“Now, Shep, don’t get mad.”
Kasumi’s voice filled the comm link between them and Shepard frowned, knowing that she wasn’t going to like what the thief said next.
“What did you do?”
The comm was silent briefly, almost as if Kasumi was debating whether to tell the truth or not. Ever since they’d taken down Donovan Hock, the two of them had formed an unlikely friendship, getting into more trouble than Shepard was used to. But in a way, it reminded her a lot of Jenkins and those old days on the first Normandy. The days when Kaidan was the voice of reason and the rest of the crew got up to no good. Days that she sorely missed and weren’t the same since Cerberus brought her back.
With a sigh, Shepard blew a piece of auburn hair out of her face. “Kasumi?”
“Remember when I told you I needed to take some shore leave?” Another pause. “That was a lie.”
“Despite what you think, Kasumi, I didn’t for one moment believe you were actually taking shore leave.” Shepard pulled her N7 hoodie on, zipping it up as she made her way out of her apartment and onto the bustling walkways of the Citadel. “What’s going on?”
“You’re the best, Shep. Did anyone ever tell you that?”
“Mostly just you.” She quipped. “Now where are you?”
“Why are you- nope. Never mind. Don’t tell me. It’s probably better if I don’t know.” Maeve continued the walk down the street, keeping an eye out for C-Sec, only in case they overheard her conversation. “What do I need to do?”
“I’m stuck near the entrance. I need you to distract the guy with me so I can make my escape. I’ll disappear like I was never here in the first place.” Kasumi sounded so sure of her abilities. Shepard hoped she made good on that promise.
“You know me. I’m the best for a reason.”
Their link went silent. Shepard was glad for it as she glanced up at the bright lights of the casino. A handful of steps and she was in the main foyer of the lavish building. A doorman greeted her, doing a double take when he realized who she was. She ignored the astonished look as she continued her way up the much longer staircase and to where the bulk of the gambling machines were. With a quick glance around, Shepard easily found Kasumi.
The thief was standing near one of the quasar machines, but she wasn’t in her usual attire. No, she was dressed in a hooded gown that perfectly accentuated her figure. She was chatting with a well dressed man in his thirties. He was moderately attractive and Shepard didn’t realize what she was interrupting at first.
“Shepard!” Kasumi called out, waving energetically at her. “What are you doing here?”
The man beside Kasumi glanced up, his eyes widening at the sight of Shepard standing there in an N7 hoodie and sweatpants. “Commander S-Shepard?”
Shit. She was interrupting a date. Dammit, Kasumi .
Shepard put her hands in her jacket, trying to hide the fact that she was definitely underdressed and out of her comfort zone. “Hey… you. I was in the neighborhood and uh, stopped in?”
“Oh that’s great. Ron was just telling me about his latest business deal. He’s such a dear .” Kasumi smirked in Shepard’s direction and she immediately knew she was going to regret doing this favor. “Lucky me that you stopped in. He’s a huge fan of yours.”
Maeve had to stop from groaning in mortification. With a flash of her eyes in the thief’s direction, she made it clear in that look that Kasumi would pay for this later. “Uh, hi Ron. It’s nice to meet you.”
The man stared at her, dumbfounded and at a complete loss for words. With a small wave, Kasumi sneaked off, disappearing down the stairs and most likely out of the casino.
Leaving Shepard with her stunned date.
“Commander Shepard- can I ask you some questions?” He asked suddenly, taking a step closer and Shepard tried to smile at him, but the only thing she could think about was how much she was going to kill Kasumi.
“Bloody hell, this is some awful shit.” Zaeed wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, slamming his glass on the table in front of him. The force from the movement almost toppled the table. Shepard quickly saved her drink, but the rest of the table’s items fell over. “Goddamn it.”
“Maybe if you used that mouth to drink instead of complaining, you would’ve kept up with me.” Shepard smirked, swirling the rest of the liquid left in her glass.
“If you served something better than this swill-”
Maeve held a finger up to stop his rant, taking the moment to polish off the rest of her alcohol. With a satisfied ‘ah’, she turned the empty glass over and put it down on the table. “You were saying?”
