...I took the stars from my eyes, and then I made a map

And knew that somehow I could find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you...

Hair was itchy.

Jack idly rubbed her hand over her scalp where her hair was growing in. Like many things in her life, she'd made a snap decision to try something new, and a fresh hairdo seemed like a good place to start. Though that hadn't been nearly as surprising to the rest of the team as when she'd gotten that vest. Man, she was going to have to put on shirts more often if it got stunned looks like the one she'd gotten out of Miranda. Ha!

The only annoying part was how she could feel the little hairs stirred by the faint artificial breeze of the Citadel's Presidium. It was hard not to scratch, so she settled for smoothing her palm over it until it was satisfied, and returned to looking out over the pristine gardens and little people below. The station was still the most boring place in the galaxy, completely lacking in real fun once you got out of the seedier part of the Wards, and all the people were soft as shit... but she liked the view here.

It was peaceful. After all the shit after the relay and the Collector base, even she was past due for peaceful.

A hand touched along her elbow without warning; a bit of static went off between the foreign fingers and her skin. Instinct seized her. She balled up her fist and raised it high, biotics swirling around her fingers, before she caught herself just in time.

Without so much as blinking, Milo offered her a cigarette. "Smoke?"

Jack scowled and lowered her hand, the blue field around her disappearing. "You need to remember the rules about sneaking up on me, jackass." She snatched a stick from the little metal box that Milo held his smokes in.

Shepard held up his hands in surrender before lighting both cigarettes and pocketing the pack. Seeing the way he kept it close made her smile; she'd gotten him that, and he carried it everywhere. "Sorry, sweetheart."

"And quit calling me sweetheart," she groaned, rolling her eyes dramatically. Hopefully he'd ignore her grin.

As he was smirking himself, she doubted it. "Will do, babe," he replied.

For that he got a punch in the arm. The marine groaned dramatically and clutched at his bicep as if in mortal pain. Drama queen. "How'd the meeting go, you whiner?" she asked, jerking her head back towards the door he had come in through.

He glanced back to Anderson's office and, shaking his head discreetly, took her by the hand. Her fingers slid easily into his, holding on loosely as he steered them away from the politician offices and out into the crowded pathways.

"They don't think I left Cerberus," he stated, disgust just barely masked under his voice, "and they aren't saying a peep about the data we collected on the Reapers or the Collectors. I shouldn't be surprised but, yep, I am."

Jack gruffed so hard it hurt her chest. "They're idiots. They'll see what's coming soon or later."

"That's what I'm worried about." Milo sighed and took a deep drag, a frustrated look on his face. How he put up with those council assholes without throwing a chair at them - as she would have, no doubt - was beyond her. But he'd figure it out. She was sure of that.

"How's your back feeling?" she ventured, seeing that he wasn't too keen on talking about bullheaded politics.

Milo felt along his shoulder where she knew there was a scar that crept up along the center and top of his back; the Collector shot had been hard, burning through his stressed armor and hitting his spine. In dark nights, she could remember his body, limp and cold, those horrible few moments when she'd thought she had lost as quickly as she had felt victory. But here was his hand in hers, warm and firm. Alive.

"Better," he said, "though still sore. Mordin's a genius, and the data we were able to keep from Cerberus helped him keep me and their tech inside going. He said it was a close call, though..."

His eyes seemed to glaze over and his expression was thoughtful as he stared off into nowhere, though it was only a moment before he added, "I believe him."

She gave his fingers a squeeze. He returned it with a smile. "Want to go hit up a bar?" she offered. "I know a place. The whiskey'll knock you on your ass."

"You gonna thrash the barkeep like you did the last one? We don't have the Illusive Man keeping all the cops paid off anymore, you know," he pointed out as they walked. "And-"

She ducked into an alley, pulling him with her. Pressing him against the wall and straddling his leg, she leaned heavily against his bigger frame. The look of momentary surprise on his face was an amusing one. Their cigarettes fell out of their fingers, forgotten on the ground together. "When'd you turn into such a fun sucker?" she hissed.

"When I realized how much it cheesed you off," he retorted without missing a beat.

"It's annoying."

He laughed. "You like me when I'm annoying."

It was true and they both knew it. Didn't mean she had to show it though. Rather than let him have the last say, shut him up with a kiss. Time had grown between them and so had confidence; no careful wariness stopped either of them now as she let her attraction show, kissing him as roughly as he gave back. She reached up to cup his face in her hand, her thumb smoothing over the scar over his eye and brow. The one she'd been responsible for. God, that was sexy.

His own hands roamed as well, fingertips racing down with now memorized ease along her tattoos and scars, down the lines and swirls and creases. Any passerby who stopped to look could probably see them, but it only added to the sense of excitement. He groaned when she reached down for his fly and-

"Commander Shepard?"


Both humans glanced down to Milo's left arm, where his omni-tool's message system had appeared over his wrist and hand. Shepard scowled at the orange glow as he read the label. "Hackett?"

"Shepard. I have to speak with you regarding an important matter," gruffed an old man's voice from the omni-tool, one she didn't recognize. "In private."

Of course it'd be the Alliance cutting into her fun time. Jack gave Shepard a sigh as he stood up straight and replied, "I'll take it in my quarters on the Normandy. I'll be there as soon as possible, Admiral."

"Will do, Commander."

The omni-tool shut off, leaving them alone again. Milo smiled apologetically at her. "'Doing It In Dirty Places Time' is going to have to wait, I think."

"Fun sucker," she accused again.

"If it makes you feel better, people are gonna see me walking crooked all the way to the ship," he cooed with amusement, pressing a kiss to her forehead. She swatted him away. "And I'll buy you a round later."

"You better."

"I'd be too afraid of the consequences if I didn't."

Jack arched an eyebrow at him. Ass.

But then Shepard smirked. That stupid smirk, the one she loved, the one she wanted to smack. The one she couldn't wait to see every day for the rest of her life. But this one was not the same as the one he usually wore, cocky and amused. This one was happy, adoring, and still a bit cocky.

This one was for her.

"I ought to beat you sometimes, Milo Shepard."

"Hey. What can I say?" he chuckled and pulled her close again, giving her a final kiss before the universe pulled him away again. But it wouldn't be for long. She believed in that now. "A kiss with a fist is better than none."

Lyrics to 'Cosmic Love' by Florence + the Machine are not mine.

So thanks to everyone who's read this whole thing, and encouraged me through my worst moments of thinking this was a stupid fic or even wanting to drop it entirely with thoughtful comments, helpful hints and wonderful fanart. I had a fun challenge in writing this, but you guys made it worth it.

And a second HUGE HUGE HUGE thanks to my beta, rose_in_shadow for her big help in editing and plot issues. I couldn't have finished without you and I owe you a beer.

Lastly, thanks to Bioware for making a kickass character like Jack. Here's looking forward to what Mass Effect 3 has to bring for her.