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Jane Shepard/Garrus Vakarian  —  Red Streak: ME1 AU

 

Hannah Shepard/Albacus Regidonis  —  Red Streak: ME1 AU

 

Grace Shepard/Mordin Solus  —  A Pretty Taste For Paradox: asexual relationship, ME2-3

 

Jane Shepard/Mordin Solus  —  Double Blind: NSFW, Pre-Game Omega AU

  • hair  —  100 words - M - 1.15.18
  • cupcake  —  100 words - M - 1.19.18
  • weakness  —  100 words - M - 2.11.18
  • sharp  —  100 words - M - 2.22.18
  • smile  —  100 words - M - 2.22.18
  • a kiss for luck  —  485 words - M - 5.5.18

 

Custom Sara Ryder/Kallo Jath  —  In The Yellow Time Of Pollen: ME:A

 

Other Prompts 

Chapter Text

The Normandy kit was a rushed knock-off, cobbled together by drooling entrepreneurs who were hungry to make a quick couple of credits. Several details were laughably off the mark: the proportion of the wingspan, the placement of the IES vents, the width of her stripes. None of it to spec, but Garrus had to admit that for a rush job, it was almost too close for comfort.

It was the thought that counted. Normandy was already important enough to merit an adoring if inaccurate grey-market replica on her maiden voyage. Garrus Vakarian was important enough to said maiden voyage that his own mother had mailed a Normandy model kit to his apartment while he’d been off gallivanting through the universe, chasing the tail of Shepard’s comet.

Garrus had been important enough, yesterday. Now he was nobody. Again.

He’d discovered the kit in the middle of the night while stumbling across the threshold of his Citadel apartment for the first time in weeks. Trying to wipe Shepard out his brain had required alcohol of a strength and purity usually administered to gushing wounds in field hospitals. Too angry to see in a straight line, he’d caught a glimpse of the Normandy’s familiar curves, taken her reappearance for an elaborately cruel prank, and thrown the box across the room before passing out on the couch.

Upon waking in a mess of his own sweat and drool, details were fuzzy. Had Shepard kicked him off the ship, or had Garrus volunteered to resign? He remembered a lot of yelling, and the look on her face when the silence had finally set in, but not much more. Only one detail remained: she’d left with Nihlus. 

Sulking around his apartment all through the gray morning, digging in dusty cabinets for any food that hadn’t expired, Garrus rediscovered the crumpled Normandy kit. It was cowering in the corner behind a newly shattered 1:100 model of the Rhapsodon, along with an omni-tool code that triggered a personalized holographic message from his mother.

How proud she was, though she wished Garrus had talked to her first. How scatterbrained Garrus was, for not setting up a forwarding system so she could contact him while he was away. How much Garrus owed her a call.

He couldn’t bring himself to call Mari. Not now. The least he could do was cobble together the gift she’d sent, maybe send her a snap of a wannabe Normandy assembled and sitting on his shelf next to the Kara… or the PFS Tenefalx.

The unguarded thought made him flinch, and he stared at his old stock model of the Blackwatch legend for a long time after that, as if hoping he could force it to confess or explode or both. It looked like the Normandy’s homely sister. Boxier and larger by half, primitive in comparison, but an undeniable relative.

Garrus rudely shoved the thought aside and managed to get one wing attached to the Normandy when the first knock arrived.

He froze and considered not answering. It was probably his father. Almost certainly his father.

How disappointed he was, because he wished Garrus had talked to him first. How stupid Garrus was, for dropping C-Sec like a hot rock and running after the Spectres again. How much Garrus owed him an explanation.

Another knock. Followed immediately by two more.

“Fine!” Garrus barked, setting the fake Normandy on his desk in a pile of detritus where it belonged. “I get it!”

He picked up the sloshing, mostly-empty bottle of horosk and brought it with him to the door, hoping to discourage a long visit. Artfully embellishing his own shame had always been a sure-fire tactic for getting his father to give up on him faster. Look at me Pari, I’m a washed up waste of a cop and a drunk. Leave me alone.

“Get it over with,” he said, palming open the lock. “I know. I should have stayed—”

The words died in his mouth.

It was Shepard.

No. Not Shepard. Standing in his doorway was someone almost completely unrecognizable. Sloppy makeup and a crooked leather jacket Garrus had never seen before. An ill-fitting combination of military blues and casual wear that made her look like a crude mash-up of Alliance Marine and duct rat.

“Jane?”

The name was little more than a bruising wheeze.

She nodded, staring at his knees. Jaw clenched, fists clenched, everything clenched. She’d come to finish the fight.

He keeled forward to laugh in her face, welcoming her into his apartment with a crooked sweep of his liquor bottle. She didn’t move.

He recognized that look. It was the same one she’d leveled at him last night, the same one she’d leveled at him the First Night, when she’d abandoned him in his squad car. No warning, no reason, just walked out of his life forever.

Except it hadn’t been forever. Not quite.

“Hit me while I’m down,” he jeered. “C’mon. I’m ready for it. Are you here with severance pay? What?”

She yanked the bottle from his hand.

“That’ll make you sick.” 

He quoted their first encounter on reflex, ashamed even as the words tumbled out of his mouth, reeling at his persistent sun-blindness. Shepard had never been a girl in a bar. He wished he’d known that from day one.

“Shut up,” she said, uncorking the bottle to take a deep swallow. 

He watched the mechanism of her throat as she finished the last inches of turian liquor. As if she was born to it.

She was, he remembered. In her way.

She pushed the empty bottle into his chest, and he tossed it onto the carpet with a pathetic muffled thud.

“That was my last drop,” he whined.

“Good.”

Then she was on him.

Her lips were cold, maybe from the liquor, maybe from wandering the wards alone. In startling contrast, the inside of her mouth was hot and sure, so forceful that he staggered and almost lost his footing.

“What—” he attempted, but that was all he managed. She grabbed the sides of his face and pressed in tighter, silencing him with her tongue. Bodies flush, he could feel the gyration of her hips swelling toward him like some ancient curse from the sea.

“No talking,” she warned, talking.

He pushed back, tangling all of his fingers into her hair until his hands were nothing but knots.

“I like talking,” he growled, biting down on her lower lip until she swore. “Apparently it’s the only thing I’m good at.”

Her breath painted his face in sour, sloppy bursts, remnants of the bottom of the bottle they’d shared. She was strong, too strong, and he was suddenly shoved onto his own couch, unable to defend himself even if he’d wanted to.

Luckily, he didn’t.

“Shut up,” she repeated. Her teeth traced his throat, his keel, his waist, the traitorous wasteland of his groin, and she did her best to undo him all over again. “Just shut up.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When Sovereign went down, Kithoi got the worst of it. Debris and ejecta carved a mile-wide diagonal swath across the ward arm, and the resulting ruin was indiscriminate. Offices, apartments, nightclubs, schools - all blasted to rubble. Some structures had been halved so cleanly that they stood in the middle of empty blocks like slices of many-layered desserts melting on their plates.

Days after the disaster, chunks of undead Reaper still sizzled, peppered unpredictably throughout the path of destruction. Wherever they landed, there they stayed, untouched by even the boldest black market tech scrappers. Far from inert, Soverign’s fallen body parts coughed caustic plumes of purple smoke and spat deadly rains of sparks at anyone who tried to get too close. Spec-Ops crews had been dispatched to sweep the ward clean of the dangerous Reaper leftovers, but countless scattered tons of rubble made the task painstakingly slow. Large-scale containment procedures always took time, and this clean-up had stretched official resources to the breaking point. The recovery teams were forced to pass over non-critical wreckage, leaving it to be picked over by scavengers or rot where it lay.

Unable to think of anything else to do with himself, Garrus wandered into one of the ramshackle civilian support squads. Organized by neighborhood parliaments, led by a few haggard C-Sec officers who had volunteered their off-duty hours, newly homeless citizens cleaned their own streets.

It was sweaty, thankless work - overwhelming in scale, numbing in practice. Mostly unsupervised, Garrus was left to pick through it all, forced to ignore anything he couldn’t lift. For the recycling plants, he assembled ten-foot piles of scrap metal and eezo. He waded through jagged hull shavings as thick as his arm, recognizing the last remnants of the warships eviscerated by Soverign’s Beam. He swept glass and rerouted stagnant water mains. He incinerated bags full of clothing and children’s toys, already crunchy with ash. And he found bodies. So many bodies.

None of them were hers.

During the night cycle, when visibility was too low for recovery work, Garrus picked over the ruins and tried to find his apartment. He had lived on Kithoi for a decade and had been sifting wreckage for a week, but he still found it difficult to maintain his bearings. His customary landmark - the flashy, dirt-cheap jurum take-out place two blocks distal from his apartment complex - was now a circle of raw vacuum. Clean as a bullet, a plasma-hot shard of the Presidium had pierced through the heart of his old neighborhood and left behind a lacy, delicate ring of exposed strata. Beyond a thin sheet of transparent pressure shielding, the stars watched him. Bright and cruel and hungry, they glittered like teeth.

After several nights of fruitless exploration, Garrus was ducking under fallen girders on the promisingly familiar third story of a blown-out building. He stumbled through a slip of loose ash and his boot came down on something hollow, shattering it to pieces with a startling crack. Terrified that it was a skull, he hesitated to look.

But when he lifted his foot, all he found was a soot-black 1/144 replica of the Destiny Ascension.

He was home.

Only the vaguest top-down details remained, like an archaeologist’s reconstruction propped over a burial mound. The superstructure lingered. A single wall had survived nearly untouched, the interior support between the bathroom and his bed. Everything else was heat-blasted beyond recognizability. The panels on his kitchen cabinets, once dingy but serviceable, now peeled back in rippling sheets. The street-facing walls were hardest hit of all, transformed into tortured fists of rebar clenched around shriveled black clumps of plasticite that had once been windows.

He entered slowly, unsure of the floor.

His boots crunched over plastic and glass, over the chewed-up remains of his furniture, his television, his data-pads, his desk. He watched a thin gray powder stir around his heels, making clear, dark footprints wherever he stepped, and realized he was walking through his own ashes. Ten years of his own life, gone.

The corner of his living room that had once been dedicated to a life-long modding hobby (an obsession his sister had dubbed unhealthy) was now a foul-smelling smudge. One quick glance told him that his carefully tended supply of oil-soaked lithium had caught fire and fueled what looked to have been a sizable inferno. As usual, Solana had been right, though he imagined this particular I-told-you-so would have given her little satisfaction.

All across the apartment, model ships were strewn in unrecognizable bits and pieces - a tragicomic miniature of the numerous tragedies outside. Years of careful collecting and affectionate assembly were in that graveyard. Gifts from his mother, his sister, friends from Cipritine that he hadn’t spoken to in years. Each vessel thoughtfully assembled over long months - some had taken years. As a matter of principle, Garrus had been in the habit of cleaning the collection on a bi-monthly schedule, rotating the fleet through his spotless display cases, carefully mounting his favorites on plaques that he engraved himself.

