"You're never going to guess who made these."
Shepard looked away from the crowd of soldiers that were congregated near an Airstream trailer. "Give me a hint." She scooted over to give Joker room to sit on the park bench, her leg cast scraping against the seat. It had been three weeks since the Reapers had been destroyed and the doctors had finally deemed her fit enough for short outdoor excursions. Actually, Juliana had forced their hand, telling them that if they didn't give her the okay, she'd bust out of the hospital on her own. She'd never been one to stay cooped up and after almost a month, she was about ready to start crawling the walls.
He handed her a foil wrapped deep-fried candy bar. "You love his pancakes."
She looked at Joker. "You can't be serious. Big Jim and Flo made it out of the Citadel?" She sat up straighter and looked inside the food truck the trailer was hooked up to. Sure enough, Big Jim was at the window, his trademark cigarette hanging over his lip as he slung food around.
"Yeah. It seems that Flo had this weird feeling a couple of days before the Reapers took over, so they packed up the diner and hung out in space for a while. When they got the word that everything was over, they made it down here to help with recovery duty. They're feeding everybody free of charge to help boost morale."
"Well, if Big Jim's burgers can't boost morale, then I don't know what will." She pushed her hair out of her face with her free hand. The vast majority of it had been either singed or completely burnt to a crisp, so she had taken shears to it. The end result was a short bob that barely skimmed her chin. Joker missed how long it used to be, but he did like that without the added length to weigh it down, her hair was a riot of unruly copper curls. It was such a different look from the ruthlessly scraped back bun that everyone was used to seeing, but the more relaxed look suited her. The stress lines around her mouth and between her eyes might be permanently etched into her skin, but they were lighter now. Rest had erased the purple shadows under her eyes and she smiled more.
There were still moments that Joker caught the tense, dark look on her face that had haunted her since first leaving Earth all those months ago, but those moments were becoming few and far between.
That same look was back now as she stared at Jim and Flo's food truck. "Too bad that Anderson's fish and chip stand wasn't here," she said. Joker had spent days searching for it, but it seemed as if the place hadn't survived the attack.
"Did you want to go to the wall?" The Alliance had set up a makeshift memorial for all of the fallen several blocks away, and while it was officially called the London Memorial, it was better known as the Anderson Memorial by soldiers and civilians alike.
She shook her head. "I don't…I don't think I can." She had said her goodbyes to Anderson atop the Citadel. To go and see everything would be like ripping a scab off a barely healing wound.
"Yeah, me either." He tucked a curl behind her ear. Looking over her head, he noticed that some soldiers were starting to point as they realized that Commander Shepard was in their midst. "Here, this'll help with the wind." He tugged off his cap and set it on her head, smiling at the way that her hair flipped out under it.
The haunted look vanished. "Wow, Joker. You're giving me your hat; does this mean we're getting engaged?" She was teasing, but she froze when his face went serious.
"Well, I haven't had much of a chance to go out ring shopping, so my hat's going to have to do for now." He cleared his throat. "Besides, it looks a lot cuter on you."
He slung his arm over the back of the bench. "I love you Jules, but this is still new. I don't want to rush into anything right now; I'd rather wait and see if we don't wind up killing each other because you can't stand the way I leave the cap off the toothpaste while I go nuts because you leave your socks all over the floor."
She made a mock-affronted noise. "I never leave my socks on the floor."
"You know what I mean." He pulled her close and rested his cheek against the side of her head. "But after we've lived with the other for a while outside of the pressure cooker that wartime can be, yeah, I wanna ask."
She beamed up at him. "Then I should probably tell you that when you ask, I'm gonna say yes, even if you do leave the cap off the toothpaste."
He laughed. "Well, that takes a load of pressure off." He was going to say something else, but she grabbed a handful of his shirt and kissed him. He could hear the snap of omni-tools taking their picture nearby, but right then he was so damned happy that he didn't care. "So, what now?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Hackett's been visiting more often now that I'm on the mend. He wants me up in the air as soon as I'm able."
He read her troubled expression. "But you don't want that?"
"I don't know. I love the Normandy and I love being in space; it's all I've ever really known. But Garrus is headed to Palaven, Grunt and Wrex are going back to Tuchanka, Liara is making noises about rebuilding her information network, and even though she says that she wants to stay to help, I can tell that Tali wants to get back to her homeworld."
"What about Kaidan and James?"
"James already came to me and asked if he could be transferred to a cleanup crew in southern California. I figured that he would, but…"
"You didn't expect it to be so soon."
"No, I didn't. And Kaidan…" she grinned. "He's been talking to Jack."
Joker's eyes widened. "You're shitting me."
