"Most C-O's I've had are that craggy, earth-born earth-first type. I mean, I don't judge, but it gets boring when everyone who orders you around has the same beard, scars, and wrinkles." Jeff "Joker" Moreau exaggerated, as he always did, but to his Commander's amusement. She didn't seem to truly laugh, but it was possible to coax a quivering breath out of her that was satisfying enough. "Just imagine five Hackett knock-offs and you'll get the picture. So yes, it's nice to have something different."
"So, a woman is the solution to all your problems?"
"Didn't mean it that way, ma'am. You're younger, for one. Open minded. You've been on ships and stations as long I have, and you spend your spare time sitting here at the helm with me." Commander Shepard (he didn't presume to call her Allison) was indeed different in that respect. "-And hey, know I made a big deal about the bones-thing, but it's not that bad. I enjoy the company, mind you, but don't feel you have to."
"This is the only place on the Normandy you can see the stars, Joker." It was one of those quiet times the Normandy rarely enjoyed; rather than jump to a new system, they drifted in the orbit of a nameless planet. Systems were taken offline as the Tantalus discharged into the Gas Giant's magnetic field, and the crew allowed six hours to rest or relax. "I did just spend an hour groundside dodging gunfire ; it's nice to sit back and see space again."
"See, that's something else." Joker gestured across the star-filled panorama. "Most Navy officers gripe about how they can't wait to see dirt again. Is that just childhood nostalgia speaking?"
She regarded him sidelong, a brown eye framed by a risen brow, and the easily missed scar over her cheekbone.
"You made me talk about nicknames and flightschool, Ma'am. Fair's fair."
"Alright," And she shifted, leaning back again into the comfortless co-pilot chair. Allison Shepard sighed out, and opened up. "... It feels easier up here."
That was the moment it became difficult to think of her as just another Officer. Jeff closed his lips, turned his gaze, and listened.
"The first time I really hit dirt was the Macapá boot camp. After that, everything planetside was training excercises and combat drills. Of I course I was relieved when I made the NCO track and got onto a Ship. A Cruiser, the Cape Town, so mostly showing the flag to colonies, warding off pirates and batarians. We got to feel like we were making a difference; and that's all anyone in the service can ask for." Allison's gaze remained toward the stars, and she surrendered another breath to the quiet scene. "Then we're sent to Akuze." And I have never wanted to be off a planet so badly.
"... You don't have to talk about that, ma'am." An entire colony had gone dark. Fifty marines landed to survey and investigate what remained of the settlement. Forty-nine were killed when the Thresher Maws resurfaced. Subterranean worms that could crush heavy rovers; six of them. It's why 'Commander Shepard' was a recognized name in the Navy.
"I know everyone else does." The Commander turned, and forced a mirthless smile. "I'm alright, really. I can deal with going groundside. It's just ... easier up here."
Joker finally gave the stars his attention. "... It is." But all he could do was think about how brave a person would need to be. Lightless, soundless, the Normandy drifted in the shadow of the Hydrogen-Hellium body. Few things could have felt more peaceful; both pilot and Commander lounged in the helm, passing the remaining hour divulging the stories of how they came to their posts.