The brunette had never experienced these emotions before, it was something new and she didn't know what to do. She couldn't understand how he could have affected her like that. To begin with Miranda Lawson had never really liked him; John Shepard had that bloody arrogant hero vibe over him but she certainly did respect his abilities, but not his motivations. She had spent the past two years working on him; bringing someone back to life was an enormous technological and scientific feat. At first the Illusive Man wanted to know the feasibility of actually recruiting the Commander for the sole purpose of finding and stopping a new emerging threat, the Collectors, and for a short time that was the mission she had been handed, but that changed. Project Lazarus started, and it was an assignment she would carry out without hesitation, without any emotional attachments.
How wrong I've been.
Everything the Commander had done so far was impressive to say the least, fighting through Omega and the Collector attack on Horizon was nothing to scoff at. And he also tried to help those that asked him, which was understandable as the team and crew would charge in to certain death. The team he had assembled so far gave him their lives, and in return he would be there for them if needed. But not everything had gone smoothly; he didn't believe in Cerberus despite what the organization had done for him. And then Shepard had handed over sensitive material to Jack.
Miranda couldn't fathom why. And what puzzled her even more was that the Illusive Man had mostly just shrugged when she had reported his transgression. How he could let Shepard have command and carry out as he saw fit with sensitive Cerberus material was mindboggling to say the least. Miranda couldn't understand why the Illusive Man wanted such a vile person as Jack to be part of the mission to begin with. Let alone aboard a Cerberus vessel. The crazed biotic hated Cerberus and everyone associated with the organization and she could put the entire mission in danger. But to Shepard's credit he had actually kept her under control since they had rescued her from the fiery inferno of the Purgatory prison. Strange what effects Shepard could have on people.
Miranda sighed as she tiredly rubbed her eyes. She contemplated Shepard's strengths.
He was a very level headed person, not that emotions couldn't get the better of him, but he was a natural leader. No wonder his test scores from enlistment was off the charts. He always took time to listen to anyone's ideas and he was respectful. Even when the two of them had disagreements and she boiled with anger as he had gotten under her skin (which he frequently did), Shepard had remained calm and continued to explain in a reasonable fashion why he decided on a certain course of action.
Miranda leaned into the couch and crossed a leg over the other.
God, that smile of his. And he certainly is easy on the eyes too...
Stop it, Miranda!
Why do I think about him so much?
Her mission after the Battle of the Citadel had been to draw up preparations to emotionally manipulate Shepard, seduce him and that way recruit him to Cerberus. That had been shelved once the Collectors had destroyed the Normandy, but she had received renewed orders from the Illusive Man that Shepard was to be recruited. So she was on track to do that, but now the entire situation had deteriorated to some teenage fling. For quite some time now she had been friendly with Shepard They had debated about Cerberus and the state of the galaxy, they had shared meals together and they were even teasing each other frequently. She was an adult and yet whenever there was downtime Shepard always appeared in her mind. Whenever she saw him on the ship she secretly glanced at him.
That was not how emotional manipulation of a target worked. She was a master of seduction and play any sort of role for a clandestine mission. She could lure targets in with friendship and romance, and sex of course, but she had done so emotionally detached herself. She wasn't emotionally detached now.
And here they were on the Normandy still docked to Nos Astra She sat in her leather couch and pondered what had happened to this day. It did not happen over a day, but slowly she had warmed up to him. She always thought that action spoke louder than words and Shepard had done amazing things. Shepard was an enigma, an unstoppable force in combat, but yet he cared for people. Shepard got along with the soldiers of the group, Zaeed, Jacob and Garrus. And the Turian was Shepard's closest friend. Their banter was actually very amusing to listen to.
Eventually both Shepard and she and began to respect each other, and Miranda respected his moral convictions, but he never shun from making difficult decisions, he did the job. Two years earlier in the hunt for Saren, Shepard decided to leave a man behind on Virmire; Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko died in the nuclear blast. Miranda suspected that Shepard had likely taken the death of a comrade hard, but she knew he would make such a call again if necessary.
