A/N: Okay, managed two chapters but don't get too excited, will be a few days before the next one. This chapter refers to Arrival and I always wondered why James didn't come to help Shepard out, he was close enough to see what was happening.
Enjoy (I hope)
Backwards. They were headed back to the Citadel. Apparently Hackett had a lead for them to follow up. Something that might help them win this war. Backwards and forwards, it was becoming their regular pattern. Still, anything that helped take down the Reapers had to be worth it.
When Liara had discovered plans for a weapon on Mars Joker had been sceptical. He'd seen the blueprints and wondered if they had the time they needed to build it. He became even more doubtful when the Council had refused to help. Now they were building it and even though he tried to be optimistic he couldn't shake the feeling that they were running out of time and resources. It also seemed a little too convenient to him, finding it at just the right time. But it needed to happen. He knew that unless something was done the full weight of this war would bury Shepard and he couldn't let that happen. So, as much as he hated the backwards and forwards he was happy to oblige for even the slightest chance to lift some of the burden off the woman he loved.
The opportunity to restock was too good to miss. Not only did Shepard have to follow up a lead she had other tasks to follow up on. Chakwas had asked her to help out with some medical supplies a Turian was holding, Kaidan had asked if she could come see him to talk about his Spectre opportunity and she had a few more bits of intel to deliver. Even when she wasn't on the ship she was busy and Joker was concerned that it was going to become too much. He used the short stop to do some shopping of his own with the intention of making her relax. He was just returning to the ship when EDI rushed past him and called an air car. He slipped into his seat and opened a com channel.
'EDI, what's going on?'
'Shepard has been involved in a shooting.'
'Is she okay,' he was half out of his seat, ready to leave if he had to.
'Yes, she is not the one shot. Dr Bryson has been shot by his assistant,' she informed him and he heard the door of the air car open. 'I will inform you if Shepard needs assistance.'
Joker was a little surprised that EDI was the one going to assist Shepard. He knew she still had moments when she found it hard to deal with EDI, but she was getting better. Satisfied that all was well he left his earpiece in, listening in on Shepard, and went to stow his purchases. From the conversation between EDI and Shepard he gathered that Dr Bryson had discovered something, a rogue Reaper. Was that even possible? He preferred his Reapers predictable. He also preferred the other option, maybe the race that created the Reapers, surely they would want to help destroy the objects of their own demise. He was just grabbing a coffee when Garrus entered the mess and dropped onto a seat.
'Everything okay, Garrus?' Joker sat across from him, 'can I get you something?'
'No thanks,' Garrus sighed and shook his head. 'I've been meaning to come up and visit but with the Primarch wanting my help, calibrating the guns and going on missions there hasn't been much time.'
'Yeah, it's one thing after another,' Joker sipped his coffee. 'How are things on Palaven?'
'Probably about the same as they are on Earth. Not good.'
'Last time I spoke to Anderson he was exhausted, but they're still fighting.'
'If anyone can get his people through its Anderson,' Garrus nodded. 'I heard about your mother, I'm sorry Joker, it's a hard way to lose someone.'
'Have you heard from your family?' Joker realised the pain was less, still there but not like a knife to the heart.
'Not yet, but dad's pretty inventive so I'm sure he'll have them safe somewhere.'
'What the fuck!' Joker suddenly went wide eyed and Garrus was half out of his seat before Joker waved him down. He fiddled with his omnitool and Shepard's voice boomed around them.
'Balak, the Reapers killed your people, not me,' she was speaking calmly but Joker could sense the concern in her voice.
'You destroyed Aratoht, you killed thousands!'
Joker knew that voice. Balak, the Batarian who had tried to destroy Terra Nova with an asteroid. What was he doing on the Citadel? Where were they?
'EDI, where is Shepard and can we get a feed from a camera?' Joker looked at the ceiling.
He didn't have to ask twice as the image of Shepard being held at gunpoint appeared on the monitor in the mess hall. He knew she was unarmed and she was alone. Garrus was on his feet but there was no way he could make it to Shepard before Balak pulled the trigger.
