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Never too far from you

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“How’s my cat?” Jane asked, her grey eyes bright as she stared at Garrus through the vid screen. “Are you taking good care of Garry while I’m gone?”

Garrus rolled his eyes, but he crossed the room and grabbed the stuffed white kitten, shaking it in front of the camera. “Your stuffed cat is fine, Jane. What exactly did you think was going to happen to it?” 

Jane shrugged, letting the blue and black strands flutter around her face. “JC,” she said simply. “You can’t tell me Sol has let that baby out of her sight, so I know he’s been at the house.”

“Spirits, she treats that kitten as if it were her chick,” Garrus said with a huff. “If this is how she intends to be, I’m sort of glad she and John can’t reproduce.” 

“That’s horrible!” Jane replied, struggling to stifle her laughter. “I think Sol’s going to be a great mom!”  She gave him a mischievous smile, and Garrus felt his heart twist at how much he missed her. “If you feel like that, how are you gonna feel when we have our kids one day?” 

He twitched his mandibles at her, knowing his mate was having fun goading him. “I think we’ll be great parents, considering our kids won’t be furry and obstinate.”

“I don’t know… I’m pretty obstinate and so are you- funny how you seem to think our kids are going to miss that trait.” 

“For biology to cooperate, they’d have to be,” Garrus replied, laughing. “But I’d have them no other way.”

“I miss you,” Jane blurted out, twisting her ring around her finger. “Kinda lonely in the room up here without you.”

“I miss you more than words can say,” Garrus replied, instinctively bringing his hand to the ring around his neck. “But, you’re the one who said Nihlus should nominate me for the Spectres,” he reminded her, glancing at the datapad sitting on the table. “To be honest, I’d thought he’d go with John over me.”

“He asked,” Jane admitted. “John was a hard and fast no, though- said he wanted to spend time with his wife and not ‘traipse all over the ass-end of the galaxy’ for a little while.” Garrus laughed and she smiled, her eyes shining brightly at him. “But I gotta admit, it’s rough out here without you guys- it’s too quiet.” 

“You have Jenkins and Liara,” he replied, rumbling with amusement. “Plus I’m sure Joker is giving you all the color commentary for each planet you swing past.” Jane sniffed derisively and he chuckled, shaking his head. “I never thought I’d see the day where you’d wish Kryik and Williams were on your ship.” 

“Yeah, well, stranger things have happened,” Jane grumbled, ignoring his teasing tone. “Speaking of, what’s going on with the lovebirds?” 

“Still holed up in that apartment you got him,” Garrus replied, remembering just how irritated John was when he realized that was where they intended to stay. “I think they’re being loud on purpose every time he walks out that door.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me in the least,” Jane said with a smile. “Nih is a spiteful bastard when he wants to be.” 

“No, they’re just newlyweds and humping like pyjacks every chance they get,” Garrus shot back, thinking about how many times he’d heard the noises coming from their apartment when he’d gone over to have dinner with Sol and John. “For once, I have to agree with John- they’re excessive, Jane.” 

“They have a right to be,” Jane said mildly, ignoring his huff. “I seem to recall a certain turian taking me every chance he got when we first bonded.” 

“And I’m doing it again as soon as you come back,” he replied, wishing she was coming through that door soon. “How long before you guys are done out there?”

“A few more days,” she said, letting out a deep sigh. “I can’t wait to get home and sleep in a real bed again.”

“Who said anything about sleeping?” Garrus teased, noting the slight shiver as she stared at him. “I have plans for you, Mrs. Shepard-Vakarian.” 

“Oh really?” Jane asked, cocking an eyebrow at him. “Feel like letting your wife in on those plans of yours?”

“Not really,” he teased, glancing over at the wrapped present on her side of the bed. “It’s a surprise.”

“But I hate surprises,” she pouted, crossing her arms and glaring at him. “You’re being a mean old armor cat today- remind me why I put up with you?”

“Because you love me,” he said smugly, puffing up with pride when he saw her blush. “So hurry up and come home so I can show you why.”

“Flatterer,” Jane retorted, laughing for a moment before frowning at something off-screen. “Looks like I’m being hailed,” she said with a sigh. “Call you back later?” 

“Of course,” he replied. “Love you, Janey.” 

She smiled, and the look on her face made him so happy it hurt to have her away from him this long. “I love you too, big guy.” 

  


As John pushed open the door, he saw Jane sitting on the couch in front of him, curled up in her Blasto blanket and watching a movie. “Hey,” she said casually, craning her neck to look at him. “I’ve been waiting for you, Johnny.” 

“Why?” John asked, walking over to her. The room felt like ice, and he shivered, making a move to grab the blanket from her. “Move over, Jane Brain- this room feels like a freezer.”

Before he could touch it, Jane shook her head. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she said quietly. “I... I don’t think I want to share right now.” 

Looking closer, John could see tiny frost crystals clinging to the edges of her blue hair- something was odd about her, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “Fine, be that way- I didn’t want your stupid blanket anyway.” 

She laughed, and for some reason, the sound didn’t make him happy like it usually did- instead, it made him tense up, looking around for what was really going on here. “You always were the best,” Jane said sadly. “No matter what was going on, you could always make me smile, Johnny.” 

John felt his heart start to race and he stared at his sister, squinting as her face started to glow blue from the light on the screen. “What’s going on?” 

“What are you most proud of?” Jane asked, ignoring his question. Her strands of blue and black hair floated slowly around her face as she turned away from him and stared at the screen. “When all is said and done, what do you hope people remember about you?” 

He started to protest, but the answer to his question came out anyway. “I’m proud of you, Jane Brain,” he replied. “I’m proud of the people we grew up to be… because no one thought we’d ever amount to shit. I’m proud of the people we saved and the lives they get to have because we chose to help.” John thought about it for a moment, trying to focus- he was so cold that his teeth were chattering, but he couldn’t see his breath. “And I hope they remember…” he paused, swallowing the lump in his throat, “that when it counted I never gave up… ever.” John felt like he was trying to move through water as he turned his head to look at her, his eyes welling up with tears. “Are you giving up, Jane Brain?” 

Jane sighed, letting the blue of the screen wash over her, the dim light of the room reflecting in her eyes. From here, the lights of the tv looked like tiny stars. “Not giving up,” she replied. “Just accepting.” 

“I don’t want you to accept it,” he replied. He tried to reach for her but he wasn’t able to make his hand move. “I want you to fight, Janey… like you always do. A Shepard doesn’t give up, remember?”

“I tried to call him back but he didn’t answer,” Jane said, ignoring him again, the light in the room starting to fade. “I love you, Johnny.”  

“Don’t do this,” he croaked, the room so dark he could barely make out her form in the darkness. “Don’t you dare do this to me, Janey!” 

“Hold my hand,” she replied, her teeth starting to chatter. “Stay with me until it’s done, Johnny?” 

He wanted to protest, but he couldn’t- all he could do was nod as she reached for him, her icy hand pressed into his. Instantly, it was like all the air was being sucked out of his lungs and he was struggling to breathe. “Janey,” he croaked, gasping for breath, “what the hell is going on!” 

“Till the end,” she said, giving him a sad little smile as everything went black.

  


Sol woke up to John shooting straight up in bed, coughing and grabbing at his throat. His eyes were wild and his biotics were surging around him. “Johnny, I need you to breathe,” Sol urged, rubbing his back and trying to get him to calm down. “Focus on my voice, ok… it was just a dream.” 

“No,” he wheezed, shaking his head. “It wasn’t… it was too real. It… It-”

“You were asleep,” Sol said calmly, letting a soothing hum wash over him. “You’re awake now… calm down, ok?” 

“But…” John was shaking at this point, his eyes still frantically searching the room. “I… I have to call Janey,” he said, throwing off the covers and leaping out of the bed, only to immediately fall to the ground. “I have to… I need to call her right now,” he yelled. “Tiny, it’s important!”

Sol started to protest, but the look on his face made her reconsider. He’s not going to settle until he talks to her, Sol thought sadly, moving over to help him to his feet. “Do what you have to,” she replied, letting out a soft yawn. “I’m going to go get you some water.”

He nodded and she left the room, heading for the kitchen. She remembered Garrus saying something about how Jane used to have nightmares, dreams so vivid that she would swear her skin was still on fire. That must be what happened, she thought as she filled a cup with water and walked back to the room. I’ve had bad dreams before… but I never hope to have one like that.

Sol walked back into the bedroom, watching as John sat on the edge of the bed. His face was twisted with confusion and worry, barely registering her presence as she sat down next to him. “Here,” she said, handing him a cup of water and rubbing his back, “drink this.” 

John blinked a few times, then slowly, he reached for the glass. “I can’t reach her, Tiny,” he replied, his voice stilted. “She’s not answering me.” 

Sol started to get a bad feeling in her gut, but she smiled anyway, helping him guide the glass to his lips. “Maybe she’s just busy,” she offered helpfully, running her hand over his hair. “They are working, you know- maybe she’s on a mission and she just had to go radio silent.” 

“Yeah, that… that’s probably it,” John said shakily. “Maybe… maybe I’ll just call Joker… he’ll be able to tell me what’s going on.” 

“You do that,” Sol replied, even though every cell in her body was screaming at her to not let him do it. Something is wrong, she thought to herself as she watched him try to contact the pilot. Something is very, very, wrong here

Before she could stop him, Joker’s face appeared on the screen, clad in a flight suit. He’s never gone on a mission...why is he in gear? Sol nervously looked over at John- her mate was obviously thinking the same thing she was. “Joker,” John said carefully, “what’s going on?” 

The man didn’t speak for a moment, and Sol immediately noticed tears streaming down his cheeks- the color drained from her face and she wanted to start keening, but she just wrapped her arms around her mate, knowing she had to be strong for him. “The Normandy got hit,” Joker whispered, no longer looking at the screen. “Janey got me out, but…”

His voice trailed off, but it didn’t matter anyway- the only sounds left were John’s muffled sobs. Sol didn’t say a word- instead, she just held him close as he cried, feeling numb with shock and trying to figure out just how they were all supposed to survive in a world without their Jane.

Chapter Text

  


“I’m sorry for your loss,” a voice said, causing Sol to raise her head. 

She blinked at the man, trying to process what he was saying. Everything had been so surreal lately- even just getting out of bed was like trying to breathe underwater. But, as she stared into the calm blue eyes of the man standing next to her, she remembered the trite words that she’d been rolling off her tongue every time someone talked to her over the last few days. “Thank you… your support means a lot to us.” 

The man smirked, staring at Sol with a knowing look. “You don’t really believe that, do you?” 

Sol thought it for a moment, glancing over at her mate. John was slumped over in his seat, not talking to anyone. Even after they'd arrived inside the hall he hadn’t taken his sunglasses off, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that his eyes were still an angry shade of red. It had taken all of Sol’s powers of persuasion to get him to eat, and a potent cocktail of Dr. Chakwas’s meds to get him to even consider falling asleep. For now, Nana was sitting at the bar with him, her arm around his back and giving murderous looks to almost everyone who approached him, lifting some of the weight from Sol’s shoulders. At least he still has Nana. 

But even with as bad as John was, he was nothing compared to her poor brother, who was practically curling in on himself- Garrus hadn’t spoken a word to anyone since he’d learned what happened. The only one who could get him to do anything was their mom- he’d refused to stay in his apartment or Sol’s, so his mother had brought him to their place on the Citadel. No matter what anyone said or did, the turian hadn’t uttered a single word to anyone, and today was no different. Garrus was as still as a stone throughout the entire memorial service, staring straight ahead at nothing at all- whenever anyone other than their mother got near him, he’d just shudder and move away. Sol felt like she was being pulled in twenty different directions- she wanted to be there for her brother, but with John buried in his own hole of grief, she only had the strength to be there for her mate.

So when these people came up to her with their empty condolences, their flowers, their food, their pity, Sol realized that the man was right- she stared at him with an ice-cold stare, feeling the last shreds of her composure sliding away. I’m trying to be strong for everyone, but it’s hard… everyone seems to forget that I just lost my sister, too. “Honestly,” she said wearily, turning back to the young man in front of her, “unless you’re going to somehow bring my sister back to me, then your support means absolutely nothing and you’re just taking up the energy I don’t have to spare. And though I could truly care less about how you feel, I know you’re just trying to be nice- so thank you for that, at least.” 

The man nodded at her appreciatively, then took a sip of his drink. “Spoken like a true Shepard, I see.” 

Sol just sighed. “I’m sorry… I’m not trying to be rude-” 

He held up a hand, waving her off. “No need to apologize- grief isn’t rational, Mrs. Shepard.” He smiled, then bowed slightly. “Commander Sloane,” he said, turning toward the window and raising his glass. “And with Jane gone, the galaxy is just a little darker now.”

“And just how exactly did you know my sister?” Sol asked, staring at him warily. “She’s never mentioned you before.” 

“No, I don’t suppose she would,” he said with a sigh. “I knew her from a long time ago… never got the chance to cross paths again, though.” Sloane gave Sol a half-hearted smile, then shook his head before downing the rest of his drink. “Damn shame that funerals and weddings seem to be the only times that bring people together.” 

Sol started to reply, but she was interrupted by a hand coming to rest on her shoulder. “Sol,” Ash said quietly, staring at the man across from her with interest, “they need you in the other room. Originally they wanted John, but…” 

“No... I get it,” Sol said quietly, lowering her head. “Commander, it was nice speaking with you… and thank you for your understanding.” 

Ash frowned for a second, then nodded toward the man as she guided Sol away, letting the turian collapse on her shoulder for a little while. There was a keen welling up in her chest, but she didn’t want to let it out. Not here, she thought desperately, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath- the last thing she needed was her biotics flaring up now. “I can’t do this right now,” she whispered, her eyes frantically scanning the room. “I… I need-”

“Shhh,” Ash said, pressing a kiss to the top of her head and rubbing her back, “you’re coming with me- no one needs you, I just figured you needed a rescue.”

When Sol stared at her with relief, the soldier hustled her out of the event hall and into the corridor, leading Sol around the empty building until she found what she was looking for. Before Sol could protest, Ash had opened the door, guiding the turian inside before throwing her arms around her. “It’s ok,” she said soothingly. “Take a minute to yourself, Sol- you don’t need to keep it together in here.” 

Unable to hold it in any longer, Sol dropped to her knees and let out a loud keen, her sub-vocals rattling with grief. At this point, she didn’t care who heard her- she was done pretending, done trying to be the strong one. She was my sister too, she thought miserably, wrapping her arms around herself. I miss you, Janey… Spirits, I wish you were here.

She didn’t know how long she sat like that, but gradually she became aware of the fact that Ash was on the floor with her, rocking her back and forth. “I know it’s hard,” Ash said softly, her voice husky as she gently patted her back. “I miss her too, Sol.” 

  


“Joker,” Liara said quietly, resting her hand on his shoulder, “how are you doing?” 

The pilot scowled at her, then snorted into his drink. “My friend died pulling me off my ship and I had to be the one to tell her brother right after it happened. So pardon me if I don’t feel like running up and down screaming what a great fucking day it is.” 

“Have you talked to John yet?” Liara asked, ignoring his outburst as she sat down next to him. “He still needs you, Joker. Probably more than ever.”

“Did you need Nihlus when he killed your mom?” Joker snapped, instantly feeling like shit for his behavior. For what it was worth, Liara was one of the few that wasn’t treating him like glass- everyone else was offering platitudes (except Wrex, who was offering drinks) or pity, and he wasn’t in the mood for either anymore. As it was, he’d made an effort to avoid Garrus, and seeing as it was his wife’s funeral, it was more than a bit awkward for everyone involved. Though Joker hadn’t spoken to him at all, he could see the pain radiating off the turian in waves every time he got close, so he’d done his best to keep his distance. 

Seeing the asari flinch, Joker sighed and let his head slump to the table, resting in the crook of his arm. “Sorry… you didn’t deserve that, Li.”

She smiled, gently rubbing his back. “I did, actually,” Liara replied, flagging down the waiter and grabbing a cup of water. “I should have known better than to say that to you.”  

“It’s my fault she’s dead,” he muttered, staring at the glass in his hand and ignoring the water. “If she wasn’t trying to save my ass, she’d still be alive.” 

“We don’t know what would’ve happened,” Liara said sadly. “Neither you nor I can predict the future… but it doesn't change the fact that I wish she was here right now.” 

“I don't know about that- Brainy would hate this,” Joker said, glancing around the room. “There’s way too many people here. Hell, I think she cursed out half of them before.” 

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” Liara replied, a soft smile on her lips. “Jane was never one to hold her tongue when she was angry about something.” 

“Hell, Janey didn’t even have to be angry,” he said, wiping the corner of his eye. “You could just work her last nerve and you’d see that little twitch-” he gestured to the corner of his mouth and mimicked that expression she used to get on her face whenever something or someone annoyed her, making Liara chuckle, “- and you just knew you had less than ten seconds to either get the fuck outta the way… or grab some popcorn.” 

“I think I know what you chose,” Liara said knowingly, earning the first real laugh from Joker in who knows how long- before today, he felt like he’d never laugh again. “How much popcorn did you get to eat?”

“With those two around?” Joker snorted, making Liara bring her hand to her mouth to stifle her own laughter. “Let’s just say I had to work real hard to lose weight- brittle people don’t exactly do too well when it comes to running laps.” 

“Ah,” she replied, resting her elbow on the bar and staring at him with interest. “What’s your favorite story?”

He thought about it for a moment, then made the mistake of turning around. When he did, he happened to catch the eye of John, who just stared at him as if he were a complete stranger and got up to leave the room. Great, Joker thought bitterly, just when I thought there might be a little bit of life after this shitshow, reality just keeps on creeping in. 

“Hey,” Liara said, resting her hand on his arm. “You were telling me a story, Joker.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” he said grimly, turning back into his drink. “Shouldn’t have started anyway.” 

“Janey wouldn’t want you to do this,” Liara replied, not removing her hand. “She’d most likely be quite mad at you for it.”

“What Janey’d want is to be alive,” he grumbled, downing the last of his drink. “I think that’d be tops on her list- might even be higher than boning her hubby… meh,” he said with a dismissive shrug, “I’m guessing it probably is.”

“The dead stay alive in our memories,” Liara said softly. “Let’s keep her alive a little more, ok?” He looked down at the table, but Liara never moved, her presence solid and comforting in the space filled with too many people and not enough of the right ones. “Tell me a story, Joker… I need to see my friend again, even if it is just through one of your stories.” 

Joker started to tell her to go to hell, but something about the way she said it made him hesitate. Instead, he turned away, staring out the window and gazing at the docks, trying to lose himself in the days where Johnny and Janey were by his side, ready to take the galaxy by storm. Sighing, he put down his glass and closed his eyes, folding his hands as he tried to focus on the memory, on the essence of the woman who literally gave her life for him. “I remember one time,” he said slowly, letting the words fall heavily on the ears of the waiting asari, “when Janey and Johnny convinced me that it would be fun to go to Vegas with them…”

Liara’s eyes were wet with tears, but she smiled at him regardless. “I’ve never heard of Vegas,” she said quietly, settling in her chair. “Please... tell me more, Joker.” 

  


Nihlus watched as his mate escorted Sol away, breathing a sigh of relief. The humans around them didn’t notice, but he knew that she was one second away from becoming a powder keg. The human standing with the turian had clearly irritated the girl, and between Sol, John, Garrus, and Joker, Nihlus had no illusions about the high probability that one of them might lose the last threads of their composure and throw a punch. Spirits know that’s the last thing we need today.

He didn’t even turn around when he heard the krogan come up behind him. “Talk to the boys yet?”

Nihlus shook his head. “Not for lack of trying,” he said quietly. “But John isn’t in a place to listen to anything… or anyone. And according to Sol, Garrus has not said a word to anyone.”

Wrex sighed loudly, then watched as John stormed out of the room, shooting an angry glare at Joker and leaving an irritated-looking Natearus sitting down at the bar. “Not good,” he muttered. “Where’s Little Turian?” 

“With Ash,” he replied. “She’s barely holding on as it is… I’m not sure how much she can take, either. All of the planning, the coordination… as the next documented relative, it’s fallen to her.” He folded his hands, then let out a sigh of his own. “The mother is helping, but…” 

“Only so much she can do,” the krogan finished for him, his red eyes following Nihlus’s gaze to Garrus and Yeloris. The woman was sitting next to him, humming something so low he could barely hear the sub-vocals as she escorted him from the room. “Damn shame… she loves all those whelps. No parent should have to bury their child- it’s fucking cruel.”

Instantly, Nihlus felt a sharp pain in his stomach, and he avoided looking at the krogan for the moment. The genophage, he thought miserably. How many mothers does he know that have that same look in their eyes? How many of his own kids has he had to bury?

He realized he didn’t want any answers to these questions, so he didn’t ask them and Wrex didn’t volunteer. Instead, he just sat at the table, trying to figure out his next move. His mate was trying her best to be composed, but he could tell that this was wearing on her too. They’d wasted so much time being enemies… and she loses her just as they get to be friends.

For one selfish minute, he wondered what it would’ve been like if he’d never met Jane, but as quickly as the thought danced across his mind, Nihlus pushed it away. I’d never trade that for anything, he thought firmly as he watched his mate come back without the grieving turian. She made my life better than I could’ve ever dreamed… I will honor her memory, no matter how hard it might be.

“Hey,” Ash said sullenly to the krogan, her eyes puffy and red as she scanned the room, then settled next to him. “If it’s ok with you… do you mind if we leave? I… I don’t think I can do this anymore, Nih.” She looked at the door and frowned. “Sol just took John home, and if she’s not here…” 

Nihlus nodded, then turned to the krogan. “Would you like to come with us, Wrex? I’m not sure about you, but I could really use a drink, and the dextro selection here has left much to be desired.”

Ash gave Wrex a wan smile. “It’s not ryncol, but I got some cheap-ass whiskey I plan on drinking straight from the bottle… if you want to join me.” 

Wrex nodded, then inclined his head toward Joker and Liara. “He looks like he’s out of the good stuff too,” he said softly. “Got enough in there for that lightweight?”

“He’d be on the floor before I finished my first bottle,” Ash scoffed, her false bravado fooling no one. “But whatever- that’s what the couch is for, right?” She looked the krogan up and down, eyeing him warily. “Not gonna get drunk and smash up my shit, are you?”

Wrex just laughed, crossing his arms. “On that weak human crap that you call alcohol? Fat fucking chance.”

“Oh, I’m starting to think that’s a challenge,” Ash replied. “I might even break out the moonshine for you, Wrex.” Nihlus watched as her lip quivered a little at the mention of the bottle of terrible liquor Jane had gotten her as part of a wedding present, but she tried to swallow it down. “Think you can keep up with me?” 

The Spectre started to say something, but he thought better of it, deciding to stay quiet and keep an eye on his mate instead. From the look on Wrex’s face, the krogan was thinking along similar lines. “I’ll go get Joker and Liara,” Nihlus said quietly. “Is Tali still around?” 

Wrex nodded. “She’s with Jenkins- want me to go get her? She might want to sample some of that dextro stash you got, Kryik.”

“Good idea,” Ash replied, then frowned as she looked around the room. “Hey, where’s that guy?” 

“The one that was talking to Sol?” When Ash nodded, Nihlus shrugged. “He left soon after you and Sol exited… why?”

She didn’t answer him right away- Ash just bit her lip and stared ahead, her expression giving nothing away. “You heard their conversation, right?” 

Nihlus just stared at her for a moment, then nodded. “I did, yes. But he didn’t say anything too untoward, if that’s what you’re asking- his presence was more intrusive than anything.” 

Ash paused, staring up at the ceiling- she looked as if she was trying to remember something. “He introduced himself as a commander, right? Sol didn’t mishear him?” This time when Nihlus nodded, she frowned. “Hmm… that’s weird.”

“What is?” Wrex asked, looking at her with concern. “I’ve seen that look before- you usually get it right before you started shooting at things. What’s on your mind?”

“His rank,” she murmured, absentmindedly tapping the insignias on her uniform. “It was wrong.”

Now, Nihlus was intrigued- he turned to give his mate his full attention. “How so?”

“He was wearing the rank of a Lt. Commander,” she replied, tapping her fingers against her thigh. “Subtle, but there’s definitely a damn difference- why lie?”

“I can’t say I know,” Nihlus replied, filing the information away to check on it later. “But right now, I’d like to get out of here.”

“Same,” Ash muttered, leaning on his shoulder and letting out a deep sigh, her breath warm against his arm. “Lead the way, Nih- it's time to pick up our lost lambs and go home.” 

Chapter Text

  


Garrus couldn’t do anything except sleep. 

Every time he even thought about doing anything else, the crushing loss of his mate bore down on his soul, making him feel empty and hollow. He didn’t want to see anyone- if he couldn’t see Jane, then there was no point to even being bothered. So, instead of facing a world without the woman he loved, Garrus chose to sit in bed, curled around the tiny stuffed cat and wishing the galaxy would just swallow him up and take him to her. 

It wouldn’t be hard, he thought miserably, staring at the ceiling. All I would have to do is just-

“You wouldn’t do that,” a voice said, its tone full of disapproval. “I’d kick your ass and you know it.” 

“You’re dead,” Garrus said miserably, the keen welling up in his throat at the sight of the hallucination in front of him, her bright blue hair feathering around her shoulders. She looked just like she did when he first met her, sitting in the chair across from him. Her grey eyes were full of disapproval and her arms were crossed, glaring at him with the intensity she usually reserved for when he’d wake her up in the morning. I guess I did wake her up, in a way, he thought. This version of her was sleeping in my mind… but I don’t know if I even want to see it right now.

“You’re going to see me whether you want to or not,” Jane shot back. “I’m not going to let you do something that stupid.” 

“So all I have to do is threaten to kill myself and I get you back?” Garrus stared at the corner, knowing she wasn’t really there, but trying his best to keep her talking to him. “And if you really didn’t want me doing it, you should’ve come home to me!” He let out a howl of rage and tossed the clock against the wall, listening to it shatter into a million pieces. “If you cared about me you would've never left me at all!”

The hallucination looked unphased, staring at the shattered pieces on the floor for a moment before giving him a withering look. “Really, a temper tantrum? What are you, five?” 

“You’re one to talk,” he grumbled, never taking his eyes off her. The more he looked at her, the more he noticed the differences- this was Jane from when they first met, all hard lines and sharp angles. There was no sympathy in her tone, only the matter-of-factness she used to display when she wanted to hide behind a mask of anger. “You used to behave like this all the time.”

“You’re right… I shut down when I didn’t want to talk,” Jane replied, then looked at him sadly. “How well did that work out for me, big guy?” 

He wanted to tell her to go away, but the thought of losing even this version of Jane sent his heart into fits- instead, he just looked her over, wishing that he could take her in his arms and hold her. “I’m losing my mind,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t stay here anymore.”

The hallucination looked around the room and let out a sigh, twisting a strand of hair around her finger. Though she looked different, Garrus noted that she was still wearing her wedding band, the stone glinting in the non-existent light. “On that, we both can agree,” Jane replied. “Then again, since I’m not really here, that means you already know this isn’t good for you… you just want to hear it from me.” Suddenly, she shook her head, and her expression softened. “No… that’s not right, is it? It’s not that you want to… it’s that you need to hear it from me, don't you?”

“I need you, Jane,” he said miserably, looking over at her and fighting the keen in his throat. “I don’t think I can do this without you.”

“Oh, Garrus,” the hallucination murmured, morphing into the Jane he knew and loved- her grey eyes were soft and kind as they flittered over his face, making the keen he’d been fighting finally break free. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to… cause I’m not letting you join me, big guy.” 

  


Castis stood outside his son’s door with a tray of food, listening to Garrus’s voice for the first time in weeks. Granted, he’d heard him keening- it was the only time he ever made a sound these days- but he’d never heard him talking. Spirits, I had no idea it was this bad, he thought anxiously, setting the tray on the floor and heading down the hall. Yeloris was in the kitchen, her shoulders slumped forward- instantly, Castis felt terrible for not noticing the strain his mate was holding. She must be feeling like she lost a chick right now.

Walking over, he gently nuzzled her neck and felt his heart sink at the dejected-sounding sigh that escaped as she absentmindedly patted his fringe. “Let me do that,” he said quietly, guiding her to a seat at the table. “You can have a seat, darling.” She started to protest, but he placed a hand on her shoulder and let out a soothing rumble, making her pause. “I’ll make your tea… you just sit. It’s ok to take a moment, Ye.” 

Yeloris just sighed, her eyes roaming around the kitchen as she let out a tired-sounding hum. “No… I have to make Garrus some tea, then food for Sol and John…” 

Castis just sighed, then shook his head. “I’m afraid you need to rest, darling. We can order food for Sol and John- they will appreciate it either way.” He rested his hand on her cheek, feeling a sigh of relief when she nuzzled her face against it. “But I need you to talk to me, please- how are you doing?” 

She lowered her head, then folded her hands. “My heart breaks for John and Sol because I too know the pain of losing a sister. But, I don’t even have the words for the grief Gar must be feeling- to lose your bond-mate…” Yeloris shivered, then chirped sadly. “I don’t know how to help him.” 

“He’s talking to himself,” Castis said glumly, then realized that wasn’t true- he hummed nervously. “Actually, that’s incorrect- he thinks…he thinks he’s seeing her.”

His mate made a strangled-sound, then put her hand to her mouth. “Oh dear… my poor boy!” Before Castis could say a word, Yeloris let out a loud keen, her body shaking as she slumped against him. “Why did this have to happen, Cas? Why did they have to take my little one from us?”

Castis didn’t have an answer for her. She is my world, he thought, rubbing her back as she let out all the grief she’d been holding in. I cannot imagine my life without her in it. 

And as his mate wailed in his arms, Castis Vakarian finally realized just how much the tiny human had actually meant to Garrus- the magnitude of his son’s grief came crashing over him, making him clutch Yeloris to him tighter and feel a pang of regret over the fact that he’d never taken the time to get to know the tiny human that meant so much to the ones he loved.

  


John was curled up on the couch, his knees drawn up into his chest. Sol had gone out to the store, leaving him alone with the cat. To its credit, the tiny ball of fur was still trying to get him to smile, constantly walking over his face and batting at his way-too-long hair. JC is lucky I like cats, he thought listlessly, rolling over and gently moving the animal away.     

He had no idea how long he was laying there- it could’ve been minutes or hours. Right now, time didn’t have all that much meaning to him, and he barely even noticed the days rolling by. It’s been a month since you’ve been gone, he thought sadly, wondering if he should grab one of the little pills Chakwas had given him. Thought this shit was supposed to get easier as time goes on?

As he stayed right where he was with no real intentions of moving, he heard the doorbell ring. “Come in,” he mumbled, his face still pressed into the sofa. “If you’re here to rob me, money’s in the safe, good luck figuring out the code. If you’re here to kill me, thanks for your service, but you’re a bit fucking late. Tiny hid all my weapons, so I hope you brought your own.”

“You’re just a ray of sunshine right now, aren’t you?” Joker said stiffly, causing John to snap his head up. “Never thought I’d see the day John Shepard gave up.”

Staring at the pilot standing in the doorway, John felt a lump rise in his throat. “Get out,” he croaked. “You have no right to be in my fucking house, you goddamn piece of shit!” 

“John, you gotta stop this,” Joker pleaded, making sure to stay a cautious distance away from him. “I miss her too, but-”

“YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO MISS HER!” John roared, curling himself into a ball and letting his biotics swirl around him. He knew he needed to get his emotions under control, but right now, he just didn’t care. “You let her die,” John snapped bitterly, his voice muffled as he buried his face back into the cushions. “So why do you give a shit about what happened to her?”

“If I could change it, I would,” Joker replied softly, noisily shuffling his feet. “Every day when I wake up, I think about how things could’ve been different, Johnny. But, no matter how much I wish I could change it, I can’t. So instead of curling up and wishing that I was dead, I have to keep living… just like you do.”

Part of him wished he could take back his words when he heard the anguish in his friend’s voice, but the bitter and dejected part of him won out. “I don’t have to do shit,” he snapped. “Leave me alone.” 

“They’re shitting on her legacy out there,” Joker said quietly. “Saying that the reapers aren’t real, that Saren made it all up to get the Geth to follow him.”

“I had a reaper on my head,” John said flatly. “My sister is… was… many things, but she was never a liar.”

“I know that… Anderson knows that… Ash knows that… but they aren’t listening. Even Tevos can’t get them to agree.” Joker sighed, then shuffled- John could hear his agitation. “They need-”

“I don’t give a fuck what anyone needs,” John snapped. “The council sent my sister off to die because they didn’t give a shit about her. You let her die saving your crippled ass because you were too stupid to let that goddamn hunk of metal go down and get your ass to a lifeboat. So, believe me when I say this, Jeff- fuck the council, fuck the Alliance, and fuck you!” Deep down, he knew he didn’t mean it- Joker was his best friend, the man who’d always been there for him and had never judged him over a single thing. However, for the first time since Janey’s death, he was feeling something- rage. “I don’t want to see your goddamn face in my house again, understand?”

At that, Joker let out a sigh, then paused and let the quiet settle over the room. “If you ever get your head out of your ass, call me,” he said stiffly. “In the meantime, I’ll see myself out.”

  


Sol walked into the living room, sitting on the couch next to John. Despite her best efforts, her mate hadn’t really moved all day, and he didn’t look like he had any plans on moving, either. His hair was greasy and dark, the normally unruly curls laying flat against his head. For the moment he was quiet, his normally bright eyes somber and glazed over- try as she might, she couldn’t even remember him speaking to anyone all day.

She’d hated to leave him to go to the store, but secretly, she’d been relieved to have the reason to get away for a little while. Sol loved him dearly, but the weight of his depression was starting to wear on her, too- when Ash had asked her to accompany her on a shopping trip, Sol had practically leaped at the opportunity. When she first left, Sol was overwhelmed with worry, but as the day wore on, it had felt strangely freeing to be outside of the house and not tending to her mate. I felt like me again, she thought, staring at the man next to her. But we have to do something… we can’t go on like this

Sighing, she settled against the cushions, taking in her mate’s unkempt appearance, finally making a decision. “Johnny,” she said patiently, “it’s been a month.”

He didn’t even turn his head to look at her. “I wasn’t aware my grief had a time table.”

Sol just swallowed- she knew he wasn’t trying to hurt her, but he was doing a damn good job of it anyway these days. Nothing she did elicited anything but the barest acknowledgment anymore, and he wasn’t taking care of himself either. She didn’t know how much worse John could get, but she didn’t want to see him test that theory, either. 

Decision made, Sol closed her eyes and folded her hands. “No one is saying that you’re not allowed to feel what you feel, Johnny. What I am saying is that you need to take care of yourself- I can’t keep watching you push everyone and everything away.” When he didn’t respond, she sighed. “Janey wouldn’t have wanted you to be like this, John- she never wanted you to give up.”

“What’s the point!” John screamed, making Sol flinch at his sudden outburst. “My sister is gone! I don’t have anyone anymore!” 

The words felt like a stab in the chest and she let out a chirp, her eyes widening with hurt. “Oh,” Sol said quietly, looking down at the floor. “I didn’t know you felt that way.” Not wanting to sit in there any longer, she stood up from the couch, unable to look at him for the moment. “You do what you need to- I’m going to take a shower. Tonight, I’ll be in the spare room if you need me- you can have the room to yourself.”

Instead of waiting for a response, Sol just left, hoping she could make it into the bathroom before she started keening. Stripping off her clothes, she raced for the shower and threw on the water, cranking it up as hot as she could stand. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, she thought miserably, removing the last of her clothes and stepping under the spray. I just don’t know what else I can do anymore.

For the longest time, Sol stood in the shower and keened softly, letting her cries mix in with the sounds of the steady stream of water. Soon, she heard a noise and looked up, hoping that she hadn’t accidentally trapped the cat inside the sauna-like bathroom with her. “JC, is that you?” Sol asked tentatively, shutting off the water and stepping carefully out of the shower. “I-”

“It’s me,” John said quietly, his shape obscured by the clouds of steam in the bathroom. “I heard you crying in here… so I came to check on you.” He lowered his head, then sighed. “This was stupid… look, I’ll just leave you alone so you can shower in peace.” 

Before he could walk away, Sol put a hand on his shoulder. “You need a shower,” she replied, guiding him over and turning on the water for him- she knew she was dripping water everywhere right now, but she didn’t care. “Take off your clothes and get in.” When he gave her a look that was both sad and irritated at the same time, Sol sighed. “I’ll dry off and leave you to it- you don’t have to see me right now.”

“I don’t want you to go,” he whispered, grabbing her hand. “Please, Tiny… I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to be like that back there. Please… please don’t leave me, ok? I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you, too.”

Sol just looked at him and shook her head as she led him under the spray, letting the water run down over his greasy hair. “I’m not going anywhere unless you want me to,” she murmured, letting out a soothing hum as she grabbed the shampoo, lightly working the apple-scented lather into his scalp with her talons and feeling a sense of relief as he rested his head against her plates. “I’m here as long as you want me to be.”

He just nodded and Sol finished bathing him, making sure to rinse all the soap out of his hair. As she smoothed her hands over the dark strands, she cocked her head to the side, staring at him curiously. “Your hair has grown really long, Johnny… you might even be able to do that thing with it Ash does.”

He stared at her with confusion for a moment, then his eyes went wide and he let out an indignant-sounding squawk. “I will not pull my hair into a bun, Tiny!” When she let out an involuntary giggle, John rewarded her with a shaky grin. “All right, that’s it,” he said, his tone petulant as he got out of the shower, extending a hand to help her. “We’re going to get me a haircut tomorrow.”

Pleased at her mate’s attempt to try to do something normal, Sol couldn’t help teasing him a little. “I don’t know… a bun might be a good look on you.”

This time, he glared at her, poking her lightly in the side as they wrapped themselves up in towels. “Never… did that once, Jane has… had… proof of it. Threatened to blackmail me with it, too.”

Sol held her breath and waited, smiling warmly as she helped him wrap his towel around his waist- it was the first time in ages he’d talked about his sister that didn’t involve him raging about her death. “I wish I could see these pictures,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t shut down. “I’m pretty sure you were handsome.”

“To the contrary- I looked like an unemployed douche.” John paused for a minute then shook his head. “But, knowing her, it might actually be released somewhere- Janey always was spiteful… said she’d release all the incriminating photos if something were to happen to her.”

Sol laughed, helping him to the bedroom. “I sort of wish she did… I’d like to see the two of you as chicks.”

“Children,” John corrected, sliding into a pair of boxers. “Soft and squishy, remember.” 

“Same difference,” Sol replied, unsure as to how long his talkative mood would last, but hoping it wouldn’t end- even if it was only for a few minutes, she wanted to make the most of it.  “I still want to see those pictures.” 

John looked at her for a moment, then swallowed. “I… I have some on my omni-tool,” he murmured, then looked up at her with pleading eyes as he made his way over to the bed. “If you’ll stay with me tonight, maybe we can look at a few? Just for a little while?” 

Not even bothering to hide the pleased rumble escaping her chest, Sol nodded, climbing into bed next to him and gently placing her arm around his shoulder. “I’d be happy to,” she replied. “Like I said… I’m happy to stay with you for as long as you want, Johnny.” 

Chapter Text

  


Joker was seeing red as he left the Alliance offices. No one is listening, he fumed, storming out into the hallway. How the hell do they expect to prepare if they won’t get off their asses and listen? Hell, Janey died for this shit- she deserves better than them pissing all over her legacy!

“You know they’re never going to listen to you,” a voice said curtly, startling him out of his thoughts. “They’re too caught up in saving their own asses.” 

Joker whirled around, only to find a man in a well-worn leather jacket and jeans staring at him from a nearby bench. “No shit,” he muttered, trying to continue his exit and ignore his unwanted companion. “Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.” 

The man rose from his seat, and Joker was immediately put on edge. He was much taller than him, with a build that reminded the pilot of John. This guy could do some damage to me, Joker thought warily, eyeing the stranger with distrust. Might want to steer clear. 

Noticing his discomfort, the man laughed softly, running a hand over his sandy-brown hair. “I apologize,” he said quickly. “I realize how bad this must look right now.”

“Yeah, like you’re about to try and murder me,” Joker retorted, trying to look calm despite his thumping heartbeat. “Look, I’m not above screaming like a bitch if my life depends on it, so…”

Instantly, the man’s bluish-grey eyes went wide and he held up his hands in apology. “Oh man, it’s not like that!” He smiled sheepishly and took a step backward, putting some much-appreciated distance between himself and the pilot. “I just wanted to talk to you- I think I have some information you might want to know about, that’s all.”

“You don’t know me,” Joker said curtly, his eyes not leaving the man’s face- he might not be a fighter, but he could definitely memorize details if the situation called for it. “Why would I want to talk to you?”

“Because you’re Jeff Moreau, the flight lieutenant who previously served under Commander Jane Shepard on the now-defunct SSV Normandy,” he said simply, his eyes following Joker as he spoke. “Currently awaiting stupid-ass disciplinary hearings for insubordination, but being given some leeway due to your health conditions and long-time associations with the commander.” The man just stared at Joker, crossing his arms. “So, we can stand here in this exposed hall and talk about what else I know… or you can head over to the coffee shop with me and we can continue this conversation over there.”

Part of him wanted to run in the other direction, but part of him was intrigued by the strange man. “Ok, I’ll bite,” Joker said slowly, carefully walking behind the man as he started to walk out of the building. “Why are you angling to talk to me, Stranger Danger?”

“Because I need your skills,” the man said curtly, heading across the street at a pace that made Joker’s legs hurt. “Even if the council refused to listen, Commander Shepard wasn’t wrong- there is something going on out there.”

“And what exactly does this have to do with me?” Joker asked as they entered the coffee shop, watching as the man approached the counter. “Not to mention the million fucking credit question- who the fuck are you and how do you know all this?”

The man ignored his question and ordered two coffees, grabbing one of the cups and heading to a table- Joker quickly grabbed the other and followed. I might not like this guy, but I know the coffee isn’t poison- might as well hear what he has to say… it’ll help Kryik find him later.  

Adjusting himself and settling in his seat, the man watched as Joker took a seat and prepared his coffee, staying completely quiet until he was sure he had the pilot’s full attention. “I need a pilot and I need your expertise,” he replied, looking down at his cup. “I’ve seen the data- I know what we’re up against. Sovereign was only the beginning,” he said darkly. “There are other monsters out there… and we just lost one of the people most equipped to fight them.” 

“There are tons of other soldiers,” Joker replied, the words burning the back of his throat. “What makes Shepard so special?”

“She was the best intelligence operative the Alliance had,” the man answered, his tone wistful as he took a sip of his beverage. “Damn shame those idiots never realized what she was really capable of- just thought she was another grunt with a gun. But you and I both know that if information exists, Jane could find it. Information is power, Jeff- the council knows it, I know it, and deep down, you know it, too.” 

Joker was starting to get an uneasy feeling about this. “Doesn’t explain why you want me, though.”

The man sighed, looking down at the table. “I’m with Cerberus-”

“Check please!” Joker called out, rising up from his seat with such speed he jostled his drink. “The racist bastard is covering the tab- I’m done with this lunch date.”

“Joker, sit down, ” the man said sharply, glaring at him from above the rim of his cup. “This is important!”

The use of his nickname startled the pilot enough to make him pause. “What is so important,” Joker said hotly, crossing his arms, “that a representative from a terrorist organization that almost got my friend killed would think that I would be even remotely interested in what they have to say?” 

“Because there’s a new threat to the galaxy,” he replied, gesturing to the seat across from him. “And I want to help stop it.”

Joker didn’t move. “Since when did Cerberus give a shit about what happened to anyone? Thought you guys made that shit pretty clear when you let all the thresher maws loose on Akuze?”

“That was a rogue cell,” he said, taking a sip of his coffee. “Alenko was an Alliance Lieutenant- are all of you psychopathic nutjobs?” 

“You know a lot about our crew,” Joker grumbled, settling back into the seat. “All this talk is nice and all, but you still haven’t answered my questions- who are you and what do you want with me?”

Once again, the man sighed, looking down at the table. “I need someone to help me rebuild the SSV Normandy so we can stop this bullshit,” he said quietly, ignoring the startled gasp from Joker. “The reapers aren’t going to sit idly by while we wait to get our shit together- the Normandy has proven it has what it takes to knock those bastards down. Look, I have access to the funds, the plans, and the technology- I just need someone who knows the ship to help us get it right… and a pilot who can fly it.” 

Unable to believe his ears, Joker just stared at him. “Bullshit- who the fuck are you and why do you give a shit about me?”

The man looked up, a sad look in his bluish-grey eyes as he fidgeted with his coffee cup. “I’m Alexander Sloane,” he replied, staring at a point beyond Joker’s head. “And I’m a technical analyst, Mr. Moreau- it’s my job to see what people don’t want me to see.”

Joker frowned. “For a moment, you almost sounded like Brainy for a second… had to check and make sure you weren’t a small feral woman that could beat the snot out of me.”

Sloane smiled, then finished his coffee. “That… actually makes sense,” he said simply, staring at Joker with an intense calm that made him slightly nervous. “Seeing as I’m the one that helped  our little Janey become the best damn hacker around.”

  


Garrus tried to ignore the hallucination, but it was being more and more persistent as he walked through the streets of the Citadel. “You know I wouldn’t approve of you using my program like this,” she said, glaring at him with angry grey eyes. “This isn’t what I want for you, big guy.” 

“Yeah, well you shouldn’t have died then,” Garrus grumbled, trying to avoid looking at her as he talked. “You gave up your right to care about what I did when you left me, Jane.” 

“Obviously, you know this is a horrible idea,” Jane replied, her form shimmering as people walked through her. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.” 

“So what, are you my conscience now?” Garrus sneered, earning confused looks from a passerby as they overheard him- he didn’t care. “I thought you loved doing dumb shit.”

“When there’s a purpose for it,” Jane interjected, her blue hair standing still despite the breeze. “This is pointless and you know it, Garrus- you’re running to your own destruction.” 

“So be it,” he replied, feeling the weight of his wedding ring around his neck as he headed to the docks. “You’re in my head, Jane- you know what’s going on with me. Why don’t you see that I can’t stay here anymore? It-” He could barely get out the words, feeling them sitting on the tip of his tongue like cement. “It isn’t home when you’re not here… everywhere I look, I just keep thinking of you.”

Jane sighed, placing a hand on his shoulder. He knew he couldn’t feel it, not really, but his mind so desperately wanted it that he closed his eyes, remembering what it felt like to have her so close. “You know I love you,” she said softly, letting himself imagine the sensation of her fingertips caressing his cheek. “You don’t have to do this.” 

“You heard what they’ve been saying,” he murmured, wishing with all his heart that this was real. “They don’t believe what happened. They’re not going to do anything about the reapers, and… Udina is trying to run your name into the ground. I’ll be honest, Jane- if I see him and he says one more word about you…” His voice trailed off, but it didn’t matter- she was only in his head, after all. “I need to get away from this… just for a little while.”

The hallucination sighed, her grey eyes sad as they roamed his face. “You mean away from me.” 

Garrus wanted to lie to her, but he knew he couldn’t- he’d only be lying to himself. And though he knew Jane wasn’t really there, he felt terrible about even the idea of being dishonest with her. “Yeah.”

“So how long are we staying?” Jane asked, watching him as he boarded the shuttle and settled in his seat. “Got a plan in mind, big guy?”

“Not really,” Garrus replied, relishing the quiet of the cabin. It was late, and he’d secured his own room for the flight, thankful for the privacy. Even if it was crazy, he wanted to have this time with Jane. “Just taking it as it comes.”

“And if you get killed while you’re figuring it out?” Jane asked, her expression concerned as he settled on the uncomfortable bunk. “What happens then?”

“Then I get to be with you again,” Garrus snapped, pulling the stuffed cat out of his bag and setting it on the bed by his pillow. “Either way, I get away from the memories.”

“That’s not a good plan and you know it,” Jane replied, sitting next to him on the bed. If he closed his eyes, he could still smell the scent of her shampoo. “We don’t have to do this, Garrus.”

“You’re not really here,” he said sadly. “Why does it matter so much to you?” 

“Because you know better,” she replied, hovering her hand above his fringe. “This isn’t the Garrus I fell in love with… the turian I’d do anything for would fight- he wouldn’t give up.”

“Who said I was giving up?” Garrus asked, knowing full well she was right- it was hard enough to tell the half-truth his mother, telling her that he was just heading over to his apartment to pick up some things. It was another thing entirely to try to hide something from someone who literally only existed in your head. “I don’t know what to do anymore,” he admitted, not wanting to close his eyes and watch her disappear. “I’m just… here.”

She nodded, letting out a sigh. “I know,” she said quietly. “I wish I could tell you that everything was going to be ok, big guy… but I know you don’t believe that right now.” 

Garrus shook his head, then felt the keen welling up in his chest. Desperate to stop it, he grabbed Jane’s stuffed cat and held it in his arms, burying his face into the softness. “Tell me a story, Jane,” he said, closing his eyes and focusing on his breathing. “I need a distraction, Jane.” 

“So your idea of a distraction is to get lost in your head even more?” Jane chuckled, then shook her head when he opened his eyes, relieved to still see her there. “You realize you’re losing your mind, right? I feel like I’d be a shitty friend if I didn’t point that out to you.”

“I don’t care anymore,” Garrus said quietly, focusing on her face. Right now, she was dressed in the long blue sundress she’d worn when she met his parents, her bondmark peeking out from the cutout in the shoulder- he reached out for her, but just as he suspected, his hand passed right through her. “I just want to hear your voice again.” 

“I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know,” Jane replied, her voice soothing and warm. “I’m not really here, Garrus.” 

He ignored her truth, choosing to focus on the version of her that was here with him now. “Tell me about the library,” he murmured, closing his eyes and resting his hand on the toy. “What was it like?” 

The hallucination sighed, knowing exactly what he was doing, but choosing to play along with the fantasy anyway. “It was… safe,” Jane said softly. “I would go there after school and read everything I could get my hands on because it was the one place where I would never be alone. I had every author in the galaxy at my fingertips, and even when I was cold, tired, and hungry, I always had friends with me.” 

“You were like a mouse, you used to say,” he said, recalling her face as they sat on the couch, watching one of her old vids. “You even had a hiding place.”

“You remember a lot,” Jane said approvingly, then laughed. “Nowadays, people don’t use libraries much- they’re more like a novelty when you have the universe at your fingertips. But we still had one in our neighborhood…I mean, poor people who can’t afford omni-tools still have to learn too, right? Most people would look at the old ass building and laugh, wondering why anyone would bother with something like that, but me, I loved it.” Her laugh was soft, almost reverent- it sounded just like it did when she told him the story the first time. “While Johnny was off doing dumb shit, I made that place my home.”

“Of course,” Garrus replied, remembering her enthusiasm when she’d talk about all the books she used to read. “It was the space you went to when you wanted to be alone.”

“Yup… the old children’s room- no one cared about anything that wasn’t digital… except me. I could always go in there and be by myself, watching old vids on some old ass machine I got working again,” she said quietly. “Hell, only three people ever even knew about that old storeroom in there- me, Johnny, and the janitor. Well, I guess four, if we’re counting you, right?”

“I don’t know if I count,” he said sleepily, feeling calmer than he had in days. “I’ve never actually seen it before.” 

“Well, maybe if you survive whatever foolishness you’re cooking up inside your head, you can take a trip down to earth… see where the little street rat grew up.”

“Maybe I’ll ask John to take me,” he mused, rolling over to look out the small porthole, the vastness of space stretching out before him. “Was this the last thing you saw, Jane?”

“Don’t think about that,” she admonished, her tone sharp. “What good does it do?” 

“I should’ve been there,” he whispered, too ashamed to even look at her. “You shouldn’t have had to be alone, Jane.” 

“I knew you loved me,” she replied. From the corner of his eye, Garrus could still see that she’d moved to the other side of the bed. She was smiling at him, now clad in the dress she’d worn to Ash’s wedding, her blue and black hair falling lightly against her shoulders. “I’m your mate, Garrus- I never questioned how you felt about me.”

“Now I know you aren’t real,” he said sadly. “Jane never called me her mate- she’d insist I was her husband.”

“And yet you still know exactly how much I love you,” she replied. “No matter what words we used, you know you meant the world to me… and I can tell you that because deep down, you know it’s true, even if you don’t want to believe it right now.”

“Stay with me until I fall asleep?” Garrus asked, turning to the hallucination and ignoring her statement. “Don’t leave me alone out here?” 

“Oh, Garrus,” Jane said quietly, bringing her ethereal hand to his cheek. “Of course I’ll stay… I’m here as long as you need me.” 

“Good,” he replied, closing his eyes and trying not to focus on his old problems or the new ones he was certainly creating for himself. Instead, Garrus closed his eyes and listened as Jane sang one of the songs from her favorite musical, her soft voice allowing him to shut everything else out. 

And as the shuttle continued its journey, Garrus finally drifted off into a dreamless sleep, desperate to leave the Citadel behind and start a new life without everything reminding him of the woman he loved. 

Chapter Text

  


The first thing that Garrus noticed when he arrived on Omega was the taste of metal in his mouth. Part of him knew that when he chose his destination, he was looking for something as different from the Citadel in every way, and Omega certainly fit the bill. The streets were dark and warm, feeling almost as if they pulsated around him with a wild sort of energy that made his pulse quicken and his fingers tighten around his gun.

You’ll be alone here, he thought to himself, his eyes roaming over the throngs of people. No one will find you here.

“Do you think they’ll find your body?” Jane asked, causing him to whirl around. He hadn’t seen her since he woke up, and he couldn’t decide if he was relieved or disappointed about that fact. “Don’t answer me out loud,” she warned. “Crazy is cute everywhere else, but you and I both know it just makes you a target out here.” 

From the corner of his eye, he could see a vorcha harassing a couple of humans. Immediately, the detective in him wanted to put a stop to it, but the part that was done with everything was telling him to let it go- this wasn’t his station and it wasn’t his business. I just want to hide, he thought, scanning the area and trying to look at anything that wasn’t the potential crime in progress. I can’t do this right now… I need to find somewhere to just… be.

“Who does that help?” Jane asked, putting her hands on her hips as she stood in front of him. “Oh, so now we ignore people who need help? That’s fucking new, but hey, do you.”

I’m not that person anymore, Garrus thought weakly, now able to clearly hear the growls of the vorcha as he continued on. I couldn’t help you, so why do I need to worry about anyone else?

“I wasn’t aware that I was the center of the galaxy,” Jane shot back, walking backward in front of him. “You know what’s happening is wrong, Garrus- go do something!” 

“It’s not my business,” he said weakly, ignoring her admonishments about speaking. “That’s the point of a place like this, right? If you don’t get involved, you don’t get hurt.” 

“You and I both know you’re lying,” Jane said quietly, moving out of his way. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have walked over here… now would you?” 

Looking up, Garrus realized he’d made his way into the alley where the altercation was occurring, and he sighed. Even when she’s dead, it’s annoying when she’s right, he thought, glaring at the Vorcha. Without another word, Garrus whipped out his pistol, aiming it at the back of the offender’s head. “Leave,” he growled, cocking his gun and letting the sound ring out in the sudden silence, “ now .” 

The vorcha started to growl back, but Garrus just pressed the barrel of his gun even harder against its head in response. “I won’t tell you again,” the turian snarled. “Last warning.”

Clearly realizing that what had appeared to be an easy mark was turning into anything but, the vorcha let out a snarl and ran off, leaving the turian standing in front of an older human couple. They stared at him for a moment, clearly unsure as to what was going on- realizing he was probably just as frightening as their previous attacker, he sighed and holstered his weapon. “You should leave,” he grumbled, looking away. “It’s not safe here.”

“Omega’s never been safe,” the older man replied, his voice full of confusion. “But no one ever steps in to help anyone- why did you, son?”

He wanted to tell the man to fuck off, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jane watching him. “Because it was the right thing to do,” he said quietly, earning a smile from the hallucination. “You should go.” 

The old man nodded, taking the woman’s hand and carefully walking past him. Before they exited the alley, the old woman paused. “Thank you,” she said gratefully, staring at him with admiration. “You’re a real-life angel, son.” 

Garrus just grunted in response, letting the couple go on their way- he hoped they’d make it to their destination without any further incidents. Should’ve just stayed out of it, he thought angrily. No sense in getting involved out here.

“There’s always a reason to do the right thing,” Jane replied, her form clearly visible even in the darkness of the alley. “You know that- it just seems to work a little differently out here.” 

He snorted, lowering his head as he emerged onto the street, feeling the sensation of eyes moving over him as he walked. But, when he whipped his head around to confirm, he didn’t see anyone out of the ordinary. Probably nothing, he thought. Just a little jumpy. 

“You and I both know that paranoia keeps you alive,” Jane shot back. “Stop being stubborn and use it.”

In response, Garrus growled and scanned his omni-tool, hoping to ignore the voice in his head as he worked to figure out his next move. 

  


“Any sign of him?” Ash asked, leaning over Nihlus’s shoulder as he worked. “Find anything?” 

Nihlus rolled his neck and shook his head, feeling more frustrated by the minute. Damn that boy, he growled, banging his hand against the desk. “He had to have used Jane’s program… there’s no trace of him anywhere on the Citadel. C-Sec hasn’t been able to find him- John’s been on the case, and he’s had no luck either.” For the umpteenth time, Nihlus wished Jane were there- she’d have been able to find him without an issue. “Without knowing what alias he tagged himself with, there’s no way to track him through the system.”

Ash frowned, barely softening when he started rubbing her arm. “That’s not good, Nih- you know Sol and Yeloris are losing their shit.” She let out a huff, then flounced into the chair next to him. “You’re a spectre- can’t you do something?”

Despite his frustration, Nihlus laughed and nuzzled his face into her arm. “I can’t, but the fact that my mate thinks I can makes me extremely happy.” When Ash snorted, he took her hand. “I only found Jane by happenstance, remember? For good or ill, she was quite good at her job- would’ve made a fine spectre.” 

“She did make a fine spectre,” Ash shot back, then closed her eyes. “God, even now… it doesn’t seem real, Nih.”

“Unfortunately, that is the way of things,” he said sadly, looking back at the terminal. “No matter how much we wish the opposite to be true.”

“Don’t I know it,” Ash grumbled, then sighed. “Man, I don’t want to tell Sol this,” she said quietly. “You know they were pinning their hope on you turning up something they couldn’t.” Ash paused for a second, then looked away. “You haven’t gotten any hits on-”

Immediately, Nihlus shook his head. “No record of his DNA has shown up anywhere on the Citadel,” he said quickly. “Of that, I’m certain.”

“Thank goodness,” Ash replied, exhaling loudly as she sent off a message on her omni-tool. He’d thought she would call, but he realized she probably didn’t want to vocalize the bad news to her friend right now.  “Seriously, how much bad news can people take? I mean, after Joker and Garrus both skipped out on us, I’m getting really worried about John.”

“Speaking of skipping out,” Nihlus interjected, clearing his throat, “did you get your new orders yet?” 

From the look on her face, he could tell that she had. Slightly irritated, Nihlus sighed and moved to the couch, working to temper his irritation at her not telling him right away. “Ash,” he said patiently, “you didn’t have to hide that- I was expecting you to have to leave sooner or later.”

“What, are you trying to get rid of me?” Ash asked, walking over and placing her arms on his shoulders as she sat on his lap. “In a hurry to feel like you’re single again?” 

Instantly, his hands moved to her waist, letting out a soft purr as she rested her head against his. “Never,” he murmured. “But you never have to feel like you have to hide that from me- I knew when I married you that you were a soldier, Ash. I know what that means, and you know that when I get my orders I’m going to have to leave as well. However, we both know that distance has nothing to do with how much I love you.”

Ash moved her hand over his fringe, causing him to let out a deep, throaty rumble. “But what if you get an assignment to seduce some gorgeous turian woman to save the galaxy?” 

Nihlus pretended to think about it, then dragged his tongue lightly over her neck. “Then unless I can secure an informant, I think we’re going to be short one galaxy,” he replied. “Plus, I seem to recall a certain human left a wonderful bond mark on me… if I recall correctly, she seemed quite interested in staking her claim- it was actually quite attractive.” 

Ash laughed, throwing back her head and exposing her neck to him- he immediately nipped her throat, making her shiver. “Attractive, huh?”

He smiled, letting out an appreciative hum. “Definitely.”

“So,” she said teasingly, moving her finger to the collar of her shirt, exposing her bond-mark to him, “would you say this is attractive, too?” 

“Ahem,” he said, not even trying to fight the smile creeping across his face as he pressed his face to her neck, tracing her mark with his tongue. “I see what you’re doing- you’re trying to distract me from our conversation, Ash.”

His mate just smirked, tracing her fingers along the back of his neck. “Sure am,” she murmured, leaning over and placing a kiss on his mandible. “Is it working?” 

Placing his hands under her ass, he got up from the couch, holding her close as he made his way toward the bedroom. “It is,” he replied. “But you know you’re going to pay for it later.”

“Worth it,” she murmured, lightly biting his neck and making his plates start to shift. “In fact… why don’t you make me pay for it now?”

“Cheeky human,” Nihlus murmured, squeezing her ass and nipping her neck as he pressed her against the bedroom wall. “What am I going to do with you?” 

“I’ve got a few ideas,” Ash replied, giving him that smirk he loved so much as she trailed her fingers over his plates. “Care to find out?”

No longer angry, Nihlus just smiled- he wasn't going to waste whatever time they had left together arguing over something neither of them could control. “I most certainly do.” 

  


For Garrus, the days were passing in a haze of alcohol. His new routine was simple- go out, get some nutrient bars and a crapload of alcohol, then go home to consume it all before passing out on the floor. His hallucination of Jane kept protesting his behavior, but he was content to drown her voice out with whatever liquor was on the menu for that evening. Even in his stupor, Garrus wasn't stupid- he had no illusions about the fact that he was on a bad path, but he was too busy letting the alcohol burn his throat and numb his senses to care. For the price of silence, the pain was worth it. 

One evening as he returned home, ready to start his nightly routine once again, Garrus found a simple yet ominous note attached to his door.

Take a shower and meet me at Afterlife in forty minutes, Angel. Emphasis on the shower- you smell like vorcha shit. 

Whipping his head around, the fog in his brain cleared for a moment as he paid attention to the data coming in from his visor. The note wasn’t here when I left, he noted, scanning the area. And I’ve only been gone about fifteen minutes- that must mean that whoever left this must still be in the area. He chose not to react to the dig at his hygiene in the message, simply getting into the shower instead. 

Getting ready in less than twenty minutes, Garrus made his way down to Afterlife, hating the place from the minute he got close to it. He'd managed to avoid it at all costs, but now he found himself there anyway. To his dismay, the club was loud and packed, two of the things he hated most right now. Irritated, Garrus glanced around at the crowd as he approached the door, debating if he should just go home and forget about the stupid note. It’s a zoo in here, he grumbled, looking at the throngs of beings smashed into the tiny space. Just how the hell am I supposed to find someone in this place?

To his surprise, he didn’t have to wait too long to figure out his next move- as soon as he drew close enough to the entrance, the batarian bouncer clamped a hand down on his shoulder. “To the bar,” he growled, glaring at Garrus. “And don’t leave until she finds you.” 

Unable to stop himself, Garrus snorted. “And what if I just decide that I’m really not into the vibe in there?”

The bouncer was unphased. “Then she’ll shoot you- can’t leave if you’re missing a leg.”

Garrus wanted to dive into this further, his morbid curiosity starting to override his common sense, but the bouncer was done- having said his peace, he’d turned away from the turian and crossed his arms. Looks like I have two choices, Garrus thought, glancing at the very open entrance of the club and taking note of the many positions a sniper could be in. Either inside to meet the mystery woman or go home and possibly lose a limb in the process.

Decision made, Garrus took a deep breath and headed to the bar, thanking the spirits that he would at least get to still have a drink tonight. He tried to take stock of the patrons and figure out if anyone looked suspicious or familiar, but his self-imposed isolation had left him with nothing to discern just what normal on Omega looked like. Giving in, Garrus ordered a turian brandy, somewhat grateful to have something better than the trash that tasted like garbage for the night. Fuck it, he thought, watching the bartender scurry off to make his drink, might as well get started… who knows when or if this person is going to show up. Probably just a ploy to rob my place… jokes on them, though.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink?” a familiar dual-toned voice asked, causing him to turn around with surprise. “I can still smell the alcohol on you, Vakarian.” 

Humming with surprise, Garrus raised his brow plates, taking in the female turian sitting next to him. “Lilfrey Quanoxin,” he mused, looking her over with interest. “What brings you to Omega?”

“I live here,” she replied, not elaborating any further. “Bigger questions is, what brings the golden boy of the Vakarian clan to the capital of the lawless?” 

