A/N: Howdy. A quick look at the votes shows a rather overwhelming preference for Ashley and Wrex (okay, seriously, who doesn't love the big guy?). This is kinda surprising, considering how much Ashley bashing I've seen on the site, and the mountains of Kaidan lovers (I think he's mega cute too, and with that voice...).

Poll's up pretty much indefinitely, so vote if you haven't! Leave it as a review if you're on mobile. Visit chapter 18's author's note for the full results of the previous poll.

Just curious, does anyone here watch Grey's Anatomy? Season 10 just makes me want to say "ouch" all over. Shonda Rhimes really knows how to poke my emotions in all the right places.


I could see why Pearson had such violent objections to our VIP.

Because we were only five minutes in and I already wanted to run her over with a truck.

"More booze!" Aish Ashland yelled at the intercom. "I want you to bring the champagne over within three minutes, or I'll fire you!"

Half past ten in the morning and the woman was already wasted.

Dear Gods, Goddesses and spirits of the galaxy, help us.

"And you!" she screamed again, this time at Pearson. "Go get me more chips!"

My partner was just about ready to murder that horrifying woman - with good reason - but still...

"Cool it..." I whispered to her.

"I can't do that, Miss Ashland," Pearson replied, barely hiding her annoyance. "We have orders to keep you in our line of sight at all times."

"Orders? What orders? Screw them, you hear me? Screw them!"

Miss Wonderful Personality proceeded to smash her champagne flute on the carpeted floor, which didn't break. Angry that even stemware was against her, Aish Ashland stomped brutality on the poor glass, sending shards flying all over the maroon polyester.

My heart ached for Jonah Ashland.

"GET OUT!" she cried. "Out of my room! Now! NOW!"

Little did she know we were waiting for that one beautiful sentence, if we could even hear after all that shouting.

The four of us scrambled out of the suite at rat's pace.

"Spirits," Vakarian said once the doors were closed. "That woman is scary."

I pulled at my ears, trying to shake off the vague ringing. "She's the anti-Christ reborn! Jesus, that monster's louder than a flashbang."

Ashland's suite dominated the entire floor, but I'd bet 20 credits the other guests could hear her 5 floors down.

"What could you expect?" Sharkeen said. "She was raised by a single human father. Human men are undisciplined animals. You can't expect his daughter to be a decent person."

I decided not to take it personally, even though I did have a shitty father.

Pearson on the other hand, was too pissed for words. It was obvious she wanted to bite Ashland's head off.

There was a soft ding from the elevator and out came a tuxedo-clad, nervous room service staff push a cart loaded with caviar, some fancy cold platter, and of course - four bottles of champagne, all buried under a mountain of ice in their respective buckets.

"Room service," he said meekly.

I offered him a sympathetic smile, opened the doors and let him in.

Poor boy didn't know what he was getting into.

He was barely two steps into the suite before our ears were greeted with the shrill voice of darling Aish.

"Finally!" she yelled. "What did I say?! Three minutes! THREE MINUTES! You're 55 seconds late, you good-for-nothing, useless bum! I'm going to complain to your manager, you hear me? Get out! OUT!"

We all winced as the poor butler tripped over his own foot, falling on the floor face-first. He was trying to exit the room as fast as possible without running.

Vakarian and I pulled him off the carpet and dusted him off.

"You okay?" I asked, even though he clearly wasn't.

We were all going to need a session with the shrink after today.

The kid nodded frantically, then headed straight for the lift.

He never looked back.


Kara Sanders scrolled through the e-magazine.

Apparently, talks for a fourth Blasto movie was currently in the works.

Ugh.

The door to her private ward opened, and entered Jim, holding a small, white plastic carrier in his hands, with a familiar and very much welcomed logo emblazoned on it.

Her lips curled into a wide smile.

"I know you've been waiting for this," the big, buff marine teased as he dropped the bag on the table. "I queued up for one hour for the damn sandwich."

She glanced at the clock.

It was 2 pm.

Gonzo's was chockfull of customers at lunch time, every single day of the week.

Her brother had waited far longer than a measly one hour.

Kara took the cheeseburger out of its glorious paper box.

The spiced beef, grilled to medium-rare perfection, had lost its aroma. The once-melted slab of Swiss cheese had already hardened. She lifted the slightly soggy bun to find ketchup and pickles. Jim had forgotten to leave them out when he ordered.

The C-Sec officer took a huge chomp and said, "Theez iz gweat."

"What?"

She swallowed the burger, wincing slightly at the sourness of the ketchup and pickles. "I said, 'this is great'."

Jim smiled. "It better be. I didn't line up all that while to buy a shitty-tasting burger.

Kara munched on a cold onion ring. "Was the traffic jam bad?"

"It was okay."

He watched her munch on in silence, the quietness only interrupted by occasional bouts of chewing and the sucking of a straw. It wasn't long before the burger was gone, along with the accompanying sides of fries and onion rings.

"How are you feeling?" he asked as she finished the last of her passion fruit milkshake.

"Doctor says I'm ready to be discharged on the day after." She offered a reassuring smile. "It's going to be fine. I'm fine. Everything's fine."

"Kara, just quit your job. It's not safe."

"Hah, says the marine serving on some dead-end colony out in the Terminus Systems."

"It's not some dead-end colony," Jim argued. "It's a priority level III site. Do you know how much medical supplies Fehl Prime produces for the Alliance every year?"

"Exactly. You're in the Alliance, protecting civilians against pirates and whatnot. You're carrying guns and wearing armour 24/7. I'm only under fire when there's a crook on the loose. Do you really want me to go on?"

"I promised mum to take care of you."

"You can't take care of me if you die earlier, Jim. So if I'm resigning from my job, you're damn well doing it first."

