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It's a Match

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From: iPartner Connections

Rec'd: 15:37
Miss Shepard
Username: SoldierWise

We have reviewed your application to join the iPartner group and are happy to accept you into the exclusive Diamond Circle, where the best meet the best! iPartner is proud to present you with our exclusive Diamond Circle benefits:

- Access your account as often as you wish
- Unrestricted membership search across 23 systems
- Review potential iPartners in full 360 vision*
- Guaranteed first choice placement of your personal dossier

Questions? Ask your personal iPartner representative.

Welcome!

iPartner Connections

"Executive matches for selective people"

*iPartner reserves the right to censor inappropriate submissions

Kasumi, Tali and Jack were so dead.

Sitting in front of her private terminal in her quarters, Quinn glared at the screen, eyes narrowed and brow creased, the username picked giving her the exact idea of the offenders. It had been just the night before she had spent three hours chatting with a certain thief, her biotic crazy companion, and their resident tech genius about things ranging from the crew’s asses to the meaning of her name, wise . Yeah, that didn’t sound so wise now. She'd barely had time to process Horizon, the scene still sending a stinging pain to her chest whenever her memory dredged it up, only to find out they'd gone and meddled in her personal life and set her up on a dating site. She scrolled up to delete her profile, to not give their devilry a single chance, but every time the mouse hovered over the ‘delete and unsubscribe’ button, she hesitated.

What? For fuck’s sake.

SoldierWise...

At least it didn’t have her name and that was a relief. Her thumb played with her lip, maybe she could leave it for a little while . Having someone to talk to would be nice, even if she wasn't looking for a relationship right now. Sighing heavily, she pushed her chair back, leaving the window minimized as she fiddled with one of the model ship kits she'd just bought, connecting pieces with shaking hands. Keeping herself busy was proving to be harder than she thought, her eyes being pulled to her console every five seconds. Setting her pieces down she re-opened the window with the intention of making small changes to some of the blatant embellishment of her life Tali, Kasumi and Jack had portrayed. If someone contacted her, it had to be for who she was. A soft smile tugged the corner of her lips as she typed; she loved her crew, but sometimes, just sometimes she just wanted to escape and be Quinn, neither Commander or Shepard, not the Savior of the Galaxy and the leader of a Suicide Mission, to have someone outside all the turmoil her life was. After saving the changes, she focused her attention back on the ship scattered across her desk. She had just turned when a faint ping caught her attention, and her head snapped up immediately, half of her dreading and the other half curious. They couldn't have found someone already…

Inter-relay Text Chat
Location: The Citadel, Silversun Strip

To: SoldierWise
From: iPartner Connections

16:12 Admin: We have found a match based on the changes to your profile. Would you like to set up a chat?

Quinn stared at the screen, rise brows and mouth opened in shock--so fast? Should she accept? Her fingers drummed on the desk, Kaidan’s frowning face, his deprecating words haunting her; it had been just hours ago, but she needed someone to talk to, someone who couldn’t judge her, who could be honest with her unafraid to hurt her feelings, someone who could talk to her as if she was a normal person. And that was the beauty of it. Running her fingers through her brown wavy hair did nothing to calm her nerves. She took a deep, steadying breath, fingers loitering over the keyboard. A small catch of fear bubbled beneath her uncertainty, but for all she knew it could be someone feeling just as lost and alone in the galaxy as she felt at the moment, having a hard time just like she was. Having watched the world fall apart, she felt compelled to leave it a better place than she found it, wasn’t that what she had been doing since she enlisted? and who was she to turn her back on someone else looking for a friend? Maybe if she was lucky, she could have fun along the way.  

16:18 SW: Please.

16:18 Admin: Connecting with DarkEnergyMatters. Have a pleasant day and thank you for join iPartner Connections!

***

As he walked down the strip, a bulky package down his arm, the neon lights almost blinded him. He made his way through the crowd of idle bystanders, uninteresting tittle-tattle ringing in his ears every time he came too close to one of the groups of people.

When he arrived to the doors of his apartment building the concierge greeted him and he gave a slight nod, entering the elevator. Once the doors closed, a deep sigh escaped from his lips, his eyes shut as he pressed the package against his chest, a hint of desperation glazing his movements. When the elevator stopped he stepped through his doors, the familiar view of his apartment welcoming him. He was going to miss this place, every single corner bedecked by memories of her; a scale model of the Normandy, the poster of the Survivor of Akuze, framed pictures from when the Council named her First Human Spectre. Though the poster was coming with him to Ilium--he couldn't leave her behind.

He strode to his table and placed the package on it, unwrapping it with trembling hands. The onyx black shone with the N7 hallmarked by the pure white and the red of blood, making him gasp. His memory lingered in the few times he had seen her, standing there in front of him with her own N7 armor, as ferocious as she was stunning. God, he missed her so much! He sat in front of his terminal, trying to calm down. The manufacturer was right. It was a perfect copy. A perfect duplicate that stirred the memories he had fought so hard to ditch and it had been worth the time he'd had to wait. Conrad opened his messages, following his everyday routine, a flickering name catching his attention--an email he'd ignored for too long.

