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Take One for the Team

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Shepard looked warily at her mentor. He’d been acting strangely for the past two cycles, and while that in itself was pretty standard fare as little about Saren Arterius could be called predictable apart from his surly nature and dislike of humans, it was beginning to affect the mission and that she had never seen from him before. She couldn’t say that she particularly liked him or was happy to have been assigned to him for Spectre training—she’d far preferred Nihlus, the turian who’d done her evaluation—and the feeling seemed to be mutual. However, he was going so far out of his way to avoid looking at her that he was leaving his flank completely open. He’d come to trust her to watch it, but he’d never let his guard down this completely. It wasn’t a sign of trust. This was just tactical stupidity and that was not like Saren.

“Agent Arterius,” she said in the comm as she took down yet another merc who’d decided to attempt to take advantage of his inattention, “if you’re feeling suicidal, I could always just shoot you in the back and tell the Council it was a mercenary.”

“What are you rambling about now, human?” he snarled as he leapt over a fallen log.

“Oh, nothing,” she said casually. “Duck.”

“Turians do not duck,” he said but he was rolling to the side even as he spoke. She took out the asari commando who’d been preparing a biotic attack on him. After scanning the area to make sure it was clear, she came out of her cover and walked up to him, trying not to sneeze. Ten minutes planetside and she already hated Zorya.

“Was that a test?” she asked.

“Again,” he said, still refusing to look at her and now shifting upwind of her, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Bullshit,” she said. “Do I smell bad? Do you hate my soap? Do I have something between my teeth? Is there something in the air here?”

“It is nothing to concern yourself with,” he said tersely.

“It is when I can’t watch the field because you aren’t watching your back,” she snapped irritably.

“It will not happen again,” he said.

They continued into the facility. Their target was Zel’Aenik nar Helash, a virologist and suspected serial killer. Serial killers weren’t galactic threats and were generally, therefore, below the paygrade of a Spectre. However, serial killers who threatened Council members were another story entirely. They could not allow that, so the Council had sent their best Spectre to deal with it.

They made their way through the strangely empty lab. Shepard was grateful that the workers were absent because she knew that she and Saren would likely kill them to get through to Zel’Aenik and if they weren’t there, they wouldn’t have to die, but the lack of guards and employees considering the number that had been outside had the hairs on the back of her neck on end. Saren seemed to have put whatever was bothering him out of his mind and didn’t appear to like this turn of events any better than she did.

“Helmets on,” he said quietly. She’d avoided wearing hers even with all of the pollen and fungi outside because it made her slightly claustrophobic, but she thought he was right to order them now. For all they knew, the quarian had sent the employees away and released a viral agent into the air. Her suit would filter it out and keep her safe. Their breathers would do the same.

When they reached the central lab, Shepard cloaked and went in first. The room was empty. She dropped the cloak and gestured Saren inside. A series of racks covered the far wall and each of them held row after row of sealed glass tubes labeled in quarian script. They were in the right place, but where was Zel’Aenik? She saw a door at the end of the room and walked carefully between rows of shelving containing more racks of tubes. She wondered just how many different strains of deadly viruses would be unleashed with one accidental push of a shelf and shuddered.

The door was sealed and locked and she began to hack the lock. Looking back through the lab, she saw Saren scanning one of the racks with his omni-tool. Movement caught her eye, but before she could call out a warning, a quarian was injecting something into the back of his neck through the softer material between his helmet and his cowl. He turned with a snarl and lifted the quarian by the throat. Shepard abandoned her hack and drew her pistol again before running back through the lab.

“Wait!” she called out as Saren placed his pistol up against the quarian’s face mask. “She injected you with something. What was it and where’s the antidote?”

“You heard her, Zel’Aenik,” Saren growled. “What was the substance and where is the antidote?”

The quarian didn’t seem fazed by her circumstances. She thought she had the upper hand here as Saren was unlikely to be willing to kill her without knowing what she’d done and how to counter it. Instead of answering, she said, “I was hoping they would send a turian. My viruses targeting the asari and salarians are perfected, but I needed another turian test subject. Why shouldn’t the Council die? They exiled my people without cause!”

“You created the geth,” Shepard said, “and then went to war with them.”

