I really hadn't considered this possibility.

I mean, when you have bullshit like Vrolik's Syndrome, there's a certain amount of excessive preparation you tend to do. "Oh, I have to make sure my crutches are within reach so I can gimp around without being a complete burden on everyone I know." "Oh, I need to take my medication at regular hours to ensure my ribs don't shatter into my lungs at some inconvenient time." "Oh, I ought to get leg braces in the event that a catastrophic Collector invasion of the Normandy prompts me to go running, limping, and crawling to the AI core to release the safeguards on EDI so she can blow open the airlocks and save me from certain death." Y'know, just the mundane concerns of the physically handicapped.

But I never, not even in my wildest, craziest, sexiest dreams, could have imagined... this.

Well, that's not true, actually. I totally imagined this.

No, what I really hadn't considered was how I would actually react to it... no. Her.

Not that it's a bad thing for EDI to get all Invasion of the Body Snatchers up on a Cerberus synthetic. Let me be the first to clarify that I am perfectly, entirely, two hundred and fifty percent okay with EDI inhabiting the former Dr. Coré's body and walking around the bridge and sitting in the cockpit and piloting herself. I'm sure this doesn't even make the top ten list of absurd things that have happened on this ship.

Okay, maybe top five. Not the point.

The point is that I was like a giddy, giggling schoolgirl about it, and I hadn't prepared for that at all.

No, wait. That's not right, either. Christ. I expected to be excited - not that I ever expected a body for EDI to be a real possibility, but if it ever occurred, seriously, who wouldn't be excited? But it's just... "schoolgirl" went a little beyond just excited. There was more to it than that.

I mean, yeah, EDI always had a sex voice or whatever, and I know we got close after the whole catastrophic Collector invasion thing, but come on! She was a digital orb! She took over about three-quarters of my job! I even accused her of being "ship cancer!"

(Well, that was way back in the beginning, but still, I'm trying to make a point here.)

But after a while, I realized that she was my ship, or more precisely, that what I thought of as "my" ship was, ultimately, her. Crazy, right? Yeah, Donnelly had dropped that dumb line about "female energy" and ships being "she"s ages ago, but he was right. The Normandy, which I had always thought of as a girl with whom I had a close personal relationship, became exactly that. Still not quite a girl, of course, but you know what I mean.

And all the protective and possessive feelings that I had harbored toward the ship... well, you see where I'm going with this.

B-but it still wasn't like that; digital orb, for chrissakes. No, it was more like... I don't know. She had protected me when the Collectors hit. And I knew I owed her, big time. But you can't repay a ship with a... a hand-knitted sweater or... homemade pie or something like that. Even "It's the thought that counts" doesn't cover that kind of terrible gift choice. So I did my best to treat her like... well, a "her." To respect her. To protect her when I could.

I guess you'd call it reciprocity. Well, Mordin would call it reciprocity. Us normal folks would probably stop getting all "Scientist Salarian" with our nouns and just call it friendship.

So the giddy, giggling schoolgirl-ness was probably about actualizing my repressed girlish sleepover fantasies or something. And no, not the sexy pillowfight kind for once. I meant the whole stereotypical girly sleepover formula: having a friend I could invite over my house and share secrets with and, y'know, actually touch. I mean, besides the Commander and Dr. Chakwas, an untouchable AI housed in a spaceship was my only friend. That doesn't do wonders for one's self-esteem.

Anyway, I was just so excited about having her actually... there. Next to me, in the copilot's seat, pressing buttons and looking out the windows and occasionally looking at me. Tangible. Real. And totally hot. Apparently, Cerberus's synthetic women are right up there with their leather seats. Who knew, right? They should really submit a patent.

But the hotness isn't the point. ...Well, actually, it kind of is the point. ...Well, really, it's about her having a body, but the hotness is part and parcel with that. The point is that in all the excitement and giddiness and giggling, I realized that this huge weight had disappeared. There was this definite, intense moment of relief.

(Hence, "schoolgirl" and not simple "excitement.")

At first, I couldn't figure it out. So I cracked jokes. I "deflected with humor." Made the Commander laugh a couple times; made EDI give me this weird smile that made me feel kinda tingly, which made me wonder if maybe she was messing with my chair again.

But as the excitement and the relief mingled together like different races on the Citadel (psych! different races don't mingle on the Citadel), they started to demand a lot more attention. And when I was sitting on that bench in the Presidium Commons, watching EDI talk to a store clerk, the sun glinting off her helmet hair in the most bizarrely appealing way, I realized that it was because suddenly, suddenly, how I felt about her might make sense to other people. That it might even seem sort of... normal.

And then I wondered what was weirder: that I was in love with an AI, or that previously, I'd had the same feelings toward a ship.

Or that I felt better about it because she now looked... well, human.

And then I felt like the asshole everyone always says I am. Talk about shallow and missing the point. I mean, that's like saying you like your girlfriend more after she's lost a lot of weight. That'd be like telling the Commander, "Oh, I like you better now that cybernetic implants eat away at your face if you don't maintain a positive attitude. Helps me read your moods."

But... then EDI looked at me that way again, the tingly smiley way, and she touched my hand for the first time, and swiftly called me on my bullshit in the most incredibly EDI way, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, it would have been a little unfair to us both to give all that up.

I was a little leery writing fanfiction for Mass Effect. To me, the beauty of the Mass Effect experience is that everyone's is different. I'm not talking about the endings or even the small in-game choices; I'm talking about the deep, emotional reactions to the characters and setting that all Mass Effect players have (all the ones I've met, anyway). Whether you like the endings or not, you have to admit: if a game can produce a visceral enough response in people to incite mass protest, it's had an incredible personal impact on those people, and no two people have received that impact in the same way.

This is a series in which I have repeatedly stopped to put down the controller and cry, in which I have weighed the value of various squad members and honestly worried over how I could save them all, in which I have seriously considered the lives of fictional people by giving fictional faces to fictional casualty statistics (whenever I was faced with dehumanizing numbers, I always went back to the krogan reciting terrible poetry to his asari girlfriend).

This is so much more than a "game" to me. And because of that, I know it is so much more than a "game" to other people, too. And how can you just slap out a fanfic for something like that?

But Joker/EDI was so endearing to me, and there was so much to explore in all Joker's hesitancy. So I wrote.

Tell me what you think, and as always, thanks for reading.