And just a few hours earlier he had helped her with something personal. He had helped her save Oriana from the grasps of their crazed father. Without hesitation he had agreed to help her after she had explained the predicament that her sister...was in danger. The mercs never knew what hit them as the unstoppable force of Shepard cut through their lines. He even convinced her to go and talk to Oriana, Miranda did not want to complicate Oriana's life, but Shepard's reasoning had convinced her to tell Oriana that she had a sister, a sister that cared and loved her. Neither of this would have happened without Shepard's help. Her sister was much younger, but so beautiful, filled with joy and had a happy life full with love. This had an impact on Miranda and their meeting made her happy, they had promised to stay in touch, and it was worth it, all of it. She had a reason to fight the Collectors now and the Reapers, more so than the objectives of Cerberus.
She felt the need to talk to Shepard.
"EDI, where's the Commander?"
The synthetic female voice was heard in her room. "He is resting in the Captain's Cabin, Operative Lawson."
"Thank you, EDI."
Miranda rose from the couch.
"Logging you out, Operative Lawson."
Shepard lied on his bed with his BDUs still on, looking up the window in the roof and watched the graceful asari buildings of Nos Astra. It had been a long day, or it felt so; combat was hectic, fast and exhausting. They had combated the mercs and secured the area, Miranda's sister and family was in the space port none the wiser of what had happened.
His mind drifted to Miranda again; she was a beautiful woman, rarely did she smile or even laugh, but it did happen occasionally. She had been a difficult woman to read; always focused on the task at hand and with some exceptional problems in trusting others. But the two of them had gotten closer, and she had trusted him with her sister and their father. She had never talked about her personal life like that before, she seemed so vulnerable.
Creating daughters, for what? Personal gain? Jesus…
Shepard could not understand such reasoning when Miranda told her story about her childhood, and when she took away her sister from their father, Shepard finally understood why Miranda was so loyal to Cerberus. They had taken her in as she ran from her father, and because they had hidden away her sister and giving the young child a normal life and family, Miranda would be loyal to the organization. But Shepard didn't trust Cerberus, except present company of course. He felt a connection with Jacob; he was not what he was expecting from a Cerberus operative. That he had problems with Cerberus checkered past had been slightly surprising.
And what about Miranda? He was attracted to her, the sexual tension had grown these past days, and it was felt in the air whenever they were alone, the tension was almost palpable. They got along much easier now; finding time to chat and debate everything and anything, there had been a remarkable personal change between the two of them. He could swear that she gazed upon him from time to time. Was she admiring him as he admired her?
On the other hand Shepard had his doubts to. She was a beautiful woman, and no doubt knew how to use that to her advantage if her suit was any indication. He definitely didn't discard that the Illusive Man had placed her in close proximity for the sole purpose of seducing and manipulating him. It could very well be her assignment all along, lure him into Cerberus or even keep him in line by having sex and emotionally trick him into a relationship? Shepard wasn't sure and he wasn't naïve to discard those worries. But on the other hand he was on a suicide mission and abandoned by the Alliance and the Citadel Council so if he got entangled with the femme fatale and have frequent sex, what did he have to lose?
A knock on the door turned his mind back to reality and he sat up on the bed.
Shepard called out, "Yes?"
The door hissed as it opened, the light from the hall outside his room lit up the person from behind; it was Miranda. She walked into the room and down the small stairs towards his sleeping quarters, Shepard slid over the bed as they met halfway between the stairs and the bed.
"I wanted to thank you, Shepard," She spoke with a soft voice. "I appreciate you taking your time and helped me. I don't want to think about what the result would have been if you had not been there."
"Just glad I could help you. I guess you are satisfied that Oriana was moved elsewhere."
"Yes," their eyes met and she gave him a smile. "She has a normal life now."
"Will you keep in touch?"
Miranda nodded and flashed a smile, "Yes, we will keep in touch."
"Does Cerberus know where she is?"
Miranda was quiet for a while and looked down. "No."
Shepard was surprised. "Why?"
This was interesting, Shepard noted.
"I just felt it would be better that as few people as possible know about her location." She walked away to one of the couches and sat down.
She did not really know why she had retracted that information from the Illusive Man. Had Shepard turned her? Had he swayed to her doubts? No, she was still part of Cerberus, one of the Illusive Man's most trusted operatives. Her assignment was to keep an eye on Shepard, a task set out by the Illusive Man...but that had all changed, she had become attracted to him in more ways than one. She'd changed; she felt more at ease now after knowing that her sister was safe. Miranda felt...happy.
Shepard broke the silence as he sat down on the bedside in front of her. "How do you feel about Niket?"