“Your point?” the quarian asked. “The asari have the Ardat-Yakshi, the salarians have the Lystheni, and the turians had…what were they again, Agent Arterius? Vesuvian Priests? The geth are not a threat to anyone but the quarians, whereas the Ardat-Yakshi are a threat to everyone. But the asari haven’t been stripped of their Council status.”

“What is the substance?” Saren growled again. This time, he stripped off a glove and exposed one of his talons. The quarian stiffened as he laid it against one of the seals in her suit. “You have thirty seconds to answer the question or I will begin cutting seals and then I will cut you. How long do you think you will last when my companion breaks that window? Just how much of the flora here can kill you?”

Zel’Aenik turned her head as Shepard aimed her pistol at the window on the far end of the room. “Stop!” the quarian shouted. “The virus is my own creation. You wouldn’t recognize it anyway. The antidote is aberidus.”

“Do not lie to me,” Saren snarled menacingly as he dug a talon into the quarian’s suit. “Do you take me for a fool?”

“What is that?” Shepard asked. He seemed to recognize the word.

“I’m not lying!” Zel’Aenik said angrily. “Think about it. It’s the perfect revenge. Untold numbers of quarians have died since being forced to create the Migrant Fleet. The Council humiliated us when they forced us to close our embassy and leave the Citadel. We have been debased ever since. The councilors can either die or they can degrade themselves in front of the galaxy. Well…Tevos and Sparatus, at least. Valern will just die. There is no drive to work with in the salarians.”

“Do you have the hormone synthesized here?” he asked. “If so, where is it?”

“No,” the quarian answered. “Why would I? I have no turians here but you. And now you have the same options as your councilor. I estimate that you have an hour or two to ensure that you have enough of it in your system. I hope your human is prepared.”

“Saren, what is she talking about?” Shepard asked.

Saren, apparently deciding that he had gotten all of the information he could from the quarian, snapped her neck without answering Shepard. “Come,” he said.

“Fine,” she said, turning to follow him. “I’ll just search the extranet.”

He sighed harshly and said, “Aberidus is…a hormone released by turians after intercourse. It is only released after intercourse. It is a bonding hormone and is triggered by certain post-coital actions. Her goal was to place the Council in a position where they had to publicly mate with others or die. Will you stop staring at me and hurry up? I need to find another turian. Or perhaps an asari.”

“A bonding hormone, hmm?” she asked, quickening her pace to keep up with him as they returned outside. “So, what? You’re going to just go out and bond with some random woman you’ve never met before? Don’t turians mate for life?”

“We do,” he said darkly, shifting again so that he was upwind of her. “And I have never had the least desire to do so.”

“How the hell are you going to convince some stranger to mate with you, Saren?” she asked.

“If the quarian is telling the truth, I don’t have time for convincing. I will have to just do it. Which is going to make me the lowest of the low. Breaking her neck was too kind,” he said.

Shepard stopped and stared at him. “You mean you’re going to go out and rape someone?”

“If it means not dying, yes!” he shouted, sending a flock of brightly covered birds flying through the trees. A pyjak cowered and then ran. “I do not want to do it, Shepard. That is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed, and while I may have the scruples of a particularly wicked vorcha when it comes to taking lives, I am still a turian and I do still have morals. However, I must also be logical about this. I am the Council’s most highly decorated Spectre. I save millions of lives every time I complete an assignment. I may die on any of those and I accept that I cannot control that. That does not mean that I can afford to sacrifice my life in order to save another, especially not one as worthless as a mercenary which, unfortunately, is all that we will be able to find out here.”

He stomped onto the shuttle and threw himself into the pilot’s seat. Shepard jumped in behind him and closed the door before joining him in the cockpit. “You can’t. But I can,” she said slowly.

He looked at her sharply. “What are you talking about now, human? Your death would serve nothing in this.”

“I didn’t say die,” she said. “I said I can afford to sacrifice myself to save another. What, exactly, does turian bonding entail?”

“I am not bonding with a human,” he sneered as the shuttle lifted off.

“Oh, but you’ll bond with a mercenary,” she countered.

“You can kill the mercenary after,” he said. “I will be unable to. You like killing mercs. Do not deny that you would enjoy it.”

“And what will that do to you?” she asked. “Me killing your bondmate?”

