When the transmission came through from the Normandy, Mayson near collapsed on the shuttle. Miranda, perhaps sensing the Commander’s distraught or the vacuum her inability created, stepped up to respond back to Joker’s call about the Collectors taking the crew.
Mayson berated herself in silence. Dammit, how did she miss this? How did she let her enemies get so close to her ship, her crew? Joker?
The two didn’t speak much since she shot down his genuine marriage proposal, him withdrawing to lick his wounds as their friendship deteriorated to the point of him refusing to address her by name, instead only referring to her as Commander. It hurt, but she let him act the bratty child, staying her distance to avoid any further attachment on his part.
But what if they took him before she could patch things between them? What if his last thoughts consisted of his newfound disdain for her? She couldn’t picture never seeing him again, fear tight in her throat at the mere idea of it.
Losing him, it wasn’t something she’d get over.
It dawned on her that she knew why Joker said what he did, on how he realized that he felt something for her. A life without him, the thought terrified her.
Samara touched Mayson’s elbow, the younger woman jumping at the sudden snap back to her surroundings. “Come sit down, Commander. We’ll be there shortly.”
Miranda fumed on the other side of the ship, exchanging angry whispers with Jacob. Mayson blocked out the fervent sound, the restlessness that buzzed around the rest of the ship as the crew talked amoungst themselves over the events that transpired back on the Normandy.
Worry refused to leave her gut, instead twisting itself throughout her body, a soft trembling in her hands that she hid by sitting on them. She needed to take charge of this situation, act like the leader she prided herself to be.
But the only thought in her head consisted of Joker’s safety.
What she didn’t account for, when she stood in front of him in the conference room, was the defeat that sagged his frame as he sat on the edge of the table, a forlorn weariness to his features. He didn’t register her entrance, his eyes bearing into the ground.
She staggered over to him, throwing her arms around his neck. He stilled under the contact for a brief moment before shoving her away. “Just… don’t.”
“Don’t,” his voice warned.
She wished to push this further, for him to open up to her the way he used to, but their conversation interrupted with the sharp clacking of Miranda’s heels. The Cerberus operative appeared out for blood a vicious snarl on her lips as her eyes slid over Joker’s sullen frame.
“Everyone? You lost everyone-and damn near lost the ship, too?”
Mayson clenched her fists at her side, stepping between Miranda’s glare and Joker’s sulk. “That’s enough, Miranda. It’s not his fault. This falls on everyone, yourself included.”
“I don’t need you to fight my battles, Commander.” Joker rose to his feet to meet Miranda’s challenge. “I know I messed up. I was here!”
“We did everything we could, Jeff,” EDI chimed in to his defense.
He rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yeah, thanks, Mom.”
“Joker…” Mayson touched his shoulder, meaning for it to comfort, but he flinched, stepping back with a hardened scowl.
She decided to wait until after the meeting to approach him alone in the cockpit. As she entered, she called out, “EDI, can you give us some privacy?”
“Of course, Commander.”
Joker swiveled in his chair, his face wearing hard lines brought on by stress. “Commander. Sorry about the crew and… and you know what, no, I’m not sorry. What the hell are you doing leaving us out here where Collectors can work us over?” His anger toward her came as a shock, but she waited, staying silent until she knew his rant finished. “Because you know what, I should… I should just go. Next port, just get the hell out of here.”
“Scoot over.” When he didn’t, she crawled onto the chair, wiggling her butt until it forced him to make room for her. She picked up his limp hand, squeezing it as she rested her head on his shoulder. He didn’t say anything, to which she was grateful. It was her turn to speak. “You’re right, you shouldn’t be sorry. That was a failure on my part. I put you and the crew in danger, and that’s on me. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t blame you if you want to get off this hunk of crazy.”
He huffed, drawing his hand away from hers. “Maybe I will. Just leave and not look back.”
“I’m not going to force you to stay.” She tried for his hand again, this time allowing her hold it. “But you’ll miss all the excitement trying to rescue them. And I’ll miss having you by my side.” She paused. “I already do.”
He didn’t respond, instead replacing his words with a squeeze of her hand. Her fingers twirled the gold wedding ring still on his finger, her other hand twisting hers coupled with her dog tags.
She recalled his words when he confessed his feelings. Would she carry any regrets if something happened to him?
“Ask me again.” She let go of his hand, shifting to straddle his lap. Her mind raced in pace with her heart. Would saying yes bring her the peace she sought in his eyes?
At that time, only confusion shone in his gaze as he struggled to understand what she wanted. “What?”
She repeated herself, adding emphasis on the ask.
A light ignited his eyes as he registered her words, his tongue darting out to wet his lips. “Will you… marry me? Again? For real this time?”
With an excruciating slowness to prolong the moment, she nodded. “If we both make it through this mission, then yes, I’ll marry you.”
His smile faltered with her pessimistic wording. “You really know how to put a perspective on things.” But he leaned forward, lips sliding over hers in a ravenous kiss, tongue spreading apart her lips. She slid her hands up his neck to the sides of his head, steadying herself as the force of their kissing pushed her back, the kiss growing in intensity.
It shouldn’t have come as a shock that kissing him felt like two pieces of a puzzle, finding and fitting into each other at long last.
His hands glided up the outside of her thighs, reaching around to dig into her ass, prying her cheeks apart as she lifted off the seat with her knees to tower over him, affixing their mouths together until he broke it to nip down her neck.
“Save some of that for the victory party,” she teased, leaning back to sprinkle kisses over his cheeks and nose.
“Just make sure you come back,” he said, lips at her throat.
“Rescue the crew, save the day, return to the ship in one piece and follow that with some amazing sex? I’ll add it to my agenda.” She tipped his hat back until it landed on the floor.
“Why wait until after,” he said, his hands working at the snaps of her armor. “We have some time before we hit the Omega Relay.”
She opened her omni-tool, keying in a few words, the door locking as a result. “I got the door.”
His arms moving to circle her waist, lips drawn against her neck, he murmured, “And I got you.”