When they had encountered the mercenary leader, the asari had been accompanied by Niket, Miranda's only childhood friend that she still trusted and had not severed contact with. Miranda had wanted to kill Niket, but Shepard had intervened, he had forced his hand around her hand and turned the gun away from Niket.
"I can't understand that Niket betrayed me. I did not see that coming. When I left my father, I broke of connections with everyone, except Niket."
She remembered that she had turned cold when Niket had revealed that her father wanted Oriana back, that he was helping her father. She quickly realized his betrayal. Niket then explained that her father had no details about Oriana, and at that moment she understood that Niket was the only loose end and had to be dealt with. But Shepard stopped her! She'd was absolutely furious at him, glaring at him as he tried to disarm the situation but Niket agreed that he would lie to her father. Miranda told Niket that if he ever told her father-
But the sound of a shotgun echoed in the docking terminal, effectively silencing Miranda. Niket's body fell to the ground; Captain Enyala had shot Niket. In the ensuing battle, Enyala and the other mercenaries were killed. It was satisfying feeling for Miranda after they had tried to take away Oriana. Miranda still felt betrayed by Niket, but Shepard had probably been right, she would have eventually regret killing him if she had pulled the trigger.
"But I would like to thank you for stopping me from killing him." But she still had feelings of inadequacies, "Despite my genetic tailoring, I could not see his betrayal. It was a mistake I'll learn from."
"You are still human, Miranda, we all make mistakes. And why are you always bringing up this about your father?"
She shrugged. "This is who I am, Shepard, nothing can change that. My intelligence, my looks and abilities were all tailored and paid for by my father."
"I can't admire your looks or mind?" Shepard asked with a sly smile. "I think you give your father too much credit, he might have given you all that, but you made something out of it all. You should be proud."
Shepard's charming smile and words almost made Miranda blush, which was very out of character for her. She tried her best to suppress that, unsure if Shepard had noticed, but she returned his smile. "Oh, well thank you, John."
John? Now that was interesting, and a first from her, Shepard reflected.
"Perhaps I wouldn't mind if you admired my body." She teased with a sensual smile, fully knowing Shepard eyed her body. Together in Shepard's quarters with dimmed lights, alone, the sexual tension rose. But Miranda's issues regarding her genetic tailoring was always there. Her father wanted the perfect woman to secure his empire with a genetic dynasty. That's why he created Miranda; she was not the first daughter he had created, merely the first one he had kept.
But because of Shepard's natural leadership and charisma, that could make anyone trust him and follow him to hell, she had resented John Shepard. He had accomplished things due to his natural skills, and she felt inadequate about herself precisely because of that. But she did not resent the man that sat in front of her anymore.
Shepard rose from the bed, and almost automatically Miranda stood up from the couch, she could not understand why, but she felt compelled to do so. She felt as she was in trance, and she took a step closer.
"I bet you don't." Shepard teased and wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. Their eyes met, as she rested her arms around his neck. They leaned in on each other with eyes shut as they slowly kissed.
Her heart began to beat faster from the physical contact, she could feel a wave of chemical reactions as a tingly sensation and the vivid flowing of her blood rushed through her body. It was an intoxicated newfound feeling of euphoria that she needed more of. But amid the wonderful moment she pulled back and removed her arms from his shoulders, Shepard loosened his embrace around her.
Shepard gave her a bewildered look, "What?"
Miranda sighed. "I...Shepard." Miranda crossed her arms in a defensive manner. "I don't know what this is, if this is just blowing of steam from all the stress, or..."
"Why analyze everything? Why just not get caught in the moment?" Shepard gave her a smug, cheeky smile.
Miranda snapped at him, "Because we're on a dangerous mission, because you and I know more about the Reapers and the Collectors than most, because this is no time for emotional entanglements! Take your pick. We both know how unlikely we are to survive this."
She shook her head in frustration and then stared at the wall behind Shepard, unable to look into his eyes. She had always detached herself from people, never gotten close to anyone, and raised a wall of cold professionalism, hiding her inadequacies and whatever feelings she could have for others. And now Shepard had almost destroyed all the safe-guards she had built up. She felt powerless.