“I can explain the situation to the Council beforehand and have you transferred to Nihlus. It would not be wise to be in my presence afterward as I will likely kill you,” he said.

“So it isn’t just a physical thing,” she said. "The way I see it, you have three options. You do nothing and you die. You rape a random stranger, forcing both of you to bond with each other when you should hate each other, and turning you into something worse than most of the people you kill while necessitating that I kill her so that you can be somewhat free of the bond and then I have to spend the rest of my life avoiding you until one of us dies so that you don’t kill me. Or you bond with me. I’m offering, so it isn’t rape and you don’t become the thing you hate. No one else has to deal with this and I don’t have to murder an innocent victim, because while I do like killing mercenaries, this isn’t killing because she’s a merc. This is killing for your convenience.”

“And then I must spend the rest of my life bonded to a human who has no reciprocal attachment to me,” he said.

“Would you rather be a rapist whose unwilling bondmate was murdered by your protégé?” she countered. “You said you didn’t have a desire to bond with anyone. I don’t have a desire to marry anyone. It’s not like we’re losing anything. I don’t particularly like you, but we do work well together and once I’m a Spectre, our missions will keep us apart often enough that it won’t really matter anyway.”

His jaw worked as his teeth ground together. His hands were tight on the shuttle controls. “It won’t be pleasant for you,” he said tightly.

“Neither will murdering someone,” she said. “Besides, you wouldn’t be in this situation if I had reacted faster. How did she get the drop on you, anyway?”

“I was…distracted,” he said tersely.

“No shit,” she said. “You were distracted the whole mission. What was going on?”

He huffed. “You are…in heat.”

Shepard looked at him and began to laugh helplessly. “Heat? Like a dog? Your females go into heat?”

“So do yours,” he said. “You simply use different terminology. You are fertile. I can smell your pheromones. It is distracting.”

“Okay, that’s just weird,” she said. She hadn’t thought about her cycle since a bullet had lodged into her uterus and she’d elected to have it removed. She still had ovaries but her reproductive cycle simply wasn’t something that crossed her mind anymore. She’d never wanted marriage or children, so it hadn’t been an issue. She hadn’t known that other species could smell it, though. It was a little bit disconcerting to think that he had a better read on her cycle than she did. “So what, exactly, does turian bonding entail?”

“I have not agreed to this yet,” he said.

She said, “We both know you’re going to because you’re an asshole with fewer scruples than a particularly devious volus—”

“Wicked vorcha,” he corrected.

“Whatever,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “But you aren’t a monster and you are logical. This makes the most sense.”

“Why are you willing to do this?” he asked. “Are you that much of a martyr? Are you such of a paragon of virtue that you would become the sacrificial virgin to save a criminal? You are almost as unscrupulous as I am, Shepard, and you know it.”

“I’m not doing it to save some unknown person,” she said. “I’m doing it to save us, because like you, I also have a moral compass. It just doesn’t always point north.”

“Fine,” he snapped. “We have intercourse. I…bite. That action, combined with the hormones released during orgasm, triggers the bonding hormone and tying. The bond is meant to form over time and to facilitate reproduction. In order to load the system, it will take multiple times. Tying and subsequent joinings will likely range from uncomfortable to painful as it is my understanding that humans do not do this and you are, therefore, not designed to accommodate it. I can attempt to do it externally but I have never experienced it before as I did not desire to procreate, so I cannot be certain.”

“Tying,” she said. “Like a dog. Or a varren.” When he nodded, she gave a low whistle and said, “Okay.”

“Are you wondering what in spirits’ name you’ve gotten yourself into yet?” he asked as the shuttle docked with the ship.

“Yeah,” she admitted.

“Have you changed your mind?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “How long is this going to take?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “A day? Two?”

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” she said as she rose from the seat.

“I take pride in excelling in everything that I do,” he said haughtily. “This is no exception. How similar are you to an asari?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never fucked an asari.”

He gave a longsuffering sigh and shook his head. She was not the only one who was wondering what the hell she’d gotten into. He was wondering much the same. In a way, he was grateful to her for making the offer. He had not exaggerated when he’d said that forcing another was one of the most heinous crimes one turian could commit against another. The penalty if convicted was castration, stripping of family name and colony markings, and exile to a labor colony. Going further and forcing a bond on another was downright unspeakable. He would do it if he had no other choice, but he would take the option that allowed him to avoid it even if it did mean mating with a human.

