Authors Note: Archer83: Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas everybody! Consider this chapter an extra little gift from me and Vergil this year. : )

Chapter 2: A Little Old Fashioned Hospitality

Minuteman Station, Horse Head Nebula.

Exact location unknown.

"It seems that one of our biological R and D cells has gone dark Ms. Hackett." Kara tried to retain her composure as a pair of ever cunning, strangely bright blue eyes analysed her for any sign of weakness or doubt. "You'll forgive me for wondering if your recent archaeological mission for the Alliance, back on the cradle of humanity, is somehow involved."

Her stomach twisted as she carefully thought over her response. It has to be Warren. What did that sadistic bitch get me into this time? "I don't see how sir. If you're referring to the transfer of materials we made in system before hitting the Charon Relay-"

"I don't recall authorizing any such transfer. And lest I am mistaken..." The confident smirk that pulled at the holographic figure's lips didn't alter his unsettling gaze. "...your primary goal had nothing to do with the frozen specimen you handed over to that particular cell."

"I apologize sir. Doctor Warren insisted on taking custody of the... subject. Since his discovery was a rather large unexpected boon for this organization, I didn't think-" Those dangerous blue eyes effectively silenced her as they narrowed in frustrated disappointment.

"No, I don't think you put much thought at all into your amazing discovery Ms. Hackett. Rest assured, if I didn't already have it on good authority from Ms. Lawson that Warren and her crew are dead..." A rare flicker of anger appeared in the powerful man's usually calm face. "This troubling incident saves me the time of making sure the good doctor's lack of patience and proper forethought, and that of her crew, was appropriately punished."

Kara could barely stop herself from shaking as the holographic image's glare intensified. "Sir. It won't happen again. Both the alloy discovered by myself, and the device Epsilon Squad managed to recover are already being studied as we speak. The findings so far suggest that-" The mildly annoyed swipe of a hand wielding a still smoking cigarette caused her to pause instantly.

"You're under a false assumption my dear, I have no ill will towards you for dangerous ambition of others. Your work will no doubt help ensure Cerberus' and humanity's rightful place in the galaxy." Despite the far kinder tone, those stern blue eyes narrowed once again a moment later. "Just see that you don't let your own ambition be the death of you Kara. You're one of our finest researchers and analysts. I'd hate to see anything terrible befall you." The man took a long drag off his cigarette before the hint of a grin appeared. "Overall, good work Ms. Hackett. Be sure to keep me posted on your progress."

The moment the holographic image disappeared, Kara couldn't help but curse the man that had so easily unnerved her. Kai Leng just shook his head, a cold grin plastered on his face. "He might not be the easiest man to work for, but he does have a number of aces in his deck."

"You admire him only because you both have a xenophobic view of the galaxy." A smirk crossed Kara's lips as she walked back over to metallurgical scanner in her well equipped lab. "Odd how you both share a taste for asari, men are so boringly predictable that way."

Leng frowned slightly before following the woman. Funny how she doesn't show off her smug attitude around the Man. For an arrogant little bitch, at least she's intelligent enough not to cross him. "I prefer my own species, but even I'll admit to having a weakness for calamari. But don't mistake normal curiosity for a deficiency. I could have just as easily killed you, at the minor risk of irritating the Man, as I could any supposed super soldier from a bygone age."

Kara scoffed at this, wondering how confident Leng could possibly be if he constantly felt the need to prove himself. "I guess you should have stabbed him when you had the chance. I'm fairly sure you could have beaten an unconscious man frozen in ice."

In a space of a few breaths, Leng had closed the distance between Kara's desk and himself before his unsheathed blade stopped just shy of her neck. "Insult me again, and I'll cut out your tongue. I'm fairly sure you won't need it to continue your research."

To her credit, Kara didn't back away, and even met the assassin's cold glare with one of defiance. Few people had ever stared him in the face without trembling in fear, but she wasn't most people. "Awfully confident threatening an unarmed woman aren't you?" Her right hand shifted closer to the object currently under the main scanning device in her lab. Kara's fingers grasped its edge as Leng pressed himself closer to her.

"Just because you're the Man's new pet doesn't mean I can't have a little fun with you myself." If Leng noticed the building anger in Kara's voice, he didn't take it as seriously as he should have.

"Like those operatives you 'train' to be your personal hit squad? Trust me, I know all about the enhancements and operations...they're barely human anymore. Not after you finish with them." A resounding CLANG echoed off the lab walls as the artifact she had recovered smashed forcefully into the twisted operative's face. Leng could only glare at her from the floor, enraged, as he shoved his dislocated jaw back into place, his short katana held an inch from his own throat as Kara grinned down at him.

"Few people have ever gotten so lucky Kara, but you should have finished the job when you had the chance." He wasn't the best assassin Cerberus had for nothing. Leng instantly bolted to his feet, twisted out from under his own blade, and slammed his forehead back into the woman's face, forcing her to stumble backwards from the stunning blow. Snatching the hilt free of her wrist, Leng's free hand clamped down around the admiral daughter's throat as he bent her over her own desk. "Now, where were we?"

Her knee swiftly rose up, connecting with his groin. Shaking the stars off from her constricted windpipe, Kara didn't wait for Leng to recover from the shock to his system as she tackled him to the ground before returning the favor with a headbutt of her own. A satisfying scream of pain burst from Leng as Kara grabbed the pistol off his belt, pressed it to his right shoulder, and fired. The pistol was quickly pressed against his other shoulder. "So, are we done with the foreplay now?" A predatory grin on her lips, Kara straddled the wounded man and crushed her lips against his.

"For today, we are." Having gotten the message, Kai Leng wisely let the matter drop as he slipped out from under the woman that had bested him, only because he had allowed it. The kiss wasn't reciprocated in the least as he snatched his pistol away before going for the door, leaving a trail of blood behind him. If anyone asked how he had gotten wounded, he'd kill them on the spot.

Kara sighed in relief, glad she had shaken the assassin, but she knew her deal with the devil was far from over. She still had a lot of work to do, and having made an enemy of Leng would likely end up biting her in the ass later. Staring at the shield she had dropped in the scuffle, Kara picked it up and looked its polished facade over. "I wonder what you would have done Captain Rogers. Would you have simply snapped his neck, or merely crippled him for life? I doubt you'll live long enough for me to ask you in person. Oh well, at least I'll put your famous little toy to better use than you ever did."

October 1st, 2185

Starboard Observation Lounge, SR-2 Normandy

Enroute to the Citadel.

