Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect, Shepard, Joker, or even so much as a plastic model of Sovereign. :(

For Virusq on Deviantart, who gave me the word prompt for this piece: "Model Ships"


Of Boatmen, Bridges, and Model Ships

"Hey, fellas," Shepard greeted upon entering the new Normandy's mess hall, two rather large shopping bags in tow. She felt oddly relaxed, though not because of her recent purchases. With things finally slowing down a little after destroying the Collector base she'd returned the ship, and her crew, to Illium for some desperately needed R&R. Only for a week or two, she wasn't sure how antsy or anxious she would get before too long.

As it was, most of her human crew had seemed to have contracted a little bit of cabin fever, and were happy to spend a couple weeks just being as normal as possible, having just experienced too many close brushes with what Shepard called the "Big, Brown and Uglies".

Even her alien comrades would be looking to get in touch with the worlds they had left behind in preparation of the suicide mission. Now that it had proven survivable, she couldn't blame them for wanting to somehow remake their connections to their old lives.

She had similar ideas, but the only connection she had to her old life was the Normandy, or rather, to Joker.

She smiled as she passed the pilot and a male private she had called "Spooner", so named because his real title had been too foreign for her to pronounce.

She set her load on the counter of Gardner's kitchen before turning to the fridge and reaching for a beer. Technically, it would've been contraband, if she were on duty. But as of right now the Normandy served as a home for those of her crew that didn't have one, or had made no plans to rent a hotel room during their lengthy recess. She would've felt weird about shooing others off the ship when she herself had no desire to leave it, so it served well for them all to treat the ship as a barracks while it wasn't on the clock.

She'd stocked the fridge, and told the few people who had stayed that anything in the mess, either provided by her, or by them, was fair game. If they were stingy about sharing they could store their personal stashes elsewhere…

Like the small tub of gummy bears she had stored in her locker next to her armor.

"Good evening, ma'am," the private said to her exhaustedly as she crossed the hall to sit with them.

She noted that it was late, which probably contributed to how little she had seen of the Normandy's five other current inhabitants.

"You sound sleepy, Spoon," she told the tan skinned man as she sat on the table. Not in it. She rested her feet in the chair next to Joker, but seated herself on top of the cool metal. It was a weird thing she always found more comfortable than any other position. She kept herself from behaving so casually in line of duty, but as of right now the Normandy was as much a home as anywhere else, and she'd most likely be sitting on her own rickety old table when she was eighty and in her own house. If she ever lived that long.

Spooner rubbed at his short gold hair with a heavy hand, weariness plain on his features. "Been a long day, ma'am," he explained.

Shepard grunted in understanding, thinking he'd speak of it to her if he needed to or really wanted to. Though she was forceful with getting answers out of people who got in the way of her line of work, she'd always been gentle and oddly protective of her crew. Though these Cerberus recruits were somewhat new to knowing her as anything more than a wicked fierce commando, she'd hoped they understood that much.

She took a moment to acknowledge Joker, always happy to see his familiar grin and sweet eyes (though she'd never let him know she thought so. Once he knew which of his features were his secret weapons, he might employ them upon her more often, and that could be hazardous for many reasons, mainly his health). Still, she winked at him discreetly as she finally pulled and twisted at the bottle cap of her beer swiftly. It gave a satisfactory pop and she let it fall with clink to the table, only to look up to see both her male companions eyeing her with something mixed between awe and fear.

"What?"

Joker rolled his eyes and produced a sharp metal tool she recognized as something she would normally find in engineering. "We've been using this to open bottles all night," he told her, spinning it in his hand for a moment before setting it on the table next to him. "We had to confiscate it from downstairs in desperation when we couldn't get any of them to open."

Shepard raised her eyebrows and stared straight ahead so perhaps her smile wouldn't seem to hold as much ego as she feared it might. She began to lift the long-necked bottle to her lips before lowering it again and scrutinizing the men. "Wait, all night?"

Spooner nodded glumly and looked to Joker, who only gazed back in what Shepard recognized as the most amiable appearance he ever took.

