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Pride and Prejudice (and Shakarian)

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Garrus, as if intending to exasperate himself as much as possible against Shepard, chose for his employment not his usual calibrations, but the examination of all the saved missives and exchanges of his Omega team. As he’d done on many previous occasions, he searched for some hint of the impending betrayal, some missed moment or throwaway line that might have prevented the tragedy from occurring. Shepard’s words on the Presidium, the memory of her head blocking his shot, gave him a keener sense of suffering, but did not miraculously bring some previously overlooked hint to light.

While scrolling back to the earliest messages in his omni-tool’s collection, he was suddenly roused by the sound of the battery door opening, and his spirits were a little lifted by the idea of its being Tali, who might, at the very least, listen to his frustration with little judgment. But this idea was soon banished, and his spirits were very differently affected, when, to his utter amazement, he saw Shepard walk into the room. In a hurried manner, she paced from one side to the other, and then lifted her chin and said, “Forgive me. I know you said you didn’t want to talk—”

“That has not changed,” he replied, turning toward his console and the balm—and excuse—of his work. “If that’s all?”

Shepard perched on the crate in the corner for a few moments, and then got up and walked around the room again. Garrus was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, she came toward him in an agitated manner and thus began, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and… care about you.”

Garrus’ astonishment was beyond expression. He stared, doubted, and was silent, his flared mandibles the only outward sign of his inner turmoil. This Shepard evidently considered sufficient encouragement, for she continued on with increasing boldness and candor. “In declaring myself thus I am fully aware that I will be going expressly against Alliance regulations, my own long-established rules preventing such on-board dalliances, and, I hardly need add my own biology. The relative situation between our races is such that any relationship between us must be regarded as a highly unusual and possibly deviant connection. Indeed, as a rational woman I cannot but regard it as such myself. But, it cannot be helped. Almost from the earliest moments of our acquaintance I have come to feel for you a passionate admiration and regard which despite all my struggles has overcome every rational objection and I beg you most fervently to relieve my suffering and consent to be my lover.” She leered rather inappropriately. “I thought we might… blow off steam together, as it were. I have heard it is common aboard turian vessels in high-risk situations such as our own.”

In spite of the surprise this declaration engendered, and the deep frustration—nay, seething rage—Garrus still felt about her unwarranted and undesired interference in his affairs on the Citadel, he could not be insensible to the compliment of such a woman’s affections. The memory, however, of her bright hair standing between the barrel of his gun and the satisfaction of his desire to see Sidonis punished, banished any affirmative or even positive feelings he might have expressed.

“In such cases as this,” he began slowly, “it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed. Had you perhaps—no, Commander. I trust that is clear enough. No. Now, you must allow me to return to my work. I am, after all, in the middle of some calibrations.”

Shepard, who was leaning against the workbench with her eyes fixed on his face, seemed to catch his words with no less resentment than surprise. Her complexion became very pale, and the disturbance of her mind was visible in every feature. She was struggling for the appearance of composure. The pause was to Garrus’ feelings dreadful. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, she said, “And this is all the reply which I am to have the honor of expecting? I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavor at civility, I am thus rejected. But it is of small importance.”

“I might as well inquire,” replied he, “why with so evident a design of offending me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and against your own regulations—you, who so ardently adheres to her vaunted rules and expects everyone beneath her to do the same. Was this hypocrisy not some excuse for incivility, if I was uncivil? But all this I might have overlooked, for, indeed, there is no one I trust—was no one I trusted—more than you. But now? Do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the woman who has been the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the justice deserved by those ten good people who died because of Sidonis’ betrayal on Omega?”

As he pronounced these words, Shepard changed color; but the emotion was short and she listened without attempting to interrupt him as he continued.

“I have every reason to wish some time apart from you, Shepard, and every reason to be leery of the intimacy you propose. When I said I did not wish to talk, it was not an invitation for you to do as you wish and talk anyway. But you could not even respect that small request of mine, to say nothing of the way you expressly went against my larger wishes and interfered where you interference was most undesired and unnecessary. No motive can excuse the unjust and ungenerous part you acted there.

He paused, and saw with no slight indignation that Shepard was listening with an air which proved her wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse. She even looked at him with eyebrows raised in a mixture of query and pity.

“Can you deny that you have done it?” Garrus repeated.

With assumed tranquility, Shepard then replied, “I have no wish to deny that I stand behind my decision, or that I rejoice in my success. I have done you a kindness, Garrus. What I did was not for him, no matter what you choose to tell yourself.”

