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Shepard and Vakarian sat side-by-side on a bench at the Docks, both slumped down, arms crossed over their chests. She was too tired to hold herself up any more than that and guessed Vakarian was as well. But they looked like pissed-off teenagers committed to some sort of act of rebellion. 

Or two very exhausted adults over-exposed to the sick, dark thoughts drifting around the minds of killers. 

After getting Frank and Miguel’s confessions they busted their asses to wrap everything up, worked through the weekend, even, perfecting reports. After that, Pallin thankfully ordered them to work part-time to recover from the interrogation. Somehow, they were still exhausted. Mentally and emotionally drained, both of them. 

Exhausted or not, it was time to say goodbye to Valeria and Castis, so they sat at the docks. Solana and Liara sat across from them, and together the four of them waited for Castis and Valeria who would show soon. Then they would all say goodbye before Castis and Valeria boarded their flight for Sur’Kesh. It was quiet for some reason. Despite all the chatter all around them, bodies weaving in and out of crowds and rushing to catch flights, the four of them sat still and perfectly quiet. 

Solana was currently staring Vakarian down, something clearly on her mind. Shepard tried to ignore her. Vakarian was trying too, but judging by the way his mandibles kept twitching and his arms got tighter against his chest, his patience was wearing thin. 

“What, Sol?” Vakarian finally said. 

“No matching sweatshirts today?”

Knowing full well they weren’t wearing matching C-Sec sweatshirts again, Shepard had to glance down to see what they were wearing –a simple dark grey t-shirt on her, a long-sleeved dark grey shirt on Vakarian. Black pants on both of them. Black boots on both of them, too. Jesus, how often did they go out in mirror image outfits like this and never notice?

“Still matching though, really,” Liara said earnestly, simply trying to participate in the conversation and not even sounding facetious. She obviously didn’t get that Sol was pestering Shepard and Vakarian. 

“We don’t go out much. Just to work, or working out…” Shepard explained as Vakarian tapped a single finger against his arm, still staring at his sister.

“We have sparse wardrobes, Sol,” Vakarian added. 

“Oh, we could go shopping together, sometime,” Liara said, excitedly looking between Shepard and Solana. “Wouldn't that be fun?”

Ignoring her mate, Solana’s discerning eyes looked both Vakarian and Shepard over for a long moment. Something was obviously brewing around in her mind, and Shepard was certain that neither she nor Vakarian wanted to hear whatever it was. 

Being gifted, just like her brother, with Castis Vakarian’s icy blue eyes she stared them down. Inquisitive voice matching her icy eyes, Solana finally said, “Are you calling each other mates yet?”

Shepard and Vakarian soon fell to mumbling out a string of intertwined and loosely related phrases. It was the verbal equivalent of falling down a flight of stairs that represented all their insecurities, limb over limb, head bumping on every step. And once you got going there was no stopping it. You just had to wince as your body betrayed you, making you look like an absolute fool against all your wishes. And Sol and Liara just sat at the bottom of the stairs watching – that was the worst part. 

“There’s...” Shepard said.

“Well we…” Vakarian muttered.

“...no rush…”

“...haven’t necessarily used labels yet.”

Vakarian cleared his throat. “We’ve been a bit busy...”

“...it’s not really important…”

“...it’s not any of your business.”

They both stopped there, suddenly and without getting to any real point, because they had reached the bottom of that terrible staircase. A silent moment occurred where the four of them just looked at each other.

“Just worry about yourself,” Vakarian finally said, voice so authoritative it was clear he hoped to put an end to it.

They both shifted uncomfortably, and just out of the corner of Shepard’s eye she could see Vakarian looking at her out of the corner of his. Just stealing unsure glances.

For all their effort in preventing this conversation, Sol burst into a whole-body laugh. “You two are so awkward,” she howled. Actually howled . She took another moment, a long, irritating moment, to laugh again. It was a cackling, teasing, mean little sister laugh. She eventually slapped her hands to her mandibles to cover their jittering. “How are you both this awkward?”

“Speaking of awkward…” Vakarian said. Shepard finally looked at him and saw his eyes flick to a few passersby who were staring at Solana’s fit. Shepard couldn’t contain the slight smirk that creeped out due to the situation.

“Solana, darling,” Liara said, gently placing her hand on Sol’s arm, “don’t be cruel. You can tell they’re embarrassed.”

“We’re not embarrassed ,” Vakarian huffed, resulting in Liara adopting an apologetic look and glancing between Solana and Vakarian.  

He totally looked embarrassed. A wave of heat flooded through Shepard, mostly on her face though. Shit, she looked embarrassed too, didn’t she? 

“We’ve just been tied up on that case,” Vakarian pointed out with an intense dedication to looking casual. Trying so hard that Shepard could easily tell just how bothered he was. 

Solana rolled her eyes. “Oh I’m sure you’ve had a million chances to talk about it. But you’re both nerds. Badass homicide detectives. The Executor and Council worship you. And you’re nerds .”

Vakarian’s head rolled back and he let out a tired huff, though you could hear the familial affection in his voice when he said, “And you’re an annoying little sister.”

Shepard, feeling just a tad awkward despite the lighthearted nature of the sibling’s teasing, decided it was a great moment to sneak away for just a bit. So she leaned against him and pressed her lips to his arm, sparking him to open his eyes. With his head still rolled back he smiled at her. “I need coffee, want some?” she asked.

Shepard felt Solana and Liara’s curious eyes on them as he answered with a nod and a kiss to the top of her head. So Shepard and Liara went to get coffee, leaving the bickering siblings to mutter minor insults and shoot petulant glares. 

***

With Shepard chased off by Solana’s pestering, Vakarian lowered his head to give his sister a pleading look because Solana knew better than anyone the root of Vakarian’s apprehension and knew exactly why it was hard for him to bring this stuff up. Thinking she would be more understanding, and more supportive, he couldn't help but feel just a little betrayed. 

Solana must have seen that in his look too because her face turned from full-on snark to slightly apologetic. “I’m just wondering what to call Jane now. Is she your mate? Your amatrisus?”

Vakarian immediately scoffed. “She’s not my…” he stole a hesitant look at Shepard as if just looking at her with that word in his mind would cheapen what he felt for her, “she’s not my amatrisus . Spirits, Sol.”

“Mom said you told her you and Jane are still just friends.”

