Prompt: There are no seasons on a ship


James decides that LC Williams is all right in his books when she punches him with a right hook that takes his breath away and smears blood on her un-taped knuckles. She's still sporting bruises from her stint in the hospital, but she moves like they don't exist, blocking his half-hearted jabs and dancing past his flimsy guard with little effort. It's only after the sock to his jaw that he realizes what she's trying to tell him: don't pull any punches. So he grins, grimacing at the pull on his split lip, and settles back into his stance for real this time.

A piece of hair escapes from her pony tail as she cocks her head, cinnamon eyes glinting with the thrill of the fight and the laughter in her voice is almost like being outside under the sun with the smell of fresh-cut grass instead of in a dark ship steeped in the smells of guns and machinery.


Change is everywhere in the Normandy. The ship stalks the corridors on shapely legs, metallic eyes taking in things from a new perspective. A relic from the last Reaper war broods over ancient wrongs in a storage room. And there is change in the way he and the LC spar. No longer do they trade quips and punches with the idle joy of those who have nothing to worry about. Their fights feel more like dances these days; not the exhibitionist grinding club dances, but the old kind; the really old kind, when couples barely touched for fear of inciting gossip, with quickly in-drawn breaths and fleeting but intense caresses and when they part, sweat glistening on each of their faces, the frustration hasn't been spent, but somehow increased.

James knows what it is, this friction, but he fears the tension too. Any other girl and he would have suggested the obvious just to scratch the itch, but the LC - Ash - isn't like that. Like everything she does - fighting, drinking, living - she doesn't do half-way. He's not sure he's ready for the alternative.

But there's a power in their circumstances; of worlds being snuffed out, of Earth burning constantly in the back of his mind. Why play the game when tomorrow there might be nothing left? He's thinking this too much in their next fight, for she easily sweeps his legs, dropping him to the floor as if she always threw down men twice her size in weight and muscle. Before he can catch his breath, it's stolen away by her mouth against his. And then he doesn't care that she's a Spectre and a superior officer and that Esteban is probably watching from his station and that EDI can see and will probably tell Shepard and Joker and then the whole ship will know because Ash tastes like salt and gun oil and a life lived without regrets.


Ash's brother-in-law dies, another number in the billions already lost, and something inside her seems to freeze solid. They fight not with fists any more but with words that cut and slash and leave invisible wounds gaping and bleeding. His nightly sojourns to her bunk where he'd gotten used to the warmth of sharing skin slow to a trickle then stop. Somewhere upstream, ice has dammed up the river.


The first thaw happens as they arrive at Earth and the horrible orange glow of burning cities, fields, and people is clear even from space. Her hand finds his and squeezes tight. They don't look at each other, but their hearts for once are beating the same rhythm.

Somehow, in the craziness of London, she finds him before she and Shepard and Garrus run off to be big heroes. She prays with him, for him, over him, her voice impossibly strong while his breaks as they say "Amen." There isn't time to say what they mean to say, what he wants to say, what he can see in the shining well of her eyes. But then she kisses him, hard, imprinting herself on his lips and he can tell that even in the middle of a war, or perhaps because of it, all things can be made new. And he's not going to say "good bye" because he'll be waiting for her, on this side or the next, and the promise of a fresh start, of life emerging where there was none, is the best hope he's had in a long time.