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dulcius ex asperis

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For Jack, the whirring of the tattoo machine was comforting. Miranda couldn’t necessarily say she found the noise or the process so relaxing. She’d watched the last time Jack had been tattooed - with a hexagonal pattern that resembled a stylised honeycomb - but this was her first time getting inked.

And Jack was the artist.

“Smart to get it somewhere you can see what I’m doing,” she’d joked, when they first discussed the design. “But more seriously, your thigh’s a good place to start.”

“To start?” Miranda chuckled. “I don’t know that I’m planning on more. ” Jack shrugged and smirked, as if she knew something Miranda didn’t. It was infuriating, and also one of the things she’d grown to love about her.

The pain was bearable, fading to a dull itch as Jack continued to work, perfect brows furrowed in deep concentration. If anyone who knew them both had told her just a few years ago that she’d trust Jack with something like this - indeed, with anything - she’d have laughed, and possibly suggested that they paid a visit to Dr. Chakwas. But a lot had changed since their time together on the Normandy.



“Touch me and I will smear the walls with you, bitch!” Miranda heard the doors whoosh open, but she was still focused on Jack, her biotics flaring like blue flames, giving the impression that some of her tattoos were animated. She threw something else across the room, though Miranda dodged it easily. The woman was unhinged.

“Enough! Stand down, both of you!” Shepard stood before them, arms folded. Since her reanimation, Miranda had noted that while Jane Shepard might be small, her demeanor commanded respect - even from someone like Jack.

“The cheerleader won’t admit what Cerberus did to me was wrong.” Miranda scoffed at the not-so-affectionate nickname, amongst other things.

“It wasn’t Cerberus. Not really. But clearly you were a mistake.”

“Screw you! You’ve got no idea what they put me through! Maybe it’s time I showed you!” Clearly, she’d hit a nerve. Shepard’s eyes narrowed.

“Our mission is too important to let personal feelings get in the way.” Pragmatic, as always.

Fuck your feelings. I just want her dead.” Lord, she was dramatic.

“You both know what we’re up against. Save your anger for the Collectors.” Miranda moved closer to Jack, a smile playing on her lips.

“I can put aside my differences...until the mission’s over.”

“Sure. I’ll do my part.” So she could be reasonable. “I’d hate to see her die before I get a chance to filet her myself.” Or not. Shepard didn’t look convinced either.

“You two gonna be okay?” she asked, as Jack left, no doubt to sulk in the engine room.

“It’s a good thing you came by when you did. As long as she does her job, we’ll be fine. Thanks, Shepard.”



“You holding up okay, cheerleader?”

“Naturally.” Jack’s head bobbed up and down slightly as she worked, a couple of stray hairs falling across her forehead. She’d dyed some sections of her hair a deep red since the last time they’d seen one another. Miranda was too cool to mention it right away, but she could tell she liked it. Naturally. Jack paused to grab a paper towel.

“No regrets?"

“About letting you talk me into this? We’ll see when you’re finished.” Jack grinned. She’d been a little surprised that Miranda had left so much up to her, and typography wasn’t usually her thing...but Miranda wasn’t going to be disappointed. Just like the mission back then, she’d do her job.



 “All right, Jack. I hate to say it, but Cerberus was wrong about you.” Halle-fucking-lujah.

“No shit.” There were a lot of things Jack could have said, but she thought she’d keep it simple for now. She poured herself another glass of...whatever that blue cocktail was. It was sickly sweet, but it packed a punch.

“You’re still violent and maladjusted...but the Illusive Man never would’ve predicted you’d bond with the Grissom Academy kids. You are growing, despite everything Cerberus did to you. I find that...extremely admirable.” Her cheeks were a little flushed. Was Miranda Lawson blushing? Couldn’t be. Had to be down to the drink. always paid to be sure.

“Wow. Thanks. I still really hate you, but you have fantastic tits.” Miranda laughed, and the weird blue cocktail made Jack think it was cute. Almost.

“All right. I can live with that.” Over the years both women had grown used enough to backhanded compliments, particularly from one another, that they no longer held any real, lasting sting. Of late, sniping at one another had become more a game than anything else. “We’re not going to hug or anything are we?” Jack snorted.

“You wish.”



Jack wasn’t the only one who’d changed, who’d grown as a person. They all had. Miranda wondered if the Illusive Man could have anticipated the way she’d grown. If her father could have done. It didn’t particularly matter, and both men were long gone, but it amused her to think about them being blindsided by yet another variable.

“All done. Now, let me just...” After wiping away the excess ink, Jack motioned for Miranda to move her leg, and produced a length of cling film ready to wrap around her thigh. “And remember-”

“Yes, yes, I’ve got the aftercare list you so diligently put together for me. And I already requisitioned the serum you recommended.” Jack laughed, and pecked her on the cheek.

“Good girl. But you know that’s the same list I give to everyone, right?” Miranda smirked.

“You say that about all your clients’ thighs?”

“Okay, so I may have made a couple of edits just for you. Anyway, don’t you want to see this before I wrap it up?” Miranda looked down, marvelling at the bold red and yellow florals around the more intricate lettering of the phrase she’d left up to Jack. She’d been right to trust Jack to pick the right thing - it was perfect.


the stars incline us, they do not bind us