Garrus felt himself growing more angry every moment, yet he tried to the utmost to speak with composure when he said, “I was mistaken, Shepard, to value your friendship so highly, and to trust you so completely. Had you behaved more openly, spoken your concerns before physically interposing yourself, perhaps this conversation might have reached a different conclusion. You have shown your hand, though, and it is not one I wish to play. I should go.”

And with these words, he hastily left the room, leaving Shepard behind him. She called out once, her voice soft and pained and tinged with desperation. He did not answer, and he did not look back.

#

When, some two weeks later, Garrus learned from an acquaintance at C-Sec that the Normandy was once again docked at the Citadel, he debated ignoring the intelligence. He had not yet completely forgiven Shepard for acting as she’d done, but time had soothed some of his wounds and, truthfully, granted him some much-needed perspective. Her timing in expressing her desire to take their relationship to some previously unconsidered level had been at best awkward, and at worst entirely inappropriate, but now, instead of picturing her hair in the scope of his rifle, he kept thinking of the way her body moved on the battlefield, or the turn of her countenance when he entered a room, or the memory of the private smile she’d sometimes bestowed upon him and no one else and he found himself troubled by the rather significant shift away from anger and toward something else entirely.

Before the Normandy could once again depart, he determined to try, at least, to recover some of the belongings he’d abandoned in that hasty departure. With some hesitation, he contacted EDI and asked if the commander was aboard. The AI replied with a negative, indicating that all ground team members were currently on shore leave and not expected to return for some hours.

Garrus, as he strode along, watched for the first appearance of theNormandy with some perturbation; and when at length he turned the corner to the docking bay, his spirits were in high flutter.

The ship gleamed, the black lettering of its name stark against its glossy sides. A pang of longing struck him with such force he stopped, so abruptly the person walking behind him crashed into his back.

“Forgive me,” said a familiar voice, “I wasn’t watching—oh.”

Garrus turned. So abrupt was Shepard’s appearance, it was impossible to avoid her sight. Their eyes instantly met, and her cheeks were overspread with the deepest blush. His mandibles fluttered in equally chagrined reply. Shepard absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; he had certainly never seen her thus affected.

Garrus had instinctively turned away; but, stopping as Shepard’s hand shot out in the offer of a shake, received that gesture with an embarrassment impossible to overcome. If Shepard held his hand a moment too long, or her grip was a shade too lingering, Garrus hardly noticed in the wake of his own strained feelings. Her hair was loose and lovely about her shoulders, and the cut of her civilian gear made the curve of her waist more visible than the view her armor’s bulkiness afforded. “Forgive me,” he said, forcing himself to gaze to the left of her. “I do not wish to trespass on your time. I had thought you elsewhere.”

“I was,” Shepard replied, turning a faint smile his way. “I left them all in Flux. We’re—well. The Omega-4 is our next destination. I thought it an appropriate time for an evening of levity.”

“Did you not deserve one yourself?” Garrus asked.

Shepard’s shoulders lifted in a vaguely self-deprecating shrug. “My mood was the sour note in an otherwise pleasant song, I’m afraid. And you? Have you been well?”

He did not wish to tell her of the long, sleepless nights plagued by doubt and regret, so he merely nodded and said, “Well enough.”

“And—forgive me—were you… you did leave some things behind, did you not? Will you allow me, or do I ask too much, to get your opinion on something before you leave? Truly, there is no one—no one in the galaxy—whose opinion on the subject I would value more highly. But of course you may decline. I would not wish to importune you.”

Her demeanor was so altered and the surprise of such an application so great he did not know in what matter he acceded to it, and yet accede he did, and soon they were walking side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in silence toward the waiting ship. Just like old times. At such a time, much might have been said, and the silence was very awkward. He wanted to talk, but there seemed an embargo on every subject. At length, he recollected their mutual acquaintance, and asked politely civil questions about the health of Tali and Joker and Dr. Chakwas. Shepard answered that all were well, but her gaze lingered on his. “And you? Are you well?” she repeated, as if forgetting she’d asked once already. Her smile was nervous and not a little distracted as he replied, again, that he was well enough. It was only the slightest of untruths; he had not realized he was not quite well until now, walking beside her, feeling the rightness of once more being at her side. When he asked the matter upon which she wished his opinion, she waved a hand and said, “Better to show you, I think.”

