There were advantages and disadvantages to having a girlfriend who was naked all the time.
Advantage: Naked girlfriend! All the time! Even when he was working! The novelty of that sure hadn't worn off yet.
Disadvantage: Naked girlfriend, all the time, even when he was working. It still hadn't stopped being distracting either. And it wasn't like the punishment for slacking off was a black mark on his record or the chance of being fired: if Jeff lost attention for too long, they could all die.
So he was kind of glad when Shepard started insisting that EDI wear clothes, even if EDI found the whole concept ridiculous.
"This fabric impedes my ability to function at maximum capacity," she said with annoyance, fidgeting within her new jumpsuit like a little kid in their first formal outfit. "And I fail to see the advantage: Public nudity laws do not apply to mech or VIs, and the skintight nature of this attire creates the illusion of primary and secondary sexual characteristics even more strongly than the mobile platform in it's unclothed state."
"You've got that right," said Jeff. Not that he would ever complain about the shape of EDI's breasts, he loved EDI's breasts, but sometimes his mind did rebel a little at the fact that they lacked nipples, plus there was the whole weird diagonal stripe. Under clothes, they looked like...breasts under clothes, their specific details left to the viewer's imagination. And Jeff's imagination was pretty good.
Turning to look at him (which was always nice. It wasn't like she actually had to use her eyes to see when they were inside the Normandy) EDI said "Do you prefer me like this, Jeff? I was under the impression that most most humans preferred their sexual partners to be wearing less clothing, not more."
"I don't know about prefer," he said. "I am definitely a big fan of you being naked at least some of the time. But a little variety is good, you know? And the jumpsuit makes you look...different. I don't know. It's hard to explain."
EDI went silent, and put on her thoughtful face, a dangerous sign if ever there was one. That face led to difficult questions about the ethics of genetic screening and experiments with Jeff's tolerance for pain.
So really, he should have been grateful that all it led to was a shopping trip.
Legally, EDI was not a person, and so was not entitled to own property or currency. She drew no salary, and required no upkeep, beyond the sorts of upgrades and maintenance that were performed on the Normandy as standard. It wasn't that Shepard had intended to treat her like an indentured servant, it was just that these limitations on EDI's ability to engage with the joys of a capitalistic economy had never come up before.
Not until she decided to make herself pretty.
"Uh, sure, I can give you some money," said Shepard. "In fact, we should probably be paying you, shouldn't we? Sorry about that. Hmmm...I can't put you on the official payroll, but I'm sure we can work something out."
"People use VIs to do their shopping for them," said Traynor, helpfully. "Why don't we make an account for...VI maintenance, say, and give EDI access?"
"Brilliantly sneaky, Traynor," said Shepard.
"I do my best," said Traynor, beaming.
Of course then there was the fact that she felt the need to make herself pretty at all.
"You really don't have to dress yourself up for me," said Jeff. "Your normal look is fine. More than fine. Wouldn't you rather spend your money on, like..." He tried to think of anything EDI would want to spend her money on. "Illegal gambling? Charities for orphaned kittens? Some sort of computer...stuff?"
"No," she said. "Your concern for my autonomy is endearing, Jeff, but I am not motivated purely by a desire to please you, nor am I likely to let such concerns dominate my thinking to an unhealthy degree. It has simply occurred to me that there may be value in altering my appearance. One of the advantages of this mobile platform is that it facilitates communication with the Normandy's crew. There is only so much meaning that can be conveyed through word choice and tone of voice, I am able to express myself with more efficiency and nuance now that I have access to body language and facial expressions. Clothing choice is another form of expression, and I am curious to see what effect different forms of dress have on the behaviour of those around me."
"Including you," she said, with a sly smile.
Jeff swore and tried to stop his leg from twisting itself into a pretzel. "You see the sacrifices I make for you?" he said.
"You did not need to accompany me today," said EDI. "I value your opinion, but I am aware of the restrictions imposed by your limited mobility."
"Nah, it's fine," he said. "I'm just bitching. Once the sensors on these stupid automatic braces calibrate I shouldn't have any more problems. And how could I miss you taking on the shops of the Citadel? This should be fun." The braces really were a pain in the ass though. And people wondered why he didn't use them when he was trying to concentrate on flying.
Once the twitching in his legs had settled down to a mild tremor, Jeff stood and offered EDI his arm. "So what are we looking for today- silver jumpsuits? Bondage gear?"
"The aim is to conform to human clothing standards, Jeff. Not smash them."
"Take all the fun out of it why don't you," he said. "Ok, then what sort of human clothing standards are we aiming for? Sexy businesswear? Sexy casual? Sexy...sexy?"
"All of the above. Although I do not intend for all of my clothing choices to accentuate my sexual attractiveness, there are contexts in which I have found the provocative nature of my unclothed form to be disadvantageous."
"Wait, have people been bothering you?" Jeff wasn't really the jealous type, at least not when it came to EDI, but he didn't like the idea of her being harassed. "I know you can take care of yourself, but if you need anyone to get punched in the face, it can be arranged. Shepard has a mean right hook."
"Not to an extent that I can't handle," she said. "But I had an enlightening conversation with Ms Allers about nonverbal communication, and since then have realised that in some contexts, the easily objectified nature of my appearance leads to my opinions being dismissed. I do not like it. And since it is beyond my abilities at this time to dismantle the patriarchal social structures leading to such objectification, for the present time I consider it wise to widen my modes of personal expression."
He laughed. "At this time?"
"If we manage to defeat the reapers, I will need a hobby," she said. "Although it might be easier to make this platform's appearance less stereotypically feminine. Perhaps I should model myself on the elcor, their species lacks outward signs of sexual dimorphism, and the form is very stable in high gravities."