"Nope. He's got a spot at Grissom teaching biotic students as his cover, but the two of them have been getting pretty cozy. Apparently they fought together on the front lines and hit it off." It was weird seeing Jack actually flirt; usually the woman either took what she wanted right then or flipped everyone off. Juliana smiled. Kaidan was a patient guy. If anyone could wear Jack down until she went out on a date, it was him.
"So the Psychotic Biotic and Mr. Spectre. It's a weird combo, but maybe he'll be able to mellow her out and she'll get him to stop being so uptight all the time."
"I hope so." She rested her head against his shoulder. "I've talked to a couple of the other crew members and they've said that they're still up for rejoining us, but the Normandy's not going to be the same without the old group."
He held her closer. "You thinking about pulling a Garrus and retiring?"
She snorted. "Garrus might say that he's retired, but I can see him enjoying the quiet for a year, max. Then he'll probably create some sort of police unit on Rannoch just to spice things up." Her friend had told her that he was only staying on Palaven until everything was sorted out with his family, and then he'd rejoin Tali to start building that home on the beach they had dreamt of.
She looked out at the soldiers again. They all looked so young. "I am tired, Jeff," she admitted. "Maybe I'll call it quits in a few years, but for now, I have a responsibility to help out as much as I can."
"What would you want to do, after?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I will find someplace to settle down, either here on Earth or one of the colonies."
"Upstate Washington is nice this time of year," Joker said. "We could get a farmhouse with a runway in the back."
"Yeah, so I can have room to park the ship. It won't be as big as the Normandy, but I've got to have something to teach people in when I open up my own flight school."
"You'd give up the Normandy for me?"
He grinned. "Jules, can you really see me flying the old girl with anyone else as my commander? I'd miss her, sure, but maybe I'm tired of all the fighting too."
She took a breath. "I don't want you to give up things for me."
He shook his head and traced her cheek with a finger. "It's not giving up. This is more like closing the cover on one book and opening up a new chapter on another. Just because one story's over doesn't mean that there's nothing waiting on the other side."
"That was deep. Philosophical, even."
He raised an eyebrow. "I have my moments. Besides, I can't see you settling down without getting itchy. There's an Alliance base in Washington where you can teach recruits how to be the most kickass Infiltrators ever and still be home in time for dinner."
Juliana let herself dream. "The house would have to have a big living room and a comfy couch so we could watch movies during the weekend."
"Of course. And we'd make a little garden in the back yard." He held her closer. "There'd be a huge tree there that would be perfect for a tree house for the kids."
She looked up. "Kids? I thought you said that you didn't…"
"That was before. Can we really deny the universe the awesomeness that our kids would be? They're going to have your good looks and my charming ways and probably run all over both of us." His jaw set. "And if they happen to inherit my OI, we'll teach them that anything's possible. If their dad could help save the universe, then they can do anything they want. And their mom will kick any little snot's ass that dares to make fun of them."
Laughing, she nodded in agreement. "You can teach them how to play the piano we'll have in the family room and I'll teach them how to properly sneak around."
Joker groaned. "Great, I'm going to have a family full of sneaky people."
"That's okay; we'll buy bells for everyone."
His heart full to bursting, Jeff held up his now cold fried treat for a toast. "Here's to the future, whatever it may be," he said.
Juliana touched her candy bar to his. "No, here's to us. Whatever the future brings, we'll face it head on together."
He took a bite. "Here's to us, Jules."
Galactic travel became more comfortable when Airstream Incorporated decided to design a midsized travel trailer capable of making mass relay jumps. They were decently priced in comarison to actual ships and virtually anything could be hooked up to them for hauling. Big Jim and Flo had a food truck from back when they were a smaller operation where they flew from fuel depot to fuel depot feeding tired pilots before they had decided to settle down in a permanent spot on the Citadel. After the war, both of them decided to go back to their portable lifestyle, though they often made long-term stops in upstate Washington to flip pancakes and grill "honest-to-god dead cow" burgers for their favorite customers. It took a while, but Shepard and Joker finally convinced them to open up a diner there on Earth and it became a popular meeting place for the entire community. Years later, several Moreau teens had their first jobs there.
If anyone goes to see The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the main character's house was a big inspiration. I'm the type of person that pays more attention to the sets and props in a movie, and this place snagged me to the point where I was plotting ficlets instead of paying attention to the movie itself.
I wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to read and review my story! You guys are the best! Even though I said that this would be a 50 chapter story, I developed a huge headcanon for Jules and Joker that doesn't really fit in with any of my other Shepards. Sometime soon, I'll be posting up little bits and pieces that didn't fit into the storyline, but have been nagging me to be written.