It was as if she didn't understand the concept of 'shut up'.

Joker kept his lips pressed firmly to his Commander's as the thought meandered through the back of his mind. A light brush of his fingers over her shoulder reminded him how well their 'sessions' had been working. Her muscles were lax, soft and receptive to the occasional kneading of his palms, but despite nearly eleven (or was it twelve...,? He couldn't recall) 'sessions', she still seemed as wound up as ever. The quiet, everything-is-under-control Commander he saw in the cockpit every day gave way to someone a little more human whenever he had her tangled up with him in her bed. She was riddled with concerns, fears, and perfectly well-placed anxiety; everything he would have expected a sane person to feel in her position. It wasn't as though she turned into an emotional train-wreck whenever she called him to her cabin...or into a wayward nook where no one could see. In fact, she expressed her concerns to him in a thoroughly professional demeanor - if you didn't count the fact they were usually nude.

The point was that she talked until she ran herself in logic circles and he could see the stress ravaging her right in front of him. So he made her stop and helped her forget about it for a few hours. Bemused, he wondered what she would ever do without him.

"I should probably get back to the cockpit...," he told her in the stillness of her cabin as he traced the shadows on her cheek with a finger. Shepard's eyes searched his face as she lay with her lips parted and softly swollen with his kisses. He noticed that she looked at him like that a lot lately, though he wasn't entirely sure what she might be looking for. "You need to get some sleep." Even after announcing his departure, Joker never rushed himself to leave. He rested his head on a hand and watched her a moment longer, not arguing in the slightest when she leaned up and kissed him one more time. Even with everything they had been doing he still found he loved the 'one more' kisses best. This one seemed different.

"Stay," came the solitary word after their lips parted.

"What...? Here?" he asked.

"No, the closet. Yes, 'here', Jeff."

"What about the Normandy?"

"EDI can handle it...," Shepard replied, laying back and snuggling into the bedding. He had to admit, it definitely looked more comfortable than the standard issue crew's sleeping quarters. Still, this was the first time she had invited him to stay for the remainder of the cycle and he may have wondered why if he wasn't so damn beat and she didn't look so damn inviting.

"Fine. I guess I can live with it," he gave an over-dramatic sigh and gently flopped into the pillows, grinning when she arched a brow and smirked at him. "You don't toss in your sleep do you?"

"I don't know. Ask my fish," she said. "I don't usually share the bed."

"That could be disastrous," he grimaced a little at the idea of waking up with multiple fractures. He wouldn't put it past Shepard to be a sleep-fighter, either. Snaking his hand beneath the covers he tugged at her hip. "Come here."

"What?" she squirmed and bit her lip. Joker knew this was one of her ticklish spots and enjoyed taking advantage of it whenever he could.

"We're spooning so you don't break every bone in my body before morning."

"Spooning?" Shepard asked, sounding as if she found the idea ridiculous. Joker gave her a playfully sour look.

"Oh, I get it. You just want me for awesome sex... But when it comes to snuggling, you just want to roll over and go to sleep." He laid back and put his hands over his face with a mock sob. "I'm going home to mother."

"Shush," Shepard said, nudging his shoulder as she scooted over to oblige him. "I just don't spoon, okay? And please, do not make a joke about forkingor I'll have to kill you." Joker split a grin ear to ear and gave her a small salute before embracing her when she got close enough.

"Good...?" He pressed an affectionate kiss to the back of her shoulder as she settled her head carefully on his arm.

"Yeah..," she replied quietly, getting used to the feeling of his warmth behind her. It was strange, but rather comforting. "You?" Joker made a vague noise behind her, but didn't actually answer. He had already fallen asleep.

Even when he was a young boy, Joker never really enjoyed sleeping in. When the majority of your days were spent in a bed sleeping was really the last thing you wanted to do. So when he awoke with his face crammed into a pillow and his mouth dry with a swath of drool on his jaw in his Commander's quarters he was more than a little surprised. Sitting up with bleary eyes he wiped his face with the back of a hand and searched for any sign of Shepard. When he found nothing and glanced at the clock he realized she had more than likely started her day hours ago, but had not bothered to wake him.

Shoving the covers aside and slowly rising onto his bare feet, he moved to gather up the clothes that had been unceremoniously strewn around Shepard's room. When he reached the shower; Shepard had insisted he keep himself properly 'fresh' when he returned to the cockpit; he took a second to look at himself in the mirror.

"EDI," he called out, wondering just how the hell he had gotten such miraculous bed-head.

"Yes, Jeff?" her heard her reply from the holo at the main entrance.

"Why didn't you wake me up?" he asked as he tried to force his hair into obeying the laws of gravity but ultimately failing.

