I stepped down out of the loading bay into the Normandy, letting my team go on ahead of me and return to their posts. Neither of them wanted to mention Horizon to me right now anyway. Seeing Kaidan had broken something inside of me. Perhaps I had been holding on too tightly to the past. On to the hope, that if I could see him one more time I could make things go back to the way things were two years ago, but that dream was now shattered. Kaidan no longer trusted me because I was working with Cerberus.
Maker I needed a drink.
"Hey Commander?" Joker called from the cockpit as I wandered by. I stepped into Joker's domain taken aback by how quiet it was up here.
"Gotta love the sound proofing, huh Shepard," he asked turning his chair around to face me.
"Must be nice having this view without the distraction of the crew," I mused catching my reflection in the glass. My tall frame snug in its protective gear, my long raven hair tied back into a bun short tendrils floating around my face.
"Yeah well…" he shrugged his face losing all humor and going serious. I braced myself for what was coming, "about Horizon…"
"We were able to stop the collectors from taking about half the colony. I think that's pretty good odds considering what we were up against," I watched the stars pass by hoping he wouldn't continue.
"No… I mean that's great commander but I was referring to you running into Alenko down there."
"No offense Joker, but I really don't want to talk about it," I waved my hands dismissively, trying to blow off the whole question, when all I really wanted to do was bury my fist in a wall.
"Good 'cause I'm done asking about it," he said snidely shrugging and turning back to his console. "I just didn't want things getting all weird you know."
"Yeah Joker, I know."
His tone softened, "For what it's worth Commander I'm sorry."
"Me too…me…too," I answered dejectedly, leaving the cockpit and heading to Yeoman Chambers for a mission update. She too tried to get me to talk about horizon but I just gave her the brush off. Sensing my need to work through whatever I was feeling, she directed me to a personal message from General Hackett.
I reread the message three times disbelieving what the alliance was asking me to do.
From: Admiral Hackett
Our scans in the Amada system have turned up something we though you should see:
the final location of the wreck age of the SSVNormandy. We though this news might be important to you but we also have and ulterior motive. The alliance would like to honor
the Normandy with a monument, to be built on the site of the ship's final resting place.
We'd like to invite you to place the monument and be the first to walk on the site.
There are still 20 crew members unaccounted for from the attack onthe Normandy.
If you find any signsof these lost crewman, we ask that you report to the alliance so
that those heroes' family might find some closure.
Godspeed to you, commander.
Return to the site of the original Normandy's crash and leave a commemorative statue in honor of all the soldiers' lives that were lost. He has to be kidding me, there were plenty of other alliance ships who are capable of doing this task; why in the hell would they ask me? I fumed as I sent a message back, within minutes Hackett responded with enough guilt that had me agreeing to the task. I slammed my fist into the computer desk startling the nearest crewmembers.
I pulled up the galaxy command console and sent Joker the star coordinates for the site of the crash. I stormed to the elevator and to my chambers while we traveled to our destination. We reached Alchera in just a few hours. I left everyone on the SR-2 and took a shuttle down to the planet's surface, alone.
I stepped off the shuttle, my eyes narrowed into slits, searching the bright snow-covered planet for the wreckage. I blinked several times staggered and overwhelmed with emotion, I had landed almost in the middle of the wreckage. Sorrow and anger crashed over me, this was where so many of my crewmates died. With no one to judge me; I let the tears flow freely down my face and slowly collected the dog tags of the men and woman who died that day. I spent hours sifting through the wreckage, until I found every tag to return to their family members. Memories flooded me as I worked through the remains of the ship, images of every person whose lives had once intertwined with mine. Some of those memories were of people who still lived and others of people who had died before the crash.
I stood in the armory of the ship where Ashley had often spent her time and gingerly touched her workstation. How many times had I stood there with her joking about Kaidan and Joker? How often had we debated God and philosophy? She had been the closest thing to a sister I had known. Choosing between her and Alenko had been one of the hardest moments in my life. I had chosen to save him but not because of the how I felt for him. The bomb had to be the priority. I didn't choose him over her, I chose the mission. I always did, if that bomb hadn't gone off…I shook my head sadly I didn't want to think about it anymore there was no changing history now.
I sighed suddenly weary; I was ready to get off this godforsaken planet. I wanted to be back on my ship, as far away from this planet and this graveyard as possible. I found the hull of the Normandy and placed the markers for the commemorative statue signaling the SR2 to lower it. I watched as it dropped slowly into place. Satisfied that Hackett would be happy I turned to head back to my shuttle. Out of the corner of my eye, a glint of light caught my attention I frowned thoughtfully and followed the shining object. I brushed the snow away revealing my old N7 helmet.
