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Jack was kind of embarrassed making out with Shepard like that in front of her students. Not for the reasons most people would be. She’d done a hell of a lot worse in public. But Shepard’s mouth was warm and yielding in a way that the rest of her never fucking was and… Goddamnit, in front of her kids and--just--it was hard to hide her fucking emotions. Shepard was going to destroy her goddamn reputation. Making a joke out of it helped, a little, and Shepard shot a glowing red sideways look at her that said she didn’t mind either.

Once the shuttle docked with the Normandy there was a hell of a lot to do--on her part and on Shepard’s part--so she didn’t have to worry about any further tender reunions. They split up, Shepard to the comm room and Jack to make sure that the kids were all settled in the crew’s quarters for the flight back to the Citadel. To make sure all those fucking marines knew if anyone laid so much as a pinky finger on her guys, she was gonna rip their assholes out and strangle them with it.

And then she actually had a moment to breathe and that’s when it hit her. Hard, all at once. The kids were fine, and she hadn’t lost anyone, not this time. Shepard had come back for her. For them. And she’d saved everyone who could be saved. Fuck. She was getting soft in her old age and she was going to have to kick Shepard’s ass because it was entirely her fault.

She left the students gossiping excitedly amongst themselves and she had that strange feeling in her chest again, a stab of--something. They were so young and so fucking innocent. They’d been through the fire the last few days, they’d lost friends and teachers, but even that--they didn’t really know war, and they’d been spared the worst of what Cerberus would’ve done to them. The room where they were sleeping, two to a cot, had a fucking summer camp atmosphere. Or at least what she imagined summer camp must have been like. They were excited. On to their next big adventure.

Jack had never been so young. 

For once, she wasn’t angry, thinking about what had been taken from her, just relieved it hadn’t been taken from them.

Shepard’s cabin was empty. Even on the Cerberus version of the ship the cabin had been stark. There were the huge empty aquariums and equally empty glass cases. Ornaments for a less utilitarian mind. The only things Shepard used were the bed, made military-neat, the weapons and armor locker, and the desk with her datapad. You could tell she spent most of her time on the ship there, working rather than sleeping. Just like Jack spent the majority of her time with the duty rosters these days.

She lay down on Shepard’s bed, remembering the night before the suicide mission, the night she’d thrown her fears to the fucking wind and went for it. Went for Shepard. It had been one of the biggest risks she’d ever taken, even more so than stealing that fucking space station and crashing it into the moon. Which said more about Shepard than it did about her.

The door hissed and Shepard looked up, saw Jack there, and smiled. She didn’t smile often, and the effect in the dim light--with the glowing red ruin of her face--was almost ghoulish. And to Jack, probably the most beautiful thing in the fucking world.

“Hey,” Jack said, far more fucking casually than she actually felt.

“I looked for you in engineering,” Shepard said, “you weren’t there.”

“Like hell I’m going down there for one night when the captain of the fucking ship told me once I had free run of her cabin.”

“I wasn’t complaining,” Shepard countered, and sat down on the bed next to her. She didn’t reach out to touch Jack immediately, which was something she always appreciated so fucking much. Shepard could rip a man apart with her biotics or with her bare hands, commanded men with the ease born of years of practice, but she let Jack set the pace, always.

“Yeah, well. We’re all moving up in the world.” She reached out to put her hand on Shepard’s thigh, to reassure herself that Shepard was still alive, still there. Her leg was muscled and warm and exactly like Jack remembered it. Remembered the way she swore when Jack bit the inside of her thigh and licked her way further up.

“I didn’t expect to find you teaching. But it fits.”

“Yeah? How do you figure?”

“I dunno,” Shepard said, and grinned. “If I had a teacher like you, maybe I wouldn’t’ve ended up a soldier.”

“Shepard, there’s no goddamn universe where you aren’t a soldier.”

Shepard didn’t say anything to that, just lay down next to her and tucked her head against Jack’s shoulder. “Probably.”

“Zahava…” She hated this. She hated gratitude. She hated feelings, and in that moment part of her, a very small part of her, even hated Shepard. It hurt so fucking much, sometimes. “Thank you.”

“Don’t, Jack. You don’t have to.”

“Not for coming back. Because of course you fucking came back. But for putting them in a support unit…” She hated this. She’d told Shepard long ago that caring for people made you vulnerable and she’d vowed never to care and now here she was, feeling like her chest was going to rip itself apart. Shepard, who’d kill a man as quickly as look at him, whose glow-in-the-dark body was a testament to her philosophy. Shepard, who’d nodded brusquely and given Jack the only thing that ever mattered to her. Like it was so goddamn easy. “They aren’t ready for the front lines. And I know you.”

I know youI know the blood on your hands. Shepard had a body count higher than Jack's and just as few regrets. The old Shepard wouldn't have hesitated to send her kids out to fight. And Jack, fuck her, Jack would even have understood.

Shepard exhaled. “We could have used the artillery. But.”

“But?”

“I couldn’t do that to you,” Shepard said. “I saw your face and I couldn’t. Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too!”

“I’m holding you to that, Professor.”

“Oh, god, you somehow got even fucking cheesier while I was gone… shut up, Shepard.”

And she did, but only after Jack rolled on top of her and slipped her hand down Shepard's pants, and only after hissing a curse that was more encouragement than anything, and for once, the pain was worth it.