Author: LaneWinree51 PM
It was too good to be true and he knew it, but he was willing to find out for her.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - Shepard (F) & Joker - Words: 2,155 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 1 - Published: 10-13-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7461964
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Lost Shepard
Fandom: Mass Effect
Timeframe: Beginning of Mass Effect 2
Characters: Jeff "Joker" Moreau, Jane Shepard, Miranda Lawson
Disclaimer: Don't own Star Mass Effect or the characters, those are owned by Bioware and Electronic Arts
Summary: The offer is entirely too good to be true, but he was willing to find out for her.
Notes:Written in an effort to get out of my writing slump, so I'm trying something in a new fandom just to get things going.
Based on a Mass Effect Head Canon tumblr image that made me cry.
He really, really wasn't interested.
When Cerberus' agents approached him initially, he had been repulsed. There was nothing they could offer him to leave the Alliance, even if his superiors had reassigned him to piloting cargo haulers through civilian traffic lines. That was their loss. If they wanted to waste his skills but wanted to keep sending him a paycheck, that was fine by him. Frankly, it would be nice to get away from danger for a while. He'd never admit it, but there was a large part of him that wasn't ready to race back into heavy fire zones and conflict areas. There were still nights where he'd wake up in a cold sweat after reliving those last few, terrifying moments on the Normandy.
The ship disintegrating around him. The hand on his shoulder. The plea to give up the ship and get to the escape pod. The frantic scramble to carry him to safety. The sight of the Commander staring back at him as she was being sucked into hard vacuum.
The nightmare would always end the same way. Just as the Commander closed the door, he would bolt upright, screaming her name. A few times he'd gotten up a little too quickly and cracked a rib in the process. Not that it mattered. It wasn't as if he was going back to sleep any time soon, not with the overwhelming sense of nausea that nightmare gave him. That was just another reminder that he wasn't ready to go back on the front-lines. Whatever the Alliance thought front-lines were, anyways. No one seemed to know that the real danger was out there, beyond the borders of civilization and even the most remote colonies. Either that or they didn't care. The Commander had warned them, but no one gave her the respect she deserved.
Suffice to say, he wasn't interested in Cerberus' offer. Sure the pay would be nice, but they'd want to throw him right back into the fire. There was also the whole associating himself with a fringe, pro-human terrorist organization, but really, who cared about the details? He wasn't the slightest bit enamored with the idea of joining them. His answer was no, and he figured that would be the last time he'd hear from them. For two blissful weeks, he stuck to his daily routine of sleeping in, limping to the helm, checking to make sure they hadn't gone off track and into the path of a nearby star or black hole, and limping back to his room. Cerberus' failed to jump back into the forefront of his mind.
Until Pretty Cerberus Agent somehow managed to hack into his ship's communication relay again.
She asked him to reconsider and said that Cerberus would make it worth his while. By now he was getting angry. How much more explicit could he get? He didn't care if they paid him more. He didn't care if they were going to give him the helm of the most technologically advanced ship in the Galaxy. There was no way he was going back on to the front lines and there was definitely no way that he was going to do it with them. Whatever they were sweetening the pot with this time didn't matter. The answer was and would remain an emphatic "hell, no."
"How would you like to work with her again?" the Cerberus agent asked, a coy smile playing on her lips.
Now thatwasn't fair. How dare they play him for a fool like that? He wasn't ashamed to admit he completely lost his cool and dropped more obscenities in a single sentence than he ever had before (a rather remarkable accomplishment, he later realized). The Commander was gone. She died saving his pathetic, crippled ass. What kind of a sick, twisted joke was this? Despite his fit of rage, the agent managed to remain calm. Before signing off, she said she could prove it. All he had to do was resign from the Alliance and take a trip with her to a research station in the middle of nowhere.
He managed to hold his ground. For two hours. The next day his resignation was in and he found himself on a shuttle, sitting across from the agent with the claim that he knew was too good to be true. He told himself not to get his hopes up, but he would have been lying if he said he succeeded at all on that particular front. As they made their way off the shuttle and into the bowels of the Lazarus Research Facility, his heart began to race. It didn't matter how many times he told himself that this claim was just to wild, to fantastic to be true. The little shred of hope that Cerberus had somehow managed to violate every law of nature was enough to override his sense of rationality.
As he looked through the window and into the medical bay, he decided that rationality could go vent itself into space.
She was frail. Weak. A shadow of her former self, but there was no mistaking it was her. The Commander lay virtually motionless on the bed. Her face was terribly scarred, something the agent reassured him would be fully healed as the Lazarus process continued to bring her, in the most literal interpretation imaginable, back from the dead. For once in his life, he couldn't find words. Out of the corner of his eyes, he spotted a technician inside the room signal for Agent Lawson (was that her name, it didn't really matter). She excused herself to talk with the technician, leaving him alone on the other side of the glass.