To: Conrad Verner
From: Cassandra Verner

Hey bro! How are you? I just signed up in this amazing thing I have to tell you, but pick up your damn phone! It’s been a year! I ran into Gary last week, he said you were still prattling on about Shepard and how her death wasn't fair. You're still a nerd to me, but now I hear you have a big new job. Seriously idiot, you need friends, so I signed you up on iPartner. I know, I know, don’t thank me! Wish me luck in a brand new Galaxy!

Love,

Cass

Almost a year and a half ago, and he regretted not saying goodbye--and he hadn't even told her the truth. It wasn't a job as much as it was a calling; pick up where Shepard left off to try and make the galaxy a better place, even if no one believed he could do it. Though quitting his other job may have been a bit rash, he knew Cass wouldn’t have approved. He had a PhD in high-energy physics and a hotly-debated thesis about the effects of Dark Energy on the passage of time, for crying out loud...he wasn't a soldier. But Shepard was his inspiration, his escape from an awful life of bullies and mundane, prosaic things--a break like reading, writing and art were for others--and he'd be the first to admit that he'd been head over heels in love with her. Just her presence had inspired him to take a stand, alleviate suffering. She'd overcome growing up in the slums and what happened on Akuze, pulling herself up by her bootstraps and not letting life keep her down, and he wanted that too.

A soft ping chimed from his terminal.

Inter-relay Text Chat
Location: Deep Space

To: DarkEnergyMatters
From: iPartner Connections

16:18 Admin: SoldierWise would like to chat with you. Do you want us to connect you?

He hesitated, blond lashes flickering. In all that year he hadn’t received a single notification from that wretched site, and at this point he didn’t care. He was ready to close the window and never look at the site again--but Cassandra’s words echoed in his mind; guilt for his prolonged silence ate him inside, he owed his little sister at least that.

16:20 DEM: Okay.

16:20 Admin: Connecting with SoldierWise. Have a pleasant day and thank you for join iPartner Connections!

***

... DarkEnergyMatters is typing...

The words blinked on her screen but not a single word came through, her sweaty palms revealing her nervousness. Typing in a message, she was about to hit enter, but thought better of it and deleted the entire message before trying again, wording her greeting in a different, less hokey way. Four minutes she continued on that way, four minutes since the Admins connected them, before she decided to take matters into her own hands. He seemed to be as nervous as she was, and scrolling through the profile on this godforsaken site was not helping...they seemed to have plenty in common, so why was making a new friend so hard all of a sudden? She never really had to do anything, never had to reach out, people just tended to gravitate to her and then everything worked itself out. She took a deep breath, this didn't have to be a hard thing. Maybe start by saying hello.

16:24 SW: Um, hi. Sorry, is this weird? My meddlesome friends set this up for me. I love ‘em and wanna strangle ‘em at the same time

16:24 DEM: Hello there. I’m sorry for this, my sister seemed to think the same. Can’t strangle her though, she just left.

16:24 SW: Were you two close?

16:25 DEM: When we were children, now not so much.

16:25 DEM: What about you? do you have any brothers or sisters?

Quinn paused, wondering if she really wanted to get into this with a virtual stranger, sighing and shaking her head...she could be an open book without going into details--omit the Reds and certain other details.

16:27 SW: I'm...not sure. Never knew my parents, they may be dead, or they gave me up. I've been on my own almost as long as I can remember...though I feel like all my friends have become my adopted family, so to speak. A family I get to choose.

16:27 SW: Sorry. You don't want to hear my sob story. It's been a hell of a day--work, y'know? So tell me about you. Any hobbies?

16:28 DEM: I'm very sorry to hear that. It must've been hard. My parents died when Cass (my sister) and I were young, but at least we had them for a while.

16:28 DEM: Hey, at least you have friends.

16:28 SW: :'(  Oh gosh. I'm sorry!

16:29 DEM: It's ok, it doesn't compare to your situation.

16:30 DEM: Hobbies? Well, I like reading and watching sci-fi, as well as making model ships.

16:30 DEM: And you?

16:31SW: I love model ships. I was actually just trying to build one while plotting my friends’ demise.

16:31 DEM: Do you? Wow, that's cool!

16:31 DEM: I even have the Normandy, limited edition. :D

16:32 SW: That was the first one I bought!

16:32SW: No collection is complete without it. :D

16:32 DEM: You are damn right! :)

She laughed, glad to find another nerd who understood her love of model ships--she came back to the Normandy with a box under her arm, far too often. Joker, Garrus and Thane made fun of her for it. But the Normandy SR1 was her baby, and that one had be included--and had started the craze. She glanced up at the case in front of her, almost full from her collecting frenzy that she didn't even try to hide anymore...coming back from every place they went with a new ship. He was typing again, those telltale little dots blinking in and out of existence on the screen.