Magnificent desolation... Staring out the starboard observation window, Steve Rogers could only wonder how he had gotten out here. It didn't make sense to him, not in the least, yet here he was. On a spaceship, an actual spaceship, hurtling through the blackness of space. With the immediate threat to his current survival over, as well as that of more than a few innocent bystanders', it gave his adrenaline fueled mindset time to dissipate.

"You look ready to pass out Mr. Rogers." Steve about jumped out of his pants when someone tapped him playfully on the shoulder. Turning to see a grinning hooded woman in a black outfit, the very overwhelmed soldier managed to recompose himself quick enough.

Steve managed not to blush for once as the woman blatantly looked him up and down with a sly grin on her face. Huh, I could swear I didn't hear that weird door open. How the heck did she get in here without me noticing? "Um, I'm fine, Miss..."

"It's a pleasure to meet such an...antique like yourself Captain Rogers. The name's Kasumi Goto, master thief, Normandy infiltration specialist, and one hell of a good listener to boot." Even with her face partially obscured, Steve got the impression the Japanese woman's eyes were alight with a mixture of amusement and compassion for his very unique situation.

"Am I really that transparent Ms. Goto?" He finally replied, crossing his arms as he leaned against the railing behind him.

Kasumi's reply was immediate and her tone was just as playful as before. "Like a fine painting on display, but don't worry, I'd steal you for free."

"Uh..." Oh boy. Is she flirting with me? Weird how that happens all the time now. I'd thank the good doctor, but I'm still not sure if it's a blessing or a curse. Thankfully, someone else spoke up while Steve was still struggling with how to politely decline the woman's less than subtle advances.

"Ms. Goto is rather straightforward, some might say too much." Steve flinched at the unknown voice as his eyes darted around the empty room for a moment. "I see I have startled you Captain Rogers, please accept my sincere apology. My name is EDI, I am an artificial intelligence installed within this ship. Welcome aboard the Normandy. Is there anything you require?"

"For someone to start making sense?" He muttered under his breath, but aloud Steve asked something more specific. "Well, for starters, what year is it? Something tells me this isn't 1944"

"The current date is October 1st, 2185, and I assure you, I will answer any future questions you may have in a logical manner." Steve could swear he heard slight irritation in EDI's voice and his mind immediately filled with pulp sci-fi stories about the less than nice aliens and robots those characters usually ran into.

Before EDI could go into a full blown explanation of the past two centuries, Irene and Hackett entered the observation area, saving Steve from well intended potential information overload. "Thank you EDI, but I'll take it from here. Kasumi. Out."

"Hey Shepard, I see your manners are wonderful as ever." With a polite bow, Kasumi disappeared from sight, but neither officer had a doubt she was still in the room since the door hadn't opened again.

The blue shimmer that surrounded the petite woman before she vanished was not something Steve had been expecting, to say the least. "Whoa! Did she just disappear?!" As if things weren't weird enough.

"Yup. Don't mind little 'ol me. I like to watch." Kasumi tried not to laugh at the mortified expression on Shepard's face as Hackett frowned at her and the room in general. The thief's eyes gleamed as she bit her lip, noticing a slight shiver from the Normandy's newest passenger.

That didn't sound creepy at all. Stepping a little closer, Shepard made sure Steve's attention was on her before talking further. "It's just a tactical cloak, kind of like advanced camouflage netting. That's not important at the moment though, Captain."

The near comical way Steve tried to keep his eyes from darting around the room would have made her laugh if not for his current situation. "Kinda creeps me out having an invisible fly on the wall spying on us, but it's your ship ma'am."

With an exasperated sigh, Shepard waved the door open with her omni-tool, Steve staring intently at it the whole time, as she pointed to the exit. "Kasumi. Out. Please."

"Ah darn, I never get to have any fun. Oh well, see you later Steve." Steve tried not to flinch again when he felt a warm breath on his neck. "I'll be looking forward to it..." Kasumi left, but not before playfully bumping into Irene on her way out, just as the Commander snatched her lifted pistol away from the master thief. "Getting better Shepard. Nice to see my lessons are working."

As the door finally sealed itself again, Rogers slowly walked over to Shepard before quietly whispering to her. "Is she actually gone ma'am?"

"With her, it's hard to tell sometimes, but I'd say yes. At least for the moment. Ms. Goto knows it's better not to get on my badside. For instance, she might find her antique book collection has been launched out the nearest airlock if she did." Irene smirked as the door quickly opened and closed behind her. "Now she's gone."

"You really have changed since I last saw you Commander." Hackett couldn't keep the admiration out of his voice. How in the hell she's made a decent crew out of these criminals, mercenaries, and a damn adolescent krogan is beyond me. Shaking his head, the Fleet Admiral walked over to the window, needing a moment to collect himself before facing her newest charge. "As for you Captain Steven Rogers, a man out of his time, it's amazing to see the ice hasn't affected you even after two centuries."

Steve just blinked at the man's words, half expecting to be thrown into some institution rather than having anyone actually believe him. I'd think I was crazy if someone told me the same story. "So, you believe my story sir?"

"Kind of hard not to after what we saw on that Cerberus ship. No one is able to punch someone hard enough that they leave dents in the damn walls." Used to dealing with officers just as steely and blunt as Hackett, Steve unknowingly impressed Shepard by not appearing intimidated by the Admiral in the least. "Thought you'd like to know, the local authorities have already searched the vessel, and besides enemy ones, no other casualties were found. That was an impressive piece of work you did son. You pulled together a team of civilians, cleared most of the vessel on your own, and led the hostages to safety. Truly fine job for a man of your age Captain." The wry grin on Hackett's face almost made Irene do a double take. "You get bonus points for escorting Shepard here back to her own ship unarmed."

Thanks for making me feel like a total ass sir. Wait, did he just make a joke? Nah...must be hearing things. Ignoring the lighthearted jab at her ego, Shepard pretended not to hear the admiral's last statement. "I'm sure the guests in our med bay would agree with you Admiral." Her hazel eyes immediately took in the look of concern on Rogers' face. "Doctor Chakwas tells me that aside from some malnourishment and dehydration, they are all in fairly good condition. Not sure how long they would have stayed that way if you hadn't helped them escape as quickly as you did Captain."

Steve could only nod, having only done what he had thought was right at the time, not anything that deserved the praise they were giving him. "Just saw some good people in a bad bind is all, I'm sure both of you would have done the same." Finally having worked up the courage to ask, Steve sighed and looked intently to the two officers before voicing his question. "What happens now?" It was pretty clear he wasn't talking about the mission at hand.

"Now? Now we try to get you settled in and adjusted, one step at a time if necessary Captain. I don't claim to be an expert on cryogenic survivors, but I've had a similar experience to your own. Granted, it was closer to two years than two centuries but..." Shepard just shrugged, glad to see a more relaxed, curious gleam in his blue eyes again.