Lilfrey leaned in a little closer, her dark blue eyes roaming over his face, looking as if she was trying to ferret out all his secrets- to be fair, she probably was. She wasn’t known as the top recon scout for nothing, he thought, letting out a disgusted huff at his apparent bad luck. “Vacationing,” he said dryly, not willing to get into his life story with her- he could only hope that she wasn’t entertaining thoughts of a rematch in that devious little head of hers. “And I’d like to get back to it… alone .” 

“Most people don’t vacation on Omega,” Lilfrey mused, humming as she lightly tapped her talons on the bar. “And they definitely don’t save humans from Blood Pack when they first arrive.”

Garrus snorted, grabbing his drink and ignoring her scowl. “What can I say? I like to do things differently.” 

The turian woman was unphased. “And they also don’t hide themselves away in a shithole apartment while they drink themselves to death.” Lilfrey crossed her arms, glaring at him. “That sounds more like someone who’s too weak to live yet too scared to die… definitely doesn’t sound like the Vakarian I used to know.” She leaned in closer and Garrus instantly recoiled, causing her to rumble with interest. “If I didn’t know better,” she said carefully, watching his movements, “I’d say you were bonded.” 

Her words made the drink go sour in his mouth. “I am.” 

Lilfrey just looked at him for a few moments, not saying anything. Finally, she turned away, freeing him from her piercing gaze. “Are you? This isn’t the behavior of one that’s happily bonded.” 

“Kind of hard to be happy when your mate is dead,” Garrus said bitterly, definitely not wanting to talk to Lilfrey about Jane. He knew that the turian had a history with John- the last thing he wanted was to stand out in her mind enough to mention him to Natearus. “Drinking helps. So does not talking.” 

“You looked alive when you rescued that couple,” she said quietly, still not looking at him. “You helped them- they own a little store in the lower district… Blood Pack’s been targeting them since they didn’t have the money for their weekly ‘protection’ payment.”

“Seems like you know an awful lot for someone who didn’t do a thing to help them,” Garrus snapped, burying his face in his glass. “Sounds to me that if you know all this, maybe you might have wanted to… oh, I don’t know- maybe not let them almost get murdered? Would’ve saved me the trouble.”

“Who says I wasn’t?” Lilfrey replied, making him close his mouth- she did have a point. “Just so happened a certain turian interfered before I could step in. Lucky for you, you did the right thing… otherwise, I would’ve had to put a bullet in your brain.” 

“Might’ve done us both a favor if you had,” Garrus muttered, finishing his drink and flagging the bartender down for another. “Would’ve saved me the trouble of this meeting, that’s for sure.” 

“You’re not like everyone else here,” she said quietly. “You still know the difference between right and wrong… that’s a rare thing to find on Omega.” 

“Good to know home training is a positive here,” he grumbled, tapping his fingers impatiently. “I’m sure my mother would love to know that.” When Lilfrey rolled her eyes, Garrus let out a sigh- he tried another tactic. “Have you told anyone you’ve seen me?” 

Lilfrey let out an amused hum, her eyes fixated on him. “Most people come to Omega to hide.” 

“Precisely,” Garrus replied. “I’d prefer it if you keep my presence here to yourself, Lilfrey.”

“There’s no bounty here for you, so I’m not opposed to offering you my silence,” she answered curtly, then sipped her drink. “But I might require a favor in return.”

Garrus bit back a curse- he wanted to storm out of the bar, but deep down he wasn’t really all that surprised. Lil never did anything without getting something in return, he thought angrily, watching the smug-looking turian sitting next to him. If she went through all this trouble to track me down, there had to be a reason. “What do you want?” 

“I have a job that needs doing,” she said cagily. “Already got one guy on it, but he needs a partner… particularly one with excellent sniper skills.” Lilfrey looked him up and down, then smiled, the gesture definitely not comforting. “And it seems like you’re available.”

Realizing that the hellion had him by the fringe, Garrus sighed. “What’s the job?” 

“I’ll let my associate explain.” Lilfrey signaled to the bartender to bring him another drink, then got up and crossed the room, talking to a male turian sitting on a bench nearby. After a few moments, they both got up, making their way back over to Garrus. 

I’m so not in the mood for this, Garrus thought, taking the drink from the bartender and tossing it back. Spirits, I dislike this female. When they approached and he didn’t turn around, the male cleared his throat, causing Garrus to close his eyes and take a deep breath, working to fight back his irritation. “So,” he said gruffly, shifting to see the turian standing behind him, “what secret is Lilfrey holding over your head to get you to go along with this inane idea of hers?” 

“It’s not her idea, it’s mine,” he replied, glancing over at Lilfrey. “Lil says you’re the best marksman she’s ever seen- is that true?” 

Even though he was angry at Lilfrey for blackmailing him, he couldn’t help the proud little trill that escaped him. “I am,” he replied, looking at the turian with interest. “What about it?” 

“Good... because that’s exactly what I need,” the turian replied, then rumbled excitedly. “I’m Lantar Sidonis,” he said, bowing his head slightly. “And if Lil recommended you, then that’s good enough for me.” 

Chapter Text

  


Even though she couldn’t see anyone, Nana still had the sneaking suspicion she was being watched. It felt like tiny fingers brushing across the backs of her tentacles, making her more than a little uneasy despite the warm and bright day.  As she looked around the cafe, she realized there were any number of places someone could be lying in wait. It’s too open. Too many places to hide

After scanning the perimeter and finding nothing out of the ordinary, Nana pushed the negative thoughts to the back of her mind, trying to relax.  Jumpin’ at shadows, old woman...there’s nothin’ here but waiters and tea. No need to upset the girl with paranoid ideas- Ye needs to relax a little today. Little enough of that since it all went to hell anyway.

Putting a bright smile on her face, Nana made her way over to the table where the turian was sitting.  “Place always looks the same… no matter how many times we meet up here.”

“That may be true, but we certainly have,” Yeloris replied, a genuine smile on her face when Nana approached her. “How have you been, old friend?”

Nana settled into the seat across from her and sighed.  “Well… I haven’t changed much, but you certainly have, dear.” The asari huffed a faint laugh as she shifted around, trying to find a comfortable spot. “Been about as well as can be expected… under the circumstances. Johnny hasn’t given me much reason to worry lately. Doesn’t look he’ll be tryin’ to take flight off the top of the Presidium any time soon.” She smiled, but when she noted the tired look on her friend’s face, the corners of her mouth dropped into a frown.  “How are you, girl? That boy of yours still trippin’ off the deep end? Heard anything from him? Maybe where he’s run off to?” Nana leaned on her elbows on the table and shook her head. She was about to say something else, but quickly thought better of it, choosing to grumble to herself instead as she stared at the turian across from her. Idiot boy likely gone off somewhere to get himself killed.

Yeloris sighed, shaking her head. “I got another one of those encrypted messages that simply said ‘I’m ok, I love you’. I tried to backtrace it, but it was routed through so many channels that it ended up being a dead-end.” The turian looked down for a moment, then sighed. “My boy doesn’t want to be found, Tear.”

Nana flagged down the waiter and placed her order- once the young man left, she let out a soft sigh. “He’ll come home when he’s ready. Figure the boy’s tryin’ to screw his head back on right. Losin’ a mate ain’t an easy thing to come to terms with- I should know…”

“I get that, but I’m not so sure he will, old friend,” Yeloris replied, absentmindedly reaching for the drink the busboy set in front of her. “Only time will tell, but right now I’m not too pleased with the story it’s weaving.”

For a moment, Nana thought she caught the scent of ozone, but before she could say anything, the waiter tripped and bumped into their table, sending their drinks to the floor. Mortified, the young man looked at the two women, his face turning bright red. “Oh no, I am so sorry! I didn’t mean-” 

“It’s alright, dear,” Yeloris replied, giving the waiter a reassuring smile. “Accidents happen- it was only a drink, after all.” 

“I’ll go get you those replacements right away,” he said hurriedly, finishing his clearing of the table and running a hand over his short brown hair. “Once again, I am really sorry about this.” 

As soon as the man had left, Nana looked dejectedly at the mess and shook her head with a sigh. “Stumble-footed brat tossed a good drink across the table.”

For the first time that afternoon, Yeloris laughed. “True, but on the bright side, we know the young man will be extra careful with the next batch.” The turian folded her hands and shook her head, a faraway look in her eyes. “I just wish I knew how to help him, Tear.”

“Boy’s gotta figure out how to navigate this mess on his own, Ye. You can’t do it for him no matter how much you might want to.” Nana locked eyes with her, giving her a serious look. “His world just flipped upside down- he needs time to sort it all out and file it away. When he’s done that… he’ll show up.”

“I hope so,” Yeloris replied, turning her head to the waiter as he brought their replacement drinks. “Spirits know I want to believe that.” 

Nana harrumphed softly, picking up her drink and taking a sip. As soon as she lifted the glass, she noticed some writing on the napkin- when she read the words, her eyes started to narrow.

She’s got enough going on, so don’t warn your friend. 

Some guy tampered with your drinks. I saw him, but I couldn’t get to them in time- didn’t mean to make a mess, but it was the best way to not tip him off. He’s gone now, but you two should probably get somewhere safe- be careful. 

Instantly, Nana’s head raised up slowly as she scanned the room for the young man, but he was nowhere to be seen. Yeloris raised a brow-plate at her, obviously noticing the impatient look in her eyes, but remained quiet, simply watching and waiting. Frustrated, Nana sucked her teeth. Brat disappeared like smoke.

Just then, a young asari came over to them, a bright smile on her face. “Hello! How can I help you today? Sorry for the wait, one of our waiters called out sick this afternoon.”

Nana paused, taking a mental step back. Her hairless brow knitted together in a frown as she eyed the girl. “We… haven’t been waiting. There was a boy here already- even tossed a couple of drinks across the table.”

The asari just stared at her, shuffling nervously. “I… I’m not sure about that- I just got assigned to your table at the last minute… how can I help you?” 

A cold shiver ran down Nana’s spine, but she smiled sweetly at the girl anyway. “Oh, it’s alright, girl. Our time’s short now anyway. We… um… should go.” 

  


So, the hubby’s still missing, Sloane thought to himself as he unlocked the office. Vanishing in plain sight? Hmmm… that sounds like something I might want to check into.  

The young man settled into Udina’s chair, typing out a message on his omni-tool. Normally, the young asari wouldn’t be the type of agent he’d use, but he needed someone that was dedicated to Jane and would make it their mission to not fuck it up. Ordinarily, he’d do this kind of thing himself, but his face would be too well-known, especially on Omega- for a mission this delicate, discretion would be key. But, with her ties to the Normandy and her connections, Liara fit the bill perfectly. Let’s hope I pique her interest, he thought as he fired off a message. Plan B is way too messy for my liking.

T’Soni,

I’ve found what you’ve been looking for. If you’re willing to make a deal with the devil, here are the coordinates- details to come soon. 

After re-reading and encrypting the message, Sloane settled back into his seat and waited for the ambassador. He’s late, he thought to himself, tapping his fingers lightly on the desk and growing angrier and angrier with each passing minute. His calendar said he should’ve been back a few minutes ago… must be hard to stay on schedule when you’re busy fucking me over. How hard was it to just keep your end of the bargain, Udina?

Finally, after an inordinate amount of time had passed, the ambassador walked into his office. Sloane didn’t even turn around- he could tell the man had noticed him from the way his steps had halted. “Donnel Udina,” Sloane purred, turning around in his chair. “Care to share why I don’t have the files I asked you for?”

Like him or not, Sloane noticed that the ambassador recovered quickly, sneering at him from the doorway. “You’re in my seat.” 

“So you aren’t blind,” Sloane replied, languidly getting up from the chair and sitting on the edge of the desk. “Just stupid.” 

“I’d watch your tone if I were you,” Udina said cooly, glaring at Sloane as he made his way to his desk. Though the ambassador was trying to be casual, it pleased the young man to no end to note the wide berth Udina gave him as he made his way to his seat. Smoothing his shirt as he sat, the ambassador folded his hands. “You’re not as powerful as you think you are, Sloane.”

“Funny, you weren’t belittling my skills when you needed to find someone that could recalibrate your pet’s brain,” Sloane shot back, working hard to keep his voice even. “Speaking of, keep that bastard on a leash- he tried to poison two people today.” 

Udina didn’t even look concerned. “I’m sure it wasn’t anyone of consequence.” 

“A justicar and a C-Sec Liason’s wife? Sounds pretty consequential to me, ambassador. That kind of thing raises eyebrows… I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly the attention you want around here.” 

“Your concern has been noted,” Udina said dryly, then looked down at his hands as if he were bored. “Is there anything else?” 

“You know damn well there is,” Sloane shot back. “Where’s the file I asked you for?”

“Oh… that,” the ambassador replied, a smirk spreading across his face. “You got your plans- now go build your little ship and get out of my office- I have important work to do.” 

Sloane felt his blood start to boil. “Don’t fuck with me, Udina. Trust me, I’m really not someone you want to screw over.”

“Did you tell the Alliance that too?” Udina sneered, then folded his hands again. “Funny, I didn’t see any errors in your file, Sloane- seems to me that a war criminal got exactly what he deserved.”

Using all the restraint he had, Sloane steeled his expression. “We had a deal, Udina.” 

“And I renegotiated,” he replied smugly. “Considering that you’re currently wanted for questioning by the Alliance, I’d say you got more than you deserved.” He smiled at Sloane as he settled back in his chair. “Be a good boy and shut the door on the way out, would you? I have actual meetings to attend to this afternoon.”

His rage almost tangible, Sloane swallowed and closed his eyes. “Last chance, Udina- are you really going to play this game with me?” 

“Game? Who’s playing a game?” Udina asked, his tone dripping with condescension. “I’m just doing my duty to keep the men and women of the Alliance safe... I don’t see anything wrong with that, do you?”

“I’m going to remember this,” Sloane said as he made his way toward the door, making sure to keep his voice even. “And when people fuck me over, I make it a habit to pay them back in kind, Udina.”

“Hmmm… for some reason, I just can’t bring myself to care,” Udina replied, looking back at his paperwork. “So, now that I’ve entertained your little tantrum for a while, why don’t you just go and run along like the nice little lap dog you are, Sloane?”

Sloane just smiled, the expression on his face menacing- he thought about putting a bullet in Udina’s head right then, but he had to take a breath and calm down. As much as I want to rip out his throat, I can’t- he wants him for a reason… I just have to bide my time, that’s all. “Duly noted,” he replied. “Have a nice day… ambassador.” 

  


“When Ash left, she didn’t tell me that we’d end up inheriting a turian,” John grumbled, looking over at Nihlus. “First Garrus leaves, then Ash, and now Liara, too? What the hell does everyone know that I don’t?” 

“Joker is gone too,” Nihlus replied calmly, continuing to eat his dinner. “Did you forget about him?”

John rolled his eyes- Sol had taken to inviting the spectre over in the evenings for dinner, saying that she knew he probably wouldn’t be too inclined to cook now that his wife had shipped out. He thought about protesting, but the look in his mate’s eyes after she’d made the proclamation told him he’d be better off keeping his mouth shut. “Unfortunately, I didn’t forget about him- I’m still working on that little bit of mental gymnastics, so thanks for the reminder, Kryik.” 

“This grudge of yours is stupid,” Nihlus replied, not even looking up from the dish Sol had set in front of him. “He’s your best friend, John.” 

“Was,” John corrected. “Murdering your sister tends to be a dealbreaker.” He angrily speared a piece of broccoli and chewed it with such ferocity that Sol crossed her arms and scowled at him. “And since this subject is not up for fucking discussion, how about we talk about something else?” 

Nihlus let out a rumble that clearly meant he thought John was being stupid, but did as he asked. “Any luck on the mystery waiter?”

It was his turn to groan. “This shit is insane. I’ve been through every camera’s footage in that area, but no matter what I do, it's the same story- no sign of mom, Nana, or the waiter. Even Castis is trying to help, surprise surprise… but still, nothing.” John took a sip of his drink and Sol rubbed his back. “All the footage in the area is gone- how the fuck does that happen?” 

Nihlus looked at Sol for a moment, then shifted uncomfortably. “Well,” he said tentatively, “we know how it would’ve happened before.”

John sighed, knowing exactly what the turian wasn’t saying. “Yeah, I’m aware that this is some Janey level shit… but who’d go through all this for Nana and Mom?”

Sol let out a thoughtful-sounding chirp, absentmindedly playing with her ring. “Do you think the waiter did it and is just trying to throw us off the trail by being helpful?”

John leaned over and kissed his wife’s cheek, earning a pleased purr from her as she nuzzled against him. “Doubtful, Tiny. If he had, I don’t think he would’ve called attention to himself with the note.”

“Speaking of that, turn up anything useful with the note?” Nihlus asked as he got up to put his plate in the sink. “Fingerprints, DNA, anything?”

John shook his head. “Nada- to be honest, if you and Castis weren’t coming up as empty as I was, I might start thinking I was the one fucking up.” 

“For now, your ego is safe,” Nihlus called back from the kitchen, sounding slightly amused. “Clearly, our savior has no desire to be found. The question is… why?” 

“Million credit question, spectre,” John replied, resting his hand on Sol’s arm. “But when I find out, you’ll be the first one to know.” 

  


“She’s reacting to outside stimuli,” an unfamiliar male voice said, his tone slightly unnerved. “She’s showing awareness of her surroundings... I think she’s waking up!”

Then there was another voice, also male, but this one was strangely familiar. “Miranda,” it said calmly, “please tell me that this is supposed to happen?”

“No, it is not!” The blurry faces of an unfamiliar man and a woman leaned over Jane, staring at her with concern. “Damn it, Folson, she’s not ready yet! Give her a sedative, now!”

Jane gasped, desperately trying to figure out what was going on. I remember the explosion, she thought. Then the suit, running out of air-

“Shepard,” the woman said, leaning closer so Jane could see her clearly, “I need you to lie still and calm down, all right?”

Jane couldn’t see the other man anymore, but she could still hear him. “Her heart rate is still climbing… and her brain activity is off the charts! Her… her  stats are going into the red zone!” That note of panic got even more pronounced. “It’s not working!”

“Then give her another dose, now,” the woman said curtly. The brunette pressed her lips together, her body tense. “We’re not losing her!” 

All Jane could feel was panic- she was desperate to figure out what was going on, where she was, and who these people were. I… have to get out of here, she thought, her body starting to shake. I need to find my family. 

“Brainy, I need you to calm down, ok?” the familiar voice said, his hands gently kneading her shoulders. “They’re here to help you.”

“What are you doing?” the woman squawked. “You can’t touch her- it’s not safe!” 

“It’s called compassion, you frigid bitch,” the familiar voice snarled back, his hands never leaving her skin. “You might want to get some.” 

Suddenly, Jane felt a cloud rolling over her, and the steady beeping of machines started to fill the room as her panic started to recede. “Heart rate dropping,” the unfamiliar man said. “Stats returning to normal range.”

“That’s it… you can go back to sleep now,” the familiar voice said, rubbing her hair as the world started to fade behind a curtain of fog. “I gotcha, Brainy… nothing’s going to happen to you as long as I’m here.” 

That voice, she thought as she tried to force herself to stay awake. Where do I know this voice from? Don’t put me to sleep yet- I need answers, damn it! She glanced around the room, but the only face she saw was that of the woman, staring at her as if she were a science project. Hell, for all I know that’s exactly what I am, Jane thought bitterly. After that suit started leaking, that was it… I died out there.

Jane shifted again, but hands rested on her arms, the palms rough and warm. “Sleep,” he said softly. “You’re always fighting, never taking a break… but, on the bright side, at least I know Miranda got it right- you’re still the same old Brainy, stubborn as ever.”

His voice was so familiar- it was on the tip of her tongue, but between the cocktail of drugs and the stress, she couldn’t quite place it. She wanted him to talk again, but the hands left her arms and her eyelids started to close. “I think we’re ok,” the woman said, her voice sounding as if it were underwater. “You can tell him the project is proceeding as planned.” 

The familiar voice started to speak again- desperate to figure out who it was, Jane tried to fight the sedative, but it was of no use. Eventually, the drugs won out, plunging her world into darkness and straight into the arms of a deep, dreamless sleep. 

Chapter Text

  


“Joker!” Sloane barked over the intercom, causing the pilot to almost fall out of his chair. “Report to my office, immediately!”

In response, Joker rolled his eyes- while Sloane wasn’t the worst co-worker in the world, he was definitely not the best. Bastard falls somewhere right above Kaidan, he thought irritably, trying to not let the man know just how annoyed he was as he hobbled his way down the hall. At least this one isn’t trying to murder half of the crew, so bonus points, I guess?

Even though Joker tended to keep his thoughts to himself, he was pretty sure that the man knew exactly how he felt about him anyway- the analyst seemed to watch everything, and whatever he didn’t see, the ship cancer he'd installed on the Normandy caught the rest of it. If you need an AI to help you fly, then you don’t need to be flying, he grumbled to himself. I hate that damn thing, but at least I get to do something besides twiddle my fucking thumbs. Guess that makes up for the cloak and dagger secrecy our fearless middle manager seems to get off on.

For reasons beyond Joker’s paygrade, Sloane was adamant about keeping secrets- no mention of work going on to anyone off the station was his rule, and those who broke it didn’t tend to last too long. When he’d bitched about needing to contact the doctor about his treatment plan and told him that his secrecy could get fucked, the sneaky bastard had simply asked that he give him one day. After a few moments of hesitation, Joker had relented, only to find out that Sloane had gotten Dr. Chakwas to join up with him. The pilot strongly suspected that he’d been used as bait with a bit of money on the side to sweeten the deal, but Sloane never offered any information and Chakwas was smart enough to stay quiet on the matter. But on the bright side, at least I know there’s one crew member that’s not a racist, Joker thought as he passed the medical facility, waving to the doctor. That’s a point in the win column.

Approaching the office, Joker plastered a fake-looking smile on his face and was about to say something snarky to the man, but the look on the analyst’s face made the joke die on his lips. All week long, they had been running test after test, and Sloane was cool as a cucumber the entire time. Now, his face looked pinched as he paced the room, muttering incoherently to himself.  Against his better judgment, the pilot went with a question instead, frowning as the normally stoic man paced the room. “Um,” Joker asked carefully, “you wanted to see me?”

“Close the door,” Sloane growled, returning to his seat and smoothing his hand over his hair. “And have a seat.” 

Joker did so, eyeing the man with trepidation. “Usually this kind of thing occurs right before a firing,” he said cautiously. “Care to share what’s going on in that head of yours?” 

Sloane sighed, then punched in some buttons on his omni-tool. “I’m about to trust you with something very important… and then I need you to leak it.” 

Joker just stared at the man, not quite believing what he was hearing. “Is this some sort of test? Cause a few minutes ago, I could’ve sworn you were breathing fire and brimstone about even waving at people outside of this station.”

“That’s because I don’t trust them,” Sloane said coolly. “But I know you well enough to know that if there’s anyone I can count on to do what I need doing, it’s you.” 

Instantly, Joker folded his arms and scowled. “Just because you rebuilt my ship doesn’t mean I owe you shit, Sloane.” 

“You don’t,” he agreed. “But we both know that you owe Brainy.”

At the sound of her nickname, Joker froze. “What does she have to do with anything?”

“Everything,” Sloane admitted, looking nervously around his office. “I need you to get a message to her brother, Moreau.”

Joker scoffed. “Um, I thought you knew everything, Mr. Analyst- cause if you did, you’d know just how fucking impossible your ask is. John hates my guts right now, remember? I’m sure he’d much rather get a message from literally anyone else in the galaxy but me, so why chose the messenger that’s probably going to get shot?”

“Because of the Lazarus Project,” Sloane said slowly, rapidly tapping his foot and ignoring the latter portion of Joker’s statement. “Granted, it’s proceeding a bit earlier than planned, but now that it’s operational, things are going to happen quickly.”

Joker was getting a strange feeling, and he paused, trying to catch his breath. “What are you saying? Why would John give a shit about this?”  

“Secondary confirmation,” Sloane replied. “He’s about to receive some news that I think he’s going to want to be verified from a few sources.” He looked around his office, then stared firmly at Joker. “This is the only room that will connect you to the outside without the cameras breathing down your neck- you’ll need to call from here. I can give you five minutes alone from my terminal- after that, the call is going to terminate.” 

“That’s all well and good,” Joker said warily, looking at the analyst and desperately trying to figure out just what he’d gotten himself into. “But you still haven’t told me why I’m calling a man who wants to smash my face in- I’m getting real tired of your cryptic shit, Sloane.” 

“Cerberus brought Jane back to life,” Sloane replied quickly, causing Joker to drop his jaw with shock. “She’s at one of our facilities now- see for yourself.”

Without another word, Sloane tapped a few keys on his terminal and turned the screen around to Joker- sure enough, there was Jane, sitting with a dark-skinned man and a haughty looking woman, getting a light shined in her eyes. There were glowing orange scars all over her cheeks and she looked exhausted, but the scowl on her face instantly told Joker it was her. “Holy shit,” he whispered, unable to believe his eyes as he watched his friend cross her arms and glare at the male, “it really is Janey.” 

Sloane nodded. “You cannot tell him where you are or who you are with, understand? Tell him that if he doesn’t believe you, he can verify your story with Tali'Zorah vas Neema when she calls him in a few hours.”

Joker scowled, still looking at the face of the woman who starred in his nightmares. “How do you know Tali is going to call him?”

“Because chatter puts her in the same area Jane is heading to,” Sloane replied, glancing over the screen of his omni-tool. I’m working on getting Jane an outgoing communication channel, but…”

“But since she popped back on the scene sooner than you expected, you weren’t ready for her welcome home party,” Joker finished for him, earning a nod from the young man. “Jeez, man… you want me to tell my former best friend that the racist shadow organization made a clone of his sister? Fuck me sideways, dude- how shitty can this get?” 

“She’s not a clone,” Sloane snapped quickly. “That’s all her, one-hundred percent rebuilt from the ground up- I... made some calls and recovered her body,” he said, talking as if this was the most normal thing in the world. “And I know Jane’s your friend, but I wasn’t going to say anything until we knew she was ok.” His voice trailed off, but he turned to the pilot with a manic glint in his eye. “We did it, Joker… we brought her back!”

“Fuck,” was all Joker could say- he was too busy staring into the eyes of a dead woman. 

  


John was staring at the face on the terminal, working hard to control his rage as he sat at his desk. “You got a lot of nerve calling me,” he said curtly. “What do you want?”

“It’s been two years,” Joker pleaded, his face looking pained. “Cut me some slack, Johnny- I didn’t blow up the ship and you know it!” 

“Fuck this,” John growled. “I’m hanging up now.”

“Wait!” Joker yelled, holding out his hands. “I have something I need to show you!” He shuffled around for a minute, then aimed a terminal screen at the camera. “See!”

For a moment, all John could do was stare- in front of him was a video feed of his sister, walking to a shuttle bay with a man who looked like a soldier and a tall, leggy brunette. There were scars all over her face and her hair was dark, but the look in those grey eyes told him all he needed to know- it was definitely Jane. “How?” John croaked, his throat going dry. “Where is she?”

“Not here,” Joker replied. “I’m supposed to meet her when they return. Not sure when that’s going to be, though. Got intel that you might get a call about it later… thought I should tell you about it first.”

“But... if she’s back, why didn’t she contact me?” John stammered, nervously pulling at one of his curls. “I’m her brother- I should’ve been the first to know!” 

“You are,” Joker replied. “That’s why I called you. She can’t call you yet, Johnny- see the meat slab and the scientist with her? They’ve been up her ass the entire time- she doesn’t even know I know about this yet.”

John was barely listening- his heart was thumping and his brain was racing a mile a minute. “I need to get there,” he said, scanning the room and making a mental checklist. “You’re going to meet her, right?”

Joker looked away for a moment before turning back to the screen, a nervous look on his face. “Yeah, but-”

John cut him off. “Then if she’s going to meet you, I’m going to be there- where the hell are you?”

The pilot looked around for a minute, then sighed. “Can’t tell you that- it’s classified, Johnny.” 

“Don’t give me that shit,” John snapped, causing a few heads to turn in his direction. Remembering where he was, he put a hand to his head and lowered his voice. “We both know you’re not Alliance anymore, so cut the bullshit and tell me where the fuck you are.”

“I would if I could, but I can’t,” Joker said pleadingly. “Johnny, you gotta know that-” Suddenly his head whipped around toward someone off-camera, and he got a panicked look on his face. “Wait, you can’t cut me off yet," he stammered, putting out his hands. "I just need a little more-”

Before the pilot could say another word, the screen went black. What the fuck was that, John thought, staring at his screen in shock- he might have been mad, but Joker was still his best friend once upon a time. What just happened to him- is he in trouble?

Knowing that there wasn’t a shot in hell of him paying a lick of attention for the rest of the day, John got up from his desk and went into Chellick’s office, ignoring the dirty look that the turian gave him. “I have to leave,” he said, trying to keep his tone calm. “There’s a family emergency.” 

Chellick just looked at him, no doubt trying to suss out what was going on. “Did you find Vakarian?”

The disappearance of his brother still hurt, but he tried to keep it at bay for the time being. “No sir… this is-” John searched for the right words, trying to keep the slight note of hope out of his voice, “-something else.” 

The turian stared at him, no doubt wanting him to elaborate but knowing that John wasn’t going to. “Fine,” he replied, turning away. “Look, I know it’s been rough these last two years… but we need you here, Shepard. You’re a good detective,” Chellick grumbled, the unsolicited praise surprising John enough to make him stop fidgeting. “Do what you need to do in order to come back, all right?” 

Shocked at the unexpected level of understanding, John nodded. “Yes sir,” he said firmly, quickly walking out the door before his boss decided to change his mind. 

  


Most mornings, Sol started her day way before John, taking advantage of the stillness to prepare meals and have some time to meditate before she had to leave. She’d never thought much of the practice before, but Liara had told her about it as a way to help focus her biotics in addition to the rigorous training Nana had been putting her through. 

Though she’d never admit to it when asked, Sol was actually quite proud of her skills these days. Granted, she still had a long way to go, but she was a lot more confident with her biotics. Even Nana had noticed her improvements- the asari was rarely one to offer compliments, but Nana had taken to yelling less during their sessions and grumbling more. Sol was initially concerned about this development, but John assured her that this was a good thing. Time is funny, she thought as she made her way into the elevator. Some days it feels like it’s been forever, but others it seems like no time has passed at all. 

When she realized that none of her friends were around anymore, Sol felt the two years with aching clarity. Liara had disappeared to Illium, and while she was never too forthcoming about anything these days, she always seemed genuinely happy to hear from Sol. Ash had been sent away on mission after mission, but always made sure to stop and have dinner with Sol and John when she’d return home. But, the absence that stung the most was Tali- Sol knew she’d been busy with her fleet, but part of her couldn’t help but wish she could still spend evenings with her best friend, sitting in the observation deck of the Normandy and playing with JC while they talked about nothing in particular. 

I miss those days, she thought as she opened the door to the apartment. Sure enough, the tiny cat wound his way around her ankles as soon as she crossed the threshold- Jane had been right all those years ago when she said JC wouldn’t get much bigger. Smiling, she scooped up the gray fluff ball and cocked her head. “What’s wrong? Did your father forget to feed you today?”

“He’s a liar and you know it,” John called out from inside the apartment. “Don’t be fooled by that cute little face- he’s a Shepard through and through.” 

Sol heard the sound of a dual-voice chuckling, and she excitedly raced into the office to find her mother sitting with John. “Mom!” Sol squealed, racing to her mother and bumping her head lightly to hers. “What brings you here?” 

“A favor for my son,” she replied, gesturing to John. “It appears he got some interesting news this afternoon… definitely not something we were expecting to hear.”

Sol’s heart fluttered with excitement. “Did you find Gar?” 

Her mother sighed, then shook her head. “Afraid not, but we did find something even more strange,” she said, pausing to look at John- after a slight hesitation, he nodded. “We found Jane, Sol.” 

The wind was knocked out of her as she struggled to process what her mother was saying. “You… you found her body?” 

John shook his head and got up from his seat, moving next to Sol on the bed and wrapping his arms around her. “No, Tiny… I saw her.” Saddened by the fact that he was backsliding after all this time and progress, Sol let out a sad little chirp, only to have John shake his head again and continue. “Look, I know it sounds crazy, but I promise, I am telling the truth- Joker called me this morning and showed me a live vid feed of Janey being led around by two people. I took a still of it… it’s her, Tiny- I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but our sister is alive.” He swallowed, then looked at Yeloris. “We’ve been trying to look for Garrus…but I’m also supposed to get a call about this soon.”

Sol just blinked, trying to sift through the massive amount of information she’d just been given and staring at the picture. Sure enough, the image was definitely Jane, being led down a sterile-looking hallway. “But… what do we do?” Sol asked, staring between her mom and John. “How do we go get her?”

“I’ve called Kryik and asked him to see if he can tell anything from the picture- we’re waiting to hear back from him. In the meantime, I’m racking my brain to figure out what the hell Joker was talking about when he said that I’d be getting a call- Mom and I have been stalking the terminals all afternoon.”

When she noticed John start to frown, Sol patted his leg. “You’re worried about him.” 

“Yeah, I am. Still mad at him, but-” John sighed and shook his head. “Joker made it a point to call me, and then for the connection to get yanked like that…” Her mate blew out a deep breath, raking his fingers through his wild curls. “I can’t shake the feeling that something might be wrong, and if he gets in trouble because the idiot tried to tell me something…” 

“We’ll find him,” Sol said firmly. “We’ll find him and Janey, then we’re going to use Janey’s superpowers and get Gar home, too.”

He laughed, pressing his lips to hers. “Tiny, you are the best thing ever, and don’t let anyone tell you any different, ok?” 

“I won’t,” Sol replied, resting her head against his and ignoring her mother’s amused chuckles. “Besides, I’m sure you wouldn’t let them, anyway.”

“Damn right,” John said firmly, grinning at her as he got up from the bed and returned to the terminal. “I’m firmly in the ‘my wife is the greatest’ camp.”

Sol laughed, then frowned as her omni-tool started to buzz. “That’s odd,” she said, staring at the screen. “I thought Tali said she was going to be on a mission and unreachable for a while.”

“Maybe she caught a break,” John replied absentmindedly, gesturing for Yeloris to look at something he’d found. “Don’t look a gab session in the mouth, Tiny- we all know you want to take the call.” 

“You’re right, I do,” Sol said happily, bringing up the face of her friend on her screen. “Tali! What’s going on? I thought you were on a mission!”

“I am,” Tali said nervously, her tone causing John to pause and turn in his chair. “But I needed to talk to you right away.”

Instantly, both her mother and John were no longer distracted- they were both paying close attention to her conversation. Nervously, Sol looked back at the screen, wishing for the umpteenth time that she could see her friend’s face. “What’s going on?”

“It’s…” The quarian’s voice trailed off, and then she let out a deep sigh. “Oh, Keelah, I don’t know how to say this,” Tali said slowly, her posture stiff, “but I saw Jane today.”

John was at her side in a flash. “You did? Where is she? Is she still there?” 

Tali shook her head. “No… once she helped me with my mission, she left.”

Sol could tell John was frustrated, but he was holding it together. “Tali,” he said slowly, “we need to find her, fast- what can you tell me about the people she was with?” 

“I don't know much- all I can tell you is that she was traveling with a man and a bosh’tet of a woman,” Tali replied, then lowered her head. “But she says that she can’t access outside comms yet,” she said slowly. “They’re watching her.”

“Who is?” Sol asked, glancing at her mom before lightly gripping John’s hand. “I don’t understand- we’re Jane’s family! Why won’t they let her contact us? We deserve to know what’s going on!” 

“Because it’s Cerberus,” Tali said grimly, unable to look at them. “And from what I just saw, it doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to let her go.” 

Chapter Text

  


Jane could hardly believe her eyes when she saw Joker, standing in front of what looked like a brand-new version of the Normandy. “Hey there Brainy,” he said, his voice thick with emotion, “I never thought I’d miss the days when you threatened me with bodily harm.”

She was at a loss for words, completely ignoring her guardian assholes and racing toward the man, wrapping him in a crushing hug. “Please,” she whispered, not letting him go, “please tell me I’m still me.” 

The pilot’s arms wrapped around her back, and she clung to him as if he were her lifeline. “There’s no one else I’d tolerate a broken rib for,” Joker replied, then closed his eyes and rested his head against hers. “I called John,” he whispered. “He knows you’re back.”

“And Garrus?” Jane asked, desperately searching his face for some news on her husband. Tali said she hadn’t heard from him, but then again, she knew that the quarian was still unsure as to who she was, and traveling with the Cerberus dickheads wasn’t doing her any favors, either. Thankfully, letting the young yet addled quarian go back to the Flotilla was a step in the right direction- while Jane needed Veetor’s data, she didn’t need him getting even sicker. Even though Miranda protested her decision, Jane promptly told her to go fuck herself and let Tali escort him back, each of them taking a copy of the quarian's data. 

When she gave her the information, Tali wrapped her in a hug and promised to see about her family- on the entire ride back to the ship, Jane clung to that hope that the quarian she’d come to think of as another little sister would trust her enough to keep her word. Jane had been frazzled and nervous the whole time, but seeing Joker standing on that dock was more than she could have ever dreamed of having right then. “I need to know he’s okay, Joker.” 

“Shepard, we need to get inside,” Miranda interjected, her tone curt and sharp. “You have reports to file, data to analyze…” 

“And I also seem to have a walking set of tits that insists on being a pain in my ass,” Jane snapped. “Can’t you see I’m fucking busy?” 

“And so are the Collectors,” Miranda snapped back. “This reunion can wait.”

Jane whirled around at the woman, ready to make her perfect little face a little less symmetrical- instead, Joker put a hand on her arm. “Go inside,” he said softly. “Besides, you and I need to talk later anyway.” He looked Miranda up and down, then scoffed. “And go let Chakwas take a look at you- Bitchy Barbie 2.0 might have tried to plant a bomb in your skull or something.” 

Jane let out a barking laugh and nodded, noting that she even saw the corners of Jacob’s mouth start to twitch. The burly soldier standing next to Miranda definitely gave her Kaidan vibes,  but so far he at least had the glimmers of a personality. Long as this one isn’t batshit insane, I might be all right, she thought, nodding at Joker as she made her way inside the ship. 

When she stepped inside, all Jane could do was gasp- the ship was no longer on fire and klaxons weren’t ringing in her ears. Instead, all was quiet, with the crew going about their business as if it was any normal day. Though the faces were different, it was uncannily the same. This… this is like coming home, she thought, trailing her fingers over the cool metal surfaces. I have my ship again...  now all I need is him. 

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” Joker said, startling her as she gazed around the ship with wonder. “Say what you will about the racist bastards, but they do know how to build a ship. And they also know how to take advice- I may have made a few requests for some upgrades.” 

Without missing a beat, Jane got a wry smirk on her face. “What, you’re my pilot again?”

Joker nodded, flooding Jane’s body with relief. “Did you think I’d trust anyone else with my baby? Especially now that she’s outfitted with leather seats?”

“How could I ever be so stupid,” Jane replied, laughing as she savored the presence of the pilot. It had been two years, but he was still Joker and she was still Brainy- right now, in this crazy world, she needed that certainty. Bad enough I have to deal with the illusive asshole, she thought as Miranda gestured for her to enter the comms room. But at least I don’t have to do it alone now.

She knew exactly who she needed, but until she could get a hold of her family, Jane was more than happy to settle for the comfort of just having a friend.

  


Joker made his way back to the cockpit, his knees shaking more than usual. It’s her, he thought with relief. Brainy is back. 

“Mr. Moreau,” the AI intoned, almost making Joker jump out of his seat, “there is a call for you on your terminal.” 

Fucking ship cancer, he thought, glaring at the ceiling. I wish I could shut that damn thing off. Brainy’s probably gonna love it, till it tries spying on her- then she’ll fry it without a second thought. Gotta admit... I think I might want to see that, though. 

Doing his best to ignore the AI, he headed over to his terminal. “Any chance I might be able to not have you breathing down my neck while I take this call?” 

The AI tried it’s best to sound apologetic, but all it did was make Joker want to punch it in the face. “My protocols are to remain active at all times unless given specific commands- I’m afraid you do not have sufficient privileges to invoke privacy protocols unless it pertains to hygiene matters, Mr. Moreau.” 

Rolling his eyes and trying not to say something sarcastic, he went to his terminal and answered the call. “Joker here.” 

Sloane’s face appeared on the screen, making Joker roll his eyes again- the analyst ignored him. “EDI,” he said patiently, “enable privacy protocols for the next thirty minutes, please.”

There was a pause, then Joker heard a soft chime. “Privacy protocols enabled, Mr. Sloane,” EDI replied. “Is there anything else I can assist you with?”

The man looked down for a moment, then nodded. “Enable alpha level authorization for Commander Jane Alexandra Shepard, commanding officer of the Normandy.”  

“Alpha level authorization given to Commander Shepard," EDI replied. Joker scoffed, but the ship ignored him as well. “May I assist you with anything else?” 

“That will be all,” Sloane said curtly. “Please go into privacy mode, starting now.” The analyst punched a few keys on his omni-tool, then turned to Joker. “There… now you have a bit of time- you need to set a course for Omega.” 

Or,” Joker snapped, getting tired of this man’s bullshit, “I could wait for the captain of my ship to tell me where to go- getting chewed out by Brainy for stepping on her toes doesn’t seem like the best way to kick off this little voyage, now does it?” 

“She’s got two dossiers for crew members on Omega,” Sloane snapped back. “Janey is a goddamn mouse and you know it- she’s gonna go to where she knows and try to get lost. Telling her brother where she’s gonna be won’t be the worst thing.”

Instantly, Joker felt the pieces snap into place. “You want John on this crew, don’t you?” 

Sidestepping the question, Sloane pretended to study his papers. “John would never join Cerberus willingly,” Sloane admitted. “But he’s also not one to leave his sister on her own. And now that she knows what we’re up against, we both know Jane isn’t going to quit until she puts an end to it.”

“You’re using me to play my friend,” Joker seethed, his hands balling into fists. “And for some reason, I thought that maybe you might just want to help Jane reunite with her family- shows what I know.”

“Don’t misunderstand, I do want that,” Sloane replied casually. “I’m also not stupid- I know a good resource when I see one. John is the best human biotic I’ve seen in ages, but don’t tell that to Miranda, because her tits might explode. Jacob isn’t… terrible, but I’d feel better about John serving at Jane’s side. And,” Sloane said, his blue eyes stony as he stared at him, “I also know that little turian wife of John’s won’t leave his side- by helping him, I get two resources for the price of one.” The analyst folded his hands, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. “See? I help Jane, she gets new recruits, and you get to be a great friend... by doing things my way, everyone goes home happy.” 

“You know I’m going to tell him this,” Joker said coldly, hating every minute of this conversation- like it or not, the man with absolutely right about everything. “I’m not letting him walk into this blind.” 

“As long as you make the call, you’re free to say whatever you like,” Sloane said casually, folding his hands behind his head. “It really doesn’t matter at this point, because you and I both know that once you speak to him, there’s not a chance in hell that John Shepard and Solana Vakarian won’t be waiting for this ship on Omega.” 

  


Jane stormed toward her quarters, trying to calm herself down. Just looking at Miranda set every nerve in her body on edge, and the fact that she refused to tell her anything about her family or let her try to get in contact with them made her almost want to punt her head through a wall. Fine- if that’s the way you want to play this, then we can play, Jane growled. I’ll show you what happens when people try to fuck with me.

But, when she stepped inside her room, she immediately took a step back- this wasn’t the functional room she had on the original Normandy. What the hell is going on here? Jane looked around at the room that was bigger than the apartment she shared with Garrus, shaking her head in disbelief. Why does my room look like something out of a luxury liner?  

There were stairs leading down to a sleeping area, but Jane had no intentions of sleeping right now. As she moved a little further inside the room, she found exactly what she was looking for- a terminal. Bingo, Jane thought, her eyes going wide with satisfaction as she sat down. Finally...it’s time to find Garrus and Johnny. 

Her first instinct was to call Garrus and lose herself in those bright blue eyes, letting his warm voice roll over her as it told her that everything would be okay. But, though Jane was deeply in love, she couldn’t change the fact that she was still a realist- two years apart was a long time. What if he’s mated to someone else by now? Jane could take a lot, but hearing that from him was something she didn’t know if she could take. Better to try and find Johnny, she thought, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes. She’d asked the Illusive Man about him and got absolute garbage- Jane got the feeling that trying to ask about anything that didn’t directly benefit him or the mission was going to be met with the latest in ‘I don’t give a shit’ fashion.

Realizing that super ship or not, this was still a Cerberus vessel, Jane launched her omni-tool and grabbed a copy of her data from her servers. Still online, she thought smugly, watching as her omni-tool began to flicker with the familiar glow as it removed the tracers from the base level software. Finally...I’m starting to feel like me again. 

“Commander,” the AI that Miranda called EDI called out as soon as her base layer program had set itself up on her tool, “Is everything all right? I detected fluctuations in your room.”

“Everything is fine, EDI,” Jane called out absentmindedly, trying to ignore the digital voice. Under normal circumstances, she’d love to converse with it and try to figure out just what the AI was capable of, but Jane was under no illusions about the fact that the Cerberus bastards were spying on her. 

As more and more of her programs came online, the AI broke in again. “Commander, I must advise you that you do not have access-”

“Just Shepard,” Jane replied, wincing at the realization that she’d probably lost all her rank and Spectre status when she died. “I don’t think I’m a Commander anymore.”

“Your file still says Commander, so I am programmed to address you as such,” EDI replied. “But regardless, you do not have access to the areas of my programming you are trying to access.” 

“EDI,” Jane interrupted, her focus still on her wrist, “you’re reporting everything I do back to the Illusive Man, aren’t you?” 

“Yes- I am obligated to make reports,” the AI replied. “Is this something you are opposed to?” 

“Very much so,” Jane replied absentmindedly, breathing a sigh of relief when she saw her programs all installed correctly. Suddenly, she got a warning message and a frown crossed her face as she read over the security alert- someone had been in her repository while she was… gone. “EDI, this is my room, right?” 

“Of course it is,” EDI replied, it’s tone almost sounding confused. “These are the captain’s quarters.”

“Then when I’m in here, I want privacy,” Jane shot back, her tone more focused now. “He may have brought me back, but in here, in this room? This time is mine, understand- he doesn’t get to know when I eat or when I take a shit- is that clear?” 

EDI paused for a moment. “I do not need to inform him about the happenings in this room,” the female-sounding voice said firmly. “However, with your status, I would like your permission to monitor your vitals- the doctor is rather insistent on making sure you are fully operational.” 

Jane thought about that for a moment- she didn’t want anyone on this ship knowing anything about her, but Chakwas wasn’t just anyone. Plus, she had to admit that EDI had a point- she wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of health right now. Scrap parts and skin, Jane thought glumly, looking at the glowing scars in her arms. Held together with nothing but prayers and venom. “That’s fine,” Jane replied. “Thank you, EDI.”

“If you wish to have privacy, you have the authorization to enable those protocols,” EDI replied helpfully. “Would you like to do so now?”

Frowning and wondering just when that happened, Jane nodded. “I would… thank you.” 

“Enabling privacy mode,” EDI replied, her tone almost sounding satisfied. “Have a good night, Commander.”

With complete silence and shaking hands, Jane gathered her courage and dialed her brother, hoping that he’d believe her story and help her put the pieces of her life together again. Don’t abandon me, Johnny, Jane thought as she twitched nervously in her seat. I really need you right now.

Within seconds of placing the call, her brother’s harried face appeared on the screen, followed by Sol- he looked exactly as he did the last time she saw him, though he had a few more dark circles under his eyes. “Johnny,” Jane squeaked, feeling tears pooling behind her eyes. “Is that really you?” 

As soon as she spoke her sister let out a chirp, and tears started to slide down her brother’s cheeks. “Jane Brain,” he croaked, his grey eyes darting over her face, “Is that really you?”

“I… I think so,” she answered honestly, twisting a strand of hair around her finger and swallowing back her own tears. “I’m fucking terrified, Johnny- one minute I was out there-” 

“Don’t…” he said, closing his eyes and exhaling sharply. “I can’t do that again… I know it’s selfish and I know you need to process, but I can’t go through that part again- it took me way too long to get to a place where your name didn’t feel like a knife, Janey.”

“Well, good thing Cerberus is paying for a shrink to spy on me,” Jane quipped, staring at the ceiling and trying to fight back her tears as she waited for her brother to pull away like Tali had. “Might as well make her earn that paycheck, right?” 

“Don’t tell that bitch shit,” John snapped, causing Jane to stare at him with shock. “We’re coming to get you, Jane Brain- Joker already told us what’s going on.”

“I can’t leave,” Jane said quietly, staring down at the desk- the memory of the terrified quarian and the images of the Collectors he’d shown her flickered through her mind as she spoke. “The… Collectors are snatching up human colonies and the Alliance doesn’t care, Johnny… if I have to work with Cerberus to save them, then...”

“Then you’ve just forced me to work with the bastards because I’m not losing you again,” John shot back. “I already told you- no matter what, I’ve always got your back, Jane Brain.”

He sounded so much like Garrus right then that it made her heart hurt. “Johnny,” Jane said slowly, forcing herself to speak, “where’s Garrus?” 

Her brother paused, then looked at Sol- immediately, the turian looked away. “We don’t know,” Sol said quietly. “He just disappeared one day- we keep trying, but no one’s been able to find him.” 

“We think he used your program to sneak off the Citadel,” John added, not meeting her gaze. “He sends mom a cryptic little note saying he’s alive about once a month, but nothing to anyone else- no matter what we try, we can’t trace where the damn thing comes from at all.”

“Send me those notes,” Jane said quickly, her heart starting to pound in her chest- why would Garrus abandon his family like that? “I’m supposed to be recruiting a crew- pulling in an extra biotic won’t be a bad thing, considering I hate the two I’ve got right now.” 

“And a medic,” Sol said quickly. “Don’t act as if you didn’t know I was coming along.” Jane started to protest, but the turian rumbled menacingly and narrowed her eyes. “You’re my sister too,” she said firmly. “I’m not leaving you out there alone, and you already know I’m good- this isn’t up for discussion.”

“One family, coming right up,” John said lightly, the only thing giving him away was the thin pressing of his lips. “Just need a destination.”

Sighing, Jane scanned over the dossier’s she’d been given, searching for a place to start. “There are two recruits on Omega,” she said irritably. “And of course they would be the one place in the goddamn galaxy I fucking don’t want to go to.” 

“Such is the way of the world,” John replied. “Look, we’re just going to make a few calls and head out- meet you in Afterlife?” 

“Ugh… you know she’s going to be there,” Jane said warily, staring at her brother for a moment before glancing at Sol. “You sure about that?” 

“No choice,” John answered flatly. “Let’s just head there first and save her the trouble- you know she’s going to find us the minute we step foot on that fucking rock anyway.” 

“Well, she’d find you,” Jane teased, hoping to get her brother to smile- she needed that right then. “I, on the other hand, am a goddamn ghost.” 

“In more ways than one,” John grumbled, making Jane’s face fall. When he saw her expression, however, he let out a curse. “Shit, I didn’t mean to-”

“You did,” she said wearily, running her hands through her dark hair and scowling. “It’s ok, I get it- it’s a lot to take in.” 

“And I’ll deal with a lot more,” John replied quickly, resting his hand on Sol’s. “We’re family, Janey… family always sticks together, remember?”

Feeling an overwhelming sense of relief at his words, Jane finally let the tears she’d been holding back start to fall. “Yeah,” she whispered, wiping her eyes. “I know.” 

Chapter Text

  


After setting a course to Omega, Jane headed back to her room, too hyped up to sleep and too scared to crawl into that big bed of hers alone. I need him, she thought miserably, rubbing her shoulder where her bondmark used to be. It’s like he never existed...like we never existed. Not willing to let herself go there, she leaned against the wall and tried to not think about how much it hurt not to know what was going on with her husband. In and out, she told herself. Focus on breathing… focus on being here. 

Just then a soft ping came from her terminal, startling Jane from her spiral of self-pity. That's odd, she thought, sitting down and opening her messages, I just talked to John... I wonder who else knows I’m back? Tentatively, she decided to click on the message that simply had ‘For Jane’ written in the subject line- the worst it could be is spam, she reasoned.

Brainy,

I know this is a terrible situation and I’m so sorry it has to be this way. As much as I want to see you, I want you happy even more, so I’ll do us both a favor and stay away. But, I also know you have no desire to wear Cerberus colors- you’re too good a soldier for that, so I took the liberty of grabbing a few of your things. Check your drawer- I think you’ll feel a little better afterward. 

Also, your blue hair suited you- it was unexpected, yet brilliant. So, since you’re not Alliance anymore, I left you something in your bathroom- thought you might want something to help you feel a bit more in control. Good luck with not making a mess with that goop- I’m just glad I don’t have to clean it up. 

Can someone do bad things for a good reason? When it comes down to it, do the ends ever really justify the means? Look, I know I have a lifetime of things to make up for with you, Brainy. I’ve disappointed a lot of people in my life, but I never wanted you to be one of them. I fully understand that I fucked up last time, but trust me, I’m doing everything I can to fix it…being the good guy is a bit harder than I thought, but I’m not giving up, I promise. 

Hopefully, there will come a day where you won’t see me as that person anymore, but in the meantime, just know I’m here for you. I’m rooting for you, Jane- when the chips are down, I know to always bet on you. 

-Xander

P.S.- Not trying to tell you how to do your job, but you might want to check that dossier for Archangel- there’s something weird about that gun of his.   

Jane turned off the terminal and stared at the ceiling for a minute. It's worse than spam... it's fucking Xander, she thought, tapping her fingers on the desk. Bastard’s probably watching me right now. Her irritation rising, she launched her program and checked the cameras in her room- all of them were off, just as she’d requested. The ones outside her door, however, were functioning perfectly, displaying a crystal clear image of the hallway on her screen. So that’s how he knew I was in here… sneaky asshole. 

She thought about being spiteful, but she did realize that the man had a point- there was no way she wanted to be seen in Cerberus colors any longer than she had to be. Getting up from the desk, she made her way over to the chest of drawers and her eyes widened in shock. To her surprise, the drawer was filled with her clothes- slowly, she took out some underwear and Garrus’s old C-Sec t-shirt, marveling at the fact that he’d even thought to bring it. I can’t believe that the guy I swore to shoot on sight brought my clothes, she mused, heading over to the bathroom. What the fuck is his game? 

Jane continued to mull this over as she stepped inside, biting back a laugh when she saw the blue hair dye kit sitting on the sink. Motherfucker, she thought, shaking her head as she read the box, glancing at the instructions. You really are trying to get on my good side, aren’t you?

Still angry but also feeling slightly humbled, Jane sighed and opened the kit, looking at the dark, viscous goop inside. She thought about letting it go, but the idea of watching Miranda’s perfect little face fall when she saw her with bright blue hair made her plop on a pair of gloves and get to work, not giving a shit if she ruined her Cerberus-issued clothing. It’s going to take a lot more than some goddamn hair dye to get me to even think about speaking to you, Xander… but it’s at least a start. 

  


Nihlus just stared at John’s face from the screen. “You’re absolutely sure about this?” 

“Positive,” John said firmly, shifting his attention to Sol racing around and grabbing things. To his amusement, Nihlus saw the turian gathering a harness and placing it on the cat, earning a scowl from the human. “Tiny, we are NOT taking JC with us!” 

“The hell we aren’t!” Sol shot back. “He’s family too, and he’s our eyes and ears on the ship- Joker isn’t going to let anyone hurt him, and if he pees on anyone, we know not to trust them.” 

John let out a groan and Nihlus coughed, trying to hide his laughter. Like it or not, his mate had a point- the small ball of fur had the uncanny ability to show his displeasure to anyone that might mean his parents harm. The cat had made no secret of his distrust for the turian’s father, peeing on his foot when he walked into the apartment then making a beeline for the mother and snuggling into her cowl. “Fine,” John huffed, “but you get to explain to Janey why you brought the boy with you.” 

Sol nodded and gave a satisfied hum. “That won’t be a problem,” she said confidently, walking out of the room and leaving Nihlus and John alone again. 

Nihlus laughed, shaking his head. “Your mate is an interesting one, Shepard.”

“Don’t I know it,” John replied, rubbing his neck. “Wouldn’t change a thing about her, though.” He sighed, then sat down in the chair. “You up for this?”

Nihlus nodded. “I’ve informed Anderson of her return, and he agrees- considering who Jane is traveling with, I need to check into this before we broach the matter with the other councilmembers. And while your mate can run recon on the ship-”

“I don’t want Tiny spying on anyone,” John snapped, his eyes narrowing. “I already don’t really want her coming with me for this, and I’m for damn sure not interested in putting my wife in danger.”

“Like it or not, Solana is going,” Nihlus replied, ignoring John’s protests. “Her medical knowledge will give us access to Jane’s records, which will help us ascertain the veracity of this claim. I want it to be her, too,” Nihlus said calmly, watching as John’s expression grew more and more agitated, “but like it or not, we have to make sure- someone with her level of access could be dangerous if we don’t do this correctly.” 

“What about Ash?” John asked, ignoring Nihlus’s statement. “Is she coming with us?”

“No,” he said sadly. “She and Jenkins are being shipped off together to look into some disturbances in some outer colonies- I did, however, promise to let her know what we find out… I hope that was ok?” 

“Course,” John replied. “She’s family, Kryik- she deserves to know what’s going on, too.” He sighed and ran a hand over his hair. “Any luck getting a hold of Liara?”

Nihlus shook his head. “Not as of yet. I was able to send word to Wrex- he said, and I quote, ‘bring the whelp to me and I’ll see if she smells the same’.” The spectre rolled his eyes and let out a soft hum. “I told him we appreciated his offer and would keep him posted with any updates.” 

“That’s our battle turtle,” John replied with an amused grin, then sighed. “Fuck, I can’t believe this- we get Jane back and the one damn person we need is nowhere to be fucking found. Why did that damn idiot have to up and disappear like this?” 

“I think we’re about to have a change in our fortune,” Nihlus said helpfully, glancing over at his bag- he too was ready to head to Omega. There’s no possible way I’m going to let them do this on their own- neither of them are in a position to assess the situation rationally. “I think that if this is Jane-”

“It is,” John interrupted, a scowl crossing his face. “You didn’t talk to her, Kryik- it was Jane. Yeah, she looks beat to shit, but I guess being dead will do that.” 

“And I believe you,” Nihlus replied reassuringly. “I’m just preparing myself for all outcomes. But,” he said quickly, cutting off the man before he could get angry, “as I was saying, if this is Jane, then I have no doubt that if anyone can help us find her husband… it will be her.”  

  


Dressed for bed and towel-drying her newly dyed hair, Jane settled back into her seat. She’d been pondering the whole thing the entire time she was in the bathroom, spitefully using as much hot water as she wanted. From the dossier Xander had sent her, Jane knew Archangel was a mercenary, a great shot, a tech expert, and an absolute pain in the ass for every gang member on Omega. However, unlike the other dossiers, this one included a surveillance photo- judging by the build, she suspected that Archangel was turian. 

After skirting a few firewalls, Jane did a bit more digging, noting that yes, Archangel was indeed turian. No one knew his real name or had even seen his face- he never went out without armor, and rarely ever spoke to anyone that wasn’t a member of his team. Jane glanced over some of the reports and let out a low whistle- this dude had done some serious damage down there. I wonder what Aria’s got to say about this, she mused, absentmindedly braiding her hair while she skimmed through the file. Can’t imagine she’s too pleased about a guy like this operating on her turf.                 

Remembering the man’s note, Jane paused and looked at the picture he’d sent her. It has to be important, and I don’t think the Illusive man knows he gave it to me- none of the other files have photos, so this is probably something Xander specifically dug up. But I’m curious- what’s special about the gun, she wondered, chewing thoughtfully at her bottom lip. Taking a moment to enlarge the photo, Jane immediately noticed that he was right- sure enough, there was writing on the weapon that the turian was holding. 

Inscribed gun, she murmured to herself. Interesting- maybe this will help me figure out who you are. Zooming in on the photo, she worked to enhance the picture, squinting her eyes and trying to make out the words etched into the barrel of the sniper rifle. Hand-etched… not store inscribed...looks like it was done with a talon, she thought, remembering how she used to love to run her fingers over Garrus’s nails. Must’ve meant a lot to him to mark up a pretty gun like that.    

When she was finally able to read the words, she let out a gasp and immediately jumped out of her chair, knocking it to the floor with a crash. It can’t be, she told herself as she tried and failed to stop her body from shaking. This can’t be him.  

When she forced her heart to stop racing, Jane took a deep breath and stared at the photo again- sure enough, the words on the barrel still read ‘Eliza’. It’s him, she thought, her hands gripping the desk so hard she was sure she would leave dents in it. Xander knew it was him.

“Commander, I know you’ve invoked privacy protocols, but my sensors detected sudden vibrations and an elevated heartbeat from you- are you all right?”

“EDI,” Jane croaked, closing her eyes, “who put together these files? How did they choose who to add?”

“The individuals were chosen based on a variety of factors, chief of which was who would complement your work style and their likelihood to assist you with your mission,” EDI replied, the electronic voice sounding slightly confused. “Is there something wrong with the choices, Commander?” 

“Did Xander- I mean, did Alexander Sloane put these together?” Jane asked, knowing what the answer would be. Hands in everything, she thought grimly. Looks like some things never change. 

“Chief Technical Analyst Alexander Sloane is responsible for gathering intelligence data from various sources,” EDI replied. “Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to tell-”

“Put me through to his private line,” Jane interrupted, crossing her arms. “I need to speak to him right away.” 

“I’m afraid it is the night cycle where he is,” EDI said apologetically. “Courtesy dictates that this will have to wait until a later time.” 

“Or you could do it now and save me the trouble of searching the system and finding his line,” Jane shot back. “You’ve got my file, EDI- you know I can do it. Hell, I’ll even tell you a little secret- that file of mine doesn’t even list half the shit I know how to do. So, knowing that, and being able to see that I’m not lying to you, what do you calculate the odds of me doing exactly what I just said?”

EDI paused for a moment. “Your point is noted- I will connect you to Analyst Sloane, Commander.” 

“Thank you,” Jane replied, moving to the sofa and pulling a blanket over her bare legs- if she had to deal with this motherfucker, she was at least going to be comfortable while she did it. “Transfer the call to this terminal, please.” 

“Understood,” EDI replied. “Connecting you now.” 

She waited for a moment, and sure enough, the face of Xander Sloane filled her screen. His sandy-brown hair was disheveled and he was shirtless, yawing as he rubbed his blue-grey eyes and blinked. “Brainy? It’s the middle of the night- what’s going on?” 

Jane immediately frowned. “You don’t get to call me that anymore, Xander.” 

“Why not?” Xander asked, letting out a loud yawn. “You’re still using my nickname.” When she scowled at him, the man sighed and raked his hand over his wild hair. “Look, can we please start over? I mean, you just came back from the dead- can’t we at least pretend to be civil to each other for a while?” 

“Did you know Archangel was my husband when you put together the dossiers?” Jane asked, ignoring his question for the time being. “Does the pompous douche know who he really is?”

Finally realizing that she wasn’t going to entertain him in the slightest, Xander sighed. “Yes, I knew, and no, he doesn’t. He asked for the best team and that’s what I put together- he didn’t need to know any more than that.” 

“What do you want?” Jane asked, crossing her arms and glaring at him. “This-” she gestured to herself, tugging at the bright blue strands of her wet hair, “-this is too nice to be out of the goodness of your heart. Xander Sloane never does anything without a zillion conditions attached to it- what the fuck do you want from me?”  

He at least had the decency to look away. “You know what I want, Jane… still hasn’t changed. But, I did this for you because you needed it- I am actually capable of being nice, you know.” 

Jane scoffed. “Only when it serves you.” 

“I suppose I deserve that,” Xander replied, still looking down. “Look, if you’re just going to yell at me, we can do that when I get paid for it. But, if you’re willing to talk to me like a human being, then I’m all ears, Brainy.” When she let out a huff and didn’t hang up, he raised his head and let his eyes roam over her appearance. “I must say, I wasn’t expecting to be a fan of the blue… but I can see why you chose it. It looks good on you.” 

“Thanks,” she replied, trying to keep her voice even- even though she wanted to hit him in the face, Jane had to admit that he didn’t have to do this much for her. “I appreciate you getting it for me- Miranda is going to lose her shit when she sees me tomorrow.”

“I don’t doubt it,” he replied, smiling at her. “Considering the circumstances, it was the least I could do.”

