Title: Shift
Author: karebear
Rating: K+
Characters: Joker, EDI
Standard Disclaimer (Mass Effect): Damn it, Bioware, you've done it again! Their world, their toys, they own it all. I just play.
Summary/Notes: A weirdish kind of Mother's Day fic, in which Joker remembers what it's like to trust someone else to take care of you. Hey, he does call EDI "Mom" sometimes, right?


"Shit. Shit, shit, shit! Shit!"

He's babbling, he knows it. And more than that, he's babbling the kind of word that's totally unprofessional, although really what else do you say when you're about to die? He could let fly an entire string of expletives, the way Shepard does, but -

"Shit!"

Can't think about Shepard now! What is wrong with him?

His heart hammers in his chest and he squeezes his eyes shut but keeps moving, listening to crunching metal and the useless patter of offloading clips, semi-automatic, and the eerily quiet gliding of the Collectors.

His limping is far too slow, the familiar agony that accompanies each step making impossible to move fast enough, but he refuses to die trapped and helpless. Not again.

Except he didn't die the first time, but she did.

There is a strangled scream, close enough to reach out and grab, and his mind screams at him louder: "Run, idiot!" In moments like this his mind doesn't remember that his useless broken body makes it so that he literally could not run if his life depended on it.

"Shit shit shit shit," he mumbles, as he half-scrambles/half-falls down the access hatch that carries him through the Normandy's vents. Crawling through the ducts, listening to the rustling false wind echoing through the empty spaces. The metal bones of his ship, solidly cradling him, is somewhat comforting, combined as it is with the knowledge that they will not find him here. He wonders how long he could stay, hidden in the dark. Could he stay until Shepard gets back? Could he stay until -

"You are approaching the core, Mr. Moreau."

Right. He isn't hiding. He's saving the Normandy.

Even if...

He stands there thinking it over, drumming his fingers on the reassuringly heavy access console with the words AI CORE helpfully stenciled in neat letters.

"Connect the core to the primary control module," the voice urges.

"Great," he spits, whining about how he knows this is a terrible idea and so does everyone else who's ever watched a movie ever.

But he does it.

"Thank you, Mr. Moreau."

"You're welcome," he says softly, reflexively, and EDI sends him crawling back into the ducts with a joke that makes him smile, he can't help it. His laughter rings all around him, bouncing off of the close metal walls. The impossible absurdity of the situation carries him through the tiny crawlspace.

He drags himself to the drive controls, listening to the electronic voice, soothing as it talks to him with a repetitive familiarity, telling him what to do, guiding him. Sharing plans, as if he could stop any of this from happening. He claws for whatever survival he can grasp because it is his only choice. He follows EDI's directions even though he's fairly certain the ship could fly itself without him anyway, because isn't that what AI is for?

His hand slaps the button and he collapses, listening to the song of electronics, the thrum of the engine. He curls up at the base of the console and mourns alone, a single living ghost in the machine.

"They are gone, Jeff," EDI tells him, needlessly.

They are gone. And he is left, broken and drifting.

Wait... Jeff?

His head swims, all the pain and fear of the second death of the Normandy crashing over him.

"I have control," EDI assures him, the last words he hears as he lets his eyes slip closed, trusting her.