Date: 02/16/2010
Title: Totally Vanilla
Author: Melissa Russell, VirusQ at hotmail dot com
Characters: Jane Shepard, Jeff "Joker" Moreau
Notes: I told theRAZZ that I'd set the bar too high with the Valentine's Day fic and she prodded me to write more. Here's the kicker: the prompt she gave me was "Spoon."

A note of caution: this may make your brain hurt.

...

Barefoot, Shepard exited the elevator into the darkness of the storage deck. She confidently padded along the cold metal grating, careful not to make any sounds loud enough to alert the skeleton crew of the Engineering department. Most of her squad had retired for the evening and she was thankful for it. She could only imagine what they would think of their new commander, scrounging around the cooling vents for smuggled goods.

The Normandy's state of the art drive core produced an unimaginable amount of heat in day to day tasks, and less than state of the art cooling systems were used to keep it in check. Most people considered the temperature difference in the storage bay an annoyance, but Shepard saw it as an opportunity.

She climbed atop the crates that Wrex normally guarded and pulled herself up toward a particularly inconspicuous vent. Pausing to check over her shoulder, she confirmed that she was alone. She produced a utility knife from her back pocket and pried open the vent cover. Sliding the knife back into obscurity, she reached into the cold abyss and grasped for her prize.

She retrieved a small, insulated, matte-black canister, carefully popped the vent cover back into place and then sat down, pulling her legs up beneath her. Her fingers worked deftly, unscrewing the lid and extracting the contents with much the same precision a sniper assembled a weapon.

Of all the regulations and procedures that governed the Systems Alliance military, the decision to cut costs by replacing actual meals with ration packets was the most aggravating. Hadn't anyone considered the repercussions of getting between a trained assassin and her ice cream?

Shepard stabbed at the creamy chocolate substance with a passion, savoring every scoop with the kind of appreciation that was worth breaking rules for.

She sighed, contently.

And then the elevator door slid open, bathing the entire bay in blinding light. Shepard froze, eyes wide in shock; her tongue stuck to the spoon, mid-lick. There stood Jeff Moreau, the Normandy's flight lieutenant, leaning on his crutches.

"Commander Shepard?" Joker squinted, peering into the darkness, confusion evident.

Shepard leapt off the crate and did her best to look innocent, attempting to recover a shred of dignity. "Lieutenant."

They stared at each other, hesitant; the awkward silence tangible. Getting caught with your tongue hanging out was not the best way to garner respect from your crew, Shepard reflected.

"Are you smuggling contraband onto my ship?" Joker accused. His intensity was remarkable. "If that's strawberry I'm jettisoning you now."

Shepard cocked her head to the side; she was prepared to rationalize the situation, even use brute force if necessary, but now she was at a loss. She wasn't quite sure she'd heard him correctly. "Strawberry is where you draw the line? Really?"

He nodded, stepping out of the elevator and making his way toward her. "I doubt we'll have any issues, though. You're classic military: all business and no fun. Totally vanilla."

Shepard gawked, waving her spoon at him like a weapon. "For your information, it's chocolate."

"Oh, well! Aren't you Miss Fancy Pants N7! So full of surprises." He wiggled his fingers through the air to punctuate his mockery, then took a seat next to her on the crate, leaning his crutches against the bulkhead. "How about you hand over the evidence and I make sure Commander Shepard's secret weakness stays a secret."

"How about secrets stay secrets and I promise not to break you in half before the end of the mission?"

He scratched his beard and ran his fingers through his hair, pretending to think things over while re-securing his hat. Finally, he shrugged. "Fair's fair. I'm just tired of eating food in a tube."

A smile spread across her lips and she proffered the spoon. Disaster averted.