Shepard sat at her desk, pouring over the data that Hackett was constantly sending over for her to review. She had a few sat to the side that she wanted to discuss with him, but, otherwise, she had no problem with everything else that she had seen. She figured that she would call up Hackett once they arrived at the Citadel and the crew went on a small leave while supplies were restocked.

With a sigh, she reached over for her cup of tea, only to find that she had been sitting there long enough for it to be cold. Rolling her head, she took a deep breath and pushed away from the data pads, stood up, and stretched, letting out a small moan of relief.

"Joker," she said suddenly, activating the comm to the helm.

"I'm sorry, Commander, Jeff isn't here- but can I help you?" EDI informed her.

"What's our ETA to the Citadel?"

"We are still twelve hours out, Commander."

After a small beat, she asked, "Where is Joker?"

"He, Major Alenko, Lieutenant Vega, and Garrus are playing poker in the lounge."

"Who's winning?"

"It would appear that Lieutenant Vega is currently winning, the Garrus and the Major both vying for second."

"Thank you, EDI, that'll be all."

Feeling bored, Shepard decided to maybe join the boys in their little game.


"Are you even trying?" James chuckled, pulling in his latest winnings.

Joker frowned at the other man as he shuffled the deck- sure that James was cheating in some manner or another.

"Everyone up for another game?" James asked, neatly counting out his credits.

The other men all groaned, but nodded.

"Have room for another?" another, distinctly feminine voice asked from the doorway, causing all of the guys to jump a little. "And that explains why none of you are Special Forces," she chuckled, making her way to the table.

James gestured to one of the empty chairs. "Just because you're the Commander doesn't mean anyone will take it easy on you, Lola," he informed her.

With a perfectly blank expression, she nodded stoically as she sat between Joker and Kaidan. "Well, if it's anything like practicing hand-to-hand with you, I should have absolutely no problem."

Joker cackled as he began dealing the cards.

"Hey, you," she murmured, turning her attention to Kaidan, only to notice him watching her intently. She smiled at him, wandering why it took him a beat too long for him to answer in kind with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

"Get your work done?" he asked- a small edge in his voice.

Frowning, she leaned closer to him and asked, "Care to explain what's wrong?" so that only he could hear.

"Not really."

Brushing off his irritation, she sat back straight and picked up her cards and began to play.


In less than an hour, she had completely cleaned out all three men. Throwing down his cards, James gave her an exasperated look.

"I don't know how you do it, Commander, but you're a complete badass at everything you do," he informed her.

Joker snorted as he put the cards away. "You've never seen her dance, James, trust me- she sucks as that."

"Well, if I'm going to keep playing, there's only one way I can," James informed them.

"Oh yeah?" she asked.

James waggled his eyebrows. "All I got left right now to bet are my clothes. How 'bout it, Lola? You up for some strip poker?"

Shepard glanced over at Kaidan, only to see him grinding his teeth. "I think not, James," she chuckled. "Why don't you and James go- Kaidan and I'll clean up."

Joker winked at her as he left.

"Kaidan." When he didn't reply, she nodded. "What'd you want me to do? Should I not have played? You were getting your ass handed to you."

He rubbed the back of his neck and let out a loud sigh. "Do you really want to know what I want?" he demanded.

"I asked, didn't I?"

"I want you to shove your boot up the Lieutenants ass for being so improper towards his commanding officer- both in and out of her presence."

"He's harmless, Kaidan."

Kaidan glared at her. "You don't get it, Hope."

"What's there to get?"

He shook his head, picking up the used glasses. "It doesn't matter that he's harmless. If he keeps talking about you like that, I'll be obliged to punch him."

"Obliged, huh?" she asked, leaning her hip against the table- directly in front of the last glass that Kaidan was reaching for.

"It's a guy thing- you wouldn't get it."

Raising an eyebrow, she rolled her eyes. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him towards her. "You do realize that I do more manly things than most men do- right?"

Gripping her hips, he boosted her up onto the table, where she wrapped her legs around him to pull him closer to her. "But you'll never be a man- thank god."