He tried to push past her scent and the burning that was beginning to form beneath his plates as his temperature began to fall and look at her clinically. He could do worse, he acknowledged, even if she was a human. She was intelligent, responsible, dutiful, and honorable. She did not shy away from doing what needed to be done even if the methods were unsavory. She was neither a paragon of virtue nor a renegade bent on destruction. Her god was expedience. If it demanded death, she gave it. If it allowed her to save a life, she did. She was unlike most humans he’d known. She had no sense of entitlement and earned her place without hesitation or complaint. He respected her and that was better than liking.

Respect, however, did not equate to attraction. He had been with asari in the past when no one of his own species was available or interested but he greatly preferred his own kind. Still, if he could compare her to an asari, then perhaps that would overcome his dislike of humans in general. It would matter less and less with each bonding. He just had to get through the first time.

A part of him wished that he had kept the quarian around, but torture without a purpose was something with which he did not agree. That did not change the fact that he would have enjoyed sinking his talons into Zel’Aenik’s throat for what she had done to him. She had not killed him and might not, but she had stolen his life. He would either spend the rest of his life grieving for a woman he didn’t know and had chosen for nothing more than her proximity and existence or mated to this human woman that he at least respected but who would never reciprocate the bond.

He could still have some semblance of a normal life, though he would go to great lengths to protect her, would kill and die for her, would take any opportunity he had to be in her presence, and would likely even come to love her. He would be tied to her for the rest of his life. He would be a sidenote in her life. It was humiliating. He, Saren Arterius, would spend the rest of his life pining for a human. The thought made him sick.

No, he realized. That was the virus’ work. His core temperature was beginning to seriously drop. Turians were designed to expel heat, not retain it. They had internal cooling mechanisms rather than warming ones as humans did. The only thing that they could do to hold in body heat was tense and close their plates but even that was ineffective past a certain point. Heat stroke was a concern on Palaven. Hypothermia was not. He was running out of time.

Chapter Text

Saren took Shepard by the arm and led her into his cabin. She hadn’t been inside of it before but was unsurprised to find it as Spartan as hers. Saren was not a sentimental person and he preferred his aesthetic beauty to come from real vistas, and to her surprise when she’d first joined him, music. Visual art did nothing for him so there were no decorations. He preferred simplicity and that was reflected in the presence of a desk with a terminal, a bed designed for turians, a weapon rack, and a single foot locker.

She didn’t know what to expect, so she let him lead. She’d never been with a turian before, though she’d considered it with Nihlus a time or two, so she wasn’t even certain how turians mated. She watched as he stripped out of his armor and considered him. He wasn’t particularly attractive for a turian, but he wasn’t ugly. The long spines protruding from his cheeks were strange and gave him a sinister look. His fringe was not as even and looked worn. The plates over his face were similarly worn and had an almost ragged look to them that she thought spoke of age.

His eyes, though, were entrancing and downright beautiful. She had seen them many times before, of course, but she’d been looking at them in an attempt to gauge his moods or for a sign as to his intentions on a mission. She hadn’t taken the time to simply look at them. They were silver with just a hint of blue swirled through the irises. Rather than the striations that humans had, turian irises were solid and looked a bit like liquid seen through glass. The effect was like looking at quicksilver.

His body was absolutely and utterly alien. He was all hard lines, rough planes, and sharp angles. The lines of his body were vastly different from a human, curving where they should be straight, protruding where they should be flat, bent at angles that would imply massive breaks in one of her species. Somehow, he looked far more predatory without his armor than he did in it. The talons on his hands and feet looked wickedly sharp and she imagined that she was going to be shredded to ribbons by the time this was over. She wasn’t overly concerned about his teeth. They were sharp enough that, as long as he pierced without tearing, they weren’t likely to be incredibly painful. He caught her glance at his talons and held up a hand and flexed his fingers. The talons vanished. He could sheathe them like a cat.

“How do you feel?” she asked. Maybe the quarian had lied. He didn’t look sick.

