Jacob lounged on the couch in Kasumi's old quarters, holding an ice bag to his swollen cheek with one hand, the remote for the holoprojector in his other. For the first time in recent memory, he had skipped his daily workout but he didn't care. I deserve a day off. Usually he hated inactivity but today it felt good to just lie back and be lazy.
The door slid open and he turned his head.
"What are you watching?" Miranda asked. She had taken a shower and changed. Unlike him, she looked fresh and exactly like she normally did – like she'd just walked out of a magazine ad. He would never have guessed that she'd singlehanded taken on a battalion by herself yesterday.
Jacob shrugged. "Some reality show I think. They dump a bunch of people on an abandoned moon and they take part in random contests for credits. Some guy's about to try to out-eat a krogan." He took his feet off the couch. "Wanna join me?"
Miranda smiled. "Maybe another time."
She walked over to him and to his surprise, she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a hug. He grimaced. The first time she hugs me since we broke up and it has to be when I've got bruises covering ninety percent of my body.
"Sorry, I forgot," she apologized. Jacob coughed, trying to pretend he hadn't made the face he had.
"Oh… uh… don't worry about it. It was just a… neck cramp." He rolled his head around in an exaggerated motion and immediately regretted it as now he actually did have a neck cramp. "What was the hug for?"
"For taking charge of the mission when I couldn't. We would never have found Shepard without you, Jacob. Leading the search, dealing with Aria, I know it couldn't have been easy for you."
"Yeah, well… it was nice getting a chance to lead again."
"Well don't get too used to it. I'm the ship's XO, not you," Miranda said with a smile. She patted his arm. "Just… thanks."
As she turned to leave, she almost bumped into Shepard.
"I'd like to see you in my office later. There's something we should discuss."
She gave Shepard a peck on the cheek and left.
"So Commander, is 'There's something we should discuss' some kind of euphemism?"
"Careful, Lieutenant. I owe you for pulling my ass out of the fire, but that doesn't mean I won't still make you clean the latrines if you piss me off," Shepard said in mock irritation. He disappeared behind the bar and rummaged around for a while before appearing again with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch and a small wooden box. As he emerged from behind the bar, he opened the box and Jacob realized it contained individually wrapped cigars.
"You know, Miranda 'accidentally' threw out your scotch and cigarettes when we trashed your cabin. I should have known you'd have a secret stash."
Shepard handed Jacob a snifter.
"Black is for everyday. Blue is for emergencies like when your girlfriend throws all your Black out and you need something really smooth to comfort yourself and get over it." He filled Jacob's snifter, then his own. "Don't spill this drink, Jacob. This is my only bottle and I had to confiscate it from a restaurant proprietor on the Citadel."
"Confiscate?" Jacob asked, arching an eyebrow.
"He didn't have the proper authorization to import agricultural products from Earth." Shepard shrugged. "I didn't have any choice. Spectres have a duty to preserve order and stability in Council space. That includes enforcing agricultural import regulations."
Jacob took a sip. Hmm… not bad. I could get used to this. It was remarkably smooth, with a slight hint of smoke and peat. "I didn't realize scotch was an 'agricultural product'."
"Scotch is made with barley, barley is an agricultural product." Shepard grinned. "What's the point of having power if you can't abuse it once in a while? Life as a Spectre is hard. The pay sucks, the hours suck, you have to work weekends, and there's no vacation time. On top of that, you have to pay for your own equipment. Working for Cerberus hasn't been much better."
Jacob laughed. "Yeah, but at least you can't complain about the benefits. How many other employers can you name that cover 'death-by-Collector-attack' in their health plans?"
Shepard tipped his glass. "Touché." He cut the tip off two cigars and offered Jacob one. Jacob thought about refusing it but then reconsidered. What the hell, why not?
"Who'd you 'confiscate' these from?"
The question elicited an even wider grin from Shepard.
"They were supposed to be a gift for Ambassador Udina from a volus trade delegation. I was suspicious they might be poisoned so I 'confiscated' them for the Ambassador's safety."
Shepard lit their cigars and for a while both of them sat contentedly in Kasumi's room, puffing contentedly and enjoying their scotch, watching an overweight human turn several shades of green as he shovelled food into his mouth in an attempt to outdo a particularly surly-looking krogan.
"So what'd you do with that Spectre?" Jacob finally asked, breaking the silence.
"I restrained her, put her in one of our shuttles, and set it adrift. She's probably freed herself and should be about halfway to the Citadel by now."
"Why'd you do that?" Jacob asked. "You know she could come after you again."
"Yeah, but if I eliminated her the Council would just send another." Shepard frowned. "We had a little chat before you showed up."
Jacob arched an eyebrow. "Oh yeah?"
"The Council might be led by a bunch of idiots, but not everybody working for them wants to play ostrich. Ihla, the C-Sec grunts working for her, those crazy turians on Pellas, even all those mercs we had to kill over the last few months… none of them were the real enemy."
"The Reapers," Jacob said softly. Shepard nodded sombrely. Even the mere mention of the Reapers had darkened the mood in the room considerably.
"I'll make you a deal, Jacob." Jacob arched an eyebrow questioningly. "If you promise not to mention the 'R' word again for the rest of today, I'll refill your glass."
Jacob chuckled. "If you make that two refills, you've got yourself a deal." Shepard pretended to think it over for a second then finally nodded and refilled Jacob's snifter. As the pleasant warmth of the scotch spread through his limbs, for a moment Jacob allowed himself to forget about the Reapers. For that moment, he was just a very relaxed, slightly inebriated, normal guy, sharing a laugh, a drink, and a good cigar with a friend. The Reapers, and everything else that was wrong with the galaxy, could wait for tomorrow.