Zaeed shook his head, leaned back in his chair, and laughed. “I know when I’m beat. Where the hell did you find that shit?”
“It’s from my own personal stash. Got it on my last trip to Earth.”
“No way anyone on Earth distilled that.” Zaeed rubbed his forehead as if he was getting a headache. From the strength of the alcohol they’d just drank, he probably was.
“I didn’t say it was done legally.”
He laughed deeper this time, a full belly laugh. “You never stop surprising me, kid.”
She liked keeping him on his toes. He might play the grumpy old man, but underneath that rough exterior was a heart gentler than he wanted people to believe. “Want a chance to earn your reputation back, old man?”
“Do I hear a plan brewing in that head of yours?”
Shepard flashed him a grin. “I always have a plan when it comes to giving you a beating.”
Zaeed pushed his chair back and stood. “Well, why aren’t we leaving this damned place yet?”
Maeve bit her lip to keep from laughing at him as she followed the mercenary from the bar. The pair took a skycar to the closest shooting range. Shepard knew that there was a chance that Zaeed could win, but after all of the shots they’d taken, she knew it was unlikely.
“I get to choose the stakes.” Zaeed muttered, checking his rifle that he so affectionately called “Jessie”. “If I hit all of the targets, I get to pick the alcohol during the next night out.”
“And if I win?” She held back the eye roll that threatened to accompany the question.
“Pfft, sure, if you win, you can force me to drink more of that foul shit you call vodka.”
“Whatever will make you feel better about losing.”
Zaeed said nothing, but the look in his eyes was enough to know that her comment had the intended effect. He was fired up and that’s how she wanted him. He nudged past her to where the targets waited. He quickly took aim, neatly hitting four of the five at dead center. He missed the center of the fifth, but it was only an inch off. With a satisfied grunt, the mercenary glanced at Shepard, the gun at his side.
“Do better than that.”
Maeve smiled as she lifted her own rifle. It took her a few minutes to get her sights the way she wanted, but she took her shots, a bullseye on each target. She hesitated as she came to the last. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that Zaeed’s face had paled. She would’ve enjoyed his worry at being beaten, again , but she figured she had messed with him enough for that day.
Taking a deep breath, Shepard turned to the last target, aimed and fired.
The barrel hadn’t even finished smoking when Zaeed let out a whoop of joy. “Hah! Yes. In your face, Shepard.”
Maeve rolled her eyes, but let him have his victory.
No way was she going to ever tell him that she lost on purpose.
“Do you know what I miss?”
Shepard glanced up from the book she’d been reading, surprised to see that Samara had finished her mediation and was now watching her with curiosity.
“I couldn’t even begin to guess.”
The asari stood, walking to where the large windows separated them from the bustle of the Silversun Strip. She pressed a hand against the cool glass, closing her eyes briefly. “Dancing.”
Confused, Shepard sat, placing her book beside her on the couch. “Dancing?”
Samara let a small laugh escape her lips. “Yes. I was quite wild in my youth. But out of all of the things I’ve done, dancing is the one that I still wish I did.”
“Why don’t you?”
Samara opened her eyes, looking confused by the question. “I’m a Justicar, Shepard. There isn’t really much time for fruitless pursuits.”
Shepard didn’t know much about life as a Justicar, but hunting criminals across the galaxy was exhausting. She had only chased Saren for a few months and took a much needed rest after. Samara never seemed to slow down.
She made the decision before her mind could catch up with her and convince her to leave it be. Samara was deeply important to Shepard and it was time that the Justicar knew that while her job was important, it didn’t have to be the only thing that defined her.
Samara protested during the entire trip to Flux. Well, ‘protested’ was too weak a term. Shepard was sure that if the asari didn’t respect her, she might’ve used a singularity to get revenge for dragging her out of the apartment.
Flux was nearly at capacity when they arrived, but with Shepard’s name, the pair easily got into the club. Getting Samara onto the dance floor was an entirely different situation.
“There is a war going on, Shepard.” Samara reminded her, crossing her arms over her chest. “Our thoughts should remain there.”
