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untitled Joker/Shepard WiP, pt. 3

And part 3. Since I broke everything up like this, I guess it'll make it easier to add in the ones that still need to be written, unless I break word limit space again.

44 Hope
His heart sank when he saw her sitting there in the brig. Why they needed to put cuffs on her was beyond him, but he’d never seen her so defeated looking in the entire time he’d known her.

“Hey,” he said, waiting until the burly guard finished scanning him for weapons.

She picked her head up. “Hey.” Her voice was flat, but he’d seen something light up her eyes when she saw him. “Did they let you go?”

“Yeah. No real evidence that I was ever affiliated with Cerberus or involved in the Alpha Relay incident, belief that I’m not a danger to society, yadda, yadda.” He shifted his weight from one foot to another. “They even took me back after I went AWOL.” He gave her a sheepish grin, knowing that she had thought he’d left the Alliance through proper channels instead of simply walking away. “I’m still not on active duty, but at least they didn’t throw a desertion charge at me.”

“And you decide to come here in your free time?”

He nodded. “A little bird told me that you might need some cheering up.” He walked into her cell and sat on the bench beside her. Chakwas had been allowed to tend to Shepard’s injuries, so he’d gotten first-hand intel on how she was doing. Physically, she was on the mend, but mentally, she was a wreck.

“How are your ribs?” she asked.

“They’ve been better. I’m lucky that I heal from stress fractures pretty quick. I’ll be back to normal in no time.” Looking around, he deliberately stared at the guard who was trying to give them some sort of privacy. “Who’s the no-neck you’ve got guarding you?”

“Play nice, Joker. That there is James Vega. He’s good people.” Pointing to Joker, she made sure her voice carried. “James, this is Jeff Moreau.”

“Nice to meet you,” Vega said before going back to attempting to make himself as unobtrusive as he could.

“Likewise.” Turning back to Shepard, he quirked his eyebrow. “So, he’s good people?”

“Rule number one of imprisonment: make nice with the guy handling your food. He’s not so bad; I could have gotten someone a whole lot worse.” It was the truth; she quickly found out during her first week that while he had been ordered to guard her, he really didn’t like the fact that she had been jailed in the first place. He kept her company as much as he could while keeping a professional distance and they’d built a quiet sort of rapport.

Having not heard any news about Joker since they’d been taken, Vega also did a good job of distracting her from going completely around the bend from worry.

“When’s your actual trial?” He hadn’t seen anything posted on the extranet, but then again, he figured that the Alliance would be keeping this as far out of the media’s reach as they possibly could.

“I don’t know. They haven’t set a date yet.” The waiting was driving her nuts. She would have preferred it if they had marched her straight into a courtroom as soon as she had turned herself in, but of course, that hadn’t happened because the batarians were screaming for her head. She knew that Anderson and Hackett were keeping her safe, which while she greatly appreciated them sticking their necks out for her, she also wished that things would just hurry up and get over with. “Until then…”

“Until then,” Joker reached inside his jacket and brandished a flimsy looking plastic spork. “We dig. Around the clock.”

It took her a second to get the reference, but then she burst out laughing. “The Great Escape, 1963.” Leaning against him, she put her head on his shoulder. “Thanks, I needed that.”

Moving his arm too much still made his ribs ache, so instead of gathering her close to him like he wanted, Joker merely leaned back against her, his cheek pressed against the crown of her head. “Anytime. Now come on, I’ve got twenty minutes left on my visitor’s pass. Your turn.” He was happy to hear the dejected sound leave her voice as she quoted from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly . It gave him hope that even though things looked bad right now, that they’d be okay in the long run.

8 Cold
Shepard made the familiar route up to the bridge, ready to settle into her usual space with a stack of datapads tucked under her arm when she saw it.

Someone was in the co-pilot’s space. The tune she’d been absently humming under her breath immediately died and she froze in her tracks. EDI was innocently sitting in her chair, her new robotic fingers efficiently going over flight data.

Shepard bit back the urge to growl out You’re in my spot, Thing. It was slightly ironic, seeing that she had spent so much time trying to talk Joker into playing nice with the Normandy’s AI when they had first encountered it.

“Hey, Commander! Check out my new co-pilot!” Joker turned in his chair, his face lit up in a way that Shepard had never seen before. He looked like a kid that had gotten the biggest haul in history on Christmas morning.

Holding her stack of datapads protectively against her chest, she shifted her weight onto one leg. “You had no idea that EDI had done this?”

“Are you kidding? This is me we’re talking about; if I’d have known beforehand that EDI was going to transfer herself into the body of a sexy robot, do you think I’d be able to keep it to myself? I would have baked a cake!” He sounded like someone had just given him one of the most exciting birthday presents ever and Juliana would have made a sarcastic comment, but she couldn’t think of one.

She was too busy thinking about the mechanics of ripping EDI’s new face off with her bare hands and beating the AI to death with it.

“I’m glad the two of you seem to be getting along well,” she said instead, trying but failing miserably at sounding friendly. “I should go.”

