Jack's down on one knee, and there's a tiny black velvet box with a ring shimmering in the middle and suddenly everything about the past several weeks makes sense. Half the galaxy has been conspiring against her.

It went on over the course of at least two Citadel-standard months. There were tiny questions from a dozen different places, incidents so small that they were forgotten nearly before they ended and so randomly-timed that they formed no particular pattern in her mind. Jack clearly understood her well – had anyone seemed a little more invested in her answers, phrased their questions just a little differently…she might have connected the dots. As it was, she sailed through her days oblivious to what was coming together around her.

"Hey Miranda," Kasumi's voice came unexpectedly over the comm link, her usual smirk in place, "What's your ring size? I just liberated this beautiful little piece, but it's a bit big for me and even I don't know any jewelers good enough and discreet enough resize it. It's kinda…famous."

Miranda, amused, gave both her ring size and the extranet address for a volus metalworks she thought might suffice. She went back to work without another thought about it, more baffled that the thief would offer to share her loot than that she claimed not to know a good and quiet jeweler.

Shepard of all people was next, grilling her about possible places to take Liara on vacation, "After this is all over." Had the word honeymoon come up, she might have clued in, but she supposes – in retrospect – that Jack must have coached the commander thoroughly. As it was, she simply compiled a short list of largely uninhabited planets that might offer some respite from living through the destruction of half the galaxy, forwarded it, and went back to sifting data and Cerberus communications.

There were a dozen more incidents around then that came together only in hindsight, a testament to the kind of thorough planning she had never before attributed to her often-impulsive lover. She was accosted here and there by current colleagues with the Alliance, more former squadmates from the Normandy, some Cerberus defectors, and a few people she didn't even know, all asking her opinions on gemstones and flowers and the practicality of wearing jewelry with armor or into battle.

Oriana was the biggest offender, and looking back she should have been the most obvious, considering the scope of the mission. She'd have to keep an eye on the young woman in the future – Oriana was entirely too clever and talented at deception.

Since rescuing her younger 'twin' from their father and Sanctuary, they'd been spending quite a bit of time together, building a sibling bond nearly two decades late. After a few days, Miranda felt as though she was getting to know her friendly, open-hearted sister quite well…so it came as quite a surprise when the young woman popped in a mushy romance vid for them to watch together one evening.

It came as even more of a surprise the way Oriana sighed and gushed and fawned over it, demanding Miranda's input and opinion. The older woman had learned her lesson about being genuine with her sister, but even so she felt the boor, constantly being forced to lay out the many ways in which the story was inadequate.

This kicked off a lengthy and exhausting discussion about romance and romantic gestures that ended in the teenager demanding that her sister tell her what did make a good romantic gesture, if everything from the movie was too impractical or downright silly.

"I…I don't know," Miranda answered awkwardly, twisting one finger in a small nervous gesture. She was still terrified, at times, of saying the wrong thing and chasing away what remained of her family. "I've never really thought about it."

"Come on, Miri! You're dating that Jack person, right?" That one had come out in spectacular fashion, when Oriana had arrived early and been greeted by a stark-naked and unapologetic Jack, fresh from the shower. "Doesn't she ever do anything romantic for you?"

She didn't, not in the sense of big dramatic declarations and rarely even in the simple sense of those three little words, but she certainly found ways to make her feelings known. The older woman sighed, struggling to formulate an answer that was both truthful and defended her lover.

"It's not the same, Ori. People in real life don't do the kinds of crazy – and probably illegal, need I remind you – things that you see in vids. Jack shows me she loves me with the little things, the everyday gestures."

With a groan as if Miranda were torturing her, the younger woman turned sideways and flung her legs over her sister's lap, hogging the bowl of popcorn to herself.

"Yeah, that's fine and all," she groused around a crunching mouthful. "But don't you ever want some big crazy romantic thing? Like…like, say she proposed to you tomorrow. How would you want it to go?"

In retrospect, she should have seen where the whole thing was going…especially considering Jack's cagey behaviour around the same time. But it didn't seem especially out-of-character for a nineteen-year-old woman to be concerned with romance and Jack was always a little cagey to begin with, so she brushed it off. She could never deny Oriana's big, curious eyes anyway…they were so very like her own, but clear and confident and so full of life that it hurt sometimes.

