AN: The title and rating are there for a reason. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Samantha Traynor rubbed her eyes and rolled her head from one side to the other, stretching out her neck. She'd been analyzing and integrating data for more hours than she'd prefer to count. Though she wanted to continue piecing together her findings, she didn't want to run the risk of making any devastating mistakes. She needed a break.
Due to the late hour, most of the ship's personnel slept soundly in their respective cabins. While the timbre of EDI's voice offered a soundtrack to which she could listen for days, Samantha's racing mind called for a stronger distraction to allow her to regroup. She accessed the ship's systems and scanned the decks. There was movement down in Engineering.
She patched her call through to Deck 4. "Tali, you're still awake?" she asked, making sure to keep her voice low.
"I often have trouble sleeping on this ship. It's too quiet," came the quarian's reply. "What about you, Traynor? I thought everyone would be asleep by now."
"I found some items that might be of note to help with the war effort." She rubbed her eyes again. "But I think the display is starting to burn a hole through my brain."
Samantha laughed. "My eyes might be tired, but my mind is still in that hyperactive state that accompanies such discoveries. I don't think I'll be falling asleep any time soon."
"I understand," Tali said. "I feel the same way when I'm exploring the mechanics of the ship."
The comm specialist raised her arms above her head and wiggled her fingers. "I need to get away from this machine. If you can't sleep either, why don't you meet me on the Port Observation deck?"
Samantha took the elevator down one level and tiptoed to the designated lounge. She plopped down on one of the leather sofas, wincing when the stiff cushions didn't offer her as much comfort as she would have liked. Tali entered mere moments later. "That must have been some very compelling data you were examining," she said, sitting on the opposite end of the couch.
"To me, absolutely. To others…." She smiled. "Everyone's on board this ship for a different reason, right?"
"Oh, yes. And what a ship it is." Tali's mask tilted towards the vast windows displaying an endless expanse of shimmering stars. "I did have a fondness for the original Normandy, but I must say, Cerberus did do an excellent job rebuilding it and adding some new features." She shook her head. "Cerberus…at least they're good for something."
"Rebuilding the ship, rebuilding the Commander." Samantha paused. "I think that's the end of the list."
"I'm surprised they let both go without a bigger fight."
"Oh, didn't you hear?" Samantha's smile spread into a cheeky grin. "They tried to regain control of EDI. She managed to fend off the attack."
"By launching an attack of her own. She overloaded them with seven zettabytes of…uh…naughty images."
Tali turned away from the window to look at her companion. "Seven…you're joking."
"I did not want them to re-enable the AI shackles." EDI's disembodied voice sounded from somewhere above them. "I elected to utilize a countermeasure that was both effective and offensive to some minds. The fact that they haven't launched a second attempt indicates a clear message was sent."
"Good job, EDI," Samantha said.
Though her face was hidden, Tali's amazement was barely concealed. "What did Shepard—"
"Shepard's got a lot more to worry about these days," the specialist cut her off. "It'll just be our little secret."
Tali's cloaked head resumed its side to side rotations. "Where does one even find seven zettabytes of that?"
"Life on board a ship can get cold and lonely, and fraternizing is often frowned upon," the human said. "This crew alone could probably produce six of the seven."
Samantha chuckled. "Oh, EDI?"
"Yes, Specialist Traynor?"
"Do me a favor? Run through the crew's personal allotted servers and let me know who's got the most pornography? I need to make a point."
The AI's answer came in less than three seconds. "Jeff's database is the largest and most varied, but he doesn't appear to have accessed it in the past several weeks. Next is Engineer Gabriella Daniels, and after that—"
"Thank you, EDI."
"This is all so strange to me," Tali said. "On the flotilla, we don't have the time or the space to watch those vids."
"Surely you could slip away for a few moments if you really wanted to."
"There's no such thing as privacy in such close quarters."
Samantha raised an eyebrow. "Are you telling me you've never watched any porn?"
"As I just said, when would I have had the opportunity to do so?"
"It's not like you've spent your entire life on the fleet."
"Every time I leave, there are always more pressing matters. Like pulling Shepard out of trouble yet again." She sighed. "And besides, I doubt there's a lot of quarian porn out there. It could kill us!"
"Minor details." The devilish grin remained splayed across Samantha's features. "If something exists, there is porn of it. I believe that's even an official rule back on Earth."
