Break Me

Chapter 1

He grew up on Arcturus station, having been dragged there by his mother, who was an engineer in the private sector, working for a company that did contracts for the Alliance. She was a single mother, his father having died in the line of duty for the Alliance while he was still in his mother's womb. His medical bills alone would sometimes set her back so far that after school activities for her little boy were just not possible. Jeff Moreau didn't particularly mind though, because honestly? What was he going to do? Any kind of sport involving running or catching or kicking would leave him stranded in the infirmary within five minutes. And any activity involving tactics and mental exercise would alienate him from his piers by the simple fact that he was wicked smart and competitive, but in no way a people person. And he really didn't need the extra disadvantage in the social circles. After school activities for the crippled freak? No thanks.

In sted of going out for sports and games with his friends like normal 7 year olds, he hung around the wharf where his mother worked, often finding a high crate to pull himself on top of, from where he could sit and marvel at the birth of new starships, drawing and fantasizing that one day he would have his own wings, to fly out into the galaxy on and shoot bad guys. Like for example Joel Barton and his band of vicious bullies.

Jeff had learned as a young child that there was only one way for him to prevent potential bullies from picking on him or worse - physically hurt him; He could knock them for a loop and make them look completely brain dead in front f their posse's. Bullies very rarely travelled alone and were completely dependent on their posse's support, which was only maintained so long as the bully appeared to be the meanest, toughest and coolest kid in the group. And getting your ass chewed up and spit out by the crippled kid with the crutches and the leg braces usually kind of made a dent in that image.

Unfortunately, Joel Barton had never given Jeff the chance to verbally defend himself as their first encounter started with a choke hold and a kick to the shin that caused both a hairline fracture and tearful eyes on the then 6 year old new kid. And that negated any attempt to follow the first rule of avoiding bullies; Never show weakness. Guess the tone was set right then and there. After that, recess had been the most dreaded times during the school day, mostly because the Barton gang had quickly invented the new and exciting pastime of coming up with as of yet untested ways of torturing their unwilling play pal.

Too bad bullies were morons. With just a few more points on their IQ score, they might have deducted that the crooked legs, the braces and the crutches actually indicated that if you beat the kid and threw him on the floor, his bones would break and leave the victim in a puddle of pain and limbs. That first year on Arcturus Jeff missed four months of school. Four months of orthopedic surgery, fixation and reconstruction of bones and rehabilitating physical therapy. And one might even think that said bullies would feel slightly bad about it and leave their victim alone once he returned, but no. They didn't. They just fund other ways to entertain themselves. And they justified their actions by blaming Jeff for the three weeks of suspension they had to endure due to his squealing to the adults. Said squealing was done by him being found in the bathroom by a teacher with 14 fractures in 8 bones, including his pelvis, both femurs, tibias and fibulas and a heel. Morons.

So yeah, 7 year old Jeff Moreau wanted to shoot bad guys. And fly.

High school hadn't been much better bully-wise, but at least the physical injury frequency had gone down, save for when the jocks got bored and Jeff got lippy. And it was very solitary. Nobody wanted to befriend the acidic brainiac with glass legs when he was the popular crowd's favorite chew toy. Those kinds of social stigmatas were infectious and everyone knew it. Not that Jeff ever complained about it or otherwise expressed regret that he sat alone at lunch, all his school projects were written alone and his birthdays went unnoticed, at least by anyone not his mother. She tried to compensate for his lack of a social life and worried about him constantly, not only because of his physical disabilities but also his psychological health. Problem was that no kid ever seemed cooler in high school by being coddled by his mother and her care only added to his social awkwardness, if not death.

By the time he hit the academy he was as closed off, defensive and caustic as they came. Any approach to him that wasn't strictly academic was immediately rebuffed with the absolute rock solid knowledge that nobody ever wanted to befriend him unless they were after something he wasn't willing to give, be it money, knowledge or pride. In the beginning of flight school he didn't have a whole lot of pride left, but he was determined to get it back. He'd show everyone who ever thought him to be worthless that he could do something with his life and do it damn well. Not only that, but he would do it better than anyone before him! He would get his wings and repay his mother's long years of scraping by to pay his med bills, by making her the proud and wealthy mother of the best pilot in the navy.

The day of graduation was one of the best in Jeff's memory. He had a partially fractured knee cap due to an incident where he got up from a chair too fast and the trip to the podium was shear agony. But as he graduated with the highest honor and received his diploma along with no less than five letters of recommendation from his instructors, he looked out onto the crowd and saw his mother's eyes. She was standing tall looking at him with such stern pride that he felt she was the only human being in the galaxy who understood what it meant to him and what he had to go through to get it. They were a team who had faced hardship and social wars alone and in that moment, not a single person in the universe could penetrate the armor that surrounded them. In that moment, they were strong.

SSV Normandy, March 12, 2183 a.d.

"Hey, Lieutenant Alenko! Did you hear that we get our new XO today?" Corporal Jenkins yelled from across the shower room.

Staff lieutenant Kaidan Alenko looked up from the sink and continued his morning shave, "sure, Jenkins. I wouldn't be able to do my job very well if I didn't know who we had on board, now would I?"

"Oh, yeah right," The overgrown tween grinned bashfully. "So who is he?" he asked.

"He is a she, and she's probably the toughest alliance soldier any of us will ever meet." He casually said.

Jenkins came over to the sinks and practically bouncing with anticipation for him to spill the details, even though the lieutenant didn't look inclined to. "Oh come on, you've gotta be able to tell me more than that, Lieutenant?" He whined.

