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Joker/Shepard WiP, pt. 2

For word limit reasons, here's the second part of my untitled Joker/Shep fic.

3 Memory
The day he graduated from flight school. The first time he sat at the Normandy’s controls. Those were moments that he held close, ones that he took out and inspected every so often during his downtime.

After landing on the Citadel after Sovereign’s defeat, he added another to his collection: Shepard’s hands framing his face as she leaned in and kissed him. She had been sweaty and bloody and had pulled away before he could properly kiss her back, but the feel of her mouth against his had been seared into his memory.

After, there hadn’t been time to catch her alone and talk about what had happened; the Council and other matters had taken all of Shepard’s time, then they’d been redeployed to hunt down rogue geth ships almost soon after. Joker had all but convinced himself that the brief brush of lips had been one of those “I’m glad to be alive” affairs: that she hadn’t cared who she had kissed and he had been the closest person for her to grab onto at the time.

And then the Normandy was going down in flames and she was shoving him into an escape pod. Through the haze of pain radiating from his broken arm, he locked eyes with her, both of them realizing at the same moment that she wasn’t going to make it in time.

Jeff bolted up in bed, sweat making the sheets stick to him. Scrubbing a shaky hand over his face, he wished that he could forget the memory of frightened blue eyes staring back at him.

4 - Box
If anyone asked him, Jeff wouldn’t be able to recall a single detail from Shepard’s funeral except for one. No matter how hard he tried to forget, he could vividly remember how the dark blue of his SR-1 cap contrasted against stark white fabric lining. Other crewmembers and various dignitaries had donated flowers or mementos that had reminded them of the fallen Commander, but when it came time for him to add his contribution to the empty box – he refused to call it a coffin: the Alliance had never recovered a body – the hat had been his choice.

A part of him felt like he had died right alongside Shepard in the crash. It was only right that his hat, something that he rarely took off, something that was just as much a piece of himself as anything else, be buried along with her memory.

50 Breathe
“You see the proof for yourself.”

Joker pressed his palms against the glass. There was no way that this could be real. The Juliana Shepard that he knew had died in the explosion that had taken down his ship. This… Really, it could have been any body; he couldn’t match his memories of Shepard to the body hooked up to numerous tubes and equipment. Then he caught sight of a patch of familiar copper colored hair that somehow survived despite the condition of the healing scalp around it. “How do I know that isn’t a clone in there?” he asked, not once taking his eyes off the body lying under a sheet in the other room. A ventilator hissed nearby and he caught himself timing his own breaths to each mechanical wheeze.

“The task the Illusive Man has set aside demands that Commander Shepard be at the lead; no one else will do. Cerberus did not spend nearly two years and pour endless credits into this project for a mere clone.” Jeff heard the clack of heels against the concrete floor to his right. “Is it safe to say that you’ve accepted our offer?”

He flexed his fingers against the window. For the first time in what felt like forever, something in his chest unfurled and started to breathe again. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m in.”

The operative at his side – Meagan? Mira? He was crap with names – smiled and held something out to him. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Moreau.”

He took the white and black hat from her hands and stared hard at the SR-2 logo printed on it, wondering what else this organization had brought back to life. “The name’s Joker.”

41 Wait
“Are you sure this is a secure channel?”

“Yes. It is still as secure as the last seven times you asked that question.”

“And you’re certain that not even Cerberus can pick up on it?”

“That makes eight times you have asked that. And, yes, I am still certain.”

Joker turned in his chair when he heard Shepard come up on the bridge. “Hey, I got your message,” she said. “What’s up?” In the dim light, the red of her scars eerily illuminated the line of her cheek.

Standing up, Joker shoved his hands in his pockets. “Have a seat,” he said, gesturing towards his vacated spot. “I’ve got a surprise for you.”

She quirked her eyebrow at him and hesitantly sat down, admiring the comfortable leather seating. “And by surprise, it doesn’t have anything to do with the words ‘bouncing’, ‘buxom’, or ‘barely legal’ that you might have downloaded from the extranet, right? Because if it does, then there are certain things in our friendship that really never need sharing.”