“You sure?” he asked, trying to decipher his commander’s body language. Something wasn’t right; she’d never been cold or brief towards him before.

She turned on her heel. “Yeah. See you.”

Ten minutes later, Juliana stared blankly at the fish tank in her personal quarters, datapads strewn over her bed. She’d tried to concentrate on the numbers in front of her, but they had swum before her eyes without making any sense.

“Oh, get over yourself, Jules,” she admonished, flopping onto her back. “This is no time to act like a jealous cow, especially over a robot, for crying out loud.” What did she have to worry about? It wasn’t like her: she was confident enough in her own skin to not feel threatened by other women. I mean really. Working with Miranda, Kasumi, and Samara alone pretty much teaches a girl to appreciate what she has instead of what she doesn’t, she thought. She looked down at her slight cleavage and sighed. Though I wouldn’t have minded if Cerberus had added a little extra padding in certain spots when they rebuilt me. EDI’s new body had plenty of extra, and then some. Joker had certainly appreciated…

She groaned. “It isn’t like we’re actually an item or anything!” she grumbled, staring up at the stars overhead. Attempting to work herself out of the sulk she had gotten into, she startled when her omni-tool pinged.

[Moreau, J.]: I think there’s something wrong with the ship. Frowning at the text, she tapped out her own message.

[Shepard, J.]: What do you mean?

[Moreau, J.]: I checked the thermostat, but I still don’t know why it got so frosty in here after you left.
There was a pause while Shepard thought of a reply, but her tool pinged again before she could start typing.

[Moreau, J.] Seriously, you ok?

[Shepard, J.]: I’m fine.

[Moreau, J.]: Shit.
[Moreau, J.]: Now I know something’s wrong. You women always go “I’m fine” when you’re pissed at us guys.
[Moreau, J.]: Just to be safe and cover all my bases, I’m sorry for anything I might have done. I’m also sorry for anything I might NOT have done.

She sighed. [Shepard, J.]: You didn’t do anything. Just me being stupid, is all.

[Moreau, J.]: Stupid? You? I find that hard to believe.

[Shepard, J.]: Believe it. Note to the universe: Juliana Shepard has faults.

[Moreau, J.]: Did you hear something? That was the sound of my world falling apart.
[Moreau, J.]: Since you confessed to being a mere mortal like the rest of us, wanna tell me what’s up?

[Shepard, J.]: Nothing.

[Moreau, J.]: Bull. “Nothing” is just Girl Code for “I shouldn’t have to tell you because you should know already.”
[Moreau, J.]: Remember, I have a sister. I know these things.
[Moreau, J.]: Talk to me, Jules.

[Shepard, J.]: Ok, but remember, I said it was stupid.
[Shepard, J.]: It’s EDI.

[Moreau, J.]: What about…hold on. Cerberus hacked something into her new body and she’s going to kill us all in our sleep, right?

[Shepard, J.]: Nothing so catastrophic.
[Shepard, J.]: She’s a good co-pilot.

From his spot on the bridge, dawning realization hit. He remembered the stack of work she had brought with her. It belatedly clicked that she had made the trip up to the bridge to specifically work like she normally did and that EDI had been sitting in Shepard’s customary spot.

[Moreau, J.]: You know, just because she’s in your spot doesn’t mean that she took YOUR spot.

[Shepard, J.]: I know. It’s just

[Moreau, J.]: Just…?

[Shepard, J.]: You looked thrilled
[Shepard, J.]: with her new self, I mean.
[Shepard, J.]: gawd, I sound like an idiot.

[Moreau, J.]: Wait a minute. Are you jealous about EDI?

[Shepard, J.]: No!

[Moreau, J.]: I can’t believe it! You’re JEALOUS.
[Moreau, J.]: Believe me, you have NOTHING to worry about.

[Shepard, J.]: Not what it looked like a while ago.
She slapped her forehead, wishing she could delete that last post.

[Moreau, J.]: I’m a GUY. We objectify things that happen to have boobs. It’s what we do. Just ask Donnelly.
[Moreau, J.]: Doesn’t mean that I want to go on a date with her or anything. This is more like “ooh look. New hottie on board.”

[Shepard, J.]: You do this for everyone? Even Miranda and Jack?

[Moreau, J.]: Weeeeellll…maybe not as loudly. I like all my important parts where they are.

[Shepard, J.]: You never objectify me.

[Moreau, J.]: See, that’s a trap. There’s no right way for me to answer that one.
[Moreau, J.]: Short answer is that I run the risk of you punching me in the face.

[Shepard, J.]: You know I’d never do that. I’d hurt my hand on your thick skull.

Joker rolled his eyes, but let out a breath he’d been holding.

[Moreau, J.]: And you should know that I’d never hit on EDI. She’s more like a mom who happens to be a hot robot.
[Moreau, J.]: Ok, that sounded weird. Anyway, the whole stainless steel look does nothing for me.
[Moreau, J.]: I’m REALLY partial to red hair and freckles instead.

