A/N: While I tried to make this open to anybody, it's best if you've seen "Firefly".
July 2010 Edit: Wonky formatting and some other stuff fixed.
Kendra Shepard watched Kaidan walk away. It has been two years for him, she thought. It feels like months for me. What does this mean for us? The yellowish grass of Horizon waved, flattened in places by booted feet or the blackened bodies of the Collectors. She could hear Garrus and Grunt breathing behind her, could almost sense their hulking presences. And Kaidan dwindled.
He had been a great friend—a great soldier.
But her new soldiers needed to get out of here, back to the safety of the ship.
She keyed the comm on her glowing arm rig. "Joker. Come get us."
The shuttle docked; Shepard and the aliens stepped out onto the echoing corridors of the Normandy. Shepard felt her shoulders relax (Lazarus reactions like the natural ones). No one would shoot at her here—not unless Jack was having a really bad day.
Shepard headed for the command center to see if Kelly had any new messages for her.
When she entered the blue-and-silver expanse of the main deck, she found her gaze drifting toward the forward corridor, realizing slowly that during the shuttle ride she hadn't been thinking about Kaidan, despite how regret at leaving him weighed on her; she had been thinking about the irony of whose name she'd called afterward.
"See you, Commander."
Reluctantly she had gone to talk to Joker, to stand behind him and listen while staring out into the blue cloudiness of space beyond EDI's dome, and reluctantly she turned away. Only Kaidan had had a voice she'd wanted to memorize like that—and they'd never clicked. She couldn't name why. Maybe Garrus—new, scarred Garrus who may or may not have been trying to flirt with her when he first arrived on the ship—was so intriguing. But Joker's voice was warmer than theirs.
She turned to go, to stomp down the hall like the professional, stoic warrior she was supposed to be, and heard music.
Whirling around, she saw Joker cover a screen in front of him with his hands and EDI flick into awareness at the sudden movement.
"…Is that pertinent to the running of the ship?" Shepard asked.
EDI chose to answer. "It is not, Commander. Mr. Moreau has been wasting his time with this disk recently."
Shepard was generally inclined away from siding with EDI. Tentatively she looked over Joker's shoulder again and scanned the console.
"What time was I wasting?" The pilot protested. "I sit here and watch flashing buttons while the autopilot takes us to the next Mass Relay. Sometimes I press one."
Shepard leaned on the padded back of Joker's chair while he tipped his hands away from the offending screen. She could have kept standing, but here she was that much closer to what she hardly admitted to herself she wanted—to run her fingers through his hair.
(I don't need this, she thought. Maybe it's just brain chemicals. I'm just glad I'm alive, and want to be close to someone human-)
He was talking, his hands lying limp on either side of the screen, where images of actors and Chinese symbols flashed past. "It's about the crew of this ship with a war-hero captain and a snarky pilot—sounds impossible, I know. Alliance too. But it's set in a universe without aliens. It's good—very funny."
He looked up and back at her.
"Sounds good," she said softly. She'd always liked well-written adventure stories—she could identify with them."I'd like to watch it."
"I'll give you the disk, or you can watch it here—but we'll have the artificial peanut gallery looking over our shoulders. You could use the holoproj in the debriefing if Grunt'll drag chairs in."
"Or you could bring it to the Loft," Shepard said before she could stop herself. She straightened up , folded her arms. "That's a longer elevator ride and a shorter walk."
He just kept looking fearlessly up at her. "Sure. Later today?"
"I can't believe you've never seen Firefly. See you, Commander."
He knocked on her door as she was finishing setting up the holoprojector on the small table in her room. She let him in and smiled, exchanged greetings; she watched him walk; carefully, slowly. She knew he would refuse an offer of help. They wore the same uniform, she thought, but made it look so different. The leg braces barely visible beneath the pocketed cargo pants made his hips look almost turian.
They sat down a little bit awkwardly and started the first episode of Firefly. Joker tried to work with the awkwardness. "Nice room you've got up here. Pretty far away from the bathroom, though."
"Ah, I've got my own."
"Aren't you the fancy-pants commander. Cerberus is just trying to get into your good graces. Did they provide those little hotel packets of soap with the logo on them?"
She stifled her laugter to pay attention to the war on the screen.
Or at least she tried.
He was taller than her, but not by much; she was used to standing over him. But here, sitting close, she could tell the difference; could tell that she'd be comfortable leaning her head on his shoulder.
She moved tentatively at first, and he was surprised; flinched like a dog in its sleep.
"I don't mean to hurt you—"
So she leaned; and he moved carefully to put his arm around her shoulders, to grab a handful of her sleeve to steady himself.
They watched two episodes and laughed and compared Firefly's crew to their own: Wrex to Jayne, Tali to Kaylee, and Reapers to Reavers. And after two, Shepard thought she should get back to business (although she couldn't quite remember what that was), should cut this off before it grew stale, and so she paused the disk and began to extricate herself from his arm.
She knew he needed to move slowly, knew that he needed to be careful, but she thought also that he should have known his fingers would trail across the back of her neck, and might have said something.
He did not; they looked at each other for a moment.
She stood up, hid her smile behind a dipped shoulder; she saw him work his weight onto his feet.