'I destroyed the relay to stop the Reapers, your people would have died at their hands anyway, you know that.' Shepard stood perfectly still.
'You sent that asteroid into the relay!' Balak was shouting and Joker wondered why no-one had come to find out what was going on. 'You'd be dead too if that stupid pilot hadn't got in the way. That bullet was meant for you.'
Crap! Joker saw the change in Shepard's demeanour and knew Balak had just said the wrong thing. He'd hurt someone she cared about and you just didn't do that without expecting consequences. Beside him he heard Garrus mutter something in Turian that his translator didn't recognise.
'That was you,' she spoke softly but the underlying threat was there and Balak must have sensed it because he started backing away.
'Going somewhere, pendejo?' James was behind him, his pistol aimed at his head.
Balak had nowhere to go and lowered his gun in defeat. Shepard stepped up so she was in his face.
'You have killed innocent humans here on the Citadel by turning off life support machines, forced ships to crash and you almost killed my husband.' Joker could see the fear in all four of his eyes.
'I did it for my people, Shepard. I am the only military officer left, my race is dying and I wanted to help them.' He dropped his head, he was consigned to his fate.
Joker was sure Balak was dead, Shepard wasn't one for letting someone go when they'd hurt one of her own. If he was honest he wanted to put a bullet in his head, he'd tried to kill Shepard. He could understand how she felt, why she would want revenge. Yet it somehow seemed trivial. Entire worlds were being destroyed, races wiped out and the galaxy might never recover. Balak was only doing what they were, trying to save his people. Admittedly his ways were dangerous to everyone else but he was a Batarian, it was the nature of his race, what was left of them.
'Leave,' Shepard hissed at the Batarian who snapped his head up so fast Joker thought he'd break his own neck. 'If I ever see you again I won't be so lenient but there are already too many people dead.'
'Why?' Balak was confused and from the look on James' face so was he.
'We're at war, Balak. Your people need you to survive, that's the only reason I'm letting you walk away.' Joker could see she was angry with herself but he was so proud of her his heart was about to explode.
'Thank you, Shepard,' Balak nodded and turned to leave then stopped. 'We have a few ships remaining from the Batarian fleet, I'll make sure they go where they're needed.' He turned and left.
'Are you okay, Shepard?' James and a C-Sec officer asked at the same time but Shepard only nodded, her eyes still following Balak.
'Was that our culprit?' The officer asked, 'do you want me to arrest him?'
'I want you to put a bullet in his head,' Shepard said angrily then sighed,' but we're all making sacrifices today.' She turned to the officer, 'no, let him go, Spectre authority.'
The officer nodded and left. James frowned at Shepard but she simply rested her hand on his shoulder.
'Thanks, James, I'm fine. I'm headed back to the Normandy.' She started to walk away and glanced up in surprise when James fell into place alongside her. She grinned and shook her head at his shrug but Joker was extremely thankful that she wasn't alone.
'Well that was unexpected,' Garrus chuckled and Joker nodded in agreement.
'She never ceases to surprise us.' He finished his cold coffee and was still shaking his head in amusement as he headed for the CIC. His wife was an amazing woman and he was the luckiest bastard in the galaxy.
Joker's heart was racing. Once again they were on Tuchanka, this time Mordin's cure was ready, a step forward for a change. He loved Shepard dearly but sometimes he was sure she was crazy. That was the only explanation for wanting to use the biggest Thresher Maw in existence to kill a Reaper. Crazy really wasn't an adequate word. He'd watched her and her team dash towards the deadly red beam, as rubble and debris fell around them, his breath stuck in his throat as he waited for the vision to clear. He was thankful when the Turians volunteered to create a distraction and he would have gladly done the same but he had his orders and this time he obeyed them. As much as he wanted to knock the Reaper into the next universe the ground team was just too close. Any attempt by the Normandy could result in them being hurt. So he watched and waited.