He rolled his eyes. “Please, what do you take me for, some kind of perv? I’d never download anything like that here.” He winked at her. “I keep those vids in my personal stash.” Looking at EDI’s unblinking display one last time, he punched a few buttons until his monitor opened up. “Just sit here and don’t touch my chair controls. I finally got the settings the way I want them.”

“What are you…” Shepard leaned forward when someone on the monitor came into focus. “Mom?”

On the other end of the conference vid, Hannah Shepard gave a trembling smile. “Hello, Baby.” She reached out and put a hand on her screen, almost as if she wanted to reach out and touch her daughter to assure herself that she was indeed alive. “Your helmsman explained some of your situation, but I’m so happy to see you, Juliana.”

Shepard let out a watery sounding laugh and touched her fingers to her own screen. “I don’t know how much I can say, but,” she turned around and caught Joker slowly making his way off the bridge to give them some privacy. “Can you wait a second? I’ll be right back.” Jumping out of her chair, she hurried over to him.

“How did you manage to get a hold of my mother?” she asked, her hand on Joker’s arm.

He shrugged. “Chambers mentioned that you’d gotten a message from her, so I…” he fidgeted and tugged on the brim of his cap. “I sort of had EDI locate what communication buoy it pinged from and found her ship from there.” It had been a little more complicated than that, especially since he had to hack into the Alliance’s private network and tiptoe his way around tons of security checks, but those were details she didn’t need to know about. He went perfectly still as her fingers brushed against his jaw.

“Thank you,” she murmured, leaning in to press a kiss to his scruffy cheek. The fact that he had actually talked to Kelly was huge, especially since he went out of his way to avoid the woman whenever possible. He’d said something about Chambers unnerving him by being too cheerful, or something. “I always knew that underneath that prickly exterior, you were nothing but a softie.”

“Don’t say it too loud,” he said gruffly, tugging on his hat again. “It’ll ruin my reputation.”

She ran her fingers across his cheek one last time before turning away and moving back to where her mother was waiting. “Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me.”

30 Body
Jeff yawned and reached for his coffee mug, frowning when he realized that it was empty. Stretching, he winced as his shoulder protested. Probably from sitting still for too long, he rationalized, trying his best to rotate his arm in a way that wouldn’t hurt too much. He paused mid-stretch when his omni-tool pinged.

[Shepard, J.]: Your shift ended four hours ago. And before you ask how I know you’re still up there, EDI told me.

He threw a sour look towards EDI’s console. Of course it would have to snitch on him. The monitor flicked on and the AI impassively stared back.

“Way to go, Mom,” he grunted.

“It is important that you rest, Mr. Moreau. Lack of sleep will slow your judgment and I am programmed to alert Commander Shepard of any issues that arise within her staff.”

“Yeah, yeah. Stop picking on me already, Thing.” Turning his attention back to his omni-tool, he wrote out a reply.

[Moreau, J.]: Can’t sleep. Thought I’d be productive instead.

[Shepard, J.]: EDI says that you haven’t done anything but sit for 14.7 minutes. I’d say your productivity is hurting.
[Shepard, J.]: Can’t sleep either. Want to come up and be unproductive together?

He smirked. [Moreau, J.]: Careful, Commander. It almost sounds like you’re inviting me up to your place to look at your etchings.
[Moreau, J.]: Give me a few minutes, but I’ll be up.

[Shepard, J.]: That’s what she said.

[Moreau, J.]: Ooh, classy. What are you, fourteen?

[Shepard, J.]: You started it with the “etchings” bit.
[Shepard, J.]: Anyway, see you in a few.

After calling up his relief pilot, Jeff made his way towards the elevator. Instead of using the intercom next to her cabin door to request entry, he used the old “shave and a haircut” knock on the metal, smiling when she used the two-knock “two bits” reply before opening the door.

“Just be glad I didn’t ask you up here for coffee,” she said by way of a greeting, moving aside so he could go down the stairs first.

“Coffee sounds good right about now.” He sank down on the couch and fought the temptation to kick his feet up on the nearby table.

“No, sleep sounds good right about now. Caffeine would just make you jittery.” She watched as he tried to contain a hiss of pain when he moved to throw his arm around the back of the sofa. “Is your shoulder okay?”

