Title: Prologue, Chapter 1
Author: Braigwen (Formerly Draygon)
Game: Mass Effect
Disclaimer: Bioware owns all characters and Mass Effect. I am only playing in their sand box.
The Normandy had never looked so good, even torn half to hell as she was. Despite everything, everyone had survived, the Collector Base was a cloud of atoms and she had stuck it to the Illusive Man. Commander Jane Shepard didn't think this day could get any better. She knew deep down that not even her team's herculean effort would have been enough to save the captured colonists. So, in her mind, she had two choices; one: she could give in to despair and lament the loss of every one of those thousands until she was as hollow as a husk. Or, two: she could vow revenge on the Reapers and anyone who would endanger innocent lives. It did not occur to her as at all ironic that she now lumped the Illusive Man and Cerberus with the Reapers and Collectors.
She lifted the beam blocking her way and stepped into the conference room, brushing sparking wires out of her way. She always hated her chats with the Illusive Man. "Shepard," How she wished she could have reached through the space between them and snapped his neck. "you're making a habit of costing me time and money."
"Too many lives were lost at that base." Shepard clenched her fists as she fought to keep her tone level. "I'm not sorry it's gone."
"The first of many lives." Shepard felt her left eye twitch. Could he really be so callous even with the lives of the people he had tried to convince her he was trying to save? "The technology from that base could have secured human dominance in the galaxy. Against the Reapers and beyond." Politics? This self proclaimed leader of humanity would be willing to sacrifice untold billions just to secure political power?
Shepard scoffed. "Human dominance, or just Cerberus?"
The Illusive Man rose from his chair and Shepard had the vague notion that he was speaking as he would to a pitifully ignorant child. "Strength for Cerberus is strength for every human." He approached Shepard, the details of his face still hidden in back-light, but the clenching of his jaw was clear. "I should have known you'd choke on the hard decisions. You were too idealistic from the start."
Shepard swallowed her retort. "I'm not looking for your approval." She stood straighter, squaring her shoulders. "Harbinger is coming and he won't be alone. Humanity needs a leader who's looking out for them" She stepped to the side as though to leave. "From now on, I'm doing things my way, whether you agree or not."
The Illusive Man seemed more animated now than ever and a part of Shepard felt pleased at having goaded him out of his normally calm demeanor. "Don't turn your back on me, Shepard!" She regarded him with an 'or what?' look. "I made you. I brought you back from the dead!"
Shepard felt a snarl on her lips. "Joker," she looked the Illusive Man up and down like he were a piece of filth she would scrape off of her boots. "Lose this channel." Shepard stalked out into the CIC, her mind filled with the heady thrill of victory. She briefly wondered how Miranda would take her breaking ties with Cerberus, but even the operative had agreed that he had lost focus on Cerberus' true goals.
Stepping into the elevator, she noticed for the first time that the entire CIC was empty. Even Joker was not in the cockpit. She heard where they had all ended up as the doors opened again. Instead of stepping out to celebrate with her crew, however, she found her way blocked by several hundred kilos of armored Turian. She followed the lines of his nearly destroyed armor upward and the corners of her mouth twitched. The elevator seemed to have become entirely too small as she met Garrus' smoldering gaze. Had his stare been able to physically touch her, she would have been divested of her armor and had less than an atom's breadth between his hard scales and her soft skin. He moved forward and she moved back until her rear end touched metal. Without taking his eyes from Shepard, Garrus hit the control that closed the doors and sent the car toward the Commander's cabin.
The two stayed perfectly still as the doors opened again. Shepard kept her eyes on Garrus as she circled him and backed into her quarters, unable to keep her trademark smirk from pulling at one corner of her mouth. Garrus followed, matching her step for step. Shepard felt a shiver run down her spine; Garrus' eyes and movements reminded her of some Raptor like predator stalking its prey. Though the hunger in his eyes told her he was hunting something else all together. Shepard made a mental note to thank Mordin for the overabundance of reading material he had given her on this subject. If she remembered correctly, Garrus was approaching her as he would a female of his own species that he desired.