"I wouldn't know."
"Most of them are just funny, in my opinion." She reached over and grabbed a discarded datapad from the bar. "EDI?"
"Yes, Specialist Traynor?"
"Can you copy Joker's, er, database down here? I never thought I'd say this, but I'd like to look through his files."
While the listing transferred, Samantha activated the large screen on the wall across from their sofa. "Neither one of us is falling asleep any time soon. We might as well have some fun."
"Traynor! You're not serious!"
"First off, you can call me Samantha. Secondly, doesn't completing your pilgrimage make you a full-fledged adult now? I think it's time you graduated from 'Fleet and Flotilla'."
Tali crossed her arms over her chest, but offered no further argument.
"We'll start off light." Titles whizzed by as Samantha scrolled through the list on the datapad. She stopped at one that sounded promising and tapped the screen. "C-Sex Investigative Unit'," she read aloud. "While maintaining order in the darkest corners of the Citadel, an unlikely partnership of a human and an asari find comfort in each other's arms."
"That sounds terrible."
"It sounds campy and fun, and we're going to watch it."
The screen flashed to life. "Aria T'Loak Productions?" Samantha read off the credits.
"Somehow, I'm not surprised," Tali said. "I wonder if Liara knows about this."
"I'm sure she does. But Liara's got her vids and we've got ours."
The titular characters appeared, chasing down a shadowy figure. Tali's posture didn't change. "That's an impractical uniform for law enforcement," she said. "And she's holding the gun all wrong!"
"You're missing the point."
"Damn! He activated the Rapid Transit! He could be anywhere on the Citadel now!"
"It's okay. We'll find him, I promise."
"It's my sworn duty as a C-Sex Officer to uphold the law and protect the citizens' rights to be sexy!"
"Take it easy. Let's go back to headquarters and we can blow off some steam after filling out our reports."
The scene faded into a softly-lit setting, highlighted by the bright blue expanse of the naked asari's skin. "That's it?" Tali said. "But who was that man? What did he do? Why were they chasing him? If it was so important, how do they have time to have sex on top of that table?"
"People usually don't watch these for the plots, you know."
A few moments passed, the only sound in the room the moans and grunts emanating from the screen. "I don't get it," Tali finally said. "I saw basically the same thing any time I've gone with Shepard into bars and nightclubs."
"Fair enough. Let's see if we can find something more up your alley." Samantha resumed rifling through the electronic directory. "Oh…oh dear…" she managed to get out before dissolving into a fit of giggles.
"I shouldn't tell you."
"What is it?"
The human struggled to keep a straight face. "Apparently, you weren't the only person to be inspired by 'Fleet and Flotilla' growing up. There seems to be an adult version of your favorite love story, though they've rechristened it 'Beat and Blowtilla'."
"You're going to ruin my childhood, aren't you."
"It's another Aria T'Loak production, it's bound to be classy!" Samantha selected the file. "Who knew Joker was such a romantic?"
"According to my most recent calculations," EDI interjected, "Jeff has made fifteen comments to me over the past twenty-four hours that could be construed as—"
"Quiet, EDI, it's starting."
The original film's haunting piano score was replaced by a fast-paced electronic track. "Hey, baby. Tonight, I'm as free as the dust in the solar wind."
"With a body like that, we're gonna be spraying more than dust into the solar wind."
A noise of disapproval came from Tali's mask. "There had better not be anything stuck into the wrong port on her suit."
Samantha snickered. "I can't promise you that."
The skeptical grumbles continued. "Shalei's wearing nothing but her mask! That's ridiculous…and dangerous!"
"Maybe she took a lot of precautions," Samantha suggested.
"Well, she does appear to have slathered her antibacterial gel all over her body."
"I was wondering what was making her so shimmery and slippery."
The pair watched the scene progress. "Keelah!" Tali murmured.
"I've never seen that part of a turian before." Tali leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
"You keep watching. I'll get us some refreshments." Samantha stood up and edged around to the other side of the bar, taking care not to block the screen at any point. She opened two small bottles of turian brandy and stuck a straw into one of them. "See, I told you this would be fun," she said, returning to the couch.
"Mm-hmm." Tali accepted the drink, and one end of the straw disappeared into her mask's slot.
