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Cultural Differences


A/N: Shepard is male, earthborn, and straddles the line. Takes place right after Feros.

John Shepard woke up with a pleasant little smile on his face. Today was going to be a good day.

They had just liberated the Feros colony yesterday with no civilian casualties and had a lead on what Saran was up to. But the best part was that John had gotten a decent amount of sleep. Sleep made him much less irritable than he usually was, despite his efforts to keep himself controlled. That reporter scum had found out how irritable he could be personally.

Smirking at that experience he stood up and stretched. They would have reached Artemis Tau by now and were probably checking each planet for signs of Doctor T'Soni. The rest of the crew would be getting up now as well as the artificial lighting turned on, and it wouldn't do much good for discipline if he sat in his room all day. Shepard cracked his neck and reached for his uniform.

He threw it on and found a hole in the sleeve where a sniper shot had been a little too close for comfort. It had taken hours to repair the armor itself. Whatever, he could fix it later. Besides, today was going to be a good day; he had sleep, time to spare for training and getting to know his crew, and more importantly was one step closer to getting Saren. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and came across stubble that threatened to become a beard.

Shepard shrugged and headed towards his personal washroom in his room where he kept an old fashioned razor. It showed some of its age and he guessed that it would be easier to use something more advanced, but Shepard was stubborn and preferred a razor. It came with being earthborn, he guessed. He put it under hot water to warm it up and reached for the shaving cream...only to come up blank. He had run out.

Frowning but unwilling to let himself be disappointed that easily, Shepard grabed some medi-gel and slapped it on his face. It was soothing and the transparency made it easier to see where he would start; that was a bonus. He would have to ask Chakwas if they made medi-gel kits for shaving; if not he could always comandeer some from her before she knew what he was up to. There was one woman he wouldn't want to face even if he had a dreadnought and she had a peashooter.

Shaking those thoughts aside, he grabbed the razor and began sliding it across his face, only stopping to reheat it or wash some stuck hairs out. The medi-gel felt nice and he felt even less than usual with shaving cream. It helped that it kind of soaked in, allowing him to not worry about it clogging his razor. Trying not to smile to himself and move his face around too much, Shepard continued casually. He was about finished and working on the spots under his cheekbones before long.

There was a knock on his door and Shepard glanced over. "Come in," he called, smiling as he realized what a pleasant day it was going to be. Nobody ever knocked on his door for something bad; Joker would just call him. He put his razor back in the water to heat it up.

The door opened up to reveal Tali, the team's engineer and token Quarian. She always seemed like she had something important to say, but for some reason she was always too nervous to say. When he'd asked Ashley about it, she'd just called him a stereotypical idiot. So Shepard had gone to extreme lengths to be more friendly and not intimidate Tali. So far it wasn't working, if anything it was making it worse.

"Hi Shepard," Tali greeted. She was wringing her wrists as she continued. "I, uh, we were wondering if you were, um, coming to breakfast?"

"Sure am, Tali," Shepard assured with a smile; he had no idea how much of a blush that set off. "I'm just going to finish up here and then I'll be out." And with that Shepard picked up the razor and brought it to his neck to finish his shave. He heard the gasp from Tali but didn't pay any attention to it. Then something hit him.

Back on earth, Shepard had played football with the other kids whenever they had a chance. He was reminded of a specific instance, where 118 pound eleven-year-old Shepard had been hammered by a 185 pound muscled sixteen-year-old friend.

Shepard didn't even have time to think about what had happened as Tali wrestled his arms behind his back and held him to the floor. All he could think about was how he'd ended up staring at his bed instead of his mirror. Then his brain caught up. "What just—"

"Someone help!" Tali screamed, keeping him on the floor. "Shepard's trying to kill himself!"

A good part of the crew had already been at the breakfast table when Tali's cry went out. Immediately Ashley and Garrus were bounding out of their seats and into the commander's room, where Shepard was now struggling to get out of the lock Tali had put him in. Ashley spotted the razor on the ground and knew what had happened immediately; Garrus went to help secure Shepard until Ashley started laughing.

Garrus and Tali looked over while Shepard tried to free himself; Ashley was clutching her sides and leaning against the wall as laughter exploded from her. A few other human crew members gathered around the door and peeked in. When they saw the razor too, they started chuckling and went back to breakfast. "Chief Williams this is serious! Shepard was trying to cut his neck!" Tali pleaded.

Ashley could barely get her response out through bursts of laughter. "He's...shaving!" Ashley managed before collapsing into a chair. Garrus relaxed his guard when he heard that word; C-sec had gotten all sorts of false human suicides when they'd first arrived at the Citadel and he'd read the files. He started to smile as well, knowing he could have made the mistake as well, if not as funnily.

"Shaving?" Tali asked tentatively, feeling suddenly abashed and nervous, as though there was some sort of joke.

"It's a thing human males do, Tali," Shepard manged, finally getting free with Tali loosening her grip. "We grow hair on our faces, and the military has us shave it off so it doesn't get in the way of helmet seals. Watch, I'll show you." Shepard got off the floor, grabbed his razor and cleaned it off, and proceeded to shave where he'd been going to a moment ago. Then he showed Tali the results. "See?"

Ashley was still laughing, if not as hard as before, as she wiped a tear away. Tali looked confused and highly embarassed. "I, I need to check on something," she mumbled and was out of the room faster than Joker from a razor. She was never going to live this down, Shepard would hate her now. And the entire crew would laugh at her about this; how was she going to survive?

Back in Shepard's room, Ashley's laughter had finally wound down, and Garrus was sharing a small chuckle as Shepard finished. "The poor kid's probably embarassed," Garrus noted.

"Probably as red as a cherry," Ashley agreed. Shepard only shook his head and smiled. Garrus watched the Commander finish up; he'd never seen it himself before. "Just be glad you weren't a woman shaving, Commander."

Shepard frowned as Garrus tilted his head, knowing humans saw that as curious. "Not to be rude, but I didn't think human women had facial hair," Garrus commented.

Ashley smiled wryly. "We don't; we shave our legs. Usually when we're showering," she answered. She started laughing at Garrus's expression as she left the room. Shepard put his razor away and realized he had a cut from where Tali had body slammed him. Just as he noticed, Joker announced over the com that Hackett wanted to talk to him. Shepard sighed; today was not going to be a good day.