Jeff blinked. "Um, just so you know, EDI? I'll still love you if you look like an elcor, but I might not want to have sex with you quite so much."
She smiled. "It was a joke, Jeff. But your loyalty is admirable."
"Hey, I loved you when you were a holographic sphere, even if I wasn't comfortable admitting it to myself. At least an elcor has a body."
"As well as a fascinating reproductive system, if I were to model myself on the elcor, I..."
"Ok, don't finish that sentence, I'd rather not imagine you as an elcor any longer than I have to. Let's go look at shoes or something."
Jeff had been secretly worried that he'd be bored on this shopping trip, but it turned out that there were worse things in the world than watching EDI try on clothing.
For a start, she was endlessly curious. She spent some time in the first store they visited just experimenting with the different closures on jackets, questioning the poor sales assistant in great detail about the coefficient of friction of the various varieties of velcro.
Then there was how much fun she had trying to gauge the effect different outfits had on him. He knew better than to lie if she asked him "Does this make me look fat?" (Of course, it was pretty impossible for her to look fat, but she did manage to find some combinations of clothes that made her look frumpy, and others that made her look professional but plain)
And this was all before she discovered the concept of concealed weapons. He eventually had to drag EDI away from the throwing knives display before the store owner started asking too many difficult questions.
Speaking for himself, Jeff's favourite was the lingerie store. The sales assistants clearly thought he was some sort of freaky weirdo for bringing his mobility mech in to try on corsets, but frankly he didn't care. The fluffier, softer styles looked silly on top of EDI's stark lines and smooth shiny surfaces, but she managed to find a black satin garter belt set that looked amazing.
"I am looking forward to you getting into those and then out of them again," he said to her in a low voice as they left the store.
"As am I," she said. "The removal of clothing is a common feature in sexual acts between organics, it will be interesting to experience from both sides."
"Hey that's true," he said. "I'm usually wearing clothes when we get together. Would you like me to dress up fancy for you? Though, uh, I'm not sure they have that set in my size, plus I think the boning would probably make me break a rib..."
She considered him, and the question. Was she actually going to ask Jeff to wear women's underwear? Well, he was already dating a machine, it wasn't like any pretence at a mainstream sexuality hadn't gone out the window some time ago.
"I am unconvinced that such an ensemble would accentuate the experience for either of us," she said at last. "But I have been considering the various ways in which your own clothing sends messages, both to others and yourself. And I have a request."
"Anything you want," he said, then remembered who he was talking to. "Well, not anything. But most things. Within reason."
It had taken some doing to create a suit that fit Jeff in his usual hunchbacked pose while remaining both comfortable and relatively flattering, the tailor had spent the whole time muttering cheerfully to herself about some "classic" 20th century book she'd read with a made up sounding russian name, but he had to admit she'd done a pretty good job. He felt dashing, this was much nicer than the cut on his Alliance uniform or the cheaply altered suits he'd worn to official functions and other people's weddings. EDI was right: the clothes he wore sent a message to himself, as well as to other people.
He wondered what she'd be wearing. She'd insisted that it be a surprise, and that they meet somewhere outside the Normandy. He got the feeling that EDI had been talking to Shepard again, this whole setup had Shepard's theatrical fingerprints all over it. Not that he really minded.
Times being what they were, "outside the Normandy" meant the Citadel, unless they wanted to spend a romantic evening running away from giant lasers and undead krogan. But the Citadel was a pretty good place for a date. The wards twinkled prettily overhead, and there was a sense of hope in the air, despite all the pain and fear everyone had been facing lately. Jeff had had just had enough time to start worrying that maybe he should have brought EDI some flowers (or would she consider them useless biological material?) when she finally showed up.
The red dress was a splash of colour against the cold grey of the Citadel streets and the warmer shining silver of EDI's skin. She was wearing heels, thin red straps winding sinuously halfway up the length of her calves, and she'd put her hair up into a soft bun, so that a few loose tendrils of black hair (or hairlike substance) wafted gently around her face in the light artificial breeze. "You look beautiful," he said.
"Thank you," said EDI. "So do you."
She walked up beside him and he took her hand, standing and leaning comfortably against the hidden strength of her body. The fabric of the dress was soft and silky, it was strange to touch EDI with something covering her skin, strange but not entirely unpleasant. Jeff touched her face and brushed a strand of hair off her cheek. "I thought you preferred keeping this stuff as a protective helmet," he said.
"Mostly," said EDI. "But it has other uses."
"Mmm," said Jeff. He was done thinking of clever things to say. He leaned closer and gave her a kiss. EDI kissed him back with enthusiasm, and for a little while the rest of the universe dropped away, until he heard someone shouting rude remarks about people using sex toys out in public.
Jeff coughed. "So..." he said. "I'd take you out to dinner and dancing, but you don't eat, and you don't dance. I guess we could sit and talk?"
"We could," said EDI. "But I have taken the liberty of renting a private shuttle. I thought it might be enjoyable to drive it out into space and look at the stars."
"...does this shuttle have a bed?"
"Yes, Jeff," she said with affectionate humour.
"EDI," he said seriously, "You are the best girlfriend in the universe."
"Then I hope you won't mind that I charged the shuttle to your personal account. I used up all my current allowance on clothes and weaponry. You have often said that you have more money saved than you know what to do with."
Jeff looked at her for a moment, and then laughed. "Well, at least now I don't have to try and think of a present to get you to top it," he said.
And then he kissed her hand, and they went out into the stars.