He was too busy appreciating the way she looked in the blue light of her aquarium to work up an answer. It seemed as if she had tried to go to sleep; she was wearing a black tank top and a pair of nearly indecently short shorts. Her hair was loose and looked slightly rumpled, like she had run her fingers through it repeatedly. A thought ran through his head: Shepard, sprawled across her bed, her eyes half-lidded and her mouth tugged in a welcoming smile. He blinked, surprised at how quickly his brain had drifted off into the gutter. “Yeah,” he said, finally answering her. “Just a little tight. So, how are we going to be unproductive?”

She sat beside him and tucked her legs underneath her. Now that she was closer, he could see the dark circles under her eyes. He wondered if she was having nightmares again; she’d mentioned it offhandedly the other day when she caught him wandering around the Mess after the late shift. She hadn’t elaborated on what they were about, but he wondered just how often she had them and if they were the reason she was up nearly as late as he was most nights.

He didn’t know what worried him more: the fact that she looked like she was running ragged or the fact that he was worried about her running ragged.

“We never got around to watching The Princess Bride together. I figured we could do it now that we both have some time to spare.” She eyed him. “That is, unless you want to watch…”

He shook his head. “No, that’s a good one to see.” In that two-year absence, he’d tried to watch the movie, but wound up turning it off before the opening scene finished. It hadn’t seemed right to see it without her. Relaxing against the sofa cushions while she called up the movie and had it projected onto the table in front of them, he suddenly tensed when he felt her fingers at his back.

“Wow, you’ve got some crazy knots going on here,” she commented.

He immediately went on the defensive. No one got close to him; he practically had a sign hanging around his neck that said “do not touch” in big, bold letters. He didn’t like anyone thinking that he was fragile or needy or, or shit, different than a normal person. “You don’t have…” he started, the snappish tone he had meant to say it in coming out sounding weak instead. Damn it, why did she have to work her way under his carefully built defenses? Why did he let her get so close when he usually pushed other people away? Why…

“I know that I don’t have to,” she said softly. “I can see that you’re hurting and I want to help. That’s what friends do, you know.” She looked up at him, his hat casting shadows over his features. It seemed as if he was having an internal debate with himself, but eventually he gave the tiniest of nods that she took as a sign to continue.

“Let me know if I do something that hurts,” she murmured, shifting so that she was facing him. She hadn’t been lying about the knots that she had found at his shoulder, her fingers kneading his muscles until she felt each of them loosen.

Joker leaned into her touch, the warmth of her hands sinking deep into his bones. Wordlessly, she used her hands to turn him so she could continue across his back, paying attention to what made him tense and what made him sigh in relief. She found out that the spot right where the back of his neck joined his shoulder made him melt backwards against her.

“Better?” she asked. It felt natural to drape her arms around him in a backwards hug.

He reached out and stroked her ankle. She had stretched her leg along the cushions sometime during the backrub, but he couldn’t remember just when. She’d effectively turned his brain into mush. “Mmm hmm,” he managed to slur out, his eyes drooping. “Thanks.”

She yawned. “You’re welcome.” The heat that radiated off his body was quickly making her drowsy. “Any chance of getting a return massage in the future?”

He shifted until his back was against the cushions. It took very little maneuvering for Shepard to curl up against his side, her head on his shoulder. “Chances are good,” he replied, the last word stretching out as he yawned.

Why do I let her get so close? he asked himself, his fingers idly running through strands of her hair. Because it feels damn good to have her here, that’s why. She drifted off first, if her breathing was anything to go by. Propping his feet on the table, he quickly followed.

The screen in front of them winked out of sight, neither of them having watched a single minute of the movie.

26 Ice
Joker rarely let EDI take full control of the ship’s piloting system, but it was only right that he man the shuttle that would take Shepard on the mission she was preparing to go to.

Ice crusted on the shuttle’s windows, but Joker still managed to smoothly land. He knew Shepard was behind him before she said a word, her hand clutching the back of the pilot chair as if her life depended on it. “I’ll be back in a little while,” she said, her voice low and in a register normally reserved for funeral parlors.

That was fitting too; the crash site of the original Normandy was something of a graveyard for them both.

“Be careful,” he said, looking up at her. She was already putting on her helmet, her expression unreadable. He watched as she slowly made her way through the icy terrain, her omni-tool a glowing orange beacon amidst all the white. Every so often she would crouch down and pick something off the ground. It wasn’t until he realized that she was murmuring something under her breath that the things she was picking up were dog tags. She walked around the crash site, her hand pressed up against the battered side of the Mako, before wandering out of view.

