Full, better summary: After the defeat of the Reapers, Kendra Shepard's problems have mostly involved dodging the attention of the media, watching reruns of the TV she missed while she was dead, and trying to find time to be happily married. But when she leads a movement to grant the geth their own planet and place in the galactic community, not everyone is happy. A mysterious assailant traps Shepard, Joker, Udina, and other members of the crew inside the Normandy SR-2 and leaves them to face their inner demons and grow increasingly suspect of each other.
Author's Note: This started out as me having fun writing something post-game. I've dropped hints about what I think happens in ME3, but didn't want to make really solid predictions—undoubtedly this isn't going to jive with the next game at all, but I tried, and had fun speculating. The story starts a little slow but will be multichapter and mostly an action/adventure fic, with a little romance and bittersweet angst thrown in: married!Shoker is the main ship (pun!), and I might get some Tali/Kal in here, because I think in lieu of Tali/Man!Shep it should happen. Also, thanks to wordswithout for the beta.
The Council tower was the most-watched building on the Citadel, and floating cams and holo recorders were gathered en masse in its heart tonight. To Joker Moreau, watching from one of the public balconies, it seemed like everyone who'd ever held an opinion about politics was in this room, wanting everyone else who had opinions about politics to hear what they thought about the geth being given their own planet.
The Council of Four was making a decision that brought people in crowds, all jostling and craning their necks to see the speaking platforms, raising chatter in every alien accent humanity knew. With the rest of them, Joker watched as the thin, dark-armored figure walked up the brightly polished gantry in front of the crowd hushed for Kendra Shepard, their sounds dying to a respectful silence.
The pastel-painted walls and open skylights made the Council chamber seem lit from the interior. This place is pretty, Joker thought. Bet it wasn't this clean when Sovereign crashed into it. They really fixed it up…should have put in more benches. He leaned on a railing between a turian and a quarian, feeling old aches push at his legs and hips.
The turian councilor spoke first, his amplified voice booming over the crowd. "Welcome back, Commander Shepard." If Joker had learned anything from listening to Garrus, there was a hint of that specific turian brand of sarcasm in the councilor's formality. "I trust your mission went well."
The official mission report had already been submitted and discussed—this was all for the media. The mission had gone well, except for that one part where they'd all thought Legion was dead. Joker thought he saw Kendra look up to find him in the crowd before she started to speak, but his face would be as much a tan blankness at this distance as hers was to him. That didn't stop him from trying to make eye contact.
Her voice was amplified too, crisp and clear. "The geth have settled down on the world Daedalus. They have a functioning government—although it's hard to define that word when referring to a hive mind. I can reassure you that they will not cause any more wanton destruction in the galaxy. The geth that worked with Sovereign were one faction of a complex species—one that right now has no motive to attack others and plenty of incentive not to. I will vouch for them personally, in front of any authority."
Some members of the audience clapped; Joker noticed that the quarian next to him didn't. Personally, he was relieved. Legion's brethren on the rimward planet called Daedalus were even more of one mind than usual since the end of the extinction cycles. They were going to try to be normal members of the galactic community. Hopefully the tenuous peace the Normandy crew had recently come back from brokering would say intact.
There would be a public forum later, but for now, after a short speech by the councilors, the session ended with a resounding round of applause. Around Joker, the crowd was abuzz with opinions and angers—at the geth, at the council, at Captain Anderson or humans or quarians. Joker kept his head down and his mouth shut as he worked his way down from the viewing balcony. The braces caging his legs felt heavy, but much less inconvenient than the crutches he'd considered bringing. Couldn't blame him for being tired after a mission. Excuse me, mister volus. Unsung hero coming through.
He heard so many debates that were this close to fistfights starting among the watchers that by the time he reached the promenade one flight down from the councilors' dais and saw one of his most favorite people making violent gestures at a quarian, he felt almost like starting one himself.
Once-Ambassador Udina was now advisor to the councilor whom Joker still thought of as Captain Anderson. His stalwart ability to irritate had not changed.
The quarian had orange eyes and a husky voice, and addressed Udina in a rush. "Human history ought to tell you that it is insurmountably difficult to guide the course of a former enemy's cultural development without intimate knowledge of that culture. It's far from any of us to know the geth's core desires, but we should have been the ones to…"
Udina's reply was pompous enough that Joker wasn't sure what side to take. If it had been anyone else defending humanity, he'd have launched into trying to convince her that it was not just humanity, but the multispecies Normandy crew that had worked all these years to make peace and stability for the geth. But before he could decide whether or not to speak, he saw Shepard weaving quietly through the crowd toward Udina and knew that she would be the defining factor in the argument. She caught his eye and skirted the debate first, and he drew back behind a column to meet her. She hurried her last few steps to slip her arms across his shoulders and kiss him.
"Good speech," he said. He couldn't help but smile as her green eyes softened from their Council-defying stare.
She laid a hand against his chest. "Thanks for being here."
The quarian in the debate with Udina said something loud. "Business calls," Shepard murmured. They turned together to merge back into the crowd, both knowing that Shepard didn't have the luxury of anonymity for long.
The quarian shifted her gaze to her as Udina glowered. "Captain Shepard!"