He stumbled, one foot slapping hard across the ground; she lurched to catch him. But he caught himself on the couch and regained his balance, shrugging off her hand on his arm—but looking grimly at his baseball cap, which had slid off onto the floor, leaving him with a mussed head of brown hair.
Shepard smirked and bent, scooped the hat up. She handed it to him. "We'll have to watch the rest of the show some other time."
"Sure. You haven't seen anything yet."
"I bet I haven't."
He shuffled toward the door, shoulders canted. As he passed her he raised the hat in his hand and hooked it over the back of her head, snugged it down before she could protest.
"Hey, you need that—"
"I need it? Who's looking at me in the cockpit?" He replied. "EDI? Yuck."
He let himself out, waving over his shoulder. She leaned against a bulkhead and watched the door close. You left your disk here, she started to say.
She took the hat off and turned it in her hands, feeling the roughness of the cloth.
"This is unusual behavior, Commander. I do not believe it is deemed acceptable on a vessel conforming to military standards."
Standing in the cockpit, Shepard looked at what she thought she might be supposed to look at when she talked to EDI. Her stomach gained a sudden and sickening sense of itself. "What behavior, EDI?"
"I have holographic records of it, Commander. You should at least review them so that you can order me to delete them. Cerberus does not hold exact military discipline, but…"
She glanced aside and saw Joker cover his eyes with one palm.
"Oh no. Show me."
EDI said, "The first record was made last week, shortly after your mission to Horizon."
Oh right, Shepard thought. I was proud of that one at the time.
The hologram showed the corridor to the cockpit. Shepard walked down it as casually as she walked down any other hallway, perhaps flouncing slightly. The overhead cameras quite clearly showed the black-and-white hat in her hands behind her back.
She walked up to the pilot, put the hat on him so the brim blocked his eyesight, and ran.
The hologram flickered. It showed a closer view of the cockpit now, with Shepard standing beside Joker's chair.
"You got a letter from Tim," Joker's canned voice said.
"A letter?" Shepard replied. "Who's Tim?"
"The Illusive Man. Don't we use acronyms around here? I thought that was all military-standard and stuff. Here. No, closer, it's top secret. That's why he didn't want to send it through normal communication. Closer. Here…"
He pushed the hat onto her head and cackled.
Hologram-Shepard stalked off in a huff as if she'd lost a poker game while real-Shepard put a hand over her mouth and laughed. Joker's shoulders shook. The holograms kept playing.
She got Mess Sergeant Gardner to deliver Joker a covered platter with the hat in it. Joker got Jacob to levitate it onto Shepard's head. Shepard wore it to a meeting with Tim.
That was the last hologram.
She asked EDI to delete the files; Joker said he wanted copies of them.
Shepard supposed Garrus heard about the game from Jacob. He looked up as she walked by him in the mess hall. "Shepard."
"Enjoying your food?" she said. The turian-compatible meal looked faintly bluish.
"The cook is getting better at making it edible." Garrus said, his bone-white teeth showing behind his mandibles.
"Good. Er, how are you?"
"I'm all right. Things have been quiet."
"Nice, er, calibrations?"
"They're calibrated." He met her eyes, gaze sharp like a hawk—like a predator. Putting the barrel of a sniper rifle in front of those eyes did nothing to change make them more or less intense. "Nice hat."
"Oh…." She better not be blushing. Did turians even know what about blushing? Garrus probably did. "I've been hanging out with Joker. Watching this Earth television series. It's good. If you want to join us—"
Garrus' teeth clacked together. "I'm not interested in Earthling history."
Shepard felt her expression go slack. The idea of snapping "Are you jealous?" blinked in the corner of her mind like a little red light.
She said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."
He said, "Just think next time you ask me to the equivalent of elcor Hamlet."
Garrus speared a chunk of food.
His eyes weren't any different without the sniper rifle.
She couldn't think of anything else brilliant to do, so the next time, she just walked down the gantry and hooked her arm over Joker's chair and bestowed him with the hat. They'd been having their Firefly meetings regularly. "We need to get you some plastic dinosaurs."
EDI flickered. "Nothing is to interfere with the proper running of the ship."
"It wouldn't interfere." Joker said. "You could set off flares in front of me and I could fly this thing through any firefight you can think of."
"We're almost done with the series, aren't we?" Shepard asked.
"Yeah. Then there's the movie…"
"We should watch that."
"I don't know…" He replied.
He turned around slightly, making her crossed arms brush his shoulder. "Remember we said who was like what character?"
"You're like Zoe. You're strong and fun and stand up for your crew. And I'm like Wash. The witty pilot."
"Are you proposing?"
He smirked. "I don't think we should watch the movie yet."
They curled up in the Loft for another episode. The contact was casual now, barely thought of—or at least she tried to make him think it was barely thought of. They watched Wash accuse Zoe of sleeping with Mal, the ship's captain.
Shepard glanced at Joker, at the rust-red glow of the screen flickering against his face. She said, "Does that make EDI Mal?"
He smiled. She reached up to touch his face, to be as gentle as she could when she just wanted to pull at him. He turned and ignored the screen to meet her eyes, his skin color-washed, the smile creeping at the edges of his lips and making her unable to resist one of her own.
He said, "I guess it does."
Her hands just slipped to the back of his neck, settled of their own accord.
He leaned closer—and raised an arm to take his cap off of his head and settle it over hers. "Gotcha."