Coming here was a bad idea, Joker thought miserably, staring up at the ruined remains of his beloved ship. He could remember the first time that he had laid eyes on the Normandy, her paint fresh and maintenance workers still stenciling on the name’s lettering. Now, that same lettering was chipped and worn with large chunks of letters town apart. I’m so sorry, baby. I wish I could have saved you. He closed his eyes and listened to Shepard announce another name she had found. I wish I could have saved you all. He was pulled out of his thoughts when Shepard’s breath caught in her throat.

“What’s going on?”

He didn’t hear a reply from her, but he did hear the crunch of snow as she moved. “I found something,” she croaked, her voice strained.

“What?” Was it hostiles? Was it a body? He wished that they had thought to power up her suit’s camera so he could see what she was seeing. “Shepard, what is it?”

“My helmet.”

Shit. “You all right?” It was a stupid thing to say, especially when her breath was coming out in shaky gasps into his earpiece, but he didn’t know what else to say. “Jules, talk to me.”

“I died here,” she whispered. “Actually, I died somewhere above the planet, but my body landed here.” There was another crunching sound as she talked. He guessed that she was kneeling down to pick the helmet up. “My body. Jeff…”

“I don’t want to take it,” she said, her voice wobbly. “I don’t want it as a reminder or put up in some damn museum. Fucking Collectors, there’s still bits of my skull stuck to the inside of the thing.”

“Hey, take a couple of deep breaths. You’re going to hyperventilate if you keep this up.” He took a few loud breaths and after a while, Shepard seemed to match him. “Listen to me. Do you have all the tags collected?”


“And you set the monument up?”


“Then come on back to the shuttle. Leave the helmet where it’s at. No one knows about it besides you and me. Just come back to me and we’ll go back to the ship. Then we’ll keep getting ready to take on the Collectors on their home turf and show them what happens when they mess with us.”

“Damn right. We’re going to kick their asses for what they’ve done.” Her voice was thick, but at least it had lost that panicked, high-pitched edge it had only a minute ago.

“That’s my girl. Now come on, let’s go home.” It didn’t take very long for her to make her way back to the shuttle, and she pulled off her Cerberus-issued helmet as soon as the doors were closed. Carefully placing all twenty of the tags in a wooden box they had brought with them, she turned to face him when he left the cockpit.

“I found this when I was looking on the bridge,” she said, pulling something out her side pocket. Joker couldn’t help the bark of laughter that escaped him when he caught sight of the little plastic figurine. The bikini-clad hula girl’s grass skirt was slightly discolored from being exposed to the elements, but he stood the figurine up in his palm and tapped at her side, both of them chuckling when the doll began to bobble about.

“I can’t believe she made it,” Joker said, staring down at the doll’s cheeky smirk. Her matching saucy wink was a little faded, but besides a little wear and tear, it was in good shape.

“Well, you did have her in a compartment instead of sitting on top of your console.” Shepard could remember the first time that she’d seen Alani, the Amazing Hula Girl perched on top of Joker’s console. She had teased him about regulations barring personal items in individual workspaces. He’d only shrugged and said that the doll was the best co-pilot he’d ever had, but as time went on and Shepard had spent more and more of her free moments on the bridge, Alani had been stowed away in a compartment above where Jeff kept his crutches handy. She had made an offhand comment about it once and his only reply was that his new co-pilot was pretty good to have around, even if she didn’t dance during working hours.

She’d been sitting in the empty seat to his right at the time, so she’d taken that as a huge compliment.

“Thanks for finding her,” he murmured. Running his thumb over the doll’s plastic hair one last time, he reached out and placed the figurine into Shepard’s hands. “I want you to have it.”

Her eyes went wide. “Really? But she was your lucky charm.”

“It’s okay; I’ve got a new one. She still won’t dance or wear skimpy outfits during working hours, but I don’t hold it against her.” There was so much that he wanted to say to her, that he was sorry he couldn’t save the ship, that he’d spent the better part of two years in a downward spiral of depression and guilt over her death, that he was grateful she’d saved him or else she’d have twenty-one dog tags in that box instead of only twenty.