There was only one he cared about now. The newest and cheapest, never even finished. Garrus dug through debris for a full half hour before he found the first recognizable piece of the Normandy: a three-inch fragment of her starboard hull. He tried to wipe the soot away with his thumb, to see if her colors were still intact, but the fragment crumbled through his fingers.

After that, he had little reason to stay. Desperate for anything salvageable, he made one final sweep. This time, he focused on the surviving bedroom wall, going straight for the built-in bedside storage. He wasn’t hopeful, but maybe he’d left something in a drawer. An omni-tool, a data-pad. Something. Anything. He would walk out of here with a half-melted candy wrapper clenched in his fist, if that was all he had left.

Instead, what he found winded him like a fist to the keel.

There, in a mostly-empty drawer on level with what once had been his headrest, he found a pair of pristine Alliance dog tags. Paralyzed by the sight, chest on fire, he sucked in a breath and held it to the count of ten. A mistake, surely. She must have forgotten to take them with her, last time…

Mechanically, he reached into the drawer. Picked up the dog tags. Brought them closer.

He swallowed a sick flood of bile. On one side, Jane Shepard’s name topped a short list, the insultingly dull bullet-points of a military life. Fighting the knot in his chest, Garrus turned the tags to the reverse face.

His heart stopped. No.

No accident. Shepard had left the tags in this drawer deliberately, had carefully arranged them like this in the hope of future discovery. A message. A promise. A confession. He knew all this for a fact - the evidence had just been seared into him forever like a sunspot in the back of his eye.

Before leaving these tags in his bedside drawer, Shepard had stolen two small bottles of enamel from his model kits and meticulously filled the stripes on her identical N7 insignia with hand-painted streaks.

One red, one blue.

The room swayed. For one gut-clenching moment, Garrus was convinced the building was about to topple. To steady himself, he pressed the cool tags against his forehead. Out of sight, out of mind. He tried to blink away the nausea, but the cold touch of Shepard’s last message soaked through his plates like a soft kiss.

Blowing faintly through the dust of the room, he heard a small but terrible noise.

I love you.

A moment too late, he recognized that wretched, broken cry: his own voice.

Silencing himself, forcing down the scream in his throat, he brought the tags to his mouth and sucked in an involuntary, shuddering breath. Cold and chemical, the familiar metallic tang of fresh-set modeling paint filled his mouth, his nose.

With that, his final vestiges of structural integrity gave way. He hit the floor in broken stages: one knee, then the other, a hip, the heel of his hand.

Until his throat blistered and his eyes burned salt-raw, until the blood in his heart grew slow with cold, Garrus Vakarian crumpled into his life’s very dust, and wept.

  

  

  

Chapter Text

 

“Don’t make me laugh,” he said, wincing. Spoken through all that gauze and tape, it sounded like a dare. “My face is barely holding together as it is.”

Her chest filled with heat, a gravity-hot crush against her heart. A witty one-liner might save her, but all she could do was stare and breathe, clenching her fists.

He turned. “I’ll be in the forward battery if… if you need anything.”

Her window was closing.

Instinct threw her forward, hand reaching out. For what, she didn’t care - his arm, his shoulder, his face… but he intercepted, closing a tight armored hand around her wrist.

Silence stretched between them - a shadow so thin, so dark, she could have plucked it like a string.

“It’s me.” She swallowed, embarrassed by the crack in her voice. “I’m still me.”

He gave a hollow nod. Not bothering to be gentle, he rolled her hand through his grip. Wake up, wake up, like the pinch of someone trapped in a dream. Squinting, he inspected her nails. The lacquer was fresh, as red as she’d ever painted them, but not convincing enough.

He dropped her hand, filled his lungs with resolve, and barely muttered: “Sure.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

>>Cmer- erHere.<<

Garrus squinted against the cutting glow of an incoming ping. Groaning, he ran a hand over his face.

“Jane,” he cried, throat raw. “Whyyyy.”

Her only reply, furiously orange on his wrist:

>>BATHROOOOOOOOOMGO!!<<

He rolled out of bed, stumbling through Anderson’s cruel, ninety-degree apartment - a place too full of concrete for anyone who’d had as much quarian barrel grog as Garrus “Didn’t-Think-This-Through” Vakarian.

At the threshold of the master bath, he leaned on the jamb and groaned “WHAT?” in three separate octaves.

>>nekkid in a hot tubbbbb<< said his omnitool

“Nice… bubbles,” said Garrus.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Garrus gestured vaguely to his face. An energetic scrubbing of empty air, as if he could erase himself.

“I’m not the same,” he said. Meaning - she knew - more than the still-healing ruin of his face.

“Maybe not, but…” She leaned back, moving her eyes to a harmless but fascinating spot above his left shoulder, hoping he’d feel less exposed if she wasn’t looking directly at the damage. 

“Did I ever tell you about this?” She pointed to the white line on her face, the skipping trench that managed to interrupt eyebrow, cheek, and lip in one mean, jagged hopscotch.

He shook his head. 

No. They’d never gotten that far, had they?

She shrugged, ignoring the flop in her gut.  “It’s not a story for a bar… But regardless, you know how it ends. Before this scar, my father was alive. After this scar…” She looked around at the other patrons, lowering her voice below the laughter, the bluster, the absolute, beautiful ignorance. “I wasn’t the same.”

Mostly to himself, he said, “Yeah, I remember.” That first night. Another bar, another lifetime. “You had a line of secret code…”

Abruptly, without asking, he reached out and followed the same old scar she’d seen him trace with his eyes countless times before, running a bold, warm, familiar finger down her cheek. His eyes seemed both skittish and stuck - glued to her face, her mouth, all the edges of her. 

Absently, he shook his head no, as if she were being stupid on purpose, and with that he seemed much closer than before. 

“I loved you, Shepard,” he whispered.

She closed her eyes, almost ashamed. 

His hand curled around the base of her skull, pulling her those final critical inches. His softened mouth dotted the line of her brow, the hollow of her cheek, the corner of her upper lip. 

Dashes and dots, he translated that old, unforgettable sequence, his answer so close to her mouth he might have voiced her thoughts. 

“Still do.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

There it was at long, long last: the goddamn mother-fucking Conduit. It stood in the amber mist of a vine-strewn industrial Eden - gilded, gleaming, and winking at her like an all-knowing trickster god.

She had a straight shot… straight down an ancient aqueduct… with countless hostile Geth colossi firing on all sides… to leap head first into a bite-sized mass relay wearing nothing but a M-35.

This was going to be the water slide from hell. Fine. Shepard moved one hand to activate the Mako’s automatic drive, clenching her fingers to stop the shaking.

“Alright people, ride or die. Any last words before we seal helmets and pray?”

A giddy dual-toned heh rang out from shotgun. She turned to raise a doubtful eyebrow  in Garrus’ direction… and collided with him instead.

No time to flinch; he grabbed her with both hands and held fast, closing instantly. Familiar, so familiar - but until now, carefully secret - the deft, eager slide of his pointed mouth. Now, he crashed into her, a rush of breathless spit and terror. One crazed second for air, then he struck again - harder, deeper.

Some adrenaline-soaked damn inside her gave way, and she opened her mouth and released a rough noise against his tongue. If she died like this, a statue of ashes glued forever to the idiotic skeleton of Garrus Vakarian… she could think of worse ways to go.

Somewhere aeons away (a million lightyears aft in the gunnery pillar) Williams blew a short laugh through her nose and drawled, “I knew it.” 

After the Mako loudly cycled a fresh heat sink into her cannon, the Chief added, “LT owes me two hundred bucks.”

Shepard broke from Garrus, shoving him off the navigation console and back into his seat. Watching all this, Wrex beat a scandalized fist against his chest and guffawed loudly, rattling like ecstatic gravel in a blender. 

“Hey Shepard, where’s my good luck kiss?”

“Right here, Wrex.” She deployed her middle finger and gave the old bastard one last hurrah… then slammed her fist down and punched the throttle. 

Ride or die.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“You’re making that face again.”

Albacus didn’t look up from his desk, but Hannah could see the expression perfectly well in her mind’s eye. The look he always adopted when fighting with Cortez’s mess of ledgers: fierce and fed-up in equal parts.

“What face?” he spat, shuffling datapads. “There is no face.”

Hannah grunted, injecting as much sarcasm into the noise as she could manage. 

If Albacus wanted to scowl through his latest mountain of spreadsheets, so be it. It was hard for anybody to do this kind of accounting with a smile on their face. For a turian with a military pedigree and no practical business knowledge whatsoever, the task was uniquely thankless.

The spaceport’s numbers were always too tight, resources always too thin. Cortez’ crew was loyal, but the man knew how to manage people, not credits. Hannah had made progress on his books, and Albacus did what he could to assist, but when it came to penny pinching, the disgraced starship Captain was easy to frustrate.

Defeated at last, Albacus rubbed his eyes and threw three separate data pads into three separate piles.

He leaned back in his creaking chair and jumped: she’d silently closed in on him. She was inches away, close enough to land a sudden sneak attack. A rough kiss to one glowering brow plate, which he swatted away with a sigh, acknowledging he had been beaten.

Taking a step back, she grunted at him again to hide a snort of laughter.

“Yep, you’re definitely making the face.”

“What about you?” he said, gesturing to her crossed arms, the know-it-all jut of her hip. “You loom above me in perfect judgment, making that noise.”

“My God-given right.”

She freed her left hand and waggled her fingers, allowing the glint of her wedding band do the  sarcastic winking on her behalf.

He rolled his eyes, a bratty attitude he’d picked up from Jane, who had picked it up from Cortez’ youngest, who had picked it up from who knows where. Ignoring Hannah completely, Albacus hefted another datapad and pretended to resume the dull and never-ending chore of turning a profit on Mindoir.

His face - forever turian and untranslatable - nonetheless had a familiar old-world sculpt to it. Smart and dour, a librarian peering over his spectacles. She waited for the dutiful sigh.

There it was.

Her chest flared with warmth, pulse humming with affection. Her limbs filled with the new ache she’d learned to associate with Albacus: those hungry moments when he was out of arm’s reach and being an admirable bore.

She moved to his back and draped herself around him with oozing stubbornness, then noticed that his datapad was blank. Tricky.

Another sigh, even more dutiful than the first.

“Quite busy here, no time for meaningless distractions.“

She pressed her lips into his sensitive neck.

“Like this one, for instance.”

He tossed away the datapad and pulled her onto the desk instead.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Several minutes into a breathless silence of his own making, Albacus was still staring at a hand with too many fingers, willing it to move. Demanding any one of the five digits to twitch. Exactly as before, irrespective of hours of concentrated effort, nothing happened.

He sat alone. A few moments unobserved while Hannah made another attempt to coax Jane to sleep. He could hear Hannah’s parental strategies countered with ease and practice, met with the bottomless resolve of a child who had survived starvation, disease, and the clash of several warring fleets all before her fourth birthday.

The nightly struggle was identical. Each night, Jane would fight her mother for every spare second of consciousness. Each night the child would whine and wheedle and wail. And each night, without exception, Hannah would win.