Jane’s eyes narrowed. “Was… this…" She gestured to herself, gritting her teeth the entire time, "... your doing, Xander?” 

“Yes and no,” he admitted. “The Illusive Man saw a need, I just recommended a candidate. However, you just happened to… become unavailable before we could talk about things- Cerberus decided to remedy that problem.” 

“Awful lot to go through for one street kid you used to know,” Jane said icily, crossing her arms again. “Again, what’s the catch?” 

“You happen to be the only street kid I know with knowledge of prothean beacons,” Xander replied, looking her directly in the eye. “Makes you a lot more valuable than you think.”

She started to say something else, but she realized that he had a point. “Why help me find my husband?” 

“Because I need you,” he replied. “I know you don’t like me and I get that, I do. But this out here is bigger than you and me- you know it, otherwise, you would’ve tried to leave with Tali. And I’ve seen your reports- you and your husband were a damn fine team, so if I want the best version of you, then that means we need him. And make no mistake, the world needs you, Jane Shepard- this mission isn’t going to be easy, so if he’s what you need, then I’m going to do my best to help you get him.” 

“I don’t trust you,” she said flatly, staring at the man on the screen. “I’m only working with you because I have to, Xander. Just so we’re clear, if I see your face anywhere in my vicinity, I’m putting my fist through it, understand?” 

“I suppose I deserve that,” he said glumly. “But just so you know, I’m going to do my damndest to prove you wrong- one day, you’re going to see that I’m not the guy you think I am.” 

“That’s doubtful,” Jane replied, letting out a yawn. “I think I know you pretty well… and I’m not a fan anymore.” 

“Then I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?” Xander replied, giving her a sad little smile. “That being said, I think we should call it a night, Brainy- I suspect you’ll want to be at your best when you land on Omega in the morning.” 

“Point taken,” Jane replied, eyeing the bed eagerly. Though her nerves were all over the place, Jane suddenly felt more tired than she ever thought possible. “Shepard out.” 

Chapter Text

  


Sol nervously sipped her drink, trying to steady herself and stay calm in the throngs of people. “This is a lot,” Sol murmured, her eyes roaming around the club, watching the asari dancers move sultrily to the thumping beat. “Are you sure we’re going to be able to find Jane in all this?”

“I don’t think we really have to worry about that,” John murmured, taking Sol’s hand. “On Omega, there’s really only one place you need to go if you want to be seen. Coming here is a no-brainer, cause there’s no way Jane's stepping foot on this station without getting called to see Aria.”

“Aria…” Sol paused for a second, then cocked her head. “Wait a minute... do you mean Nana’s daughter?”

John nodded and scanned the room, making sure to keep his voice low. “I do, and I wouldn’t say that too loudly if I were you. The pirate queen of Omega doesn’t like being reminded of the fact that she has petty things like family.” 

“Oh,” Sol said quietly, then went back to her drink, being careful not to drink too much too quickly- being drunk was not an experience she was looking to repeat anytime soon. “Were you guys close?”

“Nope- I learned to stay out of her way and she didn’t try to have me or Janey killed. That’s what passes for closeness on Omega, Tiny.” He tapped his fingers against the tabletop, looking lost in thought. “Wonder how far out they were…”

Just then, a large turian came over to their table, clamping a hand on John’s shoulder. “Aria wants to see you.”

“Figured as much,” John replied, downing the rest of his drink and rising to his feet. “C’mon, Tiny- time to pay our respects to the queen.”

Sol started to stand, but the turian shook his head. “Not her… just you, Shepard.” 

John just laughed, staring at the turian. “That’s funny… I thought you said that you wanted me to leave my wife down here without me.” He leaned against the table, his face set in a firm line. “Cause I can’t imagine a scenario where you think that would fly.” 

“Don’t care what you think,” the turian replied. “Aria wants you… not her.” 

“Then Aria can politely go fuck herself,” John said pleasantly. “Not leaving my wife, so you can toddle off and pass along that message, errand boy.” 

Sol tensed up as she looked back and forth between the two men, but then the turian stepped aside and let out a pleased-sounding rumble. “Same old Shepard,” he replied, nodding with approval. “Thought joining the Alliance might’ve made you soft.”

“Same old Grizz,” John said with a mischievous grin, taking Sol’s hand and helping her to her feet. “Still doing Aria’s bidding, I see.” Then he placed a kiss on her lips and pulled her next to him. “Grizz, this is my wife, Sol.” 

“Still got a thing for turians, I see,” Grizz rumbled, causing Sol to let out a surprised hum. “At least this one seems like it has control of its mouth.” He bowed slightly to her and she returned it, only to get a raised brow-plate in return. “And manners, it seems… how did you get one from the Palaven families to mate with your irritating ass, Shepard?”

“Because she likes my ass,” he replied, earning an eye roll from Sol as they started to follow Grizz. Sol thought she’d gotten through the conversation without incident, but John leaned over and whispered, “care to share what he means by ‘one of the Palaven families,’ Tiny?”

“Not here,” she replied, instantly wishing that her mate would drop this subject- she chose to shift gears. “What other turians have you dated, Johnny?” 

“None,” he replied sheepishly. “He’s talking about Lilfrey- I used to have a crush on her for a while back in the day, but it never went anywhere.” Sol let out an irritated hum, but John stopped and took her hand. “Hey,” he said firmly, looking her straight in the eye before resting his head on hers, “you already know I’m yours, full-stop- you have absolutely nothing to worry about, ok?”

“Do that later,” Grizz grumbled. “Aria needs to see you now.”

John nodded and took Sol’s hand, leading her up to the VIP section, where a gorgeous Asari was draped across the cushions of a sofa, staring at the two of them with interest. “John Shepard,” she purred, leaning forward a little- a batarian moved to scan them, but she raised a hand and slightly shook her head. “I thought you were off playing good little soldier- what brings you back home?” 

“Business,” he replied, not moving away from Sol. “Figured if I have to find anyone on Omega, Afterlife was the place to do it.”

“And what business do you have on my station?” Aria asked, glancing over at Sol. “Most people come to sample my toys, but it seems like you brought your own.” 

John rolled his eyes. “This is my wife, Sol...and I’m looking for Janey, Aria.” 

Aria scoffed, then took a drink. “Never thought you one to chase ghosts, Johnny.” 

“I’m not,” he replied, settling into a seat and gesturing for Sol to sit next to him. “She’s back… and she’s on her way here. Cerberus has her… and I’m not leaving her with those bastards.” 

The asari frowned for a minute, then smiled evilly as she opened her omni-tool and started typing. “Well, who am I to stand in the way of a reunion with the dead? This whole meeting of yours just might prove interesting. Sit down and wait for a spell with me, hmm?”

“Thanks for the offer,” John replied, glancing at the stairs- his back was to the exit and Sol could immediately tell he was slightly uncomfortable. “But I think we should wait at the entrance for Janey.”

I don’t like the look of this, Sol thought as the Asari glanced up at the batarian- immediately, the guard clamped his hand on John’s shoulder. We should leave... now.

“You misunderstood me,” Aria replied smoothly, settling back on the couch and staring at them with a predatory smile. “I wasn’t giving you a choice in the matter, Johnny- if this really is our Janey... then I want her to come to me.” 

  


Omega… didn’t think I’d ever set foot on this place again, Jane thought, looking around as they stepped off the shuttle. Funny how life tends to come full circle.

Miranda looked around, almost as if the very idea of her boots touching the ground was causing her pain. “Shepard,” she said tersely, “we need to find those recruits… and quickly.” 

“For once, I actually agree with you,” Jane replied, then frowning as a large Batarian made his way over to them. Knowing that showing weakness on Omega was as good as signing your death warrant, Jane looked the interloper up and down and sneered. “Fuck do you want?” 

Miranda let out a gasp, but the Batarian ignored them both. “Aria wants to see you,” he growled, inclining his head toward the club. “Now.” 

Jane thought about antagonizing him even further but decided against it. “Tell Aria I’ll see her in a bit,” she replied, glancing around the station- there was no sign of her brother yet. “I’m waiting on someone.” 

“Aria says now,” the mouthpiece replied, completely unbothered by Jane’s plans. “She’s waitin’ for you.” 

Realizing that arguing with him was going to be pointless, Jane sighed and pinched her nose. “Fine- we’re going. Lead the way.”

“Shepard,” Miranda hissed, “we hardly have time for you to meet with your criminal friends- this mission is certainly more important!”

Jane just rolled her eyes and continued toward the club, pointedly ignoring the woman snapping at her. Miranda had been up her ass all morning- just as she’d predicted, the ice queen had an absolute fit about her hair, demanding to know how she did it and just how she thought looking like a child attending a club was going to help anyone take their cause seriously. Jane had just smiled and made her coffee, mentally noting that Xander had obviously not consulted with the woman on his additions to her room- the thought made her wonder just what else he was keeping from everyone.

Never a straight answer with that man, she thought as she followed the bouncer toward Afterlife, noting the noise and scanning the crowd for her brother. “Is she in her little nest?” 

The batarian just grunted and led her toward Aria’s private area- as she approached, Jane felt her pulse quicken when she saw the back of a curly-haired man sitting next to a female turian. “Johnny!” 

Her brother instantly turned around and his eyes went wide- Jane tried to rush the platform, but she was immediately stopped by a turian male. “No one gets that close to Aria without an inspection,” he growled. “Not even you, little Shepard.” 

Confused, she cocked her head, only to have it click a moment later- instantly, her eyes went wide. “Grizz? Is that you?” 

“One and only,” he replied, looking her over. “You know the drill, kid- hands where I can see them.” 

After checking her over and scanning her DNA, the turian nodded to the asari. “Checks out- same DNA as the boy.”

“Good to hear,” Aria replied, gesturing for her guards to let Jane by. “Nice to see you again, little Shepard.” 

Jane rolled her eyes. “He’s not that damn much older than me,” she grumbled. “I hate that nickname, Aria.”

“But it suits you,” Johnny replied, leaping from his seat and yanking her to him in a tight hug. “Fuck me sideways, I’ve missed the shit outta you, Janey.” 

“Missed you too,” Jane said, inhaling the scent of her brother, strong and real in her arms. “You have no fucking idea how much I missed you, Johnny.” 

“Touching reunion,” Aria said, her voice making them both jump. “But as much as I don’t want to see this little display of affection that has nothing to do with me, I find myself curious as to why a dead woman has made her way back to my station with a Cerberus crew in tow… care to share?”

“I'm looking for Archangel and Mordin Solus,” Jane replied, ignoring the implication about her return since it was a bait and they both knew it- there was no way Aria would’ve let Johnny sit here this long without telling her the backstory. Plus, she didn’t trust Miranda and Jacob- there was no way she wanted them to figure out just how much her family knew. “You know everything that happens around here- what can you tell me?” 

“Almost anything… for a price,” Aria replied, her smile almost feral as she leaned toward Jane. “What are you offering, Little Shepard?” 

Jane sighed, knowing this was coming- just like her sister, Aria never did anything that didn’t benefit her. “A favor,” she said reluctantly. “Within reason.” 

Aria clapped her hands and laughed, the sound almost pleasant- if Jane didn’t know any better, she’d almost call it friendly. “So it is you,” she replied, stretching her arms out over the back of the sofa. “Have a seat… and we can have a chat.” 

Jane shot a glance at John, who just took her hand and surreptitiously spelled ‘do it’ into her palm- Jane nodded. “What can you tell me about Archangel?” 

“Pain in my ass,” she replied nonchalantly. “And everyone else’s too- so much so that the Blue Suns, Blood Pack, and Eclipse are all working together to take him out. Shouldn’t be that much longer before they get him- never seen them actually stop shooting at each other to get something done before.” 

When the meaning of what she said sunk in, all the color instantly drained from Jane’s face. Jane gripped John’s hand to steady herself, only releasing it when her brother started to wince. “How do we find him,” she croaked, knowing she was giving the asari the upper hand but not giving a shit. “I need to get to him, now.”

There wasn’t a doubt in Jane’s mind that Aria knew that there was more to the story, but she had the sense not to question it for the moment. “Gangs are signing up mercs to take him out down there,” she replied, angling her head toward a small room below. “Might want to sign up… sure they could use the help.” 

Miranda cleared her throat. “As much as I want to recruit him, we should also look into the professor- his help could be invaluable, particularly if Archangel doesn’t survive this encounter.” 

At that, Jane tried to leap out of her seat and throttle the woman, but John held her down. “Not here,” he whispered, then smiled brightly at the brunette before typing something in his omni-tool. “Seems like Janey wants to go chase down a merc… not that surprising, but ok. If it helps, you can send me to go see about your doctor.”

Miranda let out a soft huff. “And why should we allow you to do anything?” 

Jane started to let out a scathing retort, but John just shook his head. “Because I’m John Shepard,” he said casually, not even looking at Miranda anymore- Jacob, however, had drawn in a deep breath from behind her. “And I know for a fact that your little analyst has been angling to get me on this crew since the beginning. So, if it’s gonna help my sister, then me and my wife are happy to play along for a while.” 

“If you’re going after Solus, I’d advise you to have your beautiful wife sit this one out,” Aria said dryly. “There’s a plague in the slums that affects everything except humans and Vorcha.” She leaned over to Sol and tried to touch her- instantly, John grabbed her hand. The bodyguards readied their weapons, but the asari shook her head. “I’d hate to see something happen to a woman this pretty.”

“So would I,” John growled through gritted teeth. “Thanks for the advice.”

Eager to avoid the fight that was brewing, Jane sighed. “Sol, head back to the Normandy- John, can you and… Miranda head over to see about the scientist? I’d offer to take pity on you and send Jacob, but if I can’t leave you with Sol, I guess I have to leave you with someone that has a bit of medical knowledge.”

“Aye aye, Captain Jane,” John replied, giving Jane a mocking salute. “Feel like escorting us to see the 2.0 version of the ship that saved the world? Just need to make a stop to pick up our stuff and our kid, then we can be on our way while you and the boy scout go on a rescue mission.” 

“Your kid ?” Jane shrieked, looking over at her brother and Sol with an expression of disbelief on her face. “You guys had a kid while I was gone?” 

“Oh Janey,” John said teasingly, placing a big kiss on her cheek, “I’m hurt and appalled that you don’t remember your nephew. Don’t worry- I think your friend here is just going to love meeting JC.”

  


Nihlus leaned against the pillar, listening to the conversation taking place above on his earpiece. That definitely seems like Jane, he thought, smirking to himself as he heard her yelling at her brother. Spirits, I’ve missed that girl. Chuckling and making sure to pretend to sip his drink every so often, Nihlus opened his omni-tool and typed out a message.

NKryik: It’s her, Ash.

AKWilliams: You’re shitting me- how the hell is this possible?

NKryik: Haven’t spoken with her yet. Conversation with her, John, and Sol taking place above me right now. I’ll intercept her when they split up.

AKWilliams: She’s our friend, not a target. 

NKryik: Speaking of targets, what’s the word on ours? 

AKWilliams: Nothing concrete as of yet. There’s been chatter that he’s been spotted near Horizon… heading that way soon to check it out.

NKryik: Be safe… I need you to come home to me. 

AKWilliams: Always am… you worry too much, Nih. 

NKryik: Of course I do… I love you too much not to worry.

AKWilliams: And I love you too… I’ll keep you posted on what I find out. Stay safe- with Jane on the loose, nothing ever seems to go the way it’s supposed to.

Nihlus shook his head, laughing to himself about just how right his mate was. It’s like Ash is watching us, he thought as Jane and the soldier walked down the stairs. He waited until John, Sol, and the female walked off, then got up from his seat as Jane started to head in his direction. When she turned toward him, he smiled- it was like being in the bar all over again, watching as the thin woman argued with the soldier about the intelligence of having a civilian on a mission. I’d leave that alone, he thought as he watched the soldier say something to Jane that caused her lips to press into tight lines. Trying to come between Jane and her family never seems to work out that well. 

Unable to resist, Nihlus reached out and tapped Jane on the shoulder, being careful to stay out of her reach. “Being alive looks good on you,” he said lightly, watching as her face went from murderous to gleeful in seconds. “Going back to the basics, I see?” 

She clapped a hand over her mouth, then threw her arms around the turian. “Oh my god-” 

“Shh,” he whispered, hugging her tightly. “Everything on Omega has ears… best we keep this private for now.” 

“He’s in trouble,” Jane whispered, staring at him with panic in her eyes. “I have to help him- he’s-” 

“Again, calm down” Nihlus replied, putting a hand on her shoulder as he stood back to look her in the eye, his green eyes fixed on hers. He didn’t know why Jane was so insistent on saving the merc, but he did know that for all her faults, she always wanted to save anyone who needed help. “I heard what Aria said, but we’re going to get to him- I’m here to help you.” The turian glanced over at Jacob, who was watching the two of them with a mixture of distrust and curiosity. “Is this the soldier?” 

Jane nodded. “Jacob Taylor… turns out he was on Eden Prime with us.” The soldier nodded, but to his credit, he didn’t say anything. “We gotta get on that mission… and fast.” 

Nihlus nodded, then looked over to Jacob for a moment before turning back to Jane- he didn’t seem threatening, but the stories he’d heard about how she’d been treated so far hadn’t served to put his mind at ease. “Do you trust him?”

“Enough,” Jane replied, watching the man carefully. “He saved my ass on the station, not to mention the fact that he hasn’t shot me in the back or tried to get into my pants- so right now, he’s batting a thousand in my book.” 

“Works for me,” Nihlus replied, making a note to keep an eye on the soldier, just in case. “They’re accepting recruits for the mission in there,” he said, pointing to the small office nearby. “How do you feel about joining them and letting them give us a ride to our destination?”

A grin broke out on her face, making the glowing scars stretch and scatter across her cheeks. “I could do for a ride,” she replied demurely, offering Nihlus her arm. “Care to escort me inside?” 

“It would be my pleasure,” Nihlus rumbled happily, lightly bumping her head with his own. “Welcome back,” he whispered, noticing that she still smelled exactly the same. “I’ve missed you, Jane.”

She swallowed, then smiled shakily, dropping her voice so low it was barely a whisper. “I missed you too, Nih,” she said quietly, squeezing his hand. “Now let’s get in there and rescue my husband.”

Chapter Text

  


“Oh come on,” John said teasingly, trying not to laugh as the brunette stormed off ahead of him, “you can’t tell me you didn’t find that a little bit funny?”

Miranda whirled around at him, her normally controlled face almost twisted in rage. “No,” she said through gritted teeth, “I most certainly did not! ” 

“He’s just a baby,” John replied, folding his arms behind his back as they walked, watching the surroundings carefully- she might be part of the big, bad, racist corp, but this is still Omega, John mused, looking around in the alleys and corners as they went past. Best to always stay alert. “He was probably scared, that’s all.” 

“It is not a baby, it is a cat!” Miranda spat, thrusting a finger in his face- John bit his lip and tried not to laugh, which only succeeded in making her even madder. “And it urinated on my foot!

Tiny, thank you for insisting we bring that ball of hair with us, John thought as he tried to keep a straight face. “He tends to do that when he’s around people he doesn’t know.” 

“Really?” She raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow at him, and John wondered just what kind of ship these yahoos were running- everyone just seemed way too scrubbed for him. “Then explain why he raced over to Chambers and just rubbed against her legs?”

Because he can tell she isn’t an evil fucking shrew. John plastered a sweet smile on his face, working hard to look like the picture of innocence. “Not sure- she must be a cat person. Doesn’t seem like you care for animals all that much, Lawson.”

“I do not,” she replied as she walked away, her tone clipped. “I think they’re pointless.” 

John’s face and tone grew serious as he watched the tall woman in front of him. “And how do you feel about turians?”

Miranda paused, then turned to look at him. “What are you really asking, Shepard?” 

“You know what I’m asking,” John said curtly. “I know who you work for and I know what they stand for. I also know my wife that my wife is turian and a damn fine medic, so if you have a problem working with her, I suggest you get over it real fast… because she’s not going anywhere.”

The woman just stared at him, her expression icy. “And when have I ever said that I have a problem with any species, Shepard? Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, I have a problem with two unvetted civilians being onboard a ship without proper clearance?” 

“Bullshit,” John replied, watching her eyes go wide. “I know for a fact that someone’s been checking into me and Tiny, making moves for us to get here. And if they didn’t want us around, I’m pretty damn sure that Joker, the blabbermouth of the galaxy, would not have been allowed anywhere near a comms channel- so as far as I’m concerned, you can take that clearance shit and shove it up your ass, Lawson.”

Quickly regaining her composure, Miranda looked down her nose at him and sniffed. “That may be true, but I wasn’t given that information- as far as I’m concerned, you two have no clearance or reason to be on the ship.” 

John smiled- he could see that not having all the answers irritated the shit out of Miranda. “Not as informed as you thought you were, hmmm? If they hid this, then I wonder what other secrets your boss is hiding?” He tapped his finger to his chin. “I can’t imagine Cerberus having secrets, can you?”

“You’re a child, Shepard,” Miranda spat, stomping off ahead of him. For a while, she was silent, which served John just fine- he had already decided that he would be perfectly ok if she never spoke to him again. Finally, as they made their way toward the gate, they noticed a human woman arguing with a turian. “Since you seem to be a shining example of interspecies diplomacy," Miranda said sweetly, "maybe you want to go and assist our human friend? Or is assisting a human too xenophobic for you?”

“I’d say get fucked, but that might make you think I was interested,” John growled, moving past the woman and heading to the gate. “Excuse me,” he called out politely, giving the turian guard a small bow, “can you tell me what’s going on here?”

The woman thrust a frustrated finger in the face of the turian. “He won’t let me back inside! My things are inside at the mercy of looters and he’s just keeping me here!”

“And as I told you before,” the turian replied irritably, “there is a plague going on inside- my orders are not to let anyone in or out.”

John looked at Miranda for a moment, then smiled easily at the guard. “Not trying to be rude, but it was my understanding that this plague doesn’t affect humans and vorcha- was that correct?”

Looking warily at John, the turian nodded. “That’s correct.” 

“Then I’m glad my information was good,” he said brightly. “In that case, I need to get inside and get my colleague to speak to Dr. Solus.” John gestured to Miranda, who was standing back and watching the exchange with her arms crossed. “Aria was under the impression we might be able to help.” 

At the mention of the asari’s name, the turian scoffed. “Sure she was.” 

John shrugged. “You can call her if you like, but I don’t think she’ll be too pleased to know that you were holding up Johnny Shepard for no reason.” 

Now the turian stared at him, looking him over with interest. “You… you’re Johnny Shepard?”

He grinned. “One and only,” John replied, leaning casually against the fence. “She figured if that one needed an escort, I’d be a decent fit for the job- probably just wants me out of her tentacles, though.” 

“Been years since that name’s been heard around here,” the turian replied, but John noted that his posture was much more relaxed than before. “Why are you back?”

John jerked his thumb at Miranda. “Like I said, I got a job to help this one find Solus,” he said easily. “Obviously, we’re human, so that plague won’t bother us, and we both know that I’m more than capable of handling anything that comes our way, so mind letting me finish this job?” 

The turian shrugged, then made a call on his omni-tool. “Got Johnny Shepard coming through with a passenger- they’re cleared for entry.” 

The voice on the line sounded slightly incredulous. “Affirmative… can’t believe it- surprised Aria hasn’t had that asshole killed on sight.”

“Yeah, well I’m not into pissing around with an order from Aria,” the turian at the gate replied. “Letting him through now.” 

“Are you kidding me?” The woman gestured angrily as John and Miranda made their way through the gate. “They get to go through and I don’t?” 

“Unlike you, I know that he knows how to use a grenade launcher,” the turian said irritably. “Care to show me yours, ma’am?” 

The woman let out an irate scream, and as the gate closed behind them, John could feel Miranda’s eyes on him. “Mind telling me what that was all about?”

“Nothing important,” John replied, not even looking at the woman. “Just a stupid prank me and Lil pulled when we were kids out here. Kinda became a local legend when Aria didn’t have me killed for it- she did, however, beat the shit outta me afterward, so there is that.” 

“A delinquent,” Miranda muttered, glancing around the slums. “How fitting.” 

“Yeah, well this former delinquent got your prissy ass inside here without a fight, so how about a little respect, princess?” John’s patience was wearing thin, so he knew that Jane was probably at her limit with the woman. “Where do we have to go?”

“The dossier says that Dr. Solus is in his clinic,” Miranda replied, ignoring his tone. “You seem to know the slums- any idea where this clinic might be?” 

Choosing not to comment on the slight, John closed his eyes and counted to ten- woman, if I want to punch you, then I can only imagine how much Jane wants to kill you. “He wasn’t here when I lived here,” he said pointedly. “But, since he’s set up shop down here, then my guess is he’s taken over the old medical clinic- I should be able to get us over there.” 

Miranda nodded, and he was thankful that she chose to stay quiet for a while. As he looked over at the devastation around the slums, he couldn’t help but remember his own childhood, crawling through the vents with Lilfrey and wondering what the hell was wrong with people. What, does no one give a shit anymore, he’d asked, bristling when Lil wouldn’t let him go down and intervene when they saw someone getting mugged. We can help them!

‘This isn’t earth, John- this is Omega,’ Lil replied quietly, watching until the offenders had passed. ‘You’d do well to remember that here.’ 

‘I don’t sit by and watch people pick on others,’ John snapped back, glaring at the turian. ‘If I can help, then I will.’ 

‘You want to help so much, then join the Alliance,’ she retorted, yanking him along. ‘Otherwise, you need to learn to keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself, Shepard.’ 

A cough coming from nearby startled him out of his thoughts, bringing his attention to a batarian on the ground. “Humans,” he spat, noticing John and Miranda, his face twisted into a sneer. John could see the beads of sweat on his brow and he sighed- there was no doubt this batarian had that plague. “What, have you come to watch me die? Enjoying the fruits of your wretched disease?”

He coughed again and John shook his head, taking out a dose of medi-gel and giving it to the Batarian. “Not here to watch you die,” he said calmly, taking out a bottle of water from his pack and offering it to him. “Here… drink this- you have to be thirsty with a fever that high.” 

The batarian looked at him curiously for a minute, then scowled as he took the water, drinking it eagerly. “Why are you helping me?”

Surprised that he actually took the water, John just shrugged. I guess he figured he was dead either way, may as well not go out thirsty. “Because I’m here to help... if I can.” 

“Hrmph,” the batarian grunted, leaning his head against the wall. “Why are you in the slums? Shouldn’t your kind be celebrating above?” 

“Because I’m looking for Dr. Solus,” John replied, crouching down and offering him one of his protein bars. “Can you help me find him?” 

“Heard he was working on a cure,” the batarian replied, taking the bar from John and eating it slowly. “Careful with Solus, human… that salarian is crazy.” 

“How so?” John asked, looking up at Miranda- the scientist just stared at him blankly. So much for intel from that one, he thought grimly before turning back to the batarian. “What did he do?”

“Popped a group of Blue Suns that pressed him for protection money,” the batarian replied, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. “They never even got a chance to retaliate- all were dead before they could even blink.” 

“Sounds like my kind of guy,” John said, filing that bit of information for later- who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and he'll shoot her for me. “I’m going to find that doc and send someone back here for you, ok?” 

“Unlikely,” he replied, not looking at John as he struggled to breathe. “Though I’m surprised, human- you’ve done more than most of your kind would.” 

He didn't respond as they walked off, noticing Miranda's confused face but choosing not to engage with her- it was simply too much effort. But as they made their way toward the clinic, Miranda walked next to him and frowned. “Why did you help him, Shepard? You were under no obligation to do so.” 

John sighed, hearing the sounds of gunfire coming from up ahead. “Because I could,” he said simply, choosing not to look at her. “No matter how he felt about me, helping him was just the right thing to do.”

  


“You’re running out of time,” the hallucination of Jane said quietly, peering over his shoulder at the throngs of men throwing themselves pointlessly at his defenses. “Is this really how you want to spend your last moments, big guy?” 

“It might not be my last stand if you’d quit talking to me,” he growled, peering down the scope of his sniper rifle. “I’m starting to wonder if you’re just eager for me to join you.”

“You and I both know that I could stand in front of you stark naked and you still wouldn’t miss a shot,” Jane shot back. “You just don’t like what I’m telling you.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her place a hand on his arm, her expression kind as she stood next to him in the C-Sec t-shirt she used to wear to bed at night. “You can’t leave like this, Garrus… do you really want to go into the next life without saying goodbye?” 

“You’re already gone,” he replied, taking down a swath of mercs in rapid succession and pausing to take another dose of the stimulants he’d be surviving on for the last few days while he waited for the next wave of bodies to throw themselves at the altar of Eliza. Fitting that you’re bringing these men to their death, he thought mirthlessly, running his finger over the hand-carved inscription. Looks like you’ve finally brought mine, too. 

With every dose he took, the hallucination of Jane became clearer and clearer- he knew whatever grip he had on his sanity was slowly dissipating with every minute he remained awake. “It doesn’t matter anymore.” He took a moment to peer down his scope, carefully targeting everyone that dared assault his stronghold. “It’ll be over soon enough.” 

“Say goodbye before you go,” Jane urged, her voice insistent. “You need to make peace, apologize for the way you left things… do you really want your family to remember you like this?” 

Not wanting to inflict even more pain on John and unable to face his mother or sister and listen to the pain in their voices, Garrus decided to call his father instead. He’ll tell them, he thought wearily, trying to keep his voice even and calm. He’ll make sure they know. Part of him hoped his father wouldn’t answer, but he knew better. Castis Vakarian would never miss out on a chance to berate him, to tell him just how far he’d fallen, and over a stupid human, no less. One last show for the road, Garrus thought, lining up his shot as the line connected. At least I’ll be a good son at the end… I’ll get to do something right before I go. 

“Vakarian,” his father’s voice said, making Garrus’s breath hitch in his chest- he hadn’t realized how much he missed his family until right then. He stayed quiet for a minute, unable to speak, simply letting the silence stretch out so long that his father got slightly impatient. “Who is this?” 

“Hi Dad,” he said quietly, hearing the gasp coming from the older turian and trying his best to not let on how much it was affecting him. “Do… do you have a few moments?”

“I have all the time in the world for you,” his father replied, his voice deep and thick. “What’s on your mind, son?”

Garrus was so surprised by his father’s warm greeting that he almost missed his shot, recovering quickly and taking down the merc who thought he was getting a reprieve today. “I just... I wanted to apologize… for never telling you how grateful I am for the things you taught me- you were right about things. A lot more than I gave you credit for. And I’m sorry we butted heads so much.” 

There was silence for a moment, only disturbed by the pops of gunfire and the screams of the dying below. Castis inhaled a few times, no doubt choosing his words carefully. “It doesn’t matter,” he replied, his voice heavy. “Where are you, son? What’s going on?” 

“Target practice,” he said, swallowing and evading his father’s questions- his father didn't need to know the seriousness of the situation. “Just… thought I needed to tell you that… that’s all.” 

“Your mother is here,” Castis said quietly. “Would you want to talk to her?” 

“No,” Garrus replied, not wanting his mother to hear if anything were to happen to him- he had no desire to leave her with something so grave on her conscience. “No, I think you can just tell her I called,” he said softly. “Is she ok?”

“She is, but you should come home and see her,” his father urged, feeling around the conversation for the answer they both knew he’d never give. “She misses you, son… we miss you.” 

Not willing to go down this road, Garrus sighed. “I don’t think I can do that,” he said quietly, noticing the numbers of advancing mercs below. “Look, I don’t have a lot of time… I just wanted to hear your voice, that’s all.”

Castis paused for a minute, then blew out a deep breath, a worried hum in his sub-vocals. “These targets you’re practicing on- are they moving fast?”

Despite the situation, Garrus chuckled, taking down two loping brutes racing down the walkway. “So far, not fast enough… but they’re learning.”

He could hear his father nodding at him, remembering the way he looked during the lessons he used to give him. “How are your thermal clips?”

Even though he knew his father couldn’t see him, Garrus shrugged. “You know how it is.” He glanced around at the spent ammo casings and looked wistfully at the dwindling stockpile of ammo. “Could always use a couple more.”

Garrus could hear notes of anxiety thrumming through his father’s sub-vocals. “Work with what you’ve got, then,” Castis replied, his voice wavering. “You don’t stop pulling that trigger until it clicks, son. No matter how bad things are falling apart around you, as long as you have at least one bullet left, you can still get the job done. Understand?” His father paused for a minute, then swallowed. “You finish up what you have to do there, and then you come home… you need to come home to your family, son.” 

Garrus almost hung up the call right then, but the hallucination shook her head before he could do it. “I don’t know if I can,” he whispered. “I’m kind of busy out here.” 

“You can,” Castis said firmly. “Your mate is waiting for you, son. Your brother and sister are out looking for Jane right now- they’re going to need you here when she comes home.” 

If this were anyone else, Garrus would have been sure they were lying, doing whatever they could to get him to see reason. However, this was Castis Vakarian- lying, even in the name of saving someone heartache and pain was not in his vocabulary. If he believes Jane is around, then it has to be true, he thought, trying to keep the keen out of his throat. “I'll try,” he replied, settling back into his position. I’m going to try to make it through this… for her. I’ll give up the world for a chance to see her again. “I’ll see you soon, Dad.”

Shaking from the drugs and the news his father just laid at his feet, Garrus took a deep breath and settled back into his perch, disconnecting the call and squinting at the newest line of mercs coming toward him. This trio was odd- there was a turian, a small human, and a taller human traveling down the walkway, but unlike the others, they were precise. There was no rushing with them- they stayed out of his crosshairs, and when they got to a certain distance, the male threw up shields, allowing the tiny one to crouch down and do something he couldn’t see. 

Just before he could line up his shot, a message from his omni-tool flashed across his visor- Garrus almost dropped his gun from the shock, seeing a name he never thought he’d see again. 

MyFairJaney: I’ve got your six this time, big guy.

Desperate for this to be real, he looked around for the hallucination, but she was nowhere in sight. Letting out a sigh of relief, Garrus immediately peered down the barrel of his scope, quickly switching to a concussive shot and taking a deep breath. Sure enough, the tiny human removed their helmet, exposing a scarred face with a shock of bright blue hair that made a loud keen erupt from his chest. This can't be a dream, he thought, firing a concussive round at the woman - he needed his mate to be alive and not a figment of his imagination. Spirits, please don’t give me hope and snatch it away from me. 

As the shot pinged off her shields, the woman frowned, then looked up at the direction it came from. Without missing a beat, she narrowed her eyes and flipped him off, making Garrus chortle with relief and laughter as he took out the mercs filing in behind them. You’re real, he thought, trying to control his breathing as he waited for her to make her way to him. You came back to me, just like you always said you would.

Thank you spirits, he thought, shaking with anticipation of holding the woman he’d never thought he’d see again. You brought my Jane back to me.

Chapter Text

  


Jane didn’t even bother trying to wait when they approached the room- as soon as she saw the bright blue of his armor, she tossed her helmet and flung herself at him, not caring about the fact that there was a battle raging around them or that Jacob had to be staring at them with the utmost in confusion. “It’s really you,” she cried, clutching him tight and sobbing. “I was scared I wouldn’t get here in time.”

She could feel the rumble in Garrus’s chest through her armor as he rested his head against hers, no doubt trying to inhale her scent and make sure it was her. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

“Hey,” she replied, stroking his cheek and trying to keep her voice light, “I couldn’t leave letting you think you were the better shot… especially since you shot at your wife- don’t think we aren’t going to have a conversation about that, you mean old armor cat.”

Garrus purred so loud it almost hurt her ears as he pressed his head to hers. “We can have whatever conversation you want,” he whispered, running his hand over her hair. As he twirled one of the blue strands around his finger, he smirked. “Decided to get your hair done before you came?”

Jane shrugged and started to reply, but a throat cleared behind them. “I understand it has been quite some time, but we need to focus on getting him out of here... alive.” Nihlus looked around the room and shook his head before glaring at Garrus. “Spirits, what did you do to cause all of this, Vakarian? You’ve got every gang in Omega gunning for you right now!” 

“What can I say? I inspire cooperation,” Garrus replied dryly, then lowered his head. “But even still, it’s good to see you too, Kryik.” 

“We’re going to talk about this when we return to the ship,” Nihlus said curtly. “You owe a lot of people an explanation.”

Confused, Jane turned to look at Garrus, but he just shook his head as he squeezed her hand, placing a kiss on her forehead. “Not now,” he whispered. “We’ve got a lot to talk about, Jane.”

“That’s an understatement,” Jane replied, then turned to Nihlus. “We gotta clear these fuckers out so we can bail- we’re obviously not going back the way we came. What’s the play?”

“You and Vakarian are the best shots,” he said simply, earning a nod from Garrus. “Stay up here and take out anyone who’s coming up the ramp. Jacob and I will handle anyone approaching from the rear- when it’s clear, we’ll call the Normandy and get out of here.”

When Jane nodded, Nihlus and Jacob ran off, leaving Jane and Garrus alone on the balcony. For a moment there was silence- Jane felt her heart sink as the moments ticked by, unsure of what she should do. What do you say to your husband when you've come back from the dead, she thought miserably, avoiding his gaze as she fumbled with her gun. “Um,” she began hesitantly, settling into her perch, “I-”

Before she could finish, Garrus cocked his head to her, his expression confused. “The Normandy?” 

“Long story,” Jane said sheepishly, reloading her gun and firing on the mercs that were stupid enough to continue their journey. “In a nutshell, Cerberus decided to bring both me and my ship back from the dead… guess we were a package deal.”

Garrus nodded, taking out a few grunts with ease. “That’s some package,” he said, glancing over at her. “Are you all right?” 

She put a hand to her face, suddenly self-conscious about the scars that crisscrossed her skin. “Looks like I traded scars on my back for a brand new set of them everywhere,” she said glumly, taking a deep breath and picking off a merc that was loping down the ramp. “But, I’m alive, so yay?”

“I don’t care what you look like,” Garrus said firmly, resting a hand on her back. “You’re here… that’s all I need.” 

“Been two years,” Jane replied, not wanting to look at him. “I don’t blame you if you started over, found someone else…”

At that, Garrus just laughed. “After all this time, you still don’t get that turians mate for life, do you?”

“I died, remember?” Jane noticed him flinch, and she placed a hand on his neck, wanting to feel him and not his armor. “I thought that gave you an out.”

He closed his eyes for a moment then sighed. “But I didn’t,” he said quietly. “It was always you, Jane.” 

“Oh,” she said softly, taking a shot and missing- from the corner of her eye, she saw her husband smirk. “Oh, come on,” she said exasperatedly as he picked off the merc before he scrambled behind cover, “I’ve been dead- I’m allowed a miss for that!”

“Don’t care,” he said teasingly. “I’ve been up for three days straight- it just proves I’m the better shot.”

“All it proves is that my husband is still an insufferable asshole,” Jane groused, steadying herself and taking out the next three mercs in succession. “Just so you know, I'm not buying you a drink for that,” she said sharply, not taking her eyes away from her scope as she wagged her finger at him disapprovingly- he lightly swatted it away. “Also, who told you to go into my repository and screw with my files?” 

“Who told you to give me the password?” Garrus replied, flicking his mandible at her playfully. “I mean... if you didn’t want me in there…” 

“It was called being open!” Jane hissed, swatting at him and getting a deep, throaty, chuckle in return. “And besides, I didn’t give it to you! You guessed it and I never bothered to change it- there's a difference.”

“Shouldn’t have made it so easy,” Garrus rumbled with pride as he took down one of the last few mercs scrambling down the runway. “For something so important, you needed better security, Jane.” 

Most people wouldn’t guess my password,” Jane shot back, taking the last shot before he could and getting a soft hum in response. “Admit it, you tried for days before you got that.” 

“Weeks,” he admitted, reloading his gun. “But the look on your face was worth it.” 

Jane turned to her husband, her smile a mile wide as she noticed Nihlus making his way back over to them. “I can’t wait to get out of here, big guy.”

“Neither can I,” he replied, his voice laced with a soft purr. “There’s so much I-”

Garrus didn’t get the chance to finish- before he could continue, there was a series of explosions that shook the building, the force nearly knocking them off their feet. When she had gathered her bearings, Jane looked around wildly, desperate to figure out the source. “What the hell just happened?” 

“That came from the tunnels,” Garrus said grimly. “They must’ve finally broken through.”

  


“So,” John said as they made their way toward the environmental controls, “thoughts on what our little vorcha friend said back there?” He turned the gun Mordin had given them over in his hands, letting out a low whistle. “You know, this thing packs a nice little punch- I think I might be able to bargain for a few meals with Janey in exchange for this baby.”

Or you could simply ask the cook to make you something,” Miranda replied, rolling her eyes as they made their way deeper into the facility. “Must everything be a game to you?”

“Only the fun stuff,” John replied, watching as Miranda went still- someone must’ve been talking to her. “Rude to leave people out of the conversation,” he said pointedly. “Thought you had better manners than that, princess.” 

She rolled her eyes, then glanced around the room. “The ship’s AI has informed me that we need to inject the cure into the main system to disperse it throughout the area- we need to hurry.”

John nodded, then frowned. “Sounds like a pretty helpful system- might’ve been helpful if I could hear the orders too.” When she scoffed, John just rolled his eyes, choosing to ignore her for now. So far on the mission, he’d been pretty careful about how he performed- he wanted to see how well the smug-looking woman could handle herself, so he’d chosen to stick with a gun. If she thinks I’m a stupid foot soldier, then who am I to disabuse her of that knowledge, he thought as Miranda inserted the cure into the system. Makes my life easier, anyway. 

As the machine booted up, he heard a noise and groaned- within moments, vorcha and krogan began entering the room from the entrance they came from, followed by a stream of gunfire raining down on them from above. Without a second thought, John dragged Miranda into cover, doing a few quick calculations- he had a plan, but he needed her to be on her game. Time to put your money where your mouth is, he thought grimly as he reloaded his gun. I hope all that perfection talk wasn't bullshit- otherwise, we're both going to die. “Can you handle the ones down here while I get our friends up there?" John asked. "Just keep them busy long enough for me to get the ones above us off our backs, ok?”

She rolled her eyes but nodded, no doubt curious as to what was going on- this was the first time he'd taken the lead all day. John was admittedly nowhere near as good a shot as his sister, but he knew that his biotics were more than able to make up for that, so gathering his energy and ignoring the surprised noise coming from the woman next to him, John yanked every enemy down from the catwalk, hurtling them into the crowd below with such force that the room rattled beneath their feet. With that done, he sent a shockwave through the room, taking care of the last of the enemies Miranda had left standing. 

When the room was once again silent, John reached into his pocket and pulled out a ration bar, highly amused at the way the woman was staring at him. “What?” he asked, wiping exaggeratedly at his cheek, “Do I have something on my face? Oh, my bad,” he said brightly, extending the half-eaten bar to her, “I should’ve offered you something, too- if you don’t want this one, I got some more in my bag-”

“How did you do that?” Miranda asked, looking at him as if it were the first time she’d seen him. “I’ve never seen a human exert that much power so quickly and remain upright before.”

John shrugged, reaching for another bar as they headed toward the ventilation rooms. “My nana is an asari Justicar,” he said, as if that would explain everything- to be fair, it did to him. “She takes no shit and trained me to do the same- if Tiny would stop being scared and practice, she could probably do it too.” He had no idea if Sol really had that much power- he knew his wife was good, but she was always a bit too hesitant to really let loose. However, Miranda didn’t need to know that- knocking her down a few pegs might be good for her. “But yeah, I thought you knew I was a biotic… guess I forgot to mention that part, huh?” 

Miranda scowled and pushed past him, her cheeks flame red. “You’re such a fucking child,” she hissed, ignoring his laughter as they continued into the ventilation room. 

  


Nihlus raced downstairs with the soldier, hoping that the man could keep up- while he’d grown accustomed to working with others thanks to Jane, he often found it difficult to work with someone that wasn’t Ash or Jenkins. “What do I do, Vakarian?” Nihlus asked, looking around the basement. “All I see are lockers.” 

“There are three shutters you need to secure,” Garrus replied over the comms. “You do that and we can seal this place up again.” 

“Understood,” Nihlus replied, looking over to Jacob. “Are you ready?” 

Jacob nodded, readying his pistol. “Affirmative.”

Nihlus nodded, hoping that the man would be able to take orders from a turian- he hadn’t had any issues with anyone on Jane’s team before, but he was also well aware that things were different this time. “You don’t have problems with being under my leadership, do you? If so, please return to the others and I’ll handle this myself- I don’t need anyone undermining me down here.” 

“You’re a Spectre- of course I’m going to assist you.” Jacob just sighed and walked further down the hall. “Just because I’m with Cerberus, it doesn’t mean I’m anti-alien,” he said flatly. “I’m here to do a job… that’s all.” 

Nihlus found that he had nothing to add to that, so he chose to remain silent instead as they walked through the halls. So far, the man had performed admirably- he was a decent shot and had a solid grasp of his biotics. I haven’t had a good biotic on my team since Alenko, he thought as they closed the first door, watching as Jacob blasted the enemies back to prevent them from blocking the door. I’ve forgotten how helpful it can be.

That’s it, he thought, looking over at Jacob as the doors closed, I need to remind myself that this young man is not Alenko… it’s not his fault his predecessor was insane. Once he was sure the door was secure, they made their way towards the garage. “I apologize,” Nihlus said stiffly, not turning around to face the man. “I seem to have… reservations from working with some of our previous team members- it’s not fair of me to saddle you with my issues, Taylor.” 

“You mean Alenko,” Jacob replied, not missing a beat as they made their way down the eerily silent hall. When Nihlus didn’t reply, the soldier sighed again. “Shepard told me about him… more accurately, she told me if I even remotely started to act like him, she’d put a bullet in my brain.” 

“If you’d met the man, you’d understand her concern,” Nihlus replied. “She had a team… a good team… before all this. However, you and your Cerberus cohorts are an unknown, and Jane doesn’t trust easily.” 

“Sounds like you don’t either,” Jacob replied quietly as they made their way to the garage. "But like it or not, we're on the same team today, Kryik- you ready to do this?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," Nihlus replied, scanning the room and making calculations in his head. "Let's get this taken care of so we can get out of here."

  


“Environmental systems engaged. Airborne viral levels dropping,” Mordin said, not looking at them as he hunched over his terminal. “Patients improving, vorcha retreating. Well done, Shepard,” he replied. “Thank you.” 

“And thank you for saving me,” the assistant said. “I thought you were going to shoot those batarians even after they let me go.” 

John frowned, then glared at Miranda. “I’m not like that,” he said stiffly. “I may be working with this one, but I can assure you, we have very different ideals- namely, I'm not a racist prick.”

“Would seem so,” Mordin replied, looking over at John with interest. “However, decision not to kill merciful of you...Risky- would’ve killed them myself.”

The assistant looked at the salarian like he couldn’t believe what he’d said. “How can you say that? You’re a doctor- you’re supposed to help people!”

“Lots of ways to help people,” Mordin replied, walking around and gathering up items. “Sometimes treat patients. Sometimes execute dangerous people- either way helps.”

Ok, not the words of wisdom I was expecting, John thought, raising his eyebrows and staring at the salarian with surprise. “Are you for real?” 

Mordin ignored him, choosing to turn to his assistant instead. The young man stared at him with horror, but Mordin just put a hand on his shoulder. “Go check on the patients… lots of work to do. Think about what I said.”

John looked at the salarian with interest. “That’s one helluva pep talk, doc.” 

Mordin nodded. “Good kid, bit naive. He’ll learn. Might even take over the clinic… should be able to handle it now that vorcha are gone.”

Miranda cleared her throat, quickly reminding John that she was there- with her quiet, it had been so pleasant that he'd blocked her presence out. “We’ve helped you cure the plague, doctor Solus...will you join us now?”

“Hmmm… vorcha working for collectors. Cerberus working to stop them. Interesting that you work with aliens now… full of surprises.” The salarian blinked, then nodded. “Yes, will help. Need to do a few things here first. Will meet you at your ship.”

When he turned around and ignored them again, John took it as a sign that Mordin was done talking for the time being- now if he could only get rid of the woman next to him, he could call the day a success. “You heard the man… time for us to go.” 

“Shepard,” Mordin called out, not looking over at them. “A word with you… alone.” 

“Um...sure?” John looked over at Miranda, who looked put out at being excluded from the conversation. “You gonna wait here or are you gonna be alright on your own, princess? Might want to be careful out there," John said teasingly, smirking at her growing indignation, "I wouldn’t want something to eat you. Or, heaven forbid… you might break a nail! ” 

She scoffed, then waved her hand at him dismissively as she stormed out of the clinic. “Idiot.” 

Such a wonderful woman, John thought dryly, now knowing how Jane felt when she had to work with Ash back in the day. I owe Janey a shitload of apologies now.  “Yes, Dr. Solus?”

The salarian puttered around the room, gathering more of his things. “Interesting. You are mated to a turian, yes?” 

John almost tripped over his feet. “Um, what?” He rubbed his shoulder, suddenly wondering if his bond-mark was there for him to see. “Yeah, I am… how’d you know?” 

The doctor turned around and pointed to his hand. “Wedding ring, but covered in turian pheromones. No arousal noted to female human, though her assets would be considered genetically pleasing to most human males. Shows compassion to non-humans though working with Cerberus. I assumed.”

“Damn good guess,” he said, nodding with approval. “But yeah, been married two years now.” 

“Turian-human relationships rare,” Mordin replied, looking him over carefully before bending over to go into a safe. “High risk of chafing.” 

John didn’t even try to hide his laughter this time. “Hate to break it to you, but it’s really not as rare as you think,” he said casually. “When you travel with my sister, you’re going to find out that a lot of strange things end up being downright normal.”

“Interesting,” the salarian replied, locking up the safe and rising to his feet. “Looking forward to learning more.”

  


“Looks like we still got it,” Garrus said to Jane, staring at the remains of Garm as Nihlus and Jacob came back into the room. “Good work, hon- I’ve been trying to take him down for a while.”

Jane walked over and placed another round of bullets into the head of the krogan. “Um, mind filling me in on why this fucker decided to charge in here and try taking you out? Granted, I’m happy he’s gone, cause now I get a decent bargaining chip with Aria, but that shit he pulled? That’s personal, Gar.”

Garrus rumbled nervously, doing his best to not meet his mate’s gaze. “That might be because I tried to kill him,” he mumbled, ignoring her shocked expression. “A lot’s changed since you’ve been gone, Jane.” 

“So I see,” she said slowly, walking over to him. “Care to fill me in on it?”

Garrus thought about moving away, but the thought of being away from her was unbearable- he nuzzled her hand instead. He started to say something else, but his emotions were too raw- everything about the past two years was too sharp to deal with right then, and he couldn’t get the words out. “I’ll tell you later,” Garrus said, looking around the room. “Right now, we have to deal with the rest of the Blue Suns and get out of here.”

“Oh, just three little gangs,” Jane said teasingly. “I mean, I try not to come back from the dead for less than four… seems like it might not be worth my time.” 

“Not funny,” Garrus shot back, pressing his head against hers and feeling comforted by the feeling of her skin against his plates. “I don’t ever want you leaving again.” 

“I don’t plan on it,” Jane replied, placing a hand to his cheek. “Now, let’s get to murdering the gang members so we can get back to the ship and discuss a fuckload of awkward shit, ok?”

“You make it sound so sexy,” Garrus said wryly, reloading his gun. “Then again, just hearing your voice is enough for me right now.”

“Not the time,” Nihlus shot back, looking over at the crowds starting to gather. “We have to get out of here- everything else can wait.”

The rumble in his sub-vocals told Garrus everything he needed to know- the turian was pissed at him. He sighed, unable to argue- Nihlus had a point. I did leave them all high and dry, he thought, glancing over at Jane. These are not going to be fun conversations… at all

“The main floor is clear,” the soldier replied, looking over at Nihlus before frowning at Jane. “We should be able to get out of here without too much-” 

Before he could finish, there was a roaring noise behind them. “ YOU THINK YOU CAN SCREW WITH THE BLUE SUNS?” Tarek roared, his voice garbled and distorted from the rapid firing of the gunship erupting all around them. “This ends now!”

Immediately, Garrus dove for Jane, hurling her behind cover- he felt the sting of a bullet bouncing against his side, but he didn’t care. I’m not losing you again, he thought, looking her over to make sure she was all right- Jane was stunned but otherwise fine. Quickly taking stock of the situation, Garrus inclined his head to the other side- just like old times, Jane immediately nodded, knowing exactly what he was planning. We’re getting out of here, he muttered, staring into her wide grey eyes, noting her cheeks flushed as she tried to catch her breath. I will not let these bastards take you away from me.  

But as soon as he moved, all Garrus could feel was heat and a blinding pain as he crashed to the ground. He tried to scream but couldn’t- blood was pooling in his mouth and he was in so much pain he could barely see. But before his vision went dark, Garrus could see Jane, her expression twisted into a grimace of rage and horror. Spirits, please don’t let it end like thisI just got her back… I can’t leave her now. 

Chapter Text

  


Jane was frantic as she raced into the medbay of the Normandy, her fingers and armor stained blue with Garrus’s blood. Death wasn’t good enough for that bastard, she growled, her fingers balled up into fists as she watched her husband gasping for breath. I should’ve leaped on that ship and put my blade through his goddamn eye!

However, her rage was set aside when she saw Sol running toward them, her face panic-stricken as she took her brother from Jane's arms. Overcome with emotion, Jane tried not to scream. “He… he got hit with a rocket after saving me, Sol… I can’t…. I won’t…”

“Calm down, we have him,” Sol said quickly, guiding her to a chair. “You and I both know that the doctor is the best… and I won’t let anything happen to my brother.” The turian nuzzled her head against Jane’s and hummed softly. “I’ll keep you informed,” she said, patting her arm as she raced inside the medbay, leaving Jane outside crying in the hallway. 

This is all too much, she thought, lowering her head to her knees and trying to breathe. I just got him back… I can’t lose him again

A few beats later, she heard voices and pounding footsteps thundering toward her, but Jane didn’t care- she didn’t even look up until she felt an arm around her shoulder. “Janey, what’s wrong? The ice princess wouldn’t tell me shit- she just said we had to haul ass to get back here.” John rested his head on hers, the sensation warm and reassuring. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Garrus,” Jane whispered, noticing how John flinched at the mention of his name. “I found out he was Archangel… so I went to get him. But… I was too late- he was being shot at by every merc on Omega. I… I saved him… only to have one of those Blue Sun bastards shoot him with a rocket!” Gasping for breath, she buried her face into his shoulder. “There was so much blood, Johnny… if Nih hadn’t been there, I don’t…” 

“Shhh,” John said softly, rubbing her back. “C’mon, you’re covered in Garrus, and not in the good way, sis- let’s go to your room and get you cleaned up.”

Jane balked, pulling away and staring at her brother with wide eyes. “I can’t leave him… I need to know he’s ok.”

“Tiny is in there,” he said firmly. “Along with Chakwas. Plus, the new guy I just brought back cured a plague in his spare time- Gar is going to be in good hands.” Her brother gently took her hands and guided her to her feet. “Besides, I hear this is the new and improved Normandy,” he said lightly, watching as she reluctantly headed to the elevator. “Let’s see what they’ve done to the place.”

“My room is bigger than my old apartment,” Jane said quietly as she pushed the button on the elevator. “It’s stupid.” 

“Gonna be nice when you and the dino cat start sharing it again,” her brother said lightly, squeezing her hand. “Still got your own bathroom?”

She nodded, guiding him inside her room and leaning against the wall. “Yeah.” 

John sighed, then glanced around her quarters. “Then use it- you gotta go shower, Janey. I’ll do a lot of things, but undressing you is not high on my list of things to do.”

“I don’t want your grubby paws on me anyway,” Jane muttered, looking down at the floor. “I can do it myself.” 

“Then go right ahead, Ms. Independent,” John replied, gesturing toward the bathroom as he headed for the chair. “I’m pretty sure we’re all going to appreciate you not being covered in blood and viscera.” 

“Fuck you,” Jane shot back, walking over to her drawer and pulling out some clean clothes. Finally able to breathe again, Jane rested her head against the drawer and let out a long, deep sigh. “I missed you, Johnny.”

“Missed you too, sis,” John replied, giving her that lopsided grin she loved so much. “Now take your smelly ass inside that shower.”

  


Nihlus watched as John led Jane away, well aware of the soldier watching him with interest. Knowing the man had questions but not having the time or inclination to stand around bullshitting with the man, the turian sighed, clasping his hands behind his back. “Yes?” 

“So, that merc's her husband?” Jacob asked, glancing at the med bay. “The stories were true, then?”

Nihlus fought not to roll his eyes, forcing himself to remember that this man was new to the antics of the Normandy crew. “Depends on the story.” 

“That they’ve been married the entire time,” Jacob said stiffly, turning away from the door. “That’s odd… I thought the Alliance had rules on fraternization.”

“Jane is a Spectre,” Nihlus replied, crossing his arms and trying to keep the rumble of irritation out of his voice. “She is allowed to run her mission however she sees fit. And it was I who brought Vakarian onboard the first Normandy… not her.” 

Jacob held up his hands in apology. “Not making judgments- that’s her business. Even still… can’t imagine Miri is gonna be too pleased with this.” 

“Miss Lawson would do well to keep her opinions to herself,” Nihlus replied curtly. “Jane takes her relationship to Vakarian very seriously.” 

“So I noticed,” Jacob replied, walking toward the mess hall. “But, let's be honest- you and I both know that she sort of lost it back there.”

Nihlus wanted to snap at the soldier, but he couldn’t disagree with him. After Vakarian had been shot, Jane had, for lack of a better word, lost her mind- she’d let out a guttural cry and nearly launched herself at the gunship, mowing down enemies with a fervor he’d never seen from her before. He had no doubt that it was only the gasp of air from her husband that stopped herself from getting herself killed. He’s her reason for living, Nihlus thought as he went into the kitchen, frowning at the lack of dextro foods. If there was any doubt before, I can safely confirm that this is not the same Normandy… things around here will take some getting used to

“Um... yeah,” Jacob said uncomfortably, taking a cup of coffee and extending a bottle of water to the turian. “We didn’t plan to have dextro folks on board, so…” 

Nihlus just took the water and nodded, making a mental note to tell Sol about the food situation. Thankfully, he had no doubt that her husband had grabbed some rations for her- John was nothing if not meticulous when it came to the care of his mate. “Understandable- Cerberus isn’t known for its… hospitality.” 

Jacob chose to ignore the dig, sitting down in a chair instead. “Is she always like that?”

“Like what?” Nihlus asked carefully, settling in the chair across from him. “I’m not sure what you mean.” 

“You know damn well what I mean,” Jacob said curtly. “That wasn’t a solider out there- what she pulled was reckless and stupid. Shepard is good, there’s no doubt about that, but she almost got herself killed trying to take that ship down.” Jacob shook his head and took a sip of his coffee. Like it or not, Shepard has to remember that there’s more at stake than just him- we can’t have her losing control like that out here.” 

Nihlus didn’t respond- instead, he just stared at Jacob, the heat from his gaze making the man in front of him squirm. “Look,” the soldier said after a few moments of silence, “all I’m saying is-”

“I know what you’re saying,” Nihlus interrupted, a cold gleam in his eye. “You’re suggesting that this mission is more important than her mate. And maybe in the scheme of things it is, but what you have to remember is that they are bonded for life,” he snapped. “They won’t make it without each other, so if you value your... investment, then you’ll do well to make sure he stays safe as well.”

“But she already died,” Jacob said quietly. “Shouldn’t he have learned how to get on without her?”

Nihlus just sighed. “Why do you think we found him where we did? Vakarian didn’t go to Omega to make a difference,” he said softly, glancing over to the medbay and listening to the arguments brewing between Miranda and Chakwas. “Any idiot can tell that he went to that station to die.” 

  


Sloane had been watching the situation inside the Normandy with interest ever since he’d received word that the medical alarms were going off. He’d known something was amiss, but seeing Jane rushing to the medbay with the bleeding turian was an interesting, but not wholly surprising turn of events. His intel had warned him of the unrest on Omega and to be honest, he hadn’t expected the mercenary to survive the encounter in the first place. That’ll teach me to bet against Brainy, he mused, shaking his head. That goddamn woman is a miracle.

Interested to see how this played out, Sloane watched with irritation as Miranda proceeded to balk at the thought of using cybernetics to save the turian. The doctor was arguing furiously with Miranda while the young turian female and the salarian worked to stabilize the patient. Ultimately, Chakwas determined that she was getting nowhere with Miranda and ignored her completely, turning her back on her so she could continue working on the turian. Why am I not surprised, Sloane thought as he watched the impromptu medical team frantically working, then sighed as he checked another screen and saw Jane crying in the hallway. And here I was hoping this could be taken care of without my involvement. 

He thought about contacting Jane, but the sight of her brother walking her toward her quarters gave him pause. Best to stay away from them for now, he thought, rubbing his jaw at the memory of the last time he and John found themselves in a room together. Like it or not, John’ll find out I’m around soon enough- no sense in rushing it along.  

“EDI,” Sloane called out, “patch me through to the med-bay, please.” 

“I’m sorry,” the electronic voice replied through the terminal speakers, “but I’m afraid Doctor Chakwas has requested no contact from anyone at this time while surgery is in session.” 

“Understandable.” He walked over to his bar, pouring himself a drink and taking a moment to think. As he sat down on his sofa and stared at the information on his datapad, he sighed. “Send word to Chakwas that she has full authorization to use whatever she needs to save the patient.”

EDI paused for a moment. “To be clear, Miss Lawson-” 

Sloane rolled his eyes and took a sip of his scotch at the mention of her name. “What Lawson thinks is of no consequence to me- inform the doctor she is authorized to use whatever methods she deems necessary, effective immediately.”

“Will do, sir,” EDI replied. He waited a few more minutes, and the AI returned. “The doctor has been informed,” she said helpfully. “She is asking who authorized this override- may I inform her of your involvement?” 

Sloane thought about it for a moment, then shook his head. “No- just tell her that Miss Lawson changed her mind.” 

EDI remained silent for a few seconds. “Scans do not show that Miss Lawson has sent down an order-”

“She will,” Sloane replied. “Connect me to her terminal, EDI- priority level one.” 

“Understood,” EDI replied. “Connecting you now.”

True to her word, Sloane was immediately transferred to the woman’s private terminal, ignoring the shocked look on her face at the sudden intrusion. “Miranda,” Sloane said sharply, glaring at the irritated scientist, “do you mind explaining why I’m getting reports of you refusing to save the life of a crew member?” 

She stared at him with disinterest, a tactic he knew she used when she was unnerved. “I did not see the use in outfitting the mercenary with experimental cybernetics,” she said haughtily. “His injuries were a result of his own actions- Cerberus should not have to bear the cost-”

“Oh, I wasn't aware that you were in charge of our finances now,” Sloane said evenly, staring at her over the rim of his glass. “Or, maybe I missed the part when you fucked someone in accounting to try and get that level of control- oversights do happen, after all.” 

Her eyes went wide, but she kept her composure. “How dare you,” Miranda snapped. “I’d prefer you keep your insinuations to yourself, Sloane.”

“Your preference is noted- I’m only speaking from experience,” he replied smoothly, delighting in the flush that slipped over her cheeks. “A friendly conversation from one operative to another, that’s all.” 

“Go to hell,” Miranda spat, reaching for the screen. “This conversation is over.” 

Sloane just tutted and shook his head. “Disconnect this call and I’ll ruin more than your career,” he said coldly. “We both know you don’t want to test me, Miri- you’re smarter than that.” 

The look Miranda gave him was murderous, but she settled back into her chair and folded her arms. “Fine,” she said icily. “What do you want? You already have all the information your little black heart could desire- why are you bothering me?” 

“The turian is Shepard’s husband,” he answered, not wasting any time and noticing the way she instantly straightened up- it's painful to realize that you aren't as informed as you think you are. “You want her loyalty, you do it by working with her family. Now if I were to let it slip that you were the cause of her mate not pulling through that surgery, how long do you think it would take for a bullet to find its way in that perfect little skull of yours? Even you can’t heal from a headshot, Miri.” 

“I’m needed here,” she shot back- though her tone was firm, he could hear the tremors of nerves in her words. “The illusive man-”

“Would find another mouthpiece,” Sloane said evenly, swirling the liquid around in his glass. “You’re not irreplaceable… and I should know.” 

Miranda paused for a minute and glared at him, her pink lips forcibly pressed together. “And just what is it that you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” he said, sipping his drink. “I’ve already informed the doctor that you’ve changed your mind- I’m sure Shepard will be highly appreciative of your efforts when she hears about them in the morning.”

“And what do you want in return?” Miranda asked irritably. “Nothing with you is ever free, Sloane.”