Vakarian simply gave Solana a look, not daring to say out loud that Shepard felt like a piece of him. Something permanently affixed to his heart. 

It had to be written all over him though, because with a knowing look Sol said, “Mate then?” 

Tension crept up his neck. He tightened his arms across his chest and noticed his heart pounding. Of course they weren’t just friends, but anything more than that was so incredibly terrifying for too many reasons. His mind couldn't even settle on one reason it terrified him so much.

“Humans don’t bond.” The words fell out of his mouth, and he fully regretted them. Not because they were false, but because they revealed the honest, brutal truth – that letting his guard down and trusting that his feelings for Shepard wouldn't lead to life-altering heartache scared him senseless. 

He was flawed, imperfect, and incapable of really making someone happy. If a human couldn’t bond, he’d lose her for sure, there would be nothing tying them together through ups and downs. 

“So? Neither do asari. And yet Liara and I are incredibly in love. We’re moving in together, actually.”

“That’s great, Sol. I’m happy for you,” he said to her truthfully.

“Thank you, my dear brother. But –”

“Jane’s never been in love. Not once.” There went his mouth again. He regretted those words even more than his previous voiced fear. It felt like he just shared a secret he shouldn’t have, and worse yet it wasn’t even his own secret to tell.  

Solana’s face turned to sincere curiosity. “Not once?”

“No,” he answered reluctantly. He hated this conversation

But deep down it felt good to say these things. He’d always wondered how someone got to the age of thirty never falling in love, but just like his past with Cama, he and Shepard had never really talked about the specifics. Maybe he should have asked...but now, it seemed poor timing to ask her a thing like that. 

Solana only hummed in thought. “You two really are awkward. A man who swears off love and a woman who has never experienced it.” She paused in thought again, then said, “My point is...”

“Oh you had a point, other than harassing me?”

Something flashed over Solana’s features that made her look exactly like their mother, so eerily that Vakarian instinctually straightened in attention.

“I can tell you’re happy,” Solana said simply. “Just choose to be happy, ok?”

A short silence fell between them. Solana watched him carefully, patiently, but with a look telling him she eventually expected a response. His gaze wandered to the flight check-in, watched throngs of people coming and going, saying goodbyes and hellos, then over to Shepard, because his mind never strayed from her for too long. 

She and Liara were waiting for the coffee, laughing and smiling. Liara reached out and placed a hand on Shepard’s shoulder as something particularly funny came up. He couldn't help but smile at the sight of his sister’s mate and his mate getting along so well. Despite everything – the shit they saw at work, the darkness in beings, family illness, and personal fears – life was kind of perfect. Might not always be, but at that moment, Vakarian truly believed that it was.    

And that was a lot for him. 

“Stop letting your head tell your heart to hide,” Solana said.

“You sound like Mom,” Vakarian said softly, his subvocals filling with that strange feeling of happiness and sadness that family gave you. When you just wanted everyone to be close and happy forever. 

“Why thank you,” Sol said with a beaming smile. 

He sat up a bit straighter, his eyes flicking to Shepard and back to Solana. Somehow it felt like he was spinning as everything around him stood still. 

“Hm, I should probably take her on a proper date before I call her my mate out loud.”

“Yes, you should!” Solana quickly replied, then her mandibles quirked in a way that told him she had a thought. “Wait, out loud? You’ve been calling her your mate in your head? Have you been imagining your names written together too?” She made a sickly sweet face. “Garrus and Jane forever,” she teased. 

“Well, I...not like that.”

“Nerd.”

“You are such a brat.”

“Don’t call your sister a brat, dear,” he heard his mother’s soft voice call from nearby. The tone in it reminded him of being young, playing with Sol on the floor with some random toys, getting into tiffs with his sister. His mom had always softly chided them for anything less than loving and kind treatment. It didn’t always work, because the fact is they were both incredibly capable of being a brat, but she always tried her best. And she did it with love in her heart, and a great deal of patience. 

He wondered if he'd’ have the same patience with his kids, and immediately knew that he’d have to because Shepard sure didn’t have any. 

That thought made him forget to breathe. It made his stomach flip and his heart leap.

Not just the dizzying thought of having kids with Shepard, but the sudden and natural assumption that they would.

Damn.

“What’s that look for, son?” His mom laughed softly. “You look as if a spirit spoke to you.”

Shoving all thoughts of parenthood deep within the inner section of his brain where all fears and insecurities were kept, Vakarian rose from his seat just a moment after Sol. Their parents stood there looking prim and happy like they were going on vacation instead of a months-long stint of medical treatment. They hadn’t had much time to talk about this, with the case and reports, and the amount of sleep he needed after everything. Even so, he knew that his mom was thankful, excited even. 

As always, his dad had only asked questions and had no time for anything else. Shepard would reprimand him for saying that out loud, but it was true. When it came to his son, Castis Vakarian only had time for facts. And for telling him who to be.

As if she knew exactly when he needed her, Shepard was by his side again. Liara had returned to stand with Sol. All gathered together, they turned to his mom, but no one spoke a word. 

Valeria gave them all an easy, confident smile. “Why do you all look so somber? Are you upset we’re going on a long tropical vacation and you’ll be stuck here working?”

Everyone laughed softly for a moment before Solana lunged forward and hugged their mom. “ I love you ,” Sol’s voice cracked as she keened. “We’ll all celebrate when you return. A big dinner, presents…”

“I’ll handle the decorations,” Liara offered with a bright smile, prompting his mom to swoop up Liara and hug them both. 

“That will be wonderful,” Valeria said. “I’ll think of it every day. In between drinking fancy concoctions with little ornaments adorning the glass.”

As Vakarian watched the three hug and plan a reunion, he caught his dad glancing at him. He’d give anything to know what was going through his dad’s head. No matter how hard he tried, Vakarian could never crack his dad – never felt like he really understood him or knew him. So they always kept their distance, even in situations like this – especially in situations like this.  

“Come here Jane,” his mom said as she released Solana and Liara so she could take Shepard up in her arms. Familial subvocals rumbled in all the Vakarians, Liara and Shepard couldn’t hear it, though. 

“You take care of my son, you hear me?” Valeria softly instructed Shepard. “I don’t want to find out when I get back that he’s escaped on some rebel, do-gooder ship fighting enemies across the galaxy.”

A gentle laugh fell out of Jane but she agreed. Vakarian in turn couldn't help but scoff at his mother’s ridiculous ideas. That’s when Valeria released Shepard and turned to him. With a beaming smile she took him in her arms while Shepard’s hand landed reassuringly on the curve of his back. 