"It's Commander Shepard-Moreau," she replied without rancor. "Can I help you?"
The quarian wore a blue suit sprinkled with silver, and although her expression couldn't be told her voice was sharp. "You can explain how giving the geth autonomy isn't my species' prerogative but somehow yours."
"Ma'am, the chief ambassador during this settlement project has been Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, along with the geth Legion."
"Vas Normandy. A human ship."
"For a woman very loyal to the quarians."
The quarian woman scoffed, but fought her voice down to calmness. "I do not begrudge your species, commander. I will keep up to date on your ambassadors' progress."
"Of course. Keelah se'lai."
Joker tried not to look too smug as the quarian's shoulders jumped. "Keelah se'lai!" She looked around at the three humans with quick, catlike flicks of her masked head. Then she moved off, not bothering to say goodbye to Udina.
The ambassador scowled at Shepard. "We'll be untangling the knot of this decision for months."
"It's worth it," Shepard said, her stance ready and relaxed. Udina grumbled, but then his comm clicked; press conferences were beginning. Shepard sighed; as advisor to the Council she was supposed to go too.
"Get your speech ready, commander," Udina said as way of goodbye. "The public will only get more unsettled from here, until we have proof of your…dramatic claim."
As he hurried off, Shepard moved quietly to the edge of the concourse and pulled Joker with her. He snugged his arms around her waist. "Tired of politics yet?"
She gave him a nauseatingly chaste kiss on the cheek, her eyes mischievous. "Always…although the clandestine meetings have improved." Another kiss at the edge of his lips and she ghosted away. He reluctantly made his way toward the elevator, wondering about how the conference would go. There wouldn't be any problems—Shepard was strong. She might come back to their apartment grumbling about how she'd rather be on a command deck than a press conference any day, but she'd be safe.
On the Presidium, there were more tourists and reporters lurking around the entrance to the council tower than usual. He tried to ignore them, looking instead toward the hubward C-Sec headquarters. Somewhere over there on the other side of the Citadel arm, practically beneath his feet, the Normandy was docked. Sometimes that battered old ship felt more like home than the apartment that the Council had set aside for him and Shepard did.
It was hard to image that the blue sky of the Citadel today was the same place he'd flown through almost six years ago. He'd charged through Sovereign's defenses and broken the claw-shaped Reaper ship into smoking black shards, and afterward the Citadel had clamped down and cleaned up. Their recovery was almost as impressive as his flying had been.
"Excuse me, Mr. Moreau. Excuse me—" The reporter was human and hid his eyes with reflective glasses. "You were on Daedalus when the geth became…" His shades turned pastel yellow; Joker figured that he had notes displayed on the inside. "quote 'confused enough for a faction to rebel against the shore party'. That shore party was made up of members of the council races, including your human wife. Do you not see this as a sign that the geth are a threat?"
Joker nervously rubbed at the back of his neck, glaring at the reporter from under the brim of his cap. This was one of the problems with the Citadel—the paparazzi. At least this guy wasn't from the tabloids. "Sure they could be dangerous," he tried, "but the geth weren't exactly warm and fuzzy before. We had to give them a chance to see that we could help them. That we know justice doesn't just mean an eye for a…" He gestured in front of his face in the rough shape of a geth head as he tried to find the right words. "flashlight-thing."
Other reporters were gathering around, Shepard's name popping up over and over in their muttering. Joker sighed; he was sure he'd heard all these questions before. "Yes, I think Shepard's right," he said, louder. "And not because I have to." He turned to go, found his way blocked by a camera. Fortunately, there was also a familiar, wall-sized krogan hump behind the reporter.
Urdnot Wrex pushed through the crowd, his voice rumbling. "Out of the way. We've got somewhere to be."
"What are you doing here?" Joker hissed, relieved—unless of course Wrex was here with a grievance. If he killed someone important, there'd be even more questions to answer.
Wrex didn't bother to whisper, if that was even possible for krogans. "Grunt is in his own press conference—I came to back him up. Maybe crack some heads."
"Great, great." Krogans.
"Excuse me, Urdnot Wrex!" The reporter called out. He's braver than I thought. "What do you think about the inclusion of the geth in the galactic community?"
Wrex's voice boomed. "I think that humanity has shown their worth, if Shepard's any example, and that if you guys wanna keep the geth as pets, feel free to try it. If a varren doesn't listen to you, you shoot it." Wrex clapped a massive hand down on Joker's shoulder. "Come on."
Squirming in Wrex's wake, Joker escaped the paparazzi. "Thanks for that," he managed as they walked along the Presidium, the forest of cameras behind them turning as if in a high wind to focus on someone else coming out of the Council tower.
"Commander Shepard always liked to help the weak. I respect her despite that little flaw; she'd like if I did the same. Don't get used to it."
Why don't we put me in a ship and see who's weak started in the back of his throat, but he didn't think Wrex beating him in the middle of the Presidium would be good for today's precarious interspecies relationships. "I won't. Bye, Wrex."
He got a grunt in return as the krogan lumbered off. Joker watched him go for a moment, then moved over to the rapid transit station before anybody with a camera dared to approach him again.