Maeve held out a hand, hoping that her friend would take it willingly. “The war will still be there when we get back, Samara. For now, we could use this moment for a break. We don’t want to burn ourselves out. That won’t do us any good.”
Samara considered her words seriously. “That is a valid point.”
Maeve couldn’t help but smile. “So does that mean…?”
Samara sighed, but she had a smile on her face as well. “Fine. You win, Shepard.”
Trying to keep her excitement in check, she grabbed her friend’s hand and they walked out onto the dance floor together. A new song was already starting so Shepard began to sway her hips, enjoying the way the bass thrummed through her body. Samara watched her momentarily as multi-colored lights flashed with the beat of the music, creating a mesmerizing display against Shepard’s pale skin.
And then Samara joined her.
At first, the asari moved her hips slowly, getting used to the music and it’s rhythm. Before Shepard realized what was happening, Samara had moved closer, their bodies nearly touching as they danced beside each other.
Aliens might have many differences from humans, but one thing was certain, music was something they could all enjoy.
When the music changed into something softer, Samara turned to face Shepard, a smile curling her lips. “Thank you, Shepard. I… needed this.”
“The night is still young.” Maeve responded, smiling in return.
With a nod, Samara slipped an arm around Shepard’s waist, dipping her. Maeve’s hair nearly brushed the floor as she hung upside down. “That it is, Shepard.”
Jeff “Joker” Moreau
Maeve stared at the mech that stood in front of her, not entirely sure what Joker was asking. “Come again?”
The pilot motioned at the machine, a sheepish grin on his face. He almost looked embarrassed. “I wanted to try one of the mechs. For, uh, science?”
She pursed her lips, trying not to laugh as he rubbed the back of his neck. “And you invited me here to do what, exactly?”
“Be my backup, Shepard!”
“I think EDI would be better suited for something like that, Joker.” She glanced up at the imposing figure of the machine again. “ Especially with this.”
Jeff slanted his eyes at her, clearly not amused with her line of thinking. “If I wanted to ask EDI, I would’ve.”
Maeve crossed her arms over her chest. “EDI said no, didn’t she?”
Jeff refused to answer the question, but the truth was easy to read on his face. She was sure that EDI had not only refused, but had given him a list of reasons as to why the idea was terrible and dangerous.
“Fine. I’ll help, but only on one condition.”
“If you break anything, you don’t tell EDI I helped you do this.”
“Deal. Now- can you help me get into this damn thing?”
Shepard laughed, unable to help herself. He was just so damned frustrated. It would be cute if she was anyone else but his commanding officer. “Of course, Flight Lieutenant.”
Joker scowled at her, but didn’t say anything in response. Shepard helped him into the mech suit as carefully as she could, taking note of the exoskeleton he had put on in preparation for this. At least he would be able to move more comfortably without fear of breaking a leg. Once he was strapped into the contraption, the pilot gave Shepard a shit eating grin.
“Ready?” She asked, knowing what his answer was before he spoke.
“Hell yeah. I’ve never been more ready for something in my life.”
She took a step back, leaving Joker to his fun. With a gleeful expression, he aimed the mech’s rocket launcher at the targets set up some distance away. Then he fired.
The resulting explosion made Joker laugh, the excited sound bringing a smile to Shepard’s face. It’d been a long time since she saw her friend with some happiness on his face. She wasn’t the only person who clearly needed shore leave.
“Shepard? Watch this!” He didn’t even wait before using both of the mech’s arms to fire at another target. The rocket and minigun combination obliterated the target within seconds. “Holy shit! Is this how you feel when you fight?”
“That’s called adrenaline, Joker. You can’t tell me that you don’t feel like that when piloting.”
“That’s totally different!”
“How?” She asked, curious but also not believing that flying the Normandy wasn’t some sort of adrenaline rush. “You fly a huge death machine that has guns.”
“Ok, fair comparison, but at least the likelihood that I’ll get hurt in the Normandy is slim.”
“Unless it explodes. Like it did before.”