"Really? You were frozen, out of the world like I was ma'am?" Steve wanted to kick himself the moment the words were out of his mouth. If she's anything at all like me, of course she wouldn't wait to talk about it. Idiot!

"Not exactly. I was ah...technically dead." Steve's eye brows shot up at that unsettling bit of info. "I got better." As Steve's silent confused stare lingered, Irene elaborated. "Remember when I told you that I and my crew used to work with the same people who were holding you and those civilians?" Steve merely nodded, the hint of a stern frown forming on his face. "They, more specifically, my current XO, Miranda Lawson, ran the group that was tasked with...well, basically putting me back together."

Now that he was looking for them, Steve could make out various subtly glowing blue scars on the woman's face and arms. "And I thought I had it rough. Looks like they did a great job ma'am." I've probably just insulted her terribly by staring. Great, just great Steve. Bucky is probably rolling in his grave right now.

"Would you stow the ma'am crap already? Makin' me feel old Captain. And you can stop blowing smoke up my ass while you're at it. Always been proud of all my scars." Hackett had to hide the smirk behind his hand when Shepard looked his way before letting her hazel eyes fall on Steve again. "The point is Rogers, aside from Jack, I'm the only one on this ship who has any inkling of what you've gone through. And I'm definitely the more patient one out of the two of us. Actually, you know what, forget I even mentioned her."

Steve could see why Shepard would rather have him avoid the incredibly strange woman he had encountered earlier. "She did seem to have one heck of a temper. I know it's not my place Commander, but isn't she a little too volatile to serve on any ship, space or otherwise?"

"Maybe, but I learned to trust her after getting to know her better. I trust her not to do anything rash, so long as I don't betray that trust. careful around her." The warning was just as much for Jack's well being as Steve's. Shepard had no way of knowing how the relatively unknown man before her would act around the slightly unstable young biotic, and that was a chance she preferred not to take right now. While Jack would be the last person to ever admit she needed protection of any kind, Shepard wasn't about to let her get hurt anymore than the girl had already, accidentally or otherwise.

"I'll do my best ma'- Commander. Won't be causing any trouble on your ship, I can promise you that." As Steve paused for a moment, Shepard expected him to focus on his own immediate future next. He managed to surprise her yet again. "I'd like to know what's going to happen to Jenka, Varris, and the others. And to check on them again personally, if at all possible."

Hackett took on a new appreciation for the duty bound soldier in front of him as a momentary gleam in his steely gaze appeared. "Don't worry Captain Rogers, we plan to safely deliver them to a massive government installation called the Citadel. Before you ask, the Citadel is the heart of galactic society. As for seeing them again, I'm sure that can be arranged once they've gotten a chance to settle in and recover a bit." Hackett turned to Shepard with a raised eyebrow, realizing he had forgotten his status as her guest. "Assuming the Commander approves of course."

Shepard merely shrugged, having planned to say something similar anyway. "That shouldn't be a problem as long as Doctor Chakwas doesn't mind them having a visitor."

"Thank you ma'am." The happy grin on the man's face was more than enough for Shepard to let that one go and she just smirked as his face fell slightly at the mistake. "Um, Commander. If you wouldn't mind, could I ask a few questions?"

"Tell you what, I'll handle the first dozen or so, I'm sure EDI can deal with the other few hundr-" Great, now what's going on?

Before she could say another word, EDI interrupted, and it didn't take the small group long to figure out why. "Commander Shepard, we have a serious problem in the Med Bay. Doctor Chakwas requires immediate assistance. One of her patients is being rather violent."

(For added effect please play Audiomachine - The Truth)

Dammit, I should have seen this coming. "I'm on my way EDI." As she dashed out of the room, Hackett not far behind, Irene mused over having to deal with one endless emergency after another. Just great. Is it too much to ask for an hour or two without any... Just as Steve ran passed both of the Alliance officers as if they were standing still. Hey! Where the hell is he... Dammit. Why am I not surprised? "Slow down, or do you want to get one of my crew hurt Rogers?!"

"No time to talk ma'am, and don't worry, I plan to get everyone out in one piece." With the door opening of its own accord, Steve didn't waste any time trying to figure out how it worked as he took in the situation in the medical bay at a glance. Karin Chakwas, the very kind hearted doctor he had met earlier when she had patched him up, was remarkably calm for having her own scalpel pressed against her neck by an understandably frightened Varris. "I need a report soldier, what happened?" Just need to keep him calm, focused on me and not the doc.

Not bad, appealing to his honor and duty as a soldier. Whether it was intentional or not, Steve's quick, I'll give him that. Holding Hackett back with an outstretched hand, Shepard just hoped she wasn't making a mistake by letting him handle the situation at hand.

"This human was tampering with Drosic's suit sir!" All eyes turned to the male quarian in the med bay, who had backed himself into the far corner in apparent terror.

While she had never been held hostage before, Chakwas kept her cool and calmly countered the turian's accusations. "I was trying to help him seal a small tear while running a diagnostic on his filtration systems. I would never use my knowledge as a medical professional to harm anyone."

Steve kept his voice as confident as possible, even as his attention focused on the scalpel in Varris' mildly shaking talons. "We all just got out of Hell, Varris, so I understand you're suspicious of these people, and concerned for our little squad here. I also know you wouldn't harm an innocent bystander Varris." Steve ever so slowly started to make his way past the armed crew members who had rushed in ahead of him, getting them to lower their pistols with barely more than a confident nod. "But if you're wrong, then her blood's on your hands Varris. Think about it before doing something you'll regret. You and I both know you don't want to hurt anybody, right?"

Varris looked more doubtful now, moving the scalpel a few inches away from Chakwas' neck. "I just want to get out of here….I just want to get home sir."

"You aren't the only one Varris." Steve softly replied, gently prying the improvised weapon out of his friend's talons before putting himself between him and Chakwas, who wasted no time in getting behind Shepard and her crewmates. Tossing it onto a nearby table, Steve sighed in relief, glad that the situation was about to be contained without a single drop of blood spilled.

The two armed crew members rushed forward, one fabricating a pair of binders with his omni-tool. The man was shocked, to say the least, when Rogers blocked their path. "Sir, please let us handle it from here. The prisoner won't be harmed." Jacob Taylor said, trying to keep order as best he could in the only way he knew how.

Like Hell I will. "He's more of a prisoner than you realize, but you don't need to tie him up to prove it. Now get out of my way son. My friend and I are going to get some coffee in the mess." Steve looked over his shoulder, giving the guilty looking turian a friendly grin. "Sound good Varris?"