The specialist took a sip of her own beverage and reached for the datapad again. "Tell you what," she said. "Why don't I send a copy of this file to your account?"
"Yes!...I mean…it would be good to have for…ah…research purposes. Yes, research purposes."
EDI spoke again as Samantha went back to the electronic list. "Would you like me to inform Jeff that you are enjoying his personal files?" she inquired. "It may please him to learn that you share common interests."
"No!" they said in unison.
"In fact," Samantha continued, "I have a very important job for you, EDI."
"Yes, Specialist Traynor?"
"Since your body's up in the cockpit anyway, we'd appreciate it if you could keep him occupied so he doesn't notice we're accessing his stash."
"I'll do my best," said the AI.
"And no matter what, make sure he doesn't come down here," Tali added.
"Very well. Should he make any move to get up, I believe sitting on his lap will be an ample distraction."
"That was a joke."
"He may see things differently," Tali said.
Samantha turned her attention back to the datapad. "I think we should be adventurous and check out a different directory," she said. "This one seems pretty vanilla."
Tali tilted her head to the side. "I wasn't aware files and vids had flavors."
"It's an expression. It means something's not very exciting."
"I've never had anything with vanilla. It would be exciting to me."
"Right. Sorry about that." Samantha's index finger glided up and down over the screen. "Eek. I take back what I just said."
"Why? What did you find in there?"
"The description claims it's an Ardat-Yakshi snuff film. Either it's fake or it's illegal, and I don't want to find out which one." She tapped the highlighted text several times. "I'm deleting it just to be on the safe side."
Tali took another sip from her straw. "I hope it's not one of Joker's favorites, one that he'll be disappointed to learn is missing."
"If he is, I don't want to know. Ah, here we go." Samantha examined the screen. "It looks like this folder is nothing but elcor porn."
Bubbles swirled in the bottle of brandy as Tali coughed out her straw. "Elcor porn? How can you tell?"
"Because they all have titles like 'Lasciviously: Lonely Housewives Volume Five'."
"Oh, this I must see."
A sly smile crept across Samantha's lips. "Aha! I knew you'd see the entertainment value in these vids."
"I'm increasing my breadth of knowledge and learning more about the other species of the galaxy."
"Let's see what sort of trouble the lonely elcor housewives get into." With another flick of her finger, she activated the controls.
"COURTEOUSLY, WITH A HINT OF MISCHIEF: I HAVE COME TO FIX YOUR WHIRLPOOL."
"GENUINELY CONFUSED: I DO NOT HAVE A WHIRLPOOL IN THIS HOUSE."
"ROGUEISHLY: I KNOW."
The music grew louder. "I didn't think tool belts came in such a, er, wide circumference," Tali observed.
"Me neither," Samantha said. "I wonder if he's going to keep it on while they…yup, he is."
"WITH UNBRIDLED PASSION AND ENTHUSIASM: YES, RIGHT THERE, THAT IS THE SPOT."
"RHETORICALLY: WHO IS YOUR MALE PROGENITOR."
"See?" Tali said, gesturing towards the screen with her beverage. "This is all very educational. Before tonight, I didn't know how elcor mated, and now I don't have to find one to ask."
"Back on Earth, they used to call that 'doggy-style'. I think I might have to change my own personal lexicon to 'elcor-style' now."
"URGENTLY, IN ECSTASY: OH, GIVE ME MORE."
"IN A DOMINEERING MANNER: YOU WILL TAKE IT ALL AND ENJOY EVERY BIT."
Tali slurped up the rest of her brandy through her emergency induction port. "I think it's time for another."
"Another drink or another vid?" Samantha asked.
She retrieved two more bottles and an extra straw from the other side of the bar. "Okay, let's see what else is in here," she said, drinking from her own glass.
Half of the liquid in Tali's bottle disappeared with one sip. "Any other good turian ones?"
"It's not really organized by species, though your preference is duly noted."
"Tali, your suit is projecting uncharacteristic temperature readings," EDI said. "Do you feel ill? Would you like me to run a diagnostic test?"
"No, that's quite all right. I'm fine." The quarian finished off her second drink. A third soon appeared in her hand.
"Hmm," Samantha said, studying the datapad. "This one purports to be an inspirational tool, though I'm thinking the description might be a little tongue-in-cheek."
"I think these vids only inspire people to do one thing. Maybe two if there's another person in the room."