She hummed into his neck as she pressed kisses there. "You have absolutely nothing to worry about, Kaidan," she informed him, running her leg up and down his. Trailing her mouth up to his ear, she murmured, "He'd have to become a pretty decent biotic before I could even consider taking him to bed with me," before taking his earlobe between her teeth.

He groaned, gripping her tighter to him. "You don't think I could take him?" he asked, trying to maintain some semblance of his senses.

"I don't think it'd be a fair fight if you did," she informed him, honestly. Before he could get angry at her words, she continued, "You'd kick his ass with your biotics before he could even know what was going on."

"Hope-"

"Aren't you tired of talking?" she asked, running her hands up underneath of his shirt.

"EDI, lock the doors to the lounge until further notice," he informed the AI, stripping Hope of her shirt and throwing it to the side.

"Of course, Major," the AI stated, locking the door.


"Do you know what I think?" Kaidan asked a few minutes after they had both caught their breaths, lying on the poker table.

"Hmm?"

"You just used sex to diffuse an argument."

Rolling so that she was chest to chest with him, Hope looked him straight into his eyes. "There was no reason for there to even be an argument. If I was still in my early to mid-twenties and I'd never met you, then I might have considered having a fling with James- nothing more. But I have met you and I'm not that young- don't worry about it."

"I-"

"Shepard, I have Admirals Shepard and…um…Shepard available in the comm room," Joker informed her.

"They say what they want?"

"To talk to you." There was a pause. "However, I informed them you were busy with a certain Alliance Major on the poker table and would have to wait until you were done."

Shepard shot to her feet and began hastily gathering her clothes. "Joker, if you did, I swear that threat I made after that mission for Jacob will be a promise."

"Keep your hair on, Commander, it was a joke. I told them you were in an important meeting. They said they'd wait until you were finished."

"I'm on my way," she informed him, unlocking the door and rushing to the elevator.

"You're lucky she likes you, Joker," Kaidan informed him as he got dressed.

"I know," Joker chuckled.


Shepard ran her hands through her hair before she activated the holo to greet her parents. She had never gotten a call from both of them at once and it made her kind of nervous. Taking a deep breath, she opened the comms.

"Hey, mom, dad," she greeted them with an easy smile. "I have to tell you, I'm surprised."

Nathaniel eyed his daughter carefully. "Well, Steven told us that you were heading for the Citadel."

Furrowing her eyebrows, she nodded slowly. "Yeah," she drew out, wondering where he was going with it. She had gone to the Citadel a lot and it wasn't like her parents had made a big deal out of it before.

"Your father and I have decided that it's high time for us to meet your Major," her mom informed her matter-of-factly.

Shepard felt her jaw drop as she looked at her mother and father, shocked. After a few moments, she managed to say, "He's not really my Major."

Her father raised an eyebrow in a way that reminded Hope where she had picked up the trait. "You know what your mother meant, Hope. The four of us will go somewhere nice to eat and talk."

"Dad-"

"No. Reservations are already made. We'll send the information to your omni-tool," he cut her off.

"Mom-"

"You heard your father, Hope. You might want to inform Major Alenko and find something nice to wear."

"We'll see you at 1800 hours tomorrow," Nathaniel said, looking down at his omni-tool. "Until then. Love you, Hope."

"Love you too, Dad," she murmured, completely dumb-founded.

"I've got to go too, sweetie," Hannah said, glancing behind her. "See you tomorrow. Love you."

"Love you too, Mom."

When they both shut their comms down, Hope made her way to the CIC, feeling completely ambushed and dumb-founded by her parents. Since she wasn't paying attention, she ran straight into Kaidan's back.

Turning around, he gripped her shoulders. "What happened?" he demanded, taking in her expression.

"We're going to dinner with my parents tomorrow," she murmured, looking up at him with wide eyes. "We're supposed to wear something nice."

"Wait- what?"

"Mom and Dad informed me that it was time to meet you and took it upon themselves to make reservations for 1800 tomorrow."

Kaidan guided her to the elevator. "Argue with galactic councilors or synthetic machines bent on killing all of us and you're completely fine. Get ambushed by your parents and you have no idea how to react."

She smacked him lightly in the chest. "Where do you think I got it from?"

"That's frightening."

"And you get to meet them tomorrow."

"That's even worse."