“No,” he interrupted me, “don’t finish that sentence. If you try to justify what you did it will only piss me off again. I’ve been thinking about it all day: you were right. The satisfaction of shooting him would only have lasted for a moment.”
His face hardened into a fierceness that would have frightened even a krogan warlord. “I needed to know what happened. He pays every second for what he did, as he deserves. I’d rather he kept paying.”
He placed a hand on my shoulder, talons digging into my back as he gave me what I think was intended as a friendly squeeze. I laid a hand over his and we tentatively smiled at one another, Garrus in that peculiar turian way that mostly involved the mandibles and chin. Perhaps we’d be all right after all.
Then his expression turned serious again. “But you don’t get to make decisions for me like that, Shepard. I know you meant well but you’re not my mother. Sometimes you have to let me make my own mistakes.” Those talons were a bit less friendly now. Apparently he was still mad.
“I am sorry, Spike.” Though it felt like dull knives were pressing my shoulder blade I stood strong. This was no moment to show weakness. “But I need you at your best and it’s my job to make sure you don’t do something that will jeopardize our mission.”
I began to think I’d have holes to patch in the back of my shirt but I soldiered on. “Best friend or no, you’re on my team again. Vigilante time is over. If I have to save you from yourself from time to time then that is what I will do.”
My voice stayed remarkably calm, considering how aware I suddenly became of just how damned big Turians are. They’re no Krogans but Garrus could wipe me out in a heartbeat in this enclosed space, particularly as he already had a hold on me. A flash of déjà vu washed over me, recalling the moments after I’d woken Grunt. Why can’t people stop testing me and just behave? I’m Shepard, damn it, savior of the galaxy. Can’t I get a little respect? At least Grunt hadn’t known any better.
Garrus started to growl a bit and stepped right up against me. Apparently I’d have to earn another dose of esteem from him at any rate. I set my face in a “bite me” attitude and just looked up at him, pushing back a little. My bladder might be fighting to let go and my knees might be begging to tremble but I knew I had to make my point or we’d never get past this afternoon. I shifted to a more aggressive stance, pushing against him.
We stood there for about three weeks, making heavy duty eye contact. His talons still pierced my back and we stayed belly-to-belly. Finally, I shifted my face to a “Well?” look, sliding an eyebrow up and cocking my head a bit. I had to use the restroom in earnest by that point and my mind was starting to wander.
For a moment nothing changed. Then Garrus’s eyes dropped and I knew I had won. It felt pretty crappy but it was better than losing him entirely. A power struggle would be wildly disruptive to a crew already sporting a pouty, deposed leader and a slew of lone-rangers and mercenaries. There could only be one alpha dog and TIM had decreed it was me.
Hell, who am I kidding? It would have been me anyway. I could totally take Miranda. Nobody else wanted it except Garrus and he was too unsure after Sidonis’s betrayal and the loss of his team.
Didn’t I tell you my mind was wandering? Something brought it back to the present pretty forcefully, however. Garrus had been busy thinking, too, apparently about the fact that his blood was up and he was pressed tightly against me. He distracted me from my contemplation by backing me into the wall instead of backing off.
I didn’t know if this was some sort of dominance-inspired attraction or if it had just been far too long since he’d been this close to someone but I had to do something, and fast. He was growling still but now he sounded more like a jungle cat than an angry Turian. That had to be a bad sign. “So,” I said loudly, “you don’t like the monument either.”
I wasn’t too familiar with the Turian anatomy under those clothes but something was definitely stirring. My mind raced. “Big Al seems to have developed a sense of humor. I’m told we have to search it for goodies, too.” A little mmm came from his throat. Crap, crap, crap! I thought. Think of something not sexy!
“Smartass must be ready to leave dock by now…” something was leaving dock but it wasn’t the SR-2 “…unless he’s got delivery on the package for me.” Garrus lowered his head and began snuffling at my neck. I felt one of his mandibles scrape my throat. He seemed pretty eager to deliver something himself. Damn it!
“We should go check before The Torso or Twitchy comes looking for us.” I was beginning to babble. Something nasty, I thought desperately, something cold and unattractive. “Do you remember that volus ambassador we met, the one that shared an office with the Elcor?”
Garrus backed off a hair. “Oh, you weren’t with us yet.” My mind raced. What’s less hot than an office full of Volus and Elcor? “Do you suppose Volus are as round as those environment suits make them look?” Ew, naked Volus. “Can you imagine trying to sleep in one of those things, or do you suppose they have special chambers in their quarters?” Double ew: naked Volus in bed.
Garrus lifted his head and stepped back, blinking a little as if just waking. “I would hate to try sleeping in my armor,” he said, sounding confused. His mandibles wobbled a bit as he recovered his equilibrium. I didn’t dare move yet. “Did you say something about searching?”
“Apparently Big Al has hidden a surprise for us in that shiny monstrosity,” I answered, ready to start talking about rotund little wheezing aliens again if need be. Garrus seemed to be coming out of his bloodlust trance. At least he had the good grace to look embarrassed. That wrecked patch on his cheek stood out deep blue and he seemed to be casting about for a neutral topic as well. He refused to look directly at me. I reminded myself never to stare him down in public, if this was the sort of reaction I would get.
I took a deep breath and we turned our attention to the absurd monument. Garrus promised to find and remove any presents from Admiral Hackett while I checked in with Joker. Suddenly neither one of us could get out of that room fast enough. I decided to use a different restroom, even if I had to dance around the elevator on the way. The idea of dropping my pants in this one made me incredibly uncomfortable.
A pit stop relieved my aching bladder and gave me a moment to compose myself. I sidled up behind Joker, trying to sound casual. The heated moment in the cargo bay crapper had made me very impatient to see Kaidan. I was destined, however, for disappointment. Joker informed me that the package was on backorder and I’d have to wait until we returned from Alchera. The heavy sigh I completely failed to suppress rubbed my shirt against the raw spots on the back of my shoulder where Garrus had all but punctured me. My armor would be very uncomfortable unless I soon got some medi-gel on it.
I okayed Joker to take off for Alchera and notified Garrus that we would set the monument with Joker and Dr. Chakwas as soon as we arrived. I thought it only fitting that those of use who’d been on the SR-1 go together, though we’d likely have to carry our pilot. He’d hate it but I knew it would mean a lot to him to see the old girl one last time. He’d been the only pilot ever to fly her and she held a special place in his heart. Once we were underway I went to my quarters to check the messages Kelly assured me were waiting on my “private” terminal and to tend my wounds in what little privacy I could muster.