Author's Note: took a guess, here, at Pressly's rank, since I don't think it is ever mentioned. LT seemed likely, given his Shephard's rank and Pressly's position as XO of the Normandy after Anderson leaves.


Lieutenant Charles Pressly, navigator and executive office of the SSV Normandy, felt like Hell. He had a strong suspicion that he looked like it, as well. Still, he came to attention and saluted in perfect form. On the other side of the mass effect shield, Commander Shepard regarded him with a bland expression.

Her green eyes travel up Pressly. He might be pleased to have a woman, who looked like her, look at him with such focus, except that Shehard is, A, Pressly's commanding officer, and, B, not impressed by what she sees.

It might be the torn and dirty uniform, the black eye, and the med-pad affixed to his left cheek. One of those things, Pressly thought. All of those things. Yet, he maintained his perfect posture and did not lower his hand, poised like a knife at his brow.

Shepard sighed. She saluted. "At ease, lieutenant."

Pressly lowered his hand and relaxed his posture. "Ma'am," he said with a nod.

"Lieutenant, would you please explain to me why you are in C-Sec holding cell?"

Pressly cleared his throat. "I…"

Shepard raised a hand to forestall him. "And before you begin," she said, "I have heard the official story. Given your spotless record, I have a hard time believing that you assaulted three UNC marines in a bar. So…" She motioned for him to explain.

Pressly said, "No, ma'am, that's not true." At her raised eyebrow, he said, "It was only one marine, at first. And I think Chora's Den is listed in the directory as a 'Gentleman's Club.'"

Now the other eyebrow went up, as well. "You don't say. And why did you assault one, at first, UNC marine?"

"Permission to speak freely, ma'am?"

She lifted a hand and covered her mouth as if in thought. Pressly thought he detected the edges of a smile, hidden behind her palm. When she lowered the hand, the smile was gone. "Granted," she said.

"He was a goddamned bigot, ma'am…"

"…sure, if you like your tail to be blue," the marine told his companions. "Me, I prefer my girls to be, you know, people. Not aliens." He gave his two companions a grin that Pressly would be hard-pressed to define as anything but shit-eating.

Pressly, at the next table, did not say anything. He lifted his glass and took a sip of bourbon and soda and set the glass back down. He stared at the screen on the wall that showed the Interplanetary Test Cricket Semi-finals. The Palaven Primarchs were losing to the mixed team of Citadel Widowers. Now that the Krogan, Ganar Kull, had found consistency in using his strength, he was hitting balls that would clear the outfield, if they did not hit a bulkhead, first.

Pressly considered the marine. Charles Pressly knew he was what could be described as a bigot, himself. Oh, he never told jokes, never sat around talking about "kicking all the damn aliens back to where they came from." He just "didn't like them." After all, the First Contact War, and all.

There was always an excuse, Pressly thought.

For Ashley Williams, it was her grandfather. The man surrendered to the Turians—the only human to ever surrender to an alien species—and never mind why he did it. Never mind the lives he saved. He was a coward at best and probably a traitor and that marked every member of his family who came after him.

Pressly felt nausea claw at his stomach and raise sour bile. He made a face of disgust and wished he could spit the taste from his mouth. He took a drink, instead, and wondered if he could ever drink enough to kill the memories of the man he was. Before the Battle of the Citadel. Before duty-time served with the likes of Liara T'Soni, Garrus Vakarian, even Urdnot Wrex. And…


Pressly froze with his glass halfway to his mouth. He recognized the encounter suit. It was Tali, for sure. He had spent enough time around her to know what her suit looked like. What was she doing in a place like Chora's Den, though? She saw him and waved, then started over.

Looking for him, of course. Right. They planned to see a film, later. He forgot and cursed himself silently. She must have tracked him down with the Normandy's systems.

The marine at the next table noticed her when she was halfway to the table. He gave his two friends the same grin as before and said, "Hey, you know what a Quarian girl looks like under her suit?"

