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My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

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"What is it?" Garrus clutched the spindly stem in his talons as Kasumi batted his hands away from the red-leaved bulb at the top.

"Careful, don't crush it! Do you have any idea how hard it was to find—"

"Where should I—?"

She plucked the flower out of his grasp and then artfully rearranged his digits to cup the bloom gently. "Here. Like this."

Garrus sighed, his subvocals rumbling in his chest. "I don't know what I'm doing."

"I know." Kasumi grinned, patting his shoulder amicably. "That's why I'm helping you."

Garrus peered at her suspiciously, the plates on his forehead raised slightly in disbelief. "Yes, that's why you told me last week to give her that krogan dil—"

"Don't be silly. That was just a joke—which you fell for. Rather marvellously. This is serious." She caressed the edge of a petal with her gloved fingertip. "This means romance."

He shifted nervously. "I'm not sure I understand the gesture. I don't want to make Shepard uncomfortable. How serious a…" His mandibles fluttered as he hummed and struggled for the right word. "Errr, relationship does one of these… things… imply?"

"Whatever you want it to be. You want a drink first?" She strolled over to the bar along the lounge's wall and selected a bottle of vibrant blue liquid.

"No. Yes. Maybe." He laid the rose down on the top of the bar as if terrified that it was about to shatter before sitting down on the stool next to her.

Kasumi passed him the bottle and grabbed one for herself, touching hers to his with a soft clink. They sipped in silence for a few moments. "So, have you kissed her yet?"

Garrus' drink spewed, rather impressively, across the pristine surface of the bar as he hacked and sputtered. "I… uh… well…"

"I'll take that as a 'no.'" Kasumi handed him a stack of napkins and leaned back with a seemingly innocent smile. "You know, I could send you some vids that might help."

He dropped the soggy napkins and looked up in a panic, his mandibles twitching madly. "Spirits, you haven't… talked to Mordin about this, have you?"

"No, I just thought—"

His whole body sagged in relief. "Good. Don't."

"But, now you've got me intrigued…"

"No! No! Trust me!" Garrus shuddered as memories of 'Cross-species Intercourse: A Quantitative Analysis of Penetration Angles' mixed with 'Human Grrrrls Gone Wild 3' flickered past before he managed to shut them out once more. He took a huge swig of his drink to mask his embarrassment, succeeding only in achieving another inelegant fit of coughing. "Sorry."

"I think maybe you've had enough liquid courage." Kasumi hopped gracefully from her stool and pulled him upright. "Let's make sure you're presentable." She circled him with a predatory glint, straightening the seams around his cowl and brushing lint from his shoulders as he bounced nervously on the balls of his feet.

"Done?"

"Not yet." Kasumi tugged the hem of his shirt down and then stepped back to eye him critically. "Perfect!" she said, beaming at him happily.

"Are you sure about this? Really sure?"

"Yes… stop worrying!"

She steered him towards the elevator, shoving him inside and pressing the panel for Shepard's quarters. "Oh! Here." The rose inexplicably reappeared in her hands and Garrus fumbled to awkwardly grasp it the way she'd shown him. "Go get 'er, tiger."

"Wait!" The doors were already closing in his face. "What's a tiger? Do I need to—"

"You'll be fine!"

Somehow, he doubted it.

oOoOo

Garrus would've paced longer outside her actual door if he hadn't been so afraid of mangling the flower, absently shredding the petals to pieces in his nervousness. It was now or never. He touched the comm link on the door panel.

"Come in, Garrus."

He took a deep breath as the doors hissed open and entered with a swagger of forced confidence, keeping the blossom concealed behind his back. "How did you know it was me?"

Shepard was curled up on one of the couches, surrounded by a mountain of datapads and she grinned at his approach. "I could hear you stomping back and forth out there. You're not exactly quiet, you know."

He looked at the datapads strewn everywhere and then back at her. "Am I… interrupting?"

"Yes—"

"Okay, I'll come back later!"

"No, wait!" Shepard laughed. "Let me finish. Yes, you're interrupting, but that's not a bad thing. I think my brain is going to start leaking out my ears if I sit here much longer."

Garrus recoiled a little. "Please tell me human brains don't actually do that?"

Shepard laughed again, pulling her hair loose from the small band that normally held it back and shook it free. "No, not the last time I checked, anyway." She looked up at him, her eyes warm. "So, what's up, big guy? You look nervous."

His mandibles fluttered with the agitation he couldn't fully hide. "I… uh… nothing?"

"What's behind your back?" She tried to peek around behind him, but Garrus dodged, stepping neatly to the side.

"Nothing!"

A look of utter horror filled her face. "Sweet merciful monkeys, please tell me it's not another krogan dil—"

"Don't worry! It's not that! It's nice… I think. Unless Kasumi's messing with me again. Which is a distinct possibility. I mean, I think it's… Oh, just… here." He thrust the rose out in front of him.

Shepard grew very still.

Shit. He'd been had.

Again.

Damn Kasumi and her—

"Garrus? Is that a rose?" She was studying him—inquisitively?—and she wasn't laughing, wasn't screaming. That had to be a good sign? Right?

"Uh… yes?" He tried not to look too hopeful, pretty sure he was failing miserably at it.

Her one eyebrow arched. "Are you… trying to woo me? Is that what you were trying to do before with that… other thing?"

He was going to die of embarrassment. Maybe he should just fake it now, collapse in a heap and save himself the agony of her gaze.

"Well, we'd talked about… blowing off steam, and I'd thought that… Well, I'd wanted to show you… Never mind. This was a stupid idea." Bloody Kasumi and her 'suggestions.' "I'll just go."

"Garrus."

He could grab a handful of nutrient paste packets on his way back. Hole up in the Main Battery for a few days while this all blew over. Maybe—

"Garrus."

Her hand was impossibly soft and slightly cool as it ghosted down his cheek, stopping just above the upper edge of his left mandible, and it was his turn to go still.

"It's lovely. Thank you." Shepard plucked the rose from between his talons and laid it on top of one of the mounds of datapads; her voice dropping lower and rougher around the edges in a way that he found he liked—very much. "Honestly, I've never been one to go for the romantic stuff, but if it gives me an excuse to do this, well… who am I to complain." With that, her other hand crept up to his other cheek, pulling him down gently until her mouth met his.

Soft. Moist. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the sensation of her lips moving against the flexible plating of his own mouth, letting his hand drift up to tangle in her hair. There was a vague whisper in the back of his mind that this should feel weird—they were both so different—but… it didn't. He was pulling her closer; she was caressing the edges of his mandibles with her deft little fingers and then he was moaning a little, more than a little, at the tentative touch of her tongue against his.

They broke apart slowly, reluctantly, with a series of smaller kisses and he was now one hundred percent sure that this had been the best idea ever and that he owed Kasumi big time. The way Shepard looked right now—pupils wide, pulse thundering in her throat, lips a little swollen; he wished he could hold the memory of this moment, of her, forever. Just like this.

"That was…" Shepard hummed thoughtfully, her fingers continuing to trace the contours of his jaw. "Wonderful."

Garrus couldn't resist nuzzling her palm. "Just wonderful?"

"What, does your ego need feeding?" She grinned. "Fine, it was amazing. Fantastic. Um, stupendous. How's that?"

"You know, if you were just looking for an excuse to kiss me, how come you didn't do it after I gave you that krogan dil—"

"Don't even go there. Trust me."

"The rose was good though?"

"Yes, the rose was good. The kiss was better."

"Agreed."

Shepard's fingers were tracing patterns along the back of his neck in a deliciously distracting way as he leaned down to kiss her again.

Maybe there was something to this romance stuff after all.