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WiP time!

Title: Untitled Mass Effect fanfic

Rating: PG for language

Pairing: Juliana Shepard/Jeff Moreau

Spoilers: for entire series, especially Mass Effect 3, although I'm sort of tweaking the ending just a tad bit (had some of the end scenes written before I played the Extended Cut and I'm pleased to see that what was there sort of meshed with my pre-established headcanon)

Notes: I got bit by the 1sentence prompts again. As usual, I'm way too wordy for the one sentence per prompt rule. I'm probably going to post this up on ff.net as one prompt per chapter instead of one big oneshot, but I haven't decided just quite yet. I'm not finished, so there'll be more ficlets (drabbles?) put in and more than likely re-ordered once everything is 100% done. This still needs to be looked over, edited, and will probably get changed just a teeny bit every time I read it again, but here's what I have so far.

Anyway, onto fic!


9 Red
“So, that’s the Commander, huh?”

Kaidan nodded. “Yep. And looks like she overheard your ‘fly is undone’ comment.”

“And didn’t mention it, so that probably means that she’s not a hardass like everyone was afraid of.” Joker leaned out of his seat to try to catch a glimpse of their retreating XO. “Speaking of hardasses, damn, did you check it out?”

“Joker…”

“Oh, come on! I can’t be the only guy in the room noticing stuff like this! Shepard might be some big war hero and all, but she’s absolutely smokin’ hot, man.”

“She’s also higher up in ranks than we are. That means…”

“Yeah, yeah. We can look, but we can’t touch. Lighten up, Alenko. Sheesh, you’re so serious sometimes.”

“Someone has to make up for you.”

“I can to be serious!” There was a pause. “Hey?”

“What?”

“You think she’s a natural redhead?”

Kaidan groaned, wishing there was something handy nearby to chuck at his pilot.

43 Search
“I’m too old for this shit.”

Lethal Weapon series.” Pulling her legs up into the co-pilot’s seat, Shepard smirked. “And that was practically a gimmie, especially with the latest Blasto reusing that line.”

Joker shrugged. “Hey, what can I say? Everything old is new again. Come on, your turn.” He didn’t know when it had come up, but during one of their conversations, Shepard had thrown out a movie quote and he’d correctly guessed it. That had led to them discovering that they shared a love for old movies made from the mid-1960’s to the early 2000’s, and Guess the Movie Quote had been born.

He’d even discovered that Shepard had a huge collection of vids spanning a variety of genres that had been painstakingly re-mastered and downloaded onto her omni-tool. He still hadn’t gotten the nerve to ask if he could get a copy, but he was working on that.

“Good grief, planet scanning is boring as hell.”

“That’s not a quote.”

“No, but it’s an observation.” Wrapping her arms around her legs, she rested her chin on her knees. “Is it always this boring up here?”

“Nah. I’m usually busy keeping an eye on your ground team or checking to see that the ship doesn’t suddenly make a nosedive into the planet you’re on. This is Dead Air; kind of like the times when we’re going in FTL mode and there’s nothing really to do except wait until we get to wherever we’re going.”

“So what do you do in times like this?”

“I dunno. Grab a bite to eat in the Mess, take a quick catnap, catch up on my Fornax reading.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her, which made her laugh. “Play Guess the Movie Quote with my commanding officer. You know, stuff like that.”

“Oh, well I’d hate to take you away from your Fornax.”

“That’s all right; I already finished the latest issue. I think I gave it to one of the guys down in Engineering. Probably won’t get it back either. At least not in the same condition.”

She made a face. “Okay, gross.”

“I can keep going. That is, unless you hit me with a quote. Still your turn.”

She stared at the screen in front of her, watching as the probes they sent around the planet searched for anything valuable. Unfortunately, she was drawing a blank. “I don’t mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your left hand?”

Princess Bride, 1987. You’re one to talk about gimmies, you’ve already quoted three lines from that movie in the past week.”

“I love that movie.”

“Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

“Iocane powder. I’d bet my life on it.”

“You mock my pain.”

Shepard jumped when the screen started blinking, signaling that the probes had found something. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Stretching her legs back out in front of her, she turned to him. “Hey, I’ve got that movie on my ‘tool. Wanna hang out and watch it when we’ve got some more time?”

He thought about it. While they hadn’t been working together for very long, Shepard had a way of connecting with him. She was probably the most laid back commanding officer he had ever known and didn’t seem to mind getting chummy with her crew. He didn’t know if it was because she was so used to being amongst the working ranks instead of cloistered in her officer’s quarters, but he liked it.

Pulling the Normandy out of its flight pattern, he made a beeline to the closest site the search probes had given him. “As you wish.”