“Cold,” he said. “The equivalent of a human fever. Lightheaded, slightly dizzy, and my plates are burning. It is not unbearable yet but it is getting worse.”

“Okay,” she said. “How do you want me? Naked or dressed? Back or front? And…how do you…” She had been so busy taking in his overall appearance that she hadn’t realized that, where a human would have the necessary equipment, he was completely smooth. She had a sudden image of him using the spurs on the back of his calves and wondered again what she’d gotten herself into.

He cleared his throat and she thought she saw humor sparkling in his eyes as he took in the direction of her gaze. “No, Shepard. It is…analogous, only hidden until ready to use.” He gestured to his groin and she noticed a seam running between his plates. “Turians generally mate back to front with the female on her knees. Your undersuit should remain on as it will help protect your skin against my plates but you will need to draw it down over your shoulder.”

“Do you want me to leave my helmet on?” she asked.

“Why?” he asked.

“So you can imagine I’m an asari,” she said. “Turian wouldn’t work but asari might if my hair’s covered and you don’t look too closely. I know you aren’t attracted to humans.”

Saren felt something that might have been guilt wash over him. He had been intending to attempt to picture an asari in her place and had made the request about her undersuit as much with that in mind as for her protection. There were oils that he could use to soften the plates so that they would not abrade her. “Shepard, I—”

“Don’t apologize,” she said. “This is about expedience. My feelings won’t be hurt. But we are running short on time. If that makes it easier the first time around, then it’s fine.”

“Thank you,” he said. “I will try to be quick.” He had no idea how to please her or if he was even capable of doing so and no time to experiment and find out. The virus was beginning to sink its teeth into him and if this was not going to work then he needed to figure it out as soon as possible before he wasted the little amount of time he had left.

She stripped down to her undersuit and demonstrated the slit in it that allowed for her to take care of bodily functions in the field without having to remove her armor entirely. It was somewhat similar to a turian female and he thought that perhaps, combined with thinking of her as asari, he would be able to make this work. She took a deep breath and muttered something about taking one for the team before turning and kneeling on the bed.

He stepped up to her and placed his hands on her hips. They were not as pronounced as a turian’s but similar to an asari, and in this position, the flare between them and her waist was well-defined. He focused on that and was able to coax himself out from behind his plates. He located her entrance and pressed up against her. He didn’t bother to ask if she was certain. He wouldn’t insult her by implying that she would put herself in this position if she wasn’t. He simply tightened his hands around her to hold her in place and began to slowly push into her. He didn’t know how deep she was and didn’t want to injure her by going too far. Asari tended to be far shallower than turians and care was required with them.

His natural lubrication eased his entry and he almost sighed aloud as he felt her pliant heat wrap around him. She was more flexible than a turian and deeper than an asari and she seemed to mold to him. It was…more than pleasant and he thought that if he were forced to copulate, then at least it would be enjoyable. He regretted that he could not make it pleasurable for her as well. She didn’t appear to be distressed, but had propped the front of her helmet on her forearm and was taking very deliberate, deep, steadying breaths.

“Are you in pain?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “You’re just…a lot bigger than I’m used to. Keep going. I just need a minute to adjust.”

He kept his pace slow and even until she relaxed into his grip. She began to move with him a bit and he marveled at the control she had over her internal musculature. Then she rolled her hips. It felt like nothing he’d ever experienced before and he heard himself groan. She seemed to take that as encouragement because she did it again and then he was slamming into her hard and fast, digging his fingers into her hips, fucking her like a turian. She took it. Spirits bless her, she took it like the soldier she was.

His eyes drifted closed as he pounded relentlessly into her body, feeling the rush of physical pleasure beginning to compete with the dragging sensation of illness, and he forgot that she was human and his protégé and a person as he lost himself in her. If more species tried fucking humans, he was certain they would quickly come to outrank asari in terms of purely physical desirability. For those who could not afford to allow random partners into their minds, humans would be the perfect consorts. They were designed for sex.

He used a hand on the back of her helmet to tilt her head to the side as his release broke over him and placed his teeth on her shoulder. He took a moment to hope sincerely that this would even work with a human before sinking them in. She made a sound of pain and her hand fisted in the sheet but she didn’t attempt to pull away. Warmth flowed through him from the talons on his feet to the back of his fringe, tingling like a drug, and he felt his base begin to swell. She had clenched down around him when he’d bitten her and before he could pull back, he found himself locked inside of her. When he tried, she gasped and arched her back and he froze.

