A/N: And this is the end. ME3 really doesn't give you much to work with and I had no interest in recapping their missions. I wish they'd have let anyone (of the new ME2 crew) be on the Normandy in the third game. Either way, I don't think I'll be writing any more Miranda and Jack (sadly). As promised, more romance, less smut. Thanks to Allusive Man for editing and everyone else for reading!
Jack moves away from the dance floor leaving Shepard to embarrass herself. Jack's spotted her. She'd recognize that ass anywhere. She knows those eyes, glowing like eezo in the dark. She runs the last few steps and forcefully shoves Miranda into a dark corner of Purgatory. Miranda turns, surprised, slamming into the wall. The heavy beat of the music reverberates through the floor, creating mini-earthquakes under her feet, pulsing beneath her hand slammed to the wall beside Miranda's head.
Or maybe it's some other shit that's making her unsteady. Miranda cocks her head up, appraising her, waiting for her to make her move.
Jack grits her jaw and brings her face close, their usual fuck-you fuck-me menace. "Your pals at Cerberus tried to take my kids, kill my kids. Killed one of them. Fuckers."
"Do we have to do this here?"
"Why the fuck are you here? You're a perfectionist—scope a place before you move in, you fucking knew I was here. Had to. And you were what, walking away? You're full of shit!" That's always been obvious, no need to say it, no need to practically shout it. What about the last time they were together at Grissom? Where Miranda made it sound like she gave a shit?
"You looked busy," she inclines her head to the dance floor, "with Shepard."
Jack scowls. Jack's never danced with Miranda. The thought nearly makes her blush. Something so ordinary, with them, too intimate… She doesn't get Miranda. She doesn't get how Miranda acts… like somehow she knows that she and Shepard fucked the one time. As if it meant anything. She was down and she needed some medicine. Meds weren't available. Miranda wasn't available. Shepard was. "Shepard doesn't know how to move. Not like you do."
This brings a faint, haughty smile to Miranda's lips before arrogance gives way to caution. "Do you want to clarify why you've just slammed me into a club wall? Are you angry because I walked away—or because you're still under the delusion that I work for Cerberus?" Jack glares. "You know I've severed my connections to them. Is this a genuine accusation…or are you just being a bitch?"
"Why are you here?"
"I had business with Shepard."
"What kind of business?"
"Not the sort you deal in." Miranda says, her voice icy as it used to be. Jack hasn't heard it in so long that it's disconcerting. Maybe something shows on her face. Miranda's eyes drop, her jaw tightening. She shakes her head once. "I haven't heard from her. From Ori," she whispers the last. "It's been—it's been too long. She's responsible. She knows what's at stake. If there's no word then…"
Jack stills. "Communication's down everywhere. Fucking reapers," this is the first mention of the menace that's threatening to blow earth and the rest of the shit galaxy to pieces. First the fucking Collectors, now the goddamn reapers. You'd think that'd be the priority. "Maybe…"
Miranda shakes her head. "No. I've accounted for that. He found her. The bastard's found her. I'm sure of it."
Jack isn't sure if it's the flashing lights or the brightness of Miranda's eyes that makes them look as if they're shimmering, wet. It's fucking weird to see Miranda like this. Hasn't seen it since the last time—when Shepard let her walk away from Oriana. Jack's glad Miranda ended up contacting her anyway. "Shit." Shit. "Hey," her voice is too gruff, too much like she's yelling at some dipshit who took something from her. She ducks her head, brushing her fingers against Miranda's wrist. "You okay?"
"I'm not important. I have to get to her. I have to find her before he gets to her. Maybe he's only cut the line of communication and… she's on the run trying to find some way to get a hold of me. I just have to make sure that I get to her before he does."
"You will. You're perfect, right?" Jack slaps her arm. Miranda shakes her head. "You won't fuck this up." Jack tries to smile but can't find the energy for it. If that asshole takes Oriana, what will Miranda do? Lose her shit. Go on a rampage. She isn't sure. But she doesn't want to wait and find out. Miranda won't look at her. Jack wonders if shoving her into a wall when she's in this condition was the best idea. She cradles Miranda's face in her hand. "Get your shit together, Miranda. No point in falling apart now. You can do this. You'll take care of business."
"Yeah. I have to." Her voice is near the point of tears. Jack doesn't want to hear it break. She kisses her. Tender. Miranda's fingers come tentatively to her arms, settling, gripping carefully. If she's shaking, it's because of the fucking bass.
"I heard about Grissom," Miranda tells Jack, back to her, typing frantically into a laptop, checking her omni-tool every few minutes. She sits at Jack's desk in the room assigned to her in the Citadel. Maybe being in the Alliance has some perks. All she's gotta do is babysit kids, prepare them for war. Shit. "I'm sorry about your students. Especially Prangley."
