could forget about her. It would be the best thing for him, she knew that. Thinking about it just made it feel like part of her had been ripped away. Logic told her how little sense it really made. She hadn’t known Aetius that long, she shouldn’t be nearly this attached to him. Yet she was, and that thought was kind of terrifying.
“I know that,” she said to Garrus, trying to keep her voice even. “I know what he thinks but...come on Garrus. Can you really see me as a mother? Me? Hell, I barely feel like I know what I’m doing most of the time! What do I know about raising a kid? He’s so little...I’ll mess him up Garrus. I know I will!” Because as much as as she joked about her crew acting like infants at time, and as much as Garrus used to tease her about mothering Grunt, it was different. They were adults, they could make their own decisions, choose what they wanted to do. Even tell her to shove it if they wanted. Aetius couldn’t. He would be stuck with her, and if she did something stupid he would be the one paying for it. “Besides, I’m human. He’s a turian. If I try to take him in that will just mess him up worse. I can’t teach him to be a turian. He has a right to be raised by someone that understands him, someone that make sure he knows his own culture so that he won’t end up an outcast and alone.”
Garrus cocked his head at her, mandibles flaring. “Yes, being raised by a human will doom him to an eternity of loneliness. If I thought you really believed that, Shepard, I would be worried that one of your many head wounds had knocked something loose up there.” He tapped the side of his head.
She snorted. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that? I don’t have a clue what you turians teach your kids. Hell, I’m not even sure what humans do to each kids. I haven’t exactly been around a lot of babies.”
“I don’t think humans and turians are that dissimilar,” he was smirking a little now. “We managed to..make things work. If we can do that, I don’t see why you couldn’t raise a turian. I’ve been watching, remember. You’ve been doing a good job with him.” He reached over to rub Aetius’ crest, making the baby snuggle a little closer to her. “See? I think he’s smarter than we are.”
“You’re biased, Garrus,” she had seen the way Garrus looked at her whenever she was with Aetius. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what ways his thoughts were heading then. Sometimes she was sure he placed her on a pedestal of his own. Not the same one the rest of the galaxy had for her, but something. “Even if I believed you, do you really think I could keep up that ‘good job’ for the rest of his life? With everything else that I have to do? My mother raised me by herself and I saw how hard that was on her. I don’t think I can do that. Mom could do it alone, she was strong enough too. I’m not sure I can.”
“Sooo...saving the universe is easier than raising a kid?”
“Yes,” she said without hesitation. “Much easier.” Saving a universe, taking out the bad guy, that was straightforward. Raising Aetius, making sure he grew up to be a good man who knew wrong from right...how were you even supposed to start with that?
“I am a bit insulted though.”
Garrus reached out, gently running a talon down her cheek. “You said you would have to raise him alone, Shepard. But I’m right here, remember?”
She stared at him for a moment, mind gone blank at the thought. Despite how often she had caught him staring at her with Aetius, she really hadn’t been prepared for him offering something like that. “I..I know, but this isn’t like a mission or anything. I can’t ask you to just take up that sort of responsibility. I don’t want you to feel obligated to either, just because you happen to be with me. It would be fair for me to ask you disrupt your life too, just because I have an insane idea in my head.” There it was, that admission, at least between them, that said she was thinking about keeping a baby turian around no matter how much the thought terrified her. What she said was true though. Garrus had come such a long since the rebellious C-sec cop she had picked up to help her track down Saren. She didn’t want him to have to give all that up. He was playing with fire enough just by being with her. The last thing she wanted was to make it worse.
He just laughed. “Right. Because chasing after rogue specters and blowing up collectors bases were complete calm ideas,” he raised an eyeridge at her. “This is so hard compared to those.”
“Okay,” she admitted, “maybe it’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever done, but it is up there. I meant what I said too. I’m not dragging you into it just because you feel like it’s some sort of duty you have to pick up.” She still wasn’t entirely sure what sort of rules governed turian family units. For all she knew there was some sort of cultural pressure to take care of your lover’s kids. She had to let him know she wasn’t going to put that sort of pressure on him.