“Oh, gods, don’t stop. Do that again,” she said breathlessly. “Exactly what you just did. Do that.”

He raised a brow plate but moved his hips again, pressing the knot at the base of his erection against the inside of her walls just short of tearing through. She cried out again and began to move her hips. He realized that not only was it not painful, she liked it. Relieved at finding something that would make this experience better than simply tolerable for her, he began to move in shallow thrusts. She responded quickly and then she was gasping his name and tightening around him like a fist. She relaxed, breathing heavily, and said, “Oh, holy fuck. You weren’t kidding when you said you excelled. I think you’ve ruined me for human men.” He released her shoulder and lapped up the blood that had pooled with his tongue before squeezing her hips as the knot released and drawing out of her. She looked over her shoulder at him and said, “Did it work?”

“It worked,” he said. “I wouldn’t have tied with you if it hadn’t. However, I do not know if that was sufficient to counter the effects of the virus.”

“Give me a minute and I can go again. Is it going to bother you if I take this helmet off now, though? I hate these damn things.”

“Go ahead,” he said. He found himself wanting to be able to see her face. He no longer cared that she was human. She fit him as if she had been made for him. He wondered if that thought was objectively true or if it was influenced by the hormones making his fringe tingle. And, spirits, she smelled amazing. Her scent had likely had a major influence on his decision to go along with her idea. Now that he’d had her, he could admit that it had been driving him to distraction for the past two days. He had avoided her as much as possible because of it until it had become so alluring that he’d been unable to even look in her direction without thinking about it.

She removed the helmet and shook her hair out. He reached out and hesitated, looking at her for consent. Even after what they’d done, touching the fringe on a turian female under these circumstances would generally be unwelcome outside of active intercourse. Given that she was doing this for him rather than herself, it would be inappropriate. However, he’d noticed that humans didn’t appear to have the same mentality and he wanted to see if it was as soft as it looked. She nodded and he threaded his fingers through the strands. It moved like water in his hand and seemed to have a mind of its own as it flowed over him. He might not have an appreciation for human standards of attractiveness but this, he thought, was beautiful. She purred, drawing a surprised hint of a smile from him and he stroked it again.

“Pull,” she said, “like this.” She buried her hand in her hair at the nape that equated to the underside of his fringe and tugged. He mimicked her movement and she moaned softly as her head leaned back into his hand. “How long is your cooldown?” she asked.

“I am waiting for you,” he said.

“Keep doing that and you can fuck me all night,” she told him.

He kept his hand in her hair as he moved behind her again and slid into her. She knew what to expect this time and it felt far less clinical than it had the first time. Now that she had a basic understanding, she could turn her attention from attempting to adjust to his larger girth and unaccustomed shape to appreciating things like the dull little spines that ran down his length and flared when he thrust or the way his plates slapped against her ass or the grip that he held on her hip that hit that sensitive spot over the bone just right.

She was a far more active participant this time, and when she felt him getting close, she drew his hand down and showed him how to touch her. That, combined with the sharp tug he gave on her hair as he sank his teeth into her again, had her beating him to completion this time. And then he swelled, hitting that spot inside of her, and began to move against it. She bit down on the pad of her thumb to muffle her cries as she drew closer again. His teeth left her shoulder and he said into her ear, “Do not silence yourself. Let me hear you, Shepard.” He gave a deep thrust and she shouted his name as she came.

This time, he nuzzled the side of her neck and ran his hands up her back before withdrawing from her. He walked away and returned with a bottle of water. “Drink,” he said, passing it to her. “You are far more resilient than I had expected.”

She said, “I was expecting sex with an alien to be a little more…alien, honestly.”

He did chuckle at that and said, “Sex seems to be the one thing that is almost universal across species. It is all variations on the same theme. Turians are more primal and instinct-driven. Asari are more cerebral. Salarians have no sex drive. From what I’ve heard, humans tend to be the most adventurous. That krogan are violent goes without saying. Quarians tend to prefer their stim programs for casual encounters and are more emotionally involved with actual intercourse. And elcor are—”

“I don’t think I want to picture elcor mating rituals,” she said, cutting him off. “Are you feeling any better?”