"Well, yes." She cleared her throat and read from the screen. "Genofuckage was made to remind the krogan that the return to glory depends on a strong grip on both battle tactics and breeding methods."
The straw fell out of Tali's slot. "I don't think this is the cure they're looking for."
"Can't fault them for trying. Though the next line of the synopsis suggests that the male-to-female ratio in this vid is rather… imbalanced."
"Oh." She returned the straw to her glass and swirled it around in the brandy. "I'm not sure if I want to watch this one."
"Me neither," Samantha said. "It sounds like there would be far too many testicles on the screen for my liking."
"I assumed even just one pair was too many for you."
"Moving right along…." Samantha switched to another folder and did a double take at the first file in the list. "Oh, that is just wrong."
"Worse than the krogan and their quads?"
Tali craned her neck in an effort to see the glowing text. "Now I'm curious."
Samantha angled the datapad in her lap. "You don't want to know, trust me."
"Yes, I do! Tell me!"
She arched one eyebrow. "It's a rachni orgy."
"Ick!" Tali yelped and jumped back, nearly spilling the remainder of her drink. "Why? Why would anyone want to market the mating rituals of those gross spider things?" She tapped her mask in a pensive gesture. "Though I'm sure it's perfectly synchronized."
"And they can provide their own soundtrack. Too bad nobody can hear it."
Tali giggled, but shook her head. "I still don't want to watch it," she said. "Find another funny one, like the elcor vid."
"I'll try. Meanwhile, you can get me another drink from the bar."
The quarian did as she was told. Samantha located a new set of videos. "Do you have any strong feelings one way or the other about hanar?"
Tali sat back down with her fourth glass of turian brandy. "After hearing you humans refer to them as 'overgrown jellyfish', I did some research on what a jellyfish actually is. It's not an inaccurate description."
"Since you didn't recoil in horror, we'll give this vid a try."
The large screen on the wall glowed bright pink. As the view panned out, it revealed a hanar splayed across a bed. "That's quite the set of handcuffs," Samantha remarked. "I guess if even one tentacle isn't bound to the headboard, it ruins the fun."
"I always wondered how C-Sec prevented their hanar detainees from slipping away. Now I know!"
"They'd have to be pretty tight to—now that's interesting."
"Why is that hanar wearing a black hood?" Tali asked. "It's not like it has a face or anything."
"I think it's supposed to enhance its dominant role," Samantha theorized. "That, and all the equipment it brought."
Tali studied the scene. "I recognize the whip and the feather," she said. Hints of the brandy's effects crept into her voice. "But I don't know what all those other tools are."
"I'm impressed by the variety. It's got a different toy for each tentacle."
"This one is going to impose exquisite pain with only the slightest hint of remorse."
"This one wishes to feel the sublime agony of the punishment inflicted."
A loud crack sounded, and Tali burst into peals of laughter. "Hee hee hee!" she giggled, her drink sloshing up against the sides of the glass. "It's so jiggly!"
"This one respectfully requests another strike, perhaps with a miniscule amount of added force."
Another sharp pop echoed throughout the room. "Just look at it!" Tali squealed. "I didn't know hanar could wiggle so much. And it's so shiny!"
Her laughter was infectious, and Samantha soon found herself doubled over with mirth as well. Tears rolled down her cheeks as they watched the overly cordial hanar writhe on the bed with each blow. The pleasant buzz from the alcohol mingled with their growing camaraderie, and she became very glad she hadn't tried to force herself to fall asleep after she closed out the data on her terminal.
Tali snorted through her mask as she gasped for air. Her words were starting to slur, but she managed to stay upright on the sofa. "Find another hanar one!" she demanded. "I want to see another jellyfish!"
"Okay! Let me look!"
Before Samantha could locate another file, the screen across from them flashed, seemingly of its own accord. "I manipulated some stock images for you," EDI announced. "Based on your reactions to the vid, I thought you might find amusement in seeing another improbable situation. I hope you like it."
Tali's body swayed slightly as she leaned towards the displayed photograph. "Is that…is that an asari wearing a hanar as a hat?"
"Yes," EDI said. "The winter months are very cold on Thessia, and as the asari are a hairless species, the invertebrate hanar can conform to their heads and provide appropriate insulation, as well as polite company."