[Shepard, J.]: Really?

[Moreau, J.]: Really. And I happen to be on a first name basis with a sizzlin’ hot redhead.

Juliana laughed and sat up. [Shepard, J.]: Is that so?

[Moreau, J.]: Yeah.

[Shepard, J.]: Sorry about the whole moody bit.

[Moreau, J.]: No worries.
[Moreau, J.]: Hey, do you know how to work a welding torch?

[Shepard, J.]: ?? Should I be worried?

[Moreau, J.]: You see, there’s this empty spot to the left of me. I was thinking of welding one of the spare chairs back in place.
[Moreau, J.]: It could be your NEW spot.

Jeff fumbled about for the right wording to get his point across. He’d gotten so used to having her hang out with him when she had any downtime that losing what time they spent together was unthinkable.

[Moreau, J.]: It would get lonely without you up here, Jules.
[Moreau, J.]: And unlike some people I know, EDI doesn’t get my jokes.

Shepard grinned. Sliding out of bed, she stretched and made a note to ask someone to finish installing the chair she had seen propped up in the corner next to Joker’s console.

[Shepard, J.]: I’ll get right on that.

[Moreau, J.]: Are we good?

[Shepard, J.]: Yeah, we’re good.

[Moreau, J.]: Soooo, no hugging it out required?

[Shepard, J.]: I wouldn’t want to push your weekly quota of touchy-feely moments.
[Shepard, J.]: And you just want an excuse to feel me up. ;)

[Moreau, J.]: Damn :( You know me too well.

[Shepard, J.]: Of course I do. You’re my #1 pilot.
[Shepard, J.]: Speaking of, how long do we have until we hit the Citadel?

[Moreau, J.]: ETA 30 minutes. Want me to let you know when we’re 5 minutes out?

[Shepard, J.]: Please. In the meantime, I’ve got to finish a report for Hackett.

[Moreau, J.]: Bureaucracy, gotta love it. Now get to work. *cracks whip*

[Shepard, J.]: Aye, aye, Mr. Bossman, Sir.

She waited a minute or two for any reply, but figured that Joker had signed out from their conversation. Starting to hum again, she picked up one of the many datapads and got back to work, feeling worlds better than she had only a few minutes ago.

10 Drink
“Buy a girl a drink?”

“You’re a higher pay grade than me; shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

Shepard laughed. “Cheapskate.” Leaning against the bar in Purgatory, she motioned for the bartender to bring two drinks over. “It would have been nice. I’ve never had a guy buy me a drink before.”

His eyebrows rose. “Never?”

“Comes with the territory. When you’re a Spacer brat and your mom’s the CO on one ship and your dad’s looking at boys like he’d vaporize them if they stood within five feet of his baby girl on another, you don’t get very many dates.” Taking a sip of her drink, she gave a graceless shrug. “I’ve gotten used to it.”

“Even after signing up?”

“Had too much to prove early on to focus on a relationship that went past a quick fling. Then after Elysium, men were too intimidated to even try.”

He scoffed into his bottle. “Idiots.” Silently, he counted himself in that number.

“Yeah,” she said with a wistful sigh, her finger running along the rim of her glass.

Finishing the last of his beer, he nudged her shoulder with his. “Wanna get out of here? I know a place off the beaten path if you’re interested.” It was more of a greasy spoon sort of diner, a place where flight crews congregated and swapped stories. Not that he really joined in on that, but the food was good and the waitress never let his coffee cup go empty.

Shepard nudged his shoulder back. “Jeff Moreau, are you asking me out?” she teased. Even in the low light of the bar, she could see the way the back of his neck reddened.

“Well, they do have some pretty decent burgers and fries. Honest to God dead cow, even. Just don’t go expecting anything fancy like they have at Apollo’s or anything. Remember, lower pay grade and all that.”

She slid her credit chit across the bar to pay for their drinks. “I’ll go if you spring for a milkshake. You can’t have a burger and fries date without one.”

He grinned, thrilled more than he probably should be at her use of the word date. “Only if it’s chocolate.”

“As if there’d be any other choice.”

He held out his arm, his grin widening when she linked her arm through his and leaned against him. “Then let’s go hail a cab.” If they were lucky, they’d get there before the dinner crowd came in, meaning that there might be some of the cook’s famous apple cobbler to share for dessert.

23 Fire
“Welcome back, Major.” Joker swiveled in his chair and smirked. “Good to see you on your own two feet.”

Kaidan warily eyed EDI. “Yeah, it’s good to be back on my feet.”

“And back on the team?”

“Yes, and back on the team. Just like old times, right?”

Joker nodded. “Just like old times.” He arched an eyebrow. “Except, you know, with added baggage and a healthy dose of mistrust.”

At least Kaidan had the decency to look abashed. “Look, about that…”

Joker didn’t let him finish. “Cerberus might have brought Shepard back, but don’t think for one second that she actually went along with their plans. They might have given her the means to take down that Collector base, but after the job was done, she gave the Illusive Man the finger and told him to go to hell. That was her operation, and those were her ethics at work, not theirs.”