In his mother’s arms, he thanked the stars Shepard couldn’t hear keening because a short, child-like keen trilled in his throat for just the shortest moment. 

“Thank you,” Valeria whispered next to his ear. “Be happy while I’m away. Take care of Jane and don’t fight with your father and sister.” 

Resenting the fact that she even felt compelled to mention it he wanted to protest and whine that he wouldn’t. But, the fact that he was so offended said something, didn’t it? So he just nodded.

They visited for a few more minutes before the call to board sounded over the PA system. Valeria hugged them all again, Castis hugged Liara and Solana, then Jane. Vakarian got a light pat on the shoulder, and couldn't help but feel like the odd man out. His dad didn’t even enjoy that little bit of contact with him.    

As soon as they said goodbye to Liara and Solana, Vakarian couldn't hold back the thought plaguing his mind. “Why is it my dad hugs you and not me?”

Shepard took his hand in hers and kindly said, “Maybe because I don't stare him down like I’m threatening to punch him.”

He stares me down. He looks at me like I’m a criminal he needs to crack.”

Shepard gave him a look like she wanted to say something but was holding it back. Which is what she decided to do, because she simply said, “Let’s tackle your relationship with your dad another day, hm? Just enjoy the happiness today. Val’s getting the best treatment. All because of you. Be proud of yourself for that.”

The knot in his chest dissipated just a little because of her words. As they made their way towards the skycar port they continued walking together side-by-side in comfortable companionship.  

“You remember what I said at work the other day? That I’m a lucky man?”

“Yes,” she answered simply. A soft brush of her fingers in his palm tickled and told him just how sentimental she felt about what he said.

“I mean it, really. I know I’m lucky to have you.”

“I wouldn't say you’re lucky. Just really sexy.”

“Mm, good to know you’re with me just for my looks. No false pretenses to get past.”

“Yeah, I think it’s best to get that established before you think I actually like you. I definitely don’t think you’re smart, or funny, and I certainly don’t appreciate how you take care of me or…”

As she trailed off her gaze lifted up to him and just as their eyes met large grins broke out on both of them, then soft laughter. She always made him laugh, no matter what mood he was in. 

“I feel the same way, you know,” she said as she let go of his hand and hooked her arm around his waist. “I feel lucky.” 

He wrapped his arm around her waist as well, pulling her close and resting his hand on her hip. And dammit if they didn’t just keep walking like that, wrapped around each other and sharing foolish smiles. 

His omni-tool chimed, interrupting their moment with a message from Kryik that he quickly looked at then ignored.

“What’s that?” Shepard asked.

“Damn Nihlus,” he grumbled. “He keeps talking about Jack, that Grissom instructor. Asking stupid questions about humans.”

That little bit of knowledge made her laugh.  “Aww, Nihlus has a crush,” Shepard said with a self-satisfied smile. 

“Yes,” Vakarian drawled, fully annoyed by the whole thing, but he wasn’t sure why.

“She’ll eat him up.”

“Good,” Vakarian replied, ready to end that conversation and move on to more interesting topics. Like him and Shepard. “Wanna grab some lunch?”  

“Sounds nice, but I don’t think I have enough time before my hair appointment.”

“Ditch it.”

“Nope, can’t. I have a hot date coming up, and I have a lot of work to do if I want to impress him.”

“Oh I don’t know about that, but I’m sure he’ll appreciate the effort.” Vakarian’s hand rose to her hair where his finger affectionately played with a strand. “Don’t cut too much off, ok?”

She made a drastic swiping motion with her hand right under her chin. “I’m going to chop it to right about here.”

His mandibles flared out, feigning hurt and shock in his voice. “You wouldn't do that to me.”

Her amused, mischievous giggle teased him. “Is my hair your favorite thing about me?”

“No,” he said casually as they continued walking towards the skycar port. With a hard squeeze of her ass that forced a little sexy, surprised yelp out of her he said, “This is.”

***

Shepard and Vakarian were on light duty until she left for Earth – fewer hours at the office in which they were relegated to reports or other menial tasks. It was nice, actually. They both needed a break. Which gave them time to plan a date. Well, gave Vakarian time to plan a date. He insisted on taking care of it all. Shepard just had to show up and look beautiful. Which is why she stood in her bathroom applying eyeliner.

As she worked on her eye makeup Vakarian’s low, drawling voice kept playing in her head. Little snippets of things he said to her at the banquet, telling her how good she looked, that he liked her makeup and hair, and that she smelled nice. The way he had leaned over her as he said those things. How his talon had skated over her skin when he brushed her hair aside. It made her heart flutter all over again. Looking back, it was incredibly embarrassing that she hadn’t realized he was actually flirting with her. 

Maybe because they’d been talking like that for years. Touches that felt too tender. Looks that were too needy. Precious moments that she always kept tucked down deep in her heart. Figuring out when their teasing had turned serious, though would take a better detective than her. It had all been such a slow, intense build from friendship to what they now felt for each other. 

With all that on her mind, she tried to replicate exactly what she did the night of the banquet. As she stared at her image, carefully scrutinizing her eye makeup, her omni-tool chimed with a call from her grandmother.

“Hey Gran,” she answered, “how are you and Papa?”

“Hey pumpkin, we’re good.” Her grandmother sounded annoyed, but not the angry type of annoyed, the irritated “can you believe my husband” type of annoyed, which immediately made Shepard laugh. 

“What’s wrong?” She set her eyeliner down on the counter next to Rocket, who immediately swiped at it, causing it to crash to the floor. She shot him a dirty look to tell him he was a little shit, then turned her focus to her grandmother

“Oh he pruned my rose bushes without even asking me about it. He cut way too much back. And it’s the wrong season, he knows that.”

Having no idea when rose bush pruning season was, Shepard simply answered with a sigh and said, “I miss rose bushes.”

“Well you’ll get to see some in just a few days. We’re so excited you’re coming home! Heather and Ben will come up to visit. And Sarah just can’t stop talking about you every time they call.” Her grandmother continued to excitedly hurry through all the family members that were going to come and visit, and all the activities she had planned. All the while Shepard waited patiently and gave little responses like “that sounds like fun” and “I can’t wait”. 

