"Hey, Commander, nice to see you down here in the dirt with the grunts." James was flashing his toothy grin again, the one that said a world of trouble was coming her way. It made Shepard happy in a way she couldn't define: since Kaiden had come back on board, everything had been awkward and painful, like she was walking on broken glass. That smile reminded her of playing a drinking game to Disney's Hercules and learning Spanish rat-arsed. The comment only mildly offended her, but she decided to play it up,
"You think I don't like getting dirty, James?" She raised a brow, giving him one of what he called her 'Loco Lola' looks,
"Whoa, whoa now," He bounced from on the spot lightly, as if getting ready to spar, "I didn't mean anything by it!"
"Uh-huh…And what did you mean by it." She stepped forward, crossing her arms over her chest, he leaned in and smiled, nodding to a table behind her,
"See those marines over there?" She nodded, smiling as one of the marines jumped up cheering madly as beer dripped from his face, "Not one of them an officer, just soldiers fighting the war, Y'know?" He managed to look up at her from under his brows, despite easily having a foot in height on her. "They've been buying me drinks all night, you know why?"
"Because you're such a looker?"
"Well yeah…but mainly for the same reason that they got all quiet and serious when you walked in." She bit her lip, looking away feeling as if the wind had been taken out of her,
"You don't see me that way, do you?" She immediately regretted the question, seeing the surprise at her vulnerability on his face, "I mean, you don't seem in the least intimidated by me." She smirked, "In fact, you could use a little more deference."
He let out a bark of laughter,
"Yeah, but I mean I've seen you fight, laugh, eat… hell I've even seen you puke. Don't get me wrong you're impressive as hell, Lola, probably one of the best."
"Probably?" Shepard questioned archly,
"And you fill out a uniform like nobodies business.." His voice dropped a little, his tongue darted out to wet his underlip. She shifted, hoping the dim lighting hid the blush, "But I know that your human, just like me."
"But not them?" Her brow creased, she was confused now,
"Nope…hell, I remember the day they made you the first human Spectre." He looked at her with that light in his eyes, the same on other soldiers, civvies had in their eyes, that deferential bullshit that made her want to tear out her hair. "I watched it on the vids like all of them, but to them…You're still larger than life."
"Christ, James, I've seen a lot but…I'm still a soldier, just like them." She dipped her head, rubbing her shoulders,
"Yeah, but they don't know that. They only know what they've been told…" He trailed off, as if thinking, "Look, you want to show them that you're just one of us, right?"
"Yeah." She smiled, "Yeah, I'd like that."
"Then buy 'em a round, Lola." He leaned on the bar, giving her an appraising look, as if waiting to see if she'd act as expected.
"You know what, James, I think I will." She nodded, laughing as a look of shock flitted across his features: quick, but it was there alright, "I like the way you think, Lieutenant."
He stood, cupping a hand to his mouth,
"Hey compadres!" The marines turned to look at them, "The commander would like to buy you all a drink," They wandered over to the duo, "So here's to us!" The older looking of the group saluted,
"Who's like us?" His strong features were set in a look of fierce pride, Shepard laughed,
"Damn few! And they're all dead." She snapped into a sharp salute before taking the mans hand,
"It's an honour to meet you, commander." He gripped her hand tightly, as if afraid she might run away,
"Please," She smiled, "Just call me Shepard, it what my crew do, don't put me on a pedestal. I'm just a soldier with the bad luck to be a spectre."
"Well that's true." A dark haired woman gave her a strange smile, hard around the eyes, but reluctantly soft at the mouth, "Cheers!"
"Cheers." Shepard downed the small glass they placed in front of her. When she looked back, the marines, including James, were all silent and wide-eyed, "Did I grow another head?"
"Uuuh, that was Batarian fire water, Lola, you aint supposed to shot it like that."
"Oh… Ok." They sat in silence for a while, "What're we waiting for?" There was a definite tipsy feeling creeping up,
"For you to hit the floor." The woman said with a slight smirk,
"Oh, is that all?" She laughed, tossing her head back, feeling unbelievably free, "Well let me know how that goes, think I'm going to try to dance."
"Try to, Lola?" James was giving her that look again, that deep, intense look that made her shiver,
"Oh, yeah, I'm a terrible dancer," She laughed, "But an enthusiastic one, so maybe I can be forgiven."
"Hell, I'd forgive you for anything." He winked, one of the younger marines looked scandalised,
"That's enough, James." Her voice was stern, but her mouth was trying to twist into a smile, "Anyway, I'm going to try to dance."
"I could teach you better moves, jefe." He was trying his luck now and maybe it was the fire water, but she was starting to like the flagrant disregard for protocol that he was showing,
"You're on, Lieutenant." With a fierce smile, she turned away and walked to the dance floor: either he would follow or he wouldn't. She hoped he would. In the distance she heard his voice,
"Later, Compadres." When she reached the middle of the floor, she felt a hand clamp on her arm, pulling her around to face him. "You mean what you said, Lola?"
"Yeah…I do." She was swaying slightly to the music now, "Well…" She stepped forward, chest brushing his,
"Well?" His voice had risen a little, his eyes were wide, gleaming in the flashing lights,
"Show me some of these moves you're always bragging about."
They started to move together, slowly at first, eventually relaxing into the rhythm of the music. Something in her snapped and she tilted back her head, letting out a laugh before she began to move in earnest,
"I see what you mean about the enthusiasm, Lola." He said lowly into her ear, chest brushing her back,
"You can say it, I'm terrible," She noted that his hands had dropped to her hips,
"Nah, You ain't all that bad, Lola." He used her hips as a means to spin her to face him, "You just need a good partner." Their lips were inches from each other now, he leaned down, "I was hoping you'd know that slogan, makes me twice as proud to know you." Proud. He was proud of her, of knowing her, she bit her lip,
"Thank you, James." She looked up at him, ready to ask him a question about his life, his history, his home, but before her lips could part, they were plastered to his. For a moment, the shock overwhelmed her, then her hand slowly slid up to cradle his head, the other resting on his chest. She pushed him away gently,
"Maybe this was a bad idea…"
"No! Diosa, Lola don't say that!" He looked hurt, angry, "You know as well as I do that there's something here." His hand tightened on her hips, she laced her fingers through his and pulled it away,
"Maybe…but I have too much- too many loose ends to consider right now."
"Alenko." He spat the word, not a question, a statement,
"Yes." She smiled ruefully, "I don't want to start something with you when I haven't sorted shit with him, plus you could be court marshalled…Fraternisation and all that." She moved away, looking at her feet, feeling the weight of her choice, "It wouldn't be fair to you." A calloused hand cupped her face, pulling her up to look at him,
"Why don't you let me decide what's fair to me, hm?" He leaned in to kiss her again, but she side-stepped,
"I have to sort shit with Kaiden first, James."
"Ok, but then." He leaned in, "We sort our own, huh?"
"Sure thing, LT." She leaned up to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Sure thing."
Thanks so much for reading! The next fic in the series is up : s/8932168/1/The-only-one-I-can-trust