They stood in the middle of her quarters, eyes not leaving the other as Garrus' mandibles twitched slightly as he steeled himself. Shepard dropped into a combat stance as Garrus silently charged her. He had reach, but Shepard had flexibility. More flexibility than any female Garrus had been with. Garrus grabbed hold of her arm and she twisted herself so that he had to let go or risk a broken wrist. He growled, mandibles flaring as he tried a different angle only to have a surprisingly sharp elbow in his gut and her heel stomped on his toes. Part of him was somewhat surprised that Humans had anything sharp on them. Shepard hopped back and made a charge of her own, slamming her shoulder into Garrus' chest and knocking him down to the floor. Shepard used the few seconds Garrus was stunned to start removing the pieces of his armor she could reach.
With a growl, he reversed their positions and returned the favor, his claws finding the releases in her armor and ripping the pieces off. Never one to take anything lying down, Shepard bucked her hips hard enough to throw his center of gravity forward before tossing him over her head and rolled backwards onto him, removing his chest armor with the same brutal efficiency, her grin a reflection of Garrus' expression underneath her as he used the position to remove her boots and greaves. Shepard smiled down at Garrus as she finely threw the last piece of armor over her shoulder, not minding as it bounced off of the empty fish tank to land by the door.
Garrus wrapped his arms around Shepard's torso and brought his face to her neck, immersing himself in the scent of her skin. He had wanted to do this since he had helped pull her back into the Normandy. Just bury his face in her hair and remind himself that she was still here, still his. Shepard smiled, just letting her hands roam over his face and neck. Garrus, however had become still, his arms around her tightening as though he were unwilling to let her go.
Garrus cleared his throat, not realizing that his hands had started to tremble as his mind played out all of the things that could have gone wrong. "I - ," Garrus paused for a moment until he felt his voice was under his control again. "I thought I'd lost you. Again."
Shepard pressed her cheek against Garrus head, gently dragging her nails along his tough skin. "I knew you'd be there for me," she mumbled softly against the side of his face. "You always are."
Garrus tightened his arms around Shepard, holding her tighter to him as though afraid she would disappear at any moment and he would wake up on Omega, in a pool of his own blood, staring into the barrel of a merc's rifle. "No, I wasn't. Not when it mattered." Garrus shook his head, his resolve threatening to crack. "When the first Normandy went down, I wasn't there with you. If I had been there to help you... ."
"You would have been blown out with me." Shepard cut Garrus off, pulling back until she could get him to look her in the eyes. "You would have been out there with me in the cold and dark, listening to the oxygen leaking from your suit, not being able to scream as your blood boiled in your body." She held his face in her hands, brushing the pads of her thumbs over the blue markings on his cheeks.
"At least you wouldn't have died alone."
Shepard smiled, shaking her head. "But I would be alone now, Garrus. I would have to live with the memory of watching you die every day and wonder if I could have saved you if I had just been a little faster."
Jane leaned her head against Garrus', looking into his bright blue eyes. "You're too hard on yourself, Garrus," she smiled. "You always are."
"Shepard? I don't... ," Garrus stopped mid sentence as Shepard pressed her finger over his mouth, shushing him with a smile.
"There was no way you could have foreseen what would happen." Shepard pressed her lips against his forehead. "You were exactly where you were supposed to be. Besides, if you had died with me, I would have threatened to pop Miranda's boobs if she didn't bring you back too."
Garrus snickered as he buried his face in Shepard's hair again. "I don't know what I did to deserve you, Shepard." Garrus smiled as he gently drug his talons over her back. "But I hope I get to do it again."
Shepard's confident smirk came back to her face as she nuzzled against Garrus. "Well, you can start by picking up where we left off after being interrupted by those damn Collectors."
"Oh?" Garrus drug his claws over Shepard's thighs just hard enough to leave red welts. "Is that why you blew up their base?"