He didn’t say any of that, deciding to bottle it up just like he bottled every other emotion he had that this woman seemed to bring out of him. “Thank you, I’ll treasure her,” Shepard said, holding onto his hand longer than usual. “And thank you, for being here with me. I don’t know if I could have done it without you.”

“You’re welcome.” Clearing his throat, he slowly pulled his hand back. “Hey, we still have that limited touchy-feely moment per week thing going on. It’s only Monday, you don’t want to fill your quota up this early.” Content that he’d lightened up the moment, he turned to walk back into the cockpit.

“You’re right.” Settling down on the hard metal seats, Shepard put the figurine back in her pocket for safekeeping. “Take us home, Joker.”

12 Temptation
“I hate dresses.” The clack of heels against the floor had made him think that Miranda was coming up behind him, but the declaration, followed by a few colorful oaths, made him realize that it was Shepard.

“Oh come on, Jules,” he said, not looking behind him. “How bad could it…Wow.” He swiveled his chair to face her and his mouth went dry. Kasumi had outdone herself; the black leather dress clung to Shepard like a glove. Joker was well aware that she had curves – hell, he was pretty sure thatall of their crew was aware of that fact – but Shepard had never dressed in a way that displayed them so prominently before. The cut of the dress showed off the graceful slope of her neck, the strength of her shoulders and toned arms, and mile-long legs made even longer with the addition of shiny black heels. Whatever she was wearing underneath pushed her normally modest (and Joker-admired) cleavage upwards, threatening to spill over the top of the low neckline.

But what really got him was her hair. She usually had it scraped away from her face in a severe bun or pulled up in a casual ponytail, but tonight it fell in loose waves down her back. A wide section had spilled over her shoulder and his fingers itched to touch it and see if it felt as soft as it looked.

“I feel like a hooker,” she grumped, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear.

He cleared his throat. “Trust me,” he said hoarsely. “You look nothing like a hooker.”

“You think?” She’d done something to her face – the scars that he’d gotten used to seeing were hidden and her eyes looked even bluer thanks to smoky eye shadow and long, sooty lashes. His eyes lingered on her lips, wondering if the soft rose color would smudge if he happened to kiss her.

She was temptation personified, and damned if he wasn’t attracted. Shaking his head, he leered. “Nah, you look more like a highly paid escort. Much classier.”

Shepard rolled her eyes and lightly smacked him in the shoulder. “Jerk.” She said it without any heat, but at least now she was grinning instead of looking like she was uncomfortable in her own skin.

“But you love me anyway.” It breezily came out without him even thinking. He sat still and watched as she tilted her head and looked at him briefly before smiling.

Somebody has to. I guess I must have drawn the short straw.”

“Hah.” Gesturing at her feet, he fought for a quick change of subject. “You might want to think about actually moving your hips. You’re not clomping around in your boots here; the way you’re keeping your legs stiff makes it look like you’re walking on a pair of stilts.”

“So you’re an expert in walking in these miniature torture devices?”

“I’ve watched my share of scantily-clad professionals to know enough. Go on, give it a try.”

“I swear I’m going to snap an ankle.” Taking a breath, Shepard paced back and forth. “Better?”

He swallowed hard at the way the dress clung to her backside. Oh man, this was a mistake. “Yeah, lots. Hey, be careful going in there, okay?”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ve got a gun.”

He looked at her quizzically. “Do I even what to know where you’re hiding it?”

She laughed. Walking to the airlock, she put even more sway into her hips than was necessary. “I’ll let you guess.”

39 Overwhelmed
Shepard barely waited for the shuttle to land inside the docking bay before leaping out. Too impatient to wait for the elevator, she climbed the maintenance shaft ladder up to the CIC level, taking two rungs at a time. The only warning that Joker had before she was on him was the thundering sound of her boots down the hall as she ran at a full sprint towards the conference room.

“Ow! Boss Lady,” he said, trying to laugh to lighten the mood when she threw her arms around him for a hug. “Watch the ribs, okay? I don’t want to fill out paperwork on how Shepard-strength hugs cracked ‘em.”