Alenko rinsed off his shaver, washed his face in cold water and turned to the eager corporal. "Alright, Jenkins. Let's see how good your 'Heroes of the Alliance' card collection is. She graduated top of her class at the academy when she was 22 and spent an extra year in scout sniper training before being sent to Elysium where she served two years until batarian slavers attacked. She single handedly held off the enemy assault 'till the alliance could send backup and saved the colony. After being awarded the Star of Terra she was handpicked for the N-program where she rose through the ranks over the years to the highest level, the N7's. The last three years she has been off the map, probably working black-ops in the Terminus systems. Any ideas?"

Jenkins looked deeply concentrated for a moment, then lit up in understanding before finally hitting disbelief. "No way! Commander Shepard is our new XO? I can't believe it! She was the reason I wanted to join the alliance! Well, apart from the boredom, I mean… Her exploits are off the charts amazing. And she's hot! I mean, have you seen her holo, man? Phew, I tell you."

"Alright, alright, Jenkins. Calm down, please. It isn't dignified to get that excited in the men's room while you're only wearing a towel," Alenko laughed.

"It is when it's friggin Commander Shepard we're talking about. Oh man, I can't wait to tell Martin about it! I gotta go, see you later Lieutenant!" Jenkins sloppily saluted as he jumped on one leg out of the men's room while trying to pull on his second boot.

"Jenkins!" Alenko shouted. "PANTS! There are ladies on board!" He waited for a response he didn't get and then sighed to himself, "never a dull day…"

In the cock pit Flight Lieutenant Jeff 'Joker' Moreau was settling in nicely and getting familiarized with the ship's controls. They were going to Eden Prime tomorrow for the Normandy's shake down run and he wanted to be sure he knew all the specifics regarding the new top-of-the-line drive core and mass effect propulsion systems. He wouldn't get a feel for the ship until they were in the air, though, and the turian design of the exterior hull was as foreign to him as the next pilot. But he would adapt. He always did. Now they were just waiting for the XO to show up in the next hour or so and he would set the course after the meet n' greet.

Alenko plonked down in the navigator's spot on his right side rather unceremoniously and released a quiet grunt.

"What's wrong with you?" Joker asked with a raised eyebrow. He'd never really seen the Lieutenant anything but prim and proper before, and they were closing in on having served together for 5 months. Their last station on the SSV Scandinavia was as first pilot and second navigator, but of course Joker had put the brakes on any bonding time they might have shared.

"-Had to stop Jenkins from streaking through the ship shouting hero worship about our new XO like a town crier." He groaned. "And this was before I even had breakfast."

"Why?" Joker asked.

"It's Commander Shepard, N7, the Hero of Elysium."

"No, why stop him? If he's hell bent on screwing up his career on something so stupid, then why not let him do it to the amusement of many and entertainment of the ladies?" He scoffed. "And I'm well aware who the XO is, I have the same clearance as you, you know." He added with a glare.

Alenko glanced at the surly helmsman, deciding whether or not to answer him, "It's my job as Staff Commander to keep the marines in line, Joker. I'm pretty sure that streaking the CIC is against regulation, even if I haven't read it back to back."

Joker gasped, "I'm shocked! You haven't read the regs? I thought for sure that if anyone had, it would be you!" He was about to go on a verbal sarcasm spree when a beep on his console indicated that someone was requesting admittance to the Normandy from the dock.

"This is the SSV Normandy, responding. State your purpose. Over."

"Commander Shepard, reporting for duty. Clearance code one-one-delta-niner-five. Over"

"Stand by for clearance… You're good to go. Welcome abord, Commander." Joker said.

"Better get up before she goes through decon," Kaidan said. "Wouldn't want to disrespect our new XO, now would we?"

"Dammit, I knew I'd like her better on the vids than in real life." Joker griped and carefully hauled himself out of the chair. His file said he didn't have to stand at attention when seated, due to his condition, but he would be damned if he wanted to appear weak in front of… Well, anyone. Besides, Chakwas just loved fussing over him when he got minor injuries. She was sometimes worse that his mom, but with the power to cause pain and justifying and or camouflaging it as therapy. Scary.

"Decontamination complete," the mechanized voice informed them. As the doors opened, Joker and Alenko each smacked precise salutes as Commander Shepard entered with her duffel over her shoulder while reading her omni-tool. The movement made her look up quickly and tense before she relaxed and broke out a beautiful smile.

"At ease, gentlemen. Nice to meet you, I'm Commander Alexa Shepard." She shook Joker's hand firmly and he marveled at the soft, smooth skin of her small one.

Who would have thought that the badass N7 marine, Commander Shepard would be so… Petite? Joker thought to himself as he looked from her hand to her chest where her N7 insignia was. Then, just before her smile started to falter at his point of focus, he made eye contact and managed to introduce himself as, "Joker. Ma'am." He could practically hear Alenko's eye roll behind his back. Or at his side, technically. Wow, she's really cute. Nice eyes… Unless they catch you through a sniper lens, I'll bet.

"And you are…?" She continued on quickly.

"Staff Commander Kaidan Alenko, Ma'am." He smiled and took her hand.

"Hi." Shepard looked around briefly. "So where do I square away my stuff before reporting to the Captain, Lieutenant?"

"I'll show you. Follow me, Ma'am." Alenko said and led her down to the CIC at a brisk pace.

Great, I'll just stay here then, never mind me, Alenko, Joker thought to himself. Jackass… Wait, scratch that. Thank you Alenko! Just look at Shepard go… Nice!

He returned to his seat with a smirk and buried himself in the final calibrations before takeoff…

What do you think, should I continue?

Be tough, I'm a big girl and I can handle it.