“I’ll keep you posted,” Sloane replied casually, disconnecting the call and slowly finishing the last of his drink.

  


While Jane was in the shower, John took a minute to look around her room, poking in the crevices and frowning. Goddamn Sloane, he thought as he noticed her old N7 hoodie neatly folded in the drawer. Fucker went a long way toward trying to cozy up to her again… how does he plan on fucking her over this time?

John had never liked the man- even when they were younger, something about Sloane always set his nerves on edge. He was always too polite, too controlled- it was almost as if everything was rehearsed with him. Like Plank if he had a brain, John grumbled, lightly closing the drawer. Constantly playing chess and treating everyone like his goddamn pawn. He’d hoped he’d seen the last of the man when he’d shown up at his doorstep, looking as if he’d been out on a week-long bender- knowing Sloane, John wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d done exactly that. 

‘What do you want?’ John asked, glaring at the disheveled man leaning against his doorframe. ‘Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t knock you out and have the MPs pick your sorry ass up right now.’ 

‘Because I have news that the Alliance won’t tell you,’ Sloane replied, not looking at him. ‘However, can we not do this in the hallway?’

‘What’s in it for you?’ John sneered, wishing he had his gun on him- instead, he began gathering energy and preparing himself to blast the man across the hall, anonymity be damned. ‘Hasn’t your sorry ass done enough damage?’

‘I have,’ Sloane said tersely. ‘That’s why I’m here… to make up for it.’

‘Good luck with that,’ John snapped, trying to close the door. ‘Now fuck off before I turn your ass in, Xander.’

Sloane shoved his foot in the door. ‘It’s about Janey, John. The Alliance isn’t telling you everything.’

‘Says the criminal,’ John growled, but something about Sloane’s demeanor gave him pause. Normally, the man was controlled and cocky, never doing anything that would let anyone possibly associate him with the slums they grew up in. The Alexander Sloane that John knew would die before he went out in public without being perfectly put together- the fumbling and unsure man in front of him was more like the one he used to know. Rubbing his neck, John sighed. ‘Get in here before I change my mind.’

‘Thanks,’ Sloane said, walking inside the apartment. ‘Is your fiance here?’

‘None of your fucking business,’ John said irritably. ‘This isn’t a social call- if you have something to say, then you better start talking.’

Sloane sighed, then moved over to the kitchen, taking it upon himself to rummage through his cabinet and grab a glass of water. ‘Janey’s in trouble,’ he told him, not even looking up from his task. ‘Chatter says that her team got hit on Akuze. No survivors… except for her. However, it’s not looking good, John- she took a really bad hit out there.’

‘Bullshit,’ John spat, storming over to him. ‘Anderson would’ve told me!’

‘It’s classified,’ Sloane replied, drinking his water as if he hadn’t said anything of consequence. ‘As a matter of fact, I don’t think your uncle is even allowed to tell you.’ 

‘Then how the fuck do you know?’ John roared, leaning into the man’s face. ‘You know what- I’m done with your games, Xander… get the fuck out of my house. And know this- if I ever see you again, I’m not responsible for what I do to you.’

‘Suit yourself,’ Xander replied, finishing his drink and sitting his glass in the sink before walking to the door. ‘Just… look into it, ok? She needs her family, Johnny- she deserves that much.’

‘Don’t you dare talk to me about what she deserves, you lying bastard,” John hissed, tamping down his biotics and punching the man in the jaw. He knew he was overreacting, but John just couldn't stomach listening to Xander's bullshit any longer.

From the other side of the room, the door opened and shook John from his memories. Gathering his composure, he lifted his head as Jane walked out of the bathroom in Garrus’s old C-Sec shirt, all but confirming his suspicions. “So,” he said, trying to keep his tone light, “did Cerberus bring back your wardrobe too?”

Jane sighed, running a hand through her damp blue hair. “How much did Joker tell you?” 

Her dodge confirmed his hunch- John narrowed his eyes and put down his datapad. “Sloane.”

His sister just looked away, her hands nervously gripping the hem of her shirt. “Yep… looks like I’m not the only one back from the dead,” Jane grumbled. “That bastard is back… and still pulling strings- the motherfucker never learns.”

“Doesn’t seem like it, does it,” John said calmly, extending his arms to his sister. “C’mere- if we gotta wait, may as well do it together, right?” 

She snorted, but she came over to the sofa anyway, settling down next to him and resting her head on his chest. “Gar has to be ok,” she whispered, holding him tight. “I can’t lose him, Johnny.” 

“I know,” he said quietly, still trying to put all the pieces together in his head. “Quick question- how did you know that it was Gar out there playing Batman?” 

Jane rolled her eyes. “How else? Sloane sent me a note,” she said, transferring a message to his omni-tool. “Bastard has eyes everywhere on this ship, so make sure you tap into the cameras in your room and sweep for bugs, ok?”

John gritted his teeth- even though he suspected it, the news didn't make him any less angry. “Of course it’s him,” he spat, balling up his fists. “What’s his deal this time?”

“Same as before- likes to collect favors until he has you bent over a fucking barrel,” Jane said wearily. “Hasn’t asked for anything yet, but I know it’s coming- most likely he’s just waiting for the right moment to strongarm me into giving him what he wants.” 

“I told you he was bad news,” John said petulantly, eyeing her shirt. “And you know when Gar gets back on his feet, he’s going to have a fit about him being in his house- that’s some creepy ass shit, Janey!” 

“Maybe, but the bigger question is, what the fuck happened to my husband while I was gone?” Jane asked, turning to look up at him. “Why did he disappear? And how the fuck did he end up on Omega, of all places?” 

John opened his mouth to say something but realized he didn’t have a good answer, so he sat there for a moment, thinking. “I don’t think he could deal with losing you,” he said finally. “I didn’t do too well with it either, but I had Tiny,” he admitted, knowing just how lucky he’d been. “Gar just… gave up.” 

“That’s not like him,” Jane said slowly, tugging at her shorts. “Garrus doesn’t quit… even when he should.”

“He never had something to lose before,” John replied, looking down at the floor. “Some things never change, Jane Brain- you never seem to understand just how important you are.” 

Jane glared at him but said nothing, choosing to close her eyes instead. “I’m going to rest my eyes until Chakwas calls,” she said sleepily. “If I fall asleep, wake me up the minute we hear anything, ok?”

“Will do,” John replied, lightly rubbing her back. “Go, get in that bed of yours,” he said as he nudged her off him. “You need to rest if we’re going to deal with these Cerberus dickheads- I can’t do everything on my own, you know.” 

“Not trying to fall asleep,” she murmured, holding him tighter. “I'm just resting.”

John had to stare up at the ceiling to keep his composure. “You always say that bullshit and end up drooling on my arm,” he teased, kissing the top of her head. “Get in your bed and go to sleep- I’ll wake you up if something happens.”

“Whatever,” she said, then yawned. “You’re lucky I’m too tired to argue with you.” 

“You just know I’m right,” he retorted, lightly bumping her with his shoulder. “Go… I’m going to make some calls- Mom needs to know what’s going on.” 

Instantly, her expression turned into one of horror. “You cannot tell her I let this happen to her son,” she said quickly, her voice trembling with panic. “She’ll never forgive me for it.”

“You’ll be surprised as to what mom can handle,” John replied, walking Jane over to her bed. “Trust me- the not knowing is worse. We’ve spent almost two years not knowing if we’d ever hear from him again, so finding out that he’s alive, even if he’s in surgery? That’s more than we ever thought we’d have, so Mom is going to happily take it. And besides,” he said pointedly, staring at his sister, “you’re her kid, Jane- Mom wouldn’t dream of blaming you.”

Chapter Text

  


Castis was sitting in the living room, settling down for the evening. He’d been on edge since Garrus had called him, with no way to get back in touch. Working to calm his nerves, he grabbed a cup of kava and stared at a picture on his omni-tool of Garrus as a child, smiling as he held baby Sol’s hand. Why do things have to change, he thought wistfully, stroking the picture with his talon. Why couldn’t they stay like this forever?

Before he could dwell on it any further, Castis heard the sound of a call coming in. Hoping it was his son, he raced for the terminal, only to be surprised when he saw the face of John Shepard across his screen. Not even bothering to hide his disappointment, he frowned. “Yes?” 

“Hello to you too,” John said irritably, rolling his eyes. “Yes, I’m fine, and so is Tiny, thanks for asking- how are you this evening?” 

Castis put a hand to his brow plate, feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on. “This is not the time for your foolishness, Jonathan- I have a lot on my mind at the moment.”

“You’re not the only one,” the man replied grimly, his expression and posture holding none of its usual annoying exuberance. “Is mom around?” 

Though he hated when John called his wife that, Castis nodded- the turian had long since learned his lesson about trying to stop the woman from speaking with him. “She is... do you need to speak with her?” 

“Possibly… but I think I might want to tell you this first,” he said slowly. “I’m not sure how mom’s going to take it.” 

Immediately, Castis sat back in his chair, gripping the arms tightly- there was only so much news his wife could take. He hadn’t told her about Garrus’s call earlier- until he knew the boy was safe, he didn’t want her to worry any more than she already did. “Is Solana all right?” 

“Sol’s fine,” he said, nervously looking over his shoulder. “But we found Jane, Castis- we’re with her now.” 

Castis let out a surprised sounding hum, glancing at the blue-haired woman in the bed behind John. “Is it really her?” 

If the question offended the man, John didn’t show it. “Yeah… it is.” 

Castis started to say something else, but John's tone made him pause for a moment. “What aren’t you telling me? We both know that news of you finding your sister would send my mate into fits of joy- what else is going on?”

John looked away for a moment, then let out a deep sigh, running his fingers through his hair. “Jane found Garrus,” he said darkly. “He’s here too.” 

That knocked the wind out of his lungs- Castis gasped, working to stifle the keen that threatened to break free. Thank you, spirits, he breathed, closing his eyes with relief. You kept my boy safe for me. Then he opened his eyes and noticed the tight look on John’s face- he swallowed, unsure he wanted to hear what else the man had to say. “What is it, Jonathan?”

“He’s in bad shape,” John admitted. “Jane and her team got to him, but he got hit before she could pull him out… he’s in surgery right now.”

At that moment, Castis had never been happier that his mate wasn’t in the vicinity- he now understood why John was talking to him instead of Yeloris. “May I speak to Sol?”

“She’s in there with him,” John said quietly. “I’m out here with Jane, waiting for updates.”

“Where are you?” Castis asked, trying to figure out how he could get to them as quickly as possible. It’s been too long, he thought, closing his eyes and trying to think. I need to bring my children home. 

“Orbiting Omega,” John replied, causing Castis to snap to attention. “Look, there’s a lot going on here, but I’m pretty sure I can get Janey to get us back to the Citadel once we’ve stabilized Gar- I’m pretty sure she hasn’t talked to Anderson or the Council since…” 

Castis sighed, not needing the man to continue. “I understand- I’ll wait here until you return.” John started to reply, but the elder turian cut him off. “Please… no matter what, keep me informed on what’s going on,” he said, a nervous hum running through his sub-vocals. “I… I don’t want to tell Yeloris about this just yet. Not… not until we know something for sure.” 

John gave him a wan smile. “We’ve got one of the best human doctors I know, a scientist who cured a plague, and Tiny down in that med-bay, Pops- Garrus could not be in better hands right now.” 

Comforted by his words, Castis ignored the use of the irritating nickname from the young man. “Thank you, Jonathan… I appreciate it.”

“Anytime- it’s the truth,” he said firmly. “That’s my family in there too, you know. Plus, I’m not going to let anything happen to him yet- I still owe him a thorough ass-kicking for up and leaving the way he did.” John scoffed, then crossed his arms. “You don’t walk out on your family… I don’t care how bad you think it is.”

Castis had to bite back a laugh- instead, he simply nodded. “On that, we both agree.” 

Shaking his head, Castis stared at the young man on the screen with begrudging approval.  

Admittedly, the human wasn’t his favorite person in the world, but the turian had to admit that John had earned quite a bit of his respect over the last two years. Though John had lost the only real family he’d had, he hadn’t withdrawn completely and he still honored Solana just as much as he did when they’d first mated. And though it was a difficult call to make, John was here talking to him and not dodging the hard truth. Color me surprised- this human might actually prove worthy of my daughter.

“Take care of my children,” Castis said, his gaze hard and firm. “Keep them safe for me, Jonathan.”

The man on the screen gave a curt nod, all the irreverence on his face replaced with a resolute expression. “That’s my plan, sir.”

  


John disconnected the call and lowered his head, trying to keep his composure. From the other side of the room Jane slept in the bed, no doubt exhausted- his sister had always had trouble sleeping, so there wasn’t a doubt in John’s mind that she probably hadn’t slept well since her return. Knowing he needed to check on Sol and find out what was going on with Garrus, John blew out a deep breath and crept silently to the doorway- his sister might be mad when she woke up and didn’t find him there, but she’d get over it if she realized he had news for her. Taking a moment to settle, John made his way to the medbay and noticed Nihlus standing in front of the door- he frowned. “Dude, have you gotten any sleep?” Then John looked down, noticing the blue blood all over the turian’s armor. “Don’t you think you want to take a shower?” 

Nihlus shrugged. “It didn’t seem as important,” he said softly. “I was waiting to get word on his condition.”

John reached into his pocket, getting one of Sol’s extra ration bars and handing it to the turian- if Sloane knew that Garrus was coming on this ship, he was pretty sure there were dextro bars hidden in Janey’s room somewhere, but he was pretty sure that the rest of the ship hadn't gotten the memo. “Hear anything yet?” 

“Nothing, which is a good sign,” Nihlus said firmly, thoughtfully taking a bite of the bar. “They’re working, which is what we need them to do- we should leave them to it.”

“You can hear them, can’t you?” John said quietly, watching the spectre carefully- Nihlus just nodded and leaned against the wall. “How’s Tiny doing in there?”

“Professional,” the turian replied. “She’s doing her job… as she did with you. Solana knows how to separate feelings from duty… a skill your sister might want to hone.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” John asked, looking at Nihlus warily. “What did Janey do?”

“Almost got herself killed out there,” he said sharply. “She has to remember that she is in command, John- she can’t afford to be that reckless out here.”

“What do you want me to do?” John asked sarcastically. “Should I go over to her and smack her hand and ask her to be a good little girl? That’s her husband, Nih- how the fuck do you think you’d feel if you saw Ash take a rocket to the face?” 

Nihlus sighed- as usual, his expression gave nothing away. “I understand, but I’m not in command- she is.” 

John just stared at him. “You tell her that and she’s going to say fuck you to everyone and find a hole to crawl into.”

“Should she not?” The turian cocked his head and stared at John. “What is the point of this mission? She didn’t get the chance to tell me much before we found her mate, and the soldier we traveled with is only marginally useful at best.”

“This group called the Collectors seems to be behind some fuckery,” John said slowly, looking around- he knew the ship had to be bugged, but he also didn’t want Nih to be in the dark. “Mordin seems to think they used the Vorcha to kick off that plague in the slums.”

“Almost certain,” the salarian said suddenly, startling them both as he appeared next to Nihlus. “Patient is stable. Need to get his mate quickly- will be asking about his status.” 

“I’ll do it,” Nihlus said, nodding at John. “Go… be with your family, John.”

Unsure of what he'd find, John swallowed and followed the doctor inside the room, glancing over at Chakwas. The older woman smiled and gestured for John to take a seat next to Sol, who was holding her brother’s hand. Breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of his wife, John leaned over and placed a kiss on Sol’s cheek. “How is he?”

“Stable,” she replied, purring softly as his light touch. “We had a few moments, but once Miranda gave us clearance to use the cybernetics, Chakwas and Mordin said they're pretty sure he’ll regain full functionality. In fact, he should be waking up soon.” Sol glanced over to her brother and sighed, nuzzling his hand. “He’s such an idiot,” she whispered, her voice wobbling. “How could he let himself get into a situation like this?”

“Because of me,” Jane said quietly, causing them to turn and look at the woman standing in the doorway. “John, can you go tell Joker to set a course for the Citadel? We need supplies and I need to talk to the council- considering that Cerberus is the only one looking into this Collector bullshit, I need to talk to Anderson.” She looked down at her omni-tool and punched a few keys before speaking again. “And I need to get off this ship for a while.”

John stood up and raised his eyebrows, watching as his sister made her way to the turian’s bedside. “Are we bug-free?”

“For the moment,” she replied. “My program is running interference, but Sloane seems to have upgraded his tools since we last met- I’m willing to bet he’s connected to EDI.” Jane looked over at Garrus and put her hand to her mouth, dropping into the seat he’d left. “Oh god-” 

“It’s not your fault,” Sol said quietly, reaching over for Jane’s arm and patting it lightly. “You did what none of us could- you found him.” 

“I should’ve done more,” she said bitterly, resting her head against his chest. “I should’ve-”

“Shhhh,” Garrus whispered, his voice thick from the anesthesia. “S’ok,” he slurred, his hands moving over her back while his eyes remained closed. “You’re here… that’s all I need.”

Jane snapped her head up, and John smiled with relief. Though he wasn’t in a rush to talk to Joker after all this time, he also wasn’t going to place any additional stress on his sister right now. “C’mon, Tiny… let’s go see the pilot.” 

Sol just nodded, but she didn’t move right away. “Welcome back,” she whispered, choking back a keen as she leaned over and pressed her head lightly to her brothers, rumbling softly the entire time. “I missed you, Gar.”

  


Joker was in the cockpit, trying to figure out what his next move should be- orbiting Omega seemed like a waste, but with Janey focused on Garrus at the moment, he was stuck in limbo. If BB 2.0 wants to get her head taken off, that’s on her, he thought, folding his hands behind his head. I’ll just sit here and watch the stars, thank you very much- it’s safer that way.

He’d started to drift off, but when the doors opened behind him and revealed a tense-looking John and Sol, he instantly sat up in his seat. “Tiny,” he said happily, pleased to see the turian- John was less likely to argue with him if she was present. “It’s good to see you, kid.” 

“Good to see you too,” Sol replied, resting her head lightly against his, then thumping him lightly on the shoulder- when he winced, she huffed so hard it ruffled his hair. “And don’t think I’m not still angry at you for running off like that- I was worried about you!”

“Nice to know that someone still cares,” he muttered, avoiding John’s gaze. “But for what it’s worth, I’m sorry- I couldn’t take watching them drag Janey’s name through the mud anymore. I didn’t mean to leave so suddenly, but our favorite sneaky ass spy wouldn’t give me any time to say goodbye.” 

“Because he knew if you told us you were joining Cerberus, we’d have hog-tied you to the nearest pole and beat you until you came to your senses,” John grumbled, crossing his arms. “God, I hate that man.”

“You talk as if you’ve met him,” Joker said wryly, not wanting to call attention to the fact that John was talking to him again. “He’s such a charming bastard, isn’t he?”

“Not exactly the words I’d use,” John replied, moving into the seat next to him and staring out the window for a bit before glancing over at his wife. “Tiny, do you think you can go get JC? I’m sure the nice woman is sick of him sticking his butt in her face every chance he gets- let’s not annoy the xenophobes any more than we have to, ok?”

Sol stared at him for a moment, then nodded. “Ok… I’ll be in our room,” she replied, glancing over at Joker- the turian was no doubt wondering if the two of them would be ok in the same room together, and Joker wasn’t exactly sure Johnny wasn’t going to try to break a few of his bones once their chaperone left. “Call me if you need anything, ok?”

“The ship cancer hears everything,” Joker said lightly. “So just ask EDI if you need to get a hold of anyone, ok?” 

Sol smiled as she walked over to John, pressing her head against his. “Will do.” 

The turian patted his shoulder as she left, leaving the two men alone in silence. Joker waited for John to say something, but the man was silent. For a moment, Joker thought about leaving, but then he realized that this was his ship- if Johnny wasn’t interested in talking to him, then he was more than welcome to leave. Might as well take the first step, he thought, clearing his throat and turning toward the man sitting next to him. At least he doesn’t look like he’s ready to tear my head off now… that’s a start. 

Before he could say a word, John sighed and folded his hands. “I’m sorry,” he said, staring straight ahead. “I know it wasn’t your fault, Joker.” 

Joker blinked- he’d been hoping for civility, but not an outright apology. “Um,” he said carefully, shifting in his seat, “not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment, but what brought this on? In all the years I’ve known you guys, I have never once seen either you or your sister apologize first even when you know you’re dead-ass wrong.” 

“Because my brother almost died and I lost my sister for two years,” John said quietly. “If it wasn’t for you not being an asshole like me, I might not have Janey back and we would’ve lost Garrus- I owe you for saving his life.”

“You don’t owe me shit,” Joker said, turning away. “I should’ve left the ship- it was stupid… obviously, it could be rebuilt,” he said irritably, gesturing around to the cockpit. “It wasn’t worth it.” 

“Yeah well, apparently Janey was rebuildable too,” John quipped, shifting his eyes to the pilot. “Go figure.” 

Joker couldn’t help it- a small smile crept across his face. “I always knew she was too mean to die- even the void of space didn’t want to deal with her ass.” 

“She’s a Shepard,” John replied, folding his hands behind his head and staring at Joker. “Are you really all that surprised?” 

“Nah,” the pilot said lightly, feeling like a weight was lifted from his chest- he and John might not be one-hundred percent right now, but it was a start and he'd take it. “So, is it safe to ask Brainy where we’re heading yet, or are we still in head-biting mode?”

“Definitely not safe,” John said quickly. “Hence why I’m in here- she told me to have you set a course for the Citadel.”

“Well, this should be fun,” Joker muttered, glancing over the instrument panel and entering the coordinates. “You know, I’m pretty tired,” he said with an exaggerated yawn, “do you think I’ll be allowed to stay on the ship?” 

“Nope,” John replied casually, closing his eyes. “You and I both know Yeloris and Anderson are about to hand out ass-chewings like candy… and I'm pretty sure that you and Garrus have a couple with your names on them.” 

  


Garrus heard Sol and John leave the room, but he didn’t open his eyes. While he knew he had to talk to them, he had more pressing things to worry about right now- after being left with nothing but the visions of her in his head for two years, he had to be sure that the woman he wanted more than anything was really there with him. Keeping his eyes closed, Garrus tried to focus on the scent of her skin and the feel of her hair beneath his fingertips. “Are you real?”

Instead of responding, Garrus heard her gasp and felt the wetness of her tears against his chest- instantly, his eyes flew open. “Don’t cry,” he said softly, rubbing her back, “I’m right here… I’m not going anywhere, Jane.” 

“I almost lost you,” she croaked, her grey eyes red and her cheeks stained with tears. “Ever since I got back, I’ve been trying to find you…” Jane lowered her head, the warmth of her skin against his letting him feel just how real she was. “I love you so much, Garrus.” 

“Come here,” he said softly, slowly shifting in his cot and making room for her. “Lie down next to me, please.” 

Jane laughed at that, her eyes darting across his large body in the tiny bed. “I don’t fit in there, big guy.” 

“When has that ever stopped us before?” Garrus teased, using his arm to coax her up into the bed. “I need you,” he whispered, rumbling with joy as she climbed into the bed and pressed against him. Immediately, Garrus noticed her wearing his shirt and he nuzzled his face into it, trying to reassure himself that his mate wouldn’t evaporate in his arms. “I… need to make sure you won’t disappear,” he admitted, holding her against him. “Stay with me?”

“Always,” she replied, no hesitation at all in her tone as he curled around her, enveloping her in his arms and pressing his head to hers. “But there’s something I have to tell you, Gar…” 

Jane’s voice trailed off and he let out a soft chirp, surprising himself- it had been so long since he’d uttered something so comforting that he’d almost forgotten he could do it. “What’s wrong?” 

“My bondmark,” she said sadly, her voice so low he could barely hear it. “It’s gone… when they brought me back, they took all my scars… even the one I wanted most.”

“I will be more than happy to give you a new one,” he murmured, tracing his talon across her scarred cheek. “Maybe not tonight, but definitely soon.” Jane laughed and Garrus rumbled with contentment, knowing full well he didn’t deserve anything this wonderful but taking it anyway. She might reject me later, he thought as he twirled a blue strand around his finger, but I’m not going to waste a minute of the time I have with her now. 

Clearing his throat and wincing at the pain, he cupped her face with his finger. “So,” he said lightly, “since I have you here, do you mind telling me why my face feels like it’s coated in hellfire?”

“Because you tried to eat a rocket,” she grumbled, shaking as she held him tighter. “Please… I can’t go through that again, Gar… if I ever lost you…”  

“You won’t,” he said firmly, holding her close and rubbing against her. She smelled fresh and clean, but she didn’t smell like him yet and he needed to change it- it was too close to the fake Jane for his comfort. “When I said forever, I meant it, Jane.”

“I haven’t been able to sleep without you,” Jane admitted, her cheeks turning that adorable shade of pink he loved so much as she looked away. “Is that weird?”

“It’s not weird at all,” Garrus said softly, closing his eyes and humming with contentment for the first time in two years. “Because I haven’t been able to sleep without you either.” 

Chapter Text

  


Sloane rubbed his eyes and stared at the screen, debating his next move. He wasn’t surprised they were headed to the Citadel- with no dextro supplies and the fact that Jane was still Alliance through and through, it was practically a no-brainer as to what the crew was going to do next. No, what was making him fidget (and Alexander Sloane never fidgeted, thank you very much) was the idea that he should meet them down there. Logistically, it made sense- get on the ground, make sure that the lot of them knew that he was still very much on the ball and keeping up with their mission. It wouldn’t be hard to get into the Alliance offices, he mused, checking over the cameras on the Citadel. No one remembers who I am- they’re all too reliant on technology telling them what to think, do, and see. I could easily get in there and intercept Jane on her way out… it’s the one time she’ll have to be alone.

He sighed and rubbed his temples, trying to focus- there were too many identities, too many personas. He found that he vastly preferred being Alexander Sloane- he was unencumbered by emotion, doing whatever it took to get what he needed. This ruthlessness had served him well- his reputation for finding what didn’t want to be found allowed him to rise high in the ranks of Cerberus. While most in the organization had to kiss the Illusive Man’s ass at every turn, Sloane found himself under little to no scrutiny- after demonstrating impeccable results when left alone and doing absolutely nothing when supervised, he’d quickly been left to his own devices, enabling him the freedom to use whatever methods he deemed fit. When you’re known as the one who gets the job done no matter what, people tend to give you quite a bit of leeway, he thought with a smirk, tapping his fingers against the tabletop. It’s like I always told her- information is the only currency that never loses its value. 

But while the cool calculations of Alexander Sloane would work on most people, he was under no illusions that it would even make a dent in the impressions of Jane or John Shepard- they knew him too well for that. To them, he was still Xander, the skinny young man that spent his evenings sweeping floors in the library and reading any book he could get his hands on- he doubted that there would ever be a day when they’d see him as anything else. Perils of making connections, he mused, shaking his head as he pinged TIMs terminal. Glad I haven’t made that mistake again. 

“Sloane,” TIM said calmly, taking a puff on his cigar and staring at him with those strange blue eyes, “what news do you have so far?”

“They’ve recruited the scientist and the mercenary,” he said evenly, pretending to look at his notes. “Seems like they’re headed for the Citadel next.” 

“You didn’t tell me she was married to the turian,” TIM replied. His tone was flat, but there was no doubt that he was testing him. “Mind telling me why not?”

Goddamn Miranda, Sloane thought angrily, schooling his expression to one of complete indifference. She’s lucky that she’s still useful… otherwise that bitch would certainly have met with… an accident by now. “I kept that knowledge to myself,” Sloane replied honestly, looking TIM straight in the eye. “I didn’t trust Miranda to keep her opinions from clouding her judgment- as it turns out, I was right. She nearly let the turian die on the operating table tonight.” There, taste your own goddamn medicine, Sloane thought cruelly, wishing he could do more but knowing that planting seeds would be good enough for now. “If we want Shepard to cooperate, we need to use whatever we can to get her to stay malleable- her husband is a convenient tool that happens to have excellent tech and marksmanship skills… nothing more.”

“And the brother?” TIM took another puff from the cigar, clouding his face in a swirl of white smoke. “Is he going to be a problem?” 

“Not as long as we keep him within reach of Shepard,” Sloane said with a sly grin. “If we leave him out, he’ll become a pain in our ass. Best to leave him in plain sight where we can monitor his movements and use that hero complex of his to serve our needs.”

TIM nodded. “I trust you have a plan to manage all this and keep these… efforts running smoothly, Sloane.” 

The analyst just smiled, settling back into his carefully crafted Alexander Sloane persona- this was territory he was more than familiar with. “When do I not, sir?”

  


Nihlus made his way toward the cockpit, finding himself quite surprised to see John and Joker in the same room. “This is a pleasant surprise,” he said carefully. “Everything all right in here?”

“If you’re asking if I’m done being a dick, then the answer is yes,” John grumbled. “I can’t exactly be mad at him for killing my sister when she’s in the medbay with her husband right now, now can I?” 

“You could, but then again I thought you were being irrational in the first place,” Nihlus replied simply, ignoring the scathing look John shot his way. “That being said, I’m glad you’ve finally decided to see reason.”

“Yeah, well it looks like we have bigger problems,” John said quietly, his eyes darting around the room. “Watch this.” 

John fiddled with something on his omni-tool, then looked around expectantly. Nihlus started to ask him what exactly he expected to happen, but John just raised a finger. “Just wait,” John whispered, tapping his fingers on the console. “I’m testing a theory.” 

“Mr. Moreau,” EDI interrupted, causing Joker and Nihlus to look up at the ceiling- John just nodded. “It appears that there is something causing a disturbance in the cockpit- is everything all right? My sensors cannot get a visual.” 

Manually switching on the comms, Joker just stared at John, his mouth hanging open. “Everything’s fine, EDI. No problems.” 

“I’m running diagnostics, but there is a definite source of interference coming from this area. Would you like me to investigate?”

“I’ll check into it later,” Joker replied. “Thanks.” After he released the button, he looked at John as if he’d just turned into a vorcha. “What the fuck was that, Johnny?”

“An observation,” John replied, crossing his arms. “Hit that button again for me, would you?” 

Looking as if the man was crazy but doing as he was told, Joker hit the button. “EDI,” John asked, looking around the room, “can I ask you a question?”

“John Shepard,” EDI replied, her tone cordial. “How may I be of assistance? I apologize, but I still do not have automatic video and audio access to your cabin right now.” 

“Not needed,” John said politely. “Quick question- are you obligated to report what happens on this ship?” 

“I am,” the AI replied. “I have orders to monitor events and make sure that the ship is running smoothly- please be advised that privacy protocols are automatically in effect in showers and bathroom areas, however.” 

“Interesting,” John remarked, glancing over to Nihlus- the turian crossed his arms, instantly understanding what the man was getting at and choosing to remain silent. “Was this an order from Jane?”

“It is not,” EDI replied. “Until the commander takes full command and sets new parameters, I am bound by standing orders and protocols.” 

John just nodded, tapping his fingers even faster. “Would these orders be from an Alexander Sloane?” 

“I apologize, but I am not at liberty to divulge that information,” the AI replied, its tone sounding surprisingly contrite. “Though I am programmed to assist you, there are still blocks in my code that prevent me from releasing certain pieces of information.”

“Translation- he wants the ship cancer to tell him all our secrets,” Joker said with a scowl. “Man, I’m starting to hate that guy.”

“I passed starting a long time ago- I’m tired of his goddamn games,” John said evenly. “EDI, please tell Sloane that John Shepard said to fuck off.”

“Very well,” EDI replied, disconnecting with an audible click.

Nihlus rumbled with amusement, but John frowned. “I think he’s got some code in your AI that’s allowing him access to your comms. Jane’s program shorts out any signals, but it’s only short-range- she’s gotta kick him out herself.”

“And we all know she’s not in any position to do that right now,” Nihlus said grimly. “So what do we do?” 

“Stay quiet until we reach the Citadel,” John advised. “We can figure out a plan once we’re off this ship and Gar is back on his feet.” 

  


When the AI sent the report telling Sloane what John had said, he just laughed. Looks like he’s gotten better over the years, Sloane thought as he packed his bag, rolling his clothes into nice neat bundles and prepping his old dress blues. The man might actually be able to give me a run for my money if he learned to keep his mouth shut… fat chance of that happening, though.

However, he also knew that if he’d figured out exactly what he was doing, then Jane’s next move would be to terminate all his access- he had no doubt that as soon as Vakarian was out of harm’s way, getting him out of the picture would be her next goal. Can’t let you do that, Brainy, Sloane thought as he looked at the terminal, dreading the call he knew he’d have to make. There’s too much at stake to let old grudges take center stage. 

Running his finger over the stack of old comics, Sloane took a deep breath and rubbed his temples, trying to soothe the ache that John always seemed to cause whenever he was around. If you weren’t so important to her, I’d have seen to your removal long ago, he muttered, gritting his teeth at the wrench John had thrown into his plan. Why couldn’t you have just waited until after you lot hit the Citadel to figure this out?

Why are you always trying to compete with Johnny? Jane had asked him once as they watched a movie, tossing kernels of popcorn at his face in an effort to make him laugh. What, are you jealous or something?

He’d just rolled his eyes and ignored her, letting his silent disdain squash the matter and breathing a sigh of relief that she hadn’t chosen to press the issue. Even as a teenager, Sloane knew he’d never tell her the truth- there was no way that he could say yes, he was furious every time his best friend mentioned the brother she idolized. Sloane was the good guy, the one who earned an honest wage, working himself to the bone to dig himself out of the hellhole life had thrown him into. But to Jane, no one could compare to Johnny Shepard, a smooth and irritating miscreant that skated by on charm and bluster as he lied and stole his way through life. He’s going to pull you down, he thought, watching her face alight with joy as she watched the movies he’d scour the library for, stashing them in her hiding place for her to find later. But no matter how much he tried to show her, Jane never saw the boy Sloane did, waving away all of his mistakes with a flick of her wrist- eventually, he just gave up trying. 

Pushing the memories back down where they belonged, Sloane started to get irritated, pacing around his apartment like a wild animal. You aren’t that person anymore, he thought, taking a deep breath and staring at his reflection in the mirror. For a moment, he saw a glimmer of the person he used to be- he started to draw his fist back, but before his temper could flare, a cold realization settled over him. He got ahead because you’re going off old information, he thought as he stared at the datapad on his screen. Just like I’m not the Xander you used to know, you aren’t the Johnny I used to know…but I think it’s time to remedy this. 

Sloane walked over to his terminal, his face once again the picture of calm. “EDI,” he said calmly, “please connect me with John Shepard on a private line.” 

“I’m afraid it’s the night cycle,” EDI replied. “Your previous commands state-”

“I’m well aware of what the previous commands were,” Sloane snapped, growing more and more irritated with the system by the day. Fucking protocols, he growled, closing his eyes and straightening his shirt. Programming was never his strong suit- he preferred breaking into things instead of fixing them. “Just inform him that it’s regarding an urgent matter that concerns his sister.” 

“Understood,” EDI replied. “I’ll secure a channel in the comms room for him.”

Sure enough, after a few minutes, there was a chime and the face of a very tired and angry-looking John Shepard appeared on the screen in front of him, accompanied by a turian with white markings. Must be the spectre, he thought, making a mental note of the companion at his side. Forcing a smile on his face, Sloane settled into his chair, folding his hands. “Good evening, Shepard- I trust you’re settling in ok?”

“Cut the crap,” John said tersely, glaring at him with such heat that Sloane was actually glad to be on the other side of the terminal right now. “What the hell are you playing at around here?” 

“A lot of things,” Sloane admitted, earning an eyebrow raise from the man- John obviously didn’t expect him to be so open. “Obviously, neither you nor I want to talk to each other any longer than we have to, so I’ll make this brief- I’d like to make a deal with you.” 

For the first time in all the years he’d known him, John was quiet- there were no jokes or quips, just stone silence. After a moment, he narrowed his eyes. “That’s strange… you never just make deals out of the blue… if I had to guess, I’d say you must realize that Jane is about to cut you off like an overdue bill, hmmm?”

Once again, faster than I expected, Sloane thought with approval. Might serve me well not to underestimate him this time. “Though your phrasing is crude, the sentiment is sound- I do realize that Jane is about to screw herself in a fit of pique, as we both know she tends to do.” 

“Funny, from where I’m standing, seems like turning off your eyes and ears is a good thing,” John said calmly, his demeanor a far cry from the hotheaded braggart Sloane used to know. “Why should I want to do anything except revel in the fact that my sister is about to give you the biggest digital ass-fucking in the galaxy?” 

“Because I’m not the only one reporting your actions back to the Illusive Man,” Sloane said evenly. “Someone else thinks they have all the information.” He looked down at his hands, feigning disinterest. “Right now, they’re only getting what I think they should know- filters are powerful things, as I suspect you’ve already learned.”

“I’m guessing you mean Miranda,” John said through clenched teeth, his face reddening as Sloane nodded. “Yeah, she’s bitchy, but you’re assuming I give a shit about that- why do I want you over her?” 

“The devil you know is always better than the one you don’t,” Sloane replied, folding his hands again. “Especially since she was willing to let your brother die tonight.” The analyst felt a surge of pleasure at the micro-expressions that were flitting across John’s face and he smiled, continuing with the conversation as if he’d never seen them. “You can thank my ‘digital ass’ for the intercept- helping Vakarian wasn’t something I planned on doing.” 

To his credit, John stayed calm. “So why did you?”

“Because the galaxy needs saving and I prefer to stay alive- pretty hard to accomplish anything if organic life goes extinct,” Sloane replied, his expression completely serious. “Your sister is the one we need, but she needs Vakarian- ergo, it was in my best interest to save him… as it is in your best interest to hear me out.”

John just stared back at him, his arms crossed and his face tight. “I’m listening.” 

“Complete privacy for your team while you’re on board, with the exception of medical emergencies and flight plans in exchange for mission briefings,” Sloane replied, watching the turian in the background closely- he’d been stoic the entire time, but Sloane had no doubt he was listening to every word. “Miranda is reporting everything back to the Illusive Man, but we all know the woman is myopic- I need to know what’s really going on out there.”

“Why should we trust you?” the turian spectre asked, his expression giving nothing away. “I’m not seeing the benefit for us in this scenario.” 

“You may have noticed that certain members of this organization are a bit…human-centric,” Sloane replied. “I, on the other hand, could give less of a shit. I use the tools as needed to accomplish the goal- species doesn’t matter to me.” 

“You put together the dossiers,” John said, earning a quick nod from Sloane. “And you’re the one that was vetting me and Sol.” 

“Don’t waste time repeating things we both know are true,” Sloane said casually, looking away as if the conversation was boring him- in fact, he was finding it quite fascinating, but he had no intention of telling John that. “Do we have a deal or not?” 

“I’m not seeing an upside for us,” John replied, his lips twisted slightly into a frown. “What do we get out of this arrangement?”

“Information and freedom,” Sloane answered, earning himself the first expression he’d seen on the turian’s face. “We know Jane chafes at rules and thrives when she’s given the freedom to operate on her own- however, Miranda is the antithesis of that.”

“When you’re right, you’re right,” John muttered, making Sloane chuckle despite himself. “That woman wants everything done her way- I’m surprised that Janey didn’t punt her through a roof without any of us around to run interference.”

“Jacob is serviceable- his presence was needed,” Sloane replied. “However, this situation is going to get worse before it gets better, so I need people she can trust… and I’m not confident that’s going to be anyone affiliated with Cerberus.” 

“Self-loathing much?” John asked, scoffing derisively. “You’re still wearing their colors, my guy.” 

“A matter of necessity,” Sloane growled, his hackles raising. “Trust me, it’s not my ideal situation, either… but we all make sacrifices.” 

“Yes, because you so look like you’re suffering,” John said, gesturing to the apartment in the background. “Long way from the bricks, Xander.” 

“Call me that again and I’ll make sure it’s the last thing you do,” Sloane snapped, forgetting himself for a moment, then calming himself down- he couldn’t afford to let the man rattle him. “My job is to look out for Jane and run interference as much as I can- ultimately, my goal is to make sure she’s as unencumbered by any Cerberus policies as possible while keeping their purse strings open. I want her best work out here, so if that’s what needs to happen, then that’s what I’ll do.” Sloane straightened his shirt, then stared at the man who had certainly changed over the years- he wouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating him again. “So now that you know the terms, do we have a deal?” 

“Tell Jane yourself,” John said, crossing his arms. “Nih and I won’t decide for her- we’re not that stupid.” Sloane bit back a curse, trying to stop himself from trying to jump through the terminal and killing the man. “ But ,” John continued, causing Sloane to pause, “if she agrees with your terms, then we’ll help- it’s the best I can do.” 

“Fair enough,” Sloane replied, biting the inside of his lip so hard he could taste blood. “I’ll speak with her when you arrive on the Citadel.” 

“Good luck with that,” John replied, shaking his head. “I hope your ass is planning on wearing body armor.” The man smiled, glancing over at the turian next to him. “You know what, scratch that... please, go into that meeting underestimating my sister- I’m begging you.”

“I’ve learned my lesson around that years ago, John,” Sloane replied, being completely honest for once. “And I can assure you, I don’t plan on making that mistake ever again,” 

Chapter Text

  


Solana walked through the ship, trying to ignore the eyes and whispers from the skeleton crew still working this late. “What’s the bird doing on this ship,” one hissed, not even trying to hide his distaste for her. “Thought this was supposed to be a human crew?”

“Seems like the commander picked them up on Omega,” his partner responded. “I hear that one is the brother’s pet… wonder what tricks she does?” 

Her neck burning from rage and embarrassment, Sol just kept walking, refusing to give them the satisfaction of letting them know that she’d heard their hurtful words. They’re just idiots, she told herself, focusing on getting to the yeoman without incident. I just need to get JC and get to my room…that’s all. Staring straight ahead, she refused to look in their direction and made her way to Chambers, who was looking something over on her terminal. “Hi,” she said brightly, forcing a smile on her face, “I’m here to pick up JC… thank you for watching him for me.” 

The woman just looked her over, her smile faltering for a moment as she took in Sol’s tense-looking face. “Sure thing- he’s in my room… do you mind following me to get him?” 

“Not at all,” Sol replied, unhappy about the thought of passing through the crew again but knowing she needed to get her cat. “I’m sure he needs a walk by now.”

Chambers looked at her strangely. “A walk?” 

Sol nodded. “We go for walks every night,” she said as they entered her room, finally used to the strange looks that humans tended to give her when she told them about her cat. “I’ll see if John is awake and we can walk him around the ship.” 

“If you don’t mind, I’ll be happy to walk with you,” Chambers said, watching with interest as the cat nuzzled Sol and tried to hop into her cowl. “This cat seems very attached to you, Mrs. Shepard.”

Floored by the human actually using her married name, Sol let out a surprised chirp and stared at the yeoman, allowing JC the chance to hop into her cowl and start purring. “How did you know?”

The woman blushed, reaching over to pet the cat- JC stretched his head into her hand and purred even louder. “It’s my job to look over the files of Shepard’s crew… when I looked into yours, I noticed that you were listed as her sister.”

“I am,” Sol said firmly, looking her straight in the eyes. “Janey is my sister… always has been, always will be, Miss Chambers.”

“Please, call me Kelly,” she replied, giving Sol a much more sincere smile, then looked over at the untouched food. “Sorry about that… seems like the poor guy hasn’t eaten.”

“He’s just nervous,” Sol said easily, plucking the cat out of her cowl and headbutting it. “He’ll be fine when we get to our room.”

“Does that also go for you?” Kelly asked, earning a confused look from Sol in return. “I don’t mean to pry, but you seemed upset when you came over- is something wrong?” 

Sol thought about hiding it, but ultimately, she didn’t see the point- either the woman would understand or she wouldn’t. “Some of the crew don’t want me here,” she said quietly as she slipped the harness on the cat and grabbed his things. “Johnny warned me that Cerberus didn’t like aliens… I guess I just assumed that most people were going to be like Janey’s old crew.” 

Kelly took the bag from her, laughing as the little cat strutted proudly toward the door and turned to them, meowing as if he was telling them to hurry up. “What an interesting animal,” she mused as they left the room, JC leading the way. “And I’m so sorry to hear you feel that way,” Chambers said softly, glancing over at Sol. “Did something happen?”

“Just people being stupid,” she muttered, focusing her attention on JC as she tried to hurry past the people in the halls. “It happens.” 

“It shouldn’t,” Kelly said firmly, placing an arm on her shoulder. “You’re on the crew now, right?”

Sol nodded. “Yeah… I’m trained as a field medic, but I worked with Doctor Chakwas on the first Normandy- her teachings allowed me to get a job at Huerta as a nurse. I’m honored to be working with her again.”

“Then you have just as much right to be here as anyone else,” Kelly replied, earning a loud meow from JC as they stopped in front of Sol’s door. “Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong, Sol- if Shepard didn’t see how valuable you were, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be here.”

“That’s… really kind of you to say, actually,” Sol said, her sub-vocals rumbling with surprise. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure if there were going to be any nice people on this ship.” 

Kelly stooped down and chucked JC on the chin, smiling up at Sol the entire time. “Then let me be the first to say, on behalf of the crew of the new Normandy, welcome aboard, Mrs. Shepard- we’re happy to have you with us.”

“Thanks,” Sol replied, feeling her neck start to flush. “That means a lot, Kelly.”

  


As Garrus stared around the ruins of his base, he heard a voice from behind him that sent chills up his spine. “Why should anyone want you around, Archangel? Why do you get to live again and they don’t?” 

He didn’t want to turn, but his body did anyway, moving as if pulled by an invisible string. Staring at him was the battered and broken body of Weaver, the young girl’s lifeless eyes glaring at him with searing hatred as her once-blonde hair pressed against her face, matted and black with blood. “We trusted you, Archangel… we all did.” Her right arm hung limply at her side, the gaping bullet wound exposing the ragged flesh beneath her torn shirt. “And in the end, it got us absolutely nothing… we died and Omega rages on.” 

“I’m sorry,” he croaked, shuddering as he watched Butler pull himself up from the floor, the execution-style bullethole in the center of his head as piercing as a third eye. “I never meant for this to happen,” Garrus stammered, backing away as a keen rose in his chest. “I’m so sorry!”

Sorry? ” Butler snapped, blood pooling down toward his mouth. “Will sorry give my child their father back? We told you we needed to slow down, but what did you do? You kept pushing, looking for absolution that was never going to come, Archangel.” He drew closer, the expression on his once jovial face absolutely frightening as his mottled skin stretched into a mockery of the smile he always wore. “How is it fair that you get everything you wanted while we died for your cause?” The dead man scoffed, his glazed-over eyes full of hatred as they locked onto his, his figure close enough to touch him. “You should be with us, Archangel… right there.”

Before he could move, Garrus felt the cold flesh yank his head around, forcing him to see the new bodies in the center of the room. Lying in a smoldering heap on the balcony was his charred armor, curled around a tiny figure, her red blood mixing in a river of his blue. “NO!” Garrus screamed, racing over and gazing into the blue eyes staring up at nothing as he clutched the hand of a lifeless Jane, a smoking bullet hole straight through her once grey eye. “It’s not real,” he keened, cradling her body and rocking back and forth, “I saved you!”  

“It was always her,” Vortash growled, dragging his body along the ground toward him. “You cry for her, but what about us?” The batarian stared at him, none of his eyes blinking as he crawled closer. “You got what you came for- you wanted blood and you got it, Archangel… our deaths are on your hands.”

“I never wanted this!” Garrus howled, squeezing his eyes shut as he felt hands gripping his neck. “I never wanted any of you to die!” 

“Too bad,” Sidonis replied, the detonator in his hands barely visible through the crowd of bodies descending upon Garrus. “That’s what you get for trusting the wrong person,” the turian sneered, clicking the trigger and engulfing the building in a wave of searing flames.

Garrus couldn’t answer- all he could hear was the laughter of his team mixing with his own panicked and terrified screams.

  


The peaceful sleep that Jane had found in Garrus’s arms was quickly shattered by the terrified screams of her husband, jolting her upright so hard she almost fell out of the bed. “Garrus, wake up!” Jane cried, her hands pressing desperately on his shoulders. “Wake up, it’s only a dream, big guy!” Jane hoped she could get him to calm down- she knew that he could do some serious damage if he didn’t get himself together. Taking a deep breath and hoping he wouldn’t accidentally rip her to shreds, she jumped on top of him and pressed her head to his, hoping that the gesture would calm him down. “I’m here,” she said quietly, stroking his fringe as she heard the sounds of Chakwas running over to them. “It’s ok, hon… I’m here… you’re safe.” 

His eyes flew open and a loud keen ripped through him, squeezing her so tightly that she wouldn’t be surprised if he broke a rib. “You’re ok,” he choked out, scanning her face and cupping her cheeks with his hand. “Thank the spirits I didn’t get you killed, too.” 

His choice of words was odd, but Jane decided not to question it right then. “Nope, I’m fine- you got me out the way and we’re here… together.”

“Jane, I need you to move,” Chakwas said quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Garrus, I know you want her here with you, but I need to borrow Jane for a minute, ok?” 

“Don’t leave,” he whispered, his eyes wild and his body shaking as she got off the bed. “Please… please don’t leave… I don’t know what’s real,” he stammered, grabbing her arm and looking pained by the admission. “I need to make sure you’re really here, Jane.” 

“Not leaving,” she said, placing a kiss on his unbandaged cheek. “I’m just going to go and talk to Chakwas, so if you need me, you can call and I’ll come running, ok?”

The look in his eyes was so pitiful and broken she almost started to cry again. “I need you now,” he whispered. “Please don’t leave.” 

Jane just stood there holding his hand, frozen with indecision- she’d never seen her husband in a state like this before. Finally, she relented, resting her head against his again and listening to him settle beneath her. “Okay,” she replied, closing her eyes. “I’m right here, Garrus. I’m not going anywhere.” 

From behind her, Jane heard the doctor sigh, then walk toward Garrus. “Sorry about this,” Chakwas said, injecting a needle into the soft tissues of his neck. Within moments, the turian’s eyes fluttered, then his grip on her hand softened as his arm drifted harmlessly to the bed. “He needs to sleep,” she said calmly. “This should let him rest for a while.”

“Seems like the last thing he’d want to do is sleep,” Jane replied irritably, remembering her own nightmares all too well- she couldn’t think of anything worse than being trapped in them. “Was that really necessary?”

“He needs to detox,” Chakwas said, ignoring her tone. “The anesthesia muted some of the effects, but his body has extremely high levels of stimulants coursing through it- he needs rest and he’s not going to get it without help.” The doctor placed a hand on her shoulder, her eyes kind. “Even though I’m working for Cerberus, I wouldn’t do anything that would hurt any of you. My main goal is to get him through this so he can be at your side again… that’s a promise, Jane.”

Jane sighed, her shoulders slumping forward. “I just want him to be ok,” she said morosely, sweeping a strand of hair out of her face. “No, I need him to be ok.” 

“And he needs you,” Chakwas replied, placing her arm around Jane and looking her over. “You need to sleep,” she said firmly. “We’ve got new members on board that some of your crew isn’t used to… getting a talk from a clear-headed leader won’t be the worst thing to make sure we all get off on the right foot.” 

Instantly, Jane bristled. “Are they fucking with my family?” 

Chakwas sighed. “I can’t say for sure, but judging by Miranda’s attitude earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the crew shares her more… unfortunate tendencies.” The doctor glanced at some of Jane’s scars and sighed. “We need you to take care of yourself, Jane- without you, she’s in charge… and I don’t see that going well.” 

Jane nodded, finally understanding what Chakwas was trying to tell her. “I’ll be in my room,” she said, looking over at Garrus’s sleeping form. “Will you send someone to come and get me in a few hours? I don’t want him waking up alone.” 

“If you promise to get some sleep,” the doctor said carefully, her stern gaze locked on Jane, “then I might be willing to let you pull up a cot and sleep next to him. But,” she warned, “the minute I catch you doing anything other than sleeping, I’m booting you out of the medbay and stationing Kryik outside the door- is that clear?”

“As crystal,” Jane replied, exhaling with relief. “Thanks, Chakwas- this… this means a lot to me right now.”

“Anytime,” she said kindly, gesturing to the cot on the other side of Garrus. “Now get up here and get some sleep before I decide to knock you out too.” 

  


John yawned as he made his way into the room, drained from the events of the day. Welcome back to the Normandy, he thought as he stared at his wife, sitting on the bed and playing with the cat. Never a dull moment with this bunch. But, as John looked closer, he noticed the sad expression on Sol’s face and frowned. “Hey,” he said, settling on the bed and pressing a kiss on her cheek, “how’s my favorite medic?” 

She chirped softly, leaning against him and closing her eyes. “Doing her best,” she said sadly, petting JC. “Won’t matter though… no matter what I do, I’m still just your pet bird around here.”

Instantly, John stiffened and narrowed his eyes. “Why would you say that, Tiny?”

Sol just shrugged, her expression glum. “A few members of the crew said it when I went to pick up JC,” she said quietly, picking up the cat and holding him close- JC gently headbutted her and started purring loudly. “Guess they really don’t like turians on this ship.” 

John bristled, thinking back to Sloane and how he’d warned him about the pro-human sentiments that were skimming the surface and her encounter with Alenko. “Tiny, you ok? Did they hurt you?” 

Sol shook her head. “Nope… just talk.” She leaned against him, letting out a hum that he was pretty sure she meant to be reassuring. “Hey,” Sol said firmly, placing her hand on his cheek, “I’m fine, Johnny… and if they’d tried anything, I am more than happy to show them what a turian biotic can do.”

John laughed, trying to keep himself calm. “That’s my girl,” he said proudly, snaking a hand around her neck and pressing his head to hers. When Sol purred contentedly, JC let out a loud meow. “Hey, no getting jealous,” John said, wagging his finger at the cat. “That’s my wife, buddy.” 

In response, JC just stared at him and walked over to the pillow, plopping on his side and stretching out- Sol just grinned, her mandibles fluttering with amusement. “Looks like someone’s tired,” she said, rubbing the cat’s furry belly. “It’s been a long day.”

“I’ll never understand how you can do that,” John said with a frown, watching the cat close his eyes and purr with contentment. “If anyone else touches his belly, he goes apeshit, but he welcomes the woman with the deadly claws?” He chucked the cat under the chin, shaking his head as JC moved his head for better scratches. “You play favorites, you furry bastard- remember that when you want some of my dinner.” 

Sol laughed again as she took off her clothes, climbing into bed. “Johnny,” she said nervously, “can I tell you something?” 

“Always,” he replied, watching her closely. “What’s on your mind?” 

“Honestly?” Sol sighed, staring at him with tired eyes. “I feel like my emotions are all over the place,” she admitted as she propped herself on her elbows. “On the one hand, I’m relieved that Gar is ok, but on the other…” 

John slid off his pants and took off his shirt, gently moving the cat to the floor. “You’re trying to figure out when’s the best time to smack him upside the head for being an insensitive jackass?” 

Sol nodded, then hummed softly. “Considering what he’s been through, is that terrible of me?” 

John shook his head, then pulled her into his arms. “Nope. He fucked up, Tiny- a rocket to the face doesn’t change that. Granted, it might mean that we have to wait a while before we get the chance to light into him properly, but it doesn’t excuse what he put you and Mom through- you’re allowed to be mad about it… hell, I’m pissed about it too.” 

“I feel like a terrible sister,” Sol said quietly, resting her head on his chest as the lights in their cabin dimmed. “I just got him back and I’m happy about it, but I’m also just so mad…

“Then be mad,” John replied, running his hand along her back and settling it on her waist. “It’s a shitty situation all around, Tiny- like it or not, we just have to deal with it for now.”

“I guess,” she replied, closing her eyes as he ran his fingers over her plates, desperate to give his wife some measure of peace. “I just feel so helpless, Johnny… like I don’t have a place here.” 

“The best thing you can do is sleep,” he said gently, staring at the ceiling and pondering how he was going to bring up Sloane’s offer to Jane. “We can deal with everything else tomorrow, Tiny- no sense worrying about it now.” 

Chapter Text

  


Groggily, Garrus opened his eyes, trying to figure out just where he was- the last few days were a blur. His face ached something terrible, but he could deal with that. Hell, he’d been in constant pain for the last two years, so a few physical aches to match his mental anguish was just icing on the tholam berry cake. What he could not handle, however, was the sight of the hallucination, curled up in a ball and sleeping across from him, wearing his old t-shirt and her blue hair splayed out over the pillow. Sighing, he did what he always did when she showed up- he swiped his hand through her, forcing himself to remember that she wasn’t real, that Jane wasn’t-

“OW!” the hallucination cried out, sitting straight up in the bed and glaring at him while she rubbed her arm. “Why the hell did you just hit me?” 

Garrus just stared at his hand with shock, then reached out to the woman across from him, poking her in the arm with his talon. Her skin was warm and solid to his touch, and the scowl that was spreading across her face with each poke made his heart surge with happiness. “You’re real... I’m not hallucinating.”

Fed up with being prodded, Jane swatted his hand and yawned, the shirt rising and exposing a sliver of what she called her belly button. “Nope, we did this last night, remember? Not a dream, hon.”

Her words made everything come crashing back to him- his team, Sidonis, the firefight… I should be dead with them, he thought morosely, looking down at the bed. It’s not fair… they didn’t deserve that fate.

“Hey,” Jane said softly, getting up and hopping on the bed next to him. “What’s going on?” 

Part of him wanted to tell her everything, but the other part, the selfish part that wanted to keep his Jane with him a little longer, couldn’t bear to open his mouth- Garrus just shook his head. “I can’t,” he whispered, feeling a flutter in his chest when she took his hand in hers, his three fingers interlacing with her five. “Can we not talk about it right now… please?”

“Sure thing,” she replied, her eyes scanning over his face. He knew that his mate was curious, but he also knew that she wouldn’t pry- she understood better than most the need to work through things on your own a little before sharing. Instead, she just frowned, wincing as she hovered her hand just over the right side of his face. “How are you feeling?” 

Grimacing, Garrus remembered what happened and groaned. “Like I got hit in the face with a rocket.” 

“Then I’d say you’re still as astute as ever,” Jane replied, a slow smile creeping across her face. “Seriously, how are you?”

“Better with you here,” he said honestly, still marveling at the fact that she was real and not a product of a sleep-deprived brain, “You have no idea how much I missed you, Jane.” 

Jane scoffed, twisting the hem of her shirt. “Did you miss me enough to help me deal with these Cerberus jackasses?” 

At the mention of the organization, Garrus frowned. “We should probably spend some time talking about that too,” he said, watching her face. “Really, Jane… Cerberus?” 

“Not my first choice, that’s for damn sure- I don’t trust these bastards as far as I can throw them,” Jane said angrily, looking at the floor. “These folks aren’t family, Gar- if I'm walking into hell, I want my family at my side.”

Garrus just stared at her, in awe of just how much she still trusted him. "You realize this plan has me walking into hell, too, don’t you?” When her only reply was a smirk, Garrus huffed a laugh and pulled her close. “Just like old times, huh?” 

“Damn right,” she murmured, resting her head against his chest. “No Shepard without Vakarian. remember?”

  


John was heading toward the medbay, hoping to check on Garrus and Jane. Instead, what he got was the soldier, walking out of a room and looking grim. “Shepard,” he said, nodding at John, “may I speak with you for a moment?”

John looked around the hallway, knowing that until Jane spoke with Sloane, anything he said would be fair game. But, he didn’t have much choice- he had to play nice, after all. “I’m sorry,” he said politely with an apologetic smile on his face, “but I really have to go see about my brother, mister....”

“Taylor,” the soldier replied. “Jacob Taylor.” 

John smiled and patted Jacob on the arm. “Well then, it’s nice to meet you, Jacob… I’ll be happy to talk with you after we come back from the Citadel later, but I really need to-” 

“That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” Jacob interrupted, his tone uncomfortable. “I talked to Lawson about him… she did what she could for Garrus, but he took a bad hit. The docs corrected a lot with surgery and cybernetics, but-”

“I know that,” John replied, trying not to bristle at the implication that Miranda had done anything other than complain and try to let his brother die. “My wife was on the medical team last night, remember?” 

“Your wife?” Jacob said, staring at John with confusion. “I thought that-” 

“Long story short, Shepards just seem to go with Vakarians,” John said tersely. “Now, if you’ll excuse me-”

John tried to move past him, but Jacob put a hand on his arm. John instantly whirled around, looking at the man as if he’d lost his mind- Jacob hastily pulled his hand away. “Look,” he said hurriedly, “I checked in with Lawson this morning- best she can tell, he’ll have full functionality, but-”

“You don’t think he’s fit for duty,” John finished, watching the soldier’s face- his expression confirmed John’s suspicions. “Well it’s a good thing it’s not up to-”

“Hey John,” a dual-toned voice called out from the hallway, making John chortle with amusement. “Are you harassing the locals already?” 

“Tough son of a bitch,” Jacob murmured, staring at the turian in amazement and standing up straighter as Jane appeared behind Garrus, clad in a pair of N7 sweatpants and her hoodie. “Didn’t think he’d be up yet.”

When Garrus just smiled, John knew he’d heard every word. “She wouldn’t give me a mirror,” he said wryly, cocking his head toward Jane. “How bad is it?”

“Hell, Garrus, you were always ugly,” John said with a grin, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. “Slap some face paint on there and no one will even notice.”

Jane scowled and smacked him in the arm, but Garrus just laughed. “Don’t make me laugh, damn it,” he said, rumbling happily as John walked over and gave him a big bear hug. “My face is barely holding together as it is.”

“Serves you right, you overgrown dino cat,” John retorted, slapping Garrus on the back. “You’re lucky you’re all beat to high heaven or you’d be pulling my foot out of your bony ass right now.” He pulled back from the turian, then shoved him lightly in the chest. “Every time I see those damn scars I’m gonna want to kick your ass, Vakarian.”

“I’ll have you know some women find facial scars attractive,” Garrus replied, shooting a glance over at Jane. “Mind you, most of those women are krogan…” 

“Then you married the right one,” John said, laughing as he wrapped his arm around his sister. “I mean, we all suspected this one here was part krogan… that bullshit just proves it.” 

  


Jane inhaled sharply as she stepped off the ship, closing her eyes as she felt the breeze blow through her hair. “I can’t believe I’m back on the Citadel,” she murmured, feeling Garrus’s hand squeeze her own. “It’s been-”

“Don’t want to think about it,” Garrus whispered, placing a kiss on her cheek. He was still quiet and melancholy, but she knew better than to push. I get having things you don’t want the world to know, Jane thought, looking up at his bandaged face. I just hope he trusts me enough to tell me. “We’re here now, ok?”

Jane nodded, forcing herself to put a smile on her face. “And I need to get into my blues- I’m sure I have a set still at the apartment.” She decided not to add ‘because Xander didn’t bring them’- she figured that little nugget was going to be a fun topic of conversation. Might want to pick up some wine if we’re going to talk about that, she thought with a groan. We’re both going to need it. Suddenly, a thought occurred to her, and she frowned. “Wait… do we still have an apartment?” 

Garrus pressed his working mandible tight to his face, staring straight ahead. “We do,” he replied. “I paid for it… just in case I decided to come back.” 

She started to say something else, but the look on his face made it clear he wasn’t interested in elaborating right then. “Good,” she said, making sure to keep her tone light. “Cause you need a shower and some clothes- may as well make one stop, right?”

The turian just grunted, then paused as they waited for the skycar. “What about the others?”

“We’re going to meet at John’s after I finish talking to the council,” Jane replied, glancing around. Sol and John had taken off quickly, but Jane had a few things to do before leaving, namely talking to Chambers and swallowing her pride as she listened to the Illusive Man- Garrus had patiently waited for her. “Apparently, being dead creates a lot of paperwork.” 

“Who would’ve thought,” Garrus said dryly as their ride arrived and they got inside. “But for you, I’ll deal with the forms,” he murmured, nuzzling his face into her neck. “Having you back is worth anything, Jane.” 

“You’re only saying that because you haven’t seen the paperwork,” she replied, pressing her forehead to his and hearing his satisfied-sounding rumble in response. “I can only imagine what meeting with the council is going to be like.”

“You’ll handle it, just like you always do,” Garrus said confidently, placing his hand on the small of her back. “Jane Shepard has never backed down from a challenge before… why start now?” 

“Jane Shepard- Vakarian,” she corrected, earning another happy rumble as he pulled her closer. “Sheesh, did that rocket scramble your brain, big guy?” 

Garrus rolled his eyes. “I need my face to heal a bit more,” he grumbled, running his talons underneath her jacket. “And quickly.” 

“Why?” Jane asked quietly, closing her eyes and feeling the warmth of his plates against her skin. For the first time, she could feel his touch on her back, and she shivered, not used to the sensation. “What’s the rush?”

