Jack is happy.
She isn't sure when exactly that happened. Maybe when she was back at Grissom Academy figuring out her life, spending time with the kids and actually having a purpose for once. Or maybe it happened when she moved to the Citadel where oddly, unexpectedly, she began to make friends; people she spent time with on Weekends, people who texted her about funny little irrelevancies just because.
She isn't an entirely different person, mind you; she still finds reasons to beat people up and cuss people out, and she does either with enthusiasm. But she certainly isn't as extreme as she once was, or as sad. Her life is a manageable balance of lessons and assignments, with more than enough in between to socialize.
It is a bizarre kind of normalcy, and Jack doesn't know how she arrived at it. One day she actually shocks herself with the realization that she is in her living room wearing a bathrobe and doing taxes.
She can't help but laugh at that (cackle, really), startling her roommate.
Jack is happy, and more "normal" than she has ever felt in her life. She isn't exactly "fixed" though. She still has nightmares, and those will never go away. She is still violent and curses way too much, and that probably will never go away either. But who isn't just a little strange in their own way?
Jack is just about happy, and just about normal, and like everyone in that situation, she is hesitantly holding open the door for more.
"What about him?"
Jack follows Traynor's gaze to a man leaning at the end of the bar. He's unshaven, though in that tasteful "I'm rich and can afford not to care" sort of way. His suit looks like it cost more than most people's houses.
Jack cracks up, "Okay, honestly, if he were a woman would you be unto that?"
Traynor cocks her head to the side, pensive, "I don't know. I do like a lady in a suit. And if she's rich enough to take care of me, that's not too bad either"
Jack shakes her head, "Well screw that. Probably gets controlling after the third date. No fucking thank you"
"What about that one?"
Jack turns ever so subtly to see a grizzled marine-type, sitting alone at a table at the back of the room. He is contemplating a glass of scotch, before he downs the whole thing, bringing it back onto the table with a delicacy at odds with the muscular swell of his biceps.
"I don't know. He seems good, but he's too…I don't know, broody?"
"Are you seriously finding fault in the fact that he's too broody? You're like the broodiest person I know"
Jack gives her friend a look of deadpan annoyance, "Har, har. Can we not play this game anymore?"
Traynor laughs, "Oh come on! I was having fun! Let's switch up. For women now"
Her enthusiasm is infectious, and Jack finds herself grinning even as she rolls her eyes. "I don't think we would have the same taste in women, Sam"
"Well empathize. You should know me well enough by now"
Jack scans the barroom. "Okay, that one," she nudges her head towards a pretty young woman wearing something that might have doubled as a series of very expensive napkins.
"Ugh, if I were still in high school I would be utterly besotted. All I see now is a teen pregnancy waiting to happen, and a chain of unfortunate decisions that leads to Omega. The only way a girl like that would want to kiss another woman would be to impress a man"
"Jaded much? She might be cool"
"That is a very tenuous "Might." Next." Traynor finishes her drink.
"Maybe you should slow down with those. That's like your third one"
"No, no! I'm fine. Come on, I'm having fun. Next"
"Okay, shit," Jack laughs, unused to seeing Traynor so loose. She purses her lips, scanning the room. "Hey, what about her? She's pretty cute"
The woman in question is a bespectacled beauty with long black hair. A tad thin, but certainly not unhealthily so. She is wearing a long dress with a slit run up either leg. A jacket is thrown over her shoulders that clashes with the style, but she is too attractive for such a thing to matter.
"You're only pointing her out because she has glasses aren't you?"
"What? Are you saying you wouldn't be into her?"
"No. But look. She's with someone"
Indeed. The woman perks up at the sight of an Asari with a drink in each hand. They share a kiss before the Asari takes the seat next to her, jumping a little when the human's arm snakes around her waist. They smile at each other fondly.
"Aww, they're adorable!"
"I think I'm going to puke"
Traynor raises an eyebrow. "What? You don't want that for yourself someday?"
"How long have you known me? I'm terrible at relationships, so it's a moot point"
Traynor's eye glints dangerously, "Aha! But you didn't answer the question. Do you want that kind of happiness or not?"
Does she? Jack isn't sure. It's not one of those things she allows herself to consider lightly. She might have changed, but that doesn't mean she isn't still the same volatile, insecure and fragile person that Shepard fished out of Purgatory.