Mostly as her grandmother talked she felt guilty that she’d grown so distant from her whole family. She rarely talked to any of them anymore. Life just seemed so different – none of them really understood what it was like to live on a space station surrounded by all of the galaxy’s races. Let alone working Homicide. Then there was the time difference. None of her family had even met a turian before, and Shepard had a second family in the Vakarians. 

Her grandmother finally paused, and gave Shepard a good look, as if she was realizing just then that Shepard had a full face of makeup, her hair was curled, and she had a dress on. 

“Ooo, you look nice. That’s not for the banquet right? That already happened.”

Shepard couldn’t hold back the delicate smile that bloomed at the thought of going on a date, or the way her voice sounded shy and excited all at the same time. Even though it was Vakarian, the man she knew so well and was already so close to, she felt her nerves pick up, and a flush spread across her cheeks. “No, I’m going on a date tonight.”

“Oh my, you must be going somewhere nice. And it sounds like you really like him already.”

“I'm not sure where we’re going, it’s a surprise.”

“Well who is he? How did you meet? And why don’t I already know about him?”

Shepard had to pause to remind herself that her grandmother didn’t even know that their relationship had changed.  

“You do know him. Garrus and I are going on a date, actually.”

Her grandmother’s eyes shot wide. “ Garrus ? A date? A real date?”

“Yeah, a real date.” 

“Oh.” A thoughtful pause came from her grandmother’s end. “I didn’t realize you two…This is new?”

“I’ve been crazy about him for years, Gran. But, yeah, it’s new.”

“Oh Jane, you always hide all your soft, mushy feelings. You know, that makes sense, though. You too are adorable together. I just never thought...Well I wonder about that whole species thing.”

“It works,” Shepard said confidently, trying to hide the warmth in her voice for fear of giving hints to the more private aspect of their relationship.  

“Well, I hope the date goes well. And if it goes really well, let me know if he’s a good kisser,” her grandma teased.

“Oh we’ve already kissed a lot, Gran. And it’s very nice.”

“Ah, so this isn’t a first date?”

“We’ve sort of been together for a few weeks, but we’ve been staying in mostly.”

Her grandmother gave her a hard look over the rim of her glasses. “Can’t keep your hands off each other long enough to get out the door?”

Shepard laughed. “Stop trying to make me blush, Gran.”

“How did this happen? When?”

Shepard shrugged and picked up her lipstick. He would be there any minute and she still had to find her shoes. “I don’t know, we just kind of started kissing one night.”

“Your papa and I were best friends before we dated, you know.”

“No, I thought you just grew close after you dated.”

“Oh no. Best friends for years.” A wistful look settled in her grandma’s eyes. “We were both dating other people, and we all went on a camping trip on the beach. Well one night he and I were by the fire and everyone else had gone swimming...and we just sort of started going at it. I’d always thought he was cute. Turns out he thought I was too.” Looking not a bit guilty, she added, “Made the rest of the trip a bit awkward, though.”

At some point Shepard’s jaw had dropped, because she had to lift it up to say, “Jesus, Gran. Are you telling me you and Papa cheated on your partners when they were right there? While they were swimming?”

“Well…” silence fell between them for a moment as a slow smile spread across her grandmother's lips. ”Yeah, I suppose we did.”

“What the hell, Gran.” Shepard was simultaneously horrified at her grandmother's behavior but also impressed.

“Well, tell me this,” her grandmother said defensively, “when you and Garrus just started kissing if he’d had a girlfriend at the time would you have stopped kissing him?”

Shepard couldn’t lie to her grandmother, who was already giving her a “told you so” look. Shepard opened her mouth to say that Garrus was hers, no matter what. But that sounded horribly possessive, and a little crazy. Even though it was the absolute truth. So instead, and just as the smile she was holding back broke out into a wicked grin, she just said, “Shut it, Gran.” 

“Can I tell you something, pumpkin?”

“Sure,” Shepard answered, applying her lipstick with a careful swipe. 

“Being with your best friend is wonderful. Magical. And it will keep being magical as long as you just focus on giving. Both of you. Just give, and if you both give then neither of you will have to take.”

Shepard stopped to give her grandmother an appreciative smile. “Thanks, Gran.”

Her doorbell chimed, giving Shepard a quick jolt to her heart. Suddenly she felt dizzy but so incredibly excited. She shot her grandmother a nervous but excited smile. 

“You look beautiful, honey. Knock him dead,” her grandmother said with a wink. 

***

Vakarian had never been so nervous for a first date in his entire life. Despite knowing her for five years, knowing her every fear, just how to make her laugh, and what would make her smile even on a bad day. Despite the fact that they’d had sex almost every day for the past two weeks. A wicked smile flicked his mandibles out thinking of every single angle their bodies had been in. Picturing her pale, soft body bending beneath him and all the smiles and pleasured winces on her beautiful face. 

His hands shook as he fastened his shirt and jacket, imagining her in that green dress again and worried that he’d never look as good as she did. 

He knew exactly how to get to her apartment, from anywhere on the Citadel, and despite that, he almost missed his turn. As he walked out of the elevator and down the hall his muscles tensed and he had to take a few deep breaths.

After he rang her doorbell he had to tuck his hands behind his back just to get himself to stand up straight and stop feeling like his entire body jittered. Why the hell was he worried about standing up straight, though? This was his best friend, he wasn’t supposed to feel like he had to impress her. But spirits, did he want to. 

He heard the click of her heels on the other side of the door, his heart pounding with each strike against the wood floors. He took in another deep breath, looked down to make sure his jacket was fastened, and dammit if he wasn’t looking down when the door finally slid open. His eyes rose and all of his excited, nervous expectations couldn't live up to the sight of her in front of him. His breath caught, and a silly grin broke out on his face.

She should have laughed at how ridiculous he must have looked, but she just returned his smile. They just stared at each other for a long, beautiful moment before she said, “Do you remember what you said when you first saw me at the banquet?” 

Of course he did. That moment was burned into his mind as one of the single best sights of his life. His best friend had been the most beautiful woman in the room that night. He nodded and then repeated those words to her, “Damn, Jane.”

Her smile grew, if that was even possible. “I love when you say that.” 

“You must because you keep making me say it.” He sighed, taking a moment to really look at her and admire the way the tight dress clung to her curves. The way the material dipped around her clavicle to expose the seductive lines of her neck and throat. “You look beautiful.”

“You do too.”