"The Commander requested that you remain undisturbed. I have been able to maintain our systems in your nine hours, fifteen minute, and thirty five second absence."

Nine hours...? he grouched in his head. "Thanks for the rundown, there, EDI. Now, can you do me another favor?"

"If I am capable."

"Can you tell me where the hell my boxers are?"

Never. Never had he been late to his shift. True, it was usually because he was sleeping in the cockpit in the first place, but that didn't numb the minor anxiety he felt when he caught some of the attention of the crew on his way there. They all knew he basically lived in his chair, so what ever had compelled him to actually leave it and not return until the late afternoon was an intriguing mystery. Up until now his meetings with Shepard had been discrete and he was always back to work before anyone, save EDI, was the wiser. It wasn't that he was ashamed of their increasingly frequent encounters, quite the contrary even, but he also wasn't the type to broadcast it to the world. No one needed to know that the pilot with the creaky legs was probably getting more than anyone else on the ship...with the Commander...the incredibly insatiable Shepard.

He bit his lip and let his eyes roll back in his head at the newly formed memories.

"Mr. Moreau." The stern tone made him readjust his posture out of habit, though a second later he knew who it was. He turned his chair to greet his Commander. "Little late, aren't we?" Her arms were crossed over her chest, brow cocked in what he knew to be mock seriousness.

"Yes, well. I couldn't find my boxers, Commander."

"It's no concern of mine when you misplace your underwear, Joker," she said with a perfectly professional tone that cloaked the fact she had tugged down part of the waistline of her pants to reveal that she knew exactly where his boxers had gone. Joker allowed his jaw to drop for a brief second before he regained himself and eyed her with playful disbelief. The tip of her tongue peeked out from between her lips as she readjusted her pants.

"That's okay, ma'am," he replied, shifting in the chair and extracting something from his pocket that he dangled in front of her. "I found some." The look on her face almost made him keel over but he somehow managed to keep a fairly straight face as she snatched her underwear from him. As she crammed them into one of her cargo pockets she mouthed 'you perv'. Joker merely lifted his hands and grinned as if to inform her that this was hardly news. "Besides, I wouldn't have been late if someone had woken me up."

"You looked like you needed it," she replied.

"Gotta admit," he said, nudging up his cap enough to scratch at his temple as he lowered his eyes. "Haven't slept that well in awhile."

"Glad to hear it." Her tone, warm and secretively passionate, a tone he dared to believe she only shared with him, made something swell inside him. He found that it happened a lot when he was with her these days. His moods were a little less sour, wit a little sharper, and had he been able he might have had a spring to his step. As he locked eyes with her now and the silence continued to draw out between them, he hardly became aware of it. Only when Shepard cleared her throat did he return to reality. "You alright?"

"Yes, sorry. I'm still waking up," he replied, blinking a few times to clear the fog from his daydreams.

"Should I bring you some coffee?"

"Nah." He waved a hand dismissively. "Just give me-" His eyes widened as Shepard bent down and kissed him right the cockpit...where anyone could just walk by and see.

The gesture was simple enough, affectionate at best, and hardly worse than anything they had done in the privacy of her cabin. Why this gentle brush of her lips on his shocked him didn't make any sense. Even as every nerve in his body flared and told him to pull her close and kiss her back, he merely froze...and, god, he would never live this down, he downright blushed. "...was gonna say coordinates...but okay." He was grateful that his voice had at managed to remain steady. When Shepard parted with a small breath against his mouth, her eyes smiled in that way he had just begun to really notice two days ago.

"I'll plot a course, then," she replied, becoming the Commander once again as she turned and headed down the hallway. Joker turned his chair back to the console and sank into the leather of it. Almost instinctively, he pulled the bill of his hat down low enough to cover his eyes.

"As exciting as I'm sure you might find it, I do not recommend flying the Normandy without looking, Jeff," EDI remarked. He had almost forgotten she had been there the whole time. His face grew hotter. "Your core temperature appears to be rising at an accelerated rate. Shall I call Dr. Chakwas?"

"No!" he declared, the crack in his voice finally surfacing. "I'm fine..."

Shepard stood over the galaxy map, eyes concentrated on it but not really looking. Though she tried to focus on the matter at hand her mind kept hopelessly wandering away from her. In a reverie she relived the feeling of his arms draped lazily around her and heard the even rhythm of his breath. If she leaned just the right way she had been able to feel his heartbeat, and in the darkness she had carefully rolled to face him so she could press her ear there and just listen. Joker, still deep in a sleep she was sure he hadn't gotten in a long while, had subconsciously pulled her closer, nuzzling his face against her hair.