“Ok, fun killer.” Joker snapped, though it was clearly in jest. He had a smile on his face. “Another twenty minutes and we’ll call it quits. Before EDI realizes what I’m doing.”
Maeve laughed. “Ok, adrenaline junkie. Get it out of your system before we get back to the ship. I don’t need you taking shots at everything in space.”
Joker rolled his eyes. “I’m a professional, Shepard. I only shoot when I’m shot at first.”
She crossed her arms, waiting for him to line up his next shot. “Mhm.”
Time passed quickly, but as each minute ticked by, Maeve ignored the clock, giving Joker as much time as he needed to get his fill of the mech suit. EDI would probably be upset, but it made him happy. It was the only thing she could give him at the moment with the war waiting for them.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Maeve asked as she lay face down on a massage table, her entire upper body naked and exposed to the biotic who stood beside her.
“No, but you trust me. Right?”
Lifting her head so that she could look at her friend, Shepard raised an eyebrow. “Why does that not fill me with confidence?”
Jack shrugged, a smile playing on her lips. “Fuck if I know. Now sit still.”
Biting her lip, Maeve did as she was told, waiting for Jack to finish getting her supplies together for the tattoo. “Aye, aye.”
Jack nudged her with an elbow and Shepard responded with an exaggerated ‘ow.’ “Stop moving or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
The room was quiet except for the buzz of the tattoo gun. Shepard gritted her teeth against the sudden sharp pains as Jack began to outline whatever it was that she was drawing. Maeve was tempted to ask about the design, but she figured Jack wouldn’t say a word about it until it was finished. Instead, she decided to ask the other question in her mind.
“Why are you doing this?”
Jack was silent for a moment, concentrating on her work. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet. Much quieter than was normal for her. “Because you’ve done a lot for me and I… I owe you.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Jack. We’re friends.”
“Ugh, I hate this touchy feely shit.” She didn’t sound like she hated it. In fact, if Shepard pressed her, Jack would probably admit that she considers them the best of friends as well. But if she wanted to pretend otherwise, Shepard could play along.
“So what am I to you? Just someone to poke needles into?” She knew that the smile on her face was obvious in her tone of voice, but she couldn’t help it.
She could practically hear Jack’s eyes roll. “Are you trying to provoke me?”
“Why? Is it working?”
“You’re the worst, Shepard.” Jack said, a laugh slipping past her lips. “If it wasn’t for you, I’d still be that pissed off kid on Purgatory. I didn’t know what I was missing until I met you… until we became friends.”
“I’ll always be your friend, Jack. I promise.”
Maeve didn’t make promises lightly, but this was one she knew she could keep.
“Thanks.” Jack moved away, turning the tattoo gun off and setting it down on the table beside her. “You’re finished. Did you want to see?”
“Hell yeah. What kind of question is that?” Maeve practically jumped off of the table, covering her chest with her shirt. Glancing over her shoulder, she let her eyes take in the sight in the mirror that Jack held up. Her breath caught, a simple rose sitting upon her shoulder blade, shaded with a bit of yellow. “Why the yellow?”
“For friendship. It’s like symbolism or something.”
“Or something.” Shepard repeated, awed by the sight. “I love it, Jack. Thank you for doing this.”
“Like you said, Shepard. You’re my friend. This is just a way to show that I’m not giving that up easily.”
With her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth, Maeve twisted a few wires before removing her hand from the console. It’d been too long since she had worked with tech and even though she probably shouldn’t have been messing with the Normandy’s systems, she was bored. Her auburn hair was piled atop of her head, pieces falling down her neck, tickling her skin. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she squinted her eyes, the lack of light making it difficult for her to see what she was doing.
A cough broke her concentration. Her finger brushed an exposed wire and she yelped when it shocked her. Grumbling, her gaze found the intruder. “What do you want, Vakarian?”
Garrus Vakarian was leaning against the opposite wall, his eyes watching her with amusement. “What compelled you to come down here and mess with my calibrations?”
She ignored his question. “I have no idea what I’m doing at the moment, but I know I’m doing it wrong.”
