I like to think this Shep is the type to look out for and try and meet the needs of all his crew, but has taken a particular interest in Tali because she's been having a bad time.

This story ends, and a friendship begins. Enjoy.

Observation & Engineering

2

Engineering

Shepard sighs, shaking his head. She had probably been annoyed at his intrusion into her thoughts - she'd certainly jumped when he'd joined her at her table. She'd just seemed so... lonely. He's seen the looks she'd been receiving since she'd entered the ship, and considered saying something to the crew, but, well... what can he say? You can't order people to think a certain way.

He wonders how she's doing.

Joker's in his usual place in the cockpit when Shepard passes by. "A quarian, huh?"

"Her name is Tali," Shepard remarks, sounding annoyed, "and I'm just going to see her now, actually."


This ship is amazing. She actually gasped when she saw the drive core.

There's also the fact that she found some antiseptics and antibiotics in the med-bay when she took a look around the ship, as well as a recently-bought box of that hideous - but essential - nutrient paste in her quarters. She can't help but remember Shepard's words - "Whatever makes you more comfortable here, Tali." She smiles. She wonders...

Though she's been working on some calculations, her thoughts are drawn again to the encounter in the mess hall. Seeing her distracted, Adams gives her a smile of encouragement.

Most of the crew are still cold towards her, but Shepard hasn't been the only human who has been kind to her on this ship. She wishes she could offer a smile (well, a visible one) back; instead, she simply nods in acknowledgment.

The footsteps behind her surprise her - are soldiers normally this quiet? She turns, expecting to see O' Connor again, but it is the Commander who greets her. Complimenting him on his ship - which he explains is only a prototype; she is relieved that the Fleet's technology isn't quite as old and obsolete as she'd feared - she is surprised when he asks a question. "Your Fleet - you talk about it often." He cocks his head. "It... means a lot to you, then?"

She nods, wondering why he's asking - it doesn't seem like he's gathering intelligence, it's a personal question. He is the first of any other species she has met to display any sort of curiosity about where she comes from. For some reason, she finds herself opening up to this strange human once again, and she is soon telling him about her home. Her family, her fears, what she can't have (well, a little about what she can't have - there are some things you don't explain to a person you've just met), all teased forth with the occasional question. He actually seems interested, and genuinely saddened to hear of the death of her mother, and, after a while, she offers her own question:

"What... what are your family like?"

He clears his throat, and something she can't quite identify in his body language and his eyes changes, locks down. He clears his throat. "Never knew them. They died when I was very young."

She can't disguise her sadness. At least she has her father, and had her mother for seventeen years; she still has good memories, but he has none. She wonders if he can remember what they look like, if he has any holos... Though she knows she's acting unprofessionally, the words slip out before she can stop them. "Oh, Shepard - I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up..." She seems to be hanging her head again. "But - " She looks up. "Who looked after you?"

He shakes his head slightly, wearing a half-smile that displays no joy. "It's a very long story. It wasn't the easiest life..." He stops.

She understands - she has pried too far, and he is trying to give her a diplomatic answer to quieten her. She is ashamed of her behaviour, and, though she's wearing a helmet, wants to - what is the human expression? - put in her foot in her mouth. She has never understood why people say that until now.

Yet, he doesn't seem offended. He looks up at her, and his smile is genuine this time. "I'll explain someday, but... there's a ship to run. I better check in with Ashley." He realises how long he's been talking to her - valuable working time. "Thanks for letting me bug you," he laughs; a genuine apology is in there somewhere.

As he walks towards the door, he hears her laugh for the first time - the best sound he's heard all day. A reply, so quiet he wonders if he is even meant to hear it: "Thanks for... bugging me, Shepard."


In the mess hall the next morning, officers Williams and Alenko are greeted by a strange sight. Shepard walks past them, datapad, spork and breakfast in hand as always, but...

"Kaidan... is the skipper whistling?"

"Sure seems like it. Is that a tube of nutrient paste he's got?"

"Yeah, I think it is. Going somewhere, Shepard?"

He turns round. "Oh, just Engineering. Checking up on the new girl."


The end of this story, but more shorts on the theme of Shep/Tali to come.