She had never planned to deviously steal his underwear that morning, or to kiss him in the cockpit. It just seemed like the right thing to do; like they had been doing it for ages. She realized the action had surprised him when his face blazed red, a sight that she guessed was a rare one. Joker just didn't get embarrassed, and it was that fact that quelled the worry that he might be so about their 'therapy sessions'. Hell, he had just waved her unmentionables around like a victory flag only a few minutes ago. Maybe he just wasn't used to public displays.

Truthfully, neither was she. Before him. She couldn't help it.

He filled her in ways she could have never, she meant, of course... Shepard scrunched her eyes shut. Even in her own thoughts she could see him grinning at her suggestive choice of words. He soothed her physically, no doubt, but he also sat and listened to her, let her voice worries she would never dare share with the rest of the crew. She was their Commander and if she didn't exude confidence in her own decisions, how could she expect them to follow her? Joker would, though. He always would...and he had. He was right there the moment she came back, ready to carry her to hell and back, wherever she wanted. He really was the best ride in the galaxy...piloting the Normandy! The Normandy was the ride, he was just piloting!, she meant!

"Are you okay, Commander?" Kelly chimed in. "You look a little flushed."

"Yes. Fine. I just need... Going now."

"You seem perfectly fine, Jeff."

"That's what I said, but EDI insisted I come here."

"She froze your control access," Chakwas concluded with a hint of amusement in her voice.

"Yes," Joker replied, rolling his eyes.

"Well, I'll input your test results into the system and that should prove to EDI that you are perfectly fit to pilot."

"Thanks." The doctor gave him a nod before taking a seat at her desk to process in the information. Joker remained sitting on the examination table, touching the tips of his fingers together as his expression grew troubled. Dr. Chakwas watched him figiting in her peripheral vision and mentally noted his discomforted posture. Normally, she would have expected him to make it a point of hurrying back to the cockpit to tell EDI just how right he had been. Instead he just sat there and stared at his hands.

"Was there something else, Jeff?" she coaxed him, leaning back in her chair and folding her hands over her lap.

"Sorta..?" His sounded unsure of his answer as he rubbed at the back of his neck. Chakwas lifted a hand to encourage him to continue with the details. This was interesting, to say the least. She had never been particularly personal with Joker, but having served on the same vessel for so long they had developed a friendly enough relationship and never had she seen him so twitchy. He reminded her of a little boy who had a secret that he truly wanted to tell, but was afraid he might get in trouble. "Where do I even start?"

"If you were me, you would start with the symptoms of the problem." Joker nodded, appreciating Chakwas' simple and straightforward manner of approaching things now more than ever.

"All in all, the last few weeks I haven't felt better," he said, not looking at her, but deciding to focus more on anything else in the room. "And I was cool with that. Who doesn't like to feel good, right?"

"Of course."

"But now I just feel weird." Chakwas brought her fingers thoughtfully to her lips.

"What caused you to feel happy?"

Joker opened his mouth but closed it again with a small, choked noise in his throat. He couldn't possibly tell Chakwas what he and Shepard had been doing all this time. Never mind that Chakwas was more a motherly-figure to him than anything, but Shepard would outright kill him. Maybe he could just omit details? Hell, it wouldn't be the first time he had done that with a doctor. He didn't trust anyone that knew more about his body than he did.

"Shepard and I have been spending a lot of time together. a lot. And I guess...that's been nice. We've seen a lot together. All of us, I mean." He gestured towards her. "Not a lot of the original crew left after all."

"Yes, I know what you mean. She's a pleasure to talk to when things are quiet, one-on-one with a glass of Serrice Ice Brandy." Joker crooked a brow at her, finally turning his eyes in her direction. She laughed warmly. "She bought me a replacement bottle for the one I lost on the SR-1. We drank and reminisced for a while. Nothing terribly scandalous. But, back to the matter at hand. You've been feeling in good spirits having these talks with Shepard. What's caused the change?"

"I don't know..," he said with a lazy shrug before pulling off his cap and fiddling with it in his hands. Chakwas' lips tugged softly into the beginnings of an all-to-knowing smile. He really couldn't stop moving around, could he?

She pressed up from her chair and walked over to stand in front of him, leaning on the table across from him and folding her arms.

"Shepard's something special. We all know that. When she died I don't think any of us really believed it was true." Joker shook his bowed head, scratching at the threads on the bill of the cap with his thumbnail. "But I think it taught us something, too. Shepard is only human...and in situations like these there really is no better time than the present to let her know how we feel about matter how complicated those feelings might be." The pilot glanced up at her only briefly before plunking the cap back on his head and easing himself off the table.

"Thanks, Doc. I'll...think about that." He shuffled his feet a bit, waiting.

"Something else on your mind?"

"Yeah... Can I have a sucker?" Chakwas laughed.

"Of course."