Albacus smiled.

In an effort to refocus, he tried to channel Jane’s relentless stubbornness toward his own impossible task. He looked back to the accursed prosthesis. It lay limp beside his knee, cold and useless.

After a moment of painful quiet, two taped-together fingers jerked in tandem. It was his most impressive success of the evening. To celebrate, he allowed himself a deep inhale. As he sagged into the couch and closed his eyes, he felt an ache in his chest that was only partially to blame on holding his breath.

The arm was no more a part of Albacus’ body than the block of dull knives in the kitchen or the rust-speckled wrenches on Hannah’s workbench. Cheap, crude devices that had been designed for lives other than his. The only tools at his disposal, and all poor fits.

Albacus might be frustrated, but he was not ungrateful. He would learn to make the most of what he had been given, which was rough by any standard. His new arm had been styled on the cheap with modular field applications and human beings in mind. Steel shafts and oiled bearings in place of bones and joints. Instead of skin and plates, a flexible sleeve of black mesh that barely covered the raw components of the prosthesis. It reminded him of scraps of quarian tech he had encountered, which was to say: improvised.

The process of adjustment would be long. The veterinarian-turned-surgeon had warned Albacus of that, both with words and with the fearful look of inexperience in his eye. It would be weeks before custom retrofits could be fabricated, and months before Albacus learned to control the arm in full. Perhaps longer. Perhaps never. 

Interfacing a turian amputee with human-specced parts had presented a complete unknown. The doctor had lengthened the prosthetic arm as far as the prefab assemblage would allow, but it was still short by an unsettling margin. Hannah had taped the fingers together in an effort to make Albacus feel more comfortable, but the result was that the hand looked mangled and swollen, and no closer to turian.

Worst by far, he could still feel every inch of his old arm as if it were alive and on fire. Nerves crying out for connections that would never again be whole, like bones crumbling inside his skin. He would give almost anything to be able to scratch a blinding itch on the inside of an elbow that no longer existed.

The living room door hissed quietly, startling him, but it was only Hannah emerging from the now-silent sleeping quarters. 

He cracked open one curious eye, stifling the nerve pain as best he could. Before he could say a word, she held a finger to her mouth and widened her eyes dangerously. 

Ah. Jane, finally asleep. He must not wake the beast.

He held out his good hand and silently waved her closer. Once she was in whispering range, she jumped right on the bruise.

“Any progress?” she asked, gesturing to the prosthetic arm.

“Some,” he admitted, keeping his voice low and flat.

She was quiet, too still. She was watching him for signs. To distract her, he grabbed her hand and brought it to his face, rubbing the smooth skin of the back of her knuckles across his mandible.

“Everything alright?” she whispered, refusing to be fooled.

“Everything…”

He realized he had inadequate words only after opening his mouth. Without finishing the thought, he yanked her closer and pressed his head into her stomach, inhaling the warm white scent of her nighshirt.

Her arms wrapped around him, soft hands sliding against the sensitive inner lining of his cowl. Her fingers kneaded deliberately against the now-familiar knots in his neck, and he rolled his head back and forth to give her better access. A moment of doubt, then he felt her hands adventuring into his fringe.

Using careful scrapes, she outlined the tip of each segment, tracing his notas and pulling a low groan out of his throat. Wanting more, he wrapped his good arm around her waist and pulled her down into his lap.

The strong curves of her body settled heavily against him, pressing him further into the couch, her weight and heat instantly rekindling the spark that constantly lived in his chest, waiting for her. His hand wandered across the welcome thickness of her hips and thighs, then crept impatiently beneath her shirt. 

“I want to feel your arms around me, Alba.”

Rising to her knees, she slowed the forward roll of her hips. With deliberation and care, touching with fingertips only, she met his eyes and reached for the prosthetic arm. 

He stared at the device hanging from his shoulder and eventually shook his head. 

He reminded her: “Not my arm. Not anymore.”

Her face tightened with wounded comprehension. He sighed, heart surging, not wanting to explain. He squeezed her thigh with his good hand, cherishing the living warmth in his palm, and wished for sufficient words. Before he could find them, she removed the need. 

She pulled her nightshirt over her head. Leaning back on his lap to catch the meager light of the room, she bared herself for him completely.

Hard muscular planes shifted beneath pale skin seething with freckles. The alien but erotic swell of her breasts quivered in the new cold, and there... the jagged red lines of her numerous scars stood out like a web of lightning.  He moved his good hand to cover the wide mark between her breasts, repeating the same reverent kiss of fingertips he always paid to these darkened inches of her that did not survive unscathed.

He traced Hannah’s chest and felt her heart thudding beneath his hand. A wary smile crept across his face.

Every night, without exception, Hannah would win. 

He looked towards her hand, the one that still rested on his prosthetic arm, and conceded.

She tightened her grip. Gently, she lifted the strange black limb to cover the swell of her thigh, arranging it carefully, her fingers running delicate patterns over the tangle of electronics and mesh. He watched in silence. Allowing it, but feeling nothing. Looking at Hannah’s darkening eyes, the charged red flush of her skin, he understood how foolish it would be to waste this moment mourning a loss.

He wrapped the flesh and bones of his living arm around her waist to drag her down for a kiss. She caught his eyes, her smile wide and easy, then resisted him with all her strength. To capture her, he was forced to flex until his good arm burned with strain, a slow torture that set his entire body on fire. The weight of her hips, the scrape of her nails across his plates, all of her: commanding his blood. He felt a surge on his left side, Hannah gasped, and both of them stared at the prosthesis. 

For the first time, he recognized something of himself in that alien hand. The fingers were dug into the flesh of Hannah's hip, begging for her mercy.

Hannah's smile cracked open like an egg, bathing him with a rich golden warmth. She flooded into him. Her kiss was a thrilled pause, a bated breath waiting for his answer. With a rush of teeth and tongue, he opened his mouth and met her breathless daring with all of his own.

  

  

 

Chapter Text

If the evening’s frantic explorations had caused any damage, Albacus could not see it. After Hannah succumbed to exhaustion, he stayed awake, tenderly searching for bruises, scratches… but before long, his thin veneer of chivalry dissolved into dopey, post-coital awe - the simple pleasure of looking. 

Curled into his side, unblemished and tranquil as a warmed sunstone, Hannah slept deep and well - and beautifully, unselfconsciously naked.

When the distant ruckus of morning work began echoing through the air-ducts, she groaned and burrowed into his cowl. He flinched away, but was too late. Much as he might try to keep the inevitable at bay - even in the throes - Hannah usually managed to get the better of him. Unconscious but determined, she scraped her face against the textured broadside of his largest chest plate, and groaned with pain. 

Without opening her eyes, she frowned and pawed clumsily at her cheek, her skin already turning an injured pink.

Gently, he pulled her hand from her face. Gentler still, he pressed his mouth to her calloused knuckles, smoothing the bones of her hand with his thumb.

Still half-asleep, she yanked her hand out of his grip and stretched wildly. Arms akimbo, she treated him to new angles, new movements, all the soft edges of her nakedness made bold again. On base instinct, his hand cupped the hollow of her waist, wanting her closer. 

She opened one lazy eye, gave a lazier smirk, and settled into a mile-wide yawn. Greedy, languid arms draped around his neck; long, thin fingers meandered his fringe.

“Last night…” he began, intending to say something… more, perhaps something truly substantial, a short but crucial declaration… but when he paused to collect the words, a wicked grin cut across Hannah’s half-sleeping face, eating his resolve. 

She pulled him down, guiding his mouth to her open lips, another welcome taste of her unfamiliar intimacy. 

Unfamiliar… but home.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Consciousness returned in jagged pieces. Crushing flares of hot orange and blue and green that tore him to and from the dark. Screaming beneath it all was a never-ending, earthquaking noise, a catastrophic grinding, the resounding crack that signaled foul lighting, the severance of bone from muscle and spirit. 

At times, other sounds - the mad screams of battlefields and birthing - and all too familiar, from his own mouth. That awareness brought a terror so jarring he descended into mindless visions, nightmares without end. Of burning fields and ships adrift... of great towering hills of ash and blood... of a deepening night without stars or sound... of water overhead, rushing and churning... of water filling his lungs until every breath burned hungry and furious, annihilating...

At the end of it, he woke up crooked and choking. In his long, fitful sleep, his neck had shifted too deep into his carapace, cutting off his air. Perhaps in some misguided effort to help, someone had wedged Albacus sideways over something soft yet sturdy: pillows or blankets, maybe. The lurching angle leveraged his left side free of pressure, favoring his shoulder, which seemed strange, because… 

Albacus jerked and shuddered, hit by a painful blast of comprehension. As if in mutual awareness, his left side came alive with stunning violence: a web of pulsing, seething, nerve-hot agony shot down the length of his shattered arm. He almost heard it scream.

Jaw tight, he turned his head - neck moving slower than seemed correct - and saw two impossible things at once. First, where he felt his entire arm living and on fire, he saw only a seeping, bandaged stump… and beyond that, throwing his abrupt mutilation out of focus like the forgiving light of dawn, he saw Hannah Shepard slumped over in a chair.

His heart stopped, restarted, beat in reverse. 

Hannah.

Dead. Hannah, dead. No-- No. 

No, wait... never dead; all a trick. He remembered some of it in smoky flashes, the memories shaky and bent from the strain. His only certainty: everything was gone, everything that mattered… everything, except…

Her chest rose... fell... breath whistled through her nose. Asleep.

Impossible to say how long Albacus lay contorted, neck craned and straining with effort, watching Hannah sleep. Long enough that his body could not endure the willfulness of his heart, because before long a spasm of forked lightning sprang from his left side and forced him back into himself with an involuntary yelp.

Behind him, he heard Hannah spring out of her chair with a soldier’s automation, ready for anything, ready for death. Ready - he realized with pain and alarm - for his death.

Hannah tinkered with machines he could not see, checking and double-checking, his sole medical attendant. Between Albacus’ paralyzing pain and Hannah’s latent grogginess, it seemed to take several moments for her to realize that her patient was not only alive... but awake.

She stilled, universe suddenly quieting. Her small, short breaths measured the time of his pulse. “Oh my god.”

On instinct, he tried to reach to her with his left hand, but the impulse cost him dearly. Hissing, he curled deeper into his chest and croaked inaudibly: Help.

She clattered to the opposite side of the bed and knelt, staring awe-struck into his open eyes.

“Oh my god,” she said, pushing him into a more sustainable position. Oxygen renewed him, pain as well.

Oh my god, she repeated, over and over, a thoughtless litany that washed over him: her voice, her breath, her relief. Closing his eyes, he gratefully let himself be flooded. Oh my god.

He thought of Williams with a sudden, aching understanding. What would become of the human general? What would become of any of them, now?

He wished to ensure permanence, to tether them together with one final, delirious incantation. Her name, whispered as thanks, as payment for deliverance. He tried to say it, needed to say her name to solidify himself, but his throat closed tight-- too dry, too neglected.