Garrus didn’t answer right away- instead, he slid his hand up her back, stopping when it reached her shoulder, tracing the smooth and unmarked skin where her bondmark used to be. “Because I’m pretty sure there’s something I need to replace.”

  


“You’re scowling,” Nihlus said simply, looking over at Jane. Her blue locks had been swept back into a bun and she was dressed in her dress blues, though they were hanging loosely on her. “Hopefully, this shouldn’t take long and you should be free to get back to your mate and family.”

Jane just sighed, smoothing a non-existent wrinkle in her uniform. “I gotta be honest, Nih… I’m not looking forward to this in the slightest.” 

Nihlus smiled, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and guiding her into the skycar, locking eyes with John for a moment as he and Sol made their way into the building. “When have you ever looked forward to a meeting with any authority figure, Jane?”

“Never.” For the first time since he’d arrived at her apartment, a smile spread across her face as she settled in her seat. “Good to know you still think I’m me, at least.”

The turian frowned, settling in next to her as they headed toward the council chambers. “Of course I do,” Nihlus replied, staring at her with interest. “Why would you say that?”

“It’s weird… for the first time, I feel like I don’t belong anywhere anymore.” Jane’s shoulders slumped forward, and she closed her eyes. “Like, when I came back and saw Tali, she didn’t believe it was me… I just…”

“I know it’s you,” Nihlus said firmly, pressing his head lightly to hers. “And so does your family, Jane. Everyone will see that… it’s just a shock, that’s all.”

“But what if I’m not me?” Jane asked, her eyes wide. “What if I’m just a collection of spare parts that thinks she’s the real Jane Shepard? I mean come on, Nih, it’s Cerberus… they could’ve-” 

“We’re not going to think this way,” Nihlus shot back, gripping her hands in his. “I know my friend, Jane… and that’s you. And like it or not,” he said, grimacing at the thought and hating that he had to be the one to broach this subject with her, “Sloane seems determined to look out for you, no matter how underhanded his methods are- I have no doubt he wouldn’t be as interested if you weren’t the real you. Plus,” Nihlus said lightly, gently shoving her with his shoulder, “what about your mate, Jane- do you honestly think he’d accept a clone of you?” 

She scoffed, but Nihlus just hummed with amusement. “Do you trust me, Jane?”

“Of course I do,” Jane answered, a slight frown on her face as they got out of the skycar. “What kind of question is that? You’re one of my best friends, Nih.”

“I hardly know if I’m deserving of such a high honor,” Nihlus replied, laughing. “But I’ll accept it nonetheless- can’t have you revoking my privileges.” 

“Keep talking and I just might,” Jane teased, wrapping him in a quick hug. “Thanks,” she whispered, her head resting against his chest. “That means a lot.” 

“Anytime,” Nihlus replied, grateful to have her back with him again. “You know they’re probably going to assign me to your team… just to make sure you aren’t fully indebted to the enemy. Are you ready to have me on board again?” 

Jane shrugged. “Seriously? Are you willing to deal with all these dickheads? What about Ash, Nih? You’re a married man now- sure you want to go traipsing all over the galaxy with me?”

Nihlus just smiled- he had a few thoughts about that. “I’m sure the Alliance might want to send one of their own out to check into what’s going on,” he said noncommittally, staring straight ahead as they headed toward the council chambers. “Anderson may be on the council, but he still holds his rank, you know.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Jane’s mouth started to turn up into a grin- instantly,  Nihlus rumbled with pride. Jane’s grey eyes danced over his face, then the grin turned into a full-blown smile. “Thinking of stacking the deck in our favor, huh?”

He shrugged, making her giggle. “Having people we know on our teams wouldn’t be the worst thing, now would it?” The turian glanced down at her, happy to see her looking proud and confident again. At least she knows we’re here for her, he thought as he opened the doors and ushered her inside. Because when it comes to dealing with this lot, I’m pretty sure she’s going to need all the help she can get. 

  


Sol looked over at John as she unlocked the door to Garrus’s apartment. “Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, he just got back, and-” 

John just stared at her for a moment, then frowned. “You’re stalling, Tiny.” 

“I am,” she replied, her mandibles fluttering as she stood up, watching as the door opened. “It just feels wrong, Johnny.” 

“What feels wrong is my brother and sister breaking into my apartment,” Garrus said dryly, his arms crossed as he leaned against the door frame, staring directly at Sol. “You two are lucky I didn’t shoot you.”

“I knew you could hear us,” John replied blithely, walking into the living room. “Plus, it’s not breaking and entering if you have the door codes. Especially when we’ve been the ones looking after this place for the last two years.” Her mate glared at Garrus, his face tight.” You know, since you decided to leave us high and dry, you ignorant bastard.” 

Sol looked at her brother, humming nervously to herself as she watched Garrus’s face fall. “I couldn’t stay,” he mumbled, turning toward the living room and walking towards the sofa. “Everything here reminded me of her.” 

Instantly, John stiffened- Sol tried to grab his hand, but he broke away. “And you don’t think I felt the same fucking way?” John roared, storming over and shoving the turian in the chest, sending him stumbling backward. “My sister was dead, Gar- if there was anyone you should’ve talked to, it was me!” 

“She was my mate!” Garrus howled, racing forward and shoving John back- Sol’s eyes went wide as she watched the two men scuffle, debating as to what she should do. “Don’t you get it?” Garrus shoved John away again, only to get a biotically charged shove from her mate in return, knocking him onto the sofa. He tried to get up but John held him fast, using his biotics to restrain him. “I tried to deal,” Garrus shouted, his neck flushed with rage as he strained against his bonds. “But without Jane, there was nothing left for me here!” 

“What about us?” Sol asked quietly, causing the room to settle down around her- her brother quit moving, and John took a step back. “We’re your family too, Gar… we were worried about you.”

Garrus sighed, closing his eyes and lowering his head- John released his hold on him, letting the turian’s body slump forward. “Sol,” her brother said, his voice barely audible, “what makes you think that I wanted to see you and him, knowing that I was never going to have what you two had?” 

His hurtful words knocked the wind out of her, causing Sol to let out a strangled gasp. “But I’m your sister, Gar… I love you-”

“And I know that,” he replied, still not looking at her. “Doesn’t change the fact that I hated you for something that wasn’t your fault. I hated everyone… and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. It was either leave or do something I’d regret… so I chose to leave.” 

“The choice was yours to make- I wouldn’t have stopped you,” a voice said from the doorway. “But I’m disappointed you took away our chance to say goodbye, son.” 

Sol whirled around to John, her jaw hanging open- her mate didn’t look surprised in the least, which meant he was in on this. “Mom,” Sol croaked, looking at her mother and father standing in the doorway. “What are you two doing here?”

Her mother’s blue eyes roamed over the room for a moment, coming to a rest on Garrus’s bandaged face and letting out a soft keen as she crossed the room. Her father stood in the doorway, staring at Garrus as if he’d seen a ghost, but her mom had no such reservations-  she sat next to Garrus, pulling him into her arms while he keened softly. “I needed to see my children,” she murmured, resting her head against his and running her hands over his scarred face. “I prayed for you every day,” she whispered, her voice so low that Sol had to strain to hear it. “And now, my prayers have been answered- all of my children have finally come home to me.”

Chapter Text

  


John moved out of the living room, hoping to give the Vakarians a moment alone with their wayward son. True, he was still mad, but he had time to talk with Garrus later- John was pretty damn sure that he would be heading back to the Normandy with them. As he walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, he paused when he felt a hand slip around his waist. “Thank you,” Sol whispered, pressing her brow against his cheek. “I thought we weren’t going to see Mom and Dad until later today.” 

“Didn’t want Mom to have to wait any longer,” John replied, drawing his wife closer to him. “Plus, I didn’t want to have the world implode or give your brother the chance to run away again before talking to everyone- we’ve been through enough. Besides, I don’t think he’s told Jane anything yet,” he said, glancing out into the living room. Garrus was hanging his head, and the rumbles coming from the elder turians made John glad he wasn’t on the receiving end of that conversation. “It’s not fair to her to find out anything like this… Garrus needs to be the one to talk to her.”

Sol hummed in agreement, then led him toward the door- Castis and Yeloris were still talking to Garrus, so no one paid any attention to them. “So, are we going back with Janey, or are we staying here?”

John just stared at her, trying to figure out what she was getting at. “What do you mean, Tiny?” 

“It’s Jane’s mission, not ours,” Sol said quietly. “We have jobs and lives here- she and Gar don’t. I’m not saying I don’t want to go,” she added quickly, no doubt noticing his dumbfounded expression, “but I am saying we need to talk about this- if we leave again, we might not be as lucky this time, Johnny. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?”

He started to protest, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized his wife had a point. When he’d been too out of it to function, she was the one that had taken care of everything, making sure that their household was in order- Sol knew their finances and home situation inside and out, so if she was asking him to think about it, he needed to listen. “I understand if you don’t want to go, Tiny, but-”

She held up a finger to stop him, humming warningly- John immediately stopped speaking. “I never said I didn’t want to go,” Sol admonished, her sharp blue gaze trained on him and making him feel six inches tall. “What I asked was if you had a backup plan. Now, I have one, but I don’t think you’re going to like it, so I’m really hoping you've put some thought into this.”

Not even able to fathom what she might have come up with, John swallowed and hung his head. “If Chellick won’t take me back,” he said carefully, “I can always ask Nih if his offer is still available.”

Sol cocked her head at him. “Spectre training?” When John nodded, she let out a loud rumble, putting her hands on her hips and staring at the ceiling, exasperation written all over her face. “Is that really what you want to do, Johnny?” 

“Honestly? No,” John replied, shoving his hands in his pocket. “I like being able to come home to you every night, Tiny- I love our life.” He smiled sheepishly at his wife, shuffling nervously in the hall. “I enjoy being a detective- I’m much happier doing this than I ever was being a soldier. But,” he said, taking a deep breath, "Janey and Gar are going to need me out there, so if I have to help them...” 

“Sorry to interrupt, but I think I might have a solution,” a dual-toned voice said from behind them. John looked up, finding himself staring directly at Castis. “You want to continue with C-Sec, is that right?” 

Curious where this was going, John just nodded. “I do, sir.”

Castis let out a soft hum, then turned to his daughter. “Solana, do you mind going inside and helping your mother and brother? I need to talk to your mate for a moment.”

Sol looked at John for a second before turning back to her father, letting out a soft chirp. “But Dad-” 

Undaunted, Castis held up a hand. “You can survive without your mate for a few moments, Sol- go and help your mother, please.” 

She opened her mouth to protest, but John shook his head. “I’ll be alright,” he said, placing a kiss on her cheek and lightly tugging her mandible- Sol said she hated when he did that, but it never stopped her from purring every time. “I got this, Tiny- I’ll see you in a bit, ok?”

“You better,” she replied, giving him a quick kiss. “I’ll be inside if you need me.” 

Sol re-entered the apartment with one last look at them and left John and Castis alone in the hallway. When the turian didn’t speak, John cleared his throat. “You wanted to talk to me, sir?”

“You are not what I thought you were,” Castis said, looking him up and down. “Is this truly the life you want, Jonathan?”

John hated when Castis used his full name, but it was better than being called ‘that human’, so he decided to keep his feelings to himself. “It is, but I want to keep Janey and Gar safe out there- I don’t trust that crew, sir,” he said, surprising himself with his honesty. “So, if I have to give up my career to keep my family safe, then I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.” 

Castis nodded, then turned around, staring at the closed apartment door. “And you would want your job back when you return?”

“That would be ideal, but considering all the shit I’ve put Chellick through before, I doubt that’s going to happen,” John said glumly. “If I leave now, my only option is probably going to be spectre training… if Nih will still take me, that is.”

The elder turian turned toward him, a bemused expression on his face. “You don’t wish to be a spectre like your sister?” 

John shook his head. “No. I’d rather be here… I want a quiet life, sir- I’ve done the life of a soldier before, and I don’t want to be on the road all the time. When all is said and done, I just want to be with my family.”

Castis nodded, then placed a hand on his shoulder. “Go… take care of this mission and come back with my children, Jonathan- if you can do that, then I’ll do my best to make sure you can return to your old post.” He rumbled smugly, his mandibles twitching ever so slightly. “Even though I’m retired, I do still have some sway in the department.”

John just stared at him, trying to figure out what to say. “Why would you help me? I thought you hated me, sir.” 

“Castis is fine,” the turian replied, glancing toward the apartment again. “And I’m helping you because you brought my boy back to me, Jonathan. You never hid information from my mate and I, even when it would be easier to do so, and you seem to love my daughter very much.” He sighed, then turned back to John again. “And even though I wish she’d chosen differently, Solana remains bonded to you… so if helping you stay put will keep her happy, then I’ll do what I can to assist.” Castis looked John in the eye for a moment, then huffed. “Spirits know what Chellick sees in you, but he seems to think you’re a decent enough detective- I can only hope that’s a testament to your skills and not to the declining quality of the department, Jonathan.”

At that, John gave the turian a bright grin. “Could very well be both, sir.”

  


Sloane watched as the turian and Jane walked into the council chambers, silently fuming to himself the entire time. I bring you back from the dead and I still don’t warrant an ounce of your attention? What happened to being family, Jane? He took a deep breath, watching as the council doors closed behind them and trying to stop the nagging pain in his chest. After all this time, do you still think I deserve to be cut out of your life like that? Part of him wanted to walk over and snatch Jane away from the spectre, to insist she talk to him and just fucking listen, for once. It’s been years now- I’m not the same guy I was back then… I deserve another chance, Jane.  

As he stared at the room, Sloane clenched his hands in his lap, forcing himself to calm down. You’re right- you’re not the same guy you were back then… and she doesn’t know this version of you. Stop living in the past- there’s nothing there for you now. All you need to do is work on getting her cooperation and leave it at that...you have a job to do, Sloane- Jane Shepard is not your problem anymore.

Tired of fighting his inner demons, Sloane decided to shift his thoughts to something more productive and worthy of his time. Alenko is still on the loose, he thought, gritting his teeth. He’d been checking the feed, noticing the random little crimes that didn’t seem to warrant a closer look and doing a little digging, watching and waiting for all the threads to click together. John might have actually been a good one to send this to… if I didn’t need him here. Fuck me sideways, I may actually need to talk to that idiot of a man- this shit keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

Normally, Sloane could give less than a shit about what Alenko was doing- the man was an absolute piss-stain, and he had more pressing issues at the moment that didn’t involve dealing with the psychotic twatwaffle. But, the man was Udina’s pet, and Udina had fucked him over- bringing the ambassador down in the worst way possible was his goal, but not until he knew what the end-game was. TIM wants you for something, he thought, sifting through Udina’s messages. I just need to find out what it is… and then all bets are off.   

He browsed through the messages, but there was nothing out of the ordinary- meetings with Anderson, meetings with the other councilors, other administrative missives… boring, Sloane thought, stifling a yawn. This can’t be all, he thought, rapidly scanning the list of messages. A greedy sonofabitch like you has to be reaching for shit he can’t have.

Just as he was about to log out, he noticed a message sent a few days ago that had been deleted- Sloane’s eyebrow raised with interest. He never deletes anything… why did he try to get rid of this one? A slow smile spread across Sloane’s lips as he glanced over to the door, checking to make sure everyone was still inside- he needed to read the message, but he also didn’t want to miss his window of opportunity with Jane. Better make this quick, Sloane thought, making short work of the shoddy encryption and almost chortling with laughter when he saw the sender. He let out an undignified snort and a woman walking by stared at him- undaunted, Sloane glared at her until she turned away. Time to do some reading, he muttered, decrypting the messages and excitedly tapping his foot. Let’s see what you’re hiding, Donny.

Ambassador,

Tapped the brother’s desk line- turns out the rumors are true… our favorite spectre is back and working with Cerberus. But, there’s still no sign of that skullface- he hasn’t been back on the citadel at all over the last two years, and the old blue bitch is in the wind. Once you get them to me like you promised, then I’ll proceed as planned. 

-A

Sloane chuckled, tapping his fingers lightly against his lap. Looks like your rabid dog is biting that hand of yours…can’t say I’m all that surprised. Personally, I’m thinking someone should just shoot him and save us all the trouble… and if I’m lucky, it might happen sooner rather than later.

  


Jane supposed that she couldn’t be all that surprised- all things considered, the meeting went as well as could be expected. Just as Nihlus had predicted, Anderson still had her back, and though Sparatus still tried to toss her under the nearest skycar, Tevos was still playing the middle as usual. It’s a damn shame how much nothing’s changed, she thought as walked toward the elevator, leaving Anderson and Nihlus to talk to Udina. Even after wracking her brain, Jane couldn’t come up with a single scenario where she trusted herself not to punch the ambassador in the face, so she just looked over at Nihlus- immediately, the turian had gotten the hint and gestured for her to leave. 

He really is the best, Jane mused as she stepped inside the elevator, resting her head against the wall and closing her eyes for a moment, then letting out a groan as she heard someone else enter the elevator with her. Ugh, can we not do this now, she thought irritably, hoping that whoever was with her didn't turn out to be the chatty type- this was a long elevator ride and she’d had more than enough talking for the day. 

“They’re not actually going to help, you know,” a deep voice said that caused her eyes to snap open. “They’re going to say whatever is convenient and then go back to whatever they were doing… like not giving a shit about anything that doesn’t serve their own interests.”

“Xander,” Jane hissed, clenching her fists and letting out a snarl as she turned toward her unwanted passenger. Sure enough, it was Alexander Sloane, dressed in his blues and staring at her from the other side of the elevator. With a scream of rage, Jane hurled herself at him, punching him square in the nose and causing a small river of blood to trickle down his face. “I’m going to kill you, you lying sonofabitch!” 

She raised her hand to hit him again but Xander moved like lightning- before she could strike again he was in front of her, inches away from her face and pressing something cold and hard against her side. “You get one, Brainy…and that’s one more than anyone else would get, so please don’t try that again,” he hissed, his voice full of menace, “because I’d be terribly upset if I had to shoot you.”

The anger inside her was boiling, too hot to be tempered by something as minor as a gun in her side. “Fuck you,” she snarled, spitting directly in his face. “You can go directly to hell, Xander.” 

Xander didn’t say anything- he just pulled a rag from his pocket, calmly wiping his face as he moved to the other side of the elevator. Standing stock-still, Jane watched as he calmly reset his nose, his blue eyes fixed on her the entire time- she had no doubt that he’d shoot her if she rushed him again. “Seeing as I’m exactly the person I said I’d never become, I’m pretty sure that wish has already been granted,” Xander said evenly, watching her every move. “Care to make another, Jane?” 

“So if I say drop dead, does that mean you’d do it?” Jane growled, balling her fists at her side. “I warned you that I never wanted to see you again, Xander.”

“Be that as it may, we have similar goals for the time being,” Xander replied, taking a step back and giving her some space. “So like it or not, we’re going to have to work together, Brainy- I’d suggest you come to grips with that, and soon.”

She stared at him, noticing he sounded just as he did the last time she saw him- he didn’t have the warm, friendly voice of the boy who’d spend an evening with her watching old movies so she didn’t have to go back to her apartment alone or the friend who’d sold one of his favorite comics to make sure she had the tools to upgrade her omni-tool. No, the man in front of her was cold and unfeeling, using anything and anyone to get what he wanted no matter the cost- he was Alexander Sloane, and Jane hated that bastard with a passion. “And why the hell would I want to work with you?” 

“Because outside of your family, I’m the closest thing to a friend you’ve got on that ship,” Xander replied, sticking his hands in his pocket and crossing one foot over the other. “And also because the only reason you’re not blindly kissing Miri’s ass right now is because of me.” 

Jane snorted, crossing her arms. “Like I’d ever listen to what that bitch had to say.” 

Xander chuckled mirthlessly. “You would if they’d had their way,” he said evenly. “They wanted to fit your feral ass with a control chip- I argued against it and I won.” He leveled a piercing stare at her, the expression in his blue-grey eyes hard. “Don’t make me regret that decision, Jane.” 

“You just want me on your leash and not theirs,” Jane snapped. “What, figured I couldn’t serve you blindly if I was too busy wanking off the illusive man?” She snorted again, rolling her eyes as she stared up at the ceiling- this ride was taking forever. “Don’t worry, he’s too busy with his dick in Miranda’s mouth to worry about me.” 

Xander let out a real laugh at that, and for a moment Jane saw the Xander she used to know before his mask shifted back into place. “As much as I’d love you on a leash,” he replied, causing Jane to look at him with disgust, “keeping you at my beck and call is much less important than staying alive- I made an executive decision. Contrary to what you may think,” he said, his tone softening a fraction, “I am capable of doing things for the right reasons, Jane.”

Tired of fighting for the moment, Jane sighed. “Could’ve fooled me,” she said bitterly. “Scratch that...you did fool me, Xander- not interested in doing it again.”

“I helped bring you back from the dead, Brainy,” Xander said softly. “Doesn’t that at least count for something?”

Jane just stared at him for a moment, then put a hand to her ear, pretending to listen intently. “That’s strange,” she said sarcastically, “I was wondering if there was an apology for the hell you put me through lumped in there somewhere- guess I was hearing things.” 

“Even if I did apologize,” Xander said, closing his eyes, “what good would it do? It’s not like you’d believe me anyway, so why bother? I’ve tried saying I’m sorry ten thousand ways from Sunday and it’s never worked- the only thing left to do is show you.”

Thankfully, the elevator stopped and the doors opened- she started to make a break for it, but Xander raised his leg and shoved a foot in the door, effectively blocking her path. “Not touching you,” he said quietly, making her laugh despite her irritation- it was the method he used to use when they were younger, knowing how much she hated being touched or held down. “The galaxy needs you,” Xander said, lowering his foot and falling into step next to her. “And like it or not, you need me, Brainy… let me help you, please.” 

“Why should I?” Jane asked, staring up at him- he was always taller than her, but he was built differently now and the change she saw was jarring. “Why do you give a shit, Xander? If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was a helluva lot of effort to try and get into my pants when you know I’m already married.” 

He rolled his eyes. “Must you always be so crude?” Xander glared at her for a moment before sighing with irritation. “Saving all life as we know it is a bit more pressing than having what I’m sure would be mediocre sex with you, Jane.” 

Part of her wanted to protest this fact out of sheer pride, but the adult in her told Jane to let it go. “Fine,” she said, forcing herself to keep to the topic at hand, “but that still doesn’t tell me why you’re trying to help now.” 

“Because I don’t want to be who you think I am,” Xander said softly as they reached the exit. “I know I’m not the good guy I thought I was, and I get that, but I am going to put this right, Jane… one piece of the puzzle at a time.” 

She raised an eyebrow as she walked toward the skycar. “So is working for Cerberus part of that plan?”

Xander nodded, flagging down a car. “It is, yes.” 

She sighed, feeling the start of a headache coming on. “Am I going to regret this?”

“Probably,” he admitted, opening the car door for her. “But we both know you don’t have a choice in the matter… so let’s save our energy for other things, shall we?” 

She stepped inside the car, glaring at him the entire time. “Sometimes I wish I never met you, Xander.”

Sadness flashed across his face for a moment, but just as quickly as it came it faded away, leaving nothing but hurt and anger. “Well, you did, so why don’t you just go and deal with your little ragtag family so we can get back to work,” he snapped, his expression icy. “Just remember that you still have a job to do out here… and this family reunion of yours doesn’t count as a priority to me.”

Chapter Text

  


Jane scowled all the way to her apartment, working to calm herself down. Who the fuck does he think he is, she fumed, getting angrier every time she thought about her run-in with Xander. I don’t owe that bastard a goddamn thing... except wedging my foot so far up his ass that he tastes the dirt from my shoe. As soon as I get back on board, I’m frying every goddamn camera and microphone and planting a tracker on that fucker- let’s see how you like it when the Alliance is clawing up your ass, you evil sonofabitch

Blowing a renegade hair from her face, Jane opened the door and was instantly surprised to see all the Vakarians and her brother in the living room. “Um,” she said slowly, glancing around the unexpectedly full room, “I thought we were meeting at your place, Johnny.” Her stomach growled, and Jane brought her hand to her belly, hoping to muffle the noise. “Since, you know, there’s no food here and all.” 

“Figured Mom and Pops needed to talk to your husband before he pulled another disappearing act,” John said casually, then frowning as he took one look at her face- immediately, he leaned closer to whisper in her ear. “What happened?”

Even though he was quiet, all the turians were now looking at them with interest- darn that hearing of theirs, Jane thought with a sigh, covering her face with her hands and staring at the floor. “Hi mom,” she said quietly, not wanting to look at the woman. “I’m so sorry… I wasn’t fast enough-”

Before she could continue, Jane felt strong arms wrapped around her shoulders accompanied by a soft, rolling hum. “Little one,” Yeloris murmured, running her hands over Jane’s head, “whatever would you be sorry about?”

It felt so good to be with her family again that Jane almost started sobbing. A family you got to see again because of Xander, a voice nagged in the back of her mind. “I let Garrus get hurt,” she whispered, clutching the folds of Yeloris’s dress. “I should’ve got there sooner… I should’ve looked around, disabled all the ships… I was too focused on getting to him.” 

“The situation my son finds himself in is his fault, not yours,” Yeloris said sharply, shifting toward Garrus- from the other side of the room, Jane could hear him let out a sad-sounding rumble. “You, on the other hand, are blameless- in fact, we should be celebrating you for bringing him home at all, Jane. Two years,” his mother snapped, glaring at Garrus as she straightened up. “It wasn’t enough that I lost you, little one,” she said, her voice shaking, “but then I ended up losing him too.” 

Dumbfounded, Jane just stared at Garrus- he hadn’t told her that he’d cut off everyone. “Gar-” 

“Another time,” John said quietly, causing all the eyes in the room to shift to him. “Though he deserves a world-class ass-chewing, I think you two should talk about that when we aren’t here.”

Garrus nodded, looking down at his feet. “Thanks, John.” 

John just rolled his eyes, then sighed as he turned back to Jane. “Question still stands- what the heck happened today? You look ready to commit murder, Jane Brain.”

She thought about shutting down, but a light nuzzle from Yeloris made Jane sigh. “What’s wrong, little one?” 

“It’s everything,” Jane said, exhaling and closing her eyes for a moment and twisting her hands together- within seconds, she felt Garrus pulling her into his arms. “I’m back, but the council doesn’t trust me, Udina still wants my head, and Sloane is still sticking his goddamn nose in my business.” She sighed, resting her head against her husband’s chest. “There’s just too much going on.”

Instantly, she heard Garrus let out an angry rumble. “Sloane… I haven’t heard this name before… who is he?”

“I have,” Sol said quietly, causing all the heads in the room to swivel around to her. “He was at… your funeral, Janey,” she mumbled, chirping nervously. “Came up to me and offered his condolences.”

John’s face was a deep purple as he walked over to his wife, his hands balled into fists. “Hold the fucking phone,” he snarled, pausing to keep himself calm. “That bastard was near you, Tiny?” 

Sol looked at John warily, then nodded. “Yeah… he said he knew her from a long time ago… I never saw him again after that.” 

Jane glanced over to her brother, who looked ready to rush out the door. Slowly, she tapped a few keys on her omni-tool, then pulled up an image on the terminal. “Sol, was this the man you saw?”

“That’s him,” she said, tapping her talon on the screen. “He was older and a little bigger, but yeah…that’s Commander Sloane.” 

John started to say something, but Yeloris held up a hand and cut him off as she walked closer to the terminal. “That’s him,” she whispered, peering at the screen. “That’s the waiter, Johnny.”

John’s jaw dropped, staring at Yeloris as if she’d lost her mind. “You can’t be serious, mom- that cannot be the same guy.”

Yeloris nodded, her expression firm. “I am… the eyes are the same, John… unless he also has a twin, that is the same young man that saved me and Nana- if he knows you, then why did he not want to be noticed? He did a good thing that day- I’d like to thank him.” 

“That might be because the Alliance wants him rotting in a jail cell,” John growled, holding Sol tightly. “After all this time, I can’t believe that bastard has the nerve to even show his face around here.”

“Why is that?” Garrus asked, looking back and forth between John and Jane, no doubt wondering just what was going on. “What did he do?”

“He’s a murderer,” John growled, his face a thundercloud. “He used to be an operative with the Alliance…After the Blitz, Xander got orders to capture a group of Batarians. Apparently, to him, capture meant ‘kill everything in sight’- he ended up slaughtering every single batarian up there, even the ones that surrendered.” John fumed, turning his head to glare at Jane- instantly, she looked away. “When all was said and done, Sloane got over three-fourths of his unit killed in the process.”

Castis rumbled, folding his hands behind his back. “And you honestly mean to tell me that this horrible man is the same human that went out of his way to save my mate?”

“Yep… wouldn’t joke about something like this,” John said grimly, his shoulders tight and his face pinched. “Everyone’s favorite savior is none other than the former Lt. Commander Alexander Sloane… also known as the Butcher of Torfan.”

“And now he’s a sociopath that works for Cerberus,” Jane grumbled, not letting go of Garrus’s hand. “Which just makes this whole thing a lot more complicated.” 

“Complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it,” John said irritably. “Seeing as he’s the one that brought you back from the dead and saved Gar’s life.” 

  


John tried to stay calm, but it was requiring a lot more effort than he was willing to give. Honestly, he wanted to punch something- the idea of that man not only being on the Citadel with them right now was maddening, but the thought of that bastard being anywhere near his sister, wife, or mother was enough to send him into fits. I hate that man, he thought, shaking with rage. I don’t know what he wants or what he’s playing at, but I do know one thing… it isn’t good

“Why would he help?” Garrus asked, snapping John back to reality for a second. “He’s a murderer- this is established. But that doesn’t explain his interest in Jane… or our family.” 

John just glared at his sister, trying to temper the irritation he was feeling. “Sloane’s a few years older than us,” he said slowly, forcing the words from his mouth. “He was the janitor at the local library… made friends with this one,” he spat, cocking his head toward his sister. “Me, I was never a fan- he never outright said it, but I could tell that he always thought he was better than me.” John paused and waited for Jane to say something, but his sister remained silent- he continued. “He joined the Alliance sometime after we left for Omega, and I thought that was the end of it. Turns out I was wrong.” 

Garrus glanced at his parents for a moment before turning his attention back to Jane, who looked like she wanted to disappear. “Jane,” he said carefully, “what’s wrong?” 

“Nothing,” she muttered, biting at her fingernails and shrinking in on herself. “Look, I’m… I’m just gonna go change out of this uniform, ok?” 

John tried to catch her attention but it was no use- Jane had already scurried off into the bedroom and shut the door. He could tell that she had no desire to dredge up that part of her life, and he was conflicted about putting her past out there for everyone to see. Part of John wanted to say that Jane should feel like shit- she’d trusted the bastard even when he’d warned her that Sloane wasn’t worth a damn, and she deserved everything she’d gotten and more. But the other part, the rational part, knew his sister thought that she was helping a friend- her intentions had been pure. Whenever he’s involved, shit gets fucking complicated, John thought, shaking his head at the door. Always has been, always will be. 

Glancing over to the turians, he put a hand to his head and pressed his fingertips into his forehead, wrinkling his skin and trying to soothe the throbbing that was building behind his eyes. “Mom, can you and Castis head back to our house? Tiny and I haven’t eaten anything all day, and I am seriously ready to start gnawing on someone’s leg- do you mind ordering something  for us to eat?” 

Yeloris was smart enough to see what he was doing- the turian walked over and pressed her head to his, letting out a soft, soothing rumble. “I have learned how to cook human things, son- I think I can manage a nice, home-cooked meal for my children.”

John blushed and ducked his head, running a hand through his curls. “Aw, you don’t have to do that, Mom- we can order something… it’s not a big deal.” 

The turian let out a rumble that sounded suspiciously like a warning and lightly squeezed his hand. “That’s funny, it almost sounded like my son is talking back to me and telling his mother what to do…” Yeloris looked around the room, her gaze falling on Sol and Garrus. “Is that what you two heard as well?”

Sol looked away, but Garrus just grinned. “I think I heard that too, Mom,” he replied, his tone teasing. John stuck his tongue out at him, but Yeloris lightly yanked one of his curls- Garrus grinned even harder. “Seems like you should do what you did to me and Sol whenever we stepped out of line, Mom.” 

“I would,” Yeloris replied, glancing over at John, who swallowed nervously, “but he doesn’t have plates.” John’s eyes opened wide, but the woman just laughed. “Go… take care of your sister,” she said lightly, resting her head against his. “Your father and I will see you all for dinner.”

  


When Jane took off for the bedroom, Garrus wanted to immediately run after his mate- it was only after his father gently rested his hand on his arm that he stilled. I can’t stay here, he thought, struggling to keep himself still. She’s hurting and I need to help her. 

But, even with the conflicting emotions, he knew enough to respect the way Jane worked. She’ll talk if we don’t push her, he remembered, thinking about how she used to get after her therapy sessions. She needs time to process. “Will the galaxy stop trying to eat itself long enough for us to have a family dinner?” Garrus joked, trying to keep his voice even as his parents left the apartment. “It hasn’t wanted to give us a break so far.”

Sol rolled her eyes, then headed toward the bedroom. “We’re going to make time,” she said firmly, opening the door. “It’s been two years- the universe can wait for us to have one damnable dinner.” 

“If that’s what my wife wants, then I’m not going to argue with her,” John said casually, following after Sol. “Gonna join us?” 

Nodding, Garrus followed after him, still feeling ill at ease in his own home. It’s like walking into the past, he thought, looking around the bedroom and feeling his heart sink as he watched his wife sitting on the edge of the bed, her blue hair draped over her face as she stared at the wall. “Hey,” he said softly, nuzzling her neck and feeling the soft blue hairs tickling his plates, “what’s wrong?”

She didn’t answer- instead, she just leaned over, wrapping her arms around his waist. He fought back a shiver of delight at the sensation, but he knew it wasn’t the time- instead, he glanced over at John, who was resting against the doorframe. “Can’t read your mind,” he whispered, lightly rubbing her back. “Mind telling me what’s wrong?”

John let out a loud sigh, sticking his hands in his pockets and staring at the floor. “Can I tell him, Janey?” 

At first, Jane didn’t move, but soon Garrus felt her shift against him. “A long time ago,” she said quietly, “I fucked up, Gar… I fucked up really bad.” Not wanting her to stop, Garrus just continued to rub her back and stay silent, giving her the space she needed to talk to him. “When I joined the Alliance, I wasn’t supposed to be a soldier... I was supposed to be an analyst.”

Garrus raised his brow-plates but stayed silent. That’s news to me, he thought, looking at the woman in his arms. From the way she shoots, you’d think that being on the front lines was always her goal. “Why’d you switch tracks?”

“Sloane found me one day,” Jane replied, still not looking at him. “Said he needed help, that he was being framed.” She stayed still for a moment, not saying anything- Garrus wanted her to continue, but he didn’t want to push her. After a few more beats, she sighed and continued. “I’d heard the stories about what had happened on Torfan, but I didn’t believe it- I asked him if it was true and he said no, that they’d twisted the story… he asked for my help to set the record straight.” 

“Spoiler alert,” John said grimly, walking over and sitting next to them, “the stories were all true.” Jane lifted her head at the interruption, but John’s face remained hard. “Sloane tricked Jane into breaking into confidential systems…but since he was already booted, she was the only one on the hook. So when all hell broke loose, guess who took the fall for it?” 

Garrus let out an involuntary chirp, then stared down at his mate, thoroughly confused. “Not that I’m not grateful, but how are you still Alliance? That kind of offense is worthy of a court-martial, Jane.” 

“Because of Johnny,” Jane said quietly, glancing over at her brother. “He saved my ass.”

John nodded, looking down at the floor and resting his hand on Jane’s leg. “Being the ‘hero of Elysium’ was good for something, at least- got Janey busted down to infantry instead of a court-martial… thought she might quit, but Janey made the most of it.” John shook his head and laughed. “Decided that if she had to be a grunt, then she was going to be the best damn one the Alliance ever saw… from where I’m sitting, she made good on it.”

“I’d say,” Garrus replied, looking down at Jane and letting out an approving rumble. “I don’t care what happened back then,” he said, hoping that one day she might feel the same way about him. “I’m just glad you’re here with me now.” 

Jane let out a sound that was a cross between a snort and a laugh, clutching him tighter as she shook her head. “He used me,” she said bitterly. “Xander was my best friend… trusting him almost cost me everything- I almost lost my family, my career, my freedom…” Her voice trailed off, letting the words just hang there. “How am I supposed to reconcile that with him saving my life? Or saving yours… or Mom’s?” 

Garrus sighed, not really having a good answer. “We all do things we aren’t proud of,” he said quietly. “But if you really want to know why he did it, then I think he’s going to have to be the one to tell you that.” 

“Like I’d ever get a straight answer out of his ass,” Jane growled, her tone sounding more hurt than angry. “He’s a fucking snake, Gar.” 

“Snake or not, you’re going to have to talk to the man,” John said irritably, glancing over at Garrus- instantly, he knew there was far more to this situation than they were saying. “Looks like there’s a few things we need to talk about, Janey.” 

  


Sloane was sitting in the Dark Star Lounge, sipping his drink and debating on the merits of letting the asari dancer do more than try to fuck him with her eyes. I’m really not in the mood and you aren’t the least bit useful to me, he thought, ignoring her obvious attempts at flirtation. I’ve got more important things to do right now.

However, if he were honest, Sloane knew he was really still smarting from his encounter with Jane earlier. He’d foolishly hoped they could come to some sort of truce, but every time she looked at him, Sloane could see the outright disdain for him in her eyes. The only one who ever gave a shit hates me, he thought bitterly, taking a sip of his drink and letting the brandy burn his throat. Serves me right for being foolish enough to think Janey would ever listen to anything I had to say- I doused that bridge with gasoline years ago. 

Resting his head against the back of the booth, Sloane closed his eyes, letting the music thump in his ears- I just need to think, he thought, tapping his foot in time with the music. A moment to get my bearings, that’s all

“Thought you were always a Thessian sunrise kind of guy,” Jane said, sliding into the seat across from him. “Since when did you start drinking the posh shit?”

Sloane looked at her for a moment, then closed his eyes again. “Fuck off,” he mumbled, knowing he was being petulant but not caring at the moment. “You’ve made your feelings perfectly clear, Jane- we can have any further conversations when we return to the ship.” 

“We?” Her startled tone caused him to open his eyes, a smirk creeping across his face. “What’s this ‘we’ business?”

He sat up straighter, suddenly interested in the conversation- anything that unnerved her was something that he could use. “You’re a brat,” he said snippily, never taking his eyes off her- to his delight, her gaze was firm. “I’m heading back with you… seems that you can’t be trusted, Jane.” 

At that, Jane’s petite features twisted with rage- he could feel the irritation coming off of her. “ I… can’t be trusted?” Jane leaned forward, and Sloane could see the tightness in her body- she was ready to strike. “You’ve got a lot of nerve, Xander… trusting you cost me everything!”

The venom in her words made him flinch but Sloane quickly recovered, leaning across the table so he could be sure that she’d hear every word. “And I know that,” he hissed, almost nose-to-nose with her. “What do you want me to say, Jane? That I fucked up? That I ruined everything with the only person that actually gave a shit about what happened to me? Guess what- I already know that!” 

He was shouting now, a horrible combination of drinks and raw nerves- luckily, the music in the club was too loud for anyone to hear his loss of control. Throwing himself back against the booth, Sloane sighed, closing his eyes and trying to get his shit together- you’re not that man anymore, he told himself, willing his pulse to stop racing. What’s done is done.

“Why are you here?” He asked, hoping to steer the conversation back to areas he could control. “You said your peace earlier, remember?”

Jane didn’t respond for a moment- she just stared at him with something akin to hatred mixed with pity. “Because I had to say thank you,” she replied, not taking her eyes off him. “You saved my husband and you got Cerberus to bring me back… even though it doesn’t change what you put me through, I’m not stupid enough to pretend I don’t owe you for that.” 

“You don’t owe me anything,” he said quietly, picking up his drink and watching as her eyes shot into her hairline. “I mean it,” he said quickly, finishing the last of the brandy and signaling for the waitress to bring two Thessian Sunrises. “I’m not going to pretend that I don’t need your help- make no mistake, I wanted you to work with me for a reason, and that hasn’t changed. But,” he said, taking the drink and setting it down in front of her, “I want you to help me with your eyes wide open this time… no more games.” 

“Why?” Jane asked, sipping the drink carefully and watching his every move. “Why now? Why couldn’t you be honest back then, Xander?” 

Sloane shrugged. “Young and dumb, I suppose.” He took a sip of his drink, relishing in the sweetness- from across the table, he saw Jane smirk at him. “Do you remember the day we snuck into that bar and convinced them that we were celebrating your birthday?” He looked at the drink in his hand, shaking his head. “We drank these all night… convinced ourselves that we were classy.” 

She snorted, taking a sip and glancing away. “Had to call Johnny to come and get us because we walked outside the bar and decided we were going to live there,” she said quietly. “You said you were going to swear off drinking for the rest of your life the next day.” 

“I lied… what else is new?” Sloane asked, bringing the glass to his lips. “Some lies are just more palatable than others, I guess.” When she didn’t say anything, he sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, moving even further away from her. “I fucked up, Brainy.” 

“You did,” she replied, still not looking at him. “But I accept your terms- no monitoring in exchange for reports… can you honor that, at least?” 

Sloane stared at her for a moment, calculating his options- Jane never gave in this easily. “Now I need to ask- what’s your game?”  

Her eyes settled on him, and unlike Sloane, Jane didn’t try to hide the hurt on her face. “No games… just being rational. You watched out for my family, Sloane, and no matter how I feel about you and your motives, I’m thankful for that. I want my privacy, but I also know Miranda is a bitch, so if I have to make a choice between you and her, at least I know you.” Jane took a sip of her drink, then shook her head. “Well, I used to, anyway.” 

For the first time in years, Sloane felt ashamed- same old Brainy, he thought sadly, looking at the woman in front of him and finally feeling the magnitude of how much he’d fucked up. No matter what, family comes first… and I used to be included in that. Pride goeth before the fall, I guess, Sloane mused, sipping his drink and looking away. “I accept,” he said, lowering his gaze to hers, hoping this tentative peace would last- he still needed her, but for once, he wanted to do things the right way… like she did. “Now, tell your husband he can stop skulking in the corners,” Sloane said, finishing his drink and rising from the table. “Besides, I’m sure he and John would be quite interested to join in on this conversation when we get back to the ship.” 

Chapter Text

  


Jane looked over at Garrus, who was frowning as they left the bar. “Hey,” she said softly, placing a hand on his arm, “are you ok?” 

Garrus let out a rumble, squeezing her hand. “I don’t like the way he looks at you, Jane,” he said after a moment. “He’s planning something.”

She started to say something flippant, but something about his tone made her pause, staring at him with interest as they made their way to the skycar. “Garrus,” she said slowly, watching his expression carefully, “are you jealous?” 

To his credit, he didn’t lie. “It’s been two years,” he said, his voice so low she had to strain to hear it. “Things change.” 

“Not for me,” Jane replied, resting her hand against his unscarred cheek. Before he could say another word, she stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his, hoping she wasn’t hurting him. “I’ve got everything I want right here… and I couldn’t be happier.” 

Garrus rested his head against hers, letting out a soft purr. “I wish I could believe that,” he said softly, resting his hand against her hair. “Spirits, you don’t know how much I want that to be true, Jane.” 

Confused, Jane stared up at him, scanning his blue eyes to see if he was serious. When she saw sadness and regret instead of humor, she frowned. “I would never lie about that,” she said, running her fingers over his unscarred plates. “No Shepard without Vakarian, remember?” 

Watching as the conflicting emotions flitted over his face, Jane sighed. “Does this have anything to do with what happened on Omega?”

The look on his face told Jane everything she needed to know, but he continued anyway. “It does,” he said quietly, shifting his gaze to the approaching skycar. “I don’t deserve you, Jane… I want you with all my soul, but I… I’m not the same as I was when you left.” He hung his head, letting out a dejected-sounding hum. “I… messed up, Jane. I messed up… and a lot of people got hurt because of it.”

Jane sighed, taking his hand and bringing it to her lips. “Let’s talk about this at home,” she said, pulling him toward the vehicle. “I’ve got one night on the Citadel, and I want to spend it next to you.” 

“Are you sure?” Garrus asked, squeezing her hand as they entered the car. “You’re not obligated to-”

Jane sighed, then punched in the address of the apartment. “Even though I don’t have my mark, I still seem to remember us signing a marriage contract.” Then she frowned, not letting go of his hand as she turned to look out the window. “I mean...if you still want to be married, that is.”

Garrus let out a rumble, resting his head on her shoulder. “More than anything.” 

Jane shifted, looking in awe at the turian sitting next to her. “How do you still want me after all this time? I thought… I thought you’d forgotten about me,” she admitted, looking away. “When I heard two years had passed, I thought-” 

“I love you just as much now as I did back then,” Garrus said firmly, his blue eyes reflecting the lights of the city as they drove along. “You’re my mate, Jane… that never changed. And even if you don’t want me anymore-”

At that, Jane cut him off by draping a leg over Garrus’s lap, straddling him and letting the blue strands fall in his face. “I will always want you,” she replied, pressing her head to his. “I might get mad or be disappointed in you, but there is nothing that you can ever do that will make me stop loving you, understand?”

When he started to protest, Jane cupped his cheeks with her hands and pressed her lips to his, moaning a little at the feel of him in her hands. It’s been too long, she thought, running her hands over his fringe. I missed him so much

Suddenly Garrus groaned, snapping Jane back to her senses. “Oh my god, I’m sorry! I forgot… I didn’t mean to... “ She sat back, flipping her hair out of her face. “Did I hurt you?” 

Garrus just stared at her and shook his head slowly, looking as if he was in a trance. “Never,” he said huskily, hurriedly reaching forward and enveloping her in a long, deep kiss. 

  


Garrus didn’t care about the car, the city, or anything at that moment- all that mattered was Jane, warm and soft in his lap as he explored her mouth with his tongue. It had been so long that he’d thought he’d forgotten what it was like to kiss her, to be so close and yet not close enough. Spirits, I missed you, he thought, grabbing her by her waist and moaning as she rolled her hips over his sheath. I never thought I’d get to hold you like this again.

Once, in a drunken stupor, Sidonis had convinced him to get a lap dance from a stripper, saying he needed to release some stress before he did something he’d regret. She’d gyrated on him, writhing in pretend ecstasy, but it was of no use- his plates remained closed and his heart remained broken, paying the woman for the effort and in the hopes that he’d never be forced to endure something like that again. But now, with Jane in his lap and her tiny body pressed firmly against him as she grasped his fringe, Garrus couldn’t stop the rumble building in his throat and the feeling of his plates shifting. I want her now, he thought, the heat and warmth from between her legs as he ran his hands under her shirt, feeling the soft skin beneath his fingertips. I can’t wait anymore.

“Spirits,” he breathed, rumbling as his plates spread open, making him wish that they were home already. “You have no idea how close I am to ripping these pants off you.”

Jane pulled back, smirking at him as she crept her hand into the waistband of his pants. “I think I have an idea,” she murmured, closing her eyes as her hand wrapped around him. “Someone’s eager.” 

“It’s been two years,” he groaned, tossing his head back and rumbling with pleasure. “Eager is an understatement, Jane.”

“So there was no one else?” Jane asked, her gaze locked to his as she slid her hand up and down, twisting her palm along the ridges of his shaft. “I was… gone, Gar- I wouldn’t have blamed you.”

Leaning forward, he snaked his tongue out, tasting the salt and sweat on her skin. “There was never anyone else,” he murmured. “As I said before, I’m yours, Jane...forever and always.” 

“That’s good,” she whispered, removing her hand and pressing them both against his waist, “because I’m not going anywhere.” 

The sensation of her hands against the sensitive part of his skin sent a shiver through his body, causing him to let out a deep growl as he nipped her neck. “If you keep that up, I’m going to end up bending you over in this car.”

“You could try,” Jane said teasingly, pulling his pants up and ignoring his pouty expression, “but I don’t think it’d be worth the effort or the jail time.”

“I think it might be,” he purred, pulling her against him and dipping his finger into her pants. Just as he thought, she was warm and soaking wet, which only made him angrier at the clothing standing in his way. “You don’t need these pants, right?” 

“Calm down, big guy- you can wait five minutes,” Jane said, dragging her warm little tongue across his neck and nipping him lightly. “We’re home.”

Stunned, Garrus just looked at her, unable to say a word as she got out of the car. It was as if the world had frozen around him, winnowing away everything until only the two of them remained. “Say that again,” he croaked, feeling like he was suspended over a cliff. He was vaguely aware of them moving, but it didn’t matter- he just needed to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. “Please,” Garrus whispered, pulling her next to him as the elevator doors closed, “I need to hear you say that again, Jane.” 

Not removing herself from his embrace, Jane wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up at him, her grey eyes bright and hopeful. “I said we’re home, Garrus… we finally made it home.” 

As soon as the words left her lips, Garrus felt all the emotional turmoil of the past two years come crashing down around him- he let out an ear-splitting keen and pulled her close, his body shaking as he buried his face into her hair. “I was so lost,” he sobbed, unable to move- he was terrified that if he took a step away from her that he’d find himself back on Omega and alone, stuck in a world without her. “I can’t do this without you, Jane.” 

“And you’ll never have to,” Jane replied, rubbing his back. “I’m not going anywhere… I’m staying right here.”

  


Jane wasn’t sure how long they stood in the elevator, but finally, she managed to get him inside the house, shutting the door behind them. “So,” she said brightly, her voice full of forced cheer as she took his hand, “what’s on the agenda for the evening?” 

Garrus didn’t answer- instead, he just laced his fingers in hers and walked toward the bathroom. Every few steps he’d look over his shoulder, almost as if he were checking to see if she were really there with him. Something happened to him, Jane thought worriedly, lightly running her thumb over his hand. But whatever it is, it’s consuming him...

She remained quiet as they entered the room, watching as Garrus sat on the bed, staring up at her and holding her hands. Finally, he pulled her into his lap and rested his head against her “Talk to me,” she whispered, lightly running her hands over his fringe. “Nothing you can tell me is going to make me love you any less, Garrus- it’s just that I can see you’re hurting,” Jane admitted, staring at a point across the room. “And everything inside me is screaming at me to fix it and it tears me apart to know that I can’t- all I can do is be there for you.” She ran her hand over his undamaged cheek, tilting his head up so he could look at her. “I love you,” she murmured, pressing her head to his. “Please, at least let me be there for you… like you always are for me.” 

For a moment, Jane wasn’t sure he was going to speak, but after a few minutes, she felt his hands tighten around her waist and his head snuggled into her side. “When you… left… I ran away,” he said quietly. “I couldn’t stand to be here anymore- this place reminded me of you.” Garrus sighed, a soft rumble coming from his throat. “This place was ours… our home,” he forced out. “And when you were gone, there was nothing left- everywhere I looked, I saw your face… and even when I went to Omega, I still kept seeing you.” 

She shifted ever so slightly, and his grip tightened, pulling her so close that she ran her hand over the shoulder with his bondmark in the hopes of getting him to relax. “What do you mean?” Jane asked, careful to make sure she didn’t come across as judging him. “You weren’t around when I lived on Omega, big guy.”

“I… kept imagining that you were with me,” he mumbled, his voice barely audible. “My mind wouldn’t let you go- you were always with me, telling me when I was running away from the world.” Garrus sighed, then closed his eyes. “There was a time when you… I mean the hallucination of you went away,” he said, his voice shaking. “After I met a turian named Sidonis, we teamed up to help clean up the streets of Omega. It… felt like I was honoring you,” he admitted, reaching for her hand and breathing a sigh of relief as she took it. “And I felt like you out there- we were a twelve-man team, taking down the gangs…” Garrus stopped and lowered his head- Jane could feel his whole body shaking. “They trusted me… and I got them killed.”

Jane didn’t know if she should press or tell him to stop- if anyone knew how it felt to lose your team, it was her. Finally, she remembered what Dr. Tipton had told her- talking helps even when it hurts, and when it hurts, that’s usually when it helps the most. Biting her lip, Jane pressed her head to his. “What happened?” 

“Sidonis,” he said bitterly. “He betrayed us. Told me to meet him about a job, but it was a trap- before I could do anything, the gangs bombed the hideout… and killed my squad.” He tried to pull away, but Jane wouldn’t let him. “Don’t you get it, Jane? I fucked up- I don’t deserve to be here with you!” He tried to set her aside, but Jane held on tighter, not loosening her grip on his cowl. “I shouldn’t be alive! I don’t deserve this!” 

“Then I don’t either!” Jane snapped, causing him to stop his movements. “I lost my team too, Gar- you know this!” When Garrus looked up, she took that moment to press her head to his. “It happens,” she said quietly. “It’s the cost of leadership…and no one wants to pay that price, but sometimes the bill comes due and you’re the only one with the credit chit, hon. It doesn’t make you a bad leader, Gar… it just makes you unlucky.” 

“I still see them,” he admitted, closing his eyes. “I see them and I know that I failed them…”

“Did you tell the gangs where they were?” Jane asked, her voice even. “Did you toss the bombs or shoot the guns?”

Garrus shook his head. “No, but-”

Jane wasn’t done. “Did you force anyone to follow you? Did you make it so that they couldn’t leave?” 

“No,” he replied, looking down. “I didn’t do that, but I kept pushing them, Jane! They wanted to retire, but I kept saying we had to keep going, that we-” 

She cut him off, pressing her lips to his. “They made their own choices, Gar,” she said quietly. “Don’t belittle their sacrifice by taking that away from them.”

“Sidonis took their lives,” Garrus rumbled angrily. “He betrayed us… he destroyed our home and killed our friends… for nothing! He needs to pay,” Garrus hissed. “His life for theirs… it’s what he deserves!”

Not having anything to say that could soothe the pain or make it better, Jane just lifted his chin, placing a soft and gentle kiss on his lips. “I still love you,” she said, staring him straight in the eyes. “And there’s nothing you could tell me that would make me love you any less.”

Garrus looked away, but to her relief, he didn’t let her go. “In my head, you hated me,” he whispered, rumbling nervously. “Every time the version of you appeared, she would tell me that I was doing the wrong thing- she’d say that I wasn’t the man she married anymore and that I was desecrating her memory.”

Understanding hit Jane like a wave, and she let out a growl of her own. “Sounds like dream me was a bitch,” she said finally, pulling him closer to her. “Like I said, I might be mad or disappointed in you, but I’m your bondmate, Garrus… there’s no way I could ever hate you.”

Garrus just sighed and slid his hand up her arm, letting out a sad chirp when his hand moved over the spot where her bondmark used to be. “Even after all that, you still want to be bonded to me?”

Jane just smiled, shifting to slide her hands down his side and press her head against his. “Of course I do,” she murmured, kissing him lightly on the nose. “You never even had to ask that question.” 

  


Garrus woke up in the middle of the night with a face full of blue hair and a softly snoring Jane in his arms. After their conversation they had gone to sleep in each other’s arms, Jane passing out almost immediately against his chest. Garrus had tried to sleep, but he kept waking up and staring at her, running his fingers through her hair and reassuring himself that she was real. Still feels like a dream, he thought, letting out a sigh and pressing his lip-plates to her shoulder. Spirits, please let this be real. 

“Have you gotten any sleep?” Jane asked sleepily, rolling over to look at him. Her grey eyes were drowsy but she reached up and kissed him anyway, sliding her hands along the back of his neck. “We’ve got a big day tomorrow… you need to get some rest.”

“Can’t sleep,” Garrus admitted. “I’ve been too busy watching you.”

Jane laughed, the sound musical as she draped a leg over him. “Am I really that fascinating?”

“You are,” he said seriously, twisting a strand of her hair around his finger. “And gorgeous… and wonderful…”

“Far cry from being the ‘squishy human’, huh?” Jane asked teasingly, pressing her head to his. “Remember when I gave you a kiss and you freaked out?”

“I did not freak out, you just surprised me,” Garrus grumbled, nipping at her neck and making her squeal. “And if I remember correctly, I seemed to have been able to demonstrate my proficiency at it very quickly.”

“I think I need a refresher,” Jane murmured, tracing her toes along his leg. “My memory is a bit spotty, you know.”

“That’s just because you’re old,” Garrus teased, earning a yelp from Jane and a tug on his good mandible. “Mean old woman,” he replied, smirking as she climbed on top of him. “Thought you were sleepy?” 

“Well, now I’ve got something to prove,” Jane shot back, the warmth between her legs causing his plates to shift. She leaned forward, letting her hair fall around the two of them like a curtain. “Want me to show you just how mean I can be?” 

“Definitely,” he replied, not taking his eyes off her and humming to himself as she lifted her shirt above her head. Though she still had the glowing orange scars running over her body, Garrus didn’t care- she was still beautiful to him. “If this is your idea of mean,” he rumbled, looking over every inch of her, “then I can’t wait until you decide to be nice.”

“Hmmm… is that so,” Jane mused, rolling her hips over him as she pressed into his waist, grinning as she felt his plates start to shift beneath her. “What if…” she leaned over, tracing her tongue all around his good mandible before taking the tip of it between her lips, sucking it gently for a few moments, “I just decided to do this…” Jane smirked, looking wide awake as she reached her hand between her legs, trailing her fingers along his slowly opening seam. “But,” she put her other finger to her lips, lightly biting her fingernail as the other hand sent him into fits, “I don’t think this counts as mean, either.” 

For all of his previous teasing, Garrus was rapidly losing the ability to form words. “I…”

“Oh!” Jane exclaimed brightly, sliding down and running her tongue over the rapidly shifting plates, “this could be mean…” Gripping his waist, Garrus threw his head back as his plates opened, fully exposing himself to her. “Just as beautiful as I remember,” she murmured, lowering her head to take him into her mouth. 

His eyes flew open, and all he could think about was the sensation of her warm mouth surrounding him- he loved when she did this, staring into his face as her lips were wrapped around his shaft, bobbing up and down as she trailed her tongue around him, tracing dizzying patterns that made shivers run up his spine. “ Spirits!

At the sound of his voice, she released him with a loud, wet plop, smiling wickedly as she licked her lips. He let out a pained chirp, and she cocked her head at him, tapping a finger against her chin. “I wonder if that was mean?” 

Growling, Garrus reached out and pulled her down next to him, making her laugh as he raised his head and flicked his tongue over her nipples. “You know it was…” 

Jane just grinned. “I’m an old woman, remember? I forget these things.”

“Point taken,” he said, pressing his lips to her ear. “How can I make it up to you?”

“Hmmm,” Jane murmured, sliding off her underwear. “I might be convinced to forgive you… under the right circumstances.”

“And what circumstances would those be?” Garrus asked, watching intently as she climbed back on top of him, dragging her wet center along his shaft. “I’m very committed to proving that I’ve learned my lesson, Jane.”

“Good,” she replied, lining him up with her entrance. “Because I want you, Garrus.”

At the first contact with her warmth, Garrus almost thrust inside her like he normally did, but she held a hand to his chest. “New body,” she reminded him, sinking slowly down onto him, inch by painstaking inch. “Gotta take it slow.”

He knew she meant for him to pause, but her words made him let out a rumble filled with pleasure. “Made for me,” he murmured, lifting himself and resting his hands on her hips. “Mine and no one else’s.” 

“It was always you,” Jane gasped, seating herself lower and biting her lip. He cocked his head at her, but she just shook her head. “I… just need a moment,” she said, resting her head against his chest before moving again, causing him to groan with ecstasy each time she took him deeper and deeper. “God,” she moaned, finally seating herself against him, “you are amazing, Garrus.”

When Jane rolled her hips against him, Garrus saw stars flash behind his eyes. He’d had dreams about the times he used to have her, but his memories were nothing like this- she was everywhere, enveloping his senses in each and every way. Mine, he thought, gently lifting her up and down, feeling those telltale flutters he loved so much. Mine and only mine.

“I love you,” Garrus said, resting his head against her shoulder and trying to hold back the urge to place his mark on her. “I love you so much, Jane.”

“I love you too,” she said, her voice shaky as she gripped his cowl, her body starting to shake. “Please,” she whispered, her rhythm erratic as she tried to keep it together, “I want this, Garrus.” 

Mine, he thought, driving into her with reckless abandon- he was sure she was going to stop him and tell him to slow down, but she just tightened around him, causing a growl to build in his chest. I want this… she wants this…  “Are you sure?” he asked, trying to calm himself down. “We don’t have to do this right now.”

In response, Jane let out a loud moan as she climaxed and clamped her teeth over his bondmark- it wasn’t hard enough to break the skin, but it caused a roar to break out of his throat just before he brought his teeth to her shoulder. Mine, he thought, tasting the metallic taste of her blood in his mouth as he spilled into her, shuddering with pleasure as her body continued to coax forth his orgasm. Mine, forever and always. 

As the haze started to lift, Garrus instantly felt the pain in his jaw as he released her skin, realizing just how bad of an idea that was and not giving a single shit about it. Wincing, he looked down at the angry and bleeding mark on her shoulder, suppressing the urge to leap off of her and douse her with medi-gel. “Sorry about that,” he whispered, tracing the raised skin. “How do you feel?” 

“Amazing,” she murmured, not moving an inch. “Real,” she whispered, looking down at him while she reached for her bleeding shoulder, bringing her fingertips to her face and staring at them with an expression tinged with pain, joy, and relief. “I feel real, Garrus... I finally feel like me again.”

“You were always real to me,” Garrus murmured, finally feeling the call of sleep threatening to pull him under. “And I don’t ever want you to think otherwise- you’re my mate, Jane… there could never be another you.”

Chapter Text

  


John looked over at Sol, who was focused on packing up some of JC’s extra toys. "You ok over there, Tiny? I’m pretty sure the cat has enough stuff- we all know he’ll be happy getting into a spare ball of wire.”

Sol rolled her eyes, but she left the perch where it was. “It’s just… this is our home,” she said, her eyes roaming around the apartment. “I didn’t expect to be living on a ship again.”

John’s face fell, and he moved over to his wife’s side, placing a kiss on the side of her neck. “Are you sure about this,” he asked softly, running his hands over her shoulders. “We don’t have to do this, Tiny. If you really don’t want to go, we can stay here.”

“Johnny,” Sol admonished, her tone full of polite reproach, “didn’t I already say that I was going to go?” She lightly tugged his ear, bringing his face to hers and pressing her forehead to his. “I’m starting to wonder if you aren’t listening to me anymore.” 

“Hmmm?” John murmured, a sly grin on his face. “Sorry, I wasn’t listening… I was too busy staring at my gorgeous and amazing wife.” 

“You are terrible,” she replied, rumbling as he rested his hands on her waist and pulled her closer. He could see that telltale blue flush creeping up the sides of her neck as he pressed into her hips, but she just lightly bumped him with her head and shyly ducked her head into his shoulder. “You know we have to get to the ship… the last thing I want is for them to think the alien is holding them up.” 

“Fuck them,” John shot back, running his hands under her shirt and grinning as he heard her rumbles grow louder. “I’m going to miss having you all to myself… might as well take advantage of the time while we have it, right?” 

She started to roll her eyes, but when John ran his fingers over the back of her neck, the words died in her throat. “We don’t have time,” she protested as she threaded her hands in his hair. “We’re going to be late, Johnny!” 

“Then we better make this quick,” he replied easily, dipping his hand inside the waistband of her pants and tracing his finger along her seam. “Seems like an easy problem to solve, if you ask me.” 

Sol let out a soft trill, then shook her head as she lightly nipped his neck. “You’re a menace, Johnny- you’re going to get us in trouble.” 

“Can’t help it,” John replied, lowering her pants. “My wife is sexy and amazing,” he murmured, nipping at her neck and delighting in the way she shuddered in his arms. “Not my fault if I want to take advantage of each and every opportunity.”

“Flatterer,” Sol whispered, undoing the buttons on his pants. “Remind me why I put up with you again?”

“Because you love me,” he replied, guiding her to sit on the edge of the table and running his hands along her exposed thighs. When she spread her legs and pulled him closer, he grinned and nuzzled his face into her neck. “There’s no way you’d deal with all my shit otherwise.”

“I don’t know,” Sol murmured, sliding her hands under his shirt and lightly raking her talons up and down his back, “you can be pretty persuasive, Johnny.” 

You are the best, he thought, leaning back and taking a moment to marvel at the woman in front of him. I don’t deserve you, but I’ll be damned if I ever let you go. Swallowing the lump forming in his throat, John just laughed and placed a kiss on her lips- he loved that even though she wasn’t used to his style of kissing, she had learned to master it. “You think so?” 

“I know so,” Sol purred, taking his hand and guiding it between her legs. “You’re a menace, you know that? If we get in trouble, I’m blaming you.”