Vakarian couldn't take his eyes off her. He wanted to tell her that her hair made him think of sunshine and her lips made his heart thump and her eyes made him melt. That her body looked perfect in that dress because her neck looked so tender and her ass made him weak in the knees. And when he saw that dress on her he thought of touching his thumb to her pulse and holding her in his arms. That had been the most galaxy-shattering moment of his life, dancing with her at the banquet just a few weeks ago.  

“Well, are you going to take me to dinner, or are you just gonna stand here and gawk at me?”

He chuckled, a flush warming his neck. “Come on,” he stretched out his arm and offered her his upturned hand, her delicate fingers tenderly rested in the center of his palm. “You’re going to be the most beautiful person at the restaurant.”

“Do you always say such ridiculously flattering things to women on a first date?” She slipped her arm within his as they turned and walked arm-in-arm to the elevator. 

“I’m just saying what’s true.”

“Well, as long as you think it’s true, that’s enough for me.”

He stopped suddenly, placed his hands on her hips to turn her to face him, and kissed her. Right there in the hall. The thing he’d learned about kissing in the past week is that, just like nuzzling, kisses could be slow, or fast. They could be quick or deep. Hard or soft. This kiss he particularly enjoyed. He went in for it quick, but the kiss itself was hard and slow, and he hoped it said all of those things he wanted to tell her when she first opened the door.  

Judging by how quickly she was lost in the kiss, he guessed that it did in fact speak for him like he wished it would. 

When it was over a chastising look under her hooded lids and an approving smirk shot his way. “A kiss before you even buy me dinner? Bold, Mr. Vakarian.”

An excited rumble started up in his chest. “Oh I’m going to do more to you than kiss you once I buy you dinner.”

Dinner itself was perfectly wonderful. He took her to a new place, but one that still had amazing steaks, because that’s what she liked most. They talked and laughed the entire time, and spent just as much time ogling each other. 

But as nice as dinner was, it was nothing compared to what came after. At first, he was afraid it was a stupid idea. It was so basic, so underwhelming for a perfect date with the woman who made him the happiest man on the Citadel. But when he pulled the skycar up to their destination she turned to him and shot him an excited smile. 

“The flowering trees. I forgot all about them.”

“Well, then it’s good that I didn’t.”

They walked up to the Council chambers hand in hand, slowly. Everything that night had been slow; as if neither of them was anxious for it to end. He admired her as she breathed in the sweet air of the flowering trees. Thankfully, the chambers were fairly empty at this time of night.

After a few minutes of walking underneath the trees, she turned to him, flashing flirtatious green eyes at him. “Dance with me?”

“Here?” he asked, a bit uncertain. 

“Sure.” She turned to him, placed her hand on his hip confidently, and raised her other in the air. Her delicate wrist turned to him, eliciting thoughts of his tongue meeting her soft, salty skin. She waited for him to take her within his arms, but just for a moment, he was caught living through all the emotions that had rushed through him when they first began to dance at the banquet. How intoxicating she smelled, how beautiful she looked. How her pulse pounded against his touch and how he knew right at that moment just how much he yearned to have her. 

And there he was, reliving that moment as they stood amongst the floral air and the soft glow of the garden path lights. 

Vakarian moved his hand to her lower back, brushing her skin through the thin fabric of her dress with the tips of his talons. She arched her back just slightly, but enough for him to notice. Just a breath later he rested his hand there, just at the junction where her back ended and the very top of her ass curved out. Then he brushed his talons up her arm, leaving goosebumps behind. And just as before, her pulse pounded at his touch.

It was all so familiar, and still so precious. He had to take a breath to keep his heart from pounding.

And so they danced under the trees, sweet florals scenting the cool air, turning slowly to no music. He tried to think of a moment in his life where he’d been this happy, this secure. And every moment he could recall was a moment he spent with Jane. But, none of those moments compared, really, because in those moments he simply wondered if there could be something more between them, or hoped that there could be.  

Now she was here. In his arms. He felt her soft breaths, and her heartbeat, and her muscles tense in anticipation of his touch. And she felt like his now. 

After a moment, inquisitive, shy eyes looked up at him. “I know this is only our first date, but…”

“Moving so fast, Jane,” he teased.

“The opposite, actually. I just want to make sure you don't feel pressured about anything. I don’t want us to make any of this awkward.”

He couldn't help the laugh she gave him. “Too late for that hm? I think we’ve been making this awkward for years.”

Thankfully she laughed as well. He wanted so desperately to call her his mate. To know that he could call her ‘mate’ when they were out at dinner or when someone asked for an introduction, or when someone passing in the hall at work gave them a curious look. 

He looked deep within her eyes to muster up the courage and took a deep steadying breath in. Maybe she could sense his nerves because she gave him an encouraging smile. Cheeks plump and flushed. Eyes sparkling in the evening glow. It made her look absolutely beautiful and drew him in. His talons played at the silky fabric beneath his hand, just to remind him that this was all real. 

His heart pounded. There was that dizzying feeling again. Spinning, faster and faster, despite their bodies gently swaying as they danced. It felt so good though, giving in to that spinning feeling, didn’t it? It felt freeing to unhook yourself from the safety of standing still. And something in him knew that she was right there with him, spinning and holding on tight. He wasn’t alone.

This could all be so simple, couldn’t it? He just had to stop standing still.

Desperate to gather up courage from the security he felt when they touched, he pressed his lips gently to her brow. Filling with warmth and comfort, he hummed as he nuzzled his mouth against her jaw, his lips traveling up the curve to brush her ear. He had to do it now because if he didn’t he’d never have the life he really wanted. 

“Would you like it if I called you my mate?” His voice was a deep whisper, heavy with nerves and affection. 

He felt her pulse pound beneath his touch. She leaned into him, lifting her jaw to give him better access to her which he took full advantage of. His tongue sneaked between his lips, teasing at her pulse and tasting the salt of her skin while he awaited her answer with a breath that hung in his tight chest.  

“Yes,” she whispered, as he enjoyed the way her pulse pumped against his tongue. 

“I’d like that too,” he said.  

They swayed together a while longer. A comfortable silence fell between them.

Then she pressed her body up against his in a way that would have made him flush if she had done it at the banquet. “You promised me a skycar ride, Vakarian. Are you the type of man who breaks his promises?”

“Only when absolutely necessary. But never to my mate. And definitely not when I’m thinking of pinning her against the backseat and hiking that dress up over her hips.”