Hannah. I never should have left you. 

The parts of him still left alive needed to prove their worth. His right side seemed willing to answer the call, so he forced himself to reach -- a jerking blur of pain and madness and total certainty.

Hannah. Let me stay.

Curling his hand around her neck, pulling her close, he saw the astonishing wetness of her tears.

“Kiss me.” The words startled him, his voice so hoarse and uncoordinated he barely recognized it. Not what he had intended to say, and yet...

She stared at him, unblinking.

Met with her silence and shock, he groggily corrected himself; maybe humans didn’t kiss. They looked so much like asari, but perhaps their minds were too different, their culture too hard and unyielding. Perhaps they had other means, other ways he might learn…

For the first time in his presence, Hannah smiled. Her inextinguishable spark bloomed radiant, a wild burn from a star flung out from the opposite end of the galaxy. Her hands framed his face, thumbs soft and slow and cautious. 

He pulled her closer, ignoring the pain, ignoring everything but her buoying nearness, her inability to perish.

Green eyes closed, hands tightened on his face, lips pressed firmly over the waiting, open planes of his mouth.

Stay. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Mordin looks out of place in Shepard’s quarters. White and sterile with a biting edge, he reminds her of cotton soaked in isopropyl. Seeing him here again, her eyes sting.

In a single blink, he takes the full measure of the room. Much has changed since his last visit. Fighting Reapers has stripped Shepard to essentials - barren fish tank and empty display case, a mountain of data pads. Cluttered grafts of Alliance wiring choke the floor.

He sighs and removes his gloves, an analytical gust. Long fingers trace bones and tendons. She leans closer.

“Soon,” he patters. “Somewhere sunny. Together.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Shepard wakes up all at once with a jolt and a strangled yelp, choking in the black. Out of that startling darkness, a blinding light, as if a Collector beam has been aimed at her retinas. She thrashes until the glare disappears, then feels the too-soft embrace of her mattress.

A few things are immediately obvious: her hands are shaking, she’s covered in sweat, and someone is sitting on the edge of her bed. The room drifts slowly into focus, a single puddle of dim orange light cast by an omni-tool. After a moment, Mordin manifests as the blurry silhouette the omni-tool is attached to.

“Like clockwork,” he whispers, scanning the space around Shepard’s temples. His voice is slower than usual, soft as the dark. “Right on schedule.”

He’s facing the head of the bed and dressed all in black, a liquid-tight sleep suit that is indistinguishable from the surrounding darkness. As he breaks his scan to smooth the hair from her face with strand-by-strand attention, she feels nurtured by a shadow.

She’s too disoriented to ask what he’s doing, but he’s never been one to require prompting.

“Nightmare. Nightly. O-three-thirty, give or take… ten, twenty minutes. Adding to log. Tonight’s subject: Collectors or Reapers?” Quieter, with a meaningful look into her face, he asks, “Destruction of SR-1?”

She blinks, coughing low in her throat to clear the night’s dryness, unsure whether she considers this compassionate or creepy.

“None of the above.” She finally moans, wiping her forehead. “There was this bug-eyed alien standing over my bed, shining a bright light into my eyes, saying he needed to probe me for science.”

A peek in his direction assures her that he’s smirking in his mad-scientist way, lopsided and disorienting, like some kind of funhouse mirror.

“Hmm. Troubling implications.”

She adds: “He was singing Gilbert and Sullivan the whole time. It was terrifying.”

Mordin’s weight has sunk a small gravity well into the mattress, and Shepard’s body has drifted toward him on pure physical impulse. Her stomach is mashed against his long thigh so tightly that his knee nudges her breastbone. She brings one arm across his lap and pulls him closer.

“Does this mean I’m crazy, doc?”

He resumes his quiet omni-tool scan near her temples, pitching his other arm like a tentpole on the far side of her waist. He leans over, shielding her in his not-quite embrace.

“Certainly,” he whispers. His voice is right next to her ear, tiny and intentional, raising all the trigger hairs on her neck. “Stark raving. No cure.”

She wraps sleepy arms around his waist and traps him in place. Enjoys the easy slide of his  night-suit in her palms, the smooth curves of his ribs and spine revealed as her hands wander, lazy and greedy for his attention.

He continues scanning, but tips his head this way and that, offering his cheek, his neck, his forehead. She kisses him lightly at each designated point of attack, tightening her arms with every press of lips to skin. When she can endure his absence no longer, she drags him under the sheets to join her for the night, forcing him to disengage the scan. He tut-tuts, but returns her embrace all the same.

He gathers her into the hollow of his chest. Surrounds her with his cool, willowy limbs. Whispers against the top of her head. The words run together; vague, unimportant, absolute nonsense. A rote patter of proteins and amino acids, anything to get Shepard’s mind to clear. After weeks sharing her bed, Mordin has an entire arsenal of meaningless lullabies. He deploys them with ever-increasing efficiency.

It only takes a few moments of his voice in her ear. Along her back, one hand traces the outlines of nerves, his fingers long and light. His other hand follows gentle, well-travelled paths through her hair. She drifts, drifts…  disappearing into his arms.

In the morning, he activates the omni-tool once more before she wakes. Recording a rare moment for posterity.

Shepard smiles in her sleep.

 

  

  

Chapter Text

Six months of silence. No word since her incarceration, not even a rumor. They’d never promised, never declared. She knew his limitations. Her own. No questions asked, there was work to be done. Her task: too honorable to ignore. His: too dangerous to share. They had mutually skirted and ignored, found alternatives, said goodbye.

It is only now, when he is one long step away, that Shepard finally misses him.

Buoying her is the memory of their reunion on Sur’Kesh. The slow, stunned slip of his eyes when he caught his first glimpse of her. The tremor in his grip when he took hold of her hand and squeezed, reluctant to let go.

Aboard the Normandy, Shepard waits for some sparse hint that Mordin’s feelings have survived their long intermission, but he is newly impenetrable. He twitters at his work station in med-bay, singing a constant trill of hypotheses and solutions, more alive than she’s ever seen him.

And more alone.

His work has changed. Grown exponentially in scope and meaning while leaving little room for anything else. The scientific breakthrough of a thousand lifetimes, all wrapped up in the glimmer of personal redemption. Gorgeous. Irresistible. Meant to be.

Mordin’s brief and brilliant existence has honed him for this singular task. Shepard understands completely. Curing the genophage will be Mordin Solus’ magnum opus - facing down the Reapers will be her own. Whatever grew between them while hunting the Collectors, it has no such grandeur.

Still, she struggles to put it aside.

She has exhausted every possible conversational excuse. Inquiring after Mordin’s progress on the genophage yields moments only. They are both consumed now, the work of the apocalypse is never finished. Thin: these cheap scraps of time scavenged between them, the underfed silence of his back.

Quiet and watchful, unwilling to leave even if she is not needed, Shepard claims the empty bed across from Eve and abandons all pretense. She locks hands on knees and gives meditation a wild shot, soaking a long breath through her nose. Just one minute of nearness, then she can leave.

Maybe two.

Nearly ten minutes later, she remains immobile. Every second is a theft that she can feel. Minuscule grains leaking from a sack of sand, a burden that grows heavier as it empties. She stares at a splendid madman set loose on his masterwork and feels incomparably small.

“You spend a great deal of time here, Commander. Is curing the genophage truly so important to you?”

Shepard stiffens head-to-toe. Eve’s quiet interruption has startled her heart into arrhythmia.

Shepard has been staring at Mordin for longer than is professionally excusable. Meanwhile, Eve has been staring at Shepard. Seeing everything. Possibly more than everything. The future and the past. The Commander’s hidden interior. Shepard has an embarrassing jolt: she’s become transparent.

She blames her negligence on the familiar white noise. The atmosphere of incorruptible purpose that Mordin carries behind him like a cold, clean wind. Caught in his weather, Shepard had let herself forget the obvious: Eve is calm company, easy to like, but she watches like a hawk.

“The genophage,” Shepard blurts, throat dry. “Yes. Curing the genophage. It’s very important to me.”

Feeling her blood rise, Shepard slides her gaze to the krogan shaman. Eve has already turned her careful attention Mordin, who is waving his omni-tool at a row of sterile beakers, apparently oblivious.

“I can see what really matters to you,” Eve mutters, almost inaudibly. “He can’t.”

Her voice is thick, but not unkind. After a moment, she stands and moves to Shepard’s bedside with an expectant look in her eye.

Shepard’s face tightens. A downward twitch of eyebrows, a thinning of lips, a blanching of skin.

She preps a full denial, but Eve’s eyes are crinkled with humor, a secret grin hidden beneath her veil. There’s no point pretending with her, she already knows.

Defeated, Shepard slumps forward so she can whisper to Eve on the margins of the bed. It feels girlish and stupid, and very nearly like relief. To her surprise, Eve steps closer and puts one of her huge, heavy hands over Shepard’s shoulder.

Shepard keeps her voice low. Between krogan hearing and Shepard’s cybernetics, they require little more than well-annunciated gusts of air.

“We have… history. But things are different now.”

“What changed? You or him?”

Shepard laughs bitterly. “The universe. The stakes. A fight on this scale, there’s no room for error… We can’t ignore the big picture.”

“All the more reason. The big picture is all around us.” Eve inclines her head towards Mordin with a grunt.“The only hope for my people is standing right there, talking to himself like a lunatic. By his own species’ standards, he’s a teetering relic. He’s been here for the last thirty-six hours, no food, no sleep. If he makes one wrong calculation, there’s no cure, no krogan help for the turians, no winning against the Reapers…”

Eve leans closer, then startles Shepard with a wink.

“If someone doesn’t make him shut up and rest for an hour or two, he might keel over any minute. He’ll die right in the middle of a song.”

Biting through a small grin, Shepard admits: “Yeah. Sounds like Mordin.”

Eve’s hand tightens on Shepard’s shoulder.

“Are you the same Commander Shepard that humanity keeps bragging about?”

Shepard squints, unsure.

“If you are that singular woman…” Eve looks back at Mordin, sizing him up. “He’s just a puny salarian. I don’t see what you’re so afraid of. Just sling him over your shoulder and run.”

Shepard’s face cracks into a smile so rare that her face aches. She warns: “He’s more dangerous than he looks.”

Eve gifts Shepard a meaningful look. “He’d have to be, to earn your attention.”

There is a pause while Eve allows Shepard a moment’s absorption, then the krogan claps Shepard’s back and pushes her off the bed. She mimes throwing a puny salarian over her shoulder and shoves Shepard toward the Professor.

“I’m going for a walk,” Eve declares, throwing her voice with enough force that Mordin freezes mid-pour. He looks up from the latest batch of test samples to give his professional opinion.

“Good idea,” he agrees, nodding. “Stretch legs. Invigorate circulation. Get snack, high protein content preferable. Hear Lieutenant Vega capable with egg-based dishes. Worth trying.”

“That’s debatable,” Shepard groans, shooting Eve a warning glance. “Vega’s love for the frying pan is based mostly on nostalgia, not practice.”