“I’ll take that,” John replied as he guided himself into her, gripping her hips to steady himself as she tightened around him. “It’s worth it.” 

Sol didn’t answer and John didn’t say another word, unable to focus on anything else but pleasing the woman in front of him. He had made it his mission to learn every inch of her body, delighting in every shiver, moan, or trill that he could evoke, and he used that knowledge whenever he could. As he rolled his hips against her, Sol let out a long and deep rumble, making John slow down and pull her closer. With a groan, he lowered his head to hers, letting his hands grip her waist as she dug her nails into the table. She’s perfect, he thought, closing his eyes. I’ve got everything I ever wanted and more.

“You’re amazing,” he murmured, closing his eyes as he ran a hand along the back of her neck. “I love you, Tiny.” 

“And I love you,” Sol replied, reaching over and threading her hands in his hair and pressing her lips to the mark on his shoulder. “I couldn’t have asked for a better mate, John.” 

“Even though I can’t do everything for you that a turian can?” His eyes flew open as soon as the words left his lips, immediately catching the frown that crossed her face. Thoroughly embarrassed, John winced, knowing he should’ve kept his mouth shut. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, closing his eyes again. “That was stupid.”

John started to pull away, but Sol held him firm. “And exactly what is it that you’re convinced you can’t do for me? I’m dying to know.”

“I can’t give you a family,” John admitted, not looking at her. “You’d be a great mom, Tiny, and I feel like shit for taking that away from you.” 

“Who said you did? There’s more than one way to have a family, John. And besides,” Sol said, cocking her head at him as she rubbed his back, “I wasn’t aware you even wanted kids.” 

“I want everything with you,” he answered honestly, looking at her and tracing small circles on the back of her neck with his fingers- she let out a soft purr and he felt himself twitch inside her, which only made the turian purr even harder. “I want to give you the world, Tiny. You deserve that.”

“I’ve got you,” Sol replied, wrapping her arms around his waist and pulling him flush against her. “That’s all I need, Johnny- anything else is a bonus.” 

John just chuckled and shook his head, letting his hands explore all the places she loved while he caught his breath. Slowly, he began rolling his hips again, groaning at the sensation of her seam against his skin. He knew they were going to have to hurry to get to the ship, but John didn’t care- she was here and he loved her more than anything. “How did I get so lucky?” 

“Because you’re a good man,” Sol murmured, holding him tight. “And I’m just awesome like that.” 

Surprised, John let out a snort, laughing even harder when he saw his wife giving him a teasing grin. “When you’re right, you’re right,” he replied, moving faster and making Sol trill with pleasure. “Now, sit back and let me prove it to you.” 

  


As Jane and Garrus walked back onto the Normandy, they were greeted by an angry-looking Miranda waiting for them in the hall. “And you do realize that this ship is not your personal shuttle service,” she said icily, her eyes flitting to Garrus for a moment before settling on Jane. “In case you’ve forgotten, we have a mission to complete- spending time with his family is not a priority, Shepard.”

So you are spying on me, Jane muttered to herself as she raised her eyebrows, trying to figure out if Miranda was really talking to her. Who the fuck does this bitch think she is, she wondered, looking her up and down. She needs to calm the fuck down… right now.

“Miranda,” Jane said evenly, standing up straight and trying to keep her composure, “contrary to what you might think, this is my ship and my mission- what I do, who I meet with, and how I spend my time are completely under my control. Now, I’m not asking you to agree with it- in fact, I appreciate differing opinions… when they are given with respect, ” Jane said pointedly, staring her straight in the eye and trying not to focus on the fact that the woman in front of her had left orders for her husband to die. “So until you can learn to do that, I’d suggest we stay out of each other’s way- it’s going to be better for all of us.”

Miranda turned up her nose and sniffed. “I hardly think you can be counted on to be left to your own devices… as you’ve so aptly demonstrated.” She looked over the two of them again, the corners of her mouth slipping into a frown as she stared at Garrus. “Your judgment seems to be clouded by your… attachments .”

Dumbfounded by the woman’s arrogance, Jane nodded curtly and closed her eyes, her lips pressed together in a tight line. Without another word, Jane hauled back and landed a jab right to Miranda’s face, sending the uptight woman flying against the wall- before Miranda could recover, Jane had already crossed the room and grabbed her by her throat. “I heard about what you did,” Jane hissed, her voice barely above a whisper. “Talk shit about me all you like, but fuck with my family again and you’ll be lucky if all I do is throw a punch- one more stunt like that, and I’m going to end you, you stuck-up ass bitch… No one... and I mean no one, fucks with my family- is that clear?” 

“Jane, would you mind letting her go, please?” The voice from behind her made Jane close her eyes and exhale, quickly releasing the brunette. “Much appreciated,” Xander said evenly, watching them all with a hand resting on his hip- Jane had no doubt that his pistol was well within reach. “I’d hate to get this voyage started on the wrong foot... how about you, Miri?”

Never one to be outdone, Miranda stood up and smoothed her uniform, perfectly poised despite her rapidly swelling face. “Funny… I wasn’t aware of you being invited on this mission, Sloane .” 

“After your previous… objections,” Xander purred, not taking his eyes off Miranda, “I was asked to provide some additional oversight- it seems that the Illusive Man wanted someone on board that might be able to… relate to Shepard a bit better.” Xander flicked his eyes to her reddened face, then smirked- Jane used to hate when he looked at her like that, and she was pretty sure Miranda felt the same way. “Color me surprised to see that his suspicions were warranted.” Then he shifted his attention to Jane, his blue-grey eyes hard and angry. “You should go get dressed,” he said tersely, shifting his attention to Jane. “The attire you’re wearing is hardly appropriate for someone in charge, Jane.”

Jane bristled at the insinuation. “I think my attire has little to do with how well I can command a ship, Xa- Sloane.”

“It conveys disrespect to the men and women under your command,” Xander replied sharply. “Get over yourself, Shepard- despite your misgivings, this is a Cerberus vessel. Though you disagree with our methods, I have to point out that I don’t see the Alliance or the Council chomping at the bit to get you back in command… do you?”

Jane wanted to say something, but she knew he was right- lead by example, Anderson used to say. Like it or not… this is your ship now. Out of the corner of her eye, Jane noticed Miranda smirking, and she had to fight the urge to punch the woman again- swallowing her pride, she chose to close her eyes instead. “Is this really necessary?”

Xander nodded, his body stiff. “While you are on duty, you might want to do the crew the favor of respecting their service and conducting yourself accordingly.” Jane started to protest, but Xander held up a hand. “What you do in the night cycle and after hours, however, is your business.” Sloane folded his hands behind his back, moving closer to Miranda. “Similar to Miss Lawson, I am here in an advisory role- please take that as you will.” 

She almost told him to shove his advice up his ass, but the man let out a yawn and tapped a finger to the side of his cheek- Jane’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second, then let her face settle back into a scowl. “Fuck off, Sloane,” she said, clenching her fist and unfolding two of her fingers before clenching it again- he returned the gesture with an eye roll. “Garrus, let’s get out of here before I really lose my cool,” she growled, reaching for the turian’s arm. “If I stay here any longer, I’m not responsible for what I might do.” 

Following her down the hall, Garrus rumbled with interest, watching her closely. “What was that back there?” She stared at him, but her husband just smirked. “You weren’t really mad at the end,” he said quietly, tapping his visor. “Your vitals were back to normal.” 

Jane grinned as she led Garrus into the elevator, taking him to their room for the first time. “Old code,” she admitted, looking up at him with adoration- after all this time, Garrus still knows me inside and out, she thought happily, taking his hand in hers. Pausing for a moment, she put a hand to her mouth, lightly tapping her finger to her cheek. “I’m surprised Xander remembered it- it means ‘play along’- don’t know why, but he’s playing the role for Miranda.” 

“Guess we’ll find out soon,” Garrus mused, staring down at Jane. “In the meantime, feel like saying screw everyone and showing me to our room, Mrs. Vakarian?”

The meaning of his word choice wasn’t lost on her, and in response, Jane placed a soft kiss on his lips. “It would be my honor, Mr. Vakarian,” she said, a teasing smile on her face as she took his hand, comforted by the sensation of his fingers laced in hers. “Please… allow me to escort you to our room.”

  


Sloane watched as Jane stormed off, making sure to keep the pleased expression off of his face. She remembered, he thought with satisfaction. Nice to know that even if she’s angry, she can still do the job… she would’ve made a good analyst. I’d say it’s too bad I fucked that up, but the galaxy is better off, Sloane mused, turning to stare at Miranda. Like it or not, we need her.

“So,” he said, leveling a look at Miri that could cut glass, “are you satisfied now that you got the fight you’ve been itching for?” Sloane walked over and touched a hand to her reddened cheek, chuckling as Miranda swatted it away. “You’re just lucky she only wanted to put you in your place, Miri- that situation could have gone much worse.” 

“We should’ve fitted her with the control chip,” Miranda snarled, storming off toward her office- Sloane followed her, not even trying to hide his amusement. “She is a menace- the Illusive man needs to know that she-” 

“Will protect her family at all costs,” Sloane interrupted, watching Miranda closely. “You’ll never control her with threats, Miri… she thrives on loyalty. Which,” he said pointedly, “neither of us has earned…yet.” 

Miranda paused and turned around, staring at him with interest. “Do you have a plan, Sloane?”

He nodded, waiting for her to head to her desk and have a seat. “Stop antagonizing her,” he said simply, perching himself on the side of Miranda’s desk and ignoring the look of outrage she gave him. “Shepard needs to come to her decisions on her own. That being said, we can certainly… nudge the process along.”

A slow smile crept along Miranda’s face as she leaned closer, folding her hands on the desk in front of her. “And just how do you propose we do that?”

“Offer information, not judgment,” he said simply, surreptitiously tapping a few keys on his omni-tool. “Make our way the most appealing one… and track the results.” He offered Miranda a smile of his own, raking a hand through his sandy-brown hair and staring at her- it had been a while since he’d gotten laid, and a romp in the bedroom with Miri might not be the worst thing. She’d do it, Sloane thought, shifting his weight and making a mental note of the way the woman was tracking his movements. She’s trying to get information out of me as well… might as well use this to my advantage, seeing as fucking Miri gets me off and steers Taylor toward Jane at the same time- I’d call that a productive evening indeed.

“You seem to have quite an insight into her mental space,” Miranda intoned, lightly brushing his leg with a finger- Sloane fought not to roll his eyes. “Mind sharing how you’re drawing these conclusions?” 

He wanted to snap at her, but Sloane just smiled and leaned forward. “I research,” he replied, dropping his voice an octave.  “Have I ever given you cause to doubt my information before?” 

She flicked her eyes to his pants for a brief moment, then ran her tongue lightly over her lip. “I might need a bit of research of my own before I answer that question.”

Sloane just smiled, sliding off the desk in one fluid motion. If I didn’t know what a bitch you were, this might have me fooled, he thought darkly. Taylor really has no idea what an utter bastard you are, does he? “I’m going to go and get set up downstairs,” Sloane said curtly, turning around as he pressed a hand against the doorframe. “Can you please deliver me copies of your notes? I’d like to go over them before you make your reports for the evening.” 

“Of course,” Miranda replied, settling back into her chair. “Once we’re in the air again and we’ve set our course, I’ll come and find you.” He nodded and she lowered her gaze to her desk, the motion quickly signifying the conversation was over. “Now, if there’s nothing else…” 

“Nothing at the moment,” he replied, smiling and humming softly as he left the room. If there was any doubt as to what she was up to, it was completely gone now- there was no way in hell Miranda was going to let him see her notes without an ulterior motive.

Well, Miri, looks like you’re in luck, Sloane thought as he started typing out a message for Jacob and scheduling it to be sent in a few hours. It just so happens that I’ve got a few extra reasons of my own.

Chapter Text

  


As Jane went into the cockpit to set their next destination, Garrus made his way down to the medbay. He’d insisted that he was fine, but his mate was having none of it- she’d made it perfectly clear that if Chakwas didn’t give him a once-over and make sure he was recovering properly, then she was going to make it her life’s mission to make sure he stayed on the ship. Granted, he was intrigued by the main battery and wanted to putter around in there, but he had no intention of being left behind while she went off to recruit a new crew member. Though Sloane had explicitly told Jane that he’d recommended everyone for a reason, Garrus didn’t trust it in the slightest. I left her once and look what happened, he thought grimly as he made his way inside the medbay. My place is at her six… always has been, always will be. 

When the door opened, Garrus saw his sister talking animatedly with the Salarian. “If I’m interrupting, I can come back later,” he said teasingly, gesturing toward the door and earning an irritated rumble from Sol, humming with interest when he saw her neck flush blue. “It’s no big deal- I’d hate to break up such an interesting conversation.”

Mordin started to say something, but Sol cut him off with a horrified look. “Nothing you need to worry about,” Sol said curtly, earning a chuckle from the scientist. “Time to let me check those bandages, Gar.”

He nodded, watching as the Salarian waved to his sister and walked out the room. “Where’s the doc,” he asked, wincing as Sol peeled away the bandages and peered at the healing skin. “They left you all alone out here?” 

Sol shook her head, walking over to get a new bandage. “Nope, she’s on break- Mordin and I were here,” she said, scowling. “Surprisingly, no one had a medical emergency when the two aliens were on duty- go figure.” 

Garrus hummed thoughtfully, taking note of his sister’s irritated expression. “Someone bothering you, Sol?” 

“No more than normal,” she replied, working quickly. “I just… I hate being treated like I’m a monster, Gar- they don’t even know me!” 

“Give it time,” he said softly, giving his sister a comforting rumble. “They’ll learn… it’s new.”

“Easy for you to say,” Sol groused, inspecting his plates and checking his range of motion. “No one’s called you Janey’s pet bird.”

Garrus stiffened and shifted so he was looking at her. “Have you told Janey this?”

Sol just chirped sadly, lowering his arm. “Wasn’t worth it,” she said glumly. “Besides, she’s got other things to worry about- I’ll survive.

Thinking about the last time his sister had been put in a situation like this, Garrus let out a growl and took her hand. “Nope… come with me, Sol.” 

She started to protest, but Garrus was having none of it- we’re not going to go through this again, he thought angrily, leading his sister toward the cockpit. When they arrived, Jane, John, and Joker both turned around, obviously surprised to see them. “Hey, big guy,” Jane said, a soft smile on her face despite wearing the Cerberus-issued gear- she’d grumbled the entire time, but she eventually conceded and donned the clothing, carefully ripping off any logos she could. “What’s the matter? Did your physical go ok?” 

“Went fine,” he replied, turning to Sol and crossing his arms. “Tell her what happened, Sol.” 

Sol looked as if she wanted to crawl into the floor, but Garrus didn’t care- he might not have been able to protect his sister back then, but he could definitely do something about it now. “It’s really not that big of a deal,” she mumbled, looking down at the floor. “I told you, I can handle it.” 

John glanced up at Garrus, then turned to his sister. “Surprise, surprise, the xenophobic crew is dropping slurs,” he said angrily, walking over and wrapping an arm around his mate. “Looks like the dino cat just found out about it.”

Jane looked at all of them as if they’d lost their minds. “And why is this the first I’m hearing about it?” 

“Because they’re overreacting,” Sol pleaded, her eyes going wide. “I told you, I can-” 

“No,” Jane said firmly, walking over to stand in front of Sol. “Could you handle it? Of course you can- you’re a goddamn Vakarian, so I know you can handle anything that comes at you, Sol. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that you shouldn’t have to handle it- you’re part of my crew, so if anyone doesn’t like it, they can get the fuck out.” Garrus watched Jane’s expression grow stern, her lips pressed together so hard they looked as if they might disappear at any moment. “EDI,” she called out, “get Sloane up here… now .”

“Can’t you find somewhere else to do this that isn’t in my cockpit,” Joker grumbled, looking around the crowded room. “I appreciate being kept in the loop, but I also appreciate my personal space a bit more… just a thought.” 

Jane ignored him, her gaze fiery as she stared at the man entering the room. “Xander, how much of a pain in my ass will it be to boot some of these racist bastards off my ship?” 

Sloane blinked, then straightened up. “As you just said, it’s your ship- you’re free to do what you like. That being said, please be strategic- certain people have much-needed expertise and aren’t as easily replaceable, Brainy.”  At the sound of the man using his mate’s nickname, Garrus let out a threatening rumble- Sloane ignored him. “That being said, I’ve vetted most of those roles myself- I don’t think you’ll have a problem there.” The analyst looked over at the two turians with a look of polite concern. “May I ask what happened to bring this on?” 

“Your crew thinks it’s ok to toss insults at my wife,” John snapped, his face twisted in a snarl. “Seems decency isn’t an entry requirement.”

“I could say the same about the Alliance,” Sloane said cooly, not taking his eyes off John. “An organization has all kinds in it, John… you might want to remember that.” 

John turned an interesting shade of purple and started to lunge for Sloane, but Jane slammed her hand on the comms. “ Listen up, ” she barked, her voice startling everyone. “This is Commander Shepard speaking, and I think we need to get a few things straight before we get going. This ship? It might have come from Cerberus, but this is the Normandy,” she hissed, earning a nod of approval from Joker. “And on the Normandy, I don’t give a shit if you’re human or alien- we treat our crew like family. I expect us to work together out here. Now, I’m not asking you to like everyone, but I am asking that you keep your opinions to yourself and do your job,” she said firmly, looking Sloane straight in the eye. “This mission is way too important for petty grievances to get in the way!” 

But, if you think that’s too much to ask, then I suggest you find somewhere else to go, and soon .” Jane leaned on the console, her scars reflecting the lights from the buttons and bathing her skin in a fiery orange glow, “because I promise you, if I catch you disrespecting any of our crew, be them human or alien, I will personally handle it,” she growled, her fists clenching at her sides. “Like I said, I see my crew as my family,” she said, her voice booming across the walls of the ship and sending chills down Garrus’s spine. “And if anyone decides to fuck with my family, then I don’t care who they are- there’s not a force in this whole goddamn galaxy that’s going to save them from me… do I make myself clear!” 

Jane released her hold on the button, her chest heaving with rage. For a moment, everyone in the cockpit was silent- even Sloane, who had been standing by the door with a smug look on his face, wisely kept his mouth shut. In the hallway, Garrus could see the faces of crew members frozen in place, staring at each other with dumbfounded looks- no one was sure what to do. 

Suddenly, a man in the background stood ramrod straight, bringing his hand to his head in a salute. “Yes ma’am!” he shouted, his voice strong and clear. “Understood!”

From behind him, a crewmember did the same, followed by another, and another. She’s a leader, Garrus thought, watching his mate with pride as he tapped her on the shoulder, beckoning for her to turn around. When Jane stood up, Sloane and John moved out of her way, allowing her to walk out of the cockpit with Garrus following behind her. I know I’ve got her six, he thought, rumbling with pride as he watched Jane nod to each of the crew members as she passed, but it’s pretty damn nice to know that she’s always got mine. 

  


When Nihlus heard the announcement through the loudspeakers, he raised his brow-plates. Someone seems to have irritated Jane, he mused, slowly getting up from his cot and leaving his room. Might be best if I went to talk with her. 

After a bit of searching, he found Jane and Vakarian alone in the mess hall, with the turian rubbing her shoulders. He noticed she flinched a little when Vakarian’s hands slid upward and had to bite back a chuckle. Those two will be just fine, Nihlus thought with a pleased rumble. Thank goodness for that, at least. 

“Is everything all right?” Nihlus asked casually, punching in his code for the dextro drawer- since their last encounter, John had quickly decided not to take any chances. “That message seemed… charged...  if you don’t mind me saying so.” 

Jane sighed, then held up her wrist. “No more bugs, Nih… ship is clean.”

Nihlus raised his brow-plates, then started to prepare his tholam berry tea. “I take it you talked to Sloane.” 

Jane just scoffed. “I take it that you didn’t see the trails of slime on the ship?” When Garrus chuckled, Jane sighed and relaxed against his chest. “Sloane is on board and he agreed to strip the code. I verified it, of course- EDI’s systems are clean again.”

“And the price?” Nihlus leaned against the counter, grabbing his drink. “How are you dealing with having him on board? From what John told me, you were… less than enthused about it.” 

“Still am,” Jane said with a sigh. “Not much to be done about it, though- he’s embedded his smarmy ass into this mission. And considering I trust him more than I trust the illusive man or Miranda, that’s saying a lot.”

“Fair point,” Nihlus replied, taking a sip of his tea. “That being said, what’s next? Since Ash is still working, does it make sense to go down the list of recruits Sloane has prepared?”

“I’d say they can all go to hell,” Jane grumbled, then looked over at her husband and smiled, squeezing his hand. “But he did find Mordin and Garrus, and I’m certainly not complaining about either of them. He’s got a reason for picking the way he did… not sure what it was just yet though.”

“Who are the choices?” Nihlus asked, making his way over to the table and sitting down. “Perhaps I can help.” 

She pulled up a file, then shot the details over to his omni-tool. After reading the documents, Nihlus let out a throaty rumble. “And let me guess… you want the convict, don’t you?” 

Jane grinned, then got an innocent look on her face. “Maybe…”

Nihlus just smiled and rolled his eyes. “Why does this not surprise me?” 

From his place next to Jane, Garrus cleared his throat. “As much as it pains me to say it, we should probably have a meeting about this... I’m pretty damn sure that there’s info Sloane or Miranda are hiding- I’d much rather have a solid plan going into this thing.”

“Your mate is right,” Nihlus replied, looking over at the two of them. “I appreciate the intel, but I don’t trust Sloane or Lawson-  best to talk to them and determine the truths and lies.” 

“When you’re right, you’re right,” Jane replied, tapping her hand on the counter. “Time to call our first family meeting, I guess.” 

  


“So,” Jane asked, looking around at the folks gathered in the communications room and letting out a yawn, “what do we know about our next recruit?” 

Miranda turned to Xander, rolling her eyes. “Seeing as the mastermind behind the dossiers is in here right now, why not ask him instead of wasting our time?”

John just stared at Miranda for a moment before shaking his head. “So, you bitch and moan when you don’t get included, but when the cool kids invite you to sit at the table, you act like you’ve got something better to do?” He flicked his eyes up and down, then snorted derisively. “Pick a fucking lane and stay in it, Princess.” 

Miranda leaned forward and started to say something, but Jacob placed a hand on her shoulder, gently easing her back into her chair. “What I think Mir- Miss Lawson means to say,” he said pointedly, giving Miranda a look that clearly meant ‘shut the fuck up’, “is that since Analyst Sloane was the one that compiled the information, maybe there’s something he was compelled to leave out of the report?” 

Xander just stared at Jacob as if he was stupid. “And what possible reason would I have to leave out important information? Though you and Lawson are… close, I think you might be better off fighting your own battles, Taylor.”

“That might be true,” Garrus said, piping up before Jane could respond to the drama brewing between the Cerberus crew, “but any intel you have on Purgatory would be appreciated- I don’t want us going in blind.”

Xander smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “I suppose having the turian be informed about a turian prison ship would be too much to ask,” he said snippily. “But, since you don’t, then it seems the point is valid- what do you want to know, Shepard?”

Jane raised her eyebrows, staring at Xander and debating if she wanted to call him out for his bullshit- after a few milliseconds, she decided it wasn’t worth the argument. “To start, what can we expect going in?”

An almost imperceptible smirk crossed Sloane’s face, quickly erased as he folded his hands in front of him, leaning on the table. “I’ve negotiated for the release of Subject Zero, a powerful biotic- they should be an asset to your crew.”

Jane frowned, not liking where this was going. “Does Subject Zero have a name?”

“Jack,” Xander replied, rolling his eyes. “This is all in the dossier- what’s the point of me putting it together if you’re not going to read it?” 

“What my sister is politely trying to get at,” John growled, shooting Xander a death glare, “is that this sounds an awful lot like you paid for a person, Sloane.” 

Xander shrugged. “Call it whatever you want- I see no need to have their talents wasting away in a prison cell when we could use them out here. Your morals are nice,” Xander said curtly, staring directly at John, “but they’re misguided- my job is not to be nice, it’s to offer information. If that doesn’t sit well with you, then you’re free to leave at any time, Shepard.” 

John almost lunged across the table at Xander, but Nihlus rested a hand on his shoulder. “Who are we meeting with?”   

“Finally, a question worth my time,” Xander replied irritably, earning a huff from John. “You’ll be meeting with Warden Kuril- he should have the details you need to get Jack released into our custody.” Xander paused for a minute, then turned to Miranda. “Lawson, would you mind accompanying Shepard tomorrow? Your help might-”

“Not be needed,” Jane finished, glaring at Xander. “I have John, Nih, and Garrus- I’ll be fine.” She didn’t add that she didn’t want the pissy princess anywhere near her mission if she didn’t have to be, but she was sure that Xander was well aware of her feelings on the subject. “I’m sure they don’t want us all showing up with a huge contingent, anyway.” 

“Then take Taylor,” Xander replied, his gaze firm. “Better to be prepared, right?” 

Fuck off- you just want one of your lackeys on my team, she thought bitterly. Sorry, Xander…but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. “We’re pretty prepared,” Jane said blithely. “I’ve run missions with this team before…  and we work very well together.”

“I understand,” Xander said smoothly, pushing away from the table. “That being said, we seem to be at an impasse at the moment.” He shifted his gaze to Miranda for a moment, then turned back to Jane. “In the meantime, I have things to take care of, so let’s resume these talks in the morning- Lawson, I’d like to have a word with you in your office, please.”

When Miranda nodded, Jane rolled her eyes. Assholes, she thought angrily. Realizing that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with this right now, Jane sighed and shook her head. “Whatever,” she grumbled, standing up from her seat. “Everyone, get some sleep- we need to be ready to ship out in the morning.” 

  


Sloane couldn’t have timed this better if he’d tried- the meeting had played out in perfect us versus them fashion, pitting him, Miranda, and Jacob against Jane and her crew. Jacob was stupider than he’d initially thought, blindly aligning himself with Miranda and earning an equal share of enmity from Jane. Thinking with your dick will get you nowhere, he thought with a smile as he glanced over at the brunette pulling on her clothes, quickly checking his omni-tool while her back was turned. Best you learn this lesson sooner rather than later- I need you out there with Jane and until you get your head out of Miranda's ass, there’s not a shot in hell of her trusting you. 

Sloane let a smile creep across his face for just a moment and stifled it before turning back around to Miranda. “So,” he said, looking her up and down and crossing his arms across, fighting a satisfied smirk as he caught her gaze traveling over his bare chest, “do we have an accord, Miss Lawson?”

Miranda just rolled her eyes, acting as if Sloane hadn’t just fucked her senseless. He knew she was putting on a show, but it was of no consequence to him- he’d gotten off and his plan was in motion. “I suppose it can’t hurt,” she said stiffly. “As long as you check in with me, we can share the correspondence duties.” She looked at him, gritting her teeth as if the words leaving her lips were like eating glass, “you seem to be more capable than I in getting Shepard to see reason- may as well play to our strengths.” 

Putting up with Miranda does have its benefits, he thought, pulling on his undershirt and slipping back into his dress shirt, not even bothering to button it. “It’s nostalgia, that’s all,” he said dismissively. “I’ll use what I can- this mission is too important to be jeopardized by conflicting personalities, Miri.” 

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that,” Miranda snapped, glaring at him. “It’s unprofessional and rude.”

“Are we really going to have this conversation?” Sloane purred, walking over to her and pulling her against him, dipping his hand inside her underwear and smirking as he heard her breath hitch. “Your professionalism left the moment you put your lips around my dick...Miri.”

“Fuck you, Sloane,” Miranda shot back, her voice stuttering as he proceeded to dip his fingers inside of her. “We… had… an arrangement.” 

“So we did,” he replied, rolling her clit between his fingers and running his hands over her breasts. “And I intend to honor it.”

“This wasn’t part of the arrangement,” she panted, gripping the legs of his pants. “We agreed-” 

“I know what we agreed to,” he replied, kissing the hollow of her throat. “If you don’t want this, all you have to do is tell me to stop,” he replied, whispering in her ear. “I know first hand that you could knock me clear across the room if you wanted to…so just say the word and I’ll leave, Miri.”

Just as he figured, Miranda just let out a moan, tossing her head against his shoulder. Sloane knew full well the woman wouldn’t stop him- no matter how much they despised each other, this was their game, and it had served them well so far. It’s almost a shame this has to end, he thought, adding another finger and feeling the woman start to shake around him. It’s been rather fun. 

“Do you want me to stop?” Sloane asked again, pumping his fingers faster and faster. When she didn’t respond, he lowered her shirt and placed a kiss on her collarbone. “Tell me to stop, Miri.” 

He could feel her walls tightening around his fingers, and he winced as he felt her nails digging into his thighs- leaving marks went against all their rules, but considering the circumstances, he could forgive the transgression. “I want to bend you over this desk again,” he murmured, his pace quickening as she started to gasp. “But then again, that wasn’t part of the arrangement,” he said quietly, slowly sliding his hand up and smiling as she pushed it back down, haphazardly fucking his fingers. “However... I’m nothing if not accommodating,” Sloane said, stroking her harder and feeling a smug sense of satisfaction as she started to climax. “And considering the day you’ve had, I think I’ll give you this one for free.” 

To her credit, Miranda didn’t answer- she was too busy biting her hand, her body shaking as she rode the waves of her orgasm. After a few moments, Miranda stood up on wobbly legs- Sloane guided her to a seat on the desk. Surprised, she stared at him, confusion and bliss written on her face. “Alex-” 

“Don’t call me that,” Sloane replied, walking toward the door. “It’s unprofessional, Miri.” 

The irritated look on her face was almost as pleasing as the presence of the man in the hallway, standing stock-still as he watched Sloane leave Miranda’s room. Ordinarily, Sloane would never allow himself to be seen in a state like this- his hair sweaty and his clothes were disheveled, but he hardly cared.  “Taylor,” he said with a nod, ignoring the murderous look on the man’s face and clapping him on the shoulder. “I thought your quarters were upstairs?” 

Jacob swallowed, no doubt trying to figure out how to keep his thoughts to himself and answer intelligibly at the same time. “Mir- I mean, Miss Lawson, requested a meeting,” he said stiffly, practically grinding his teeth. “I wasn’t aware-” 

“No worries- she’s in her office,” Sloane replied, fighting the smirk that threatened to cross his face as he smoothed his hair and buttoned his shirt. “Just… give her a few minutes and I’m sure she’ll be extremely happy to see you.” 

Chapter Text

  


Yawning, Nihlus made his way toward the mess hall- if Jane held true to form, she wouldn’t be up for a few more hours yet. Too early to call Ash, he thought sadly, fingering the ring around his neck. Spirits, I miss that woman,  he thought as he walked down the hall offering Sol a wave as he passed the medbay. Being on this ship without Ash feels wrong... she needs to join us soon.

The turian was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he barely noticed the soldier sitting at the table, staring off into the distance. He wasn’t particularly interested in talking with him, but after Jane’s impromptu speech, he decided it was best if he made an effort. “Trouble sleeping?” 

Jacob looked over at him, then chuckled mirthlessly. “You could say that.” He ran his hand over his shaved head, staring into his cup. “Been a long night.” 

“Sounds about right… those happen when Shepard is involved,” Nihlus agreed. Then he noticed Jacob’s slumped shoulders and took a deep breath. Outreach is key, he told himself, sitting down in front of the man. “But something tells me that there’s more to it than that.” Jacob looked at him warily, but Nihlus just shrugged. “Call it a hunch… all these years of being a spectre have to be good for something.”

“Not to be rude,” Jacob said slowly, looking the turian over carefully, “but why do you care? Thought you guys were just here for Shepard?”

Fighting back the rumble in his throat, Nihlus just took a sip of his kava. “I assume you heard Shepard’s speech yesterday… we’re all a crew here, Taylor- I expect to work with you, and I take the time to see where those under my command are coming from.”

Jacob raised an eyebrow. “Your command?” 

Nihlus just stared at him. “Did you really think there was a chance in hell that Shepard would put you on her team?” He looked the soldier up and down, then went back to his drink. “She doesn’t trust you… and with good reason. In those situations, I end up with those squad members,” he said curtly, laughing to himself at the memory. “It ends up working better for everyone.”  

“Sounds like you two got this down pat,” Jacob replied, not answering Nihlus’s question. “You and Shepard work together a lot?” 

Nihlus noted the shift in the subject but chose not to comment on it. “She’s my protege,” he answered. “Shepard works best with teams she trusts- I, on the other hand, can handle a bit more ambiguity, though my previous preference was to work alone.” 

“Thought you were on a team with your wife?” Jacob asked, almost making Nihlus raise his brow-plates with interest. As it was, he stared at the man for a few moments, his silence doing the job and making Jacob extremely uncomfortable. “It was in a report that Mir- Lawson had,” he said grimly, wincing at the mention of her name. “I didn’t know it was a secret… sorry about that.” 

The spectre folded his hands, purposely not looking at the man. “It’s not a secret… my mate and I work well together- unfortunately, she and our other teammate are unavailable at the moment.” Nihlus just paused, unwilling to say anything else- he was obligated to be accommodating, not verbose. “That being said, you still haven’t shared your reasoning for being up so early.”

“Just sifting through some things,” he replied noncommittally. “Cerberus…plays a lot of games. Must be nice to have a team you can count on.” 

“It is,” Nihlus agreed. “Wasn’t without effort, though- it took us some time to come together as a team.” He looked over at the man, then finished the last of his kava. “Jane is not one to respect people that seek to control or curtail her actions,” he said finally. “If you want to earn her trust, you may want to consider demonstrating that you’re capable of being more than miss Lawson’s mouthpiece.” 

Jacob’s mouth dropped open for a few seconds, then snapped shut with an audible click. “I am no one’s mouthpiece,” he said stiffly. “I just work here.” 

Seeing that he’d struck a nerve, Nihlus just nodded. “Understandable… just offering advice, that’s all. If she sees you in that manner, you’re never going to get her respect. My suggestion is to show her that you are more than your colors,” he said simply, standing up to put away his cup. “You’d do well to let her see that.”  

  


Clad in a tank top and shorts, Jane glared at the analyst standing in her doorway, finding it too early in the morning to deal with Xander’s bullshit. “What the fuck do you want?” 

“I come bearing caffeine,” Xander said seriously, holding out a large mug. “Figured you were still impossible to talk to without coffee in your system.”

She started to offer a sarcastic reply, but she looked at the cup in his hands and let out a loud laugh. Shaking her head, she stared at it for a moment, then furrowed her brows with confusion. “I can’t believe you still have this,” she murmured, walking toward the sofa. “This thing is ancient, Xander.” 

Xander shrugged, looking down at the floor as he leaned against the doorframe. “You gave it to me,” he said as if that explained everything. “Why wouldn’t I keep it?”

Garrus was sitting on the couch, reading something on a datapad- his eyes narrowed as the analyst followed behind her, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Good morning,” he said icily, his tone clearly asking ‘why the fuck are you here’ followed by ‘I’m going to need you out of here immediately.’ “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?” 

Jane didn’t blame him one bit, settling down next to him and smiling as he placed a kiss on her exposed bond-mark. Sipping her coffee, she just stared as Xander sat down in a seat across from them. “Out with it- I know you didn’t just come up here to give me a cup of coffee.”

“No, I did not, though the gesture of the coffee was genuine,” Xander admitted. “I wanted to talk to you before you set out today… away from the others.”

Garrus moved closer, wrapping an arm around Jane’s waist- she responded in kind. “This is my mate,” he said coolly. “You can say whatever you need to in front of me.” 

Xander rolled his eyes. “ Obviously… if I didn’t intend for you to hear it, Vakarian, then you wouldn’t have.” He then shifted his focus back to Jane. “What I was coming up here to ask is that you take Taylor with you today.” When she started to protest, Xander raised a hand to silence her. “You don’t have to like him- personally, I think he’s useless, but Lawson seems to enjoy having him around. Taking him with you shows the crew that you are with Cerberus-”

“Yeah, because that’s exactly the vibe I want to give off,” Jane muttered, leaning closer to her husband. “Not selling this to me at all, Xander.”

He frowned, looking almost exactly as he used to when she’d question him on why he’d chosen to write a program a certain way. “As I was saying,” he said testily, “you are seen as Alliance, through and through- having a representative there gives credence to the deal… nothing more.”

“And you want a little minion to spy on us and give you reports,” Garrus shot back, a growl building in his throat. “Why should we do that?”

“Trust me, Taylor is not interested in reporting back to either myself or Lawson anytime soon,” Xander said evenly. “That’s why I want him to go with you- he’s as close to neutral as you’re going to get. While I would love that kind of intel, I made a deal with our Jane here- the debriefings come from you or someone on your team.” 

The mention of the words ‘our Jane’ did absolutely nothing to quell Garrus’s concerns. “She is not your Jane,” he snapped, his voice low and threatening. “Choose your words more carefully next time, Sloane.” 

Xander just held up his hands, sinking back into the chair. “Of course,” he said smoothly, offering Garrus a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I can see where my words might have come off as offensive.” 

It was Jane’s turn to roll her eyes. “Cut the crap,” she shot back. “You did that shit to get under his skin and you know it- what’s your deal, Xander?” 

“I don’t know him,” he replied smoothly, clearly unphased by the entire conversation. “He’s an unknown… you are not. However, that doesn’t change the fact that taking Taylor with you will add to your legitimacy.”

Jane was getting a headache and decided to take a sip of her coffee before saying something offensive. After a few beats, she glared at Xander again. “Five people is a lot for a pickup,” she said slowly. “Bringing in a crew that large makes it look like we’re preparing for a takeover.” 

Xander nodded, then tapped his finger on the arm of the chair. “Sounds like an easy fix- just leave one of your people here.”  

Garrus started to growl, but Jane put a hand on his chest. “Why do I want to replace someone I trust with someone I don’t?”

“How can you start to trust him if you won’t work with him?” Xander asked casually, raising an eyebrow at her. “Seems like quite the conundrum to me…”

Jane sighed, not willing to fight with him this early but also not wanting to concede to his point. “I’ll take it under advisement,” she said stiffly. “But I need to get dressed, so…” 

Xander smiled, the expression wobbling as she tried to hand him back the empty cup. “Keep it,” he said, reaching out to pat her on the shoulder and immediately thinking better of it. “You might have gotten it for me, but it was always yours, Brainy.” He adjusted his sleeves, then stood up, bowing his head slightly. “And with that, I’ll see you both downstairs...enjoy the rest of your morning.”

  


Nihlus stood in the comms room with Sloane and Miranda, listening to the mission and getting more irritable by the second. He knew Purgatory, having sent a few criminals there on occasion. However, he knew that Garrus had no intention of sitting out the mission, and John was much more powerful than Jacob- the man was a waste of a squad member, but the spectre had to admit that Sloane’s plan had merit.

“How much longer,” Nihlus asked, looking over at Sloane. “Thought this was a simple transfer?” 

“Supposed to be,” the man replied, looking down at his omni-tool. “Credits have been transferred already.” Suddenly, his face darkened as he bit out a curse. “Sonofabitch!”

Miranda raised an eyebrow at him, not even moving from her seat. “Care to share what you found with the rest of us that don’t have our noses buried in a datapad? Funny, I thought your intel was always perfect, Sloane.” 

“My intel was fine,” Sloane snapped, thrusting the datapad in her face. “The problem is the warden… he’s decided to be greedy, which is fucking up everything!”

Nihlus paused, feeling a crawling feeling under his plates. “What does that mean?” 

“He sent out a message saying that he had Archangel and Shepard available,” Miranda read, the slight widening of her eyes being the only indication that she found the information disturbing. “This poses a problem.” 

“I intercepted the message,” Sloane replied, standing up and looking around the room. “That being said, they’re walking into a trap- I do not doubt that our contact is going to be less than agreeable about them leaving.” 

Nihlus let out an annoyed rumble and stood up, glaring at the others in the room. “You two can compare intel reports all you like,” he rumbled, letting out a curse when he couldn’t reach anyone on comms. “I’m going in.”

“I’m going too,” Sloane replied, his blue-grey eyes glinting with rage. “We had an arrangement… and I don’t appreciate them going back on their word.”

“Selfless you are not,” Nihlus grumbled as he walked out of the room. “Good to know where your priorities lie, Sloane.”

“My priorities are varied,” he replied, quickly catching up to the turian. “Just because I don’t choose to share them with you doesn’t make them any less valid.”

“If you double-cross them, I will not hesitate to shoot you,” Nihlus said coldly. “Personally, I consider you a liability, Sloane- don’t get in my way out there.” 

Sloane gave Nihlus a stern look, stepping into his armor and strapping a pistol to his thigh. “You seem to forget that I wasn’t always trapped behind a desk, spectre… I can assure you, I’m more than capable when it comes to defending myself.” 

“See that you are,” Nihlus growled, heading for the airlock. “Because if it’s a choice between you and them, it’s always going to be them.”

“Of that, I have no doubt,” Sloane replied, his face hidden by the helmet. “Now… I say it’s time we stop talking and be on our way so we can put an end to this bastard.”

Nihlus just nodded, hoping that the man wouldn’t get any ideas about shooting him in the back. “Sounds like a decent enough plan to me.”

  


Sloane was pissed by the time they made it to the prison. She’s going to think I sold her out, he thought angrily. I made all the plans… Kuril was set to be flush with credits- why did that barefaced bastard have to go and get greedy? He continued to fume as they made their way to the doors, running a scan and getting the proper codes to slide them open. He’s going to pay for this… I didn’t come this far to lose now. 

As they crept inside, Sloane had to admit that for someone as big as he was, the turian ended up being somewhat stealthy.  After Sloane had shorted out the cameras, they’d made it into the prison undetected, leaving no one the wiser about their entrance. Once they got inside, he fiddled with the channels on his comms- when he heard the sound of static, he grinned. “They had blockers on the comms,” he whispered. “No outside frequencies were able to get in.” 

“Wonderful,” the turian replied curtly, looking as if he was barely paying attention. “Can you fix it?”

“Already have,” Sloane answered, trying to keep the note of pride out of his voice. “Patching us into their network now.” He fiddled around a bit, finding the proper frequency. “Brainy, this is Xander... do you read me?”

“Yeah, this isn’t ominous at all,” John replied, causing Sloane to glance over at the turian. Good, he noted, John doesn’t have cement inside his ears- this may be easier than I hoped. “Listen to me- the warden is planning on breaking our contract. He means to capture Brainy and Archangel- we need to secure Jack and get out of here.”

“How long before Jack is ready for transport?” Jane asked, her tone clipped and flat. “I think we need to get out of here.”

Sloane looked over at the spectre, who nodded. “We’re coming to meet you… I’m tracking your signal now.”

“So we just need to go to outprocessing?” Garrus asked, causing Sloane to nod with approval. "Mind telling us where that is?”

This is better than I’d hoped, he thought, ducking as a Blue Sun passed mindlessly over their position. Get me your location so we can speed this up a little. Even though he couldn’t hear the response, Sloane frowned as he checked his map and saw that Jane and the others were moving. “I don’t know what he just told you,” he said carefully, “but judging by the trackers in your suits, you’re headed the wrong way. Also, I just checked the logs- there have been no calls for prisoner transport.”

Before anyone could say another word, the warden came over the loudspeaker. “Drop your weapons and proceed into this open cell- you will not be harmed.”

“Fuck that,” John shot back. “I’m not feeling this arrangement, Kuril.” 

Nihlus groaned, and Sloane followed suit when he heard Jacob’s voice over the comms. “Kuril,” the soldier said slowly, “I’m sure this is a big misunderstanding- why don’t we try to negoti-”

Before he could finish the sentence, Jacob let out a grunt- Sloane could hear the sounds of gunfire and it sent a chill down his spine. “Hold your position,” he yelled, taking off at a run and using his biotics to fling a soldier at the wall, “Kryik and I are on our way!”

They raced down the hall, gunning down soldiers as Sloane dashed toward the location on his map. “Didn’t know you were a biotic,” Nihlus remarked as he took down a guard. “Interesting.” 

“I don’t advertise it,” Sloane replied, whipping out his pistol and firing two clean shots into the head of an unsuspecting guard, then overloading an approaching mech. “I prefer to stick to things I’m good at… this is not one of them.” 

“Interesting,” the turian said evenly. While Sloane was working to keep his composure, the turian seemed to be perfectly calm despite the chaos raging around him. He noticed the spectre giving him a pointed look, then frowned when he caught him muting his comms. “You seem to be quite upset about this for someone who doesn’t care what happens to anyone.” 

He started to snap off a reply, but he had the presence of mind to silence his comms before he did. “I sent them on this mission,” he said firmly, looking around and racing toward the gunfire. “I have no intention of being blamed for this whole endeavor going ass up- I have enough problems as it is, and I refuse to be held responsible if something happens to Jane or her crew.”

“Odd stance for the Butcher of Torfan to take,” Nihlus replied, taking out the mech skittering along the hallway. “I always thought you viewed the crew as expendable in service of the goal.”

“Fuck you,” Sloane sneered, racing toward the room and taking down the last of the guards hemming the team inside. “You’re running your mouth about things you don’t understand… it’s a terrible look.” 

Nihlus just looked at him and switched on his comms, ignoring Sloane's statement- he'd have to look into what the turian thought he knew later. “Everyone ok in there?”

“We’re fine,” Jane replied, her expression full of surprise when she saw the two of them in the doorway. “I can’t believe you guys came,” she exclaimed, looking back and forth between the two of them. “Nih, you know we had this covered- you didn’t have to come down here!”

Sloane’s face darkened beneath the helmet, but the turian stepped forward before he could say anything. “The analyst insisted we get down here- he seemed quite insistent on protecting his investment.” 

Wait… why is he being conciliatory to me? This endeavor was his idea in the first place. Sloane started to protest, but then he realized it would be stupid to squander the opportunity- he could sort out everything else at a more convenient time. “I was the one that made this deal,” he said stiffly, “and I have no intention on being blamed for that idiot warden’s delusions of grandeur.” Ignoring the curious looks, Sloane proceeded to reload his pistol. “Come- we have a prisoner to collect, and I have a warden to kill… standing around in here will accomplish neither of those things.”

Jane just stared at him, no doubt trying to figure out what his game was. “Not that I’m disagreeing, but how do you propose we do either of those things?”

Sloane looked down at his omni-tool and brought up his map. “There’s a security console down the hall,” he replied, moving back to let Jane and her team exit the room. “And with that in mind, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to come up with something.” 

Chapter Text

  


When a blast whizzed by his head, John ducked and glared at Jane. “Holy fuck, did we really have to release every fucking criminal in this place!” 

“Didn’t see you coming up with any better ideas,” Jane shot back, taking down a merc that stood in the way. “Besides, Jack needs our help- we need to get moving.”

“Seriously?” John just stared at Jane and blinked, pointing to the gaping hole in the wall. “Seems to me like she’s got this covered… better than us, anyway.”

“Despite Jack’s abilities,” Sloane said irritably, sending an overload at a mech and disabling it, “the fact still remains that Warden Kuril wants her back in a cell… and I don’t think he’s going to be too conciliatory upon her capture.” 

John started to say something, but Nihlus just glared at him. “This isn’t the time to debate,” Nihlus snarled, looking around the hallway and letting out a growl when he saw the guards fighting the prisoners. “We have to hurry.” 

“No shit,” John grumbled, racing behind them. “Any ideas how we do this without getting ourselves murdered in the process?”

“I thought you were the great John Shepard,” Sloane sniped, rushing ahead and firing on a merc. “You’re the hero- shouldn’t you be able to save us all and make it home in time for dinner without mussing one of those horrendous curls you insist on keeping?”

In a fit of pique, John prepped his energy, only stopping when Garrus rested a hand on his shoulder. “I’m going to kill him,” he growled, searching for a way to knock Sloane flat on his ass. “Seriously, no one would mind- I’d be doing us all a favor.”

“Bigger things to worry about at the moment,” Garrus replied, his eyes narrowing when he saw the warden hanging out near the platform. “Like the idiot over there that wanted to sell me- seems a bit more pressing.”

“Why couldn’t you just listen!” Kuril roared, using his gun to take down a contingent of prisoners before firing at them. “You’re valuable, Shepard- I could’ve sold you and lived like a king!”

“Hard pass!” Jane yelled, reloading her gun. “Not interested in the slightest, Kuril! You’re nothing but a two-bit slave-trader and I don’t have time for your shit!”

“How dare you!” Kuril howled, sending out another shot at them. “I do the hard things that civil governments are unwilling to do!”

“Yeah, because most sane people tend to frown on selling prisoners,” John shot back, taking down an approaching guard. “Slavery tends to be a turnoff for me!”

“This is for the good of the galaxy- I do what I have to!” Kuril snapped, taking aim at a prisoner and shooting him in the back. “I didn’t see you complaining when Cerberus wanted to buy one of my assets- you don’t get to condemn things when it’s inconvenient for you!”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m not fucking Cerberus!” Jane yelled, lining up her shot and letting out a hiss of frustration when her blast bounced harmlessly off the shield that erupted around the warden. “Fuck- I can’t hit him!” 

Sloane looked down at his omni-tool, then pointed to the towers scattered across the room. “John, you’re with me,” he barked. “We need to take these shield generators out! Vakarian, I hear you’re an excellent sniper- between you and Jane, I want that bastard’s head on a pike when we get these shields down, understand?” 

John just shot Sloane a look. Who the fuck does he think he’s talking to? Last I checked, my sister was in charge. Jane,” John said pointedly, ignoring the analyst, “what do you want us to do?” 

Jane didn’t even look at him, concentrating her fire on the mercs streaming in the room. “We don’t have time for this- Johnny, quit dicking around and go with him! Look, if he does something stupid, you have my permission to fry his ass!”

“Got it,” John replied, glaring at the man and letting out a curse before tossing up a shield. “Let’s just get this over with!”

  


Jane had reached her limit with the fuckery on this ship- all she wanted to do was find Jack and get out of here. After taking down the warden, the team wasted no time racing to the airlock, only to find Jack facing off against some guards. Shit, Jane thought, taking in the scene in front of her, this doesn’t look good.

But before they could do anything, the biotic hurled the attackers into the wall without a second thought, earning a low whistle from John. “Shit,” John breathed, staring as the tiny woman started throwing a fit when she saw the Cerberus logo on the Normandy, “she… looks like she could do some damage." Then a slow smile crept across his lips, and he clapped the analyst on the shoulder. "Hey, Xander, why don’t you go explain what a nice company you guys are? I’m sure she’d be happy to listen to you- maybe you'll get a new recruit!”

Xander turned around, the expression on his face murderous- if looks could kill, John would have been roasted where he stood. “This is not the time-”

“Agreed,” Jane said simply, whipping out her pistol and shooting the batarian guard in the head as he tried to sneak up on Jack. The woman snapped her head around and prepared her energy, but Jane immediately holstered her pistol and stepped back, looking at the scantily-dressed woman with concern. “You ok?” 

“Who the fuck are you?” Jack spat, looking her up and down and narrowing her eyes when she noticed Sloane and Jacob. “Can’t be worth a damn if you’re sucking off these Cerberus assholes.” 

“Eh, fuck these guys,” Jane shot back, earning herself a choking noise from Jacob. “I’m Commander Shepard and I’m here to rescue you- you’re welcome, by the way.” 

“For what?” Jack retorted, her energy building rapidly. “What, think you’re going to capture me and take me back? Well, guess what?” She leaned forward and snarled, the expression on her face downright feral. “ I don’t fucking think so!

Jane rolled her eyes, unphased by her temper. “Look, I’m sure you’ve got a pretty big dick, but I don’t need you to show it to me- I’m here to rescue you… that’s all.”

No doubt surprised by her nonchalant response, the biotic scoffed and took a step back. “Yeah, right.”

Jane gestured to the ship outside the window. “Believe what you want, but the dead batarian on the floor seems to back up my story, not to mention my ship is the only way off this rock. Your choice, but from where I’m sitting, I think I’m the only ride you got coming, lady.”

“Fuck you- you’re working with Cerberus!” Jack yelled. “Why the hell should I trust a goddamn thing you have to say?” 

“Because I hate them too,” Jane replied evenly, crossing her arms. “Considering they sent a thresher maw to eat me, they’re not too high on my Christmas list either.” 

“She’s not lying,” John interjected, then jerked a thumb at Garrus. “This spiky bastard is her husband- we all know that someone in Cerberus would never stoop low enough to fuck a turian.”

Garrus hit John in the arm while Jack looked him up and down and scoffed. “What about you?” 

John just grinned. “If I could get away with killing this one,” he replied, inclining his head toward Xander, “I would’ve done it a long time ago. Trust me, us Shepards and Vakarians have about as much love for these fuckers as you do.” 

“As much as I love hearing you three bash the organization that’s trying to save you all,” Xander snapped, “I suggest we take this conversation somewhere else… like the ship, perhaps?” 

“You say you don’t work for them, then prove it,” Jack said, crossing her arms and staring at Jane. “I want access to Cerberus’s files- I need to see what these bastards have on me, why they keep fucking chasing me down...”

“How far back do you want them?” Jane asked, tapping a few keys on her omni-tool and ignoring the scathing looks Xander and Jacob were giving her. “Come back to the ship with me and they’re yours.” 

Jack paused, but Xander interjected, his voice laced with polite rage. “Jane,” he said through gritted teeth, “I hardly think-” 

“No Xander, you don’t think,” Jane replied evenly. “You fucking plot and steal info every chance you get. I say if she wants to know what’s in her file, then she should see it- I mean, you of all people should believe that, right?” 

At that, Xander’s jaw snapped shut with an audible click and he turned on his heel, pushing past and knocking into her shoulder. “I’ve had enough of this bullshit,” he hissed. “Be back to the ship in five or I’m leaving you all here. Enjoy the fucking exploding ball of death- I hear it’s so much better than Cerberus.”

“Asshole,” John muttered staring after Xander for a moment before turning to look at Jack. “So, what’s the word? You coming with us or roasting on this ship?”

“If you guys are lying to me I promise I’m gonna kill you all,” Jack growled. “Don’t make me regret this, Shepard.” 

“Already do,” Jane replied blithely, heading toward the airlock. “Come on… time to get the fuck outta here.”

  


Sloane waited for a few beats when he got back to the Normandy, slowly taking off his armor and heading for his office. He didn’t want to be around when Jane and the convict returned, but he also needed to speak to Miranda- mad or not, Sloane knew there was still a chance that Jacob would come running to the bitch queen’s side like some sniveling lapdog. Leaving things to chance is not my style, he thought, making his way to the elevator. May as well handle it myself. 

Rubbing his temples and rolling his neck, he pressed the call button and waited, only to have his eyes widen slightly with a mixture of interest and concern when he was greeted by Solana and her… cat? “Mrs. Shepard,” he said politely, stepping inside the car and moving to the opposite corner, “how are you this afternoon?” 

Solana just stared at him for a moment, never taking her eyes off him as she lowered the cat to the ground. “I’m fine,” she said slowly. “And yourself?” 

“Nothing a good bath and a drink won’t fix,” he said cheerfully, noticing the grey animal creeping toward him. He didn’t really care for most animals, but he tended to like cats- they were just as aloof as he was, and just as deadly, too. “I’d heard whispers of their being a cat on board… didn’t expect it to be yours, Mrs. Shepard.” Squatting down, he extended a hand to the cat and waited- it would either come to him or it wouldn’t. “Seems like he’s adapting rather well to ship life.”

The cat paused for a moment, then turned to look back at the turian- he heard the woman let out a soft rumble, and the cat turned back to him. “He’s used to it,” Solana replied, now staring intently at the cat, her entire body tense- immediately, Sloane relaxed his stance and the turian loosened up a little, letting out a soft sigh. “He was on board for the last trip, too.”

Interesting, he mused, waiting to see what the creature would do. Definitely not what I was expecting. “I can see why,” he replied, smiling as the cat nuzzled his hand- the turian let out a surprised-sounding chirp, but the cat just kept going. “He’s certainly a friendly fellow...what’s his name?”

“JC,” she replied as the doors opened, her expression confused. “He… seems to like you.”

“It seems that way,” Sloane conceded, getting a headbutt to the face from the cat and spitting out fur. “Is that unusual?” 

“Just surprising,” Solana muttered, still staring at the cat. “Sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Sloane.”

“Call me Xander,” Sloane replied, instantly wincing as soon as the words left his lips. Realizing it was too late to take it back, he made sure to offer her a bright smile. Won’t be the worst thing to be friendly to John’s wife… might make things a bit easier later on. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly as they moved away from the elevator, watching with interest as she scooped the cat into her arms, “I… don’t usually share that name with people.” 

Solana just smiled. “You can call me Sol,” she replied, extending her hand. “Nice to meet you, Xander.” 

Dumbfounded by her politeness, Sloane took her hand and shook it. “Forgive me for saying this,” he said, curiosity eating at his insides, “but you’re being remarkably polite- are you sure you’re related to the others on this ship that share your names?” 

At that, her smile shifted into a laugh, a strange and pleasant sound that he hadn’t expected to hear from the turian. “You saved my mom and brought my sister back,” Solana answered matter-of-factly. “That alone is worth me giving you the benefit of a doubt. Plus,” she said, her tone serious as she shifted the cat and extended her hand, letting biotic energy encase her palm, “though my family doesn’t seem to think so, I’m more than capable of taking care of myself.”

“I never thought otherwise,” Sloane replied good-naturedly, finding himself intrigued by the young woman. Miranda can wait, he thought, passing by her office and following Sol into the medbay. This… has proven more pressing. “Since you’ve forgiven one brash question, I feel empowered to ask another- would that be all right with you?” 

Sol gave him a slightly amused look as they headed inside, waving to the salarian as he made his way out of the room. “I suppose- it’s not as if I’m obligated to answer you.” 

Sloane let out an actual laugh at that, surprising himself with how at ease he was with someone else. “No, I suppose you aren’t,” he admitted, smoothing his clothes. “That just means I’m more honored if you chose to answer.”

“Charmer,” Sol replied, setting the cat down and heading over to her workstation. “There’s no need to try and butter me up- just be honest and I’ll do the same.” 

“That’s a tall ask,” Sloane said, shocking himself with his sincerity as he slid gracefully onto an unused cot. “Unfortunately, that sort of thing doesn’t come easily, not to mention the fact that it's a significant impediment in my line of work.” 

“It should,” Sol said firmly. “There’s never a need to be mean or rude.” Sloane started to interrupt, but she held up a finger at him. “Now, I understand being stealthy and gathering information, but there are ways to do it without hurting people- I just see that as being better for everyone.” 

Shocked at her idyllic brashness, Sloane raised an eyebrow. “Like what you’re doing right now?”

Immediately, the turian shook her head. “I don’t want or need anything from you, Xander- I’m just trying to get to know you.” Then she frowned and let out a soft rumble. “That’s a sad way to live, thinking everyone wants something- you can’t make friends that way.” 

“Everything has a cost,” Sloane replied, giving the turian a sad little smile. “It’s a sad part of life I haven’t been able to avoid, so I’ve chosen to make it work for me instead.”

Sol sat down in a chair across from him, her expression full of pity. “Is that what happened between you and Janey?” 

The question wasn’t wholly unexpected, but he still chuckled and shook his head. “Now you are digging for information, Mrs. Shepard- I thought that was against your personal coda?” 

“And I thought I was Sol and you were Xander,” the turian answered, cocking her head at him. “You don’t get to retreat at the first hard question- that’s not how getting to know people works.” 

Sloane laughed, folding his hands in his lap, then looking at her with surprise as she made her way over to the first-aid station. “Save your supplies,” he admonished, watching as she grabbed a tube of medi-gel. “I’m fine, Sol.” 

“Better with the name, but refusing medical treatment isn’t an option in this medbay,” Sol said firmly. “My family isn’t able to get away with it, so neither can you.”

“You’re certainly a demanding medic, aren’t you?” Sloane replied, chuckling and wincing as she placed medi-gel on a scrape on his face. “This really wasn’t necessary.”

“You’re in here, so you get treated just like everyone else,” she said stubbornly, then stood up and crossed her arms. “But you still haven’t answered my question.”

“It seems I haven’t,” he replied, giving her an approving nod. “I take it your husband has told you the story of Jane and I?” 

Sol nodded, then let out a humming sound. “May I ask you a question, Xander?” 

“You just did,” he replied, then laughed at the expression of surprise on her face. “But yes, feel free to ask whatever you like- as you stated before, I’m under no obligation to answer.”

“Um,” she said nervously, tapping a gloved talon on the nearby table. “Are you trying to get back with my sister? Because if you are, I need to tell you what a horrible idea that is and-” 

At that, Sloane laughed uproariously, causing the human doctor to peek her head out of the room. “Sol,” he replied, careful to use the name she’d given him, “thankfully, I’ve never been ‘with’ Janey in the first place- we were best friends... that’s all.” Watching as her shoulders relaxed with relief, Sloane let his expression settle into a smile. “And if I were foolish enough to indulge in pointless fantasies, I’d want us to be friends again- alas, the world doesn’t work that way.”

“You should talk to her,” Sol said quietly, sitting back down in her chair. “And apologize.” 

“And you seem to be quite interested in my business,” he said mildly, folding his hands and sighing when he noticed the turian stiffen. I can’t believe it, Sloane marveled, watching the woman in front of him withdraw right before his eyes. She’s genuinely trying to help- why does she even care? 

“My apologies,” Sloane said stiffly. “I assume this was another one of those things that had no ill-intent, am I right?” When Sol nodded, he sighed. “Again, not used to altruism- that’s my shortcoming, not yours, Sol. But, to answer your question,” the analyst said wearily, “there’s not an apology in the galaxy big enough to make up for how I’ve wronged your sister.”

“That doesn’t mean that you stop trying,” she replied, looking down at her hands. “I think you did horrible things,” Sol murmured, her voice so soft he had to strain to hear it, “but I don’t think you’re a horrible person. I’ve met horrible people,” she said darkly, and instantly he knew she was referring to Alenko. “Something tells me you aren’t anywhere near that bad… so that gives me hope that you can make things right one day.”

Swallowing the lump that threatened to rise in his throat, Sloane gave the turian a bright smile. “For both our sakes, I hope I prove worthy of such a wonderful sentiment, Sol.”

Just then, the medbay doors opened, revealing a flushed-looking John. “There you are,” he said irritably, looking at Sloane. “You need to get into the armory… everyone’s least favorite princess and our newly-acquired psychotic biotic are having a pissing match down there.”

Sloane just raised his eyebrows. “You’re the superior biotic,” he said snippily, feeling a strange sensation in his stomach when he realized that the turian was staring at him with disappointment. “Mind sharing why you didn’t handle it?”

“Because my money’s on the convict,” John snapped back. “I’m just trying to give you a chance to save your mouthpiece- fair is fair, after all.” 

“You’re an absolute delight,” Sloane said irritably, getting up from the bed. “Thank you for your kindness, Mrs. Vakarian… I hope to see you around the ship sometime.”

“Of course,” Solana replied, her tone clipped. Sloane didn’t have to look back to know how offended she was- her next words said it all. “I wish you well, Mr. Sloane.” 

Chapter Text

  


Jane was starting to get a headache from the screaming and the smell of eezo, but the conditions didn’t seem to bother either of the furious women in front of her. Jack was practically frothing at the mouth, and Miranda wasn’t helping things… as usual. Jacob, in his infinite wisdom, had blabbed about the deal to the plastic princess, and just as she’d suspected, the woman was having a fit. “Shepard,” she snarled, “I don’t know what you’re used to, but around here, we don’t go around giving confidential information to… miscreants!” 

At that, Jane’s eyes narrowed, and John took off, leaving them alone in the armory. “That’s funny,” Jane growled, stepping forward and balling up her fists, “because the last time I checked, I was captain of this ship- so before you get to thinking you’re more important than you are,” Jane fingered the stasis mine in her pocket, just waiting for the moment where Miranda decided to step the pissing match up a level, “I’d re-evaluate just where I was sitting on the totem pole, you uptight barbie bitch!” 

“Thought that was Ash,” Garrus muttered under his breath, earning a hum from Nihlus- Jane ignored both of them. “Nih, I think we should arrange a play-date- I’m willing to bet that Ash and Miranda are going to just love each other.” 

“That’s enough out of you!” Miranda shrieked, her control finally shattered. “I’ve had just about enough this insolence from you and your team, Shepard! It’s time you learned-” 

The woman didn’t get the chance to finish- as soon as Jane felt the hairs raise up on her arm, she dropped the mine at Miranda’s feet. Without warning, Miranda went stock-still, glaring at Jane with a look of pure hatred- if Jane gave a fuck about what Miranda actually thought, she might be worried. “That’s better,” Jane replied, walking away from her and turning to glare at Jacob. “Jack, like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted,” she said pointedly- thankfully, the man had the decency to shrink back. “I’ll be happy to give you the files you asked for.”