“Shut. Up.” She eased up and stared at him and Joker was amazed to see that her lip was trembling. Hell, he was shocked to see that her entire body seemed to be shaking. “I know that joking is your usual coping mechanism, but just…”

“Hey,” he said, his voice softer. “I’m here.” Impulse had him reaching out to cup the side of her face with his palm.

She turned her face into his hand. “You could have been taken. It’s bad enough that we lost the entire crew, but…” She leaned against him, their foreheads touching. “I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost you.”

He threaded his fingers in the curls that had escaped her bun. Things that he’d bottled up unsaid welled in his throat, leaving him overwhelmed that the woman in front of him could evoke such emotions from him. Needing to say something before he spilled his guts about how he felt about her, he gave her shoulders a light squeeze with his free arm and stood back. “You’d be missing probably the only pilot capable of flying through the Omega-4 relay without crashing, that’s what.” He smirked at her, knowing that their time alone was growing short, if the footsteps down the hall were anything to go by. “It takes a little more than a few Collectors to drag me off my ship; let’s go give them hell and get our crew back.”

She nodded and took a deep breath, her shoulders straightening. “Damned straight,” she said, returning his smirk with one of her own.

2 Hero
Illium’s spaceport was the perfect place to disband. Miranda had made a generous ‘discretionary fund’ withdrawal that would provide every crew member with enough money to grab a ship to their preferred destination and then have a bit left over for whatever else they wanted.

Shepard stood by the airlock as everyone disembarked. She’d said her goodbyes and was already mentally preparing to surrender herself to the Alliance. A court marshalling followed by a lifetime stay in the brig is probably the best-case scenario, she thought gloomily. Then again, you deserve far worse for practically wiping out an entire race and blowing up a star system.

She was shaken out of her thoughts by a hand on her arm. “That’s the last of them,” Joker said. “Where to now?”

Shepard arched her eyebrow. “You’re getting off this ship, and then I’m heading to the Citadel to turn myself in.”

“Sorry, but I’m not doing that.” He clenched his hands into fists. “I’m not going to let you face the firing squad by yourself.”

“Damn it, Joker. This is no time to play hero. I’m doing this so that no one else catches the fallout from my actions. You’re going to grab your gear and get off of this ship.” Crossing her arms over her chest, she glared at him. “That’s an order.”

“With all due respect, ma’am, we stopped working for both the Alliance and Cerberus. You’re not the boss of me and I can do whatever I damn well want.” He took a step closer to her and gently pried her arms down. “Besides, we’re a team. You can’t go where I can’t follow to save your ass whenever you do something stupid and/or life-threatening.”

She let out a hiss that sounded suspiciously like laughter before sobering. “You know what I’m planning on doing, Jeff.”

“Yeah, and this means that we’ll probably get to be roommates in the brig.”

“They’ll ground you.”

“Tell me something they haven’t done to me already, Jules.”

She looked up at him with a panicked expression. “They can strip you of your rank, your achievements. They’ll wipe your career clean and ruin your reputation.”

Joker reached out again and laced his fingers with hers. “I don’t need a piece of paper telling me that I’m the best pilot ever. They can do whatever they want, but I’ll still know it. You’ll still know it. That’s enough for me.”

“Of all the stubborn people in the universe, I get stuck with you.” She said it fondly, her rigid stance relaxing until she was swaying towards him.

“You’re lucky that way, I guess.”

“Yeah, I guess I am.” They walked towards the bridge, both of them taking their customary seats: he in his pilot’s chair, she in the co-pilot spot.

“Question,” Joker started, once they were out of Illium’s orbit. “Just how were you planning on getting to the Citadel without me anyway?”

She looked sheepish. “EDI would have been doing most of the flying. Besides, I’ve watched you plenty of times; it can’t be that hard.”

He made an indignant squawk. “You’d actually attempt to fly my baby? Shepard, I’ve seen you handle the Mako and the Hammerhead. If you fly like you drive, you would have crashed before even getting out of the hangar!”

“I am not a bad driver!”

“Whatever; Garrus told me that he still has flashbacks.” He pointed at her. “Face it, you need me.”

She put her elbow on the chair’s armrest and propped her chin in her hand. Shaking her head, she grinned at him, grateful for the distraction from what lay only a few hours away. More than you’ll ever know, Jeff, she thought. More than you’ll ever know.

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