At the sound of Shepard’s casual drawl, Mordin turns. He seems to observe the Commander in entirety, his glance at once comprehending and complete. She realizes how stupid it was to assume he hadn’t overheard every word of Shepard’s conversation with the shaman. You can take the salarian out of the STG...

Eve says nothing more. She gives Shepard one last helpful nod, then walks out.

Mordin stares at Shepard, unwavering. A wide black glance she remembers all too well. He pierces clean through skin and bones, revealing the smoke and mirrors beneath.

“Grace. Stay a moment?”

Instantly, she feels dangerously unoccupied.

Panicking, she invents an injury to nurse. A week past due, a full set of fractured knuckles she’d earned punching a Cerberus thug who got too close. The bones are well set, bruises faded and yellow. Unworthy of attention, but she decides now is a perfect time to apply more medi-gel and tape.

She hurries to Chakwas’ unoccupied desk, then rummages through the CMO’s stash. Finding a box of field dressings, Shepard flops into the rolling chair. She skids six inches across the floor, spilling half of the box into her lap. A roll of gauze tape falls to the floor and giddily rolls across the room like a confrontation-seeking missile. Mordin observes its wild approach, allows it to bop into his foot, then bends to pick it up.

While he’s distracted, Shepard squirts medi-gel onto her right hand. She smears it in random whorls, barely remembering where the original injuries had been. She digs for another roll of tape, using her remaining clean fingers while awkwardly holding the goopy ones out of the way. Her blurred reflection stares out from the bottom of the aluminum box, heart pumping so furiously that her own pulse is deafening. 

A shadow falls over her lap, then she feels the naked weight of Mordin’s hand on her neck. He’s taken off his gauntlets.

She turns just enough to catch a glimpse of the rescued tape in Mordin’s other hand. Without a word, she snatches the roll and pulls a length of tape with her teeth. She tries to wrap her hand with it, but the tape slides through the medi-gel and sticks only to itself. Soon, there is a tangled mess, limp with wet. She tears it to pieces and starts over.

Mordin’s hand is still there. Warm and heavy, his touch moves into her hair. Deliberately, he drags his fingers through the downy growth at the base of her skull, outlining the origin of her spine. She shudders, losing her last shreds of concentration, and feels gooseflesh rising on every inch of skin. She rips off another ruined length of tape. Starts over.

The shadow grows darker as he moves closer, threatening to envelop her. He bends, inhaling the scent of unwashed hair with a shivering breath. His warm hand tightens on her neck, the first unconscious reflex he has allowed since his instant of reunited disbelief on Sur’Kesh.

He makes a sound she can’t categorize, like an inverted sigh of relief, then presses his lips into her hair.

She tries a third time, pulling another length of tape and trying to wrap her knuckles. But she can’t think. Can’t even count her own fingers. Mordin goes for her temple next, a firm shove of mouth to skull, trying to force some of his madness into her. She keeps wrapping, struggling to believe...

“Would prefer retiring to your quarters,” he whispers, tones narrowing as he moves closer. He breathes into her ear, forcing her into a full-body shiver so absolute it is almost a cringe. 

“Waited for invitation. Feared affection may be waning. Six months… long time. Long distance. Human beings often cannot sustain courtship emotions.”

She freezes.

“Courtship emotions?” Spell broken, she turns to glare at him.

Finds she has run straight into his trap, staring into a smile as wide as it is manic.

She splutters. “You’re the one who--” He captures her head in both hands, silencing her. 

A sharp inhale, then he kisses her forehead. The dense pressure of his lips, warm and dry, becomes her world entire. Shepard closes her eyes and sees an undiscovered color. The stain of his heart, scattered with stars.

  

  

  

Chapter Text

 

Look to the beaches of Virmire, slender and golden as the edges of dusk - or to the shaded understory of Sur’Kesh’s equatorial fern belt - or to the crisp fountain-fed pools that designate the central hubs of large colony ships and small space stations. There, you’ll find them. 

They escape to these rare green places whenever they can, her sparse half-weeks of leave woven together with his perpetual never-quite retirement. Now that you’ve found them meandering as they do, through sand or greenery or shallow water, you’ll see how one leans upon the other, moving with a slowness that aches to witness. Their poorly-matched strides force their shoulders together, but there is no friction in these collisions - instead, they seem to find a welcome nearness. His steps are long and rhythmic - hers, uneven as hopscotch. Somehow they keep pace, orbiting one another. He never lets go of her hand.

His unceasing, high-pitched natter has been going on for some time now, but if you listen closely, she knows precisely when to interrupt. There’s a well-rehearsed warning that laces through the way she says his name. It’s a powerful note, once sounded, that gets him to stop talking mid-sentence. 

Going still as a stone, he gapes at her candidly. His eyes fix on her the way children find the stars, reeling with discovery. This moment exactly - that’s when she’ll kiss him. Clumsily, maybe, a rough brush of lips against his wrinkled cheek or narrow jaw. Sometimes, if he stands still long enough, she’ll find the wandering curves of his mouth. 

He’ll close his eyes to enjoy this moment. One breath taken in silence… yes… perhaps two breaths today… 

…before he’s struck by another of his protracted, rambling epiphanies. He begins to talk again, to walk again, tugging her alongside. How renewed he looks, alighting on topics so nuanced and obscure that she can barely follow from one word to the next. She endures, a pebble drowning in his babbling stream. On they go in this way, treading slowly down a path as familiar as it is uneven.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Topaz,” she repeated, dumbstruck.

“Correct.”

“But… why?”

“Why not?”

She squinted at it, opened her mouth, closed it again. Not quite gold, not quite sepia, the pendant glittered with all the suggestive facets of expensive liquor as she turned it across her wrist.

“Basic color coordination,” he offered. “Brings out natural features: complexion, eyes, hair. Flattering.”

No matter how many times she blinked, she couldn’t rationalize that level of aesthetic consideration, that much quiet concern for her appearance. Not from him.

“EDI informed me: topaz signifies… friendship.” A hard sniff, signaling more to say, but he didn’t voice the rest.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Her head moves back and forth. The words, they won’t come. There’s only one command she needs now, and it’s trapped between her teeth.

No.

Flecks of ash land on the white of his shoulder - two gray freckles. She stares, confused, as the spots shift into a pulsing blur. Ash and salt, muddy rain. The world drowns.

The rough pad of his glove curves over her cheek. His palm, too cold. His outlines, sharp and deliberate as ever. A hard thumb tracing her cheekbone, her eye socket, taking final notes. Committing her to memory. Beneath their feet, something  trembles.

“No time,” he whispers. “My responsibility.”

“No.” Aloud, the word chokes her. “No.”

Both hands on her face now, sponging up useless tears.

“No.” Her own voice, disembodied and thin. Smoke on the air. Shaking, everything shaking. “There's got to be another way…” Denial. Bargaining.

His inhale, fast and deep. A tic so familiar it seems to fill her own lungs. Fingers tightening on her face, pulling her closer, foreheads crashing as they meet. She’ll feel that later, a fresh bruise, a reminder…

She can’t breathe. Spit and grit and fear. She chokes again, too much unsaid. A sound like laughing bent in half. “Please, no. No. Mordin, you can’t do this—“

Silence. For the first time, his mouth over hers. A kiss, soft as breathing. Their first and last, together.

The realization hits: a circle completed, inevitable and cruel. His hands frame her skull, covering her ears. Cradling her mind, pulling her closer. Disbelief. Terror. Her mouth gasps against his twisted, smiling lips. The taste of him, sharp as his smell: harsh and cleansing. Burning whiffs of menthol, of ether, of so much smoke, until her eyes and tongue and chest are all on fire. Met by salt wind from the sea; a flood of gentle breath transmuted from his mouth to hers.

Movement across her neck, embers biting in the breeze. Everything gone black. She opens her eyes. When did she let them close?

Showing his back, he’s already too far. She’s not fast enough. There’s no time.

A lifetime ahead, the door closes behind him.

He stops, turns. A moment, one long breath transforms him. Absolute and still, moving backwards through time. Eyes on her, his wrinkles unwind, his scars retreat. All of him, smiling.

Her fist rattles glass and steel. But this. This she cannot break.  

  

  

  

Chapter Text

 

Somehow, Shepard pulls herself up. This time, only halfway. After that, pain takes over. She freezes.

“Alright?” Mordin’s hands over hers, solid warmth his only reassurance.

She snarls, preparing to spit. “Stop fussing. I’m f—“

“Say fine once more,” his hands clench. “Kill you myself.”

Foolishly, Shepard laughs. Pain ricochets through her diaphragm, kidneys, ass, groin. “Oh shit,” she hisses, overcome by a grimace.“Shit.”

One more raging lurch. She screams through it, then she’s upright, balancing on new legs. Breath held tight, she wins a single second, two… then falls into him.

He smiles into her hair. “You’ll live.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Of all things, a shoe. That’s what finally breaks her.

Another session with Rayleth. This time the therapist has come to oversee a torturous marriage between footwear and prosthesis. To accomplish the feat, Shepard must bend at the waist, a newly grueling process. Carefully ratcheting her spine, each creaking degree arrives with a nauseating forward lurch and more pain than seems reasonable.

She’s got a metal foot now. It doesn’t need a shoe. She says as much - several times - but the facts don’t matter. The shoe is not the point.

Four hours of torture, then Rayleth leaves. When the door closes, Shepard weeps for ten minutes, unable to stop.

Afterwards, she practices. There is nothing left to do. Not until she can walk again. She pushes as hard as she can, bending, stretching, turning, sitting, standing… and then all over again from the top. Alone, she allows herself to scream through every inch. It’s the only way. There is nothing left to do.

By the time Mordin returns, Shepard’s throat is blood raw, and the sun is long gone. A casual observer might think she had gone out to the back porch to get a look at the sunset. Mordin knows better.

“How long?” he asks.

She shuts her eyes tight. Don’t cry. Saying nothing, she points to her half-empty dinner tray. The food had made her ill. After that, she hadn’t been able to get back up.

He frowns so deeply she can hear it. “Pushing yourself too hard,” he says. “Juggling too much.”

What else can I do? She’s trapped here.

Mordin, aging but able-bodied, has slotted back into his natural mode. After the Reapers, trapped on Shepard’s bruised home-world without hope of a Relay, Mordin had done the only thing he could. He went back to work.

Over long, lonely weeks, she saw less and less of him. Often, he slipped out before dawn and returned after dark. During brief, exhausted reunions, she listened to the details of his work without understanding it. It all eluded her: the scope of the fallout, the crush of his inevitable failure. With casualties so high, and that number always, always climbing, he had nothing to do but count.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Shepard—“

“Don’t know how else to look at it. Dalatrass has me up against the wall - can’t betray Wrex, or Eve, or my own principles! But not about me. Galaxy needs Crucible. Crucible needs scientists. Salarians have science out the ass.”