Chakwas was the first to speak up. "Go on Captain, Varris could no doubt use some fresh air. It was merely a misunderstanding, nothing more." Shepard nodded to the Doctor before giving Jacob and Miranda a stern glare to show that she was less than pleased with their 'guns blazing' approach to potential hostage situations.

Steve took a moment to walk over to the shaking quarian in the corner and placed a gentle hand on Drosic's shoulder, before glancing over at Chakwas. "Doctor, would it be alright if my buddy could join us for a little while?"

"I was able to seal the small tear in Mr. nar Idenna's suit, but he will require another dose of antibiotics. However, I don't see any harm in letting you both borrow him for a short while." Chakwas pointed a stern finger in Steve's direction. "But, you will return him to my care promptly, do I make myself clear Captain Rogers?"

"Yes ma'am." Steve promptly replied, having no doubt that Karin would make him pay if he didn't follow her word to the letter. Doctors, even in his time, had more power than most generals he had come across, and they weren't to be angered lightly.

"Come on Drosic, let's get you something warm to eat." Steve gave Varris an approving nod as the turian helped him get the quarian to his feet, never letting the young man out of his grasp.

When they had left, Karin turned her attention to Hackett and Shepard, the admiration on her face easy to see, let alone hear. "That young boy is quite remarkable Commander. He reminds me of you, especially when under pressure. I have no doubt Varris isn't the only 'prisoner' among the hostages, but Captain Rogers does seem to be doing remarkably well despite being two centuries removed from civilization. I'd still strongly advise having Ms. Chambers talk to him at her earliest convenience."

"Yeah, he's a hell of a...wait boy? I know he looks a little young, but from what the Admiral has shared with me so far, that may have to do with the serum that was used on him originally. Right sir?" It was Shepard's turn to raise a questioning eyebrow as she turned to the suddenly tight lipped officer.

The knowing smirk on Karin's face was more than a little unnerving. "According to the results of his physical scans, he's barely nineteen years old. He's an incredibly healthy teenager, but a teenager none the less. DNA does not lie, no matter how much it's been altered by experimental procedures."

"That has to be an error Doctor, you mean twenty-four, right? Because that was what I was told by-" Irene managed to glare at Hackett, a feat unimaginable until now, as the truth dawned on her.

"I just figured the boy would have enough problems adapting as it was, without you hovering over him mercilessly Shepard." As her hazel glare intensified, Hackett suddenly found that he was very thirsty. "I should go...keep an eye on those three for you Commander." The admiral beat a hasty retreat as Irene continued to fume silently as his outright duplicity.

"Try not to be too hard on him Commander." Karin began, standing from her desk before walking to her old friend's side. "Steven seems like a good kid, and possible mental issues notwithstanding due to recent traumatic events, including probable PTSD from military service, I think being in your company is the best thing for him at this moment. You've done remarkable things with the most disparate people you could ever hope to meet. Surely you can handle one incredibly well behaved teenager, Shepard?"

"You certainly know how to wield guilt Karin." Shepard chuckled despite the fact she was being manipulated by her well meaning doctor. "I'll try not to see him as a kid. I have a feeling that's the worst thing any of us could do right now. And I'll be sure to have Kelly speak with him when she has the ti- nevermind." Shepard just shook her head in amusement, watching through the med bay window as Chambers asked if she could join the small group at a nearby table. Our resident shrink moves fast, I'll give her that. Uh oh, looks like the quarian girl he saved doesn't approve. I swear I can see that glare right through her helmet.

Both women exchanged knowing looks as their other quarian guest, Jenka, suddenly had the intense need to head for the mess hall. "Please make sure you return for that booster Ms. nar Kwib-Kwib." Karin chuckled as she watched the quickly nodding quarian dart out of the med bay, and proceed to sit directly next to Rogers.

Before Kelly got settled in at the table, Shepard sent off a quick message to the onboard ship's psychologist. [Do me a favor and try to get Mr. Rogers to open up to you Kelly. Notice his new smitten bodyguard? I wouldn't suggest being flirty around him if you don't want to upset her. Good luck.]

[No worries Commander, hard not to notice how particularly close she was to him the whole time when they came aboard. He's staring, I'll get back to you.] Irene had to smirk at the comforting smile on Kelly's face as she deactivated her omni-tool.

"What's with the fancy wrist light show ma'am?" Having obviously never seen an omni-tool before, Kelly wasn't surprised that he was curious about it.

"It's an advanced portable computer, a communications and fabrication device, that has various applications and-" Chambers stared at the blank look on the young man's face before continuing. "I see I've lost you... To put it simply, it's an advanced Swiss army knife."

"Never would have guessed. Last time I saw a... computer you called it? They were the size of a huge room. Figure they probably aren't all as hush hush as they used to be during the war." Considering most computers had been operated and controlled by the military at the time, Kelly couldn't blame him for being shocked that they were commonplace tech now.

"I can help you to understand modern technology better if you'd like, Steve." Rogers gave Jenka a grateful nod as he turned his attention back to Yeoman Chambers, not noticing the way her eyes narrowed slightly like everyone else at the table did.

Even after learning the truth, Kelly couldn't help but be amazed by the living legend in front of her. "You really were a part of Earth's second world war. I had found it hard to believe at first, upon seeing the reports sent by Commander Shepard, but Admiral Hackett's own files on the dig site you were discovered in only confirmed your story. Not that I doubted you, I can see you're a bit lost and confused just from looking at you."

Steve managed to laugh at the crazy situation he now found himself stuck in, glancing around the room and at those around the table. "Am I that obvious? Well, I guess I am a little out of my depth."

Joker's voice suddenly burst out of the ceiling speakers. "Yes. Yes you are Captain Obvious...sorry, that was just too perfect to pass up. And I wouldn't drink that coffee big guy, unless you like going into anaphylactic shock or something. Red cups are a no no for recently defrosted humans, that's dextro only, like your pal Ms. nar Hotty and your completely not creepy turian buddy, stick with the blue ones. You'll live longer."

Ignoring the sarcastic pilot over the intercom, staring at the red cup in his hands, Steve could only shake his head as he put it down as if he expected it to blow up in face. "Even the coffee's foreign to me now. Um here..." Steve nudged the cup over to Jenka, already having gotten two more for Varris and Drosic. Hackett just shook his head at the boy, as he sat back down after grabbing a couple cups of levo coffee from Gardner, and shoved one towards him.

"It'll get easier." Kelly replied, the forlorn look on Steve's face easily identified for what it was. He's beyond lost, he's drowning with no hope of holding his head above water. I can't begin to imagine how he's going to adjust to this time period. "I know you'll get along just fine Captain, according to your file, you're nothing if not resilient and determined."