Shepard gave the Australian a look of empathy, he understood her misgivings, and he knew that their chances of survival were slim when they eventually would go through the Omega 4 Relay. Plus, she belonged to Cerberus and he was, or at least had been, Alliance. There was conflict of interest. But she did not treat him as the living legend that the galaxy thought of him, he was sick and tired of having the fate of the galaxy in his hands. But he wanted this, and he suspected she also shared that sentiment, considering the kiss they just shared. Why not enjoy the moments they could have together? Of course the prospect of either of them dying in combat and the other one had to live on with that pain was of course disconcerting.
Back when they were chasing Saren, he never considered that he would fall for Ashley in the midst of everything, but he had. But that was over by now, anything they could have together was destroyed the day the Collectors attacked the Normandy, and the day Ash had hatefully criticized him for joining Cerberus. Shepard had felt betrayed an abandoned that day on Horizon. Was he seeking solace in Miranda's arms? He never had thought for a second that he would develop feelings for a Cerberus operative. But there they were, silent in the Captain's Cabin, at a crossroad of choices.
Miranda shrugged. "What bunch of idiotic hormones thought that now was a great time for love?"
"Love? Who said anything about love, I'm just trying to fuck you," Shepard responded with a carefree grin.
Miranda giggled at his remark. "Shepard. Why do you always try to make me laugh?"
"It's my mission in life."
"What about our mission. What about the future?" She turned serious again.
"I don't know," Shepard said gently. He reached down and took her hands in his. He gave her a faint smile.
Damn you Shepard, why do you do this to me? She was silent for a few moments.
"Don't get yourself killed." She pleaded with a soft voice and squeezed his hands.
"I can only promise that I will do my best not to get killed." He let go of her hands and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to kiss her.
This time around, Miranda did not pull herself away from Shepard.
Hours later, Miranda slowly woke up under the bed sheet. The room was lit up by the fish tank and the slightly lit up world came into view as she opened her eyes. The entire situation felt strange to Miranda. She was resting her head on Shepard's shoulder and during the night she had wrapped her arm around his torso. The only sound besides the humming from the engines was his light snoring.
For Miranda sex had never had anything to do with emotions or romance. She had never bothered with such intimacy. Whenever she had met someone in the past it had simply been pleasure for the moment and it had usually been quick encounters.
And this would have been as good a time as any to leave. Although considering the close proximity aboard the Normandy, such a decision could turn awkward for both of them.
But that was not the reason she stayed.
Commander John Shepard was a man unlike any she had encountered before. She had tried to keep her distance. When he had first approached her and attempted to start up a friendly conversation she had brusquely brushed him off as she always did when someone tried to get to close to her. Miranda was an independent woman and relied on her own devices. And friendship, or in this case a possible relationship, was something she frowned upon.
Carrying out operations for Cerberus she did unattached.
She had co-workers. Not friends.
And she definitely did not have a boyfriend. It was either mission related, a target she had to seduce, or she had one night stands or fuck buddies.
No. She stopped that line of thought. Matter of fact, Miranda did not know what he was to her, it was to early.
She regarded the man lying next to her with professional respect. He was a competent Commanding Officer and team leader. As anyone in Shepard's presence she got closer and was drawn in. They became friends. Something she had never been with any one on past missions. Well, at least with the exception of Jacob. And she thought she had learned something from that encounter, but with her current predicament she realized she hadn't learned anything at all. And ending up in bed was something she had never anticipated would happen between her and Shepard.
Not that she was complaining; it had been…liberating. This was the first time in quite some time she had sex, reviving Shepard and preparing for the Collector Mission had been time consuming, and he wasn't bad at all, and despite her reservations she looked forward to further encounters.
But she wanted this, she truly did. She knew it, and Shepard certainly did. He refused not to be let in; she had given him glimpses of another Miranda that was so unlike the Cerberus loyalist, and Shepard demanded to get to know that person. And somewhere down the line last night Miranda had caved in. She had caved because John Shepard wanted her, and no man had ever wanted her before in that way, or looked at her like Shepard did. And even though her calculated and logical mind scoffed at what was happening, her heart didn't. Her brilliant mind analyzed the situation, but her heart didn't lie, it knew exactly what it wanted.
And it scared her.
Edited (2012-08-15): Some grammar changes.
Edited (2012-08-28): Some additional writing on Miranda's thoughts on the subject added.
Edited (2013-01-01): Changed chapter title, old one to be used later.
Edited (2013-01-10): Made some changes, removed some things, rewrote several passages.
Edited (2013-04-01): Changes were made, passages rewritten, grammar fixed.