Kaidan sighed. “I know that now. And I also know that I’m going to have to work hard to earn her trust back.”

“Damn straight, you are.” Joker stood up and walked towards him. “You never saw the relieved expression on her face when she realized she was going to be working with at least one or two familiar people. You didn’t get to see how crushed she was after Horizon, how hard her confidence was shaken. You don’t know how hard she fought to rescue all of the Normandy’s crew from that base or how she made sure that everyone got off the ship before she turned herself in because she saw that even though they wore the Cerberus uniform, they were all working for her.

“You didn’t see any of those things, because you were too damn busy noticing the logo on her armor to see anything else.”

Kaidan took a step back. There was a fire in Joker’s eyes that he’d never seen before. It made him wonder just what types of things he and Shepard had gone through together. Nothing you could ever join in on, thanks to your damn pride, he thought, even more determined to show Shepard that he was fully behind her this time around. “I was wrong,” he said quietly. “And I intend on trying my best to make it up to her.”

“You’d better.” Joker remembered the hurt way that Shepard’s voice had sounded back on Mars when Kaidan had questioned her loyalty. Narrowing his eyes, he poked Kaidan in the chest with his index finger. “She didn’t deserve the way you turned your back on her. If the roles had been switched, you’d better believe that she would have joined you on Horizon without a second thought.”

“I know. I’m just glad that she had you with her.” He looked him in the eye. “She deserves to have someone she can trust at her back.”

“We’re a team. I’d follow her anywhere and through anything.” He jabbed at Kaidan’s chest again. “Speaking of trust, that little stunt on the Citadel was the second time you’ve put a gun in her face. Do it again and I will kick your ass and then toss you out the airlock.” For the first time, he didn’t think about how many bones he might break or how badly he could injure himself trying to take someone down; he was determined that no one messed with Shepard.

He hated seeing her upset.

“I’ll take that under advisement,” Kaidan said, wondering again just what had gone on between Joker and Shepard that would make the pilot snarl at him. The Joker he remembered normally kept far away from cultivating relationships that went beyond being remotely polite to co-workers.

Turning on his heel to head back to his chair, Joker nodded. “You do that.” He effectively dismissed the Major by swiveling back around in his chair and turning his attention back to the flight console.

Kaidan stared at the back of Joker’s head before leaving the bridge. He made a mental note that Shepard wasn’t the only person he had to regain trust with.

29 Dance
Joker found her holding up the bar with Vega and Cortez. She picked him out of the crowd and waved him over, already calling the bartender to get another bottle of beer.

“Glad you could make it,” she said, flashing him one of her brilliant smiles.

“Miss drinks during shore leave? No way.” He winked at her. “Especially when they’re free.”

She laughed. “Then drink slow, because that’s the last round I’m buying.” She felt good; she’d managed to broker a truce between the Krogans and Turians as well as cure the genophage. Shepard lifted her glass and silently toasted Mordin. Out of everything that had happened the entire mission, she wished that she could have done something differently to save him.

It has to be me, he had said. Someone else might get it wrong. Curing the Krogans might have cost her the Salarian fleet, but Shepard had Eve and Wrex’s word that Mordin’s sacrifice would not be in vain.

Sighing, she shook herself out of a bout of moodiness that had settled over her. Mordin wouldn’t have wanted her to brood over him. “Come on, let’s live it up.” Pulling on Joker’s sleeve, she jerked her chin towards the dance floor. “Dance with me.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you were familiar with the Shin-Snap Shuffle.” He might have taken advantage of Cerberus’ offer of bone weaves and minor upgrades, but there was still that fear in the back of his head that he’d take a wrong step and then Shepard would be dragging his sorry ass to the hospital for a cast.

It took her a while to understand what he had said over the loud music, but he cringed when her face paled. “I didn’t mean…” God, she was such a screw-up. Of course he wouldn’t want to dance. It was just that she had gotten so used to doing things off-ship with him that she’d forgotten he had limits. And you call yourself his friend. Idiot.

He covered her hand with his. “I know you didn’t. And thanks.” There was a slightly awkward pause, but Steve broke it by asking Shepard to dance with him.

“You see that?” James asked, throwing back a shot of tequila. “That was an opportunity to get up close and personal with Shepard that you just wasted.”

Joker snorted and took a sip of beer. “Yeah, because breaking an ankle is just so hot.”

“Hey, not all dancing involves jumping around and waving your arms in the air like some of those pendejos out there. I mean, check her out.” He pointed to where Shepard was standing in one place, her hips moving to the beat in a way that made Joker’s mouth go dry. “Lola sure knows how to work it. Damn, I wish I would have beaten Esteban to the punch.”

Joker leaned against the bar. “She looks happy,” he noted, watching as she tilted her head back and laughed at something Steve said to her.

“Not as happy as she would have been out there with you, Ace.” He poured himself another shot. “Don’t think people haven’t noticed the thing the two of you have going on, compadre.”

