Work Header

Cranial Trauma System

Work Text:

Jack arrives home - or rather, her quarters at Grissom Academy, which pass for home with the Normandy grounded - and finds Miranda perched on her desk chair, scrolling attentively through a list of weapon mods on Jack’s computer. She’s wearing a long t-shirt (also Jack’s, because of course it is) and apparently nothing else. It’s only sort of a surprise, since Miranda does this from time to time, but it’s definitely nice to come back to.

Well, it’s nice until Miranda shifts, turning to look over her shoulder, and the shirt rises to reveal an ugly new scar running up the outside of her thigh. That’s not right. Jack is supposed to be the one with scars, and Miranda her foil: flawless, pristine. On the outside, anyway. (Inside is another story, and part of why they fit so well.)

Miranda’s welcoming smile falters at Jack’s sudden scowl, and she follows Jack’s gaze to the scar in question.

“Oh, relax,” she chides, getting up from the chair and heading for Jack. Her face is open and relaxed, her stride casual and easy, no limp or apparent pain. “I’m alive, I’m here. My leg will heal.”

She reaches for Jack, going in for a kiss, and Jack twists away irritably. It’s too hard to be angry when Miranda is kissing her, and Jack wants to hang onto this one for a bit - she feels like she’s earned it, staying all nice and safe and boring here while Miranda goes and gets carved up by who knows what. She wants to protect Miranda. She wants to teach her kids, too, but Miranda came first. And also doesn’t want Jack’s protection, but that’s an argument for another day (and another, and another, and another, until they’re both dead).

She doesn’t say any of this to Miranda - she doesn’t say anything at all to Miranda, actually, just turns to walk into her tiny bathroom with its equally tiny shower, far too small for them to share. They tried.

Miranda sighs loudly at her, but knows better than to push. She goes back to the computer and resumes scrolling.

Jack’s mood is not much improved by the shower, especially given the 15-minute water cap (which she could hack, but will not), so she emerges from the bathroom with the same scowl. Miranda doesn’t even look in her direction. She knows it’s a tactic, because everything Miranda does is a tactic, because that’s just who Miranda is, but Jack is already angry so she decides to be annoyed about that too.

“There are so many modifications to choose from,” Miranda says suddenly, but softly. Musing. A gentle invitation to conversation.

Jack throws her towel on the ground defiantly. Miranda keeps not looking at her, but Jack is positive she hears the wet slap of the fabric on the ground. Jack hopes it annoys her.

“I was thinking of upgrading my guns,” Miranda continues. “What do you think I should do?”

She wants Jack’s help, but not her /help/. Jack wants to kiss her, wants to hit her, wants to shackle herself to Miranda’s side and never leave it.

She settles for sniping irritably at the love of her life.

“Which guns?”

Miranda does not respond to her tone, just scrolls a little more, opens up a high-caliber barrel mod and then closes it. “Well, probably my pistol to begin with. I use that the most.”

“Your pistol or your hand-canon?”

It’s pedantic, and Jack knows it. Your pistol or your other type of pistol? She wishes Miranda would fire back at her so they could just have this fight already. Miranda, of course, does not oblige.

“The smaller pistol,” she replies calmly. “I like the power of the canon, but it’s far too loud for stealth. Perhaps something for more power…”

She trails off, opens the page for an expensive pistol scope, then closes that too.

“Power for the gun or for you?”

Jack knows exactly what she sounds like, bitter and mean; she’s not trying to hide it. She wants to help, because helping might keep Miranda alive, but she also doesn’t want to help because she’s a selfish child who only wants to help on her own terms (which is to say, with violence). She ends up half-assing both and being an asshole all at once.

“For me is a thought,” Miranda says after a moment, “But I like to think I’m pretty powerful on my own.” She is. She’s the next strongest human biotic after Jack - amazing how they were both made that way rather than born. Almost like humans weren’t meant for this. Miranda wasn’t meant for this. What would Miranda have been if her father hadn’t made her into this? Somebody else? Nothing at all, leaving Jack to exist in a universe devoid of Miranda Lawson? A pulse of pain beats through Jack’s chest.

She breathes in, slowly. She loves Miranda so much. So goddamn much. She loves this powerful, beautiful, frustrating woman, for whom she can do nothing. Jack sinks to sit on the edge of the bed, still naked and damp (she threw the towel away before she finished drying off, and can’t go back for it now).

Miranda turns to look at her, and their eyes meet. Jack’s heart flips over in her chest, and her hands reach out for Miranda. Her fingers curl in the empty air, but only for an instant.

Miranda digs her nails gently into the back of Jack’s head, pulls back, digs her teeth into the front of Jack’s throat. She is sharp and fierce despite the plush fullness of her body, holding Jack like a bear trap until the thin body ceases to tremble and relaxes in her grasp.

She doesn’t pull back, deliberately does not bear witness to the tears streaking down Jack’s face. Instead, she presses Jack down into the mattress, curls up against her, and waits there, silent and patient.

Quietly, Jack murmurs.

“Please don’t die.”

“I can’t promise that,” Miranda replies, truthfully. “But I promise to try.”

It has to be enough.

It’s not.