Standard disclaimer: None of the characters, places, etc. in this story are mine, but are instead the property of Bioware. No copyright infringement is intended by their use in this story.
Author's note: A little bit of light-hearted fluff I pounded out in a couple of days following "Reasons." I liked Kasumi the moment I got her, much more than Zaeed—frankly, during Zaeed's loyalty quest, I came to the conclusion that I didn't want him on my ship, and I would have left him to die under the beam if I'd been able—and the idea of this little fic had been rolling around in my head for a while, so I wrote it. I've given Shepard the first name "Jane" here, which is the canonical choice for a female Shepard, even if it's never said aloud in the game.
Random comments: I was working on my third playthrough when I wrote this fic, and doing Thane's romance scenario. My first playthrough, I'd romanced Garrus and found it touching and moving, partly because of their shared history. At the time I wrote this fic, I hadn't completed Thane's romance plot, and what I had seen so far just wasn't carrying the same weight as Garrus's. However, shortly after this was written, I did complete Thane's romance quest, and I have to say that the final scene with Thane tipped the scales (no pun intended ). I actually teared up a little. I still think the buildup is inferior to Garrus's romance, but the payoff is, IMO, just as good if not a little better. I may not write anything about it—I still sort of see Garrus as Fem!Shep's primary love interest (and Tali as Male!Shep's ), but I did think it was really moving. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Thanks as always to LadyKate, who kindly betaed!
"Shepard! There you are." Kasumi looked up from her couch, smiling, to greet Shepard as she came through the door. "Everything's ready—I've got the popcorn, there's a quart of chocolate brownie ice cream in the freezer, and I've ordered a stack of vids as long as your arm. I thought we might start with Fleet and Flotilla—I overheard that turian talking about it back on Ilium. Although maybe we should wait to do that one until you've had a chance to recruit that quarian—What was her name?"
"Tali," Shepard supplied. She shifted from foot to foot. "Ehhhh…I don't know, Kasumi," she demurred. "I mean…I'm not really into the whole 'girl's night' thing."
"Nonsense," Kasumi insisted. "Every girl needs a 'girl's night' once in a while. We'll watch some trashy vids, eat way too much junk food, and stay up talking until dawn. We can do each other's hair…I've got some antique geisha hair ornaments that my great-grandmother passed down to me that I think would look just wonderful in that fire-red hair of yours." Shepard reached back and touched her bun self-consciously.
"Your great-grandmother was a geisha?"
"Wellll…" Kasumi's eyes sparkled mischieviously under her hood. "Okay, I might have 'acquired' the ornaments a few heists back when I was hired to steal some feudal samurai armor. I saw them, and I just couldn't resist! But telling everyone they're from my great-grandmother just saves time and awkward questions. You understand."
Shepard was startled into a laugh. "I still don't know. I mean, I have things to do—"
Kasumi tilted her head. "I've got hot fudge topping for the ice cream…."
"Well…Okay, why not. But I can't stay too long," Shepard insisted. "Just for a couple vids."
"Great!" Kasumi hurried to the bar. "There's butter and salt, caramel corn, cheesy popcorn—what do you want to start with?"
"Butter, I guess." Shepard slid onto the couch and tried to get comfortable.
"The old stand-by, eh? No problem." Kasumi returned to the other end of the couch, setting the bowl of popcorn on the low glass coffee table. "Ooh—almost forgot the drinks! Two Thessia sunrises, coming right up." She went back to the bar, busied herself for a moment, then came back and set down two glasses next to the bowl. "Now, what do you want to watch? I've got just about everything."
"I don't know…do you have Elysium 2176?" Shepard asked hopefully.
"How about The Mindoir Redemption? Or Invasion: Shanxi?"
"Shepard!" Kasumi made a face. "Those are war movies, not chick flicks!" She scowled comically. "You're not even trying, are you? Here." She called up a list of titles on the screen across from them. "I've got a good mix of stuff: there are some real classics, like Titanic, Sleepless in Seattle, Shakespeare in Love….here's Gone with the Wind, I always cry at that…. some newer stuff, like Presidium Holiday, or Outer Rings….ooh, I forgot I had some asari titles! Asari do such good chick flicks, don't you think? Weekend on Thessia, Ilium's Rose, Fifty Shades of Blue—that one's considered one of the one hundred greatest asari vids of all time, you know. I've even got some cross-species stuff, all light and fluffy of course—Defying Gravity, about a hanar and an elcor, Contents Under Pressure—the volus there is supposed to be very good, by the way—or here's one: Across the Stars." She peeked at Shepard around the edge of her hood. "Have you heard of that one? It's about a female human captain and a male turian captain who meet during the First Contact War and fall in love. Supposedly based on a true story," she added with a mischievous smile.