"Yeah." Jack crosses her arms, leans into the wall beside the desk, watching Miranda work. She convinced her to stay a little while longer. Who the fuck knows where Oriana is? She's gotta pick up some leads first. Might as well do that somewhere safe. Somewhere where someone's got her back. "Good student. Good soldier. Hell of a biotic. But people die. Especially if Cerberus is involved. Goddamn it, he should've been watching his back. I should've been paying more attention. There was a lot going on."
"It wasn't your fault."
She shakes her head. Doesn't make her feel any better. "Fucking Cerberus."
Miranda stops typing and looks up. "I don't know why they went there. Initially I suspected they were looking for me. A scan of some of their networks revealed that they were looking for you, Prangley," she grimaces, "and that girl, Rodriguez. I knew there were casualties. Initial reports didn't list names."
Jack smirks mildly. "Were you worried about me?"
"At first… and then I remembered you were more than capable enough." She runs a hand through her hair and turns back to the laptop. "Then I worried again. Didn't you notice it about them? Cerberus isn't the same."
"Remember when Cerberus ran crazy scientists, not soldiers? The fuck were those things? Husks…? You were right… they weren't the usual Cerberus clowns. What'd Cerberus do to them?"
"I'm not sure. Cerberus has always wanted the advancement of humanity. But this… All I know is that Cerberus has changed."
"They were always so fluffy before."
"I know we won't see eye to eye on this. And for what it's worth… you were right. About a lot of it. But not everything. They were better than this. They believed in a higher goal."
"You and me—we're the result of their fucked up higher goals. You think that's right? You think we are?" she growls.
Miranda frowns. "Maybe not. But we can't change any of that now. We are what we are. And it's helped us—no matter how much we may have suffered." Her eyes stray at the last. She stands, forgetting the computer. "I can't find anything," she sighs. "The trail's gone cold. What little of it there was. I'll have to connect with my other contacts. Damn it. I'll be exposed like this… but what choice is there?"
Jack bites her tongue for the first time in her life. What's Miranda supposed to do? Let her kid sister die so she doesn't have to stick her neck out? No way. That's not Miranda. "You'll be careful and you'll find her."
"I can't be careful, not from this point forward. If I'm too careful—I could lose my chance." Her smile is shaky. "Here we are again."
"I can't stay here."
"What will you do?" she clasps a hand around Miranda's wrist. "Nothing you can do about it right now, is there? You don't know where to start—you said it yourself, the trail is cold." She lets her go. "Work here if you have to. I mean…" she looks up at the ceiling and then at Miranda. "Fuck, we haven't even talked about the Reapers."
Miranda narrows her eyes, considers, flicks her eyes to Jack. "What about them?"
"They're wiping us out, Cheerleader," she paces. "This galaxy coming to an end bullshit is really starting to piss me off." She stops and looks at Miranda. "I've been thinking… since everything… Collectors and Grissom…this business with Cerberus and now the Reapers…" she exhales. "Shit. What if this is it?"
"You've always seemed ready to throw your life away."
"Yeah. That was before. Things are different now." She frowns. "I don't want this to be the end. I'm prepping kids for war. Half of them aren't going to make it. That's what I tell em when I'm putting on a good show. One of those beams… I've seen the news. I'm not stupid." Miranda is quiet, her eyes far away. Jack takes a breath. "I don't." Jack steels herself, closes her eyes, clenches her fists. "I don't want you to die."
Miranda smiles faintly. "That's sweet."
Her cheeks heat. She should kill the bitch. "Don't fucking make fun of me…!"
"I'm not." She says softly. "This is all…" she utters a small laugh. "The timing in all of this… is just incredible." Jack waits. "I'll do my best to stay alive—if you make sure to do the same."
"I'd like to see a reaper try to take me out."
"I wouldn't." A frown. She bites her lower lip. "Jack…" she ducks her face before looking at her. "I don't want to lose this." She takes her fingertips. "I don't want to lose you. Or us." She scowls. "Now say – whatever incredibly stupid and rude thing you're going to say and then…"
"Then?" Jack waits. Miranda is quiet. "Do you think we could ever work? Really work?"
"Sure. When the galaxy isn't on the brink of extinction. Is that…something you want?" Miranda asks. Jack averts her eyes. "It's what I want."
"This doesn't make sense."
"It does. You know it does. You're just being stubborn."
"Maybe. Yeah. Fuck." She covers her face with her hands, turns around and walks away. She walks back moments later. "I don't know how to do this. I've never had to do this. I've never wanted to."
"We may not have the chance. All things considered," she mutters. "But…I want to try. Don't you?"
Jack stops moving. "Yeah. I do."
"It won't be easy," she takes her hands, "and for all we know, we'll never see each other again. Funny how we keep having this conversation. Tomorrow morning I'll have to go again. Oriana…"
"Yeah. I get it."