“Grace—“

“War Room. EDI. Ran every scenario. Twice, three times, again and again. Rock and hard place. Without salarians, Crucible Project keeps stagnating. Without krogan and turians, ground forces DOA. Need manpower. Need brainpower. Need every power. Need—“

Six instant bruises on her arms. The pain quiets her. She blinks. “Need to—”

With a rough grunt, he turns her about-face, lifts her nearly to her tiptoes. Kisses her. Not briefly, not off-handedly, not in that not-quite, almost-there, was-that-intentionally-off-center-or-are-you-just-distracted way he’s used before. 

No. He kisses her. Roundly, squarely, he kisses her until contradicting shapes appear on the back of her eyelids, hard and sharp and lush and tranquil. He kisses her, until she breathes his bracing air, absorbing his sharp green dart of breath like a tranquilizer to the base of her spine.

“What was that for?” She eventually says, not quite breathing.

She feels his smile, his words on her teeth. “Commander Shepard… pacing? Babbling? Sounding like half-mad geriatric salarian…”

She opens her eyes, feels herself smiling involuntarily; a slow, crooked muscle that twitches a little from lack of use.

His forehead touches hers. “No one needs that.”

 

 

  

Chapter Text

Shepard dangles the data-pad from her hand, pushes play. From his upright position on the couch, Mordin stiffly turns to listen. His own voice smart-asses through the apartment in echoing bursts like a weird, rude laugh.

When they reach, “had broken Omega’s one rule… in more ways than one,” Mordin lowers his tea, his already wide eyes growing wider still.

He starts: “Where—“

“On my floor.”

“On… your floor.”

“On my bedroom floor.”

He blinks, a willfully slow non-reaction - telling in and of itself.

She settles onto one judgmental hip. “You didn’t put this there, I take it.”

A sharp tick of his head to the left: no.

She looks at the data-pad, reading the entry over again, holding in a doubtful sneer. “Did this actually happen? You… and Aria?”

A deliberately slow sip of tea: yes.

Silent confirmation aside - it’s just not possible. She shakes her head. “No. You didn’t. But, even if you… no. Why— when did you even record this?”

A rapid, characteristic inhale: damn. 

She raises her eyebrows, waiting. After a brief stare-down, he confesses. “Karin Chakwas. Jeffrey Moreau… Alcohol.”

Well. Last night had turned into that kind of party, after all.

Still, Shepard feels her face going into contortions - what sort of expression she’s telegraphing him, she can hardly guess. Mordin Solus in flagrante delicto with the queen of OmegaMordin Solus drinking like a sailor and narrating his own ancient, impossible sexcapades.

“Should I be jealous?” She isn’t, but it seems only polite to offer.

He laughs, stands, brushes himself off with bare hands. Still clad in that neat black suit (now rumpled from a night of entertaining) he looks young and disheveled, almost a stranger. He pulls the data-pad from her hand and looks at it with glowering distaste: assigning a failing grade to his own last-minute essay before tossing it to the floor.

“Waste of time,” he says, possibly meaning four or five different things all at once.

His fingers wind into her hair, pulling her up onto her toes. His kiss descends: soft, precise… unusually hungry. She tastes the final, stubborn molecules of Serrice Ice Brandy on his breath, and leans into that temporary burn, light-headed.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Crushed by the Citadel. Shepard laughs - maybe - or thinks about laughing, or chokes on a lump of clotting blood in just such a way that her dying echo sounds like laughter… hard to tell anymore.

Her head won’t move, but her eyes tilt far enough; she looks down. She can see the wreckage, the crumpled bones of her hips married in fatal gore to a twenty-foot wall of Reaper-built concrete. Seems like such a big rock for such a small twig, but here it is, killing her with gusto.

Grateful, finally, for how much blood is gone, she can’t feel a thing. She tries and fails to find the sky behind twisted lengths of rebar overhead; imagines herself on a beach. That’s the way... 

She counts two hour-long blinks, her eyes too heavy for all this weight… it’s the Citadel, after all, and she’s just a tourist…

Sensation returns. Slowly, in ebbs and flows, a wet swell of salt water laps at her knees, her waist, and down again. A hot flare reddens the dark behind her eyelids; she squints and raises a hand, opens her eyes to find a rose-dark sunset. It’s still warm, but the light is fading…

She sits up. Before her, the vast teal of the sea stretches into eternity, gathered toward the orange glow of a silent, dying sun. Beneath her, the cool grit of sand sucks at her legs. She wonders if there are seashells...

To her right, she hears a distant splash. By the time she turns to look, he’s already arrived, offering something, a small gift. Flattered, she reaches out and accepts, thumbing a plain, rough whiteness: a sand dollar?

With a kindly shake of his head, he sits down. A swirling rush of waist-high water blankets them as he settles at her back. Reaching around her, he embraces her in his long, pale arms.

His hands cup her fingers, guiding gently until she flips the shell to reveal its tempestuous rainbow belly: streaks of iridescent oil-black smeared against gemstone-rich greens and royal purples. With interlocked thumbs, they trace the swirls, this easy kiss of skin reminding her of something - old songs, older lullabies.

Gently, gently, his arms enfold her. She leans against his open chest, eyes heavy. Thin lips whisper on her temple, the worn edges of his grateful smile singing her to sleep.  

Growing tall with froth, the tide recedes... then comes rolling softly back, closing over their heads. One last lovely breath to help the sun go down.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s when the Professor descends into pitch-perfect Gilbert and Sullivan that Shepard realizes: she’s never seen a drunk salarian before.

Until now, she’d secretly suspected the entire species incapable. Crazy-fast metabolic rates - along with a widespread plague of stick-in-ass syndrome - seemed to suggest that galaxy-wide, salarians accounted for several billion founding members of Teetotalers Anonymous.

But no. No.

Currently, Mordin Solus, PhD, is very, very drunk, as drunk as anybody in this so-called “quiet” get-together in Anderson’s proffered bachelor pad. Possibly he’s a good deal drunker than the rest of them, just to prove the point. 

He carries his full-body inebriation the way intellectuals usually do: with suspiciously perfect posture and a wealth of fascinating, incomprehensible noise. He’s balanced on the rattling lid of a grand piano, belting out five-syllable latinate lyrics, attended by an eager audience of at least six… eight fellow idiots? Grunt and Jack foremost and loudest among them.

Jack hollers: “Show us your ankles, doc!” then turns to Shepard and uncharitably adds, “Unless you and Shepard haven’t gone that far yet…”

A slim hand finds the small of Shepard’s back, patting gently: there-there. Tali’s slurred flotilla accent, muffled further by her fogged-up helmet, hovers somewhere near Shepard’s left eye and whispers conspiratorially, “It’s okay, Garrus and I haven’t gone all the way either.”

Shepard buries her face in her hands, muffling her pained groan. Good LORD.

Listening to the closing notes of Mordin’s lightning fast re-interpretation of… whatever the fuck opera this is… she realizes that when sober, he’s positively abbreviated.

A round of lopsided but enthusiastic applause greets his final, impressive high note. Shepard spares one hand to beat three stoic claps against the bar, keeping her other hand glued to her face. Through her fingers, she watches him dismount from the piano with the same elegant, lanky disregard for personal safety that she has previously only seen him employ in the field when dodging incoming fire.

He makes a beeline for her - for the bar. Acting barkeep Joker offers a tall glass of water, which the Professor knocks back in one enthusiastic swallow.

“Are you done?” She mutters this into her palm, not meaning any harm but desperate for any excuse to hide the involuntary blush of moronic attraction that has stained her face the color of blood-soaked earth.

Mordin slams his empty water glass to the bar; Joker looks at it, shrugs, then throws it in the sink. There it clinks ominously against a pre-existing mass grave of glassware, but does not break. Meanwhile, the pilot’s prying eyebrows shoot all the way into the brim of his hat.

“So. Are you two really—“

“Go ask your robot wife, Jeff.”

“Yes Sir Commander Sir.” Joker pivots on one braced heel and evacuates in EDI’s general direction.

Mordin’s hand curls around Shepard’s bowed neck. His palm is ice cold, dampened by his drink. He’s close enough that his shadow feels hot by contrast, his breath coming in exhilarated bursts.

“Need some quiet?” he asks. She peers up, sees him tilt his head toward the upper mezzanine - suggesting the privacy of a distant bedroom.

She opens her mouth to say no, but finds that… yes. She could use a minute. The room is swaying with music, with the intoxicating banter of camaraderie. The most beautiful kind of noise, but overwhelming in the extreme.

Yes. A minute alone. Just the two of them; just what the doctor ordered.

She doesn’t have to say anything, he’s already read it in the loosening of her shoulders. He swoops down, plants a kiss on the rumpled crown of her hair.

Blissfully he murmurs, “meet you there.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Sloppy. Job half finished.”

His bright gaze cut across her mouth, just as quickly cutting away, flaring like acetylene.

“Admit it.” Pulse quickening, she plucked sticky threads of hair out of her smeared lipstick. “You’re getting off on this.”

He stepped closer, squinting.

“No sex drive,” he reminded her.

She sneered. “Don’t need much libido to get high on a power trip. Bet I make for a quality experiment, a hilarious story to tell at your next mad scientist potluck.“

He pressed one slender arm into the wall and leaned forward, thumb grazing her throat.

“Would never dream… of mockery.”

  

  

  

Chapter Text

 

Solus pointed at the sloppy cupcake wrapper, lip curling. “All you’ve eaten?”

Shepard leaned back in the Professor’s chair, knocking her boots against his desktop. “That, and this purple dancer down at Afterlife…”

No reaction. He mumbled to himself, rummaged through a cooling unit.

“Need protein. Five attempts for antecubital IV, trembling! …Pathetic.”

“Hey!” She bristled. “I got it done.”

He returned holding an uncapped liquid MRE, loomed over her until she swallowed it down.

“Now,” he said, voice gone dark. “About your posture.”

He grabbed her ankle, yanked her foot clear to his chin, and remotely locked the door.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Weaknesses?” His hand hovered above the data pad, waiting.

She scoffed. “What, like my Kryptonite?”

A hard thud as the data pad hit the desk. His fingers steepled together. Abruptly, the mood became more serious, more dangerous than ever. “Not a joke. Absolutes. Things I never do. Lines we don’t cross. Safety. Trust.”

She squinted, unsure, then found her eyes magnitized to a clump of street slime on her boot.

“Necessary framework,” he prompted. “Please.”

“Leave my asshole alone!” She stopped short, surprised by her own outburst. “And… I fuck who I want. Not just you.”

He grinned. “Of course.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Feel that?”

She shivered. “Yes.”

“Know what this is?”

Sharp, her brain screamed. Knife, razor, scalpel - the specifics were irrelevant. Metal with an edge, cold and pristine. With it, he drew a clinical line straight between her breasts. Pressing deeper with each downward inch. Soon he’d run out of sternum, start trespassing over vulnerable belly. 

“Guess, Shepard. Quickly. Or I’ll have to show you.”

“I don’t know,” she yelped. “A knife.”

He slashed. She screamed, but the pain never came. Against one cheek, he pressed the truth: a blunted forceps. To her other cheek, he gifted one soft, dry kiss.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“This all looks expensive. How did you—“

“Saved many lives. Some patients…” A considered pause, bordering on disgust. “Well connected.”