Garrus chuckled, leaving his perch against the wall to join her on the floor. He had difficulty folding his long legs enough to sit and it brought a smirk to Maeve’s lips. He was the biggest dork she’d ever met. “Let’s see what you’ve broken now.”
Pursing her lips, she gave him a frown. “I don’t always break everything I touch.”
Garrus’ mandibles twitched when he laughed again, his concentration mostly on the wires she’d ruined. “Ok well you break most of the things you touch.”
Maeve smiled, grateful for his presence despite the teasing. She never expected it to happen, but he’d become one of her closest friends. Her best friend, even. Going to war with him at her side was the greatest honor of her life.
Rubbing the back of her neck, she glanced at the console beside her, feeling guilty at ruining all of his hard work. When she met his gaze, her expression was pleading. “Could we not… mention this to anyone?”
“You mean the destruction of the Thanix Cannon?”
Maeve nodded, biting her lip. She was sure that Joker would be furious.
“He’ll never even realize.” He promised, pulling her to stand up with him. “What do you say we get out of here before you break anything else?”
Maeve rolled her eyes, but a smile was permanently affixed to her face. Garrus had that effect on people and by people, she really meant herself.
With a yawn, Maeve stretched her body out, her feet brushing against the leather couch. When she opened her eyes, she had to blink a few times to really appreciate the image before her. Thane. He was sitting on the couch, her head in his lap as she’d slept. A peaceful dreamless sleep… something that hadn’t happened in so long.
“Thane.” She said, almost breathless as she stared at him, his beauty still mesmerizing even after all of this time.
He leaned down, pressing a kiss to her forehead, his lips warm against her skin. At the touch, Maeve felt like a giddy teenager, her heart pounding at the closeness of the man she loved. To think that she nearly lost him only a few weeks ago…
Banishing the thought from her mind, Shepard sat up, turning so she could lean into Thane gently. He was still healing from the fight with Kai Leng. But he was here with her. She would forever thank whatever forces allowed that to be true.
Thane brushed his hand over her hair, humming a tune low in his throat. Maeve closed her eyes again, resting her head on his shoulder, feeling the vibrations from his chest. There was so much coming on the horizon: the war, the Reapers, the battle for Earth… and if they survived it all, rebuilding.
And she was aware of all of that and more.
But for once, Shepard wanted to be selfish. For once, she wanted to take care of her needs and desires. And those included a quiet night in her new apartment with Thane by her side.
“Thane…” She began, but stopped, not sure how to continue.
When she didn’t speak again, Thane shifted so that he could meet her gaze. “What is it, Siha?”
Chewing her lip, she tried to figure out how to explain her thoughts. “I don’t know where to start.”
“Take a breath, concentrate, and speak from the heart. I will listen.”
Nodding, she closed her eyes and did as he instructed. After a moment, she knew what it was she needed to tell him. “If anything happens to me during this war, I want you to know that you were the best thing that ever happened to me. If it hadn’t been for you, for your love, for your patience and support, I’m not sure I would’ve made it this far.”
Thane was silent, waiting for her to finish.
“Almost losing you nearly killed me. I can’t imagine what might’ve become of me if I had.” Maeve glanced away from his perceptive eyes, unable to handle the emotion crushing her.
Thane took her hand between his own. “May I speak, Siha?”
“Of course. You never have to ask.”
Thane smiled, leaning forward to put a finger under her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze once more. “We both know those words are lies. You would’ve continued on, you would’ve fought the war, defeated the Reapers because that’s who you are, Siha. You are a warrior. You are strong. You don’t need me.”
“It’s the truth. You are more than you think you are. And even without me by your side, I am with you. Always.”
Blinking back tears, Maeve leaned forward, meeting his lips with her own, feeling her fears disappear as fast as they’d come on. He was right: she would keep fighting because there were people that needed her. The galaxy had to be protected. That’s who she was.
Thane hadn’t made her into that person, but he made her stronger. Because of him, she believed that they could win. That they would win. In the end, it was Thane’s confidence in her abilities, her leadership that made it so. And she would continue to fight.
Until her very last breath. Because she was a hero and that’s what heroes did.