Her eyes slid to the private and he scratched his head again before absently peeling at the label of his own beer in thought.

"Went out to see my girl today," he finally offered quietly. "Thought I'd surprise her, I hadn't told her we were even going to be in the area. She was busy seeing someone else. And I ended up being the one surprised."

"Shit," Shepard said under her breath, turning away from him so he wouldn't feel like to he was being examined too closely in his time of emotional vulnerability.

She looked sadly down at Joker, who nodded grimly as the right side of his mouth fell a little lower.

She stood from the table and slid her drink across the light colored metal to Spooner. "I'll get another, you need it more than I do."

She was trying to be supportive in the only way she knew how, but the man only shrugged weakly. "I don't know, ma'am, maybe I just need some sleep, it is really late."

However, when the private stood he picked up her offering to take with him. "After oh-two-hundred I'm rather useless anyway."

Shepard nodded, understanding his need for solitude, but tried to give him her best warm smile. "You know where to find me, alright Spoon?"

He nodded appreciatively but still turned and stalked towards the crew quarters. Shepard wasn't sure if she'd ever seen such a slight man make such burdensome footsteps across her deck.

She waited for the sound of the automatic doors being closed before turning back to her pilot, exhaling deeply. "Well, that was a little heavier conversation than I thought I was walking into."

"Yeah, we've been here for about four hours, swapping life stories. I don't think it helped."

She smiled sweetly at Joker and tilted her head at him. "It's so cute that you care."

"Hey, there's a sensitive guy beneath this gruff exterior!" Joker defended in his usual tone. "You just have to look really hard. Or… give me a fourth beer, apparently," he said, turning his attention to the few drinks he had left in his own brown bottle.

She grinned and closed the distance between them, leaning over the side of the table to get near his face. "Hey, you."

He nearly turned into her when she spoke, slightly stunned by her proximity.

Shepard smiled coyly before kissing him, tasting the remnants of alcohol on his lips as she slowly teased his mouth with hers. The tickle his beard gave her chin however forced her to grin so hard she had to break the kiss, and she pulled away quicker than she had really wanted to. "I missed you today."

He mumbled something incoherent in response while his senses returned to him, and she smirked before leaving the table again and heading for the kitchen.

"You need to miss me more often," he called after her, and she smiled as she began digging around the contents of the counters and cupboards for something to munch.

She got distracted for a moment in her quest and didn't realized she'd been followed until she heard the thunk of a bottle butt on the counter above her and felt hands on her hips and back.

"Joker," she growled menacingly, backing out of the cupboard to stand and rotate into him.

"What? I was helping." He innocently blinked but his hands stayed on her, squeezing meaningfully on her sides, conflicting with his claim.

"Mhm." She kissed him again, softer this time as her palm pressed lightly against his chest.

"Okay, I lied, I'm not helping. We should give up and go to bed," Joker suggested, and she snickered shortly before breaking free of his hold.

She reached for the beer he'd set on the counter and drank what was left of it, finding that just those few swallows seemed to satisfy whatever craving she'd been having.

"I'm not ready to sleep yet." She dropped the bottle in the disposal receptacle before grazing her fingertips down Joker's arm thoughtfully. "But you're welcome to come up with me anyway," she whispered.

She grabbed her two shopping bags off the counter in one hand, and with the other laced her fingers through her pilot's and began pulling him with her to the elevator.

Once inside the metal box she set her spoils down and leaned back against the cool steel. It was kind of late, but the odd fluorescent lights above kept her from getting too relaxed.

"Hey, did Spooner perhaps mention a name in all that time you were talking?" She asked absently.

Joker chuckled and gripped her fingers a little tighter in his own. "I doubt he'd condone you killing the guy."

"Why not? It'd make me feel better," she pouted.

"Something about it probably upsetting his parents. I hear fratricide isn't looked upon fondly anymore. Since murdering one's brother often results in, well, murder."

"It was his brother?" Shepard groaned and her head thudded back against the walls of the ascending elevator. "Shiiit."

"Why do men do that?" Joker wondered aloud.