“I am freezing,” he admitted. “The lightheadedness and dizziness are gone, but my body feels as if it has been trampled by a krogan.”

“Let’s do something a little different, then,” she said. “Lie down on your back.”

“Shepard, turians do not—”

“And humans don’t mark their partners,” she interrupted. “Compromise, Arterius. It’s a concept you should learn.” He sighed and moved to the center of the bed where he arranged the pillows to allow him to lie comfortably on his back. She stalked up his body and drew the blanket up over them. “Now I can actually touch you,” she said. “If I can figure out where. Do you still need me to pretend to be asari?”

“No,” he said.

“Thank god,” she sighed. “This undersuit is not sexy.” She stripped down and tossed the suit aside before moving to lie on top of him. She wanted to add her body heat to his own in the hopes that it would help bring his temperature up. His two hours were almost up. He wasn’t dead yet, though, and didn’t seem to be dying, just a bit sick, so that was good.

His hands ran over her skin as hers covered his plates. They were a bit rough but not as much as they’d looked and the edges were not as sharp as she’d thought. They were drawn tightly together except around his erection, though, and she wondered what the hide beneath was like. She traced the inside of his elbow and he hissed in a breath and rocked his hips. That gave her an idea and she ran her toes around the back of his raised calves behind his spurs. His hands grasped her hips and then he was sliding into her again.

With a grin, she rose up and began to ride him. From this angle, she was able to control the movement and she set a pace that was hard and fast. He thrust up from below, meeting her, and reached down to circle her clit. She gasped and her hands clenched on his chest. His eyes were locked on her, reading her expressions and her reactions and she began to actually enjoy herself. He was getting warmer beneath her and she leaned forward to nip at his throat.

He snarled and the room shifted as he flipped them so that she was on her back and pulled her hair back sharply. His teeth closed over her throat and she felt a frisson of fear until she realized that he wasn’t biting, just holding her there. His free hand slid beneath her waist and she felt it clamp down over her hip as he angled her up and drove into her. She felt his talons prick her skin and gasped, “More.”

She felt his answering growl against her throat as his talons dug deeper into her skin and he pulled her hair tighter. She scraped her nails down the plates over his back and he began to thrust harder. He angled his hips so that his plates were just brushing over her clit and she arched into him, gasping his name and begging for more. He filled her in a way that no human had ever been able to do and she thought again that she was ruined for her own kind forever. His plated chest rubbed lightly over her breasts, brushing her nipples with tiny scrapes, and his tongue traced patterns over her throat. When her hand found the softer hide at the base of his fringe, he jerked and groaned so she kept it there, moving her fingers along his skin.

She ran her other hand down his back and over his waist. Touching there seemed to break something inside of him because his talons left her hair to rake down her back, leaving lines of delicious fire in their wake. “Harder, Saren,” she gasped. “Fuck me harder.”

He drew her legs around his waist and drove into her hard and fast, hitting a place deep within her that she hadn’t known existed that threatened to completely shatter her control. “Spirits,” he gasped. “I can see myself moving within you.” She glanced down and realized that he was right. She could see the head of him moving below the skin of her abdomen. The sight did something to him because he placed his hand over it and threw his head back, somehow managing to do so without revealing his throat. She bowed up into his hand, using his hips for leverage, as he drove her higher and higher. Her chest tightened and heat pooled in her belly as her body cried out for release.

His hand closed around her throat as the other returned to her back, talons slicing furrows in her skin. She couldn’t take more than shallow breaths. She didn’t care. She loved it. His voice seemed to wrap around her as he leaned down without breaking his rhythm and said, “You’re mine now, Shepard.” His teeth pierced her shoulder again and she cried out and convulsed around him. He didn’t slow his pace even as he spilled within her, his hot seed sliding out as he continued to bury himself in her. She felt him swell again and even that did not slow him. He filled her completely, stretching her to accommodate him, and the push and tug of him against that spot inside her made stars burst behind her eyelids. “Again,” he ordered around her shoulder and she complied, shattering around him.