36 Laugh
“And then, Dad was all…Hey! There’s some lady behind you.”

Joker turned in his chair in time to see Shepard come up behind him. “Sorry,” she said, noticing the girl on the screen in front of him. “I’ll come back later.”

He waved her over. “No, that’s all right. We were just wrapping up, weren’t we?”

The girl leaned closer to her screen. “Hi. I’m Hilary.”

“I’m Juliana, though Joker here calls me Jules.”

He rolled his eyes. “What, it’s shorter and it fits you better.”

Hilary laughed. “That’s okay, he calls me Gunny.” Tilting her head, she looked to be thinking about something. “Jules? So you’re the girl my brother is always talking about!”

“I don’t always talk about her!”

“You know, you’re just as pretty as he says you are.”

Shepard grinned and leaned on the back of Joker’s chair. “I think I like you, Hilary. Tell me, what else does your brother have to say?”

“Woah, we’re getting some really bad interference. Gunny, I’ve got to drop connections.” Joker shot Shepard the deadliest stink eye he had in his arsenal, but all she did was laugh.

“I think that’s Joker’s subtle way of saying that any family stories are supposed to stay in the family.”

“That’s weird. He usually just calls me a twerp instead.”

“Hey Hills, you’re a twerp.”

“See, now that’s more like it.” His sister rolled her eyes in a very Joker-like way. “But I get the hint. I’ve gotta go anyway.”

“Make sure to do your homework,” Joker reminded her. “And help Dad around the farm, and…”

She gave a long-suffering sigh. “And don’t talk to strange boys, I know.”

Any boys!”

“Whatever. Talk to you later, SC. Love ya!” Hilary blew a kiss towards the screen then the monitor went blank.

Shepard leaned further on his chair. “So that’s your little sister? She’s cute.”

“She has her moments. She’s twelve.” He couldn’t keep the pride out of his voice.

“And she’s lucky to have a big brother like you looking out for her.”

He shrugged. “Eh, I have my moments too.”

Shepard smirked. “Like telling your sister that you think I’m pretty?” she teased.

The tips of his ears turned bright red. “Yeah, pretty annoying. She left that part out because she’s polite.”

“I’m going to keep the ego boost and ignore that.” Rounding the chair, she shifted her weight onto one leg. “So what does SC stand for?”

She didn’t think it was possible, but his ears grew even redder. “Nothing. It’s just a stupid nickname she came up with when we were growing up.”

Deciding not to let a snippet of her pilot’s personal history go to waste, Shepard pressed on in a different direction. “Gunny has to stand for something though.” She watched as a soft smile spread over his face.

“It does. Hilary was always following me around when we were younger, always saying that she wanted to be just like her big brother.” He lowered his head and let out a short laugh. “I remember this one time she found a pair of my old crutches and dragged them around for weeks. It was after…” He caught himself. Telling his commanding officer a story about how his baby sister had cheered him up while he recovered from a painful surgery to correct his bowed legs wasn’t what he had meant to start talking about, but it just came out.

“Anyway,” he said instead, clearing his throat and ignoring the easy way Shepard had snuck past his defenses. “When I got my wings, Hilary suddenly wanted to be a pilot, just like me. I told her that all the relief pilot spots were taken, but that she could man the turret guns with me instead. Long story short, I started calling her Gunny.”

Shepard sighed. “I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister.” While she had grown up with a handful of other kids on each ship her parents had been stationed at, she had still felt isolated as an only child. It would have been nice to have someone to connect with instead of learning new names and faces every other year.

“It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be,” Joker told her. “There were times I wished that I could have told her to stop bugging me, but now, I can’t really see myself as not having her as a kid sister.”

“That sounds nice to have someone that close to you.” She looked at him slyly. “Someone to give goofy nicknames to.”

He groaned. “You’re going to keep at this until I tell you, aren’t you?”

“Uh huh.”

“Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Cross my heart. Come on, it can’t be that bad.”

He took a breath. “Space Cowboy.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Is there an explanation coming, or…?”

“I’m from Tiptree, this little backwater colony in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t have the medical facilities that I needed, so Mom and I moved to Arcturus Station where she got a job as a civilian contractor. Dad couldn’t leave the farm since that’s what was paying for the majority of my treatments, and when Hilary came around, it was easier for her to stay with him while I got shuttled back and forth.” He could remember countless vid conferences between siblings, Hilary asking a million questions.

“Dad must have told her something to keep her from getting scared about whatever surgery I was having, because out of the blue she started calling me Space Cowboy all the time when I turned sixteen. I went with it and told her that I was away wrangling stars for her. The nickname might have gotten shortened over the years, but it stuck.” He eyed her. He was expecting some teasing, but all he got from her was a thoughtful expression. “What? No snarky comment?”