And then it all came together into this. There's a lovely evening just behind them, spent in the company of those they know and love the best. They're alone in a quiet room now, her ever-gorgeous lover looking positively stunning in a custom-cut tuxedo, on one knee and looking up at her with determined eyes as she holds out the tiny black velvet box. Nestled in the blood-red center is the ring, titanium if she has to guess, gleaming brilliantly even in the low light. It – like everything else about this evening – is exactly how she imagined it: classic in nearly every aspect. The metal, which she mentioned to an inquisitive soldier perhaps three weeks ago, is the only non-traditional aspect; otherwise it may as well be a show piece from 20th century Earth. She reaches out to touch it with fingers that she realizes are trembling, stroking the princess-cut white diamond, a practical size somewhere between average and ostentatious, set in a thin metal band and flanked by smaller chips of coloured diamond, brown and blue.

"It's perfect," she breathes.

When Jack's eyes – God, she loves those eyes – crinkle at the corners, Miranda can't help an answering smile, so wide her cheeks almost hurt. Her eyes prickle and begin to overflow, and she claps her hands over her face weakly.

"I'm not going to cry," she says aloud, pressing her fingertips to her eyelids. "I'm not going to – oh damn it all, I'm going to cry." And she does, but not alone. Before the first drops make it down her cheeks, she's wrapped in the warm, spice-scented embrace of her longtime lover, barely managing to keep from burying her face in one bony shoulder.

"Don't. I'm going to get makeup on your tuxedo," she sniffles weakly.

"Who cares?" Jack is, as always, the voice of chaos in Miranda's life.

"I do," she smiles through her tears, pushing lightly at the firm chest under her hands. "Because if you're following the script I gave Oriana, all our friends are waiting outside and I'd rather the entire galaxy not know I cried when you proposed."

"Speaking of which," Jack purrs, taking the opportunity to press her lips softly to the neck and shoulder bared by Miranda's little angle-cut black dress, "I'm trying not to assume that was a yes, but…"

She can't help a quiet moan when those lips, well-practiced after all this time, find just the right spots to make her weak in the knees.

"Yes," she breathes, one hand slipping behind Jack's neck to hold her and her talented mouth closer. One tattooed hand slips down along her thigh, covered only by a thin layer of shimmering fabric.

"Yes what?" The voice against her neck is electric, and she trembles softly but doesn't answer. "Yes what, Miranda?"The way her name sounds on those full lips, drawn out one buzzing syllable at a time, is nearly enough to send her flying right then and there. They never quite graduated from the 'can't keep my hands off of her' stage of their relationship, to their mutual – and often very vocal – joy.

"Yes I'll marry you," she gasps out quickly, hands on Jack's shoulders for stability now, since her knees seem on the brink of a catastrophic systems failure. She's seriously considering the ramifications of having her way with her lover – her fiancée – right here on the floor.

But as a hand slides up under the shorter side of her dress, fingertips brushing the thin strap of her panties and setting the blood roaring in her ears, her practical side finally reasserts itself. With a pained cry of effort, she pushes Jack away a little. She regrets it immediately…but, she thinks, she regrets that less than she would have regretted letting it go on.

"You," Miranda breathes unsteadily, still holding the other woman at arm's length, "Are uncannily talented at short-circuiting my brain."

Jack's just grinning that Cheshire smile, all white teeth and laughing eyes, and Miranda knows she's been played one last time this evening. Clearly Jack hasn't changed too much, and the unprecedented level of planning is an anomaly…weirdly, she's glad for that. She wants her woman precisely as she is.

"Why did I just agree to marry you again?"

A laugh, then one tuxedo-clad arm slides around her waist and a brief, nearly chaste kiss is pressed to her lips. Jack touches their foreheads together, and as usual Miranda drowns in golden-brown eyes. She barely hears Jack's teasing response.

"Because you love me, duh!"

"I suppose I must, if I just agreed to this insanity. Now put that ring on my finger, you overgrown child, and let's go tell everyone."

Jack slaps her ass on the way out of the room, and all is right with the world.