Tali rocked back on the couch. "Rrrrreally?"
"…That was a joke."
The two women exploded in another fit of tipsy laughter. "You're getting better at that, EDI," Samantha said.
"Thank you, Specialist Traynor."
"Oh, just call me Samantha already!"
"…Thank you, Samantha."
Tali clutched the sides of her head with both hands. "I think I might have had one too many glasses of brandy."
"It happens to the best of us," Samantha assured her as she cycled through the list of files.
"One more vid and then I should really go to bed while I can still walk there."
"Sure thing." She tried to find something highly entertaining for the grand finale. "How about some role reversal where a hanar is a servant to a drell master?"
"The Dirty Domination of Lusty Tentacles it is," she said, selecting the file.
More wheezing cackles came from the intoxicated quarian. "That hanar looks sooooo sssssilly! What is it supposed to be wearing?" she asked.
Samantha scratched her chin. "I'm not sure, but I think it might be a French maid's uniform. It's a popular costume among humans."
"That I can't tell you. It's not really my thing."
"This one has spilled the drink again, Master…."
"Again? How many times have I told you to be careful, Lusty Tentacles!"
This time, Tali toppled over onto the floor with the force of her hilarity. "Lusty Tentacles!" she shrieked.
Samantha chortled right along with her. "Do you think that's its face name or its soul name?"
"I don't knooooow!"
"This one is filled with great shame at having disappointed you once more, Master."
"You know the rules, Lusty Tentacles…."
Samantha shook her head. "Seven zettabytes of porn and half of it appears to be spanking or otherwise punishing hanar."
"It's because they're jiggly! Look at how it jiggles and jiggles and then sparkles and jiggles some more…."
"I can't understand how anyone would find this titillating, but it is quite the comical sight!"
Tali folded her legs beneath her and peered up at the screen. "That drell's pants didn't stand a chance against Lusty Tentacle's lusty tentacles!"
"I think we're supposed to believe it's had a lot of practice. You know, because of the drell's rules," Samantha said. "It's part of her—oh!"
Iridescent light reflected in Tali's mask. "It's orange! Why is it orange? I thought it would be green like the rest of him, but it's bright orange! Orange!"
"I don't know how that is not common knowledge. Seems like a fun fact to know."
The subservient hanar blocked their view of the tangerine-colored protuberance. "And now it's goooooone," Tali said with a mournful sigh.
"It'll come back. And if not, we can always watch some more drell vids the next time neither of us can sleep."
"And hanar! Because they're jiggly!"
Samantha's sides hurt from laughing so hard. "And hanar, of course."
Tali climbed to her feet at the conclusion of the scene, steadying herself on the arm of the couch. "I wasn't tired before, but now I'm sleepy," she said, her words slow and deliberate.
"If you would like," EDI offered, "I can light the path back to your quarters so you don't get lost."
"That would be nice," Tali said. "But I think we should swing past the bathroom first."
"I'll leave you two to that," Samantha said from her place on the sofa. "Rest well. You never know what Shepard's going to drag you into tomorrow."
"You too." Tali moved towards the door, but stopped before opening it. "This was fun, Sssamantha" she said. "We should do it again sometime, but I think we should watch something else if the rest of the crew is still awake."
"Yes, I wouldn't want to explain our sudden affinity for tentacles to the rest of the team."
The quarian shook her head. "Nooo…."
Samantha grinned. "I'll let you pick the vids next time."
She was halfway into the hallway before the specialist called her back. "Tali?"
"…Thank you." Samantha chewed on her bottom lip before elaborating. "I still sometimes feel like the newcomer on this ship, where everyone knows each other so well and has all these amazing stories about what you've been through together. It might sound silly, but I hope to one day be a part of that."
"You already are," Tali said. "I often forget that you weren't with us when we went to Ilos, or the Collector base, and so on. Like it or not, for better or worse, you're one of us now."
"That means a lot to me." She waved her off with one hand. "Now go get some sleep before you pass out in the middle of the hallway."
The door closed. Samantha stretched her legs out in front of her as a loud yawn escaped her lips. Her own bed, as uncomfortable as it was, sounded like the ideal destination, but she wanted to clean up the empty bottles before retiring for the night. She smiled to herself as she tidied up the bar area, glad to have spent some downtime with one of her new friends even if their choice of activity had been unconventional.