She shook her head. “Nope. I think it’s really sweet that you have someone who cares enough about you to give you a nickname. Thank you for sharing that with me.”

“You’re welcome.” He paused. “Hey, Jules?”

She grinned. As long as she could remember, no one had shortened her name like that. “What?”

“Was there a reason you came up here in the first place?”

“Oh. Yes, I wanted to give you the next coordinates.” It was something she could have done via her omni-tool, but she had wanted to do it in person. There was something about Joker that sparked her curiosity and she wanted to get to know him better. He was a private person and seemed to have a personal bubble about a mile wide, but she just saw that as a personal challenge instead of the blatant ‘stay back’ sign it was.

And besides, he thought she was pretty. People thought she was an efficient, capable, deadly soldier with excellent leadership qualities, but never something so utterly feminine. It felt good that at least someone in the Alliance looked past all her medals and commendations and saw the woman underneath.

“Oooh, desert planets,” Joker said, punching in the coordinates and doing the math for FTL travel. “Gotta love ‘em.”

“And that’s usually where distress signals come from. It never fails that I wind up with sand in my suit. I hate that; it itches like crazy.”

“Fun times.” He looked up at her. “Anything else?”

She might not know him all that well yet, but Juliana felt that there was a start of a friendship between them. “No, that’s all. I’ll be down with Ash doing weapons detail if you need me.” Smiling, she tapped at the shoulder of his chair. “See you, Space Cowboy.”

Walking away, she heard his faint chuckle. “See you, Commander.”

17 Promise
“So, rampaging zombies, right? Not exactly my idea of an ideal vacation spot.” Joker craned his neck to see around his headrest, expecting Shepard to stand behind him with her usual sarcastic grin. Instead, she had her arms crossed and a stormy look on her face. Crap, he thought. Way to judge your boss’ mood. To his surprise, she took a deep breath and slowly leaned against his seat, whatever anger that had been bubbling at the surface dissipating.

“Yeaaaah,” she drawled, putting more of her weight on her forearms. “The tourist brochure totally lied about that one, didn’t they?”

He let out a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding. “Yep. Feros: come for the remote location, stay for the mind controlling houseplants! Doesn’t quite have that special ring to attract visitors, does it?” The indelicate snort of laughter near his ear assured him that she was in a better mood. “Next time, promise to have us land somewhere nice and tropical, preferably without zombies, okay?”

She chuckled as she tipped the bill of his cap low over his eyes. “You just want to see me in a bikini.”

He listened to her footsteps as she walked away. Putting his hat back to rights, he suddenly realized that now that she mentioned it, he couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d look like in a swimsuit. Grinning, he tapped in the new coordinates Shepard had just posted him and thought that daydreaming about sand and surf and expanses of pale, pale skin weren’t bad ways to occupy his time.

11 Midnight
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

“Can’t sleep. Loads of reports and paperwork will kill me.”

He turned in his chair to watch as Shepard plunked down into the empty co-pilot’s seat. It had started as one of his sarcastic barbs; one time she’d been standing behind him and he’d snapped that the least she could do was sit somewhere where he could actually see her if she planned on hanging around and talking to him. Now it was habit for her to do her mission reports on the bridge with him and to keep him company long after she was finished.

For a non-people person, he was surprised at how much he missed her quiet presence when she wasn’t around.

“And how awful that would be: you spend the majority of your missions blasting the hell out of bad guys only to be done in by a few datapads and forms that need filling out in triplicate.”

“Horrific.” Playing with the end of her ponytail – Joker silently noted that she’d taken her hair down from its usual regulation bun and that instead of a uniform, it looked as if she was wearing a pair of workout sweats and a tank top – she tilted her head to the side. “Hey, it’s past midnight. Wasn’t your shift over a couple of hours ago?”

He shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep.” Tonight had been one of those nights where sleeping was proving impossible. Narrow Alliance cots, even when supplemented by extra padding, provided less cushioning than he’d like, especially after pulling an extra long shift during the last field mission. He hadn’t been able to change positions as often as he should have and his back was letting him know loud and clear now that it didn’t like the abuse. The new meds that Chakwas kept nagging him to take were helping somewhat, but he found that he could ignore his body’s aches and pains better by keeping his mind engaged. Running diagnostic checks and going over flight reports were familiar, comforting, even.

“We’re heading out to Noveria soon; I need everyone rested and at their best, especially my pilot.” Standing up, she put a hand on his headrest.

“Everyone rested?” he asked, looking up at her. “Pot, I’d like to introduce you to Kettle.”

“I’ll go to bed if you promise to come with me.”