She hummed in delight as he nipped his way down the line of her neck, “I like the way that sounds. The mate part...but also the pinning part.”

They laughed softly together and finished their dance to no music, kissing and nuzzling and brushing their bodies up against each other until they couldn’t wait any longer and made their way back to the skycar, all the while grabbing at each other for quick touches between rushed steps.   

He had fully intended the prospect of having sex in a skycar to be a tease. A little joke to throw around that would get them worked up on the way back to her apartment. But as soon as they were in the skycar, and he was behind the wheel, Shepard made it clear she took his teases very seriously.

As he drove she tormented him with suggestive touches – her hand grazed his thigh, fingertips lightly teased at his slit. The way she touched him was nothing compared to the look she gave him, though. Heat in her eyes, her plump lips looking as if they were begging to be touched. He tried to focus on traffic, but he couldn't take his eyes off her and his body ached for her touch.

“I want to be closer to you,” she purred. Her hand slid straight down his slit. Instinctively his thighs spread and his hips tilted to give her better access. At the softest touch he groaned out a needy subvocal. “Pull over,” she said while making another pass over his throbbing slit. 

As he pulled the skycar over, carefully tucking the vehicle into a darkened alcove thirty or so feet from the skycar lane, he caught her hand and brought it to his lips so that he could feel her fingertips against his mouth. Spirits, they were so soft and made his lips tingle with need. 

Her fingertips teased his lips with one final featherlight touch then her hand brushed down to cup his mandible affectionately as he turned off the engine and flicked the lights off. Sudden quiet and darkness fell within the skycar. He turned to her and nearly lost track of his thoughts seeing how beautiful she was,  leaning towards him, a predatory pose making it seem like she was about to pounce. Blue and red lights from passing skycars fell across her skin, painting her complexion in short bursts of light.

He took her hand and used it to guide her to his seat. She followed his lead, crawling into his lap, her thighs straddling his. Her tight dress tugged around her thighs and hips, so he placed his hands at the hem and slowly pushed the silky, stretched fabric up the length of her thighs. Her pale skin slowly revealed inch by inch. While he worked on pushing her dress up she cupped his mandibles with both hands and fell to showering his lips with slow, craving kisses. 

“We should be quick,” he advised, voice rough with thundering subvocals. 

She answered with a nod as she continued to kiss him. With the fabric balled up in his fists, it took a vigorous tug to get her dress over her hips and thighs. The dress finally gave in, though, and slid past her curves to reveal delicate lace fabric that dug into her hips in thin strips and hid her slit. The warm, spicy scent of her arousal drifted to his nose, eliciting a deep growl. His gaze was glued to that fabric, desperate need to see her filled him with hunger, but he was afraid his talons would tear the fabric to pieces. 

“Touch yourself,” he told her, his pulse thumping wildly. Wetness already clinging to his pants.

She did as he asked, one hand leaving his mandible to snake down between her thighs. Her other hand landed on his nape where her fingertips rolled along the soft, sensitive flesh and made his pulse thump even harder.

Her finger slid under the fabric and almost instantly she was working herself. Moaning. Stroking his nape. Running her tongue along his mandible. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. His own hands gripped the back of her thick thighs and talons dug into the soft flesh as he pulled her even closer.

“You like this?” she asked. 

Yes,” he breathed, his eyes still focused on her slit, watching her hand rolling. Her fingers moving in soft waves beneath the fabric that tugged at her ministrations. The sound of flesh touching wet flesh and the scent of her driving him wild. 

“Tell me what else you like,” she said, her hands busily working herself and his nape. 

He opened his mouth slowly to respond, heightened senses making everything feel so deliciously carnal. “I like the sensation of your lips on mine.” She pressed her plump lips to his to give him the most delicate kiss. 

“And I like your teeth on my neck.” Her mouth landed on the curve of his neck, blunt teeth digging into his skin. His cock pressed fully past his slit, the tight pressure of his pants making a soft, needy breath fall from his lips.

Her hand left his nape then landed on his to bring it to her breast. Oddly enough, he hadn’t touched her there yet – just never thought to. Which was a big mistake. His talons dug into the softest, most pliable flesh on her body and she instantly moaned in ecstasy. His hand was soon buried under her dress, her fingers guiding his to pinch gently at the hard bit of flesh that was her nipple. 

While she worked herself even harder under her lacy underwear he tore her dress down to free her breast and ran his tongue hesitantly over her nipple. Her thighs tightened around his, her hips bucking with urgent force. Her hand abandoned its place between her thighs so that she could cup his mandibles with both hands once again while she dragged her slit along the length of his cock.

He brushed his tongue over her nipple again, and the sweetest, neediest moan came out of her. “ Fuck , your tongue is so soft. It feels so good.” 

Their time was running out so he unfastened his pants, freeing his cock. Just as the tip fell against her slit they both moaned. As she teased her slit up the length of his cock lewd sounds of wet flesh sliding against wet flesh made him swell. She lifted her hips, held the lacy fabric to the side, and lowered herself onto him. Shocks of pleasure coursed through him as her tight, wet flesh stretched to take him in.  

“What else do you like?” she asked as his cock settled into her. Her voice was breathy and tickled at his ears.

“This,” he answered truthfully, his mind overcome with pleasure and affection for her. “All of this. Just being with you, saccha.”

Her eyes stayed on his as their hips rolled together in perfect rhythm so that he drove into her over and over. Deeper with each thrust. The darkness around them was interrupted sporadically by shocks of bright lights highlighting her half-naked body. 

They kissed and nuzzled while his cock stroked her as deep and as hard as he dared. Bursts of pleasure traveled through him with each desperate thrust. As they gazed at each other affectionate smiles turned to winces of pleasure and back again.

He knew the point was to be quick, but this was so perfect he didn’t want it to end. Every time felt like the first time with her. Her skin sticky with sweat and beautifully lit by blue and red bursts of color. As he nipped along her neck and throat and chest, pinching her skin between his firm lips. Her body tightened on his – thighs, and arms, and hands. Their muscles tensed. They were both so close to release.  

He pulled her closer and flicked his tongue across her nipple again because he loved the way it made her moan. He was already addicted to the way it made her back arch and chest swell. He pictured himself pinning her down and lavishing her breasts and nipples with his tongue. Their hips began to thrust faster, harder. Needy groans came from both of them. Her hand wrapped around his fringe, stroking affectionately at first, then tugging almost painfully.   