"Why do women do that?" She countered. She couldn't imagine ever sleeping around on someone, which was strange she supposed, because she didn't feel the same way about women who left their current lovers for new ones. It must have to do with the actual act of cheating. It seemed wrong.

"Maybe there was something else she needed, that he couldn't give her…" Joker said quietly.

Shepard's eyes nearly strained in the speed in which they flitted to his. She felt something unpleasant in her stomach at his suggestion. Had that once happened to him? She'd never have the heart to ask without him initiating the conversation on his own free will. Still she reached for his waist and carefully pulled him to her.

"That's no excuse," she told him solidly. "If you really care for someone, it means caring about what your life will be with that person. If there's a river in the way of that dream, you don't change boatmen."

"What do you do?" he asked quietly, resting a hand on either side of her head while she massaged his torso lovingly.

"You build a bridge across it with your first one."

Joker's eyes turned sweet in an expression that still always succeeded in taking her breath away. It warmed her and made her feel beyond amazing, knowing that she was the only person in the entire galaxy that ever saw that. It was so rare, so special, that it literally made her heart ache.

He tilted his head as he kissed her, a technique learned after accidentally bumping her forehead with the bill of his hat a couple times. But she loved it, pushing herself off the wall to hug him tightly as she angled herself for him.

The elevator beeped and doors swung open next to them, ending their sentimental moment as easily as it had began, but Shepard gave him a lingering smile as she again picked up her bags and lead the way into her quarters.

She set her load on her desk when they entered, silently smiling to herself as Joker took the few steps to her aquarium and hit the button to feed her array of fish. She almost never remembered, but he always seemed to. It was routine now.

She began removing the contents of her sacks, one finger going to poke at the release clasp of her model display case to open it. Joker's pale hand soon appeared at her side, examining her items with curiosity, and more than a little amusement.

"Model ships, Commander?" She caught the taunting quality in his voice and saw the raise of an eyebrow out of her peripheral.

She shrugged, trying to not sound as awkward as she felt. "Some women like shoes, bags, sunglasses…"

"And you like geeky metal knock offs that clutter your workspace," he teased.

She stopped what she was doing and glared in mock seriousness at him. "Do you have a problem with the model ships, Mr. Moreau?"

"No, ma'am," he said, still grinning a little as he started taking the ones she'd already collected off their stands. "It's… adorable."

She nearly sputtered at the word, watching him cautiously as he began taking an armful, and her favorites, away from her desk and down into the living area.

"Adorable?!" she repeated, following him. "It's not adorable it's… mature and… very grown up."

He snickered at her in response and she sighed in exasperation.

Still, he handled her models with kindness, probably fearing bodily injury if he didn't. He displayed them out on her bed before sitting next to them and scrutinizing them one at a time, his fingers gliding lovingly along the long wings of the old Normandy before moving on to the imitation of Sovereign.

She watched as he picked it up and scowled at it, turning it over in his hands. She pulled off her boots and overshirt before climbing onto the bed with him, sitting cross-legged in her tank and uniform pants.

"And they honestly want people to believe this was Geth technology?" he asked, irritation somehow lacing his voice without making the mood uncomfortable.

"Yep. Says so on the box it came in."

"I can't believe they're trying to sell the one thing that nearly ended all civilization," he grumbled, still glaring at the small replica as if it was the culprit itself. Himself. Squid's self. Shepard wasn't really sure.

She sighed and picked up the model of the SR1, running her thumb along its title while she thought. "No one knows that though. We put a damn good show of making it look easy." Still, even the memory of all the hell they'd gone through made her feel ten times more tired than she had felt originally.

"Easy?"

She lifted her eyes at the tone, finding Joker's face a mix of agitation, but pride. "Easy?" he asked again. He held the Sovereign model up. "I was like Beowulf against Grendel with this thing! The age old war of man against monster!"

Shepard was successful at hiding both her smile and her laugh, but not without a tight cough to clear her head of both. "Well, I wouldn't know." She tried to divert the argument. "I didn't actually get to see the fight until the defeated party tried to land on my head."

It seemed to have worked, because Joker smiled. "You should've seen it really, I was a total badass."