"Damn right," Shepard declared. "No one interrupts me mid coitus." Garrus chuckled as Shepard leaned him as far back as he could go until she was looming over him, her face framed by her hair. "Not Cerberus, not the Collectors and certain as hell not the god damned Reapers!" Garrus grunted as Shepard dug her finger nails into his arms. Apparently the skin weave that made it nearly impossible for him to puncture her skin with his claws also made her nails strong enough to stand up to his carapace.
"Now," Garrus said up, bringing Shepard's face close to his until their foreheads touched. "Where were we?"
The sounds of celebration filled the entirety of the Crew Deck as the everyone on board tried to squeeze into the mess at the same time. For a race as social as Humans, facing death and living to tell about it brought out their deep seeded need to be close. Samara sat silently at one of the tables and observed their complex language structure as each spoke with words, glances, touches, smiles and guttural sounds that had confused a woman who could still remember what Quarians looked like under their helmets.
Thane sat across from Samara, sipping a mug of steaming tea, wearing a very self satisfied smile on his face. Samara slowly raised one brow at Thane, his over large eyes glancing at the ceiling for a moment before he looked at Samara again. The Asari Justicar smiled, understanding exactly what Thane was not talking about. She had seen the Assassin speaking with Garrus quietly over two hours ago before the Turian had turned and left for the elevator, bound for Shepard's quarters.
Samara's attention turned to Miranda, who was being fed brandy by the glass full. She had sworn to only have one glass, however Zaeed kept topping it off when she wasn't looking. Technically she had not finished her first drink yet, and she seemed wholly surprised that she was getting drunk. Zaeed topped off her glass again before taking a long drink from the bottle, savoring the burn. Miranda was one of the most emotionally controlled human's Samara had ever met, but even she could be loosened up by enough alcohol. Though so far, no amount of alcohol could loosen her up enough to tolerate Zaeed's attempts at getting close to the woman. Every time he tried to wind his arm around her waist, she would smack him away with a backhand to the chest. However, instead of enraging the merc, he took it as a challenge and would refill her glass with more brandy in the hopes his next attempt scored him someone to take to his bunk.
"To Shepard," Joker raised his glass, the others repeating the sentiment until all had their glasses raised in appreciation. Samara raised her mug of hot tea, smiling at the pilot's gesture. She had wondered at first how someone so physically fragile could take the stresses of flying a ship the way he flew the Normandy. Though as she had gotten to know the pilot, she seemed to understand. Like most Humans, the moment someone told them they could not do something, he would be determined to prove them wrong.
"Where the hell is Shepard," Miranda slurred, looking around. Zaeed had just tried his luck again and gotten a boot to the bottom of his chair for his effort. "and Garrus for that matter?" She turned her head as she heard Thane chuckle, though he hid his smile with his mug as he pretended to take a sip from it.
Joker laughed. "Oh, you know," he started doing a little dance in his chair. "Bow Chika Bow *smack* OW!" Joker adjusted his cap, glaring at Tali as she crossed her arms and glared at the pilot. "It's true. He's probably 'Savoring that last shot before he pops the heat sink'."
"That," Tali shook her head, putting up her hands as Zaeed let out a deep belly laugh. "That metaphor is... so wrong." She shivered. "Don't ever use it again."
"I don't know 'bout that love." Zaeed chuckled as Tali glared daggers at him. "It's pretty damned appropriate for someone as hot headed as Garrus and Shepard." Zaeed's laughter died as a thoughtful look settled his face. "In fact, that sounds exactly like something either one of them would say." His eyes narrowed in Joker's direction.
"Oh, would you look at the time!" Jeff extricated himself from the table, turning several shades of rose at all the stares directed at him. "Need my beauty sleep."
Tali gasped. "I don't believe it!" She got up and cut Joker off before he could escape.
"What? I'm not beautiful?" Joker mock sniffed. "You're a bad person,Tali."
"You've been listening in on them, haven't you?" The Quarian Mechanic didn't seem to know whether to sound amused, shocked or curious.
"No! God, no!" Tali glared at Joker. "Well... ok. Yea, a little."