Just as he carefully wrapped his lips around her nipple, giving it a tender nip she clung to him and cried out. Her soft, hot flesh clenched down around his cock. With her body washed in red and nestled in his arms, she came. 

As her hold on him relaxed and her breaths eased she stroked his nape to coax him to his own release. She was so good at touching him there. Her fingers so soft but grip so greedy that it made him come almost instantly, his hips bucking into hers as he drove in deep. A deep growl rumbled in his chest as his cock began to pulse rapidly. With an explosion of pleasure he spilled into her with every thrust until he could barely move.

Her head fell to his shoulder. They wrapped their arms around each other and teased at sensitive places with delicate touches.  

“You’re right,” she said through soft huffs, her chest rising and falling. “That was pretty fucking classy.”

A light laugh rode one of his huffs to fall past his smiling lips. “Well, I admit that when I said this would be classy I was joking. But it was perfect.” He wrapped his hand around the back of her neck to hold her close. “Every moment with you is perfect.”

When her head rose to look at him he lifted a talon to her lips. Wanting to engrain in his memory exactly what they felt like when she smiled at him like that he brushed her lips tenderly. Her smile was so affectionate. So beautiful. Beneath his fingertip he could feel the soft flesh pulled tight. The ridges of her teeth through her flesh and skin. Her lips moved with his touch in the most sensual way, desperately seeking out contact until she finally placed a kiss against his fingertip.  

They only dared stay there, tucked into that alcove, for another minute to give their bodies the chance to calm. Nuzzling softly while time passed by too quickly. 

Once their clothes were straightened and she was back in the passenger seat he pulled out of the alcove. As he merged with the flow of traffic Vakarian smiled, knowing that every time he saw skycar lights on her pale, soft skin he’d think of that moment with her. His beautiful mate.           

***

It felt cruel having to leave Vakarian so quickly after they just started to fall into a comfortable routine. Partners, best friends, and now mates. Working together during the day, curled up or wrapped around each other at night. 

But just as they finished up all their casework and got to a place where they weren’t constantly explaining to people that they were mates now, it was off to a two-week-long trip to Earth for Shepard.

Vakarian drove her to the Docks where they tucked themselves into a corner that offered them as much privacy as possible. They held each other, offering little kisses and nuzzles. They found out in the past weeks that they still couldn’t take their hands off each other, and the impending separation had only intensified that ache to touch each other. It didn’t matter what body part, exactly, was being fawned over. Hands, whether consisting of three fingers or five, were constantly grasping for contact. 

Everything with him lately felt so uncertain, but still so unbelievably, confusingly sweet. It made no sense. She felt so out of control and yet embraced it all with a trusting, free heart. It felt like being young. Being naive and happy, despite not understanding a damn thing around you. It felt like holding on to your friend’s hands and spinning round and round in circles, your heart thumping and hair whipping against your cheek until you both fell from exhaustion, laughing, hands still holding tight. 

They only had a few minutes left before the call to board would tear her from his arms. She refused to look at the clock as their hands played at each other’s bodies. Lips pressed in a tender, desperate kiss.  

Drawing back from the kiss, Vakarian began to play with her hair. Speaking softly, he said,  “It’s so weird that you have a whole life somewhere else. Back where all your family is. And I don’t know about any of it.”

“You know about it. You know my Gran and Papa. They adore you.”

He shook his head. “Not like you know my life and my family. You’ve met all my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Cousins. They all know you.”

“Well, if you want, maybe you can come with me on my next trip. You can meet all my family. In person.”

A little grimace pulled his mandibles in, making her worry for just a second. But then he eased that worry when he said, “Not during the rainy season.” 

“No, not during the rainy season,” she agreed with a smile. “We can just drive around the countryside. Go see the ocean.” A thought popped into her head. “Maybe you’ll see a whale. Live and up close.”

A little spark of joy brightened his face. “I can’t wait. I’ll come with you. Next trip.”

She nodded and he kissed her jaw, then nipped at her pulse point tucked in under it. That sensation always made her heart skip. Like he was getting right to her heartbeat. “Are you going to miss me?” she asked, dragging her hands along his chest, her fingers landing at his keel and softly playing at the edges where his carapace dipped and revealed his neck. The neck that she was going to miss brushing with her lips.  

“No, I’ll be fine,” he said casually. “But in about a week Kryik is going to send you a message saying that I’m moping and drinking too much and that he heard me in the men’s bathroom keening. It’s, uh, best if you just ignore that.” 

She laughed softly, her eyes beginning to sting a little. “Hey. I’m only going to be gone for two weeks. Buck up.” She was clearly talking to herself though, because the one she wanted to buck up was her, not him. He knew it too because he just watched her with an affectionate warmth in his gaze. His hand held hers, fingers entwined  

“Are you going to miss me ?” he asked her.

Without warning she lunged forward, falling into his arms which quickly opened to take her in and press her tightly against him. 

She breathed in deeply, the soft scent of sunshine and heady herbs filling her with comfort and joy. The scent of Garrus. Her mate. 

“This is so stupid,” she said, slightly embarrassed about how choked up she was getting. “I’m sorry.”

She looked up at him and cleared her tight throat. Then she felt the glossy threat of tears in the corner of her eyes and tried to rapidly blink them away.

 “Hey,” he brushed a finger under her chin. “You’ve been waiting to go home for months, and I’m going to be here when you get back. And you're coming back, right?”

She nodded. 

“Why are you so nervous?” he asked. “Are you worried about something?”

“No, not nervous. Just don’t want to leave.”

“You’re coming back.” His mandibles flickered out anxiously. She heard doubt in his voice. Worry. Dammit, her ridiculous blubbering was making him panic.

She wondered if Cama disappeared from his life like this. Saying goodbye for a short trip, but she just vanished instead. Years ago, he had hinted that the last time he saw her he didn’t know he’d never see her again.

She tried to sound casual, playful, when she asked, “Someone take off on a ship once? Leave you behind?”

“Something like that.”

“You can’t seriously worry that I’d do that, though. Look at me Garrus, I’m dying here.”

He nodded, but something in the way his eyes wouldn't meet hers made her panic in return. 

His voice sounded so small when he said, “There’s always...” she watched as he stumbled, then gathered himself back up, “...this stupid little thought in the back of my head that all you see in me is fear and failure. That you’ll come to your senses and take off.”