Traynor leans in expectantly. Desperate to change the subject, Jack leans to the side, points randomly into the crowd, and blurts, "What about her?"
Her nervousness betrays her obvious attempt at misdirection, but Traynor seems to buy it and is unable to resist turning to see who Jack is pointing at.
"Ooh" she says, perking up, "she's gorgeous"
"Huh?" She follows Traynor's eyes to the butt of a very shapely woman who looks like she might have leapt from the pages of every straight man's fantasy. Jack's gaze lingers in appreciative reverie until the woman turns around, at which point her world screeches to a halt and her veins run cold. "Fuck," she mutters, scooting her chair so that Traynor is hiding her.
"What? What is it?"
"You think she's with someone?"
Jack rolls her eyes, "Forget her, maybe we should get going now"
"What? Come on Jack, be serious. Do you think she's single?"
"Ugh. Probably not"
"You think so? Should I go talk to her?"
Traynor downs a shot. She slams the little glass down and nods. "Okay," she breathes, "I'm going in"
"Sam, you're drunk!" but Traynor is already strutting her way to Miranda's side, working her legs to full effect in that little black dress. People stare after her. Jack would stare after her too if she weren't so afraid of jeopardizing their friendship.
Finally makes her way to the woman's side, saying something that makes her turn around, smiling in a way that shows she's interested. Over the noise of the bar Jack can't quite make out what they're talking about, though Traynor wastes no time in pulling out all the time seductive stops. The woman is soon laughing at some joke, giving Traynor her full attention. Jack isn't sure if Traynor has unusually good game tonight or what, but before too long someone is casually touching someone else's arm, sliding fingers over bare skin a little too slowly to be innocent. Traynor sends Jack a brief, disbelieving smile that says "holy shit I can't believe this is working"
The woman sees Traynor doing this, and it is with a dawning sense of dread that Jack sees her eyes slowly trace over the vicinity of Jack's table. It is a brief look, and fortunately it seems not enough for recognition to set in. Jack sighs in relief as the woman's attention is once again turned to the flirtatious young woman in front of her. Go Traynor, she guesses.
There must have been some primal recognition at work deep in the woman's brain, because suddenly she seems distant, pensive. She looks back in Jack's direction as if just to make sure of something.
And Jack and Miranda's eyes meet.
They hold each other's stare, long enough that looking away and pretending one didn't see the other is impossible. Traynor is left looking between the two, confused, head swiveling back and forth, putting one and two together.
She grins, taking Miranda's hand and starting the short walk back to Jack's table.
"Christ Sam," mutters Jack, making pointless little motions to make herself scarce, succeeding only in simulating a series of small conniption fits until the two women finally arrive at the table.
Traynor is all enthusiasm, the kind born of the universal desire to screw with your friends, "Miranda, let me introduce you to-"
"Oh, so you do know each other. I thought so"
Jack glares at her friend.
"Yes," says Miranda, "we used to work together"
"You have to tell me everything about her! She tells me absolutely nothing about the past"
Jack shifts her glare to Miranda, unsuccessfully willing her thoughts to collide into the other woman's brain. "Don't tell her shit," the thought says, repeated over and over in Jack's mind as her eyes bore into Miranda's sole, who meets the intensity with a playful gaze of her own.
"Actually," says Miranda, a sardonic smile gracing her features, "the last time Jack and I really spoke, she promised that she would kill me"
The statement succeeds in sapping Traynor of most of her enthusiasm, granting her a brief moment of sobriety. "Oh. Well. This isn't awkward at all." She takes a small sip of her drink, then thinks better of it, and keeps on sipping until the glass is empty. "Why, exactly," she slurs, "did you say you would kill her?"
"Sam, just so you know, you are being the worst friend right now"
"Well I'm drunk. I don't know if you noticed earlier. There is no way I would be able to hit on this," she gestures to all of Miranda, "sober. Less be honest. Way out of my league"
"Okaaay big girl, you are officially cut-off." Jack grabs Traynor's drink, which has mysteriously re-filled itself.
"Probably a good idea. I just used up every cool bone in my body chatting up this one"
"I'm suddenly feeling very objectified over here"
"Then you shouldn't have worn that dress," says Traynor, leaning her elbow against the table and resting her cheek flirtatiously on her hand, "you look fan-tas-tic"
"Aw, thank you"
Traynor's elbow immediately slips off the table and Jack has to catch her before she falls.