He slowed and sheathed his talons before wiping the blood from his fingers onto the sheets and then threading them through her hair. His forehead dropped down to hers and he looked at her searchingly. “Are you all right, Shepard?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “That was…fantastic.”

“I cut you,” he said.

“I didn’t mind at all,” she replied.

His mandibles drew in to his face and he rose from the bed. A few moments later, he returned with a cloth and a packet of medigel. “Turn over,” he commanded. She complied and he cleaned the wounds he’d created with surprising gentleness before smoothing medigel over them. His touch was almost tender and he brushed his stiff lips over her unmarked shoulder before licking the side of her neck. She grinned sleepily up at him and he slipped back into bed beside her and drew her into his arms. His fingers ran through her hair and he nuzzled her forehead. “Get some sleep, Shepard. I’ll be all right.”

He woke her several times during the night, more intense and possessive of her body each time as he learned how to please her and she learned to please him. She woke in the morning on her back with his head between her legs. He was licking and kissing the insides of her thighs and when he sensed that she was awake, he turned his head and licked her center. “Oh, gods, Saren!” she moaned.

“I cannot get enough of you, Shepard,” he said, circling her clit with his tongue before pushing it inside of her. She hooked a leg over his cowl as her hips rocked helplessly. He replaced his tongue with a finger and began to lap lightly at her clit. He didn’t stop until she was a writhing, sobbing, breathless mess and only then did he draw himself up and plunge into her. His…fever or lack thereof had broken during the night and he was almost blazingly hot against her. She was able to feel the soft skin between his plates and he tied with her with little more encouragement than her nails over his waist.

They decided that he was out of danger and eventually left the cabin in search of food. She didn’t know what to expect from him and was utterly stunned when he came up behind her as she was making her coffee and slid his arms around her. He nuzzled her unmarked shoulder and said quietly, “Thank you, Shepard.”

She gave a contented sigh and leaned back into him as the coffeemaker gurgled. Her hand came to join his over her abdomen and he slipped his fingers between hers without hesitation as her other slid up along the back of his neck. He kissed the side of hers and stayed there, seemingly content with the contact, until her coffee was finished. Later, when she was cleaning up, he bent her forward and took her against the counter.

___

Saren was insatiable. He’d taken her in the galley, in the shower, against the miniature galaxy map on the bridge, in the pilot’s chair, in engineering with the drive core humming in the background, and once in the armory where he made her put her Widow back together while he fucked her senseless. She had pounced him at his desk, in the shuttle, and once up against the elevator wall on the Citadel. He seemed to appreciate her advances and even enjoy them, though he seemed uncertain about the time that she gave him a blow job in the field while waiting for their target to arrive. He’d been sniping. They’d been perfectly safe.

His sexual appetites weren’t the only thing that surprised her. The biggest thing was the tenderness. Gone was the surly turian Spectre and in his place a man who seemed to radiate happiness. When he wasn’t fucking her brains out, he was almost reverent in his touch and was far more affectionate when they were alone than she ever would have dreamed. She hadn’t realized that he would actually come to care for her. She slept in his arms at night and he expressed his devotion to her in myriad ways throughout the day that ranged from learning to make her coffee to the graze of a talon over her bond mark as he walked by her on his way to do something else to reaching up for things in cabinets designed for turian reach rather than human so that she didn’t have to scale the countertops to get them.

Once, when she was struggling with a particularly troublesome ration pack and grumbling about how she was training to be a damn Spectre and could kill a man with her bare hands but couldn’t open a damn packet of food, he’d slipped up behind her and used his talon to slice it open. It was such a simple thing, a domestic thing, that it froze her where she stood and she looked up at him in the realization of exactly what she was to him. She’d known the words in his terminology. She simply hadn’t applied them to her own. He saw her as a wife. He loved her. He would always love her. Her knees shook as she realized that she had the power to break his heart. She could destroy him. He looked down at her and she saw the recognition and acceptance in him. He’d known all along.

She turned and placed her hand against his mandible and saw wariness flash in his eyes. She rose on tiptoe and pressed her lips to his. “I love you, too, Saren Arterius.” She didn’t know how or when but at some point, sex for necessity had morphed into something more. She didn’t want to leave the ship when her training was over. She wanted to stay right here with the man who would open ration packs for her and hold her in the night.