And he wouldn't, Kara knew as much.

Jim's one and only ambition was to be a soldier, the best soldier in the Alliance.

Like Shepard.

The inspired marine was crushed when the galaxy learnt of the Commander's death last year.

Shepard was more than an idol to Jim.

She was his religion.

Kara wouldn't be surprised if her brother's moral compass consisted of simply "what would Shepard do?"

She decided to change the subject. "How's uncle Emilio?"

"Same old, same old. The man's planning to set up a cab company."

"Another one?"

"Yeah, he said he's getting old, wants to earn a little more before he retires."

"He'll never retire."

Emilio Vega was never one to sit at the beach and count seashells. Never was, never will be.

"Amen to that."


Vakarian and I sat alone at a table each in opposite corners of the room.

Icarus, the hotel's very own private nightclub, was almost bursting at the seams.

I had expected the club to be occupied at most a quarter of its maximum capacity, considering it was only lunch time. But no, countless martini glasses and champagne bottles littered the place, with the drunk and merry laying wasted on the floor or slumped against the cold steel walls, which had neon lights tracing across them.

The others were dancing to the very unpleasant techno junk blasting from some high-end sound system dedicated to bursting the eardrums of its users.

I wondered if the nightclub's name was a hint at its customers - drop dead drunk, just like the original Greek myth.

"This is officially the worst day of my C-Sec career," Vakarian grumbled into the comm.

"Tell me about it. I need a psychiatry test after this."

"Are most human women like that?" he asked.

"Nah. Women like these aren't human at all. They're satanic monsters out to destroy the whole of mankind. They suck the money out of you like Dracula unleashed at a blood bank and destroy everything you have like a female grizzly bear during mating season. Have you seen those things? They're scary."

"Seriously?"

"Now that I think about it, no. They're much, much worse. Combine a dozen garlic cloves, a wooden cross and ten cans of bear mace and they're not even scratched."

"You're just messing with me, aren't you..."

I gave a nonchalant shrug of my shoulders, even though he most probably couldn't see me from the other side of the club. "It's true, though. If you've seen some of the girls I came across while in college, you'll swear to never ever come into contact with them."

"Maybe we should've sent some of them to fight Sovereign last year," Vakarian said. "Could've saved us all the trouble."

"Preach it, brother."


Malen Sharkeen stared on as the petite human downed a fifth gelatin shot.

"Spirits, what is that girl's liver made off?"

"You don't want to know," Pearson added in. "Trust me on that..."

"Is this the best you've got?!" Aish Ashland yelled at the Asari bartender. "This stuff is weak! Show me what you got!"

Malen watched as the purple-skinned woman opened a can of banana-flavoured tupari, poured it into a jug, then added tank's worth of colourless alcohol, some sort of green liquid, and another generous splash of something blue. The bartender mixed in ice, stirred, and placed the monstrous cocktail in front of Ashland's face. Then she produced a datapad from under the bar and slid it to the almost-wasted human.

"There's Krogan ryncol inside. You'll have to sign a declaration to rid us of liability if you die."

"Wait, ryncol?" Malen asked in disbelief.

The Turian had witnessed the potency of the infamous cocktail first-hand, and it didn't end up well for the drinker.

"You'll set off radiological alarms!"

But she was too late. Ashland smirked, picked up the accompanying stylus and scribbled her name on the blank space.

"Oh, I'll show you!" the heiress laughed haughtily, unaware of the impending doom of both her and her digestive system. She was either going to choke to death or have her insides melt into goo.

Neither was a good thing, and both would result in Malen losing her job.

The human chugged the whole thing with zero hesitation as the Turian looked on helplessly.

Ashland set the now-empty jug down, her eyes wide open and slightly bloodshot.

Then she slumped against the bar, with all her life seemingly sucked out of her within a second.

Spirits.

"Hey!" Malen yelled at the human. "Are you dead?"

"Relax!" Pearson said. "She's not dead yet, even though I want her to be."

The other C-Sec had been so silent the whole time, the Turian had forgotten her presence.

"What do you mean she's not dead yet? Have you seen her drink whatever in spirits' name that was?"

"There's no ryncol in it," the Asari bartender chimed in. "Only an aquarium's worth of tequila, vodka and rum. She'll be fine after she wakes up, just make sure to have a bin beside her."

Malen looked on in confusion.

"I told her about lovely Aish here," Pearson explained, referring to the bartender.

"And I had just the thing," the Asari added, mixing up another batch of human cocktail. "So I thought, 'why not help you guys out'?"

Asari, always so sneaky...

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" the bartender asked.

Crap, had she said that out loud?

"Nothing, um, thanks..." The Turian answered, with the last word almost too much for her to say.

"Come on, let's go," Pearson said. "Let's get Princess here up to her room."

"I've got her." Malen picked up the motionless and for once, quiet human.

Pearson turned on her comm. "Hey, boys. I've got our VIP turned into Sleeping Beauty. "Scout the exits."

They were barely ten steps forward when she suddenly stopped in her tracks, midsentence.

"Oh my God, Carly," Malen heard her mutter. "What on Earth are you doing?"


A/N: School's started, so pray I'll have just enough free time to continue the updates.

The OC I promised was supposed to show up this chapter, but I'm way too tired to continue writing (it's almost 2 in the morning). I guess you guys will have to wait for 21. Sorry about that.

I know I might sound like a broken record, but I believe I speak for every writer out there that feedback and comments from readers play an extremely large role in motivating us to better ourselves and improve greatly with each following chapter. Not that we won't write if no one's saying anything, but the motivation provided by the reviews and constructive criticism is simply unimaginable and very, very deeply appreciated.