"You little Bosh'tet!"
"Fragile bones! Don't hurt me!" Joker threw his arms over his head. "EDI made me do it!"
"I do not recall 'making' you do such a thing. I merely commented on the strange way Commander Shepard and Garrus have been conversing of late." Anyone could tell coyness when they heard it.
"Details!" Kelly, having gotten several glasses of the brandy in her, had practically skipped over and plopped down on Zaeed's knee, much to his amusement. "They make such an awesome couple."
"Well, yes, they do." Tali seemed to have lost her some of her anger. "But there's no way to know that it would," she worked her hands awkwardly, trying to keep her words civil. "work."
Kelly giggled. "Oh, it works alright." Zaeed made a surprised grunt while drinking from the bottle, coughing to keep from aspirating the alcohol. Jacob, who had been minding his own business at the far end of the table suddenly perked up to the conversation. Tali stared, making the drunk psychologist laugh even harder.
"I... don't think I want to know how you know that."
"Precautions must be taken." Mordin seemed to have become much more interested in the conversation as well. "Prolonged contact with scales can cause chafing. Not to mention if fluids are exchanged. Also mate longer than humans. Average of several hours. Need extra lubricant."
"Oh, Keelah!" Tali covered her visor with her hands. "How did we even get on this subject?"
"Humans very social species." Mordin seemed happy to answer Tali's rhetorical question. "Need to communicate everything, exchange information, knowledge, gossip. Probably why technology advanced so quickly. Organized as a society only in last few thousand years. As one people for less than a hundred. Fascinating."
"Thank you for that amazing dissertation, doc." Joker rubbed his eyes trying to get the new images out of his head.
"Happy to provide." Mordin tipped his head back and emptied his glass. "Both should be fine. Sent several items to ease chafing. Combat allergic reactions if he forgets not to ejaculate inside - Are you ill Tali?"
"Mordin." The Salarian scientist turned his unfocused eyes on Joker. "Little too much information there. Not that getting Tali flustered isn't fun in and of itself."
"I have a shotgun, Joker."
Joker laughed. "That an invitation?"
"Keelah!" Tali threw her arms up in the air and plopped back down at the table.
Kelly bounced up and down on Zaeed's knee, making the mercenary grin like a drunk idiot. "You two are so cute!"
"What?" Tali and Joker shouted at the same time. They turned to glare at each other as Kelly giggled even more. "No... that is impossible." Tali put her hands up as though to stall any more comments on her and Joker's cuteness together. "The suit doesn't come off."
"Oh, Tali," Kelly grinned, shaking her head. "you know exactly how it could be possible."
"Is there any species you haven't slept with?" Tali glared at the psychologist, noting with some annoyance that the woman would not stop giggling.
"Wouldn't you like to know." She wiggled her hips on Zaeed's leg, making the old merc have to shift himself in his chair to stay comfortable.
Joker shook his head, covering his face with his hand to keep himself from laughing too hard. His ribs definitely could not take it. Zaeed got up and wrapped his arm around Kelly's waist. "I would love to know. Privately, of course." The two walked to the elevator, Kelly giving Tali a little wiggly fingered wave before the two disappeared.
"Kinky," Joker broke the silence, laughing as Tali smacked his hat off of his head. "Bow Chika Bow Wow."
"That reminds me of a song..."
"NO!" Mordin's eyes went wide as he was attacked from several different sides, Miranda,Tali, Joker and Dr. Chakwas all covering his mouth before he could utter the first bars. Tali couldn't help the snort, putting her hand up to her visor to muffle her laughter. Slowly Miranda's face softened and she too began to laugh followed by everyone in the room as they fell in to each other. Thane and Samara couldn't help but join in the laughter until the entire crew deck was filled with it.
Mordin looked around at the people laughing around him. He seemed wholly drawn in by the phenomenon. "Fascinating. One individual can influence another with a simple laugh."
"Mordin," Dr. Chakwas droned as she gave the Salarian a dead pan stare and shoved another full glass in his direction. "Shut up and drink."