"If throwing yourself on a grenade is determined, I'd hate to see what you say about charging into a Hydra base. Hell of a record you have Captain." Hackett chuckled at the slightly embarrassed blush this got out of Steve.

Steve just gave a nonchalant shrug. These people certainly are easily impressed, I'm really not THAT special after all. "That I was just doing my duty sir. Same as every other guy fighting next to me."

"You threw yourself on a grenade?!" Steve tried not to grin as Jenka grabbed his arm, almost protectively.

Steve gently patted her arm wrapped around his reassuringly. "It was a dummy grenade….long story short, everyone else ducked for cover, and I was the big idiot that jumped on it."

Varris stared at his coffee for a moment before a subtle grin pulled at his mandibles. "A test of courage. You'd make a very good turian Captain Rogers."

"I don't think the Colonel who tossed it was testing for courage at the time. He was trying to make a point to the scientist that made me into what I am, but the man in charge of the project was only further impressed by my willingness to sacrifice my life for the sake of others." I'll never forget the funny expression on her face when I looked up and saw Peggy grinning down at me. Steve's eyes clouded at the unexpected memory, he'd been doing his best to push thoughts of her to the back of his mind while he had worried about the civilians. Now though, he didn't have that distraction anymore, and it couldn't have been worse.

"So, what was her name kid?" Garrus asked, having been silently observing the whole conversation from a table behind Rogers. At Steve's surprised glance, the turian sharpshooter just grinned and gave him a knowing look. "Come on kid, I know that look. Let me guess, she broke your heart? Women, right? Can never understand 'em."

"Watch it scar face. I might have to give you a free lesson." Shepard growled lightly behind him, watching in satisfied amusement as the momentarily startled turian almost jumped off the deck.

Varris gave a slight nod to the human as she moved around his embarrassed fellow turian to get her own much needed dose of caffeine. "Why don't you back off a bit, Captain Rogers will talk about it, if and when he wants to." Garrus put out a placating talon at the glare he got from Varris, not to mention the one he was probably getting from the love struck young girl next to the apparently oblivious Captain. Even her quiet fellow quarian at the end of the table warily looked up at him, gripping an utensil in his gloved hand.

Garrus eyed the tense situation he had allowed himself to stumble blindly into as his gaze landed on Rogers. Who is this guy? Less than a day around these people and they treat him almost like we do Shepard. Before he could do anything to try and get them to calm down, Steve stepped in.

"Guys, it's alright." Turning to Garrus, Steve offered a wistful smile before he replied. "Her name was Margaret. Margaret 'Peggy' Carter. Heck of a woman, had a thing for guns and shooting them, sometimes at me. And no, she didn't break my heart..." Steve's eyes darkened, knowing he had most likely broken hers, many, many years ago. I should have done whatever I had to to see her again...maybe if I had moved a little faster when the plane hit-

"It sounds like she had a bit of a temper Mr. Rogers." Tali said as she went up to Gardner and collected some food for herself. "I'd have liked to have met her. What did she do, if you don't mind my asking?" In a bid to get his mind off of the loss, at least to some degree, Tali had wisely turned the subject elsewhere.

"Oh uh, she was part of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, a group of some of the brightest minds of my time. I met her when they were looking for candidates-" Steve paused as he looked to the Admiral for a moment. "Is all this alright to share sir? I won't tell them anything you and the Commander deem classified."

Hackett managed to keep his steely gaze intact as he answered with a serious tone. "It's over two centuries behind me Captain. Besides, I'm just a guest on someone else's boat."

"And drinking all the good coffee to boot. Sir." Grinning, Shepard just gestured with a wave for Steve to continue. She had read the files, but hearing it from the man himself was far more interesting.

"Guess keeping state secrets aren't such a big deal in this century. Not sure whether I should be happy about that or not." Steve said with a shrug, as Irene rolled her hazel eyes at his admirable but unwarranted concern.

"It's not state secrets I'd be worried about Cap'n. It's the galactic scale ones that make people nervous these days." Irene replied, and while she had laced her voice with some amount of humor, the serious gleam in her eyes wasn't hard to miss.

"Wait, what do you mean ma'am? Err-Shepard." Steve rapidly corrected himself, before taking a sip of his surprisingly good coffee.

Shepard wiggled her finger at the now incredibly curious soldier. "Ah ah ah. You first Rogers. Besides, I think your story is going to be a lot less depressing."

"Okay...well, I doubt that ma'am. Peggy was the Operations Supervisor for the Scientific Strategic Reserve, and part of her job was finding guys to volunteer for a certain experiment to create a type of super soldier for the war effort."

Garrus stuck out a talon towards the mildly irked super soldier. "Oh! Let me guess...I'm good at this. It had to do with modifying humans, giving them superior strength and healing abilities. Didn't it?"

"Shut up and let the man speak Vakarian." Apparently Hackett was just as engrossed in Steve's tale as everyone else. Two century old files were one thing, but first hand accounts was something else.

"You're close Mr Vack-Vaker-Garrus?" Garrus just nodded instead of poking fun at the man's oddly difficult time with his name. "It was called Project Rebirth. And it did a lot more than that for me. The scientist leading the program happened to think I was the best man, morally speaking, for the first human trial."

"When morality plays a part in experimentation, perhaps method of transformation not a good choice after all? Still, can't argue with results. Professor Erskine was genius for his time, Captain Rogers." Mordin mused aloud, having left the safety and familiarity of his lab to satisfy his own growing curiosity of the strange man they had recently picked up. "Would appreciate blood and tissue samples at earliest convenience, but can wait in pursuit of other studies. Perhaps you could be open to intense physical and mental testing as well?"

Gotta say, this 'Mordin' guy kinda creeps me out a little. "Uh..." Steve was mildly surprised to feel the arm round his tighten slightly.

"Don't worry Steve." Mordin was smart enough to take a step back at the outright glare he received from Jenka.

"Hmm. Should go...obvious sexaul tension thick enough to cut with proverbial omni-blade. Will send helpful pamphlet on quarian-human relations. Enjoy your stay on Normandy, Captain." Mordin rapidly said, as he finished his quick drink and headed back into his lab with a huge grin on his face.

"Uh….what...what just happened?" Steve could feel the heat in his cheeks as Jenka found anywhere else to look at the moment.

"That was Doctor Mordin Solus." Kelly replied, and Steve got the distinct impression that the strange horned and fast talking alien was their version of his old if brief friend, Erskine. "He is very fond of his work, whatever it happens to be at the time, but he means well. Even among his own species, Doctor Solus is a genius."