She pursed her lips. That was one way to collect blood money.

He seemed to sense her silent disapproval. “Yes. Distasteful. Spent majority of… donations… on new equipment, improved facilities, better defense systems.” He looked to the closed wall compartment of his lab, smirking. “Also, insulting amount of sexual paraphernalia.”

She palmed the bottle of perfume, heavy and unused, the rich amber liquid tinkling luxuriously against the glass.

“This doesn’t count.”

His stillness told her just how wrong she was.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

  

The dress was short, but shortness was the least compromising thing about it. Until now, Shepard had never worn anything that required its own special anti-chafing lubricant. 

First time for everything. 

Latex stretched across her like liquid plastic, a second skin of squeaky, rubberized black. Beneath all that, practically vacuum-sealed, Shepard’s obvious, mandatory bare-assedness occupied its own rare and wholly separate category of “well shit here goes nothing.”

Easing her weight from heel to clicking heel, she felt lifted and separated in areas she didn’t know could be lifted or separated. Across the empty, mostly dark access corridor, she found the Professor’s well-adapted bug eyes peering at her from his perpetual self-made shadow. He looked amused.

Instantly, she felt stupid - uniquely and irredeemably so. She’d agreed not to piss and moan about this, but…

She lifted her arms hopelessly, then crossed them firmly across her explosion of cleavage. Shaking her head, trying to laugh it off, she settled into a rough but familiar military stance… and realized that she probably looked like a cross-dressing jarhead out on a dare.

“No way this will work. No asari vampire is ever gonna buy… this.” She gestured helplessly to… everything. 

He smiled. In Omega’s scarlet dark, it was difficult to tell what kind of smile it was. Murderous, merciful… some dire combination of both? He approached slowly, hands clasped behind his back - that familiar feeling of distant academic appraisal falling over her as he circled nearer. Eyes ticked down her chest, her legs, head tilting thoughtfully. A brief tour of the rear, then he parked immediately in front of her and casually loomed.

“Just the thing to help.”

She felt his fingertips on her inner thigh, a touch so unexpected that she twitched and felt the jiggle of her own startled meat.

His fingers squeezed, firm enough to imitate a clinical inspection… almost. Two fingers quickly gave way to the groping length of his palm, and he cupped the angular, sweat-slick seam between her groin and thigh so tightly that she lost her balance and tripped forward, staggering close enough that his breath licked at the startled moisture in her eyes.

Automatically, she wetted her lips.

His smile returned, jagged as a crack of rust. His head tipped closer, closer…

Slap. Something audibly struck her outer thigh. Yelping, she looked down.

Working quickly, precisely, he was strapping her into a gun holster. A sleek custom number made to fit her favorite pistol. Too surprised to think first, she laughed. 

“Thought you said guns were boring?” Feigning arrogance, she turned her face back to his and found him so close that the menthol of his skin burned her throat.

She felt the holster tightening notch by bruising notch. 

“In your case…” He closed the final inch, placing one brief, off-kilter kiss on the twitching crease of her laugh line. “Less boring.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s getting worse. All of it.

First, the sticky fingers. With Lexi’s help, Kallo masters control of his nuptial pads in the span of a few concentrated hours. He is able to resume his duties at the helm with no one the wiser.

The next morning when Suvi walks onto the bridge with her coffee, she telegraphs Kallo a friendly side-eye and asks about Ryder, but gives up when her third attempt at casual chatter meets a wall of silence. He almost feels bad about it. Almost.

No use spreading rumors. There’s nothing to spread. Nothing is going to happen. He’s not about to mire the Pathfinder in a swamp of uncomfortable biological inconveniences. She has much more important things to worry about. Rebuilding civilization takes precedence over the alarming and foreign developments in Kallo’s crotch. 

Salarian mating season: even he doesn’t want any part of it.

The season should last four weeks at least, eight at most. Hard to say. A few months of hell before Kallo can get back to normal. Lexi forwards more information than he knows what to do with. Terabytes of pamphlets and diagrams, one worrying link to a discreet manufacturer of plastic sheeting and other “interspecies play aides,” terrifying videos of adventurous (and well-compensated) asari maidens splashing around in pools with salarian partners.

Kallo can’t even make it past the video thumbnails, can barely look at those e-mails at all except to freeze in surprise and spend a few brief seconds obsessing over Sara’s body instead of his own. What she might really look like under all that pretense, the scuffed leather and showy grins…

He avoids the terminals after that. No. Thank you, but no. Too confusing.

So, he gets his hands back under control. Fabulous. Also, fruitless. Hours after that victory, his body begins to itch.

Everywhere, every inch of skin alive with pain as if Kallo is due for a terrifying biannual molt. He’s not, Lexi reassures him. His body is just flooding with hormones that are readjusting his natural excretions, he might notice some flare-ups. Nothing to worry about, the doctor coddles, Kallo is only preparing to transform from the outside-in, apparently.

Somehow that thought is less comforting than the somewhat more relatable prospect of shedding his epidermis whole like a snake.

So, he showers. Constantly. Sometimes twice a day, alternating hot and cold. Blessedly, the itching stops.

But then, of course, along comes something worse. His skin begins to… seep. Moisture beads out of every pore, covering him in something clear and slick and flavorless. He’d prefer not to call this newest development lubricant like Lexi does with a clarity and ease he refuses to understand, but he can’t seem to find a better name for it either.

One afternoon while Ryder is off punching lowlifes in Kadara port, Kallo paces across the galaxy map station, desperate for an occupation. Uncharacteristically out of his seat, standing because he can’t bear the pornographic mess that now constantly lines his suit, he grimaces and rubs his fingers together. He evaluates the ease of the slip.

Dammit, it’s lube. It’s definitely lube.

“You have the bridge, Suvi. I’m going to take a long shower,” he announces, bolting for the door.

Suvi jumps. As Kallo sprints aft, she turns to watch his retreat.

“Now? Right now?”

“Yes, right now!”

The doors close over her baffled reply and Kallo throws himself down the port crew ladder, rungs forgotten. He comes to a hard stop at the lower deck and realizes his hands have left a smear on the flawless chrome side rails. He yelps, staring at his palms with accusatory horror, then charges into the shower.

The shower, which is occupied.

By Ryder.

To her credit, Ryder barely flinches, but her face does look plenty startled. She’s not naked, which is a small miracle, but she’s close enough. Only a damp towel between Kallo’s imagination and the hair-covered madness of human anatomy. One of her legs is up on the waterproof bench outside the communal shower stall, and she’s picking at a bright red rash that covers a quarter of her calf.

“You. Kadara. On. Kadara. There. Kadara. Punching.”

Ryder stares at him, blinking with the slow awe of a sunbathing lizard.

Unforgivably, he doesn’t leave immediately. He can’t tear his eyes from the glittering hollow at the base of her neck. Why is she here? Oh just leave. He can’t leave. Her hair is wet. The room smells like her. The soaps she uses, Ryder’s signatures, invisible and private. He’d never realized it before. Of course, it’s the soap. Stop panicking. Leave. Leave.

She takes in a deep breath, apparently on his behalf as well as her own, then slowly says,

“I got some of that local hell water in my suit. Hurt like a bitch, so I called off the rest of the scouting. I needed a break from that place, a nice long shower. I told you that twenty minutes ago when I cleared decon…”

“You… did?”

He can’t remember, which fills him with terror like he’s never felt.

He should say something. Now. Explain. He wrings his slippery hands, wishing they were sticky again. Wishing any single part of his body would pick a setting and stay there for longer than half a day.

“Kallo, are you okay?”

She doesn’t touch him, she’s too polite, but there’s something in her posture that warns she’d prefer to be touching him if given the chance. Would that be so bad? Probably. Should he leave? Definitely. Yes definitely, he should leave. Why isn’t he leaving? 

Sara, fiddling with the top edge of her towel, which has loosened and drooped dangerously down her chest.

Sara, her hair pearled with moisture that drips to her shoulders in tiny droplets that Kallo can’t help but follow with his eyes. 

Sara, staring up at him with her quiet, parted lips, the rock in her throat bobbing as she swallows nervously beneath his unblinking scrutiny. 

Sara, suddenly closer, moving her face into his hand when some rogue internal force compels him to step further into a room he should be fleeing from and touch his fingers to her cheek.

“Your hand is wet,” she says, pushing herself further into his grip. No. Away. Move away.

“Sorry,” he breathes, forgetting other words like weird and foolish and mayday.

She asks carefully, “Did you need something from me?”

He feels his head slowly shaking back and forth no, though he can’t remember any such impulse leaving his brain.

She inches closer and rephrases.

“Do you want something from me?”

He stands there, unable to move forward or back, his only movement the slow horizontal surrendering of his head.

“Well fine," she gripes. "Be stubborn about it. I want something from you,”

Slow enough to grant him an easy escape, she brings her lips to his.

He’s never kissed anyone before. He thinks the event is strangely uneventful, considering all the fuss people make over it.

But, still…

Sara’s lips are pillowy, moistened by the sweat of the shower, and almost painfully warm. Her skin smells distinctly clean, like something uniquely expensive and well cultivated. He thinks of the hydroponics bay on the Nexus, then thinks he shouldn’t be thinking about that at all, then thinks he’s thinking too much to be any good at this and that he should probably stop.

She presses her face against his for a few quiet moments, her lips tightly closed, keeping herself still and careful. After a long pause, she tries to pull away.

She tries and fails: Kallo follows her when she retreats. He follows her so thoroughly that they wind up backed into the shower stall, forehead to forehead, mouth to mouth, arms in a tangle. When Sara’s back meets the wall, she breaks away to catch her breath.

He can’t stop staring at her mouth, the mouth that has just kissed him, the mouth of Sara Ryder, the woman he inexplicably wants to kiss again.

His hand finds her cheek once more, and his thumb trails toward her lips. He stares, enraptured by the automatic certainty of his own movements. A trail of glistening lubricant, his lubricant, tattooing her face with an indecent mystery streak. 

He shudders with disgust or fascination or something newer and more terrifying than both. In one halting breath, he sweeps his thumb over her lips, spreading the moisture across her mouth.

Without warning her tongue darts out, all pink curiosity. He watches her take a sample into her mouth, bold and foolhardy as ever. His fingers tighten on her face and his thumb drags forcefully along her bottom lip, smearing in wider, harder strokes.

Stupid, the both of them. What if he’s excreting poison? Does he care? Does she care? Lexi would have warned him if he was going to excrete poison. 

Maybe.

Sara’s eyelids droop with intoxication, but she doesn’t choke or die. She bites her lip, grazing the tip of his thumb in the process.

He’s wondering when his legs got so shaky. Have they always been this shaky? Sara holds him up, wrapping her arms around his waist and yanking him closer.

He closes what little gap remains, crashing into her open mouth. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with his tongue - if he’s even allowed to use it at all - but he knows he wants to explore the alien sweetness of her, a naked flavor newly salted with his own. In the end it’s little more than a benign mix of spit and skin.