16:35 DEM: So you're a soldier?

16:36 SW: For...oh God, about 14 years now...give or take a little break a couple years ago.

Ha. A break. Is that what she was calling it now?

16:36 SW: It saved my life.

16:36 SW: But I love being out in space. The stars remind me humanity is small.

16:37 SW: And that there's a lot of room for all of us.

16:38 DEM: That's a good way to look at things.

16:38 DEM: Sometimes you need a break, I agree with you there.

16:39 DEM: I quit my job almost a year ago, and got to see space again. It's breathtaking and damn big.

16:39 DEM: You're right.

16:40 SW: Haha. So, favorite sci-fi epic.

16:40 SW: Please say "The Last of the Legion"

16:40 DEM: :O  Maybe this site really works because you stole that from me I swear!

She couldn't repress a grin, leaning back in her chair. Ever since she had been revived by Cerberus she hadn’t felt quite like Quinn, still struggling to re-claim the splinters of her former self, most of the time unable to piece them together. Waking up on the other side hadn’t left time to process or digest that for Cerberus, she was only Commander Shepard; this was just the break she needed after everything that had been going on, reminding her that after all this, the universe didn’t want her to be as miserable as possible. She'd have to thank Tali, Kasumi and Jack when she had the chance.

16:42 SW: X'D X'D X'D

16:42 SW: Maybe they're not so dead afterall…

16:45 SW: So, what was this job? You quit because you weren't enjoying it anymore?

16:45 SW: I was paying attention. You're not getting out of it that easy

16:45 DEM: XD  Can't blame a guy for trying.

16:50 DEM: I'm a high-energy physicist, but my main field is dark energy. I worked for a company that developed FTL cores, I know very boring, but I loved it.

16:52 DEM: I actually quit because, well, because a dear friend died, and I just I didn't think I just could keep going as if nothing had happened. I know, this doesn't make much sense, but she meant the world to me. It completely shattered everything I was.

Her brows shot up, lower lip disappearing underneath her teeth; she hadn’t been wrong--he was as astray as she was. The fact he was able to accept that the death of a friend could affect him to the point of making him quit a job he loved--just made him more real, more engaging. At least he was taking the time he needed to recover...a smart choice rather than letting his work suffer and drag him down.

16:55 DEM: I'm sorry, I didn't want to overshare...:(

16:57 SW: I don't mind. That's hard--I know loss better than most, so I get it. I'm so sorry and I can't say it gets better, but it gets easier.

16:58 SW: I have to get back to work, but it was nice chatting with you. If you need anything, I'm only a couple clicks away. We'll talk about this physicist job later...it sounds fascinating.

17:00 DEM: Thanks for your words, and you know? I'm glad Cass signed me up in this. It was nice talking to you and same, I'll be here if you wanna talk. Have a nice day!

***

As he closed his terminal his fingers raked through his hair, his palm lingering at the crown of his head tugging his locks, a small smirk playing on his face. Whoever that was, it certainly had been a good spent half hour. He was still a little awestruck about how easily he had ended up confessing some of the things he kept closest to his chest to a total stranger. Maybe it was the empathy that reeked from her words or perhaps how at ease he felt knowing she didn’t think it was lame for an adult to make model ships. She even had the Normandy! Whoever that was, SoldierWise had brought him the first ray of glee in a long time.

It was getting late his shuttle was leaving for Illium that night and he hadn’t packed yet. Brushing the experience off, he stood up to unhang Shepard’s poster, all signs of joy completely evaporated. He took his suitcase from his closet, throwing it on the bed, carelessly stuffing inside everything he deemed necessary. There was no need to take all with him, this place was still his, and if he came back, parts of him would still wait for him there. Opening a specially shaped case, he placed the N7 armor inside, the tip of his fingers brushing the smooth surface before putting it aside.

An hour later he was ready, freshly showered and packages in hand, he stepped onto the elevator, sweeping the place with one final, melancholic glance. His eyes stopped for a moment, a wistful look lingering on his model of the Normandy. This was for Shepard and for everything she inspired in him; for that lost body the Alliance hadn’t seemed worthy to find . His blood boiled at that thought, remembering the news his contacts in his previous job had shared with him. That sting burned like hot coal in his gut. The cold air of the night yanked him back to reality just in time to hop into the RapidTrans.

He was among the last boarding the shuttle, and as they lift over the smog and neon lights of the Zakera District, his eyes darted to the now visible stars scattered among the sky. They looked beautiful tonight.

The stars remind me humanity is small. And that there's a lot of room for all of us.

As the weariness of the day washed over him, he wondered if SoldierWise, wherever she was, was lucky enough to be looking at the stars right now.  

***