Shepard led him through the CIC and down to the crew deck; Garrus found himself baffled when her destination appeared to be the main battery. However, when the doors slid open, he apprehended her meaning at once. In his absence, she had replaced the main cannon, and in its place was the Thanix he’d recommended she purchase as an upgrade. He took a step toward it, his fingers curling at his side even as they longed to reach out and touch the magnificent piece of weaponry.

“I remembered that you spoke highly of it. Do you like—is it as you envisioned? Does it look right?” she asked, not quite hiding the tremble of nerves. When he turned to face her, he found her watching him with wide and hopeful eyes, nothing of the smirk or superciliousness that had so frustrated him upon their last conversation in this very room.

“Exquisite,” he replied, and was not entirely certain if he meant the cannon or her face. She smiled, bright and broad and so pleased he felt his heart skip a little at having been the cause of it. “Shepard,” he said, before she could speak. Now was the moment for his resolution to be executed, while his courage was high. “I have done a great deal of thinking in the past fortnight.”

“As have I,” Shepard replied, and he was dismayed as the smile slipped from her face, replaced by grief and remorse. “The recollection of what I then said, of my conduct, my manners, my expressions during the whole of it is now inexpressibly painful to me. I was devoid of every proper feeling. I was selfish and unforgivably dismissive of your desires and your wishes.”

“Shepard,” he said. “Pray let me finish before you berate yourself at length.”

Her released breath was the ghost of a laugh, but it did, he fancied, contain at least a little mirth. “Very well,” she said. “I shall endeavor to check my natural inclination toward interjection.”

He smiled, though his tone was serious when he spoke. “I did not appreciate your interference. At the time, truthfully, I thought the offense an unforgivable one.”

“I only wished to—”

“Interjection,” he reminded her. She brought her hand up to cover her mouth. “With some distance from the matter, I believe I better understand your intentions. I was unhappy and upset and not thinking entirely clearly. Worse still, I realize now I thought to use you—to use your status as Spectre and therefore outside the law—to protect me. I planned a murder in the heart of the Citadel and made you an unwilling accessory to it. An unforgivable offense indeed, but mine, not yours.”

She said nothing, dropping her hand. Her lips did not smile, and her eyes were solemn above the frown. “I was angry that you had not brought up your misgivings earlier,” he continued. “Then, of course, I realized that you had. You attempted to bid me think, to speak, to consider my actions at every turn. What I perceived as a last-minute defection—yet another betrayal—was, in fact, merely a last-resort effort to make me think through my actions.”

“You might still have taken the shot,” she said softly, once it was clear he had finished speaking. “As he walked away. I knew you could. I thought you would.”

“And yet I did not,” he agreed. “Yes, I have thought on that a great deal as well.”

“I thought—assumed—you wished me to stop you,” Shepard admitted. “You did not require my aid, after all; you are a consummate soldier perfectly capable of killing one man alone. My assumption was presumption of the highest order. I see that now. And I entirely apprehend why you can no longer trust me.”

“Shepard,” he said, “I trust you. There is no one in the galaxy I trust more than you.”

“Even still?”

“Even still.”

“I am—I am pleased to hear it. It is selfish of me, but it does lift some weight from my shoulders. And the less weight I bear, the better, where I am headed.”

“We,” Garrus insisted. Then he paused, chagrined. “Where we are headed, if you’ll have me still.”

“Nothing would please me more,” Shepard said, but she did not smile. She ducked her head, and even the dim light of the battery did not hide her blush. “But I must apologize for the rest… for my proposition. It was poorly handled and entirely my mistake. I will never trouble you with it again. I perceived—imagined—something that was not there, and I see now how importunate—”

“And if I wish you to importune me?”

She blinked at him, and, as realization dawned, her full lips curved upward in his very favorite of her smiles. “Was it not entirely imagined, then?”

“It is not only the affair with Sidonis I have been reconsidering these past weeks. I cannot claim to have a human fetish, but you, Shepard? With you I should like very much to see something go right. Just once.”

Here she did laugh, lifting herself on her toes and pressing her fingertips to his still-bandaged mandible. “Whereas I, Garrus Vakarian, should like very much to see that something go right many, many more times than that. Perhaps even this evening. Should you be amenable to the attempt.”

Garrus tilted his head to bring his brow to hers. He was close enough to hear her breath catch at the intimacy of the gesture. Voice low, pleased, anticipatory, he replied, “Exceedingly amenable,” and was gratified to feel her shiver in response.

“Very well, then,” she said. “I believe we have a date.”