"Rude fast talking bosh'tet, is what he is." No one bothered to argue with a clearly mortified Jenka's first impression of the salarian.

A flicker of blue light suddenly appeared behind Rogers, and Kasumi placed a hand on the back of his chair when he nearly fell out of his seat in surprise. "Anyone want to see the before and after pictures?" Goto grinned mercilessly at the frown on Steve's face. "If Captain Handsome here doesn't mind that is? look good without a shirt Steve."

"Ms. Goto, I'd ask you to refrain from hacking my omni-tool in the future, but I have a feeling it'd be a useless gesture." Hackett grumbled as the device on his arm flashed a warning of an intruder, but he didn't pay it any attention, knowing the source of the breach.

"You're telling me. ...Wait, did I say that out loud?" All eyes fell on Shepard as she stared at the smug thief. "Kasumi, don't even think about-" The hooded woman tapped her omni-tool before Shepard could finish, as two large side by side images were holographically displayed across the mess. "Damn...I call that an improvement. Not bad Steve, not bad at all."

"It hurt, a lot, at the time. Still, it was an improvement from a sickly asthmatic guy who got beat up on a regular basis." Steve found himself staring at the table top, not able to bring himself to look at the crowded mess hall, everyone no doubt staring at him right now.

"Ms. Goto, there's no need to embarrass Captain Rogers in front of the crew." Kelly would be having words with Kasumi later if the irritation in her voice was anything to go by.

"The pussy in the first one needs a damn sandwich. That second one is you now, huh? Hmmmm. Your fine ass is easy on the eyes, I'll give you that." Jack said from the mess hall's doorway, her arms crossed under her chest and her hip cocked to the side. Little quarian bitch thinks she can glare at me huh? "What?! I can look too Precious. Hey Stripes, maybe you should put a leash on your little girl friend before she gets hurt."

A loud hiss of rage filled the mess hall as Steve wrapped an arm around Jenka's waist, desperately holding on to her as she tried to scramble to inflict as much bodily harm as possible on the smirking half naked woman. "Be at peace young one, this is just her way." Thane intervened, having noiselessly positioned himself between Jack and Jenka before Steve even knew he was there, gracefully snatching away the small blade the alien girl had pulled out of her boot before anyone else saw it.

"Sit down. Now." One look from Irene was all it took for the young alien to immediately plop back down on her chair. "Sorry Jack, no target practice for you today."

"Damn, was looking forward to it too." Thane stayed close to the young biotic as she leered at the still fuming quarian. "Looks like she'll just have to work off that adorable rage banging Blushes over there."

"Must you antagonize everyone Jack?" Miranda asked, carrying a stack of data pads for Shepard to look over. Despite their recent resignation from Cerberus, some things still remained the same.

Jack glared daggers at her fellow biotic as Thane lightly grabbed her right arm to prevent the girl from lashing out. "No one asked for your fucking opinion Cheerleader."

Jack, if you were so damn curious about him, you could have just sat down and listened like the rest of us. "Jack, my quarters. Now." Shepard's stern voice brooked no argument from the younger woman, but the marine already the former convict wouldn't take her order seriously. Now you can save face by telling me off in front of everyone and stomping back down to your hidey hole.

"I told ya, I'm not into pussy Shepard. Ask the know-it-all Princess over there if you can borrow her tongue for a while, she'd probably love to-" Rubbing at her temples at the headache that was forming behind her eyes, Shepard stood and all but glared at the psychotic biotic. To her credit, Jack didn't immediately yield to the intense glare that was thrown her way, but by the time Jack did back off, the temperature in the mess had dropped several degrees. Stomping over to a slightly nervous Gardner, Jack randomly dumped some food on a tray and then stormed out of the mess, grabbing a steaming cup of coffee off one of the tables as she went.

To say Hackett and Rogers were impressed by the silent exchange would have been an understatement as both men followed the dangerous woman's exit silently before looking to Irene with newfound respect, and a little fear as well. At their slightly stunned stares, Shepard had to look away with a sigh. "She's rough around the edges, but she grows on you."

"Like a cancer." Miranda growled under her breath, just loud enough to be heard by her CO who gave her a pointed glare which she chose to ignore for the moment as she accepted the offered datapad. "Current duty roster Shepard, and I suggest we find new streams of revenue quickly. I've compiled a list of possibilities."

Shepard's eyebrows shot up when she glanced over some less than reputable names on the list. "Why am I not surprised Aria's name is on this list?"

"Apparently...she's more interested in profit and intel than revenge." Lawson activated her her omni-tool and tapped a the display for a moment before shutting it off. "I've also forwarded a message from her to your inbox Admiral."

"Are you always this methodical Ms. Lawson? I'll be sure to delete it." Hackett stated as he opened the message, having a gut feeling he wasn't going to like what he saw from the asari crime lord of Omega.

"I wouldn't recommend that, but it's your choice Admiral." She had no say in what Hackett did, nor did she particularly care, but Miranda knew that ignoring someone like Aria T'Loak was unhealthy, even in the best of circumstances. And with what they were doing, they needed as many allies as they could get.

Steve just took in the ongoing insanity around him, and was starting to wonder if he could ask Shepard for some sort of transfer after the civilians he now deemed his responsibly got off the ship. What have I gotten myself into...and why is Jenka's hand on my leg?

Crew quarters, SR-2 Normandy

02:37 Shipboard time.

Sleeping aboard a starship wasn't easy for someone that hadn't done it before. Especially if you were constantly assaulted by nightmares of a war that was two centuries behind you. "I've slept enough." Steve had said to himself after staring at the cold metal ceiling for half an hour before he had quietly gotten out of his bunk and started to aimlessly wander the ship.

"Can't sleep?" Nursing what had to be her twelfth cup of coffee, she had honestly lost count after the fifth, Irene looked up from the table and away from the report she had been forcing herself to write. "Two and a half centuries, and you'd think paperwork would have bit it by now."

Steve glanced at the massive pile of 'data pads' in front of the tired looking woman. There were two distinct piles that he could see. The finished ones were stacked neatly before her, while the unfinished were haphazardly scattered around the rest of the table. "If you can be sure of anything ma'am, it's that death, taxes, and paperwork will always exist."

A loud snort of tired laughter could be heard in the quiet mess as she continued to work. "Thanks for the reminder Cap'n."

"Please, just Steve, ma'- Commander." The subtle grin on Irene's face was a vast improvement over the cold glare he had seen on her face when she had dealt with Jack earlier that day.

"Call me Shepard, everyone else does, or Irene, if you're feeling daring. Otherwise, Commander is just a title I allow to be used out in the field if I can help it. And you're learning Steve." Give me a few years Rogers, and I might corrupt you yet.