Joker blanched. “There is no thing going on,” he muttered.

“Bullshit. Shepard goes out on a mission, who’s the first person she talks to on her radio?”

“Me. She’s double checking our com-links.”

James rolled his eyes. “Okay, I’ll give you that one. Shepard comes back from a mission. Where does she do her briefing reports? Where does she spend the majority of her free time?” He gave him a nudge. “And when she was under house arrest, who visited her almost every day for hours at a time?”

“All right, so we spend a lot of time together. It doesn’t mean anything.” Inwardly, he wondered just how many people on crew thought the way that Vega did. “We’re just friends.”

“And you want something more. I’ve got eyes, my man. I can see the looks you give her. What’s stopping you from making your move?”

He paused, trying to word out his thoughts. He only had a handful of relationships to pull experience from. The friendship that he had with Shepard was by far the longest any woman had hung around, especially when they were aware of his condition. He’d broken it off with each of his past girlfriends when it was obvious that they were treating him like he was made out of spun glass. It had hurt at the time to realize that while he was giving them the it’s not you, it’s me spiel that they had looked more relieved than upset about a failed relationship.

In all the time that he’d known her, Juliana had never treated him like there was anything wrong with him. She took note of his limitations, accepted them, and then moved in a way that accommodated him without acting as if it was anything out of the ordinary. It was one of the many reasons he lov…cared about her.

“I don’t know,” he replied lamely. Crippling self-doubt, a huge case of bad self-esteem, and an enormous amount of fear that she’ll wake up one day and realize who she got herself stuck with not enough reasons for you?

“Like I said, I’ve got eyes. I’ve seen the way that she looks at you too; you don’t make a move and she’s going to think that you’ve friend-zoned her. Lola might be the most loyal woman I’ve ever met, but after a while of just friends, she’s going to move on to greener pastures.” He threw back his shot and poured another. Leaning back on the bar, he let out a low wolf whistle at the way Shepard’s hip rolled. “If you’re not gonna do anything, you mind if I do?”

“She’d shoot you down in three seconds flat.” The harsh stab of jealousy that ran through his gut shouldn’t have taken him by surprise, especially since it was always there when he caught Vega and Jules flirting. It was never anything serious, just a way for them both to harmlessly blow off steam, but still.

“Yeah, I know she would, and she’d probably do it even quicker than that. Thing is, I’m not letting it stop me from trying. Look at what we’re fighting here, what we’re facing. We could all die tomorrow; you gonna go down in flames regretting not being with Shepard?”

Joker clenched his jaw and stared hard at the floor above them. Shepard happened to turn around just then and she gave him a beaming smile that he couldn’t help but return. Grabbing Vega’s glass, he swallowed the liquor, grimacing as it burned down his throat like a shot of liquid courage.

“Hey man, what’re ya doing?”

Joker took a few steps towards the staircase leading to the main dance floor. Looking over his shoulder, he smirked. “What does it look like? I’m cutting in.” No more regrets.

18 Dream
“What’s your big dream for when this is all over?” James asked, dealing out a new hand of cards.

“I dunno,” Shepard answered. “I’ve been too busy trying to keep myself alive so that I can make it to ‘after’ that I never really give it much thought.” She took two new cards from the deck. “You?”

“Probably stick around, maybe relocate to a ground team to help with the cleanup.” He made a face at his cards. “Then after? My tio always wanted to open up a repair shop, work on vintage cars. I think I’d like to do that with him. And who knows; I might meet a girl who digs scars and do the whole married with kids routine.”

She nodded. “I can see that. You and some pretty lady with a bunch of mini-Vegas running around a yard.” It was a cute picture, one that suited him.

“Hey, don’t make me the only one settling down. I can totally see a bunch of mini-Shepards hanging out with my kids and raising hell.” He tilted his glass towards her. “The whole married, kids, and house with the white picket fence package sounds like a good plan after everything we’ve been through, doesn’t it?”

Joker looked up from his cards to stare at her face. In his mind’s eye, he could easily see Shepard with kids. Giving into a personal fantasy, he imagined they would have her hair and his green eyes. He knew it was presumptuous; whatever they had between them went beyond a close friendship, yet they’d never said anything to move it onto another level besides their usual flirting.

Yet when you spend day after day fighting a war that you’re not sure you’ll survive, you learn to take what you can get.

“Nah, the house isn’t for me,” Shepard said, shaking him out of his daydream. “I’ve lived on ships my entire life; staying in one spot would feel weird. I figure that if my parents could raise a kid in space, I can do the same.”

“And you, Joker? Any niños planned?”

He glared hard at his cards. “I fold.” Standing up, he left his cards at the table and walked away. He got as far as the elevator when Shepard called out to him.

“Hey, you okay?” she asked. “I checked your cards; you would have gotten Vega with that flush.”

“Didn’t feel like playing anymore,” he answered roughly, pushing the ‘up’ button with more force than necessary. Shepard slipped inside with him and pushed the emergency stop button.