“Shepard, you’ve never dragged me anywhere I didn’t want to go,” he rumbled softly. “I..” he looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, this is something I want honestly.” Garrus glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “Remember back up on the Presidium when I asked if you wanted to be a one turian kind of woman?”
“How could I forget that?” she said softly. He gave a nod.
“Well, um, yeah, I’d pretty much already decided that I was a one woman kind of turian before I even asked that.” He stood up then, pacing slightly, one hand still rubbing his neck while the other gestured. “This war, I’ve honestly been trying not to think about the future. I’m just concentrating on the next step to try and end it. But if I’m going to think about a future, then I honestly can’t see one without you, Shepard.” He finally stopped pacing, turning to face her as his hands dropped. His fingers tangled together in a familiar, nervous pattern.
“I won’t lie, seeing the two of you together,” his gaze switched between you and Aetius, “it’s been making me think about it a lot more. You called yourself selfish earlier, well, maybe that’s my own bit of selfishness. Wanting to keep that around.” He paused, looking around a little and shifted from side to side. “Crap I’m messing this up, aren’t I?”
“Garrus...” she said slowly, cocking her head at him as her heart pounded so hard in her chest she was surprised he couldn’t hear it. “Just what are you getting at?” There was a bubble of emotion that was building in her throat that made it hard to get the words out. This was something major for him, she could tell that.
“I..I want this with you Shepard,” he said at least. “A family, something that we can look forward to if we live through this. Not the best timing in the world, I know that, but if you want...I’ll be there. I don’t mind it being three instead of just two...damn it.” The last was muttered and he sort of looked up at her, voice flanging a little wider than usual. “I...if you wanted me to be the father of your child, I would be honored.”
SHe couldn’t answer at first, not with the ball of emotions in her throat making it impossible get a word out. Her hands were shaking slightly and Aetius chirped sleepily at her.
“Shepard?” It was after Garrus said her name that she realized her eyes were wet. Damn, she didn’t think she would get this emotional. “Sorry, I didn’t want to pressure your anything. ...That came out bad didn’t it? I can..”
She shook her head. “Just shut up and get over here Vakarian,” she managed to force out, her voice thick. Hesitantly he headed over to her. When he got within range she sat up a little, keeping Aetius stead with one hand despite his grumbling. With her free hand she snagged the older turian by the cowl of his armor and yanked him down close enough to plant a kiss on his flat lips. He froze for a second, but then relaxed slightly as she pulled away so she could press her forehead against his. “I would like that,” she whispered.
“Then I’m here,” he rumbled softly back at her, hands coming up to frame her face. “Always.” Aetius chose that moment to voice his own squeaks, telling the adults that he was not pleased over having his nap interrupt just because they wanted to talk emotions. Both of them laughed at that.
“Here,” Shepard moved over a little, leaving room next to her. “Get down here.”
“Right away, Shepard,” Garrus flashed her a turian grin before heading over to the armor storage unit. She watched him strip out of his armor, a strange sense of giddy happiness making her grin. Of course logic had to reassert itself and creep into her thoughts to wipe the smile off her face.
“Reapers are still out there,” she said softly as Garrus was finishing putting everything away.
“Yeah, they are,” he said carefully as started toward the bed. “It just means we have to finish them off faster is all.” He slide into the spot she left for him, turning on his side so he could rest one had on Aetius’ back, soothing him. HIs other arm slipped under her head, and she cuddled close to him. He buried his face in the top of her head. “And we will,” he said firmly. “There a bad influence after all. Can’t have that around Aetius.”
She couldn’t help chuckling a little and closed her eyes. Garrus’ warmth and soft scent were relaxing. She was half drifting off when he spoke again.
“So..still hate being called ‘Mom’?”
“Not really,” she answered slowly, surprised to find that it was true. The weight that word carried didn’t seem nearly as bad, not when she had Garrus here. With him at her back, she was pretty sure she could face anything.