"If you don't mind my saying so Shepard, you look like you could use some rest. The battle of the paper clips can probably wait till the morning." Steve figured that the good Commander was in for an all nighter if she honestly thought she was going to finish all of her work.

"Rest is a luxury few of us can afford these days, especially for veteran soldiers like us Rogers." Her meaning wasn't lost on him since he got the impression he wasn't the only one that had bad dreams. He had seen plenty of soldiers with a haunted look behind their eyes, and while she hid it well, it was still there.

"So, same problem as me huh?" Steve paused for a moment as he tried to remember a rather famous quote. "I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself the king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

Shepard suddenly realized she had a new appreciation for Steve as her hazel eyes shot up in surprise. "Shakespeare. Hamlet, right? My former Gunnery Chief would have liked you. Only wish you could have met her." Unbidden, it was as if Shepard could hear Ash speaking to her clear as day. You bet I would Skipper, too bad I had a nuke go off in my face, but you took out Sovereign and his pet Spectre. I think granddad would be proud of both of us, don't you think? So would you stop beating yourself up already ma'am?

Steve recognized all too well the guilty look on Shepard's face as she buried her head in her work for a moment to avoid his gaze. "She was into wildly out of their depth guys who like the classics huh?" It took a considerable amount of willpower not to jump in his seat when his old friend's voice echoed in his head. You know, you ain't doing too bad for yourself Steve, even though you took all the stupid between us. At least you have a nice selection of dance partners. You don't fill that card, and I for one am gonna be highly disappointed Cap.

Seeing a familiar look of guilt on Steve's face, Irene knew she needed to change the subject in a hurry. "Something like that. And if you think about it Steve, we're out of depth ourselves. Humanity hasn't been out amongst the stars that long." Shepard replied, taking another sip from her mug before realizing that her coffee was gone, again. "Everyday we discover new things out here, some of it dangerous, most of it just strange. Either way, we aren't as different as you'd believe Steve."

"You lived with all this though Shepard. I got dropped in the middle of it. Almost feel like I should be looking for a yellow brick road to lead me in the right direction." Steve sighed, shaking his head as he took a step closer to the woman's table.

Irene smirked at the old vid reference, because most people wouldn't have had a clue what Steve was talking about. And everyone always told me that watching ancient vids was a giant waste of time. "Well, Dorothy, sometimes it's the people with an objective view of a situation that can be the most useful."

" actually know that one?" Steve's eyebrows shot up in honest surprise at her earnest smile.

"I'm an old fashion girl at heart big guy, what can I say?" Irene smirked as she got up and dispensed of her empty mug. "Only instead of going to see the Wizard, we get to deal with three pain in the ass politicians."

"One was bad enough." Steve smirked despite himself, remembering a certain state senator that had gotten him to perform on stage far longer than he would have liked.

"Yeah, I'd be embarrassed too if I had to perform on stage in spandex." Shepard is suddenly very focused on rinsing out her coffee mug as Steve blushes yet again. Could this guy be more ridiculously humble?

"Please tell me those old recruitment videos weren't saved for posterity ma'am." Steve got the horrible impression he was about to find out from the mischievous look on her face.

"Well, let me put it this way..." Steve just barely managed not to flinch as Shepard activated the glowing display on her arm. Huh. I wonder how 'nifty' he must think this is.

Cheerful singing and a very familiar voice fills the empty mess, as the black and white image of a man in a garish star spangled costume, carrying an equally silly looking shield, read from the back of said shield. "Not all of us can storm a beach or drive a tank, but there's still a way all of us can fight. Series E defense bonds, each one you buy is a bullet in the barrel of your best guy's gun!"

Irene smirks at the quaint scene, clearly seeing how nervous Steve must had been on stage. A sudden THUNK catches her attention as she turns to see Rogers' head planted firmly on the table. "If I never hear that song again, it'll be too soon." The muffled words only make her grin all the wider as she walks back over and sits down across from him.

"That bad huh?" I wouldn't have lasted half as long as he did. I'd rather face a platoon of batarian pirates single handed before someone could force me do a stage show.

Looking up, Steve sighed and could only shake his head. "Let me put it this way. I went from New York, to Buffalo, to Washington with that stage group. And everywhere in between. I could recite that song in my sleep by the time I mounted a rescue for my best friend and his platoon. Thanks for the reminder."

Shepard can't quite stop herself from humming a bit of the upbeat tune as she deactivates her omni-tool. "Oh come on, all those pretty girls in skimpy outfits, couldn't have been that bad." I could think of at least one sarcastic pilot that would take that job in a heartbeat.

Steve's light hearted smile immediately disappeared. "Only had eyes for one ma'am, and I ended up missing out on that dance by about two centuries or so."

"And now I feel like an ass." It was Irene's turn to sigh heavily as she leaned over and patted Steve's firm back. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring up old memories Steve. Oh...hold on, I think I have something of yours." Never been happier at forgetting something in my life. This should help pry my foot out of my mouth. Shepard made a show out of digging into her pocket and slowly bringing the object clutched in her hand back out. "Sir, does this happen to belong to you?" There's that smile again. I could get used to seeing that.

"Your sleight of hand could use some work ma'am." The smile on Steve's face was wide as could be as he took the old compass back from the woman next to him. "Thought I had lost this when I went into the ice. Thank you. It's nice to have something, well...real. I mean-"

"You don't have to explain it to me Steve. We found it on our sweep through the freighter when you were busy getting patched up." And watching over those people in the med bay like a hawk. "It's always the littlest things that mean the most to people like us. That old magnetic compass of yours is the perfect example. Might be outdated, but that doesn't make it any less valuable. Just so you don't worry, it's still there. Sorry. I might have taken a peek...go on, pop it open."

Steve hesitates for a moment before opening the compass, looking as if he's afraid the ancient device will crumble to dust in his hands if he's not careful. "Thank you. This means a lot ma'am."

"I'm glad to hear it, but I need you to do me a favor in return." And here comes the suspicious look. Gee, I bet I know what he's thinking right now. 'Why do people always want something from me?'. I know that thought is on a near continuous damn loop in my head by now.

"Ah...not sure how useful I am anymore ma'am, but I'll do whatever I can." Well Bucky, you might be right. I think I did take all the stupid with me when I got off of that train. I should REALLY be careful with what I say around this dame. I don't have my shield to block bullets anymore for one.

"Don't sell yourself short. You're still a capable soldier, and a rifle's a rifle at the end of the day. Ours just have a few upgrades from what you're used to is all. So I'd like to offer you a spot on this ship, as a civilian advisor. At least that is what it'll say on the paperwork. I'm not about to recruit you, you did that already. How many times was it, five?"