"I'm sorry." Miranda says. Jack shakes the apology away. "But tonight… Tonight I want you. Tonight I'm yours. If you want me. If you'll have me."
Jack's grazes her cheek. "I want it. You. Us. This. All of it. Wish like hell that I didn't. Guess this is some kind of joke. Falling for Cerberus' top operative."
"I told you—"
"Yeah, I know. Come on, you gotta let me give you shit. Wouldn't be right between us if we weren't pissing each other off. Admit it. That's foreplay." Jack waits. But all Miranda allows is a half roll of her eyes, the lifting of the corners of her lips. "Do I really get you for the rest of the night? Sure you can put all your shit away for that long?" she asks nodding to the computer.
"I can… for you." Miranda says. "Who knew… that all it'd take for you to admit feelings for me was an attack from the Reapers?"
"They're a bigger pain in the ass than you are." Jack smiles, drawing Miranda to her.
Miranda tries not to breathe.
The heavy dust cloud is nearly impenetrable. It's impossible to see more than a foot in front of her. She pushes through, moving towards the shouts, towards the explosions.
She sees her when she exits, amongst the debris and the chaos of London.
Jack turns too, slowly, following something else with her eyes before they land on her. Miranda's heart stops. Time stops. Then everything is flooding back. Her frozen heart beats furiously. She walks faster. Jack does the same, going towards her. They stop just short of each other. Jack's face is coated in dirt, there's dried blood on her clothing. She looks Miranda up and down, disbelieving.
Miranda has never seen anyone or anything so beautiful. "You made it," she says breathlessly. Her hands find Jack's face, holding it too tightly. Her eyes brim with tears. Miranda knows that at any other time she'd be humiliated and feel foolish. For now she is grateful. For now she has Jack.
"I don't know what to say," Jack's voice shakes. "Had all these things planned out—" she shakes her head, her lips parting when Miranda kisses her. Jack's arms wrap tentatively around Miranda until they're crushing her close. The kiss is heated but short-lived. Jack touches Miranda's face. "I was hoping you'd keep your ass alive."
"I'm tougher than I look," Miranda says. Brave, ironic words given how Jack wipes the tears from the corner of her eyes. Miranda smiles.
"Damn right you're tough," she leans in close again, whispering just before she gently brings their lips together again. "That's my girl."
Miranda's knees go weak.
They sit inside a ramshackle of a tent that's in tatters, on an Alliance cot. A garbage can outside sends flames reaching skyward. Despite the chill of the night, Jack isn't cold. Their hands are laced between them. There isn't too much to say. The Reapers are dead. But they're not the only ones. No one knows how bad the loss is yet. But they've survived. That about covers it.
"Think Shepard made it?" Jack asks.
"I hope so," Miranda says longingly. "If we have peace now… it's because of her."
Jack wonders how long Miranda will live in Shepard's shadow. Even all these years later she acts like Shepard's got something that she lacks. Her father did some job on her. "Did you find your sister? Is she…?"
"Yes." She blinks as if remembering her. "Henry Lawson is dead."
"No." Miranda glances down when Jack squeezes her hand. "We're safe now. Oriana and I. With that son of a bitch gone we can finally lead our lives. We won't have to hide anymore."
It's strange to feel relief for someone else, for someone she would have paid to kill years ago. She's still settling into the role of giving a shit about others. Miranda Lawson of all people. Can't figure out how it feels. Not bad. Maybe she isn't as broken as she thought. "What happens to you?"
"I don't know. But whatever it is—it'll be my choice. It won't be motivated by fear or strategy but by what I want. It…will take some getting used to. In some ways, much of my life has been guided by survival." She smiles wryly. "A concept you may be familiar with?"
Jack laughs softly. "Yeah. Maybe."
"I've hardly had time to consider myself. For years my focus has been Oriana. But she's safe now. And grown. I'll always be close to her—but she can decide what she wants for her life. That's important. I'm glad she can have that, without fear. As for me… where ever life takes me…" she pauses. "I'd like for you to be a part of it. I'd like for you to have a hand in the decision making."
The unfamiliarity and implications nearly leave her speechless. But she responds quickly, defensively. "Cool, so I get to make the decisions?"
"That isn't what I said," Miranda snaps. She stops— noticing the glimmer of a smile on Jack's lips. "Will you ever tire of getting under my skin?"
"If I couldn't get under your skin, how would I know you care?" Shit.
"So you want me to care now?" She says, clearly enjoying herself. Shit. "I can think of many ways to show my appreciation," Miranda says, frowning and smiling in one. Jack is grateful to be sitting. Miranda is…disorienting. It's strange, taking comfort in being…out of control. It's different than before. "So…"
"So…" Jack takes a breath. "Let's figure some shit out. For the both of us." She looks at her. "Together."
They kiss with the confidence that it won't be their last.