“You’re not okay,” she started, looking him in the eye.

“Thank you, Commander Obvious.” He sighed and took off his cap. Running his hands through his hair, he stared at his shoes. “I can’t have kids.”

“I thought that was what hit a nerve,” she said quietly. “Are you sure you can’t? I mean, it’s none of my business either way.”

He shook his head. “It isn’t that I can’t physically have kids, or that I don’t want to have any either,” he tried to explain. “It’s that I can’t have any. Vrolik’s is often passed down to the next generation. I won’t put my kid through all the surgeries and pain that I went through.” He thought about those imaginary children, but this time he saw a little boy with dark hair and Shepard’s blue eyes walking around on crutches, his legs in braces.

“I can respect that,” Shepard began.

“I hear a ‘but’ coming.”

“But what if it doesn’t get passed along? Sure, your type of OI happens to be a dominant gene, but you have a fifty percent chance that it won’t. Besides, it can just randomly pop up in a family that doesn’t have any history of it. Science has come a long way in thirty years: while they haven’t found a cure yet, doctors can pinpoint that gene and…”

He held his hands up in a defensive posture. “Okay, so it might be possible. But you’re forgetting one important thing.”

“And what would that be?”

“It takes two to tango. Look at me; who’d want to saddle themselves to this mess?”

She frowned. “I think you sell yourself short, Jeff. Anyone that doesn’t look beyond the surface is just plain stupid and doesn’t deserve you.”

Throwing caution to the wind, he took a step forward, crowding her against the wall of the elevator. “What about you?” he asked, his voice low. “How far do you look?”

She swallowed, wondering when the air had gotten so thick. He was close enough to her that she could feel heat radiating through his clothes and she had the strongest urge to touch him. “Far enough to see that underneath the stubborn, prickly, semi-antisocial behavior that there’s a good man any woman would be lucky to have.” She gave into temptation and slowly ran her hands up his chest to rest on his shoulders, enjoying the feminine thrill that ran through her when he shuddered at the sensation, his eyes closing and his cheek resting against hers. “I see that there’s a good man that I’m extremely lucky to have in my life.”

“Juliana.” He turned his face against her hair, his hands pressing against the wall at either side of her head. “Jules…”

“We’ve been dancing around the other for a while now,” she whispered, her fingers stroking through in the hair at the nape of his neck. “Tell me that there’s something here, that we’re not just getting swept up in the whole ‘end of the world as we know it’ thing.”

He brushed his lips against her throat; feeling disconnected as he felt her pulse jump under his mouth and heard her little intake of breath. Surely he’d wake up soon. “I’ve wanted this,” he said quietly. For years, he thought. Before the Collectors, before even Saren, since the first time I saw you. “For a long time. You mean a lot to me, Shepard.”

Whatever he was going to say next was interrupted by a shrill alarm that made them both jump. “Stupid elevators,” Shepard said, jabbing the button and sending them in motion. “Jeff, I want to say…”

“We’ve probably got a twenty minute ETA until Thessia,” Joker quickly told her, taking a few steps away and his voice going back into business-mode. “You deserve…”

She stopped him by pressing her fingers against his lips. “Don’t you dare say I deserve someone better than you,” she warned, her eyes narrowing.

He kissed her fingers, his mouth quirking up at the protective manner. “I was going to say that we both deserve to have this conversation later, you know, like when you’re not about to drop down on some planet and kick Reaper ass.” For some reason, this funny, intelligent, incredible woman was attracted to him and he wasn’t about to question it.

She relaxed. “Okay,” she said, mirroring his expression. “But after?”

“Yeah. After.”

The elevator pinged and the door opened. Before Joker could step out, Shepard grabbed the bill of his cap and pushed it upwards. “Until then,” she told him, her smile evident in her voice. “Keep this under your hat.” Rocking up on her tiptoes, she kissed his forehead and gently put his cap back in place.

Feeling lighter than he had in a very long time, he winked at her. “Aye, aye.”

42 Talk
Pain. That was all Shepard registered. She could remember shooting at the energy core, then it exploding, but it was a mystery as to how she got back on the streets of London. Slowly, things began to come into focus: the soot-grey sky, scorched and smoking buildings, the sounds of cheers coming somewhere far in the distance.

And then in her ear, a voice that almost made her weep. “Shepard! Damn it, answer me!”

Licking her chapped lips, she tried to take a breath that didn’t send pain lancing through her ribs. “I’m here.”

From the Normandy, Joker leaned back his chair in relief. “Took you long enough,” he said, his voice shaking.

“You know me, dramatic heroic shenanigans take time.” Looking up, she caught sight of Alliance shuttles flying by. “Did we win?”

“Yeah. You did good, Jules.”

“Anderson…” Shepard closed her eyes. “He didn’t make it.”

Joker bowed his head. “Shit.” His head snapped up when he heard a strange wheezing noise coming from Shepard’s communication piece. “What’s your status? You all in one piece?”