“Garrus, when I look at you all I see is you. No failures. No fears. Just the man that can make me laugh no matter how I’m feeling or what I’m doing. The man that makes me feel strong, but makes me weak in the knees. I see my best friend. And I guarantee you that I will be back in your arms in two weeks, anxious to keep learning how wonderful it is to be your mate.”

At her words they fell into each other. Soft kisses and gentle nuzzles where jaw brushed mandible, nose tickled nose. It was perfect. She thought of how to tell him exactly what he meant to her, but nothing seemed adequate. 

It was torture pulling away from him, but she was becoming lost in his touch, every noise around them drowned out. She’d miss her flight if they kept it up.

So, reluctantly, she pulled away from him. His lips sought hers out still, though, for just a second as he leaned towards her. Their eyes met and his nose scrunched as he smiled. She couldn't help it, she raised her finger to stroke just the tip of his nose, which made him smile wider and his nose scrunch again. He was so beautiful and made her so happy. Just as a wide grin pulled at her cheeks she felt the sting in her eyes and burn in her throat.

“I can’t be certain what the future holds,” she told him, “but I can promise I’ll be right there with you.”

He nodded, a talon brushing her cheek and making her heart thump. 

“Alright, that’s enough,” she swallowed that burn down and took a quick breath in through pursed lips, “pull yourself together, Vakarian. You’re a damn detective, renowned across the Citadel, for god’s sake. Act like it.” 

His joyous grin turned into a knowing one, then he pretended to clear his throat as he set his shoulders back. “Sorry,” he said with piercingly gorgeous eyes that played at being stern, which chased away some of her sadness and made her chuckle. 

“You are so beautiful,” she whispered, feeling a bit foolish for the way she was falling apart because of him. She’d never acted like this with a guy. But he was so much more than just a guy. “I think I tell you that too often,” she breathed. 

He shook his head, telling her with an affectionate look that he enjoyed it, then he said, “I want to tell you so many things, Jane. Maybe it’s better to wait until you come back, though. Until we can talk and...”

He watched her for a moment, thoughts obviously in his mind. She waited patiently, but when no words came from him she eventually said with a shrug, “Tell me when you’re ready.”

A look that made her wonder and filled her with anticipation flashed in his eyes. He took a deep breath, then his hand cradled the back of her head, and his arm wrapped around her waist slowly. With her body secure in his arms he lifted her up off the ground so that her feet dangled. They were nose-to-nose. When his eyes closed she closed hers as well. She waited to feel his mandible glide over her jaw or the pressure of his firm lips pressing to hers.

But instead of his mandibles or lips, she felt something else entirely. Smooth, warm plate brushed against her forehead. Then she felt a soft pressure as Vakarian let out a soft, relaxed exhale. It wasn’t his hand. It was plate.

Her heart skipped. Her mind chased away what she so desperately wanted to believe. Unsure and refusing to believe the truth, she slowly opened her eyes to see that his were still closed. 

And his crest was gently pressed to her forehead. Suddenly things felt so much more certain. 

Her breath caught. A warmth, an indescribable force of warmth and happiness, emanated from that touch and traveled through the rest of her body as they shared a basium. She moved her hand to his heart and felt it pounding against her palm. 

There was something to it. It was a cloud of pure energy that settled on you and seemed almost magical. Something new and novel that she knew she would never feel with anyone else.

Instead of just enjoying the moment her eyes watched him carefully, certain she was mistaken and that he stumbled, or made a mistake. 

But as she stared at him, awestruck and hesitant, radiant blue eyes opened to look straight into her with warmth and affection. He watched her, anxious eyes searching hers, mandibles tense, while he waited for her reaction. She could tell a hopeful smile waited to burst from his mandibles and lips, and she wanted so desperately to make that smile burst. 

Allowing herself to believe that he meant it an excited sound caught her breath and erupted from deep in her chest. Her smile was so wide she was certain it wasn’t attractive. His smile rivaled hers, though, and he was still beautiful. 

She asked him, “Did you mean to do this, or did you just stumble?”

“Meant to. That is, as long as you’re ok with it. If you’re not, well, let’s just pretend I’m clumsy and never mention it again.”

“No,” she said quickly, anxious to reassure him, and leaned into him to press her forehead against his. Safely held up in his arms she cupped his mandibles in her hands to hold him there. “No, I like it.”

With a serious look on his face he drew back just a few inches ending the contact. “I know you know what basiums are, but I wanted to tell you what it means to me. What my parents taught me.” She felt the weight in his voice. He was opening up to her, showing her a part of him no one else got to see. A part even she had never seen before. “I think some humans think it’s just a turian kiss or a hug. It’s not, though. It’s,” he hummed in thought, “an affirmation. That I trust you, body and mind, and that I’m giving you a piece of me. And when you touch your crest to mine you’re accepting me, just as I am. It tells me that you trust me and give a piece of yourself to me too. It’s more like a promise to each other. That we’ll always accept each other, respect each other, and take care of each other.”

He took a deep breath, keen eyes watching for her reaction. 

It felt like her heart was close to bursting. Aching for even more contact, her hands grasped at his shoulders, eagerly pulling at him. “Garrus, I’ve been wanting to tell you exactly that, every word you just said, for so long.”

With a joyous smile he pressed his crest to her forehead again, and with their brows still touching he said, “Well, there you go. Now you can tell me without having to say a word.” 

She placed her hands back on his mandibles to feel them joyously fluttering against her palms.  

As they stood there, savoring every second, and every touch, a droll voice sounded over the PA system. Not excited to hear anything it had to say, she just ignored it so they could hold each other just a while longer. How in the hell was she supposed to leave him now?  

But she couldn't ignore it forever. Vakarian finally pulled his crest from her brow. Her body slowly slid along his as he lowered her to the ground, but still held her in his arms. 

“That’s you. Time to board, saccha.”

Her head shook making her feel like a defiant child. “This hug has to last for two weeks.” She tightened her arms around him and inhaled again, adamant that she remember exactly what this felt like, had his scent ingrained in her memory so that she could recall it every time she’d think of him and miss him. She’d be back, of course, but two weeks was an eternity when separating from someone who felt like a part of you. 

She let her cheek slide against his chest. His arms were so tight she was certain he’d never let her go. They had just a little bit longer before the second call would go out, she told herself, so she whispered into his chest, “Let me just hold you a minute longer. I’m not ready to say goodbye.”