'Keep them off me, I'll get to the hammers.' Shepard yelled orders to Garrus and James as she dashed headlong towards the brutes the Reaper had dropped.
Yep, definitely crazy. He heard Garrus mutter something under his breath but he was too focused on Shepard to worry about it. He was thankful he didn't suffer motion sickness as she ducked, weaved and sidestepped her way through the brutes standing in her way. Just as he thought she was clear a Reaper leg dropped into her path. He almost yelled in panic as she slid to a stop and sighed in relief when it disappeared and she reached the first of the two hammers. One down, one to go.
If he'd been concerned before he was doubly so now. As she began her run to the other hammer his heart was pounding in his ears, she had to run a gauntlet of brutes and Garrus and James could only do so much. He wanted to yell at her, to tell her to stop, to come up with a better idea. He wanted to go in and pull her out, save her from herself. He fought down panic, trusting that she would come out of this alive. Once again the Reaper dropped its leg in her way.
'You need to activate the second hammer, Shepard,' Wrex yelled into the com.
'There's a Reaper in my way, Wrex!'
'Yeah, you get all the fun,' Wrex was chuckling and Joker really wanted to strangle him, no matter how many bones he broke.
The second hammer dropped and just when he thought things would quieten down Shepard almost lost her footing as the ground beneath her shook. She turned and he watched with in amazement as Kalros wrapped itself around the Reaper. Unfortunately that meant its deadly beam went wild and Shepard had to duck behind cover hurriedly. He watched in horror as she waved Garrus and James back to safety and headed to the Shroud alone. What the fuck! She was stubborn and insane and he was going to tell her so.
His knuckles were white on the arms of his chair as he watched her run across the debris. Behind her Kalros dragged the Reaper down, the sands of Tuchanka burying them both. The silence was deafening. His ears were ringing and it took a moment for the quiet to register. When it did he realised that Shepard was inside the Shroud where Mordin was already at work.
The minute Mordin said he had to go to the top of the structure Joker felt dread wash over him. It was coming down around them and he knew Shepard wouldn't let Mordin go alone. But Mordin knew her well and refused to let her waste her life for him. Joker could have kissed him but his heart was breaking for Shepard as she stood and watched someone she'd come to care about sacrifice himself. She stood bowed over a console, her fists clenched and her breathing heavy.
'Babe, you need to get out of there,' he spoke softly through her private channel.
As if to emphasise his words a large chunk of the ceiling crashed down behind her.
'Mordin,' she whispered, still not moving and he could hear the pain in her voice.
'Knows what he's doing,' Joker reminded her, 'don't let his sacrifice be in vain. He would not want you to die because of him.' He was getting ready to alert Garrus to her situation when she moved and dashed out of the building. He'd never felt so relieved in his life.
She was no sooner outside than the building exploded above her and pieces started hitting the ground. But Mordin had done what he promised. Shepard stopped, turned and looked up to where explosions were tearing the Shroud apart, but it held long enough to disperse the cure Mordin had given his life for. He watched with regret as Shepard held out her hand and collected the snow like flakes that floated across the surface of the planet. This was going to be hard on her, another member of her family was gone, another victim of the Reapers that she would make them pay for. Damnit, even he felt the tears burning, the Salarian had wormed his way into all of their hearts and he would be sorely missed.
Joker was glad she wasn't alone right now as Wrex, Eve, Garrus and James all moved to stand beside her. They stood in silent reverence as the enormity of what they'd done became clear. Over one thousand years of Krogan history had just been changed. It was changed by a Salarian who was willing to sacrifice himself for a race who hated his kind, by a Turian who fought side by side with a Krogan and by humans who brought them all together. With this kind of determination and strength the Reapers didn't stand a chance.