It happened so quickly. The Commander's eyes opened. A horribly atrophied arm stuck out from under the blanket. Looking up, he saw that Agent Lawson and the technician suddenly looked panicked. A moment later, machines plumbed into the Commander began sounding alarms. He heard Agent Lawson shout for sedatives before rushing to the Commander's side, saying something inaudible to the broken woman. His eyes darted towards the one piece of medical technology he could make sense of, a heart monitor. He wasn't exactly an expert in vital functions, but he was fairly certain a rapid heart rate that screen was showing was a very, very bad thing.
The Commander shuddered on the table, her eyes seemed to fall out of focus as the alarms became more and more pronounced. A cold sense of dread settled over him, the same one that had consumed him as he watched her being dragged out of the crippled Normandy. He slammed his fists against the glass, oblivious to the pain as the brittle bones in his hands and wrists shattered. Again and again he shouted her rank, pleading with the Commander to snap out of it. All the while Lawson and the technician continued to pump a hideous cocktail of drugs into her.
"Shepard!" he screamed.
That caught their attention. Lawson looked up and offered a nod, gesturing over to the heart monitor. It had stabilized. Heaving a sigh, he rest his head against the window. He was only dimly aware that the door beside him had hissed open.
"She's stabilized." Agent Lawson placed a hand on his shoulder."I apologize that you had to see that, but I assure you she will be fine. This is a lot to take in, so if you need some time to come to a decision about-"
"You've got your pilot," he replied numbly.
Nodding and offering what appeared to be a sympathetic smile, she took her leave. As soon as she was out of his sight, he slowly sank down to the floor and buried has face in his broken hands. What began as a few stray tears gave way to a deluge of choked sobs. All at once, sadness, terror, and utter relief washed over him. He had come so close to losing her again right in front of his eyes. Only one thought repeated itself through his mind as he openly wept:
There was no way he was going to lose her again.
He returned to visit the Commander as often as he could, though his new responsibilities with Cerberus often conspired to get in his way. Cerberus apparently felt the need to keep him squirreled away and out of sight, but he still felt guilty for not traveling back to Lazarus Station more often. Of course he couldn't talk to her, but he owed it to her to at least be there. To provide some kind of company. It wasn't fair that she had been alone for so long. Weeks later, he put in a request for a day of leave to go and make one of his all too infrequent trips to the station. It was denied. Cryptically.
If he had learned anything during his time with the Alliance Navy, it was that cryptic responses were never a good thing.
For the next several days he sat in his temporary quarters, tapping a finger against the desk in front of him and turning over the countless possibilities in his head. Had it all been too good to be true? Had the project failed? Was the Commander gone again? He closed his eyes and forced himself to take a deep, steadying breath. That was one outcome he just wasn't prepared for. Just as he was about to get up to yell at ... someone (he wasn't picky), the radio clicked to life.
"Mister Moreau." Agent Lawson's voice echoed through the quiet ship. "If you have a moment, you should make your way to the communication hub. Commander Shepard is here."
He had made plenty of long, painful walks (limps?) in his life. Brittle bones in your legs would do that to you. Still, he couldn't remember one nearly as draining as the trek from his temporary quarters to the station's communication relay room. It occurred to him that he hadn't exactly thought all of this out. After all, the Commander had died hauling him to an escape pod. If he were her (and he was thankful he wasn't), he'd be more than a little bitter about that. He rubbed the back of his neck as he rounded the corner, stopping in his tracks as he caught sight of her. Well, her backside anyway. Not that he was staring. She'd kill him.
Summoning every bit of courage, he took a tentative step forward. "Hey, Commander. Just like old times, huh?"
She turned to face him and, for the briefest of moments, he was certain that his fears were correct. The Commander simply stared at him for several agonizing moments offering no words and no expression to betray her thoughts. Yeah, she's mad at me. It's only fair. I got her killed. Finally, just as he was convinced the oppressive hush would shatter every bone in his body, she smiled at him.
"Joker," she whispered. "You made it."
How wonderfully typical and how perfectly her. She was completely and indisputably dead, but she wasn't concerned with the miracle or consequences of her resurrection. The Commander was simply happy to see that he was okay, that he had made it off the Normandy in time. He wasn't sure whether or not to laugh or scream at her over the absurdity of it all.
"Yeah, well," he replied, "you did break my arm and three ribs. I figure we're even."
Perhaps a joke wasn't the right way to go. It definitely wasn't the right way to go. What he would give to take that back and reply with a trite "It's good to see you again, Commander." He was such an idiot and should have-
She laughed. She laughed the hearty and healthy laugh that greeted every one of his particularly well-crafted witticisms aboard the bridge of the Normandy. For the first time in months, since she had sacrificed herself to save him, Jeff "Joker" Moreau smiled.
Oh, it felt good to smile again.