Shepard threw her a half-exasperated glance. "That really doesn't sound like my thing, Kasumi."
"Suit yourself," Kasumi replied with a shrug. "Well—hm. So Across the Stars is out, eh? Then I think the best thing to do would be to work chronologically. Do you want to start with Titanic, or Shakespeare in Love?"
Shepard shrugged, toying with her drink. She took a sip of the Thessia Sunrise and tried not to grimace—it was cloyingly sweet. "I dunno. Late twentieth century vids aren't really my strong suit. You pick something, Kasumi."
"Well. Shakespeare in Love it is, then." Kasumi's bright eyes sparkled as she scrolled up the title screen. Shepard settled back into the leather cushions of the couch.
As the vid began to play and the story unfolded on the screen, Shepard had to admit there was something sort of relaxing about hanging out with Kasumi. She'd never had many female friends before, certainly not of the kind where they'd just hang out and watch vids together. The friends I've had would be more likely to suggest we go sparring or to the shooting range. And the vid Kasumi had chosen wasn't as ridiculous or fluffy as she had thought it would be.
"Doesn't hurt that Joseph Fiennes is really hot," Kasumi said with a sparkle when she brought it up. "Or Colin Firth either, for that matter."
"That's not what I meant," Shepard protested, feeling the heat in her face. "I just meant that—"
"Oh, you're blushing. It's okay, I won't tell … anyone," Kasumi said with a significant look at the door, and Shepard couldn't help but laugh.
Throughout the vid, Kasumi kept her popcorn bowl filled and her drink topped off, as well as keeping a stream of gently mischievous commentary on the happenings on the screen. Shepard was surprised to realize she had laughed far more that evening than it felt like she had in days. When the final scene faded to black, and the credits began to roll, she said awkwardly, "Thanks, Kasumi. I needed this."
"I could tell," Kasumi said, nodding sagely. "The last mission on the Citadel was pretty rough on you, wasn't it?"
Shepard exhaled. "Make that the last two missions. And no, I don't want to talk about it, but thank you for asking anyway."
"I hadn't asked yet."
Shepard glanced at Kasumi humorously. "But you were going to. I could see it."
"Maybe," Kasumi said with a laugh. "So, what should we watch next? Sleepless in Seattle? Hm, let's try Titanic." And she tapped at her omni-tool, calling up the stream of titles again.
By the time the ship hit the iceberg, the popcorn bowls had been pushed to the side of the table in favor of a lacquered box that contained Kasumi's cosmetic equipment, and Kasumi herself had scooted over to where Shepard sat. "Okay, keep your head still," she said firmly, squatting at Shepard's back.
"I don't know—Kasumi, I don't really do much with my hair—"
"Which is why you should start!" Kasumi insisted, oblivious to the tragedy playing out on the small screen before them. "You have such beautiful red hair, Shepard, and all you ever do with it is put it up in that iron bun of yours. And these ornaments would look so wonderful—"
"All right, fine," Shepard said, craning her neck to get a good look at the screen. She felt Kasumi's hands start to fiddle in her hair as Caledon Hockley drew his weapon and began to chase Rose and Jack through the sinking ship, firing as he ran. "No, that's wrong," Shepard pronounced in irritation. "Firing while he's running, he's got no prayer of hitting you—flank him and try for a disarm!"
"Shepard, it's only a movie," Kasumi teased, as she worked. Shepard felt pins being loosened and elastic bands being undone, but scarcely paid attention; Rose and Jack had come across a locked iron gate, trapping them below decks.
"Break it!" she shouted. "Break the gate—Or at least look for a quick-release latch—arrrgh, no wonder it was such a disaster, I can't believe there aren't protocols in place—"
"Hold still," Kasumi ordered. "You're moving around too much…" Shepard felt clasps being tightened and something sliding into her hair. "There. All finished. What do you think?" Kasumi asked with a smile, and handed her a mirror.
Shepard glanced at the mirror—then stopped, and stared. Kasumi had taken her bun and loosened it, pulling individual strands and locks of hair out so that they hung wispily against her neck, framing her face. The bun itself was smaller and had been moved up higher on her head, instead of against the nape of her neck, and it was speared with two hair sticks, dark gray-black wood with elegant silver finials, each holding a flawless blue-green stone. The new hairstyle made her look younger and much less severe than her normal appearance. It was not Shepard the commander who stared back at her, but someone else, someone she saw so rarely she hardly recognized her: Jane, the woman.