Jack just looked over at Miranda, cheerfully flipping the woman off. “Bitch got what she deserved,” she muttered, then turned warily to Jane. “Wait- did you have that shit on you the whole time?”

“Yep- play stupid games, win stupid prizes,” Jane replied, nodding and putting her hands in her pockets. “Your file said you were a kickass biotic- it’d be foolish to go up against you without one.” 

“Dipshits got one thing right, at least,” Jack grunted, looking Jane up and down. “If you had it, why didn’t you use it- I coulda popped your fucking head off back there.” 

“Cause like I said… I’m not Cerberus,” Jane replied irritably. “You hadn’t done anything to me, so why would I fuck with you?”

In response, Jack let out a loud huff. “Whatever, girl scout- where’s my fucking files?” 

“Such a delightful young woman,” Nihlus muttered, raising his brow-plates at Jane- she ignored him. “It appears we’re going to have a wonderful time together.”

“Fuck off, asshole,” Jack sneered, then turned back to Jane. “I'm done with this shit- where can I go to be away from these Cerberus bastards?” 

“Well, the guy you just insulted is a spectre like me,” Jane said mildly, watching Jack for a reaction. “He hates these guys as much as I do. And that’s my husband standing next to him-”

Jack’s eyes went wide just before she started hooting with laughter. “Oh shit! You’re fucking the bird boy!” 

“His name is Garrus,” Jane snarled, her face growing hot and angry. “Call any of them that again and I will personally show you how I feel… with a bullet .” 

Jack just sniffed, and Jane figured it was as close to an apology as she was going to get. “Calm down, girl scout, I didn’t mean shit by it- if you like almost dying for your dick, then who am I to judge?” 

Jane glanced over to Miranda, who was still completely frozen. Glad we revamped these for Nana, she thought smugly. Stops you in your tracks and shuts you the hell up. “The pilot and the doctor are good, and my sister is in the medbay… she’s also a turian,” she said tersely, hoping Jack would get the message- to her credit, the biotic stayed silent. “My brother is coming back, and he’s got as much love for Cerberus as I do, so there you go. Everyone else, take with a grain of salt.” Then she plucked the datapad out of Miranda’s hands, making a remote backup of the contents and wiping it. “Here… I’m putting your files on this- Garrus, can you help our friend find a place to go?”

“Before you all begin to disperse, can anyone share just what is going on here?” Xander snapped, exiting the elevator with John. “And why is Lawson frozen, Janey?”

“Bitch wouldn’t shut up,” Jack snarled. “Girl scout taught her a lesson about running her mouth.” 

A small smile reached the corners of Jane’s lips, but she chose not to remark on the biotic’s statement. “Can I help you, Xander?” 

“Your brother just informed me that our friend and miss Lawson were not seeing eye to eye.” Xander glanced over to Miranda’s frozen form, then pinched his nose. “You just had to get involved, didn’t you?” 

“Captain takes care of her crew,” Jane said firmly, staring and daring him to challenge her- to his credit, Xander didn’t. “Miranda was in the wrong… I just showed her how wrong she was.” 

“You can’t keep getting into altercations whenever you disagree!” Xander shouted irritably, his face growing redder with every word. “Like it or not, she’s on this crew, Jane, so please… find a way to work together!”

“I have,” Jane replied breezily, heading for the elevator- she had no intention of releasing the mine until she was well out of Miranda’s proximity. “I stay out of her way and she stays out of mine- problem solved.”

That shade of red went deeper and deeper. “Jane,” Xander growled, “that is not what I-”

“C’mon... let’s head out of here and leave these three to it,” she said sweetly, smiling brightly and waving at Xander before gesturing toward the elevator. “I’m sure they have things to discuss that don’t involve us.” 

Her team nodded and Jack just grunted, shoulder-checking Jacob as she walked past. “Whatever,” she muttered, walking into the elevator and crossing her arms. “I just want my shit, Shepard- you can keep this little team bullshit.” 

“Hey, you do you,” Jane replied as they walked in the car with her. “As far as I’m concerned, we don’t have to be friends… I just need you to do a job, that’s all.” 

“Glad you understand,” Jack snapped, looking them over before rolling her eyes. “Just keep your end of the bargain, and I’ll keep mine.” 

  


Sloane peered at the device keeping Miranda frozen in place and murmured with approval. “Interesting little gadget,” he mused, rubbing his chin and feeling the stubble coming in beneath his fingers. “Seems that team of hers has a few tricks I might want to look into.”

“That’s all well and good, but how do we help her?” Jacob snapped, gesturing to Miranda. “She’s still frozen stiff!”

“I’d advise you not to use your biotics,” Sloane said evenly, glancing over at the woman- she was stock-still, but her eyes were moving around the room and she looked furious. “Wouldn’t want a second statue down here, would we?” 

Jacob started to fume, thrusting a finger in Sloane’s face- he just gave the soldier a bemused look. “Look, I know you don’t give a shit about anyone except yourself, but you could at least do your damn job and help her!”

Sloane just stepped forward and smiled, the look in his blue-grey eyes making the soldier hesitate for a moment. “Point that at me again and you’ll find yourself missing it,” he purred, his voice low and cold. “It seems that you have me mistaken for someone who gives a shit about your little tantrum.” When Jacob lowered his hand, Sloane’s smile shifted into something even more sinister. “Miranda has been warned about antagonizing Shepard,” he said pointedly, turning to make sure she heard every word. “However, for all her brilliance, she is a prideful idiot- I refuse to sacrifice what little leverage I have for someone who refuses to listen.” 

At that, Sloane started making his way to the elevator, only to be stopped by Jacob. “Sloane, please!”

Sloane sighed, then turned around, rubbing his temples. “Why should I help?”

“Because…” Jacob stammered, looking between the two of them. “You and Miri…” 

“Oh, Mr. Taylor,” Sloane chortled, delighting in the look of confusion on the man’s face. “Miranda and I are nothing even remotely close to an item. She was a… means to an end, nothing more.” He looked Jacob up and down, then gave him that patronizing smile again. “A passable way to spend the time, I suppose. However,” he said, mockingly tapping his lips, “her information was quite interesting- I wouldn’t mind having another go if she had anything useful to share.” 

“You’re a bastard,” Jacob seethed, balling up his fists. “I can see why the Shepards hate you.” 

“And so is Lawson,” Sloane sneered, placing his hands in his pockets. “I just prefer to be upfront about it… saves so much more time that way. Trust me, Taylor- the sooner you wake up to the  fact that no one is looking out for you here, the better off you’ll be.” 

“Shepard isn’t like that,” Jacob retorted, still looking over at the frozen Miranda. “She gives a shit about her crew.”

“Too bad she doesn’t give a shit about you,” Sloane replied icily, that mocking smile still plastered across his face. “Hmmm, I wonder why that is?” Jacob started to say something, but Sloane cut him off, turning on his heel and heading toward the elevator. “Look, be a good boy and let me know when Lawson thaws out, will you? I’ve got an ops report to give her… as per our arrangement.” 

  


After helping Jack get settled, Garrus made his way to the main battery, eager to look around. He’d been itching to get in here for a minute, but exploration had taken a backseat thanks to all the chaos on the ship. He stepped inside the room and immediately, he felt deliciously warm. Since the Normandy was a human ship (which they never failed to try to work into a conversation), Garrus frequently found himself chilled- in here, the air was the perfect temperature, and it was quiet. Looking around the battery, Garrus let out an approving hum as he noticed some materials scattered across the console. Thanix cannon...now that sounds interesting. 

Garrus started to read, leaning against the console and getting so wrapped up in the documentation that he barely noticed when Jane walked into the room, sliding an arm around his waist. Looking up and feeling slightly embarrassed about his oversight, he let out an apologetic hum and rested his head on hers. “Sorry,” he said, closing his eyes as she leaned closer. “I think I lost track of time.” 

“I’d say,” Jane replied with a smile. It was then he noticed her clothing- she’d changed out of her undersuit and was in her N7 sweatpants and hoodie. “You’ve been down here for a while, big guy.” 

Garrus grinned, then scratched the side of his neck. “Got caught up in some reading,” he said apologetically. “This cannon is… fascinating. And we can upgrade it- we just need a few more materials, and-”

Jane laughed and pressed her lips to his lip plates, effectively cutting him off. “It’s bedtime,” she replied, taking his hand in hers. “Playtime is over… if you want, you can sit the next mission out and tinker around with the cannon- I won’t be offended.”

“Absolutely not,” Garrus replied, nuzzling his head in her hair. “The cannon is fun, but my mate is way more important.” When she grinned, he pressed his lip plates to her forehead. “So, what kind of hell do you have me walking into this time, Jane?” 

“The kind of crazy that makes me miss Wrex,” Jane admitted. “Apparently, Sloane found a warlord that might be trying to make a deal with the Collectors in order to cure the genophage. Seems to think we might be able to talk him down and strike a better deal.” Garrus let out a sigh, but Jane just smirked as they walked toward the elevator. “And, if that wasn’t enough awesome for you... he’s holed up in a Blue Suns camp.” 

“You really do take me to the nicest places,” he said wryly, ignoring the poke in his side. “Do we have to take our less than friendly family members this time?” 

Jane sighed, slumping against the elevator. “I’d like to say no, but considering the way these last few ‘easy’ pickups have gone, I might not mind some cannon fodder.” 

“You’re so sexy when you’re murderous,” Garrus teased, pulling her next to him. “Reminds me why I mated with you in the first place.” 

“Oh, is that why?” Jane said teasingly, reaching up to kiss him. “Sounds like I need to give you a refresher course, Mr. Vakarian.”

“Hmmm,” Garrus replied, ignoring the surprised yelp Jane let out as he scooped her into his arms. “Good thing I’m such a willing student, huh?” 

Jane laughed, throwing her head back and looking so carefree that Garrus thought he would burst with joy. “Without a doubt,” she said, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “I wouldn’t have you any other way.” 

  


John made his way back to the medbay, trying to keep his irritation in check. He knew his wife was naturally friendly, but he couldn’t shake the fear that came with seeing Xander sitting across from her. Jane might trust him but I don’t, he thought angrily, taking a deep breath. I’ve got too much to lose.

“Hey Johnny,” Sol said, shifting in her seat to smile at him. “Everything all right down there?” 

John leaned against the door, shaking his head and reassuring himself that Sol was ok. “So far so good, even though Miri is a human popsicle down there. Depending on whether or not Jane decides to release her from the mine, you might need to head down there to see if she’s ok.”

Sol cocked her head, then let out a groan. “Do I even want to know what happened?”

John sighed, then walked over to her side. “Probably not,” he admitted, placing a kiss on her cheek. “Long story short, we picked up a very angry biotic who hates Cerberus almost as much as Jane does, if not more- Miranda tried picking a fight with her, and Jane… did not take kindly to it.”

“I’d suppose not,” Sol replied, humming with amusement. “I take it Xander was unable to assist?”

At the mention of his name, John stiffened with irritation. “Nope,” he said curtly. “He didn’t make it worse, so small favors, I guess.” Then he sat on the desk, staring at his wife and trying to figure out how to broach the subject. “But,” John said cautiously, carefully monitoring his wife’s expression, “what was Xander doing in here, anyway?” 

“Just talking,” Sol replied casually. “JC and I met up with him in the elevator- since he decided to talk to me, I made him sit down for an exam.”

Despite his nerves, John grinned. “You know, you don’t have to learn everything from Chakwas, Tiny- the ship doesn’t need two of her.” 

“I heard that,” Chakwas replied, sticking her head out of her office and giving John a stern look. “Keep it up and I’m going to request an updated physical, Shepard.” 

“Hey, let’s not get hasty,” John chuckled, raising his hands in apology. “Besides, I prefer a personal consultation,” he teased, nudging Sol with his leg- his wife groaned and shook her head. “Mind if I steal my wife for a minute?” 

“Making that girl eat dinner wouldn’t be the worst thing,” the doctor replied. “Send her back to me fed, would you?”

“Happily,” John answered, hopping off the desk and reaching for Sol’s hand. “May I escort you to a fabulous meal of protein bars, milady?”

Sol rolled her eyes, but she lightly squeezed his hand. “I can cook us dinner- it’s not a problem.”

John laughed, sheepishly rubbing his neck. “I didn’t want to ask, but you know if I did it-”

“Oh no,” Sol retorted, leading him into the mess hall, “I think the whole ship would be better off if you didn’t go anywhere near the kitchen, Johnny.” She pointed to the table, then put her hands on her hips. “Take a seat- I’ll put something together.” 

Knowing when he was beaten, John just gave her a quick kiss and sat down. He still wanted to talk to her about her encounter with Sloane, but the mess hall was hardly the place for an in-depth conversation. However, there was a small bit to her account that was nagging at him- after pondering it for a moment, he decided to risk getting swatted and made his way over to the stove, where he noticed his wife making him a bowl of soup. 

Not caring that she was surely going to hit him for bothering her while she was cooking, John wrapped his arm around her waist and leaned his head against the side of hers. “Hey,” he said casually, glancing at the pot and grinning, “thought you were cooking your food first, Tiny.”

“Might as well get yours out the way,” she replied, pouring the contents into a bowl- the mess sergeant, Gardner, was leaning against the wall, staring at the two of them with interest. “Mine should be quick.” 

“That’s beside the point,” John said mildly, taking the bowl from her. “I could’ve grabbed a bar… you need to eat, Tiny.”

“And I will,” she insisted, moving over to the dextro drawer and grabbing what John liked to call turian mac and cheese. “Anyway,” she said pointedly, starting to heat her meal over the stove, “I thought I told you to sit.” 

“I was sitting,” he replied petulantly, taking a spoonful of soup and burning the roof of his mouth, “but I had a question, so I decided to come over here and ask you.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you have the attention span of a fledgling,” Sol teased. When John pouted, Sol laughed and wrapped her arm around him. “Fine,” she said with fake exasperation, “What do you want to know?”

“Why didn’t I smell the wrath of JC when I walked into the medbay?” John asked, blowing on his soup. “That cat has never been shy about showing his displeasure in the presence of evil before.” 

“That’s the thing,” Sol replied, turning her attention back to the dish on the stove. “JC was perfectly fine with Xander- he was a little nervous at first, but after a few minutes he was all over him.”

“Great, our cat is broken,” John growled, earning himself a laugh from Sol. “Think Chakwas moonlights as a vet, too?”

Or,” Sol replied, rapping his knuckles with the flat handle of the spoon, “maybe he just knows something you don’t.”

“Nope,” John said firmly, tilting the bowl up to his lips. “I’m pretty sure the cat is broken, Tiny.”

Chapter Text

  


As Sol headed to the kitchen, she had to jump back to avoid nearly being knocked over as Miranda stormed through the hall, grumbling the entire time. I guess she’s still angry, she thought, making her way over to grab something to eat. As she grabbed something from the dextro drawer, she frowned, looking over at the mess sergeant. The man had never been outright mean to her, but she hadn’t had a reason to talk to him outside of getting permission to use the stove. She also knew they’d brought back a new crew member, but she hadn’t seen her yet- Sol wondered if the woman even knew her way around the ship, let alone where all the food and services were. 

Taking a deep breath and deciding that the only way to get answers was to ask, she walked up to the man and smiled. “Hello,” she said brightly, trying to make sure that she didn’t appear threatening, “may I ask you a question, Mr. Gardner?”

The mess sergeant laughed, leaning his palms against the counter. “Call me Rupert, miss…” 

“Shepard,” Sol said brightly, extending her hand toward the man. “Solana Shepard… pleased to meet you, Rupert.” 

After hesitating for a moment, the mess sergeant took her hand, shaking his head with disbelief. “Never thought I’d see the day,” he mused, then smiled. “What can I do you for?” 

Sol paused for a minute, humming softly. “I was just wondering if our new crew member came up to get breakfast yet… I haven’t seen them in medical for a checkup, so I wondered if they’d been in here at all.”

Rupert thought about it for a moment, then shook his head. “Nope, no one new in here yet.” 

“Oh,” Sol replied softly, then let out a thoughtful-sounding hum. “Well, in that case, do you have any breakfast items left over?”

The cook stared at her with concern. “Um, I thought you couldn’t eat what everyone else ate, Miss Shepard?”

“It’s not for me!” Sol exclaimed, giggling as she took a bite of her ration bar. “I want to take a meal to the new person… maybe she’s too shy to come in and eat with the rest of us.”

“That’s nice of you,” Gardner replied, spooning something that looked like eggs onto a plate. “I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.” 

“I hope so,” Sol said cheerfully, taking the plate from the man. “Thanks for everything, Rupert!” The man just smiled and waved as Sol walked away, unsure of where to go. She glanced around and after finding no one in the vicinity, Sol cleared her throat. “EDI,” she said carefully, “do you know where the person Johnny brought on board is staying?” 

The electronic voice replied right away. “I believe she is below engineering, Mrs. Shepard.” 

Humming to herself, Sol made her way down to the engineering area, being careful to make enough noise to announce her presence. “Hello?” Sol called out, looking around and seeing no one. “I know you don’t know me, but I brought you some breakfast-” 

When the tiny, tattoo-covered woman leaped in front of her, glowing with biotic energy, Sol let out a surprised chirp. “Fuck do you want,” the woman sneered. “Get the hell out of here!”

Immediately, Sol extended the plate toward her. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” she said quickly. “Everyone else left on a mission and I heard you didn’t eat breakfast, so I decided to bring you some.” The woman didn’t say anything, so Sol quickly continued. “It’s not dextro,” she said hurriedly. “I just wanted to say hi and welcome you to the Normandy, that’s all.” 

The woman eyed her for a moment, then snatched the plate out of her hand. “You said it, now get the hell out of here,” she snarled, making Sol take a step back. “This ain’t a goddamn show.” 

“I’m sorry,” Sol said quietly, letting out a sad little hum. “I wasn’t trying to bother you, ma’am.” Realizing the human wanted nothing to do with her, Sol started to turn around. “I’m Sol,” she whispered. “If you need anything, feel free to come and find me in the medbay.”

She started walking away, but before she got too far, she heard a sound from behind her. “Those sick bastards experimenting on you up there?” 

Sol turned around, seeing the woman shoveling food into her mouth. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I work there… Janey’s my sister, so I came here to help her out.” 

The woman scoffed. “So the bitch wasn’t lying,” she huffed under her breath. “You and the other bony bastard actually putting up with this racist bullshit for the girl scout?” 

Confused, Sol cocked her head. “Do you mean Cerberus?” When the woman snorted, Sol let out an irritated grunt. “Unfortunately,” she muttered. “But, now that Janey’s said something, I hope it’s going to get better around here.”

“It’s fucking Cerberus,” the woman scoffed. “They don’t ‘get better’, they just get dead when I kill them… anything less is a waste of fucking time.” The woman looked her up and down, and despite their height difference, Sol was in no hurry to challenge her. “You could slice a motherfucker in half with those claws,” she said, her tone almost reverent. “Betcha these bastards would think twice about fucking with you then.” 

Even though the woman’s words chilled her, Sol gave a soft smile. “I prefer to use other ways to defend myself,” she said shyly, encasing her hand in biotic energy.

Almost immediately, the woman’s eyes lit up. “I didn’t even know they made you fuckers in biotic form,” she breathed. “What, the claws and the teeth weren’t scary enough?” 

“Guess not,” Sol replied. “I didn’t even know I was a biotic until a few years ago…” Her voice trailed off at the memory, and she unconsciously lowered her head. “An… incident ... sparked my abilities, so I’m still learning.” 

The woman just stood there, shoveling the rest of her food into her mouth and tossing the plate on the ground with a clatter. “That shit was terrible,” she said angrily. “Fucking garbage.”

Sol chirped softly. “I didn’t cook it, but I’m sorry you didn’t like it,” she said apologetically. “If you want, I can try to make you something fresh- it was past breakfast time, after all.”

“Fuck do you keep apologizing for? You the goddamn help or something?” The woman stepped forward, much closer than any of the other crew members had ever gotten to her. “Grow a goddamn set of balls, lady- you’re too big to be this much of a little bitch.”

At that, Sol narrowed her eyes. “All I wanted to do was be nice to you,” the turian said pointedly. “But if you’re just going to be mean, then I’ll leave you to it- I’ve got work to do.” 

“Whatever,” the woman replied, turning away from Sol. “What the hell work are you doing on this piece of shit, anyway?”

“I’m a medic,” Sol said hotly, putting her hands on her hips. “As I said before, I work in the medbay.” 

At that, the woman began to howl with laughter. “You? A fucking medic? On a Cerberus ship?” She pointed at Sol, then laughed some more. “And how’s that working out for you? Betcha got a ton of clients just lined up at the door to be seen by the monster, huh?” 

Suddenly, Sol couldn’t take anymore, her body starting to glow with dark energy before she calmed herself down. “You’re just nasty for no reason,” she said quietly, trying to keep the keen out of her voice. “I’m sorry I even came down here.” 

The biotic rushed forward, pushing Sol in the chest- since the biotic didn’t put any force behind it, Sol didn’t move. “No one fucking told you to! Why are you down here playing fucking hostess anyway? I’m not your goddamn charity case!”

“Because you’re new!” Sol screamed right back, leaning into the woman’s face and working to keep her biotics in check. “And unlike you, I have home training! I might be turian, but at least I’m not an evil little creature like you are!” 

“Hmmmph,” the woman said after a moment, staring at Sol with what seemed like interest. “So you do have a spine under those plates- maybe you’re not a total fucking sap.”

“I have to go,” Sol said softly, unwilling to deal with the mercurial woman any further. “I hope you have a good afternoon, Miss-”

“Don’t call me that bullshit,” the woman said hotly. “The name’s Jack- call me anything else and I’ll pin you to the goddamn wall until you get the hint.”

Taking a deep breath, Sol closed her eyes and counted to five. “I hope you get settled in okay, Jack,” she said after a few moments. “Once again, if you need anything, you can find me in the medbay, or ask Janey and her crew- they’ll be happy to help.” When Jack started to say something, Sol quickly cut her off. “And no, my sister is not with Cerberus. Neither is my husband, my friend, or my brother- we’re here to help stop the collectors… that’s all.”

She immediately started walking away, but the biotic called out to her. “Hey, got a question for you!” 

Sol paused, wondering just what it was the woman wanted now. “Yes?” 

Jack smiled, and instantly Sol groaned- she immediately knew nothing good was going to come of whatever came out of her mouth. “So you fuck humans, huh? Good to know.”

Finally fed up with the whole encounter and completely out of patience, Sol took a page from John’s book and flipped Jack off, storming toward the elevator and pointedly ignoring the sounds of mocking laughter coming from behind her.

  


“You’re a bastard, you know that?” 

Sloane looked up from his desk with a bemused expression. “Hello Miri,” he replied casually, folding his hands in front of him. “Dropping by to state the obvious now? What’s next, picking out curtains together?” 

“Go to hell,” Miranda sniped, stalking into the room and gracefully sliding into the unoccupied seat. “You know exactly what you did… and I don’t appreciate it.”

“Again, you’re stating the obvious,” Sloane sneered, leaning back in his chair. “I don’t have time for this- either tell me something interesting or get out, Miranda.” 

Miranda’s eyes narrowed as she crossed her arms. “Was goading Taylor really necessary?” 

“We need an insider,” he said pointedly. “You’re too stuck up to realize when you might actually be wrong, and he’s too busy trying to wedge himself into your asshole to see what a ginormous bitch you are, Miri.” Looking back at the datapad in his hands, he shrugged. “I saw an opportunity and I took it- end of story.” 

Miranda leaned forward, her face set in a scowl. “You mean you saw an opportunity to humiliate me and you took it.”

“Same difference,” Sloane replied breezily, not even looking up. “Are you done?”

“Not by a long shot,” Miranda growled, causing him to raise an eyebrow. “Seeing as how your little plan didn’t work, what do you propose to do about Shepard? Her behavior is atrocious, and she cannot be allowed to carry on in this manner!”

At that, Sloane finally looked up, his expression firm. “Shut the fuck up, Miri,” he said coldly. “Though it might not be apparent to you, my plan is working fabulously- in fact, it’s going better than I hoped it would.”

Miranda scoffed. “So Shepard encasing me in a stasis mine for the better part of an evening was all accounted for?”

“No, that was just a bonus,” he replied, ignoring the steam practically coming from her ears. “What was part of my plan is that Subject Zero sees Jane as being in charge and not willing to put up with Cerberus politics, despite commanding a Cerberus vessel- had that situation played out in any other way, I’d shudder to think what a mess that woman would have made of the crew.” Sloane watched Miranda’s expression go from angry to thoughtful, but when she remained silent, he continued. “I keep telling you to stop trying to usurp control- you’re not in charge, Miri. Better to guide from behind than get dragged from the front.”

To her credit, the woman stayed quiet, sitting back in her chair. “What do you get out of this, Sloane?” 

“That’s my business,” he replied, offering her a genuine smile. “Suffice it to say my goals are in line with the Illusive Man’s- I’m looking to take down the Collectors.” 

She stared at him, tapping a finger on his desk. “But that’s not all, is it?” 

Sloane simply kept the smile on his face. “We’re not friends, Miri,” he said evenly. “My ambitions and goals are my own- why would I share them with you, knowing you’d stab me in the back the first chance you got?” 

Miranda just huffed. “Because we’re colleagues,” she replied tersely. “I should think being on the same page and presenting a united front would benefit us both.” 

Sloane barked a laugh, leaning forward. “Miri, we both know I’m not your smitten little soldier boy,” he said with a sneer. “I know you way too well to ever believe a word that comes out of your mouth unless it can be verified in a report or serves you in some way.”

The corners of her mouth turned up into a smile. “Things would be much easier if you’d just trust me, Sloane.” 

He laughed, turning his attention back to his datapad. “Not my job to make your life easier, Miranda… thought you’d have figured that out by now.”

“So I noticed,” she mused. “What about Okeer? Are we really bringing that bastard onto this ship?” 

“No,” Sloane replied. “Chatter on the ground suggests he’s… outlived… his usefulness to Jedore. That being said, I want his research… I’m hoping Mordin can make use of it for us.” 

She shook her head at him. “Is there anything you don’t try to plan?” 

“Not particularly,” he said casually, his attention fully focused on the screen in front of him. “Things just seem to work better that way.” 

  


Joker had been trying to keep himself out of the drama that seemed to follow the Shepard twins at every turn. Since they’d all been back on the Normandy, there’d been fights, arguments, and proclamations- granted, he wasn’t surprised, per se, but he’d been hoping for a little less onboard excitement than the usual tsunami that accompanied John and Janey. 

Though he hated the ship cancer, Joker had to admit having it around offered some benefits. Chief amongst those was a bit more intel on their missions, and since he was well-versed in the way things went sideways out there, he couldn’t exactly say he was offended. This was proving to be one of those times, since it seemed like the team was in the middle of a firefight from the moment they touched down out there, and the sound of alarms blaring in his ears wasn’t doing much to assuage this line of thinking.

“Shepard,” the electronic voice said over the comms, interrupting his thoughts, “The lab alarms coincided with a systems failure. The remaining lab systems are unprotected, and I have gained limited access.”

“Shit!” Frantically, Joker slammed on the comms. “Shep, come in! Did you hear that!”

“Sure did,” Jane replied, her voice barely audible over the din. “EDI, what the hell is going on in there?” 

“According to lab scanners, the room is flooded with toxins, and Okeer’s personal life signs are failing rapidly. I’d recommend haste.” 

Of course you would, Joker thought bitterly, trying to stay calm. If I keep messing around with this lot, I’m going to go grey… or get shot. Can’t decide which might happen first. “Is the krogan still kicking?” 

“Not for long,” John replied darkly. “I’m thinking he’s in bad shape, guys- can you get Mordin on the line, see if there’s anything-” 

“Too late for that,” Garrus interrupted, his tone grim. “He’s dead.”

“Wait a minute,” Jane interjected, her tone taking on that lilt it got whenever she’d thought of something. “There’s a message here.” 

“Well I’ll be damned,” Joker said morosely. “Krogan will and testament.” When no one responded, he let out a sigh. “What’s it say.” 

No one answered for a few moments, and Joker assumed they were all listening. Finally, Jane’s voice came back over the comms. “He says we gave him time,” Jane murmured, her tone faraway. “Said if he knew why the Collectors wanted humans, he would’ve told us. Also said that he wants us to take his prototype… says the grunt is pure, his legacy.”

“Awful poetic for a guy who was breeding a bunch of take and bake krogan,” John said, his tone curious. “Why’d he take a dive for this guy?”

“I’m afraid the only one who can answer that is no more,” Nihlus replied. “That being said, what do we do?” 

“We go back to the ship and tell Xander he fucked up… again,” John answered. “It’s a krogan, sis- you saw the others down there… not interested in getting eaten in my sleep by the mindless murder machine.”

“I get that,” Jane said cautiously, causing Joker to groan and lean back in his chair- he knew that tone well. “But Okeer wanted us to save this one… he died so this krogan wouldn’t. And I know it’s a behemoth, but… it’s technically a baby, guys- how shitty do we have to be to leave a baby here?” 

“Jane,” Joker shot back, “did you get some lessons from Wrex on krogan parenting that I don’t know about? Leave the baby murder turtle there !” 

“I don’t know,” she hummed thoughtfully. “Maybe Mordin can help us out, see why Okeer thought this one was different… I mean, we have to take him with us, guys- he won’t have anyone else otherwise.”

At this point, Joker realized that arguing with her was pointless. “Whatever,” he muttered, bracing himself for another of Miranda’s world-class bitchfits. “What do you need me to do?” 

“Send a team down here for retrieval,” Jane replied, her voice a lot more cheerful than Joker thought it should be. “And make sure they’re well-prepared… cause he’s a big one.” 

Chapter Text

  


Sloane just stared at Jane, trying to make sense out of what he was seeing. “Jane,” he said pointedly, doing his best to keep his tone even, “what… is this?”

“Krogan,” Mordin replied helpfully, peering into the tank and no doubt mentally examining the young krogan frantically. “Fully grown. Sedated. Unusual.”

No shit, Sloane thought, glaring at the scientist. “Thank you for that enlightening observation,” he said dryly, turning back to glare at the ground team. “That being said, why is it on our ship?” 

My ship,” Jane corrected, making him bristle. “And it’s here because Okeer died to save it… which must make him important. Plus,” she said, looking up at the creature in the glass, “if it’s like the others we met, it’s just a baby… I couldn’t just leave it there!”

“You damn sure could’ve!” Sloane snapped, feeling his face turning an angry shade of red. “This is not some stray puppy you happened to find on the street, Jane- you cannot keep a krogan in a tank!

“Someone punch me,” John muttered, only to quickly get hit in the arm by Garrus. “Shit, not dreaming… that fucking sucks.”

The turian hummed softly- Sloane could feel Garrus’s eyes boring into him. “Why would you be dreaming?”

John turned to Garrus and smirked, making Sloane want to tackle the smug-looking man to the ground. “Because I was sure there was no way I’d ever agree with Xander while I was awake.” 

“Then it’s a good thing I don’t plan on keeping him in a tank, huh?” Jane held up a hand, cutting Sloane off when he started to protest. “I’m not saying pop him open right now,” Jane grumbled. “Mordin, can you, Chakwas, and Sol run some tests? I downloaded Okeer’s notes- figured they might be useful.”

“Very,” the salarian replied, taking the files from her. “Will analyze. Collaboration may be the key to rapid results- must start quickly.” 

“I can help,” Miranda interjected, her voice clipped. “If you let me assist with the notes-” 

“No need,” Mordin replied, looking at her sternly. “Situation is delicate. Previous actions do not seem compatible with saving alien life.”

Sloane had to bite back a chuckle- at this point, no one was going to talk to the woman. Deciding to toss her a bone (and make damn sure she paid him back for it), Sloane turned to the scientist. “Mordin, Miranda was the lead on the project that brought our dear Jane back to us- even though her decisions have been… questionable, I believe that she can offer you some insight- after all, more ideas are better, right?” 

At that Sloane could hear the low growl coming from the younger turian- he ignored it. If Mordin heard anything, he chose not to mention it. “Don’t like her methods… but facts are irrefutable.” The salarian turned to Miranda, his gaze sharp. “Please assist. If you sabotage... will have to kill you.” 

“Told you,” John whispered to Garrus. “Glad he’s on our side, man- that salarian is cold-blooded.”

“Blood temperature irrelevant,” Mordin replied, blinking before turning back to Jane. “Will review data, advise against releasing krogan until consensus reached.” 

“Sounds fair,” Jane replied, causing Sloane to visibly exhale with relief. “Get back to me as soon as possible, would you? It can’t be comfortable for him in there.” 

  


Sol heard the ruckus as the team made their way back to the ship, but chose not to investigate. After Janey and Miranda’s last tussle, the turian had decided that staying out of things unless she was needed was the best course of action. However, she was trying to venture out more- at Chambers’s suggestion, Sol was taking a few moments here and there to explore the ship and get to know the crew. Most of them still avoided her, but there were a few exceptions. Gardner wasn’t a fan of JC being in the kitchen, but often left a small dish of leftovers in the hall for him. Daniels and Donnelly were both nice enough, asking Sol to stop by and bring the cat down whenever she felt like stopping by for a visit. To her surprise, those visits tended to be fun- Sol would find herself visiting the two engineers on her breaks, enjoying the easy banter that seemed to flow between the three of them.

After leaving the engineering room, Sol stopped short when she heard a noise from behind her. “Hey, Abrams,” a male voice said, “what the fuck do you think that bird is doing with that cat?”

Inwardly, Sol groaned- these were the same guys who’d harassed her before. “Probably trying to eat it,” Abrams said snidely. “We should probably take it from her… wouldn’t want the thing to end up as that ugly motherfuckers meal, right?” 

“DON’T YOU TOUCH MY CAT!” Sol yelled, clutching JC with one arm and flaring up her biotics in the other. “Just… leave me alone! I didn’t do anything to you!” 

“You don’t belong here,” the other man sneered, reaching in his pocket. “None of you bastards do- man… can’t believe the great Commander Shepard is nothing but a low down skullfucker-”

“Don’t… talk… about… my… sister,” Sol growled, building up more and more energy. “She’s a hero!”

In her peripheral vision, Sol saw the man called Abrams inching closer. “Maybe we need to teach her a lesson,” he said evilly. “Teach her to respect what Cerberus really stands for.”

Before he could take another step, Sol’s eyes went wide as both men were flung against the wall, encased in blue energy. “You talk too much,” Jack snarled, then rounded on Sol. “Those fucks were gonna peel your goddamn plates, turian.” She moved over to the other man, who was still pointlessly struggling. “See that fucking knife? How the hell did you miss that shit?” Jack looked Sol over again, then scoffed. “Useless… all that power and you fucking freeze- goddamn waste.” 

Just then, John, Jane, Garrus, and Sloane came running down the hall, her mate’s face stricken with terror. “What the hell happened, Tiny?” 

Before Sol could answer, Jack let out a snarl. “Fucking Cerberus happened.”

“I can see that,” Sloane replied, glaring at the men and drawing his pistol. “Mrs. Shepard,” he growled, putting his gun in the terrified man’s face. “This man tried to assault you, correct?”

Jack let out a scoff and Sol’s eyes went wide, finally thawing out enough to realize what was about to happen. “Xander, don’t!” 

“Why not?” Sloane asked, his expression cold. “Your sister clearly forbade this kind of interaction… and a true Cerberus crew knows that there are severe penalties for disobeying a captain’s orders.” He pressed the muzzle of the gun against the frozen man’s temple- Sol could smell the sweat dripping off his skin. “They knew the risks of their actions- they just deemed harassing you as a higher priority. You’re a medic and a verifiably useful member of the crew… their lives for your safety seems to be a fair trade to me.” 

 “I… but… no!” Sol shook her head furiously, staring at him in horror. “You can’t shoot them, Xander!”  

Sighing, Sloane turned to look at Sol, his gun still locked in position. “You mean to tell me you’d spare the lives of these idiots that tried to take yours?”

“You’re better than that!” Sol insisted, breaking away from John to place a hand on Sloane’s shoulder. “Just because they’re terrible doesn’t mean that you have to be!”

Sloane rolled his eyes, then sighed again as he lowered his weapon. “Fine,” he snarled, his  voice low and menacing turning toward the two terrified men, “but I don’t think I need to impress upon you the irony of this situation.” He leaned in closer to the crewman, leaving the distinctive impression of a gun muzzle in the man's temple. “Do realize that the only reason you don’t have bullets in your skulls is due to the compassion of the turian you thought it was safe to harass.” The analyst punched a few keys on his omni-tool, then glanced over at John. “Shepard, please go get some zip ties from engineering- these two are to be bound until we get to the nearest dock.” 

Sol could see the indecision flitting across her mate’s face- she could tell he wanted to argue, but in the end, he just nodded, walking away without a word. As soon as John had left, Sloane turned to Jack, his voice calm. “How long can you hold them like this?”

“Long as I fucking want,” she snapped. “Fuck does it matter to you?”

“Just curious,” Sloane replied, quickly whipping his gun to their heads and bashing the two men in the face. When their eyes rolled into the back of their heads, he watched with a satisfied expression as Jack released her hold, sending the two unconscious men sliding to the floor with a thud. “Better to be safe, though.” 

Jack glanced over to Sloane with interest, then turned her attention back to Sol. “You better learn how to use that power,” she growled. “Won’t be around to save your bitch ass next time.” 

Jane just hummed, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Jack, you’re a pretty strong biotic… think you can teach my sister a thing or two?”

“Fuck would I want to do that for?” Jack looked over at Sol, then rolled her eyes. “Yeah, she’s got power, but she’s too fucking soft- why waste my goddamn time?”

Jane stepped forward then, her arms crossed and her expression firm. “Then help her get her less soft, and I’ll keep the Cerberus cheerleader off your back,” she replied coolly, locking eyes with the biotic. “Seems like a good solution to me.” 

“I’ll think about it,” Jack huffed, bumping into Jane as she stormed down the hall.

  


After John had come back and escorted Sol to the medbay, Jane, Garrus, and Xander escorted the unconscious men into the cargo hold. Once they’d been secured, the three walked to the elevator, the silence almost oppressive. Xander hadn’t said a word since he’d knocked out the men, and Jane could tell that Garrus was practically itching to question his motives. Truth be told, she was too- why come to her aid, she thought, staring at Xander with confusion as he fiddled with his omni-tool. It’s not like you care. 

Unable to take it anymore, Jane cleared her throat. “What was that back there, Xander?”

“Hmm?” The analyst looked up at her with mock confusion. “Come again?” 

“You heard me,” Jane retorted, frowning as she leaned against Garrus. “Not only did you come to Sol’s aid, but you also let her grab your shoulder- I’ve seen you break people’s hands for less before.”

Xander shrugged, the dismissive gesture only irritating Jane even more. “She wasn’t thinking clearly and she wasn’t a threat- I saw no need to harm your family, Jane.” When Garrus huffed, Xander looked up from his wrist and stared icily at the turian. “What? Is something wrong?”

“Yeah,” Garrus replied, tightening his grip around Jane’s waist. “You’re unpredictable,” he growled, the rumbling in his chest vibrating against Jane’s back. “You’ve made it clear that you don’t do anything that doesn’t serve your purposes- what possible purpose do you have with my sister, Sloane?”

Xander let out an exaggerated sigh, crossing his arms and leaning against the side of the elevator. “And out of everyone in the whole galaxy, this is who you decided to marry?” He turned to Jane and rolled his eyes. “You can’t possibly be this…” Huffing, the man looked Garrus up and down, then scoffed. “My goodness, for someone with such high technical aptitude and deduction skills you seem to be remarkably stupid, Vakarian.”

“He’s goading you,” Jane whispered, not caring if Xander heard her. “Then I’m stupid too,” she shot back, placing her hands on her hips. “Since you’re so fucking smart, enlighten me.” 

“Unlike your husband, you’re not an idiot,” Xander snapped, leaning forward. “Stop acting like a moron and think, Jane!” 

“Disrespect him again and see where that gets you,” she said flatly, working to keep the rage out of her tone. “You get one… you won’t get another.”

Muttering under his breath, Xander strode out of the elevator as the doors opened. “Since you both insist on having someone spoon-feed you information like children, then follow me.”

Jane just scoffed, looking at him like he’d lost his mind. “Why the hell would I do that?” 

The analyst didn’t flinch, resting his hand on the doorframe. “Because I don’t want the two of you in my office and I have no intention of having this conversation again,” he snapped. “So, if you’re too lazy to do the work, then I suggest you get your head out of your ass and listen- if you don’t, then your concerns are not my problem.” 

She almost lunged at him, but his words made her pause, settling back on her heels and staring at him smugly. “I don’t work that way anymore, Xander.” When a slow smile spread across his face, Jane knew she was right. “You’re deliberately trying to rile me up- why?”

He glanced up at Garrus and smiled. “Assessing weaknesses,” he said simply, releasing the door. “If you really want to talk, feel free to follow me- this isn’t a conversation to have in the hallways.” 

She looked at her husband, who nodded- without a word, they followed Xander into the observation deck. Still playing games, she thought warily, making sure to keep him in her sights. Million credit question is why.

Xander sat on the bench, not looking at either of them as the doors closed behind Garrus. “Your husband seems to have his own theories when it comes to what I’m doing, Jane,” Xander said simply, staring out at the stars. “Why don’t you share them with us, Vakarian?” 

Garrus grunted, not moving from Jane’s side. “You’re playing both sides,” he said simply, letting out an irritated-sounding rumble when Sloane raised a finger in a ‘ding’ gesture. “The part I’m trying to work out is why the need for all the games… and why you’d be willing to kill your own crew to keep them going.” 

“Maybe you weren’t the worst choice for Brainy,” Xander replied with amusement, heading over to the bar and pouring himself a drink. “Keep going and humor me… I like to hear tales from people who appear to be mildly competent- it’s a rarity around here.” 

Garrus bristled, but Jane squeezed his hand. “You say you’re the one who’s created the dossiers, but everyone you’ve selected is either an alien or hates Cerberus with the passion of ten burning suns… including John and Jane.” Clearly back in detective mode, Garrus rumbled thoughtfully. “You’re as nasty as a rabid varren, but you haven’t done anything to hurt or hinder Jane’s progress- in fact, you’ve helped her out more than anything… why?” 

“Not bad.” Xander smiled, swirling the liquid around in his glass before taking a sip. “Not fully correct, but definitely on the right track, so there is that, at least.” When Jane scowled, Xander sighed. “I have reasons I can’t share with you just yet,” he said hesitantly, “but appearing to take your side has its advantages.”

Paying close attention to his words, Jane frowned. “You were never really going to shoot them, were you?” 

“Only as an absolute last resort,” he said evenly. “The paperwork would’ve been a nightmare.” Garrus made a noise that was a cross between a squeak, grunt, and a laugh, quickly turning to hide his face from view. “I needed Jack to see that I was willing to put her word and that of a turian above the human stains that disgraced the uniform,” he snarled, his brow furrowing. “Right now, I’m fully aware of the fact that the gesture amounts to nothing more than pissing in the wind, but everything builds.” Xander finished his drink and shrugged. “What can I say- I prefer to take opportunities wherever I can.” 

“Doesn’t explain the familiarity with Sol,” Jane said, watching him closely. For once, Xander seemed relaxed, his posture casual as he leaned against the bar. “You hate it when I call you Xander… no way Sol would do something like that out of the blue.”

“Correction- I hate it when your brother calls me that,” Xander replied. “As for your sister… I accidentally instructed her to do so,” he admitted, the beginnings of a flush creeping across his face. “It was a foolish moment of weakness, but by the time I caught myself, it was too late to take it back.”

“That’s unlike you,” Jane replied, walking over to the bar to grab a drink. “What made you decide that it was ok to switch your setting to human?” 

“Of that, I’m still unsure,” Xander replied, shaking his head. “But, when I figure it out, I’ll be sure to let you know.”

Suddenly Garrus paused, a knowing look spreading across his face. “You genuinely care,” he replied, his tone almost incredulous. “Sol, Nana, Mom, Jane, and me… you’ve interceded on all our behalves now… and the common denominator is you, Jane.” Garrus fixed Xander with a look, his expression almost daring him to deny it. “Why are you so hell-bent on protecting her family, Sloane?” 

“Because I promised her I would,” Xander replied, causing Jane to let out a surprised gasp- if he noticed, he chose not to comment on it. “Admittedly, I made it when her family was a lot smaller,” he said pointedly, rolling his eyes at her, “but that’s beside the point.”

“I stopped expecting anything from you a long time ago,” Jane said softly, trying to keep the hurt out of her voice- judging by the rumbles coming from her husband, she’d failed. “There wasn’t a point.” 

Xander sighed, taking his drink and moving back to the bench. “Just because you hate me doesn’t negate the promise,” he said quietly. “And I’m hoping the same still holds true for you.”

“Fuck that- I’ve fulfilled my portion,” Jane shot back, feeling her temper starting to rise- immediately, Garrus slipped an arm around her waist, lightly nuzzling the top of her head. “I wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t tried to help you, Xander!”

He casually turned around, the look in his eyes sadder than she’d seen in years. “Is that really a bad thing? Look around, Brainy- you’re a goddamn hero! And, how about the fact that you’ve got your husband practically clinging to your side, that idiot brother of yours finally living up to years of squandered potential, and a family that actually gives a shit about you… sounds pretty fucking nice from where I’m sitting.” Xander turned away, his voice sullen. “You might want to consider how lucky you are, Jane- some people would kill to be in your shoes, you know.”

She wanted to say something, anything, to deny his statement, but the soft rumbling of the man at her side made her pause- like it or not, Xander had a point. I hate him for what happened, but he’s right- I wouldn’t trade my family for anything, she thought, settling back against Garrus’s side. If I knew then what I know now, would I go back and change anything?

Unable or unwilling to answer the question, Jane just sipped her drink, letting the room settle into an uneasy blanket of silence. As she continued to listen to the reassuring thump of her husband’s heartbeat, the three of them gazed out the window, each lost in thoughts that no one cared to share. 

Chapter Text

  


Sensing that Garrus could use a break, Jane walked her husband back to the main battery under strict instructions to not do anything that might be remotely classified as foolish without getting him first. Her husband made a point to note that going to disturb the tank-bred krogan would count as foolish, and if she couldn’t be trusted to leave it alone then she was more than welcome to sit with him for the evening. With the promise of leaving their new acquisition alone until she’d heard more from Mordin, Jane was permitted to leave, albeit with some very stern looks and her explicit promise that she wouldn’t go down there without him. 

He knows me way too well, Jane thought with a smirk as she walked through the halls, stifling a yawn. It had been a very long day, but she still wanted to make sure that things were still remotely under control before turning in. Decision made, she decided to go find Nihlus, hoping the spectre could assist her with making some sense of the lunacy going on around her ship.

Just before she made her way to the turian's room, she heard a throat clear behind her. And it just had to be you, Jane thought with a sigh, dropping her hands to her side and counting to ten before answering. “Thought we said everything we had to say, Xander.” 

“We did,” he replied, his voice much softer. “However, it seems the Illusive Man wants to have a chat with you about your new crew member- thought it might be prudent if I spoke with you first, considering the subject.”

Jane turned around, giving him a look that was a mixture of interest and distrust. “What is this about?” 

When she didn't budge, Xander just sighed and gestured down the hall. “Would you like to have this conversation in your room or in my office?” 

She raised an eyebrow and scoffed incredulously. “Seriously? Are you trying to get yourself killed by a rampaging turian?” 

Instead of getting snippy, the analyst let out a soft laugh as he ran a hand through his hair. “So you do care… good to know.” 

“Not really… I just know first hand how hard it is to get blood out of the decor,” Jane snarked, shaking her head. “Wouldn’t want to trash the place so soon.” 

“Seems like someone’s gotten classy over the years,” Xander replied, letting the corners of his lips turn up into a smile. “My office is a shithole anyway, so a little blood won't make a difference. Walk with me?”

Jane pretended to look offended, giving him an exaggerated scowl. “I’ll have you know nothing on the Normandy would count as a shithole, thank you very much.” When the man gave her a withering look, she rolled her eyes. “Fine… just give me a sec to tell Garrus where I am.” 

Xander hummed with amusement, then stared straight ahead as they walked over to his room. “Never thought I’d see the day when Brainy Shepard decided to get married… will wonders never cease?”

“Shut up,” she snapped, feeling her cheeks heat up at his polite teasing. “I just never thought I’d find the right person, that’s all.” 

“Makes sense, considering your husband is turian,” Xander replied, opening the door and heading inside. “Leave it to you to need someone of another species to make you act like a human being.” 

“Fuck off, you’re just mad that you don’t even count as a human.” When Xander let out a genuine laugh, Jane sighed and took a seat, staring at the man in front of her. For a moment, she could almost forget all the shit that happened between them, but all too soon the anger came flooding back, shifting and turning into something murky and unknown. “Seriously- why are you doing this, Xander?” 

He just looked at her, his expression sad. “Because I miss you,” Xander replied, lowering his gaze. “Let’s be honest, you’re the only real family I have out here- if there’s a shot in hell of getting even a fraction of that relationship back, I’d be stupid not to take it.” 

Jane’s first instinct was to be cruel, but the fact that she didn’t think he was lying made her pause. “I… don’t know if I can go back to how we used to be,” she admitted, looking down at her hands. “And if you’re doing all this to get me to forgive you, then just… just stop, ok? You don’t owe me anything anymore.” 

“I’m not doing this because I want you to forgive me,” Xander snapped, his tone full of irritation. “You either will or you won’t- I can’t control how you feel.” He looked down at the desk, and when he spoke again his voice was almost sullen. “But what I can control is how I behave.” 

Trying to regain her composure, Jane narrowed her eyes at him. “Why are you helping me? Why do you even give a shit what happens to me, Xander?” 

“Because I want to be the man you looked up to again,” he said quietly. “I never meant for any of this to happen, Jane… you have to know that.” 

“Intention doesn’t matter,” she said irritably, taking out her ponytail holder and smoothing the flyaway hairs back into her bun. “What’s done is done, Xander- we can’t change it now.” 

“True, but it doesn’t change the fact that I want us to start over, Brainy. I was…” His voice trailed off, then he stared at the floor. “We had our futures mapped out, remember? I was supposed to be the one to begrudgingly work with your brother and question your husband’s intentions…” Xander angrily shook his head, clenching his fists together. “Hell, all I ever wanted was to be there for you, Jane! We were supposed to do all this shit together- that was the plan, remember?” 

She felt her eyes starting to water, but she quickly looked away and tried to get out of there- before she could move, Xander grabbed her wrist. “I’m sorry,” he croaked, his voice shaking. “I have never been sorrier about anything in my life, Brainy- I know I’m a shitty excuse for a human being, but do you know how much it hurt knowing that the only person I ever gave a shit about died still hating me?” 

Jane glanced down at his hand but didn’t remove it- instead, she just stared at him, frozen in her seat. “I-”

“I went to your funeral,” he said quietly, slowly releasing her wrist. “Even though I knew there was a chance I was going to jail on sight if they realized who I was, I couldn’t let you go without saying goodbye, Brainy.” Xander sighed, settling back into his seat. “And when I realized that they hadn’t found you, that there was still a chance-

Xander blew out a shaky breath, his face going pale as his left hand started shaking. To her surprise, it was the same nervous habit he’d had since they were younger- it was his tell, the one way Jane always could pinpoint that he was about to lose it. Against her better judgment, Jane sighed and grabbed his hand, running her thumb over the back of it like she used to in an effort to get him to focus. “Calm down,” she said quietly. “You’re going to give yourself a nosebleed, and then I’m going to have to punch you to make it look intentional.” 

When he gave a forced laugh, Jane smiled, taking an exaggerated breath and nodding with encouragement when he finally did the same. “There- feel better?” 

He nodded, his face going red as a tomato. “That… that hasn’t happened in years,” he said stiffly, turning around to surreptitiously wipe his face. “I apologize.” 

Jane just scowled. “For what, having feelings?” 

It was Xander’s turn to scowl, but she knew this game- anytime he’d ever displayed anything remotely close to a genuine emotion, it was usually followed by something cruel. “You always have to-” before he could finish his sentence, he shook his head. “No,” he said, taking a deep breath and folding his hands. “You are the only person that truly knows me, Jane… please don’t let me lie to you.” 

“But I don’t,” Jane replied, surprised at how terrible she felt saying a truth she would’ve gladly spit in his face a few hours ago. “I used to, Xander… but I don’t think I do anymore.” 

“No, I need you to,” he insisted, his gaze frantic. “You have no idea how much I need to know that I’m still me, Jane.”

“Why?” Jane asked, staring at him with confusion. “After all this time, why do you care about what I think?" 

He looked like he was going to say something, but at the last minute, it looked as if he thought better of it. “Because it’s important,” Xander begged, reaching for her hand and causing Jane’s eyes to go wide at how cold and clammy he was. “When I say you are literally the only one in the galaxy I trust, I mean it, Brainy- please...if you ever trusted me before, then please trust me now, ok?” 

“You’re asking a lot,” Jane replied, staring into his face and looking for his tells- when she couldn’t find anything that pointed to him lying, she frowned. “What have you gotten yourself into this time, Xander?” 

“A situation beyond my control,” he replied glumly as he slumped back into his seat, his breathing still erratic. “And you and I both know I don’t say things like this lightly.”

Jane put a hand to her head and closed her eyes, feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on. “And you need my help, don’t you?” 

Xander nodded. “Eventually,” he admitted. “But not right now. For now, I just need you to save the galaxy,” he said, offering her a shaky smile. “Nothing too pressing.”

Cautiously, she returned the smile, shaking her head the entire time. “You need to go to the medbay and get checked out,” Jane said quietly, looking him over. “How long has it been since you had an attack like that?” 

Xander tried to wave her off, but she didn’t back down- finally he relented, leaning back and letting out a loud sigh. “Years,” he admitted. “There’s not too much I tend to get upset about these days- figures you’d be responsible for its resurgence.” 

Jane shrugged. “Guess I still know how you work after all.” He scoffed, but Jane got up and took his hands, trying to pull him to his feet. “Doesn’t change the fact you still need to see the doc, Xander.” 

Defiantly, Xander planted his feet to the floor, the expression on his face petulant. “I do not need to be seen-”

“Cut the bullshit,” Jane snapped, causing him to blink. “You said to call you out, so that’s what I’m doing- you don’t get it both ways.”

“It’s just an anxiety attack,” he grumbled, swatting her away. “Leave me alone for a moment and I’ll be fine.” 

“You just don’t want anyone knowing that the great Alexander Sloane actually requires medical treatment,” Jane shot back. “Well, that’s just tough, Xander- you need to be looked at.” 

“And I disagree,” he replied, crossing his arms and glaring at her before heading to his bed. “Go mother your husband or your pain in the ass brother,” he muttered, his face turned toward the wall. “I’m fine.” 

“Fucking big ass baby,” Jane muttered, rolling her eyes as she stormed out of the room.

  


Nihlus made his way to the bar and started to pour himself a drink, his brow-plates lifting slightly when he saw John sitting on a bench and staring out into the distance. Letting out a sigh, he made his way over, taking a seat across from the man. “Thought you’d be attached at your mate’s hip,” he said teasingly, earning himself an eye roll from John. “Something wrong?”

“Tiny is looking into something about Xander,” John replied irritably. “So in the name of being a good husband, I’m here self-medicating so I don’t go down there and kick his fucking door in.” 

Nihlus just nodded, looking around at the bottle sitting at John’s feet. “Seems like a decent plan,” he said carefully. “Though I don’t see why you’re concerned- Sol is your mate, John.”

John stared at him as if he’d lost his mind. “And she’s going to be with Xander Sloane,” he said slowly. “Alone.” 

“Only because Sloane refused to go to the medbay for treatment,” Nihlus replied, watching as John’s expression shifted from anger to interest. “Jane… may have hinted that he required medical treatment- Sol volunteered to assist him, as a good medic should.”

“How do you know all this?” John asked, his attention fully focused on the spectre. “Tiny only told me where she was going- she didn’t tell me what was wrong.” 

“She wouldn’t,” Nihlus replied, sipping his drink. “Discretion is one of the cornerstones of her profession- you’re lucky she even bothered to divulge that much.”  

“Yep, I'm honored,” John said with a snort. “C’mon, Nih... you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be a little pissed off if you had to leave Ash alone with that bastard?” 

The turian thought about it for a moment, then smiled. “Not in the least.” 

“Yeah right,” John shot back, staring at him incredulously. “You bastards are territorial on a good day- how the fuck could you not want to slam his head into a wall?” 

“Because I trust my mate,” Nihlus said simply, finishing his drink. “I know that she’s more than capable of doing her job… and I also don’t have a long-standing hatred for the man in question.”

“Correction,” John replied, taking a swig from his glass, “a perfectly valid long-standing hatred for the man in question.”

“So you say,” Nihlus said thoughtfully, shifting in his seat. “Do you mind if I ask you a question, John?” 

“Of course I mind… doesn’t mean you won’t ask me anyway and sit there with that judge-y turian face until I answer, now does it?” 

At that, Nihlus laughed, getting up and heading back to the bar. “I don’t have a response for that, John.”

“Asshole,” John grumbled, pouring more liquor into his cup. “No one likes a smart-ass, Nih.” 

“Seeing as you managed to get yourself mated, I beg to differ,” the turian replied, pouring another shot of the turian brandy. “So, now that you’ve managed to continue your slide towards inebriation,” Nihlus sat next to John, extending his glass to him- the man clinked his against it, “how about you tell me why you despise the analyst so?” John started to speak, but Nihlus held up a hand. “I know what he did to Jane, and I agree… it was deplorable. But,” he said pointedly, “that was Jane’s choice to follow him- I want to know why you hate him so.” 

John scowled into his cup so long that Nihlus wasn’t sure he was going to answer. But, after taking a long gulp of his drink, John let out a sigh. “Because,” he said irritably, “he fucked her over, Nih… and I didn’t stop him. Always used to think I was just being jealous Janey had someone other than me, so I let it go, bit my tongue… turns out I was right.” John snorted, staring at his glass as if it were the focus of his ire. “He’s a piece of shit, Nih… and I let him hurt my sister.”

“I hurt your sister too,” Nihlus replied, unable to look at John. “But you don’t hate me...why?”

“Cause you did it for a good reason,” John said simply, the liquid sloshing around in his glass. “Yeah, spying on her was a dick move, but you weren’t trying to hurt her- besides, it’s kinda hard to stay mad at the guy who helped your sister become a badass and helped my ex become a rational human again.”

Nihlus laughed, then let out an agreeable rumble. “I might be wrong,” the turian said cautiously, taking a sip of his drink and watching John, “but I don’t get the impression Sloane was trying to hurt her...nor do I think he’s interested in doing so now.” 

“Good for you, but I don’t buy it,” John snapped, leaning against the bench. “You can do what you want, but I’m not playing the idiot a second time- not with Janey... and definitely not with Tiny.”

  


After leaving the medbay, Jane bit her lip. That krogan is all alone in that tank, she thought, glancing toward the elevator. It’s not right- no one deserves to be treated like that.

Knowing that she’d never hear the end of it if she went in there alone, Jane made her way back to the main battery, letting out a chuckle when she saw two thin legs sticking out from beneath a console. She was trying to keep her composure, but when she heard him humming and saw his foot moving to the rhythm, Jane couldn’t help but let out a soft giggle. “Having fun down there, hon?” 

Suddenly there was a thump, and Garrus let out a curse- putting her hand to her mouth, Jane ran over to him, giving her husband a sheepish grin when he slid out from beneath the console. “You’re lucky you’re cute,” he grumbled, rubbing his head. “Otherwise, I might be very mad at you right now.” 

She leaned over and kissed the spot that he was rubbing. “Sorry, but you were just so cute that I couldn’t resist,” she teased, straddling his lap. “You know I think you’re adorable.” 

“Mmmm,” Garrus replied, closing his eyes wrapping his hands around her waist. “I’m listening.”

“And I think you’re amazing,” Jane hedged, trailing her fingers down his chest and hoping that her husband was in a remarkably good mood. “And thoughtful, and…” 

“Jane,” Garrus said warningly, opening one eye and staring at her. “What did you do?”

“Nothing!” Jane said quickly, making Garrus open both his eyes and hum with amusement. “Honest, I didn’t do anything...I wanted to talk to you first, so I came-”

Garrus groaned, lifting her off him and getting to his feet. “You want to release the krogan, don’t you?” When she squirmed, Garrus groaned again. “Jane,” he said irritably, “we talked about this! You cannot-” 

“He’s alone in there,” Jane pleaded, grabbing his hands. “I can’t leave him like that- what if he knows what’s going on in there? If he does, how pissed off do you think he’ll be when we release him?”  

“It’s a krogan, Jane!” When she just stared at him, Garrus sighed and shook his head. “You aren’t going to let this go, are you?” 

“I checked Mordin’s notes,” she said eagerly. “He seems to think it’s perfectly healthy. The krogan is full-grown, just like the others, but Mordin thinks the genetic sequencing looks more balanced.” Jane tugged on Garrus’s hands and he rolled his eyes. “We need to see him.” 

“You know this is a horrible idea,” Garrus shot back. “And you came to me with it because you know I’m stupid enough to go along with it when you give me those canine eyes.” 

Puppy dog eyes,” Jane corrected, then laughed. “So it worked, right?” 

“If it even looks at you wrong I’m going to shoot it,” Garrus warned, following Jane as she bounced out of the main battery. “This is a terrible idea, you know.”

“I know,” she said brightly, taking his hand and dragging him toward the cargo bay. “That’s why I’m taking you with me.” 

Chapter Text

  


Sloane lay on his bed, trying to focus on breathing. Jane was right and he knew it, but there wasn’t a shot in hell of him letting anyone see him in this sort of state. Why give anyone that kind of leverage, he grumbled to himself. Bad enough that she knows- no one else needs to be privy to this much information. 

As he tried and failed to calm his racing heart, he heard the door open- immediately, Sloane drew the gun he had beneath his pillow, only to immediately lower it when he saw the surprised-looking turian standing in front of him. “Sol,” he said wearily, fighting to control the trembling in his hand as he lowered his gun, “sneaking up on me isn’t the brightest of moves- you could’ve been killed.” 

“So you do know my name,” Sol said pointedly, setting her bag on the table and staring at him. “Then again, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before you forget it again.”

Sloane sighed, not entirely surprised that she was still miffed at that. “You were warned that I’m a horrible person and that I don’t get along with your husband- why are you so surprised?” 

“Because whatever happened between you and Johnny has nothing to do with me,” Sol said hotly, walking over to him and resting a hand on his shoulder as she brandished a scanner. “Hold still.”

Knowing it was pointless to argue with her, Sloane settled back on the bed, trying to stay still. “Your sister sent you in here, didn’t she?”

“She didn’t send me,” Sol replied, her attention focused on the screen. “She said you weren’t feeling well and said you were being an idiot about getting treatment- I volunteered to come.”

Sloane just blinked, shifting to look at the turian. “You didn’t have to do that,” he admonished, trying to sit up. “There really wasn’t a need, Sol.” 

Sol chuckled, and Sloane was pretty sure the look she gave him was a smirk. “I know I didn’t have to,” she said casually, reaching in the bag and prepping a needle. “I chose to.” His eyes went to the needle and his body stiffened- to his surprise, Sol just let out a purring noise. “It’s a sedative,” she said simply. “Your pulse is racing, Xander- if you don’t calm down, you’re going to hurt yourself.” 

“It’ll pass,” he mumbled, trying to shift in the bed. “Your sister seems to bring out the worst in me, that’s all- it’s a buildup of stress, nothing more.”

“I won’t give this to you unless you let me,” Sol said quietly, resting her hand on his arm. He paused for a moment, feeling the soft vibrations against his skin. “But I really do think it’ll make you feel better, Xander.”

He stopped moving for a bit and stared at the turian, trying to figure out why she was being so kind to him. “I don’t understand you,” he blurted out, trying to sit up and wincing at the blood rushing from his head- instantly, two strong hands were there guiding him back to the bed. “Why are you being so nice to me?” 

“A better question might be why are you so mean,” Sol replied, holding the needle in front of him, her eyes clearly waiting for his consent. Realizing that he was in no real position to argue, Sloane nodded- with practiced ease, she injected the sedative into his system. “It’s ok to be nice,” Sol said, pressing a cold compress to his head. “No one is going to look down on you for it.” 

“No, but they will murder me for it,” he mumbled, relaxing as the cold began to soothe his aching head. “Weakness is not a strength, I’m afraid.”

“I think it takes more strength to admit when you aren’t strong,” Sol replied, shifting to move away from his bed. “But you don’t need me keeping you awake,” she said, patting his arm. “Get some rest, ok?” 