“Relatively.” She looked down at herself to try to assess the damage. “Right leg smacked into a bunch of concrete on the way down. I’m thinking it’s broken.” Joker didn’t have to know about the slightly translucent shards of bone sticking out from below her knee. “My right arm looks funny.”

“Funny ha-ha or funny weird?”

“Funny, as in I don’t think it’s supposed to bend that way.” She coughed, blood spattering the rubble near her cheek. “I’m not Chakwas, but I’m betting there’s a lot of internal damage too.”

“Oh hell. Hold on, Shepard, I’ve got your position and I’m sending medics over.”

“Negative. I’m not doing so good, Joker.” She grit her teeth and muffled a scream as she tried to move her left arm enough to press her hand to her chest, her fingers touching ragged metal. “I managed to land on a stuck up piece of rebar. I’m bleeding out pretty bad here.”

No. Nonono. I can’t lose her, not now. “Too late, I already sent them the order. Stay with me, Shepard.”

“I’m cold.”

“That’s just your body going into shock. It’s nothing big; you’re gonna be fine.” He couldn’t stop his voice from cracking. “Keep talking to me.” He turned his head and opened his mouth to ask EDI to monitor Shepard’s life signs, but then he remembered that she was slumped lifelessly in the co-pilot’s seat, the blast of energy that had nearly crashed their ship wiping her out. He’d have time later to mourn her loss, right now he was focused on Shepard.

“Sun’s rising,” she noted. “Looks like…a great day.”

“Yeah. Give me a while to get down planetside and we’ll spend it together, okay?”

“I’m so tired.”

“I know you are, but I can’t let you rest right now.” He gripped his armrests until his knuckles turned white. “Just talk to me, Jules. Tell me what you want to do after this is all over.”

“Anderson told me about this one fish and chips place he knew once. Wanna go and see if he was lying about the fried candy bars they sold. Will you go with me?”

“Juliana Shepard, are you asking me out?”

“Yeah.” She would have normally smirked at the teasing tone he used, but she could tell that it was forced, almost as if he was trying to keep some other emotion out of his voice. Tears stung her eyes. “I wasted so much time, Joker. I should…I should have…” She embraced the pain that went through her chest as she sobbed.

On the Normandy, Joker’s heart was breaking. “Jules, don’t cry. Please, don’t cry. Everything’s going to be okay, you’ll see.”

She wanted to believe him, but she could already feel herself drifting off. “I’ve wanted to say this ever since before Ilos. Should have said something sooner, but I was too chicken. I love you, Jeff.” She heard someone brokenly whimper and realized that she was the one making the noise. “And now it’s too late.”

“No, it’s never too late. We’ve got today and tomorrow and hundreds of other tomorrows to spend together.” His vision blurred and he wished that he could do something, anything to help her. “Want to hear what I’m planning on doing after this is all settled?”


“I’m thinking about going on a date with my most favorite redhead. Hopefully the Alliance will give us some sort of leave time before sending us back to work, but then I’m planning on piloting the Normandy and listening to my commander type out mission reports in the co-pilot’s seat. After, we’ll hang out on the bridge and play Guess the Movie Quote to kill time between jobs.” His throat seized up. “But I can’t do any of that if you’re not here. I need you to fight for me. Fight for us.”

“I want to. I really do, but I think I’m done.” The buildings around her were starting to dim. “I was so scared that first time,” she whispered, thinking back to floating in space while suffocating. “I’m not scared now.”

“Shepard, please.”

“Thank you, for being here with me. I didn’t…didn’t want to die alone again.”

Joker froze when he heard her breath rattle. “Shepard?” He buried his face in his hands. “Jules?” All he heard on her end was static. Slumping against his console, he almost didn’t hear someone on his other line.

“Ground medics to Normandy. Pick up, Normandy.”

He wiped at his face and took a steadying breath, preparing himself to hear the confirmation of what he feared. “This is Normandy. What’s your position?”

“We’ve reached Commander Shepard. She’s in critical condition and we’re prepping her for evac to the nearest field hospital.”

Joker sat up straight. “She’s alive?”

“Affirmative. She’s out cold and she’s lost a lot of blood, but we’re going to do our damndest to save her.”

Relief made him weak and he leaned back in his chair. “Good. Keep me posted on where she ends up. I need to find a landing zone; I’ve got a doctor on board with a fully stocked medical bay to help out with other patients.”

“Will do. Appreciate the help.”

“No problem. Normandy, out.” Taking a moment to gather his thoughts, he paged Chakwas and informed her of the situation. Concentrating on flying through debris fields took his thoughts off Shepard, but he knew that once he landed, nothing was going to make him leave her side.

They’d make it.

38 Forever
Shepard’s eyes slowly cracked open. She hurt everywhere. Looking up at the ceiling’s fluorescent lighting, she had a severe case of déjà vu. Half-expecting Miranda to stare down at her, she lifted her hand and let out a groan.

“Don’t try to move too much,” she heard someone say to her left. Turning her head, she came face to face with Joker.