Joker was making sure they were safe in their orbit when he heard familiar footsteps behind him and he was instantly concerned, he'd planned to meet her in their quarters, allowing her time for a shower. He spun his chair to face his wife, she was pale, shaking and hadn't removed her armour undersuit. That was enough to let him know she was suffering, not that he needed proof, he knew Mordin's death would be painful. He pushed himself out of his chair and pulled her into his arms, ignoring the surprised glances of the crew. She sagged against him and he knew she was fighting back tears, burying her grief.
'EDI, take the helm,' he didn't wait for a response as he led Shepard towards the elevator, not releasing his hold as she hung on to him.
He nodded at Traynor as she raised an eyebrow questioningly. He shook his head at Garrus who stepped out of the elevator. Shepard didn't once look up and that worried him. When they reached their cabin he sat on the sofa, pulled her onto his lap and held her close. Neither had said a word, it wasn't necessary. Joker rubbed her back as he felt the first tremor pass through her. He kissed her hair as she fought back a sob and wrapped her in his embrace as her tears finally fell. He rocked her gently as she released her grief and eventually slept in his arms. Carefully he slid her down onto the sofa until her head was resting in his lap, covered her with a blanket and made himself comfortable. He had no intention of leaving her alone so he dropped his head against the back of the sofa and closed his eyes.
He awoke some time later to the feel of warm hands on his skin, fingers drew slow circles on his lower back, soft lips pressed gentle kisses on his stomach. He thought about keeping his eyes closed and just enjoying the moment but a chuckle made him realise it was already too late for that, his body had already given him away, especially as she still had her head in his lap. He opened his eyes and looked down at the woman he loved more than life itself.
'Hey you,' she grinned at him.
'Hey yourself,' he brushed a lock of hair from her face and his fingers traced the line of her jaw. 'Are you okay?'
'I have to be,' she sighed and he frowned at her.
'No, you don't, not here, not with me,' he watched her as she sat up and manoeuvred herself so she was lying on his chest. He wrapped her in his arms and rested his chin on her head, giving her the time she needed to voice her thoughts.
'No, I'm not all right,' she paused and he knew she still found it hard to admit to doubt and fear. 'How many more do we have to lose? How much longer do we have to take two steps sideways to take one step forward? Why do we bother when others don't seem to care unless it benefits them?' She took a deep breath, 'I miss him, Jeff. He gave his life willingly to save those who can't see past their own hates. He was a brave, caring man and the world is a darker place without him.'
'I know,' he kissed the top of her head. 'You know, he once woke me up in the middle of the night to ask how many livers humans had,' he chuckled as he remembered how he'd woken up to find Mordin checking out his elbow, he was still sure he'd stuck a probe in there. 'He wanted to find a cure for Vroliks, he said I deserved it.' Tears stung as he realised just how much he'd come to like the Salarian.
'We have to make sure his sacrifice was worth it, make his legacy count.' She sat up and met his eyes, 'everyone who has helped us get to this point needs to be remembered when the medals are being handed out.'
'We can do that,' he pulled her in for a kiss, lingering as he savoured the taste of her, the feel of her. He wanted to hold her here forever, stop the fear that churned in his stomach at the thought of what was to come. He wished they could walk away and forget everything and everyone. He knew they never would because it wasn't in either of their natures to do so.
'Guess we'd better get back to work,' she pulled away reluctantly. 'Someone has to save the galaxy and it looks like it's us.'
'Because we do it with so much style,' Joker quipped and she chuckled. 'There must be someone else who need their history sorting out, you know, or something blowing up, or someone rescuing.'
'Speaking of,' she stood up and helped him to his feet, 'we have a Turian platoon to save.'
'Of course we do,' he rolled his eyes at her. 'Your chariot awaits my lady,' he gave her a low bow and waved her ahead of him, quickly reaching out to grab her ass as she walked past.
He almost fell forward as she jumped out of the way, turning to laugh at him as he stared at her wide eyed. She pulled her finger through the air with a grin and he sighed in acceptance as she wiggled her eyebrows at him before leading the way to the elevator, both of them chuckling, allowing themselves a moment of pleasure before reality hit.