I could not breathe.
I collapsed to my knees, mind-numbing pain wracking my body. Shaking I cried out in anguish, pouring out all the grief I had tried to hide behind a calm facade. Sobs wracked my frame and I let myself weep my fingers clenching the helmet. I rocked back and forth cradling the helmet in my hands…this was my grave. When the tears ran dry and my body had gone numb, I managed to pick myself slowly up from the ground my eyes downcast. Returning to the Normandy I ignored all the questioning glances the looks of sympathy and headed straight to my quarters, pausing only to leave the tags with Kelly Chambers and an order to dock back at the Citadel.
I sat the N7 helmet on the corner of my desk and pulled my hair free of its usual bun. Cold and sad, I stripped off my uniform and stepped under the hot spray of the shower, trying to scrub away the disappointment and grief of the day. An hour or so later, the water finally turned cold and I wrapped a towel around myself, stepping out into my quarters my long black hair fluttering around my body. I dressed in a black and white Cerberus uniform, sighing I sat on the end of the bed. I rubbed my eyes tiredly, burying my face in my hands defeated. Between Horizon and the Normandy wreckage, all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and wallow in my own self-pity. I lowered my hands to my knees and stared at them blindly. They didn't even look the same, why hadn't I noticed that before now? The scar on my left pinky finger was gone, a remnant of my youth from the colonies I had grown up in before…no, I didn't want to remember that in addition to everything else tonight. I traced my finger absently with my right hand and noticed my birthmark that used to be in between my thumb and forefinger was missing as well.
If everything that made me who I was no longer existed, what did that mean for me? Was I even real?
I never thought I would miss the marks that defined me but now that they were gone, I craved to have them back. Cerberus may have given me back my life but it had taken everything from me as well…"oh Kaidan." I murmured...maybe he was right maybe I didn't know who I was anymore.
"You look like you could use a drink commander," Joker said surprising me out of my quiet reflection. I lifted my head to see him leaning against the side of my fish tank his arms folded over his chest.
"Wow Joker, this is a rare occasion I must mark this on my calendar," I said dryly trying to crack a joke.
"Man things are worse than what I thought if you can't even make a witty comeback," he teased.
"What can I say Joker not all of us have a million one liners ready at a moment's notice," I replied tiredly.
He walked slowly down the stairs into my living quarters and sat carefully on my end table across from me from one of his large cargo pockets he produced a flask, "I was serious about that drink Captain. I even brought my favorite whiskey from my own stock." He waved the flask proudly.
The corners of my lips turned up into a slight smile, "and me without my shot glass."
Joker grinned wickedly and slipped his hand into another pocket producing two shot glasses. I shook my head with mirth and accepted a now full shot glass. "My momma always taught me to come prepared."
"So what are we drinking to Joker? I asked lifting my head up and meeting his eyes.
He raised his glass in the air, "To the last two years commander, Screw um." The sound of our glasses clinking filled the air and I took the shot in one large swallow the whiskey burning as it flowed down my throat and leaving warmth in my belly. Joker reached over and filled my glass again, "What's your toast Shepard?"
I sat quietly for a long time my mind reliving all the important moments: Kaidan flirting with me in the galley, Kaidan helping me to my feet after we were grounded, Kaidan and I making love for the first time, Kaidan in the escape pod screaming my name. Pulling Joker from the pilots seat after the attack, watching Jokers face as I hit the door latch locking him inside and drifting off into space… Jokers face filled with horror…Jokers eyes as he watched me die… I blinked rapidly coming back to the present, staring at the man who had been my friend, who had stood by me then and who still stood by me.
His concerned eyes watched my face carefully "Captain, you okay?" he asked frowning slightly.
I shook my head clearing my thoughts, "yeah, I think so." I raised my glass touching his lightly. "To memories may the one that matter stay with us forever and the rest go to hell." I tipped my head back letting the contents drain down my throat.
Joker filled our glasses again, "Thank you Joker."
"For what captain?" he asked tossing back another shot.
I swallowed the contents quickly, "For always being here when I need you without asking and always knowing exactly what I need before I do."
"Aww shucks Captain, I think you're a little drunk," he smiled pouring the last of his flask into his glass.
I chuckled, "Not yet but I will be." I stood crossing the room and opened my desk drawer pulling out a bottle of Serrice Ice Brandy and waving it in the air. "Shall we?"
