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Jaws That Bite, Claws That Catch

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She ran. Her heart was hammering in her chest, her ears full of the rush of feet and alien buzzing behind her and the occasional impact of a shot that made it through her shields. The timer on her HUD ticked through a countdown, indifferent to the frantic, ragged metronome of her breath.

Up ahead, the great sleek shape of the Normandy hovered, her side cargo hatch open and Joker leaning out to shout at her to Move it, Commander!

One minute and forty-three seconds, read the timer.

She put on a burst of speed and leapt. For a moment, she thought it would not be enough.

And then her hands caught the edge of the hatch and there were other hands pulling her up and into the ship. EDI said something indistinct, and Joker cursed and rushed for the elevator. A moment later, they all lurched to the side as the Normandy put on a hard burst of acceleration. Under them, the floor hummed as the drive core engaged, and there was the momentary sense of weightlessness that came with FTL speed. Joker's voice came in over the comm, tired but triumphant.

"All clear, Commander."

There was a second of stunned silence, and then the hold exploded into raucous, breathless cheering. She found Garrus at her side and pulled him into a crushing embrace, felt him return it, saying something with a lot of subtonals that her translator didn't pick up.

She paid no attention to the wetness at the corners of her eyes.

There was a celebration afterwards. The crew gathered in the port observation room to drink and talk and brag and flirt. And if there was something a little strained and desperate about it, no one mentioned it. They'd come out alive. That would have to be enough.

Shepard caught Garrus' eye across the room and gestured to the door with the bottle in her hand. He nodded, and she quietly made her way out into the hall. A few minutes later, he joined her.

"Hey," he said softly.

"Hey yourself."

Without much thought, they crossed the hall to the starboard observation room. In another hour or so, the party would probably spill out to encompass the rest of the crew deck, but for now, the room was empty. They sat together on the couch, close enough to touch at the shoulder. She passed him the bottle she'd snagged for him and cracked open her own. With a groan, she leaned back into the couch, feeling the stiff muscles in her back and shoulders protest. After a second, she felt Garrus do the same.

"Long day, Shepard?"

She snorted, but felt a crooked smile cross her lips at the familiar teasing. "The longest."

"We made it." He sounded faintly disbelieving.

She reached for his hand. "Couldn't have done it without you."

"Of course you -"

She turned to look him in the eye. "I mean it."

After a moment, he relaxed and squeezed her hand back. "You know I've got your six."

"I know."

For a while, they drank quietly, listening to the sounds of the party going on behind them. They didn't let go of each other's hands. When the drinks were almost gone, Garrus turned partway to look at her.

"So. What now?"

The question momentarily blindsided her. It had been a long time since there had been a future to decide. She knew it wouldn't last, but for now…

She leaned across and kissed him, slowly at first, and then harder. When she broke away, they were both a little out of breath.

"I know I promised I'd bring wine next time. But I'm hoping you'd be willing to overlook that for now."

He laughed and rested his forehead against hers. "I think I can let it slide."

She swallowed and smiled. "And maybe later we can start talking about that vacation."

Garrus went still a moment before returning the smile. "Yeah, we can do that."

That vacation wasn't coming anytime soon. They both knew it.

But for now, the promise was enough.