But the feel of her mouth, lubricated and slippery. The press of her tongue. The scrape of her teeth biting his lower lip. The sound when she whines and nudges their hips together.

That… That is something else.

He drags his greased hands along her face, her neck, the wild territory of upper chest that peeks out above her towel. Her skin grows slicker with each grope, and the more freely she slides against him, the more excited she seems to get. He seems to get. They’re both very excited, and everything is slippery. He’s never been this excited. 

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the excitement itself that is different.

Different, he decides, might not be entirely terrifying. At least with Sara.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“It’s here.”

The funerary tone is an accident, but Kallo’s terror is real. Concern instantly darkens Sara’s face. “What’s wr—“

Grimly, he offers her the box. It balances blandly on his palm, too big and too small all at once.

Sara’s mouth softens into a silent O, and she steps closer.

Throat dry, he stammers. “I thought… we could… together?”

She does the honors while he holds on for dear life. Inside, they find just what the doctor ordered. A custom pour in flattering sienna, double-ended, ‘satisfaction guaranteed…’

“Nervous?” she asks.

He wheezes helplessly — then kisses her full-force.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Given another lifetime, Kallo might learn to to anticipate Sara’s speed bumps. For now, it’s all gut and intuition.

She bucks into his mouth, the blade of one hip narrowly missing his eye. He latches on tighter, pushing her down with his free hand until bio-luminescent water splashes around her thighs.

Almost there. Tongue, fingers, heart: all aching with commitment… then she’s strung tight as a bowstring, stabilized by her long, sweet climax. She comes down quiet, rippling the water at his waist. Purple, green, blue.

Smiling, she reaches beneath that kaleidoscope and wraps her fingers around him.

“Ready?”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Liam’s cold laundry occupies the dryer. A few undershirts - likely an honest mistake. Not like that load of strange, oversized angaran underwear. But… that had been a prank. Surely. Hopefully.

Kallo moves the shirts into Liam’s locker - after a quick courtesy fold - then starts his own washing. In they go: white, white, white. Until… his hand comes up sky blue.

Terrorized, he wonders how the Pathfinder’s underwear got mixed up with his own. In a disorienting flash, he remembers.

Last night. 2430. Her hands, her mouth. Everything sticky, pulsing like the color pink.

Oh.

The machine dings, begging for soap.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Kallo, you can let go now.”

He comes to his senses, but doesn’t budge. Again, his hands twitch over hers, subtle as screaming.

More nervously, she chuckles. “I studied! I read all the manuals. I did that stupid little video game simulator you sent me. I won! Like fifty trillion different scenarios—“

“It’s not that.” His voice is weak, startlingly so. Clearing his throat, he moves closer to the back of her chair (his chair) until he’s flattened himself. Again - forever - he tightens his hands over hers.

“So what am I doing wrong?” She turns her head, a cutesy quirk that hides the small, soft pain of his imaginary doubt. Looking up at him, her familiar eyes gleam, wet and dark and sweet.

One direct look from her and he’s overtaken by a smile so broad and uncontrollable it cracks his face in half. “No! You’re beautiful— I mean, beautifully.” Another cough. “Doing beautifully.”

It all comes bubbling up - pride and excitement and a distinctly less-than-professional enthusiasm radiating from every extremity - and after that he can’t, he just can’t… 

Trying to bury it is no good. He shakes his head and laughs. 

He kisses her temple with wild certainty, nudging at her with his mouth until she turns back to the console with a relieved chirp.

One breath more, then he lifts his hands away.

“Fly.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kallo hears Sara pacing on the gangway. The uneven clang of her anxiety echoes down in short, tense staccato.

“Stop hovering,” he says, shifting the weight of his latest load. “Go have that drink you promised  Bradley. We’re handling it.”

Maybe not the brightest thing to say, in retrospect, but—

“You shouldn’t have to handle it! I should be handling it! Why are all of you doing my heavy lift—”

Liam interrupts: “Because I needed to work on my core.” He winks to Kallo and slaps his stomach, showing the barest signs of a small, amateur beer gut. Grunting and greatly pleased, Liam guides a cart loaded with heavy crates out of the Pathfinder quarters and down to the loading bay.

Peebee follows close on Liam’s heels. “Don’t be so dramatic, Ryder.” Easier said than done: she’s carrying boxes with flashy blue biotics. Kallo makes a mental note: that’s the last of the so-called “personal effects.” Armor, guns…

Above, Sara pauses momentarily, then redoubles her pacing. Vetra passes on her way to pick up another armful and gives Kallo a meaningful nudge. Universal code: better talk to your S.O.

Kallo sets down his box with a sigh (the only box that’s theirs and not just Sara’s, this one feels extra fragile…) He tucks it behind a bulkhead. That one is personal.

He leans on the port ladder, peering up but not climbing. “Sara…”

She answers with a childish grunt through an audibly tightened jaw. Not quite a no, more of a nuhhhhh.

He takes a few steps up the ladder until he can see her feet and lowers his voice. “You knew this would happen eventually.”

Thinking back… another poor choice of words; he flinches even as he says it.

“Well,” she huffs. “Why can’t I can’t be the Pathfinder forever?”

He laughs because he doesn’t know what else to do and gently swats at her passing ankle. She pauses and peers back out of the corner of her eye. Her arms are crossed, a bottle of fruity angaran liquor nestled against her chest like a swaddled baby.

“For one,” he blurts, still smiling, “my heart can’t take it.”

“No fair.”

Immediately, he agrees. It’s not fair. Sara deserves to be out there, exploring, paving the way for the rest of them, Kallo right beside her all the way. But… no. Solid ground first. Adventure and mayhem… later.

He shakes his head, sees her face, and realizes she was talking about something else.

“Using your heart against me,” she says, sounding clumsy. With a lurch, she rounds on him and her face softens into a familiar smirk.

What, he almost says. Sara drops to the deck, knees first. Booze in one hand, she blearily flattens herself and leans over the landing. With her huge round eyes, her mischievous glint, she reminds him of the pyjak.

“C’mere and kiss me, ya big softie,” she mutters.

Kallo throws Sara his best annoyed face, not annoyed at all. “Plenty of time for that when we’re all moved in.”

A few stray hoots and hollers carry up from the peanut gallery. Liam giggles through the first lines of some human nursery rhyme about sitting in trees before Vetra slaps the incentive right out of him.

Sara’s slow, wide-grinned slurry melts over his face: “We’re moving in together,” she says, luxuriating in it. Spoken with such poetic reverence, it seems like the most gorgeously significant sentence ever uttered.

He nods, some of her drunken awe soaking through him. Yes, Sara and Kallo, Kallo and Sara, figuring out how this is supposed to work, all alone on Prodromos. No more Pathfinder Initiative, but there were other adventures worth having, other trails to blaze…

Her hands close on his head. Oh.

Stretching up on tippy-toe, he lets her pull him the rest of the way. A rough kiss on sloppy terms, he feels her teeth sliding beneath her lips and hopes she hasn’t hurt herself. All the same, she is warm and sweet and she clings for dear life and… she needs to breathe. He puts his hand on her elbow and tugs a few times as if searching for a release valve; she finally relents, breaking away with a quiet whine.

“We’re going to be fine,” he says.

All things considered, still far from an ideal response, but… getting better.

He’ll learn.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

  

It wasn’t that Joker’s story was boring — if anything, it was slightly too interesting to believe — but Garrus was so very drunk, and the bar so very dark, and it all seemed so very far away…

Joker’s voice began to drift across Garrus’ hull, an exciting but unrecognizable star-field stretching into an incomprehensible blur. For a while, Garrus nodded and made appropriate listening sounds, but before long, even that center lost its hold.

In the far corner, two people sat talking amongst themselves, and Garrus couldn’t look away. A quiet, elegantly dressed human girl and her gregarious salarian friend, that was all. At first, they made a sort of mirror to Garrus and the babbling flight lieutenant. Seemingly distracted by her thoughts, her eyes stayed glued to the table while her friend gestured onward and upward in broad strokes, ordering the drinks.

They were normal, they were young. Theoretically they were nobodies, but Garrus knew better than to put faith in anonymity during wartime. The longer he looked, the more he wondered their names, their reasons for being there together. They made an usual pair, even now, even here on the Citadel where interspecies cooperation was the song of the hour…

What familiarities must have been lost, to find comfort so far from home?

Colleagues? No. The girl was all civilian, prim and slight, with a tendency to tuck her hair behind her ear - a nervous tic. Her companion was a soldier — off-duty armor worn like a badge, prized and gleaming. A sure sign things could only get worse, he looked new to the war effort. New to a lot of things, maybe, caught up in the glory of his own purpose, radiating the wide-eyed, work-obsessed certainty young male salarians tended to spew. But they learned fast, which was a different kind of tragedy.

The pair were sitting too far away to eavesdrop on, but at this distance Garrus could see the color of their conversation. Despite the boy’s performative enthusiasm, there was a shakiness in his arms, a darting wildness in his broad, wet eyes. A lack of replies from the girl, the weight of her shoulders like an anchor dragging her friend back down, closer and closer. They sat on a shared bench that seemed to grow narrower with each long pause, as if the space between them was subject to a rift, a deepening wrinkle. The boy’s eyes always returning to her face, the sad half-shrug of her mouth; his stories told for her benefit. When the smiles grew thinner, he moved closer, lifted his hand to her shoulder as if he wanted…

But no. That would have been strangest of all.

Garrus tried to focus, to stop staring, to look back at his own table-mate and listen to whatever the hell Jeff was still talking about, but the strangeness on the other side of the room became an inescapable weight, a density of shadow and sympathy that Garrus found impossible to avoid.

She wasn’t smiling at all now. The girl had turned inward. Her face was shadowed - perhaps crying, perhaps embarrassed, perhaps neither of those things and something more complex. The boy closed the final inches. His fingers on her neck, pulling her back from the long brink neither would see coming, a deep and inevitable collapse. She turned her head away: nervous, terrified, but he caught her there, held on for dear life, hands on her face, thumbs tracing patterns only a lover could see.

The girl was speaking very quickly now, using words the boy must taste; those broken sentences forced out between uneven breaths and bitten lips. Staring at her mouth, he pulled her closer, closer…

A hand flew into Garrus’ face. “Hey. Normandy to Gar—”

Garrus pulled Joker’s wrist down to the table like a strangled captive. Sniper quiet, he put a strict finger across his own mouth, then pointed.

Girl and boy were locked together now, would stay that way for quite some time — as long as their time could last... considering.

Looking at Garrus’ hand over his own, Joker quipped, “I’m not kissing you,” but his voice masked the same distant recognition, the same sadness, that Garrus currently felt running through his gut. “For one,” Joker laughed, “I can’t take Shepard in a fight.”

Garrus squeezed Joker’s hand once, with feeling, then knocked back his drink.

 


 

the AMAZING  asketchbookthing has made art for this drabble, and I'm BESIDE MYself about it
please go give it a reblog!