"We should probably get going," says Jack, grabbing Traynor's coat with the hand not supporting Traynor herself. "Stupid taxi better be outside"
"I can drive you if you want," offers Miranda. Jack hesitates. An uncertain cab or a ride home from her former arch-enemy?
Ten minutes later she's in the front seat of Miranda's ridiculously expensive sports car with Traynor laid out in the back, already half-asleep. The last drink must have hit her hard. Jack spends the ride looking doggedly out the window, trying her hardest not to see Miranda in the reflection contentedly maneuvering the congested Citadel airways.
Every now and then Miranda looks at Jack looking at her in the reflection of the window, and Jack grimaces and looks away.
Finally they arrive at one of the nicer neighborhoods of Tayseri Ward, pulling into a lofty garage directly annexed to an apartment.
Miranda follows Jack as she carries Traynor (snoring and giggling) into the apartment.
"Are you two…?"
"None of your business," says Jack, negotiating Traynor through the darkness of the apartment with some difficulty until Miranda switches on the lights. She grunts as a thank you. "We're roommates"
"Sam and I, we're roommates. Pay attention, fuck"
Arriving at the bedroom, she lays Traynor delicately onto the bed. Jack leans back assessing her work, then curses and undergoes the necessary task of taking off Traynor's dress while averting her eyes. It was pretty obvious that she wasn't wearing a bra. Jack allows herself a moment of self-derisive laughter as she realizes the absurdity that is her tucking in anybody. She finishes off the job by elevating Traynor's head on a folded pillow.
When she's finished, Miranda helpfully puts a bucket next to the bed, saying "just in case" when Jack gives her a sarcastic hooding of the eyes. The two of them look down at the sleeping Samantha Traynor.
"I never thought I would see you like this"
"Warm, caring. Hell you even have a roommate that you don't seem to have killed yet"
Jack scoffs. "Are you trying to piss me off?"
"Not at all," says Miranda, sounding contrite but pointedly not apologizing either, "It's a pleasant surprise really"
"Well excuuuuse me for not killing you earlier, princess." Jack stalks back into the main room, opening the fridge and fishing out a beer. Closing it with a crash, she jumps onto the long couch, slumping into the cushions.
Not having been asked to leave, Miranda shrugs and follows, primly taking a seat on a weather-beaten leather sofa and shrieking when she sinks half a foot into its depth. Jack laughs at Miranda's flailing, wiping specks of beer from her lips as they come out with each chortle.
"Oh grow up"
"What? It's funny." Upon catching her breath she smiles, her innate exasperation with Miranda toning down a bit. "You sticking around?"
"Yes, I suppose it wouldn't hurt for us to catch up"
"Whatever," says Jack, "want something to drink?"
"Sure. Do you have a-"
"Yeah whatever it is, get it yourself. Sam probably has something you'd like"
If the rudeness bothers her Miranda makes no indication. She struggles out of the sofa, making her way to the fridge and perusing for a while before spotting a bottle of sherry in one of the cabinets: definitely not Jack's. "You have a very nice apartment," she says, pouring the alcohol into a glass.
"You think I did this? Interior decoration isn't exactly my thing, cheerleader. This is all Sam"
"Well in any case it's nice"
"Thanks, I guess"
Miranda takes a seat on the couch, just a ways from Jack. She smooths out some creases in her dress. "So…how've you been Jack?"
Jack laughs, a low cathartic rumble tempered with alcohol. "Okay, you are officially ridiculous. Why are you being nice?"
"I can't be nice?"
"Not to me. It's freaking me out"
"So, you would be more comfortable if I insulted you? Now who's being ridiculous?"
Jack has nothing to say to that, supposing she ought to take it as a joke, but unable to laugh. She does smile though, shakes her head, and sips her beer. Miranda smiles in turn at the grudging silence: as much admittance as Jack is likely to give.
"Come on, talk to me," says Miranda, leaning back, feeling rather like a tiger trying to coax enthusiasm from a bear, "We can catch up"
"Ugh," Jack averts her eyes, "this is so weird"
The reticence is strangely endearing. Miranda make's herself comfortable.
"I don't know what happened in the last few years, but you've become kind of cute you know that?"