"No," one of the others asked.

"I don't know," the other said.

The first marine pointed at that one. "Neither do they!" he said with a laugh.

Okay, that one was sort of funny, Pressly thought. If that was all he was going to say…

"You know why Quarians wear encounter suits?" the bigot asked the other two marines.

"Why?" the first one asked.

"If you'd ever seen one without one, you wouldn't ask why!" he laughed uproariously.

Tali, who had just missed the "joke," told Pressly, "I was looking for you, Charles. Do you still want to see that movie?"

"Yes, absolutely," Pressly said. "Will you do me a favor, first, please?"

"Sure. What's up?" The twin lavender spots that seemed to indicate her eyes regarded him.

He handed her a handful of cash. "Would you please go get me another drink? I'd do it myself, but I need to talk to someone real quick. Get yourself something too, okay?"

"Sure," she said with a shrug. He could hear the smile in her voice. "I hope they have emergency induction ports on hand, though."

As she walked away, the bigot asked Pressly, "So you got your own Quarian, huh? How long did it take to train her?"

"Hey, I have a joke for you," Pressly said. "What did the fist say to the asshole?"

The marine blinked. "I don't know, what?"

"…and that was when I punched him in the face," Pressly told Shepard.

"And you ended up fighting all three of them," Shepard said.

"Yes, ma'am." Pressly shrugged. "I did okay until one hit me with a bottle. It didn't break, but it did crack me good." He rubbed the med-pad with careful fingers.

Shepard mulled the story over. At last she sighed and turned to a nearby C-Sec officer. "What's the situation here, office?" she asked the Turian. "If the LT being charged with anything?"

The Turian's mandibles flared. "You know," he said, "I think I misplaced his paperwork?"

Shephard grinned. "Well, that's going to make it a lot easier to misuse my Spectre authority and tell you to release him on his own cognizance," she said.

"I thought it might." The Turian used the remote on his belt to deactivate the field on Pressly's cell. He raised a hand in benediction. "Go forth and sin no more," he said. "Or at least, not somewhere we have to arrest you."

"Where are the marines?" Shepard asked.

"Their XO came in to see them," the officer said, "and requested we transfer them to permanent cells for the remainder of their two week shore leave." At Shepard's surprised look, he added, "They're assigned to the SSV Kilimanjaro."

Shepard grinned. "You don't say," she said. "I might have to extend my regards." She patted her red hair into place. "After all, the woman did birth me…"


Pressly looked up and gave Tali a weak smile. "Hey, Tali."

"Are you all right?" she asked. She took Pressly's hand. "You didn't need to get in a fight over me, Charles."

Shepard raised an eyebrow and glanced at the Turian, who grinned. "Charles," Shepard mouthed. She crossed her arms and regarded the two.

"It wasn't that," Pressly said, "that guy was just a jerk, he needed a fist in his face."

Tali touched the med-pad. "Does it hurt?" she asked.

He gave her a weak grin. "No, it's fine."

"I would have helped, you know."

"No reason to risk damaging your suit over those idiots. And pulling a gun would have escalated things."

"Three UNC marines," Tali said, "that's pretty escalated."

He made a derogatory noise. "Come on, we're Shepard's crew," he said, "we take down Reapers. Three marines is nothing."

Tali looked at Shepard. "May I take the lieutenant, Commander?"

"Oh, sure," Shepard said. She waved them off with a casual gesture. "You crazy kids go have fun. No getting in fights, this time."

As they left, she glanced at the C-Sec officer. He said, "Aw, it's so sweet. Kind of odd, though. Humans and Quarians."

Shepard shrugged. "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

"Don't know," he said, "I've never pricked a human."

She raised an eyebrow and her mouth curled in a slow and undeniably sultry smile. "Maybe you should give it a try, officer." She crossed her arms. "What time do you get off duty?"

He grinned. "Five minutes ago. Want to grab some drinks?"