He put a hand to his chest as if in shock. “Commander, you could have at least offered to buy me dinner first. I’d even settle for just a drink.”

Rolling her eyes at his fake offended tone and wide eyes, she tugged on the sleeve of his uniform. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. Come on; the Alliance has relief pilots on their payroll for a reason. Call them up already.”

Joker attempted to sigh, but it came out as a yawn instead. It was weird, but just talking to her seemed to relax him, his muscles loosening enough that sleep was looking to be a possibility. He also knew that trying to win a contest of wills with Shepard was a losing battle. The woman was one of the most stubborn people he knew. He tapped out a quick message on his omni-tool to alert his replacement and stood up from his seat. It wasn’t until he reached for the crutches he kept stowed nearby that he had a thought.

Stairs. The damned elevator was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Out of habit, he rose early enough to beat the rush of crewmembers as they arrived at their stations and stayed late on the bridge to avoid an audience as he slowly made his way down to the mess hall and crew quarters. Having Shepard see him hobble around was doing wonders for his ego already; having her wait for him as he made it down step by step…

“You don’t have to wait up for me, you know,” he started, trying to appeal to her nice side. “You look about ready to drop.”

She shrugged. “I am feeling a bit sleepy now,” she agreed, “but you’re not holding me up.”

Damn. When appealing to her nice side failed, he decided to tweak her mean streak. “I don’t need a babysitter,” he snapped, feeling a twinge of guilt when he saw something that looked like hurt flash in her eyes. “I can get to the elevator fine without you.” He was expecting – hoping, more like – for her to roll her eyes and make some sort of sarcastic comment before leaving him there on the bridge, but all she did was shift her weight to one leg and put her hands on her hips.

“I know you can make it down there on your own, Jeff,” she said tersely. She rarely used his given name, which meant that he had succeeded in striking a nerve. “Did it ever occur to you that I wanted to walk down with you?”

“Why would you want to do that?” Her words threw him so much that he forgot to put any sort of acidic tone in his voice. The way she had looked at him made him believe she thought of him as someone more than just the guy flying the ship.

The way she looked at him made him wonder if she knew he thought of her as someone more than just Commander Shepard.

She opened her mouth, then shut it before opening it again. “Because…I…” She scowled, self-conscious about the splotches of red she could already feel burning her cheeks. “You know, you’re bitching about wasting time, but the only one holding both of us up from getting any rest is you.”

“Fine. Then let’s not waste any more time.” He gestured with one of his crutches for her to go ahead of him.

“Fine.”

It wasn’t until they had said their good nights at the entrance to the crew deck that he realized she had never really answered his question.

21 Silence
Shepard had disappeared into the Normandy ever since coming back from Virmire. It took a little investigating using the ship’s security cameras, but after some process of elimination, he finally found her sitting by herself in the communications room. Shepard had slid down the wall and had her arms curled protectively around her legs, which were drawn up until her knees touched her chin.

“She told me to go,” she whispered, staring straight ahead at the empty chairs in front of her without really seeing them. She turned her head to look at him and he was surprised at the sheen of tears in her already red-rimmed eyes. “I couldn’t save them both. I wanted to. I should have. Shit, it should have been me staying behind laying suppressive fire instead of Ash.”

Not knowing what to say, Joker silently eased himself down to the ground and draped an arm around her, his fingers brushing against her shoulder. She let out a shaky sort of breath and relaxed her hold on her legs. Very carefully, almost as if she were afraid that he would bolt, she rested her head against his shoulder. He didn’t know how long they stayed like that, but she finally sat up straight and rubbed at her face with the heels of her hands. When she looked at him again, she had her familiar determined expression back.

“Thank you,” she said, reaching out to touch his hand. “You being here meant…” She caught his eye and refused to break contact. “It meant a lot to me.”

He ran his thumb over the back of her hand and gave her a small smile, grateful that he could offer her some sort of comfort. “Anytime.”

34 Formal
“I can’t believe it,” she said laughingly. “You actually shaved?”

He fidgeted under her gaze and ran a hand over his cheek. “Trimmed. It took me seven weeks to grow this baby out; no way I’m gonna start up again from scratch.” Joker rocked back on his heels, feeling naked without the cover the brim of his hat normally provided. “Besides, if I’m being forced into this getup just to sit around and listen to a bunch of people talk on and on for hours about how we saved the Citadel, having a freshly shaved baby face would just ruin the image of a polished, badass pilot.”

Shepard quirked her eyebrow and grinned. “Heaven forbid.” Reaching out, she brushed a piece of lint off the shoulder of his dress blues. “And for your information, I plan on sitting next to you for the evening. I expect interesting commentary from you during the boring parts.”

He gave her a mock salute. “Challenge accepted, ma’am.”

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