“Hey,” she croaked, her throat dry. “I see you made it panetside.”

“Told you I’d find a way down to you.” He reached out and held onto her hand. “Just didn’t figure on us spending the day like this.”

Her eyes caught sight of white gauze wrapped around the crook of his elbow. “What happened to you? Are you okay?”

He shook his head, amazed that she could be lying there bruised and broken and still think of others. “Nothing serious. You lost a lot of blood; I decided to play the part of your walking, talking, personal blood bank.”

She gave him a weak smile. “Always knew you were my type.”

“Oh man, that was an awful joke.”

“Give me a break; I’m wounded.” She gave up on trying to sit up when her body wouldn’t cooperate with her. “So, how bad is it?”

“It could have been worse. You’ve got worse than usual bruises, burns and scrapes and you broke your tibia in three places and shattered your radius. Surprisingly, nothing else is broken, even though that rebar punctured a lung and nicked your heart. It was touch and go for a while.” His grip on her fingers tightened. He’d been so close to losing her. He didn’t think that he’d ever been that scared in his entire life. Rounding the bed, he planted one hand on the mattress and gently tilted her face up with his other. “And you aren’t allowed to do that ever again, okay?”

“Deal.” She looked up at him, realizing that he wasn’t moving away. Closing her eyes, she felt his lips brush lightly against hers, once, then twice.

“I love you too, Jules,” he whispered. “I think I’ve loved you forever.”

She tried to laugh, but was embarrassed when it came out as a sob. “Okay, so bursting into tears when I finally tell you how I feel wasn’t quite what I had in mind,” Joker mused, his thumb wiping at the corner of her eye.

“Can’t help it.” She leaned into his hand. “You make me happy.”

“Please tell me you’re not going to be one of those girlfriends who cry at the drop of a hat.”

“I certainly hope not.” Her heart warmed at him using the phrase girlfriend. “Please tell me you’re not going to be one of those boyfriends who never emotes.”

He grinned. “I’ll try my best, but you know me.” Leaning down again, he kissed her more firmly this time, his mouth quirking when her forehead pushed his cap upwards.

“Yeah. My favorite prickly pilot. Wouldn’t trade him for anyone else.”

“Glad you feel that way. The docs are pretty short-staffed; I volunteered to help you out once you got back on your feet. I figured I have enough experience with broken bones to qualify.”

She arched an eyebrow. “If you make one joke about playing doctor…”

“Aww, not even one?”

Ignoring the twinge of pain that went through her shoulder, she used her good arm to pull him closer. “I can be persuaded to let one slide,” she murmured before nibbling at his bottom lip. “But just one.”

Nudging her nose affectionately with his, he nodded. “I’ll have to work on a good one then.”


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 30th, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
So, instead of doing chores, I spent most of my morning reading this and regret nothinnnnnnng! I think I might have to go back and read through it all again, just to get my sweetness levels up.

Ahhhhhhh this is making me all kinds of Jokermance plot bunnies over here!

I like how you went back to ME1 and set it up from there with all kinds of little routines between them. The familiarity of each other, and then how they have to react when that is challenged makes for a great read. It's interesting too, because Jules is so different from any of my Sheps, so it was never like 'yeah, that's exactly how I pictured it going too!' haha

Looooooooved the scene of them snuggling on the couch!! Also, Omni-tool IM/texts would be the best/worst things everrrr. Lady trap! Evasive maneuvers required! My heart breaks a little at the thought of Joker trying to beat up Kaidan/anyone - he would get so hurt slkhdglsgs but you know he would just keep trying until he actually couldn't move sobsobsob

Also, any team member who gets the 'I should go' from Shep must immediately know they are in the dog house.

ps. At the end I had this frightening moment of not knowing if you were going to go for a heartbash ending or not. I was like 'ahhhhh that doesn't seem like her style but then it would be the best opportunity for a heartbash!!'

pps. I think you should AU the ME3 scene where Joker flips out with the whole 'ANDERSON IS WORRIED ABOUT YOU' spiel...
Jun. 30th, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
I have about 25 or 26 more prompts that still need to be written from the original 50 and I'm sorted them out to go from the first game to a little bit after the thrid, I just need to see where to fit them in. There's a LOT of ME1 set-up that I haven't done yet either. I'm flailing about writing the Super Serious Bits, like the post-Thessia "Why didn't you let me die?" talk or when Shep overhears the asari at Huerta Memorial talk about the farm girl from Tiptree.

Wooo, Jokermance bunnies! *tosses carrots at them*

I was *almost* going to do the heartbash for a teeny little second, but then thought better of it. I don't think *I* could have taken doing that to them. This is my "I write to keep me sane" story of the moment, so that would have been counter-productive.
Jul. 1st, 2012 04:03 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how you're going to organize it (just update these posts or make new ones or what) but please keep me posted on the new installments!

I just cannot handle the Shep deaths! Especially in front of the LIs! Noooooo they've already been through so much!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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