A Very Mass Effect Christmas
"I cannot believe I let you talk me into this," Shepard grumbled, fingers of her right hand closing into a fist around the Santa hat. The hat was completely at odds with the Spectre's medium-class hardsuit and her usual complement of firearms, but Shepard had drawn the line at wearing the tight-fitting and very revealing Santa's Little Helper outfit that Williams had procured from somewhere. Knee high red leather boots, red fishnet stockings and a blouse edged with faux white fur that left far too little to the imagination? Of course Joker had been utterly crushed by her refusal to wear it.
"Come on, Skipper, it's Christmas.You gotta loosen up a bit and have some fun," the Gunnery Chief insisted. She, along with Shepard, Pressly, Adams and Lieutenant Alenko were packed into the elevator connecting the docking bays to C-Sec HQ. They were all, at Williams' insistence going to the Presidium of the Citadel. To sing. Christmas carols. The others had required very little in the way of encouragement. Williams found she had to practically set off an incendiary grenade under the Commander, just to get her out the airlock.
"What do you have against Christmas, anyway?" the Lieutenant asked.
"Gee let me think...oh that's right! This whole idea of a completely over the top birthday party for some kid who was born over two thousand years back!" Shepard snapped. Unrelenting she added, "Alenko, have you seen how you look wearing that hat?"
"It's more than just a 'birthday party,' Ma'am," Williams said, all humour having left her voice. "Lord and Saviour of humanity, Skipper? Gave his life for our souls? Ring any bells?"
Shepard merely rolled her eyes and said nothing. Her day had started out badly, and was steadily getting worse.
Rolling out of her bed in the Captain's office aboard the Normandy, for instance, her ears had had to endure the aural assault of Christmas music. Jingle Bells to be precise. Pulling on her shipboard uniform, Shepard had to resist an extremely strong urge to get on the comm and flat out order Joker to secure that BS. But, Shepard realised, if she refused to allow the crew to, God help her, Deck the Halls, she'd end up with 1. a morale problem and 2. Williams inciting some kind of ship-wide mutiny.
"Why is it that normal, reasonably intelligent adults regress back to childhood around this time of year?" Shepard had asked her otherwise empty office. Shepard didn't celebrate Christmas. She wasn't convinced in the existence of a higher power to begin with and her childhood in the slums on Earth hadn't exactly been conducive to breaking out the tinsel and fake plastic Christmas trees come December either. And belief in Santa Claus? The thought made her laugh aloud but there was no humour it.
Exiting her office, the first thing Shepard had noticed was the red and green tinsel strung along the bulkheads and the strings of lights that decorated the nav stations. At least the twinkling lights broke the monotony of the amber glow generated by the stations. There was that, at least.
"Pressly," Shepard had asked her XO who was chewing on a candy cane, "What the hell is with all this?"
"Decorations, Ma'am," her XO had answered. "The entire crew helped put them up. Pretty aren't they?"
The Commander had felt a muscle under her right eye begin to twitch spasmodically. "Just so long as they don't interfere with the proper running of the ship, they can stay," she managed to grind out through gritted teeth. Decorations? On a frigate? Unbelievable!
As though the Christmas lights and tinsel weren't bad enough, Williams had wanted them all to sing Christmas carols on the Citadel. "To spread a little joy to everybody," the Gunnery Chief had explained.
"Chief, I don't know if you've noticed this but on the Citadel, humanity is distinctly in the minority and I don't see the other species getting real excited about you singing about...sleigh bells and whatnot."
"Skipper," the Chief had answered, wearing a look on her face that would brook no argument, "We're going to sing carols. You're going to come with us."
"Can I at least get drunk on eggnog first?"
"Carols first, eggnog later."
"Williams, I could have you written up for insubordination, you do realise that?" Shepard had said wearily.
"You could but you won't. Hey, check out what I picked up for you, it'll look great on you!"
And out had come the Santa's Skanky Little Helper outfit.
Now, they all stood in the elevator, and some sick bastard had even piped Christmas music through the speakers.
"Aw, Silent Night," Williams said, smiling, "I love this one!"
Shepard merely ground her teeth together and tightened her grip on the hat. The elevator eventually arrived at the C-Sec Academy and, still singing Silent Night, Williams led the group to the elevator that would take them to the Presidium level.
"Oh you cannot be serious!" Shepard said in disbelief as she saw the large-bodied human posing as Santa Claus sitting in a chair with a kid on his lap. A long line of parents and children were waiting for their chance to have a horribly overpriced photo taken with Santa.
"Oh, isn't that cute!" Williams gushed, pointing out an asari couple with a small child. "Even the non-humans are getting in on the act."
"You know what really boggles my mind?" Shepard asked, observing the screaming child being forced to sit on Santa's lap by a mother apparently oblivious to the distress she was causing her offspring.
"Parents go out of their way to teach their kids not to talk to strangers, not to accept rides or candy from strangers then, once a year, everybody goes completely batshit and says 'go sit on that strange man's lap!' Look at that poor kid. He's scared out of his mind. And do you think his mother cares? No! She just wants a picture of her little darling sitting on Santa's lap! Incredible."
"My God, Skipper. You are a such a Grinch."
Biting back an extremely un-Christmas reply, the Commander merely said, "Let's just get this over with so I can break out the eggnog."
"That's the spirit, Ma'am," Pressly put in.
So it was, on Christmas Eve in the Year of Our Lord 2184, that Commander Shepard, first human in the Spectres found herself wearing a Santa hat and singing Joy to the World.
I'm so not feeling the Joy, a voice in her head muttered as she forced herself to sing along with the others. I mean really, look at us, five human military officers singing Christmas carols! The aliens must think we're...hang on, check out those turians over there. Are they actually stopping to listen? Holy crap, they are stopping to listen.
Suddenly feeling a lightness of spirit that she hadn't experienced in quite a while, Shepard stopped resisting and let herself get right into the spirit of things. The turians, mandibles flaring widely with enjoyment were even beginning to sing along with the humans. Soon, other people from every species on the Citadel were drifting over in ones and twos, drawn by the sounds of the five humans singing about peace on Earth and goodwill to all.
Williams looked sidelong at the Skipper who was smiling with honest delight and waving to the crowds. As they stopped singing and the assembled audience broke into applause, Williams said, "Aren't you glad that you came along, Skipper?"
Unable to stop smiling, Shepard replied, "Yeah, yeah I am."
Author's Note: I felt gripped by a sudden urge to write a Christmassy related fanfic. Shepard's reaction to the Santa photos is more or less my own, these days.
Wishing you all a merry generic non-religious-specific holiday season and a safe January First. Thanks to everybody who read and reviewed my fanfics this year as well. Shepard may be back at some point in the future for more comedy-related oneshots. Because if there's one thing the world needs more of, it's laughter.