"Kasumi," she said quietly, "this is beautiful." She reached up and gently touched the ornaments.
Kasumi's bright eyes sparkled under her hood. "Why, thank you, Shepard," she replied. "And the hair sticks are yours to keep; I have five more sets. No, I insist," she said, as Shepard started to protest. "The moment I saw you, I knew they would look good on you—in fact, I deliberately chose the evening dress I found for the Bekenstein mission to match them. They go together, and now they're both yours." Kasumi smiled. "Never let it be said that thieves are ungenerous. Just be careful about wearing them around any law enforcement officers—I haven't been able to verify, but I suspect they're electronically tagged."
"Well, I—Kasumi, I don't know how to thank you." Shepard touched the hair sticks again, still looking at the stunning stranger in the mirror Kasumi had given her. "I can't remember the last time I had something so beautiful." Then she sighed. "I just wish I had somewhere to wear them or, hell, someone to wear them for." Ever since Kaidan—
"Oh, I can think of someone you can wear them for," Kasumi said with a mischievous grin, and gestured meaningfully in the direction of the Main Gun Battery.
Shepard regarded her with a jaundiced eye. "Kasumi—"
Kasumi shook her head. "Oh, Shepard," she sighed. "You have to know Garrus is crazy about you. He just hasn't figured it out yet—he still hasn't gotten over the loss of his squad, and it's sort of jamming the signal, so to speak. Why do you think he's been so aggressive toward Thane?"
"Toward Thane?" Shepard felt her face contort. "You're not telling me you think— Believe me, Kasumi, there's nothing there. A dying man with a hostile kid who's still actively mourning his dead wife is dragging way more baggage than I can handle, and that's even leaving aside the whole Reaper menace."
"You know that," Kasumi said, "and I know that. But Garrus doesn't know that. It doesn't help either," she added, "that Garrus himself doesn't realize why Thane bugs him so much. And then, there's the fact that you intimidate him a little."
"I?" Shepard looked at Kasumi, incredulous. "I intimidate Garrus?"
"Sure," Kasumi said, shrugging. "Somewhere in that turian brain of his, he's got you fixed as the embodiment of everything he wants to be. Or feels he should be, at any rate, and he blames himself for not living up to that. I'm telling you, in his own way, he's almost as much of a mess as Jack is." She cradled her drink. An unaccustomed seriousness fell about her. "Garrus needs a friend, Shepard. He needs a friend very badly. Even if you don't feel that way about him…"
Shepard looked out the observation port toward the open stars. "I don't know, Kasumi. I mean—even forgetting the fact that he's a turian, the last relationship I had didn't exactly work out great. The whole thing with Kaidan—" She sighed. "It was ugly. Really ugly. I— We'd already sort of called it quits, anyway," she confessed. "I mean—on some level, I don't think he ever really forgave me for sending Ashley to die in his place, and I— to be honest, Kasumi, I don't know if I can trust my own motivation there either. I've sat up nights thinking about it." She closed her eyes and swallowed. "It just—it just poisoned everything between us in the end. Anyway, I've sworn off relationships with the people under my command. It just makes everything too complicated."
Kasumi peered at her around the edge of her hood. "But Garrus isn't technically under your command, is he?"
"For the duration of this mission, he is, at least. It's the same thing."
"And how about after the mission?"
"After the mission—Kasumi—"
Kasumi's impish grin softened.
"Look, Shepard, I'm not trying to push you, or harangue you," she said quietly. "Hell, if anyone, I know how complicated relationships can be. Keiji and I had our high points and our low points, certainly, and some of the low points were pretty low. But the highs…there was nothing like them in the world." A soft smile lit her face. "There's not a day goes by that I don't wish we'd had just one day longer. One more day in each other's arms, one more night….well, you know. Don't deprive yourself of that, Shepard. Especially not out of fear. If that's all that's holding you back, then go for it. Take some time for yourselves, you and Garrus, to grab all the love and warmth you can. Because before you know it—" Her smile grew sad. "There may be no time left at all."
And as Shepard stared at her, dumbfounded, the merriment slipped back into Kasumi's dark eyes. "No Time Left At All. That's actually the name of this next vid, and I think it's a bit more up your alley. It's set on Thessia, and it's about an asari commando and a salarian STG member who meet in the last days of the Krogan Rebellions. Here, I'll scroll it up." And she pressed the button, the blank screen flickering to life in a display of brilliant, beautiful light.