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A Different Stripe

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The first thing James had noticed after the whole fiasco on the Citadel with Cerberus, was how quiet Loco had been when he got back to the Normandy. He’d ignored everyone, face closed off, and headed immediately for his cabin quietly telling EDI to keep everyone out.

Intrigued, and slightly worried about the unusual behavior, James had sought out Scars, who had been in the commander’s squad during the battle. The answer he received for his inquiry explained the mood that seemed to now encompass the entire ship. The major who had fought with them on Mars had been killed. Shot by Scars himself, for refusing to back down.

For the little amount of time James had known the man, he’d gotten the impression he was cautious about his actions, but honorable and damn brave. He and Loco had to have been close once because on Mars, when his lack of trust in Shepard was obvious, they fought together seamlessly, covering each other without a word, always sensing where to be to aid the other. Thinking on it, James knew the loss of this man would take its toll on the war effort.

The second thing James had noticed was a few days later as they stood in the shuttle on their way to investigate a group of missing scientists. Loco’s armor had changed. Not in a big way, just the color. The stripe on his right arm to be specific. The one that distinguished him in a crowd as an N7. It was no longer the designated blood red. It was blue. The same shade Alenko’s armor had been. Bright enough to catch the eye but not distracting. It fit.

James had learned during a war like this, there had proven to be very little time to mourn the lost, or to find things to remember them by. He was just glad Loco found a way to remember and mourn the major.

But it didn’t last.

The final thing James noticed was how different Loco started acting after they left the Citadel. It had been subtle at first, James had just figured it as the shock wearing off. Orders the commander barked that had them halting for a moment, glancing at one another before falling in line. The way he dealt with people was harsher, more vulgar. Where he had once offered a reassuring smile there was now and emotionless mask.

The atmosphere on the Normandy had started to change after the coup, charged with a kind of energy that didn’t always dissipate and when it did, nothing good came of it. James had come up to the crew deck looking for a snack to find the commander and Liara nose to nose screaming at each other, drawing the attention of everyone in the area.

That instance had ended with the Asari rushing back to her rooms in tears and Scars dragging a snarling Shepard into the forward battery. And they didn’t stop there.

James watched as the commander stood by, face blank as the Asari Justicar took her own life, her daughter sobbing, screaming at the commander, asking him to do something, anything. James listened as the commander told the Quarian fleet that he was more than willing to sit back and watch them get blasted from the sky. And James hoped as he held Sparks up, watching Shepard turn and sprint back towards the beam, he hoped more than his wishes that this goddamned war would be over, that Shepard would find peace with whatever the hell he found up there.