"Bring it on Shepard," he grinned swallowing the last shot.
An empty bottle or two later…
Joker sat half passed out on the couch beside me. "The worst part is the invasion of my privacy it's like having my mother looking over my shoulder."
I laughed, "EDI's not that bad Joker."
"Says you, I mean come on Captain. It's constantly telling me things I already know and it deleted several of my bookmarks off the extranet," he sighed.
"How many of them were Asari porn?"
"Wha…Come one Shepard I look at more than just that," he grumbled but didn't meet my eyes.
"Not often Mr. Moreau," EDI chimed in.
"Ack the voice is back Shepard, where did the booze go?"
I giggled watching Joker search blindly around for the last bottle.
"Commander, should I have one of the members of the crew come carry Mr. Moreau to his quarters?" EDI asked.
"Oh hell no, I am not being carried by anyone," he cursed leaning too far over the edge of the couch. I watched him fall in what felt like slow motion. i dove forward shifting in midair sliding underneath him so he landed on top of me, face to face.
"Oaf…," I grunted losing all the air in my lungs.
"Quick work there cap'n, cause that would have just sucked to have my buzz ruined by a visit to Dr Chakwas."
"No problem," I wheezed.
"You know Shepard your really pretty this close up," he complimented me.
"Thanks Joker," I accepted the compliment, rolling him off me gently and offered him a hand up off the floor. "EDI joker will be bunking here for the night, best if we just let Mr. Moreau sleep it off."
"Nice capt'n cause you've got the best chambers in the whole ship," he rambled while I helped him stand. Slinging his arm over my shoulders, we both stumbled to the bed. I sat him down on the right side of the bed and knelt between his legs to remove his shoes. He sat quietly watching me through half-open lids.
"You know I was being serious right? About you being pretty that is," he slurred.
"Yes Joker and thank you. But I think we both need to sleep now," I tugged his left boot free and sat it next to his right one.
Joker reached his hand down cupping my face, raising my chin to meet his eyes. "I always thought Kaidan was the luckiest sum-a-bitch this side of the Galaxy. Now…now I think he's a fool for letting you go."
"Jeff…" I whispered barely breathing.
"You know it was just as hard for me these last two years, first I had to watch you die then I had to live with the knowledge that they were trying to piece you back together. Two years they had you and I couldn't go near you." He leaned down placing the barest of kisses on my forehead. "I was lost without you Ember, we all were but memories of that day still haunt me. It was my fault that you died; my fault that Cerberus had to bring you back. My fault that I never had the guts to tell you how much you meant to me."
I could sparsely speak but managed to whisper through dry lips, "Tell me now then, how much did I mean to you Jeff?"
"Too much captain," he pulled his face back from my forehead and peered down at me. "Two years ago I couldn't offer you anything my condition was to progressive, but it didn't stop me from wanting you and dying inside as I watched you give you heart to another.
"A lot has changed in two years Joker," I murmured licking my lips biting the bottom lip unconsciously.
"I know Shepard, Cerberus may be the devil but they've given me a second chance too. I know I can't be Kaidan but I can be the man for you."
"Jeff," I whispered a tear slipping down my cheek. "I never knew."
"I know Shepard but I want you to know now. I love you Ember have since the first time I pretty much laid eyes on you." He lowered his face and kissed me softly on the lips. I didn't move I barely even breathed. Joker was kissing me… no… Jeff was kissing me, the pilot who had saved me ass on countless occasions, the comrade who always had something to say to make me smile and the friend who had always been there for me.
I closed my eyes and kissed him back opening my mouth and darting my tongue in-between his lips. He let out a sigh and buried his fingers in my waist length raven hair. I placed a hand on each side of his legs as I knelt, arching up and offering him full access to my mouth to feast upon. His lips claimed mine possessively our lips tasting each other our tongues danced together in an age-old dance.
"Commander," EDI's voice droned in the background breaking our concentration. I drew back from joker my lips swollen from his kisses.
"EDI Go Away," I demanded. "In fact do not disturb me for the next 12 hours and give the crew the next 24 hours off."
"Acknowledged, logging you out Shepard."
"Twelve hours commander? I don't know if I have that kind of stamina." Jeff joked.
"Well let's find out," I replied a crooked smile crossing my face as I pushed him lightly back on the bed.
this is my first time writing joker and shepard together i hope i do him justice. i love this pairing i think it would be possible because they are the two set characters from the games hes been the one constant in her life. he never stops believeing in her even when she doubts herself hes there with smile and a smooth line.