Shepard actually felt a teasing giggle crawl up her throat and she beat it back down, but she was unable to stop the smile that spread across her lips so tight it made her cheeks hurt. She held the Normandy up in her hand and swooped it low to where Joker had Sovereign poised over the bed. "So like: pew, pew," she imitated, shaking the Normandy back and forth with each sound effect.

When she didn't get a reaction she looked up at the pilot, only to find him staring at her as if she'd morphed into a hanar in front of his eyes.

"What?"

He nearly shook his head in disbelief before answering. "First, of all…" He reached between them and snatched the Normandy out of her hands. "My baby does not go 'pew, pew'." He tilted it back and forth at her with wide eyes, as if he were telling a child that it wasn't okay to ride the family dog like a pony.

She rolled her eyes and cross her arms. "You must've been one of those stingy kids that never shared his toys," she told him.

"Second of all…" he said, ignoring her. He set the Normandy and Sovereign on the bed next to him, but they remained purposefully well out of her reach, "that is the cutest frakking thing I've ever seen."

She felt her lips tilt upward at the way he looked at her, but his expression changed to jokingly serious as he began to crawl over to her. "I feel obligated to tell you though, that I'm going to have to break up with you now."

She laid back on the blankets as he reached her, consciously creating a comfortable cradle with her hips and legs for him to lay into as he pressed her body pleasantly back against the mattress. "Over a sound effect?" she breathed as his body drug over hers to even their faces.

"My baby, does not go 'pew, pew'," he repeated. "Ever."

She smiled and slid her hands around his neck to pull his lips down on hers, greeting his kiss playfully as he embraced her torso between his arms, leaving his hands to support her head and play with her hair.

"Mmm, I'm sorry," she breathed.

"You can make up for it by saying that thing I like to hear," he whispered hotly against her ear.

She felt her cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. She grumbled a little to herself instead of giving him what he desired.

Her assailant moved down to kiss her throat, nipping after a moment when she didn't reply. "Say it," he demanded, growling into her skin. It finally knocked his hat of his head and she picked it up and set it with reverence on her bedside table, rather liking the way it looked there.

But as she tilted her head back to reach, he took advantage of her position and she felt him bite again into the soft skin of her neck and a groan escaped from her lips.

"Say it!"

She sighed and returned her hands to his face, pulling his head back to hers. Her thumbs brushed over his beard and a little across his lips as he watched her with eyebrows raised in expectation.

Her forehead scrunched as she tried to remember the exact words. "You are the most handsome, awesomest, most badass, hot piece of pilot ass in the galaxy," she recited.

His grin reminded her of a child who had managed to sneak three cookies from the cookie jar instead of two. "That's right, baby. And don't you forget it."

They both chuckled together before meeting their lips in the short distance between them once more. Their bodies rubbed together pleasantly as they readjusted to melt into each other. She danced her tongue with his as she felt a warm bubble of happiness swell in her chest. It had been such a simple night really, just them being geeks in the privacy of her quarters, but she was beginning to believe it was all she would ever need.

This was one boatman that could get her across any raging ocean the universe could throw in front of her. And even if the waves became too rough, she had no doubt that they could build one hell of a bridge together.

Somewhere in the shifting and escalating heat, there was a soft clunk followed by a thick and shattering crash. Their kisses halted and they both squirmed to the side to see what had happened.

"Wow," Joker said, looking at the remains of the black sea creature-like ship as it lay busted on her floor. "I guess that was easy."

He returned to her with a small shrug and an 'oops' expression that she really wished it was easier to be angry with.

"You owe me another one," she informed him, sliding her hands down the slope of his back to massage the muscles of his lower waist suggestively.

He closed his eyes and a small moan rode out airily on his breath. "Screw it," he said, tucking his head down to kiss her jaw and then her neck again. "I'll buy you fifty."


Teehee! Don't worry, Kaidan still owns my heart. I just think Joker is so damn *cute* that sometimes, I can't help myself. Anways! Hope you likey! Even if you didn't, writing a review would be greeeeeeeatly appreciated! XD

Teehee... "Squid's self".... makes me giggle every time.