"Six, counting my enrollment into Dr. Erskine's experiment. So this is the favor huh?" Steve's suddenly feels less wary and far more interested in the possibility of saying on with fellow military minded people.

"Nope, that's just me being nice. Okay, I'm only gonna say this one more time, after that it's the airlock. You can call me Shepard or you can call me Irene when we're not under fire. But I am ordering you not to call me that word anymore, got it? While we're in the field, that's one thing, but here? It's the only place I can just be another face in the crowd."

"Just another woman in uniform huh? You got it ma'am. Sorry Shepard, couldn't resist." Steve managed to quickly duck the datapad chucked at his head from across the table.

"I still have that song handy, just remember that. I'm sure EDI could put it on a continuous loop for the whole crew if I asked. Or just in the crew quarters. I'm sure everyone would love that, don't you think, Steve?"

Rogers once again managed to surprise Shepard by belting out a loud laugh. "You're not that cruel Irene, I knew that the first second I laid eyes on you."

"You really don't want to know what I'm capable of." The sly grin on her face didn't deter the two and a half century old captain.

"Then how am I gonna learn? I figure the day I can beat you in a fair fight is the day I know what the heck I'm doing on your ship." Steve had no doubt he was essentially booking himself a ton of stays in Chakwas' med bay, but anything he could learn from an obvious combat veteran like Shepard would be worth it.

"Don't say I didn't warn you. That's one dance I'll be looking forward too Cap'n." Way to go Skipper. Try not to mess up that pretty face too much, now that would be a shame.

Once again Steve could almost hear Bucky's laughter in the back of his mind. Let's see, Shepard, check. One down, plenty to go buddy. "Well, from what you've told me, the army doesn't even exist now, so I'm not actually a captain anymore.

"A soldier is still a soldier, no matter what the armed force happens to be called. Far as I can figure, you'll always be Captain America. A heroic symbol for all of the free peoples of this galaxy."

"Galaxy?" Steve was pretty sure if he had been in the middle of a drink, that it would have wound up all over the table at that moment.

"I mean Earth. Just Earth. It's not like turians and other species are really into human history or anything. Or that little children of other species are just as likely to know of you as human kids. Great, I'm sure that won't completely freak him out.

"So basically, I have a fanbase that extends to more than my own species. That's certainly...interesting." Alien kids have me on a lunch box or trading cards? Kinda flattering actually, never even knew they existed and they look up to me as an example.

Wow. Either he's taking this much better than I expected, or he's about to snap at any moment. "If it makes you feel any better, I have the same problem. Funny what saving the Citadel Council does for your popularity, even though they turned around and discredited everything I did afterward."

Who in their right mind wouldn't listen to this woman? I barely know her and if she told me to jump off a cliff, I know it would be for a good reason. "Mind if I ask why?" You and me both buddy, you and me both.

Irene rubbed at her eyes after setting one of the multitude of datapads back down. "Let me put it this way. Did you know that Germany and Japan had submarines off the coast of America during the Second World War?"

"Wouldn't surprise me." Was a bit busy cutting heads off of Hydra, but it wouldn't surprise me.

"But, of course the government didn't tell the citizens about this to prevent a panic. Same thing here, only on top of that, imagine if the American government told their civilian and military agencies that the German and Japanese forces were a myth entirely, not a threat in the least." Steve just stared at Shepard for a moment, clearly dumbfounded by the actions of this 'Council' she had mentioned earlier.

"But if they know you're telling the truth...I can see lying to the public, ignorance is bliss and all that. They did the same with Hydra and the threat Schmidt posed. Even so, why did they discredit you for that? Why not alert their military forces to the threat?" As if one ghost wasn't enough, Colonel Chester Phillips decided to add his two cents into Steve's consciousness. Because Captain Rogers, politicians are idiots. How many times have you learned that already? Hell, just getting you into Erskine's little sideshow project required me to kiss ass more times than I care to remember.

Irene shrugged before saying anything further. "I don't know how to keep my mouth shut. I've always said that only an united galaxy can hope to hold the enemy back, but our galactic leaders don't want to acknowledge the threat that's out there."

The calm voice Steve had heard earlier suddenly decided to make an entrance as the mess filled with EDI's subdued voice. "Commander Shepard's comparison is understated, but accurate Captain Rogers. They are afraid of something powerful enough to wipe out life as they know it. A Reaper was seen first hand at the Battle of the Citadel, but the Council chose to label it as the geth flagship of a rogue Spectre, Saren Arterius."

Why did you decide to fly with an AI again Skipper? Starting to wonder that myself Ash. "Thanks EDI, I wasn't planning on mentioning the elephant in the room to Steve just yet." Irene smirked at the man's frown. "Ignorance is bliss kinda thing. Go get some sleep Steve, you look like you need it."

"Shepard, I am not currently detecting a pachyderm onboard the Nor- ah, that was a joke." Rogers could swear his heard the slightest hint of mirth in the artificial being's voice.

Irene chuckled as she went back to her pads once more. "You're getting better EDI, keep it up." Go on kid , you should at least one good night's sleep before anyone basically ends your world as you know it.

"I think I've heard enough for the night anyway." Shepard instantly recognized the slump of Rogers' shoulders as he stopped before getting five steps from the table.

Sorry kid, I know the feeling. But you can't let it go can you? Watching as he sat back down across from her with a determined expression on his face, Shepard found herself even more impressed with this young man who had seen more combat than most veteran Alliance marines. He willingly walked into enemy encampments and came out without a scratch. It's not his superhuman nature that makes him so capable though. Gotta have heart first to do that. Erskine chose the perfect guy from Brooklyn.

"Okay. Tell me everything about these 'mythical' Reapers. One of the first things they taught us in the army, know your enemy." Steve's smile only grew when he heard Doctor Erskine's voice in his head next. You have come far Steve. I have always been proud to have known you, to have had a hand in making you the man you are now, even though that little guy from Brooklyn hasn't changed all that much, has he my friend? Steve was able to 'reply' to his brief but good friend without shame or guilt weighing him down. He's only become stronger doc, just as you knew he would.

"Glad to see some things never change." Amen to that Skipper.

Authors' Note: Archer83: Vergil and I hope you enjoyed unwrapping your extra gift this year. : ) Feel free to leave and review or PM us, your feedback is always appreciated! Until next time, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and happy New Year to all of our readers. : D

Vergil1989; We purposely waited until it was closer to Christmas before giving you, the readers, what you clearly demanded. Merry Christmas guys and gals, and a have a happy New Year. D