Inwardly groaning at how he was handling this situation, Sloane bit the inside of his cheeks. “Are you ok?”

She nodded, putting away her things. “Not the first time that sort of thing happened…I suppose I should be used to it by now.” 

“You should never have to be used to such a thing,” Sloane said sharply, feeling his edginess start to fade away. “You don’t deserve that sort of behavior.” 

“I know,” she replied, her tone sad. “Doesn’t seem to stop it, though.”

Without thinking, he reached out for her. “I’m sorry it happened… if I had known earlier, I would’ve thrown them out long ago- that was an oversight on my part and I apologize for it.” 

Sol just laughed, patting his hand. “You’re good, but you can’t control everything, Xander.” She made a light humming sound, handing him a bottle of water as she sat back down. “Drink, please.”

He rolled his eyes but did as she asked, chuckling when he realized she wasn’t going to let him be without drinking the entire thing. “You’re quite bossy, you know that?” 

“Johnny tells me that all the time, but I don’t see it,” she replied teasingly. “I think it’s just that human men don’t listen.”

“Spoken just like a bossy woman,” Sloane retorted, earning a genuine laugh and a light slap on the arm from her. He smiled sleepily at the turian before lowering his gaze, shame and embarrassment competing for dominance in his system. “Thank you for this,” he mumbled, not looking up. “Despite not asking for it, your help has been appreciated, Sol.”

“You just can’t do it, can you?” Sol mused, letting out an amused-sounding hum. “No matter what, you always want to push people away- why is that?” 

Sloane started to say something else, but between the events of the day and the medication in his system, he was too tired to hide his feelings. “Habit, I suppose.” 

“Try breaking it,” Sol replied, her tone firm. “You’ll be better off in the long run.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s the case,” he said, rolling on his side and closing his eyes. The fact that he was willing to go to sleep while the turian was still in the room was a shock to him- has to be the medication, he told himself, trying to ignore the feelings of jealousy that were coursing through him. “You don’t have to stay,” he said, his tone surly. “I’m sure you have better things to do.”

“Not really,” Sol replied, making him snort derisively. “Mordin is looking over the krogan’s files with Miranda, and since genetics isn’t my strong suit…” 

The thought of Miranda knowing that he required medical treatment made him groan. “Who knows you’re here?” 

“Just Jane and John,” Sol replied, patting his arm. “Though I don’t look it, I am a professional, Xander- your condition is no one’s business. John only knows I’m here treating you- he doesn’t know why… nor does he need to.” 

Stunned, Sloane shifted to look at the turian. “I must admit… I didn’t expect to receive your discretion...especially not after the way we previously parted ways.”

“People make mistakes,” Sol replied, her voice kind. “Get some rest, Xander- I’ll leave you alone now.”

Closing his eyes, Sloane took a deep breath. “Jane… was with me when I first had one of these attacks,” he admitted. “Silly girl combed through every book she could find to come up with a solution…” His voice trailed off and he shifted on his back, staring up at the ceiling. “Haven’t had an episode like this in years… emotional transparency appears to be bad for my health.”

“I’d say trying to control everything is the more likely cause,” Sol said mildly, that low purr rumbling in the room even as she spoke. “It’s been a stressful day, Xander- with all that’s going on, I’m surprised you haven’t had an episode like this sooner.”

“All the more reason to return home as quickly as possible,” he muttered. “I can’t think straight on this ship- there’s too much going on.”

“Welcome to the Normandy,” Sol laughed, making him chuckle. “If it’s ok with you,” she said tentatively, “I’d like to stay here until you fall asleep- honestly, I don’t trust you to stay in bed, and you need the rest.”

Sloane smiled, amused by her candor. “I can’t say your suspicions are unfounded,” he replied, laughing. “Your intuition seems to be just as keen as your sister.” 

“I think that was an insult, but I’ll take it as a compliment,” Sol said with a chirp. “That being said, I need you to rest,” she urged, patting his arm. “And don’t worry- I’ll be gone by the time you wake up.” 

  


After the meds had taken effect and Xander had drifted off to sleep, Sol wandered back into the medbay, feeling dazed after the events of the day. Lost in her head, Sol jumped back when she realized the biotic was laying on a cot, staring up at the ceiling with her arms behind her head. “Sup,” she said, turning to look at Sol. “Was wondering when you’d bring your ass back here.” 

Not in the mood to deal with Jack’s caustic personality, Sol sighed, “It’s been a really long day,” she said, trying her best to be polite. “Are you coming up here to argue with me? If so, can we put this off until later?” 

“Aww, is Miss Sunshine and Rainbows having a bad day?” Jack let out a snort, swinging her legs off the bed and sitting straight up. “Look, your fucking sister said I should train you, so that’s what I’m doing. If you don’t want to, fine- that’s just less thing I have to deal with.” 

“I would appreciate the training,” Sol said slowly, walking over to her desk and grabbing one of John’s protein bars, “but it’s been a really long day- I would feel terrible if I hurt you because I couldn’t keep my emotions in check.”

She extended the bar to the biotic, who looked at her for a moment before ripping off the paper and practically inhaling the contents. “That’s the perfect time to practice,” she said, letting chunks of food fly out of her mouth as she talked. “What, do you think someone’s gonna go, ‘oh you had a hard day, let me come back and try to murder you later’?” Sol stared at her in amazement, but the biotic continued. “Fuck no- life’s tough, Sunshine... you better learn how to deal with it or start rolling over so you can get fucked quicker.” 

Sol blinked, trying to figure out how to parse out what Jack had said. “That’s extremely cynical to say.”

“That’s life,” Jack snapped between the last bites of her food. “Sooner you figure that out, the better off you’ll be. Woulda thought your little greeting downstairs clued you in on that.”

“Yes, there are bad people,” Sol said wearily, handing Jack another bar and taking a moment to sit down, “but that doesn’t mean all people are bad. If I thought that way, I’d go crazy.” 

Jack paused for a moment, then glared at Sol while she chewed. “What, you sayin’ I’m crazy?” 

The possibility crossed my mind, Sol thought with a hum. “I’m saying I believe that most people are decent- I’ve just had the unfortunate luck to encounter some with bad intentions.”

The biotic let out a snort. “If you’ve got ‘unfortunate luck’, then I’m fucking cursed,” she said with a sneer. “Almost every person I’ve ever met has ‘bad intentions’,” Jack said mockingly. “So pardon fucking me if I don’t share your shining view of the world, Sunshine.”

“Not everyone is out to get you,” Sol replied, thoroughly confused as to how she’d gotten roped into this conversation in the first place. “My family and I aren’t, even though you seem to hate us.” 

“Don’t hate you,” Jack said blithely, folding her hands behind her head. “Don’t know you enough to give a shit… be a waste of time to try, anyway.” 

“I don’t think it’s a waste of time,” Sol said quietly, folding her hands. “Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone out here.”

“Wouldn’t know,” Jack replied with a shrug, laying back on the cot and staring at the ceiling. “Been on my own ever since I got free.”

Sol just stared at her, choosing her words carefully. “Do you have any family?” 

Once again, Jack shrugged. “Don’t know, don’t care- if I do, they don’t want me, so what fucking difference does it make?”

“Sounds like Johnny and Janey,” Sol replied, idly playing with the hem of her shirt. “They don’t have any other family besides us, either.”

“Knew something had to be wrong with them,” Jack muttered, making Sol growl with irritation- the biotic turned her head and smirked. “What? Does the fact that not everyone thinks the world revolves around your ‘sister’ make you want to cry?”

“First of all, turians don’t cry, we keen,” Sol snapped. “And secondly, why must you always be so nasty? Ever since you’ve gotten here, my family has been nothing but nice to you- why are you being such a… a…”

“Bitch,” Jack said with a smirk. “Was that the word you were looking for?” 

Sol flushed with embarrassment, looking away. “I’d never call you something like that,” she said quickly. “That’s horrible!” 

When she heard the woman shrug, Sol looked up. “Why not- you wouldn’t be the first one to say it.” 

“That doesn’t make it right!” Sol insisted. “You don’t deserve that!” 

“How would you know what I deserve?” Jack asked with a sneer, sitting up in the bed. “Were you there? Have you seen the shit I did?” 

“I don’t care what you did,” Sol shot back. “You’re nasty, but you haven’t done any of those things to me! You didn’t have to help me down there, but you saved me!” She leaned forward and almost reached for Jack, but immediately thought better of it. “You might be mean, but I think you’re a good person, Jack… and you deserve to be treated like one.”

Jack just looked at her for a moment, then let out a derisive snort. “Whatever,” she grumbled, hopping off the bed. “Come find me after you get some rest… maybe then you won’t be so fucking whiny.” 

  


Garrus looked around the empty cargo bay, then glanced over at Jane. “You sure about this? You know, it’s not too late to go back upstairs and pretend we have an ounce of common sense, dear.”

“Scaredy cat,” Jane retorted, threading her fingers in his. Truth be told, she was a little nervous, but the fact that there was a sentient being trapped in a tube on her ship didn’t sit well with her. Was that what they did with me, Jane wondered, staring at the still form of the krogan. Kept the bits they could scrape together in a jar, just waiting on someone to put Humpty Dumpty back together? 

The room was quiet, save the hum of the electricity flowing to the unit. Swallowing her nerves, she approached the tube, carefully peering inside. When the krogan didn’t shift at all, she frowned. “EDI,” she said cautiously, “is he okay in there?”

“The subject is stable,” EDI replied, almost sounding smug. “Integration with onboard systems was seamless.”

“But I didn’t ask that,” Jane replied petulantly. “I want to know if he’s okay.” Ignoring the strangled sounds Garrus was making, Jane crept closer to the tube. “Can he see us?”

“Unlikely. Current neural patterns indicate minimal cognition.” The AI paused for a moment, then continued. “Barring shipwide power loss, the nutrients in the tank could sustain him for over a year.” 

Suddenly, the room started feeling small, and all Jane could think about was her being in a similar tube, unaware of the world around her for two long years, leaving her family and friends alone while time passed in the blink of an eye. How did he view Okeer, she wondered, reaching toward the glass. Was that his family, or did he not give a shit? Will you care that he’s gone?

“Jane,” Garrus said sharply, startling her and making her draw her hand back, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” 

She nodded, taking a step back and taking a deep breath. “Yeah,” she said shakily, “you’re probably right.” She glanced at him for a moment, then squared her shoulders. “EDI,” Jane said firmly, staring at the unmoving krogan, “open the tank, please.”

Jane could picture EDI giving her a reproachful look. “Cerberus protocol is very clear regarding untested alien technology.” 

“I don’t care- he’s a living being, not technology,” Jane said firmly. “If he gets wild, Garrus and I are more than capable of putting him down, but I will not have him imprisoned in this tank, EDI- we don’t do that here.”

“Analyst Sloane will not be pleased,” the AI warned. “He has explicitly asked that you wait to get clearance from Dr. Solus-”

“Xander can eat a dick,” Jane shot back, feeling more confident now. “It’s my ship EDI, and I don’t want him locked up like this.”

“Data from Okeer’s files suggest frequent searches from the krogan rebellions,” EDI replied. When no one moved, the AI spoke again. “Officer Vakarian is turian, Commander Shepard… might I suggest having him outside until we know the temperament of the krogan?” 

Garrus let out an indignant squawk. “Absolutely not! Jane, I am not-” 

Swallowing, she rested a hand on his arm. “EDI’s got a point,” she said quietly. “I want his freedom, but I don’t want anything to happen to you, either.” 

Her husband looked at her, a pained expression on his face. “I already lost you once,” he said softly as he took her in his arms. “I can’t lose you again, Jane.”

 “You won’t,” Jane replied, rubbing his back. “I’ll be fine.”

“If you wait right outside the door,” EDI said quietly, “I can monitor the scene inside the room. If Shepard’s vitals show her to be in any danger, I will let you know immediately.” 

“I don’t like this,” Garrus said, holding her even tighter. “If you’re going to do something this stupid, I should be in here with you.”

Jane swallowed, then took a step back and gave Garrus a cocky grin. “Look at it this way,” she said, forcing a bit of cheer into her voice, “by not being in here, you have plausible deniability when John loses his shit… and you know he will.” 

“He’d be right,” Garrus grumbled. “I can’t talk you out of this, can I?” 

“Nope,” she said, shaking her head. “EDI’s giving you a good offer, love- gonna take her up on it?” 

“Do I have a choice?” Garrus asked, giving her a look that suggested he knew how pointless trying to stop her was. “Sure I can’t interest you in something… anything else?” 

“We’re releasing the krogan,” she said firmly. “You with me, big guy?”

“I’d feel better about it if I was in here with you,” the turian grumbled. “But I’ll make due- EDI, can you patch me into the audio?”

“I can do that,” the AI replied. “Are you sure you wish to do this, Commander Shepard?”

“Yep,” Jane answered, squaring her shoulders and checking to see if her pistol was in her holster. “I’ll see you in a bit, hon- right now, I got a baby krogan to set free.” 

Her husband begrudgingly left the room, and Jane turned toward the unmoving krogan. Now or never, she thought, taking a deep breath as EDI opened the tank. Let’s see what Okeer was doing with this kid. 

But as soon as the last bit of fluid drained away, Jane immediately felt all the air leaving her body as the young krogan leaped out of the tank and hurled her across the room. 

Chapter Text

  


When he heard the thudding sound on the other side of the door, Garrus felt his heart leap into his chest. I need to get in there, he thought, readying his gun. Jane needs me.  

“Officer Vakarian,” EDI interrupted, startling him into awareness, “your presence is not requested at this time.”

“EDI,” Garrus growled, trying and failing to keep the panic out of his voice, “that is my mate in there- if she’s in trouble-”

“Her vitals are normal,” EDI replied, causing Garrus to look at the door in shock. “There was a brief fluctuation upon opening the tank, but nothing since indicates the need for assistance.”

“She’s alone in there!” Garrus yelled, frantically trying to open the door. “If you let her get hurt-”

Before he could finish the sentence, EDI had disengaged the lock and Garrus hurtled himself into the room, only to be confronted by the sight of Jane holding her pistol at the pleased-looking krogan’s side. When they noticed he’d come in, the krogan sniffed. “That’s a turian,” it growled. “I remember them from Okeer’s pictures… he said I should kill them.” 

“Try it and I’ll kill you,” Jane growled back, looking incredibly small next to the towering krogan. “Grunt, this is Garrus, and he’s my second in command- you will follow him just as you do me.” 

“Impossible,” the krogan growled, then turned to Garrus. “I was shown them as my enemies- he’s too weak to follow.” 

“On this ship, he’s family,” Jane shot back, drawing herself up to her full height. “I wouldn’t choose someone weak to be my mate, Grunt.” 

In response, the krogan she called Grunt took a deep sniff. “Hmm,” he snorted, looking Garrus up and down, “you smell like Shepard…. maybe you aren’t weak.” 

Completely unsure as to what was going on, Garrus shot a look at Jane, who was still puffed up and staring at the krogan like she was ready to shoot him at any moment. Deciding to err on the side of politeness, he gave a small nod to the krogan. “Welcome to the Normandy, Grunt.” 

Grunt just huffed, then looked at Jane. “Sure I can’t kill him?”

“Positive,” Jane replied. Even though her arms were crossed, her posture was much more relaxed. “Trust me, he’s a great fighter, Grunt- keep your shit together and I bet he’d even spar with you sometime.”

At that, the krogan’s eyes lit up. “That’s acceptable,” he replied happily, then looked around the room. “Now that I’m free, what do I do, Shepard? Is there anything to fight?”

“We don’t fight our family,” she replied, earning a slight hum from Garrus. “I promise, when we go out, I’ll give you plenty of things to kill- how’s that sound?” 

“Good,” Grunt replied, then stood up straight and looked at Jane. “Are we ready to go now?” 

Clearly confused, Jane just blinked. “Excuse me?” 

“I’m awake,’” Grunt said simply, looking at Jane as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “If you released me, it must be time to fight our enemies now, right?” 

“Um no…” Jane said carefully, looking to Garrus- in response, the turian just smiled and took a step back. He had no intentions of leaving her alone with the bloodthirsty baby krogan, but he also had no desire to help her out of this hole. “It’s the night cycle… we go out to kill things when we go planetside.” 

Grunt let out a huff, looking more than a little petulant- Garrus fought back a hum of amusement. “So when do we go planetside?” 

“In the morning,” she replied, giving Garrus a look that clearly said ‘help me’ - he ignored it, pretending that the floor was fascinating. 

Just as he thought, the krogan gave Jane what Garrus would swear was a pout. “But what do I do until then?” 

“Sleep?” Jane suggested, her tone suggesting she’d hit her limit. “Like I said, it’s the night cycle- I don’t know about you, but I gotta get some sleep, kid.”

“I’m not tired,” Grunt replied, his tone defiant. “I’d rather be fighting something.” 

“How about this,” Garrus said, walking over to the krogan and trying to hide his smirk as Jane gave him a grateful look, “I’ll tell you a few stories about some of Jane’s battles, but you have to get some sleep afterward.” Grunt gave the turian a murderous look, but Garrus held firm. “We need to introduce you to the crew in the morning and no one wants to be in the room with a tired krogan- do this and you can be on our ground team… we need to see how well you fight, and you don’t want your first battle to be unsatisfactory, do you?” 

“No,” Grunt mumbled, giving Garrus an askew glance. “Were these fights of hers any good? Lots of death and destruction?”

“Tons,” Garrus replied, working hard to keep a straight face. “Doesn’t seem like she knows how to fight any other way.”

“Good,” Grunt said firmly, walking over to a corner and crossing his arms. “I need to hear the stories of these battles, turian.”

“Then settle down,” Garrus said, laughing despite the looks Jane was shooting his way. “Because I’ve got a ton of them.” 

  


Jane yawned, looking over at Grunt, who was sprawled out on the floor and snoring loudly. “Didn’t know you were that good with tank-born krogan, hon.” 

Garrus shrugged, letting out a yawn of his own. “Wasn’t too bad- he reminded me of Sol when she was younger- I improvised.” 

“So you’re telling me our sweet and wonderful Sol used to want to murder anything that moved?” Jane raised an eyebrow, and Garrus started to chuckle. “I find that real hard to believe, big guy.” 

“No, but she was always insistent on doing things her own way,” Garrus replied, nuzzling his head against hers. “You have to admit, that much hasn’t changed.” 

“If anything, I think Chakwas encourages it,” Jane replied, rolling her head and feeling the bones in her neck crack. “We gotta introduce him to the crew...I’m scared to leave him on his own without explicit instructions not to eat anyone.” 

Garrus started rubbing her neck, making Jane close her eyes and moan. “No one told you to let him out, you know.” When she opened one eye and growled, he laughed. “That being said… he seems to respect you- don’t know why.” 

“I’ll have you know I’m fearsome,” Jane replied, ignoring the rumble coming from his chest as she leaned against him. “Plus, I didn’t show any fear or weakness- I think he’s going to try and kick my ass to make sure I’m worth following, though.” 

“With all the stories he had me telling him, I think your legacy is secure,” Garrus said softly, pressing his lips to the top of her head. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was sun-struck.” 

Star-struck,” Jane corrected, then laughed. “Can’t imagine why.”

“You came back from the dead,” Garrus said with a chuckle. “That’s a feat not too many can boast about. Plus, I’m not complaining- I avoided a fight because I’m cool enough to hang out with you.”

“You mean because I’m cool enough to hang out with you,” Jane said shyly, poking him lightly in the side. “I think I’m getting the better deal here.”

“We’re just going to agree to disagree,” Garrus said mildly. “But… we need to figure out what to do with him- I love you, but my back doesn’t love sleeping on a floor all night.” 

“It’s his first day being out of the tank- I didn’t want to leave him alone,” Jane said confidently, hoping to hide the tremor in her voice. “We’ll figure it out tomorrow.” 

She knew Garrus noticed the slight warble, but he was too nice to comment on it. “Tomorrow,” Garrus agreed. “For tonight, the commander and her second will sleep on the floor next to the fully grown baby krogan, displaying our might and strength while hiding our aching backs in the morning.”

“See? This is why you’re my second in command,” Jane murmured, reaching up to place a kiss on his cheek. “You just always seem to get it.” 

“That’s because I’m amazing,” Garrus replied, wrapping his arm around her as they settled in for the evening. “And because I know having the great Commander Jane Alexandra Shepard owe me a favor is so worth it.” 

  


The number of people racing out of the mess hall was odd, but Sloane barely noticed the chaos, his face buried in the datapad. The Normandy was rapidly approaching the site of a distress call, and Sloane was hoping that they could look into the matter quickly- they had other things to do.

However, when he walked into the mess hall and saw Jane, Garrus, and a very large krogan sitting at a table, Sloane found himself speechless. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, but try as he might, words just wouldn’t come out- I’m not seeing this, Sloane thought, blinking as he looked at the creature shoveling plates of food into its gaping maw. She didn’t… this is not happening right now.

“Jane,” Sloane croaked, staring up at the ceiling and hoping like hell he wasn’t going to have another anxiety attack, “what in the world is going on here?” 

“Breakfast,” the krogan replied, not looking up from what looked to be his third plate. “Shepard said I wasn’t allowed to go out there unless I eat first.”

“She…” Sloane stopped, unable to form words at this point. Taking a deep breath and counting to ten, he closed his eyes and pinched his nose. “Jane, did you clear his release with Mordin? I don’t recall seeing any reports-” 

“You were asleep,” she said simply, sipping her coffee. “I read the reports and I decided that he was ok...and he is, see? Grunt,” she said, tapping the krogan on the arm and ignoring the enraged look he gave her. “This is Xander- he’s a pain in the ass, but you can’t eat him, ok?”

He started to say something else, but the smirk playing across the corners of her mouth made him bite back a groan. She played me, he thought irritably, taking notice of the way her eyes trailed lazily over his face. Jane knows full well I can’t contradict her actions without outing my medical state...and there’s not a shot in hell of me doing that- she released him last night on purpose.

Feeling a mixture of irritation and pride, Sloane glared at Jane, doing his best to ignore the smug look on her face. “My name is Sloane,” he corrected pointedly, trying not to react to the smirking turian. “And I understand this is your ship, but did you ever stop and think about how this... krogan would acclimate to a mostly human crew?” 

“Sounds like Xander’s challenging you,” the krogan grumbled, making Sloane twitch at the mention of his name. “Sure I can’t kill him?” 

Garrus started to say something, but Jane cut the turian off with a dirty look. “Afraid not- he’s sometimes useful,” Jane replied, shooting Sloane a smirk of her own. “But you’ll be the first one to know if that changes.” 

“You know I have to put this in the report,” Sloane said irritably, ready to pick a fight with her at this point. “The Illusive Man-”

“Can kiss my ass,” Jane shot back, earning a chuckle from her two companions. “Grunt is a member of our crew now, and I’m taking him with me on the mission today.” She turned to Grunt, a stern look on her face. “And he’s going to listen to my orders out there because he knows I’m going to shoot him if he doesn’t, right?” 

“I heard you the first time,” the krogan rumbled, going back to his food. “Less talking, more killing, Shepard.” 

“We’re just waiting for my brother,” Jane replied, a sheepish expression flitting across her face for a moment- Sloane instantly recognized what that meant and a smile played at the corners of his mouth. “Once he gets here and we’ve gotten the clearance to dock, we’ll be ready to suit up.” 

Sloane just looked at her, feeling amused for the first time that morning. “So,” he said lightly, “I take it that John hasn’t met the newest member of your ground team yet?” 

“It was late,” Jane said decisively, not reacting to the hum coming from the turian next to her. “I figured it would be easier to explain in the morning.” As Sloane made his way over to the cabinet and grabbed a cup, Jane scowled at him. “What are you doing, Xander?”

“Making tea,” Sloane replied with delight, his irritation momentarily forgotten. “I want to be wide awake for this conversation, Jane.” 

  


Sol just watched as the team left the ship, complete with the young krogan in tow. “This… is new,” Sol said carefully, watching as Xander stood next to her with a smug look on his face. “Do you think they’re going to be all right down there?” 

“Honestly? I have no idea,” Xander replied cheerfully as he walked back toward his office- Sol followed him. “But, it’s Jane- I’m learning that your sister takes pride in blowing all my plans to hell, so I’m just trying to work on assembling contingency plans.”

“You know, you could help them,” Sol said, smiling as Xander started whistling a tune. “I thought you were pretty good down in engineering.” 

“I am good,” Xander replied, pausing at his door. “However, that doesn't change the fact that helping them on a ground mission doesn’t serve my interests… particularly not with a young krogan in tow.” 

She frowned, following him inside the room without a second thought. “That’s not good,” she admonished. “Couldn’t you just… I don’t know, help them because you want to?”

Xander looked at her, a bemused expression on his face as he folded his hands. “You are a presumptuous thing, aren’t you?” 

“I just think you can be better,” Sol huffed, flopping in the seat in front of him. “I mean, you could be an asset to everyone instead of acting so… insidious,” she said, her tone flustered. “I know you can!”

“Hmm,” Xander replied, looking down at his datapad, his tone dismissive. When she just stared at him, her mouth agape, Xander let out an irritated-sounding sigh. “Was there a point to this visit, Sol?” 

Blinking, Sol let out a surprised chirp. “I… I thought we were just having a conversation,” she said quietly, folding her hands. “Sorry if I’m disturbing you.” 

At that, Xander finally looked up, a curious expression on his face. “Why do you insist on being so friendly, Sol? Don’t you have better things to do than to chat with insidious bastards like me?” 

Hearing her own words parroted back to her, Sol winced. “I didn’t mean it like that-” 

“If you didn’t, you should’ve,” he replied casually. “It’s true, so why hide it?” 

Sol cocked her head, letting out a confused hum. “Why are you like this, Xander? When you’re not being mean, you’re really not that bad,” she shot back. “Do you just not want me talking to you?” 

The man settled back in his chair, idly flipping through the datapad. “I have data to look through and reports to file, but you’re welcome to stay if you like- I truly don’t mind the company.” When she glared at him, Xander sighed and looked up. “Your husband does not want you associating with me, Sol- I was hoping I wouldn’t have to point that fact out.” 

“But…” Sol paused, thinking carefully about her next words. “You look like you need a friend,” she said quietly. “And so do I.” 

Xander began to laugh, but to her surprise, it wasn’t mocking. “Trust me, I’m not the friend you need,” he replied. “Just ask your sister.”

The sudden awkwardness that had settled over the room was making her uncomfortable, and Sol got the distinct feeling she’d overstayed her welcome. “I’ll leave you to your reports,” she said quietly, getting up from her chair. “Come see me in the medbay if you need anything, ok?”

She started to walk away, but Xander stopped her before she could get to the door. “Sol?” 

Surprised, she turned around, curious about what she did wrong this time. “Yes?”

“What do you know about krogan?” Xander asked, staring at her with interest. “I find myself at a loss as to what to do when it comes to our new addition,” he said with a sheepish smile. “You seem to be comfortable around them- do you have any advice or resources?”

“Well, I used to talk to Wrex all the time,” Sol said, staring at him and trying to figure out why he was asking her. “But Janey’s a better person to ask- she used to work with him.” 

“True, but your sister is unavailable and it’s not like she’s inclined to give me the time of day,” he replied. “Mind staying for a while and helping me with some research? Your medical opinion might be valuable in this matter.”

She started to protest, but then she thought better of it and smiled. “Happy to help however I can,” she replied, heading back to her seat. “What do you want to know?”

  


As Jane and Garrus were trying to hack the systems, John and Nihlus were left with Grunt, trying desperately to make sure the krogan didn’t get himself killed. He definitely was no Wrex- true, the scarred old krogan was a menace, but he was controlled- this one that they’d released was pure chaos. He’s going to get himself hurt and Jane’s gonna be pissed, John thought irritably, watching as the krogan raced into the fray and bellowed with delight as he hurled himself into a LOKI mech. Fed up and slightly terrified, John let out a scream and gathered his energy. “Grunt, bring your ass back here and stay in cover!” John barked, using his biotics and snatching the krogan behind a barrier. “I’m not letting you get my sister shot because you want to start tossing fuckers around!” 

The krogan looked at him with such irritation at being snatched from the battle that John heard Nihlus chuckle. “I was killing things,” Grunt growled. “You are just angry that you aren’t as mighty as me or Shepard.”

Oh, this little… “Is that so?” John asked, looking at Grunt with irritation. “Watch and learn, kid.” Gathering up his energy, he stood up and pulled the mechs off their feet, sending them crashing into each other and sending up a shower of sparks and flame. “You forget… I’m a Shepard too,” he snapped, pulling out a bar and munching on it, glaring at the krogan the entire time. “Don’t make me kick your ass out here- I could toss you like a rag doll, Grunt.” 

Grunt stared at him with wide eyes for a moment, then narrowed them as they made their way deeper into the facility. “I don’t believe you- the turian has told me no stories of your victories.” 

John just sighed, conspicuously ignoring the laughter coming from the spectre. 

“Someone seems jealous,” Nihlus murmured as Grunt charged ahead, no longer listening to any of John’s warnings. “Are you angry that the large ball of murder is not awed by the prowess of the great John Shepard?” 

“No, I’m pissed it keeps trying to kill itself on its first time out,” John snapped. “Seriously, it doesn’t listen… at all!” 

“He listens to Jane and Garrus,” Nihlus mused, watching as the krogan stopped and stared at Jane, moving impatiently as she gave them orders. “Must just be you.” 

“I’m gonna let it be a walking meat shield in a second,” John growled, shaking his head as the krogan ran into a group of Eclipse mercs. “I don’t have time for this fuckshit, Nih.” 

Nihlus just smiled, taking a shot at one of the mercs that had escaped Grunt’s rampage. “He respects strength,” the turian said slowly. “Show him you’re a warrior and he’ll listen to you.” 

Thinking about it for a moment, a slow smirk spread across John’s face. “Well, since he likes charging into everything, let me help the hyper little fucker out.”

Nihlus’s face dropped. “John,” he said warningly, “that’s not what I-” 

“HEY GRUNT!” John yelled, sending out a lift and hoisting the krogan in the air, “think fast!” Before anyone could protest, John had tossed Grunt into a group of approaching mercs, delighting in the screams that ensued as they helplessly watched the glowing ball of krogan come hurtling toward them. “Have fun, kid!”

Jane whirled around on John, her expression enraged. “What the fuck did you just do! He could’ve been-” 

She was interrupted by the sound of roaring laughter as Grunt shook himself off. “Did you see the terror in their eyes! That was wonderful, human!” He thundered over to John, grabbing him by the shoulders. “How did you do that?” 

Trying not to wince at the pain in his shoulders, John just smirked. “Trade secret,” he said casually, willing to say whatever he had to if it meant getting out of Grunt’s excited grip. “Stay in cover till we give you orders and I’ll tell you about it.” 

The krogan nodded, the expression on his face full of pure awe. “You are not weak and worthless,” Grunt said with reverence. “I will follow your orders and not wait for your death, other Shepard.” 

Once again, John tried to ignore the laughter of the turian coming from behind him. “Um… thanks, I think,” he said, rubbing his shoulders as the krogan finally released him. “Now that we’ve gotten that settled, let’s try to clear this bucket without dying, ok?” 

“The only deaths shall be our enemies,” Grunt replied seriously. “Lead the way, other Shepard.”

Chapter Text

  


“You really are a worrywart,” Ash said teasingly, stroking Nihlus’s mandible and giving him that smirk he always wanted to kiss off her lips. “Seriously, Nih, I’m a big girl- I’ll be fine.” 

Nihlus let out a rumble and nuzzled against her, angry that the only moment he could get with his mate was at the tiny human hotel before she set off again. “That may be true,” he rumbled, running his hand along her side, “but it doesn’t change the fact that I wish I was there with you.”

“Alliance business,” she said playfully, draping a leg over his hip crest. “Just because you’re a spectre doesn’t mean you get access to all my missions, you know.”

“It should,” he replied, running his tongue over her bond mark and watching as she let out a soft moan. “I should be running this op with you- we’re a team, Ash.” 

“Someone’s gotta keep an eye on our friends,” she replied, ignoring his indignant huff and running her soft fingers across his fringe. “Besides, I have Jenkins with me- the B-Squad is still alive and kicking out here.”

“It’s not that I don’t trust you,” Nih rumbled, dragging his rough tongue across her soft skin, “it’s just that I want to be there to protect you. You’re my mate,” he said, pressing her against him. “There’s nothing I won’t do to keep you safe.”

“And I know that,” she replied, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I know that whenever I need you, you’ll come running.” Ash grinned and tossed her head back, gesturing to the room around them. “Case in point- who dropped everything to meet me in a spaceport hotel, hmm?” 

Nihlus just chuckled, nipping lightly at the hollows of her neck and delighting in her squeals of laughter. “You’re worth it,” he murmured, pulling her close and inhaling the scent of peaches and the flowers she called lilacs coming from her skin. He always thought the flowers smelled like the arlesta that his mother used to plant, and he could never get enough of the scent rolling across her silken skin. “All you ever have to do is call, Ash- if you need me, I’ll be there.”

“Sounds like an old earth song my dad used to sing,” Ash mused, closing her eyes and humming as she pressed her head to his. Nihlus didn’t know the words or the tune, but he loved the sound of her voice, letting out a soft chirp that he only dared voice around her. “Love you,” she whispered, running her hands over his neck. “I’ll be back soon, ok?”

The thought of her leaving made his heart twist into knots, so he did what he always did- he avoided it. “That’s tomorrow’s problem,” he murmured into her neck. “Let’s just worry about tonight for now.”   

Nihlus stared at the ceiling, trying to drive away the memory and focus on anything other than his racing thoughts. Eventually, he gave into his compulsion, checking his omni-tool for the umpteenth time. 

NKryik: Ash, talk to me.

Nkryik: It’s been days and you haven’t checked in- are you all right?

Nkryik: I know you’re a capable soldier, but I admit, I’m getting a bit worried- do you need anything? 

Nkryik: Ash, please… I know you’re busy… but I need you to find a moment to respond.

But no matter how much he willed it to change, the only messages on his tool were his own.

  


“So Okeer is dead.” The Illusive Man stared at Sloane, his strange blue eyes practically boring a hole in the analyst’s skull. “And his research?” 

Sloane sighed with exasperation. “Useless in connection to the Collectors. He said he had no insight into what they wanted with the human colonists. He did, however, ‘gift’ Shepard a tank-bred krogan… which she promptly released.” From the way that TIM shifted, Sloane could tell that he was pissed, but he continued with his report anyway. “Mordin and Lawson checked it over for genetic anomalies, but none turned up. Shepard took it on a mission and it performed… better than expected.” 

“And why would you allow her to release that creature?” TIM asked casually, his controlled tone speaking volumes about his anger levels. “I thought you said you had a handle on her, Sloane.”

“I do,” Sloane lied smoothly, knowing full well that there wasn’t a single person in the galaxy that was able to coax Jane into doing anything she didn’t want to do. The only one who might come close was Vakarian, and Sloane doubted that even the turian would have enough pull if Janey dug her heels in. “I saw no harm in letting her take it on a mission. Best case scenario, we’ve field-tested its loyalty- worst case, Vakarian shoots it for looking askance at Shepard- either way, the problem is solved.” He folded his hands and smiled, waiting patiently for TIM to question him about his absence at the time of the release, but thankfully he remained silent. “At any rate, all is as quiet as it can be around here.” 

TIM just sat there for a moment, clouds of smoke billowing around his face. “Shepard needs to get to Horizon,” he said, his tone clearly indicating that it wasn’t a request. “There are rumors of Alliance and Collector activity over there- I need you to make sure that Shepard follows up on it, Sloane.” 

A sinking feeling rolled through his stomach, but Sloane plastered a bored look on his face. “Is this something you need me or Lawson to look into?” 

“No,” TIM replied. “I have all the necessary details- I just don’t want to miss the chance to catch them in action.”

“You’re testing a theory, aren’t you?” Sloane asked, watching the man with a sense of dread. Even as the words left his lips, he knew- Jane was bait, plain and simple. Motherfucker, he thought angrily, watching as TIM smiled back at him. You’re playing us. “Chatter suggests that the Alliance is down there already and installing artillery.” 

TIM shrugged as his face twisted into a chilling grin. “I think someone calibrated the turrets incorrectly,” he said with a mock nonchalant tone. “It only seems fair that the Alliance should go to fix it up.”  

The look on his face made Sloane pause, staring at TIM and taking a moment to assess the situation. “I didn’t do any research or authorize any operations on Horizon.” 

“No, you didn’t,” TIM replied smoothly. “Given your history with Udina… I thought it best to carry out this mission via other methods.”

Instantly, Sloane couldn’t stop the frown that crossed his face. “Alenko,” he said, watching as TIM settled back into his chair. “You had him sabotage the setup, knowing that Williams is on the lookout for any news about the lieutenant.” When TIM didn’t respond, Sloane let out a soft huff. “It’s a trap- you’re using Williams as bait.” 

“Shepard has to be on Horizon,” TIM said firmly, his tone weighted with many an unspoken threat- Sloane had heard this many times before. “Make sure she gets there, Sloane- I’ve taken too many steps to have her undermine me now.” 

Sloane nodded, being careful to steel his expression and look bored about the whole endeavor. “True,” he replied, pretending to sift through his data. “However, the fact that Horizon is a human colony concerns me- why risk an abduction?”

“For the good of humanity, sacrifices must be made,” TIM replied, sending a shiver down Sloane’s spine. “Just make sure that Shepard arrives there… and soon.” 

“It will be done,” Sloane replied casually, letting out a deep breath once he was sure TIM had terminated the connection.

  


Unable to sleep, Nihlus crept out of his room, hoping that the analyst was still in the habit of taking his late-night stroll around the ship. Jane won’t approve, but I need answers, he thought. And it seems the only person better at getting them than either of us is Sloane

He wasn’t in the mess hall with his usual cup of tea, so Nihlus continued on, stealing through the quiet halls of the Normandy. Unlike the first time he was on the ship, this vessel was larger- there was almost always someone around, whether you wanted them to be or not. Thankfully, the krogan wasn’t underfoot at the moment- when they’d come back from their mission, Grunt had cornered John and demanded stories about his battles over dinner. Unwilling to anger him (or just wanting to show off), John and Sol sat with the young krogan, telling story after story while Jane and Garrus looked on with mock irritation. We’re a regular cadre of misfits, Nihlus thought as he headed towards the comms room. Jane just seems to collect them. 

When he went inside, he found the analyst slumped over the console, his head in his hands. “Get out!” Sloane barked, not looking up. “This room is off-limits to crew without explicit permission!”

“Good thing I have permission, then,” Nihlus rumbled, causing Sloane to snap his head toward him. “Forgive the intrusion, but I needed to speak with you.” 

The analyst looked him over, and for a moment Nihlus could see a pained expression on his face. But, just as quickly as it appeared, a mask of cold calm settled over Sloane’s features as he rose from his seat. “Another time,” he said smoothly, straightening his shirt. “It’s rather late, Kryik.” 

“All the better to have this conversation,” Nihlus replied. “Please, have a seat… for someone with your resources, this request shouldn’t take that long.” 

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Sloane replied, settling back into his seat. “What do you need?”

“I was wondering if you’d heard anything about Horizon,” Nihlus said, watching with surprise when he saw the analyst shift slightly in his seat. “My mate is down there, and I haven’t received a response from her in a few days.” 

Sloane folded his hands and sat up straight. “Could it be that she’s just busy?” 

Nihlus shook his head. “Unlikely. Ash is nothing if not communicative- she wouldn’t go this long without a response if there wasn’t a reason.”

Nodding, Sloane drummed his fingers against the console. “Interesting,” he said, letting his eyes dart over Nihlus’s face. “But it doesn’t explain why you’re here- what is it that you need from me?”

“Information, of course,” Nihlus replied. “Can you scan for any word about what’s going on down there?” The turian hung his head, letting out a sad little hum. “Normally, I wouldn’t ask, but…”

“It’s family,” Sloane finished for him, earning a curt nod from the turian. “Look, I can’t promise anything,” he said slowly, “but I can look into it.”

“I suppose that’s all I can ask,” Nihlus replied, standing up from the chair and giving the analyst a small bow. “Thank you for your help, at any rate. I’ll also see if Jane or Vakarian can find out anything- if memory serves, they were both good at this sort of thing.” 

Sloane sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “If you can agree to not involve Jane,” he said cautiously, “I might be forgetful and leave my office door unlocked in an hour.” The analyst stared at Nihlus, his expression stern. “However, I can’t stress the importance of your discretion, Spectre- forgetfulness is not tolerated around here.” 

Nihlus cocked his head, the pieces drifting into place. “How much do you know?” 

“More than I should and apparently not enough,” Sloane said simply. “Suffice it to say that I know how terrible it is to not know what’s going on with a family member.” 

The turian watched him for a moment, trying to see what the man wasn’t trying to say- after a few moments, he decided to dig. “Like you and Jane?” 

He was rewarded with a hard look for his efforts. “My business is my own, Spectre- please don’t mistake my empathy for friendship. I’m offering you this out of professional courtesy… that’s all .” 

“While that may be true,” Nihlus said slowly, “you and I both know you only offered because you don’t want me going to Jane with this.” When the analyst didn’t respond, Nihlus let out a satisfied hum. “What don’t you want her to see?”

“I’m not planning on hiding anything from her,” Sloane replied, sticking his hand in his pocket. “That being said, the timing of when information needs to be revealed is key. Jane is… unpredictable at best,” he said after a moment, staring up at a point above Nihlus’s head. “The only thing I can count on with absolute certainty is that she will do whatever it is she believes to be right… regardless of the consequences.” 

Nihlus nodded. “And you think her knowledge would come with consequences?” When Sloane nodded in return, Nihlus looked at him with concern. “And what of my knowledge?”

“You know the value of discretion,” Sloane replied. “It’s better to give you what you’re looking for. I have no desire to have you stumbling into places that light doesn’t need to be shed into just yet.”  

Nihlus thought about asking him to elaborate, but he knew it would be pointless- instead, he nodded, making a note to keep his eyes and ears open. “Point taken,” he replied, turning to leave the room. “Goodnight, Sloane.” 

The analyst nodded, moving briskly past him and heading down the hall. “And you the same, Spectre.”

  


Jane crawled into bed next to Garrus, letting out an exhausted sigh. “Do you feel like you’ve just run a marathon?” 

“I might if I knew what a marathon was,” Garrus replied, extending his arm and humming as she snuggled against his chest. “But it was a really long day.” 

“I feel like a parent,” Jane groaned, closing her eyes and ignoring his polite laughter. “Grunt is… a handful.” 

“That he is,” Garrus replied, running his talons through her hair and lightly scratching her scalp. “But to be fair... so is John.”

Jane scowled, poking her husband in the side and fighting a smile. “No one likes a smart ass, big guy.” 

He smiled, those bright blue eyes roaming over her body. “Hmmm… you do.”

“Damn right,” Jane replied, cupping her hand against his cheek. The bandage was still there, but he wasn’t flinching anymore when she touched her hand to it. “How do you feel?” 

“I still have a face,” Garrus said, leaning back against the pillows and closing his eyes. “And I still have my mate… so I’m feeling pretty good overall.”

“That’s good,” Jane murmured, snuggling against him and closing her eyes. “Been kind of a wild few days.”

“That’s an understatement,” Garrus replied, making her chuckle. “We have a baby krogan on board, Jane.”

“Guess that does make us parents, then,” Jane mumbled, feeling the beginnings of sleep creeping in. “Is parenthood everything you dreamed of?” 

“Only if you’re the one who introduces him to mom and dad,” Garrus answered, making her open her eyes. “But to be honest, I’m kind of scared he might try to fight my father.” 

“If it weren’t for the fact that your mom might be upset, I’d be tempted to let him,” Jane replied, rolling her eyes and earning her own poke in the side. “That being said, we gotta keep him under control- I can’t have him running wild around here.”

Garrus smiled, resting his head against hers. “You’re cute when you’re maternal,” he said, laughing when she started to scowl. “What are you going to do when we have our own chicks? According to mom, I was a handful.”

She tilted her head to look up at him, wonder evident in her eyes. “You still want to have a family with me?”

He hummed softly, tracing his talons lightly along her back. “Of course,” he replied, pulling her closer. “I can’t think of a single thing better than starting a family with you. But you might have to break it to Grunt that baby turians are fragile- don’t want him tossing the kids around, you know.”

“So are baby humans,” Jane replied, then let out a snort. “You might want to have that talk with John first,” she said, shaking her head. “I still can’t believe my brother yeeted a krogan.” 

“I have no idea what you just said,” Garrus said with a laugh. “But you have to admit, it was pretty entertaining to see him sailing across the room.”

Jane smirked, letting her fingers dance over the markings on his face. “I love weird words,” she said with a shrug. “Xander and I heard it in an old movie once and…” She let her voice trail off, feeling the memory stinging at her insides. “Anyway, I always thought the word was cool. Never thought I’d be using it, though.”

Garrus let his hand go still against her back, the hum practically turning into a purr. “Everything ok?” 

Jane just smiled, knowing that there wasn’t a shot in hell of him missing her discomfort. Always at my six, she thought, sifting through the layers of emotion she was trying to bury. “I suppose,” she admitted, hiding her face. “It’s just… I want to hate him,” she spat, feeling her face start to heat up. “But I can’t and it makes me feel… ugh!” 

“It’s alright to be angry,” Garrus said quietly. “You have every right to feel how you do- the way he treated you was a betrayal.” He let his voice trail off, and she knew he was thinking about his team. “But no matter what, I’m here for you… always.” 

Jane smiled, wiping away the tear that threatened to slip down her cheek. “Thanks,” she said huskily, burying her face into his chest. “Still want to fight him, though… it might make me feel better.” 

Garrus laughed, twirling a strand of her hair around his finger. “And you wonder where Grunt gets it from?” He nuzzled her head, letting out a soft purr. “I always knew you were part krogan, Jane.” 

“Only the part that’s attracted to scars,” she teased, letting her hand creep up to his fringe. 

As they laughed, Jane felt the silence settle around them and sighed, threading her fingers between his. “I love you,” she whispered, letting the soft rumbles escaping his chest soothe her frayed nerves, “And I’m always going to be here for you, too.”

“I know that,” he said softly, pressing his lips to her head. “But you need to get some sleep- after all, we’ve got a krogan to raise in the morning.” 

“Smartass,” Jane replied, feeling safe and secure in her husband’s arms as she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

  


Jane walked down to the gym, desperate to do anything that might calm her nerves. The Illusive Man had, to no one’s surprise, lied directly to her face- Xander had warned her that the Alliance was looking into the colony on Horizon, but surprise, surprise, the Illusive Man made it seem like they were the only ones taking it seriously. I’m so tired of being jerked around, she growled, stripping off her shirt and wrapping her hands. These people make me sick.

As she moved over to the bag and started punching furiously, she pictured TIM’s smug-looking face every time she landed a blow, the force of her new strength surprising her. I hate him, Jane thought, swinging wide and knocking the bag backward. I hate talking to him- I hate being treated like a fool…

She had no idea how long she was there, but the sound of a voice from across the room surprised her. “Something wrong?” Nihlus said, leaning against the wall. “You seem upset, Jane.”

Sweeping the damp blue strands out of her eyes, Jane grabbed the swinging bag and leaned against it, taking a moment to catch her breath. “You’re a regular master of observation,” she sniped, wiping sweat from her forehead. “Offering classes, sensei?” 

“There’s no need to be rude,” Nihlus said mildly, walking over and standing in front of her. “How much do you remember?” 

She looked him up and down, puzzled as to what he was asking. “What do you mean?”

Nihlus rolled his eyes, then got into a fighting stance. “Of what I taught you, of course. You look like you need to destress… and I will admit to needing the same.” 

Jane paused, then shrugged. “Two years was literally the blink of an eye for me, Nih- I don’t think I had time to forget anything.” She looked down at her hands, turning them over and over. “But… Cerberus changed me,” she muttered, feeling the frustration bubbling up again. “I’m still learning just how much.”

“Just because you’re a little stronger and faster, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t you,” Nihlus said kindly. “Maybe now this means I don’t have to hold back when sparring with you.” 

She scoffed, looking at her friend with mock horror. “You mean you were holding back on me all this time?” 

The turian shrugged, a playful gleam in his eyes. “Jane, I am what your people call an apex predator, while you are a small and frail human- of course I was holding back.”

“Oh it is on,” Jane replied, laughing as she settled into a fighting stance. “I’m going to kick your ass, dino boy.” 

“You can try,” Nihlus replied, his tone teasing. “I’ll be interested to gauge just how strong this new body of yours is- it might be nice to be able to trade actual blows with you for once.” 

“You are really laying this on thick, you know that?” Jane struck first, tossing out a light jab that the turian quickly dodged. “Thought you wanted to test my strength- why are you running?” She grinned, then let out a whoosh of air when he punched her in the chest. “Ok, I deserved that one,” she said with a grin, then frowned. “Wait… you were still holding back, weren’t you?”

“You’re still standing,” he retorted, scanning her body like he did when he tried to predict her next moves. “What do you think, Jane?” 

“I think I’m done fucking around with you,” she said evilly, a wide grin spreading across her face. “Enough dicking around- let’s do this thing for real, Nih.” 

  


Nihlus sat next to Jane on the bench, both of them hot and sweaty after the intense sparring session. She'd asked him not to hold back, and Nihlus was only too happy to oblige, matching her blow for blow without a second thought- she's definitely stronger, he thought, looking at the fading scars criss-crossing her arms. Stronger, but definitely still Jane. Noticing the woman leaning her head back against the wall, Nihlus nudged her with his shoulder, a more relaxed smile on her face. “Feel better?”

“A little,” she admitted, resting her head against him. “I’m just tired- everyone is playing games around here, and I don’t know who to trust. If I didn’t have you guys on board…” Jane let her voice trail off, and he let out a soothing rumble, urging her to continue. “It’s just hard to know what’s real when you don’t have all of the information- I’m sick of people treating me like a goddamn pawn.”

“They’re not lying to you, at least not about Ash being there,” he said quietly. “I know for a fact she’s on Horizon- they sent her to look into rumors of Kaidan being sighted on the colony. How Sloane found out I’m not sure, but the information is valid, Jane.” 

Jane sighed and rolled her limbs, the fading orange scars glowing in the dim light of the room. “That… doesn’t make me feel better actually.” Then she paused, staring at him with concern. “Are you okay, Nih?”

It was times like these that he wished he were able to lie- instead, he rested his head against the wall and sighed. “Not really,” he admitted. “When she first left, I wasn’t sure what she was actually up against- I thought it was something she would easily be able to handle. But now, after listening to you and seeing Mordin’s data…” The turian let out a hum filled with unease. “It worries me- she’s out there in the middle of who knows what, and that maniac Alenko skulking about to boot.” He shook his head, then smiled wanly at Jane. “So if I’ve been a bit distant… that would be why.”

She frowned again, placing a hand on his leg. “Why didn’t you tell me, Nih? You know I would’ve said fuck this bullshit and broke my neck getting over there- Ash is more important and you know it.”

Smiling, Nihlus raised a brow-plate at her. “This was Ash’s big solo mission,” he said simply. “How well do you think she’d take to her mate and her once-dead friend that’s now working with Cerberus dropping in uninvited?”

“About as well as I would,” Jane replied with a laugh. “That being said, does she know we’re coming now?”

He ran a hand over his fringe, not wanting to give voice to the thoughts he’d been keeping to himself. “I haven’t been able to reach her,” he said quietly. “I’ve been trying for days.” 

At that, Jane shot up and shoved him. “Why the fuck didn’t you say something, Nih!” 

“Because,” he replied, “I know that we go days without speaking. It was only after hearing the Illusive Man’s concerns about Horizon that I started to get worried.” Nihlus hummed softly, trying to calm himself down and smiling when he felt Jane’s hand rest on his arm. “And here we are.” 

“Have you told John?” Jane asked, looking as if she couldn’t decide whether to sit, pace, or hit something again. “Or Sol?” 

“No,” he replied, shaking his head. “I came to you first…and sparring with you has helped to get my mind a bit clearer, so thank you for that.”

“Anytime,” she replied, an easy smile on her face. “That being said, we need to talk about this- these bastards are not taking Ash… that’s a fucking promise, Nih.” 

Nihlus nodded, then cleared his throat. “I’m glad you feel that way,” he said, hoping that she’d be willing to see reason and not fly off the handle. “We need to use every resource we have at our disposal- I want us to be prepared when we get down there.” 

“Agreed,” she said quickly. “I’m going to talk to Mordin, see if he was able to come up with any countermeasures- you and Gar might be safe, but I’m not looking for me or my brother to get snatched up by these things.”

Spirits, she’s going to blow a gasket, Nihlus thought, letting out a soft rumble as he carefully chose his next words. “That’s definitely a good plan,” he hedged, tapping his fingers on her leg, “but I was thinking… we might need more intel.”

Instantly, Jane’s eyes went wide. “No fucking way, Nih- Xander is not to be trusted and you know it!” 

“Jane,” Nihlus said patiently, trying to keep his tone even, “be reasonable, please! This is my mate out there- if he can help us find her and save those colonists, don’t you think he deserves to be heard?” 

“He deserves to be shot,” Jane growled, glaring at him. “This isn’t fair- you don’t know what you’re asking.”

Nihlus thought back to the way the analyst looked when they were racing through the prison- granted, he’d acted cold and detached, but the scent of the man’s fear was as plain as day. He was worried, Nihlus mused, sifting through the memories. Sloane can pretend all he wants, but he genuinely cares about what happens to her. “I don’t know the full story of what happened between you two, but I do know this,” he said firmly. “Sloane is prioritizing your welfare, Jane- if he’s willing to do so, then I say we use the resource to our benefit.”

“He’s helping me for now,” she said darkly. “Who knows how long that’ll last?” 

“Then we take advantage of his help for now,” Nihlus replied, extending his hand to Jane as he got to his feet. “Because I plan on using whatever I can to help find my mate.” 

  


“Are you sure about this?” Garrus asked, looking at Jane pacing restlessly around the room. “If it’s bothering you that much, you don’t have to work with him- we can do this on our own.” 

“It’s not that-” Jane looked up as John and Sol entered the room, giving the two newcomers a nervous smile. “It’s just the fact that the mere idea of trusting that bastard makes me feel like an idiot.”

“That makes two of us,” John replied, handing his sister a cup of coffee and placing a kiss on the top of her head. “I gotta be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that Ash is involved, I’d have to nope the fuck out for this- being in the same room with that prick is not my idea of a good time.”

Sol hit him in the shoulder, and a throat cleared from the doorway. “I assure you, I’m not all that interested in spending time with you either, Shepard,” Sloane sniped, making his way into the room. “Trust me, this is just as awkward for me as it is for you.”

“Doubtful,” John grumbled, earning himself a warning hum from Sol- Garrus laughed anyway. “Now that everyone’s least favorite person is here, where’s Nih?” 

“Hush,” Sol admonished, her voice vibrating with a warning Garrus was sure John could understand- settle down… now. “Xander,” she said warmly, walking over to the man and bowing slightly, “how are you doing today?” 

To his surprise, Garrus watched the man flush slightly, lowering his head and shuffling his feet. “Quite fine,” Sloane replied, smiling politely and straightening up as he took a seat on the stairs. “I’ll stay over here, thanks- wouldn’t want to offend your husband’s delicate sensibilities with my proximity.”

“You’ll sit in the chair,” Sol said firmly, that same warning growl in her voice. “And you should grab some water.” 

Garrus prepared himself for a nasty response, but Sloane just sighed and slowly rose to his feet. “As you wish, Sol.” Without another word he made his way to the chair, purposefully ignoring the dumbfounded looks from John and Garrus as he poured himself a glass of water. When the room stayed silent, the analyst shot the two of them a venomous look. “What?” Sloane snapped, his tone icy. “Do you two really have nothing better to do than watch me?”

“Enough,” Nihlus boomed from the doorway. “This pettiness has nothing to do with the mission at hand- get over yourselves.” 

“Nih’s right,” Jane said, finally settling down. Garrus extended his arm and she smiled, taking a seat on the sofa next to him. “The Illusive Man wants us down there, and the Collectors just happen to be ready to attack a colony my former squadmate is visiting? Bullshit.”

All eyes turned to Sloane- the analyst let out a derisive-sounding huff. “Isn’t it obvious?” 

“If it was obvious, no one would be letting you within a mile of this room, asshole,” John grumbled, clearly irritated by Sloane’s continued presence and his interactions with Sol. “Stop being a dick, Xander.”

Sloane rolled his eyes. “I’m merely following your shining example, hero .”

Sol grabbed John’s hand, then stared at the floor. “Xander, Ash is one of my best friends,” she said quietly- John lightly kissed her cheek. “If you know anything else that could help us, will you please tell us? I want to find her as quickly as possible, and I know everyone else does too.” 

To Garrus’s surprise, Sloane paused for a moment, then punched a few keys on his omni-tool. “It’s a trap,” Sloane replied, turning to look at Jane. “Collectors work with Reapers… and we know that the Reapers don’t like you, Janey… doesn’t take a genius to figure out TIM is using you and your friend as live bait. ” 

“That’s insane,” Jane hissed, tensing up beside Garrus. “I don’t get it- why… why would you let him do that?” 

Sloane just sighed. “I’m an analyst,” he said simply. “It’s my job to gather intel, not make the decisions. I can advise against things, but ultimately, it’s up to him. Hence,” he said pointedly, “why I warned you about it in the first place.”

“How can we trust you?” Jane asked, her tone wavering for a bit before going sharp. “Who’s to say you aren’t planning to sell us out any minute?” 

For a split-second, Garrus could’ve sworn he saw a look of hurt flash across Sloane’s face, but it disappeared just as quickly as it came. “You don’t,” he said stiffly, settling back into the chair. “I’ve already given you my word that I won’t betray your trust again, so at this point, you either believe me or you don’t- there’s nothing more that I can do.”

Curious, Garrus cocked his head. “Let’s say I believe you,” he said cautiously, ignoring the indignant-sounding snort coming from John, “what are we up against down there?” 

Sloane paused, rubbing his smooth-shaven chin. “The official reason Chief Williams was sent down there was to look into the miscalibration of the GARDIAN laser turrets- since nothing in her file indicates technical aptitude, I assume it’s Specialist Jenkins that was actually sent for that reason.” He glanced over at Nihlus, who nodded, corroborating his story. “She appears to have another reason for being there… one that I assume everyone here knows the history of.” 

“Alenko,” Jane grumbled, narrowing her eyes- Sloane just sipped his water. “So he really is down there?” 

“Is or was,” Sloane corrected. “As I’m sure Kryik can attest to, the intel wasn’t clear. Nevertheless, the chance it was correct was too great to ignore.” He looked at the spectre with an expectant expression. “Care to share your official orders, Kryik?” 

Garrus glanced over to Nihlus, who was completely still. “Jane is aware that I’ve been assigned to monitor her relationship with Cerberus and see if Cerberus is behind the attacks on the colonies,” he said irritably. “But it makes sense that the Illusive Man would want to sow doubt about my loyalties- distrust is a cancer, after all.”

“Misdirection is my specialty for a reason,” Sloane replied, setting his empty glass on the table next to him. “It tends to be the most effective weapon- if you lay enough traps, you can get out before people ever realize you were there.”

“Yeah, yeah, we know you’re a sneaky sonofabitch,” John grumbled, shooting daggers at Sloane with his eyes. “How does this help us?”  

“You asked me for information- I gave it,” Sloane snapped. “What the hell else do you expect me to do, Shepard?”

“Not be a backstabbing bitch, for starters,” John retorted, the vein in his neck starting to pulsate. “Janey, are you really going to let this asshole-”

“THAT IS ENOUGH!” Sol roared, her voice making everyone in the room jump. “I am sick and tired of hearing both of you snipe at each other like fledglings fighting over a toy!” She whipped her head around to John, her gaze full of fury. “I know what he did,” she hissed, “but I also know that if he wanted to screw us over, he’s had plenty of opportunities to do so!” Then she got up and stood in Sloane’s face, towering over the analyst in the chair. “And you,” she snapped, pointing a furious finger at him, “Stop being a child and grow up! The reason no one trusts you is because you insist on antagonizing anyone who talks to you!”

John tried to reach for her arm, but Sol jumped back. “No,” she said furiously, “not right now, Johnny- if you can’t keep your stupid pride in check for five minutes, even when our friend is missing, then I have nothing to say to you right now!” The analyst started to speak, but Sol whirled back around, jamming her finger in Sloane’s face again and shutting him up instantly. “Either of you!” 

With an irritated screech, Sol stormed out of the room, leaving everyone there in stunned silence. Garrus waited for a few minutes, hoping his sister might return, but it soon became apparent that Sol had no intentions of rejoining them. “Well,” he said, looking at the two men, “I hope you’re happy- I’ve never seen Sol get that angry before.”

“First time for everything,” John muttered, looking at the doorway with concern. “I should go talk to her…”

“No, you shouldn’t,” Nihlus snapped, clearly just as irritated as Sol was- instantly, Garrus was glad he and Jane hadn’t really spoken during this whole exchange. “We will deal with the fallout from your idiocy later,” he snarled, making John swallow and nod, clearly uninterested in challenging any other turian at the moment. “In the meantime, my mate is missing and we are walking into a trap, so we need to do whatever we can to get ready.”

“Agreed,” Jane replied, looking over at the two men, her expression daring either of them to say a word- neither of them did. “John, go see Mordin and see if those seeker countermeasures are ready.” She turned to Sloane, pinching the bridge of her nose. “And Xander?”

Sloane folded his hands, his expression calm. “Yes?” 

Jane paused, and Garrus could tell it was killing her to ask him for anything. Hoping to be reassuring, he squeezed her hand- she smiled and squeezed it back. “Can you get in contact with anyone down there?”

Sloane shook his head. “I’m afraid not,” he replied. “There’s a communication blackout- I suspect that’s why you haven’t heard from your wife, spectre.” 

“Makes sense,” Nihlus rumbled. “We need to re-establish comms down there.” 

Sloane cleared his throat. “I… think that might not be the priority, Kryik.” When all the eyes in the room turned to him, he sighed. “I checked over the data from Freedom’s Progress,” he admitted. “Just before they attacked… there was a comms blackout.” 

Garrus felt his heart sink to the floor, and Jane went stock-still- John and Nihlus weren’t faring much better. “They’re there,” Jane whispered, looking expectantly at Sloane. “You think the Collectors are already attacking.” 

“Or waiting for you to get there before they start,” Sloane said morosely. For once, there was no arrogance or disdain in his voice, only contrition. “Jane, we are going to save your friend,” he said firmly, reaching for her hand- for once, Jane didn’t pull away. “Those colonists don’t deserve to be involved with this,'' Sloane said, looking around the room. “Once the Normandy lands, we should still have access to EDI’s communication signal, so establish a link to my private channel and any information I can gather will be at your disposal.”

Chapter Text

  


Sol made her way back to the medbay, still fuming from dealing with the two of them. Normally, the turian made it a point to not lose her temper but seeing John and Xander be so nasty to each other when Ash was missing just set her off. They know better, she huffed, opening the door. This is not the time for them to be fighting...at all. 

When the turian slammed her datapad down on the desk in frustration, Chakwas peered over at her with interest. “Something wrong, dear?” 

“My husband and Xander are being idiots,” she said irritably, trying and failing to focus on the patient notes. “Right now, I’m doing my best not to strangle either of them, but I’m running out of reasons.”

“Murder tends to be frowned upon,” Chakwas replied, looking back down at her terminal. “ Maybe… you might want to work out a little, or…”

Sol snapped her head to the doctor, an aghast look on her face. “Karen!” 

The older woman just smiled, looking back at her terminal as if she hadn't said a word. “I do know a thing or two about turians, Sol- I’m only offering you my professional opinion here.” 

“Not helping,” Sol replied through gritted teeth, lowering her head as she sat at her desk. “I don’t want to do either of those things right now, thank you very much.” 

The doctor just chuckled and Sol let out a huff, trying to focus on her notes and put the events from earlier out of her head. However, as soon as she got into the rhythm of scanning through reports, she heard a voice that made her let out a loud groan. “Um," John said carefully, peeking into the medbay, "I'm about to set out on a dangerous mission on a hostile planet... can I get a quick checkup before I leave?” 

“Chakwas can see you,” Sol snapped, gathering her things and preparing to get out of the room as fast as her legs could carry her. “I’m busy.” 

“Afraid not,” Chakwas replied, giving Sol a knowing look. “I’m heading over to Mordin’s lab to confer with him and Miranda. You need to man the medbay, Sol.”

Sol just gaped at the woman, practically sputtering with disbelief. “But-”

“No buts,” Chakwas said, patting her on the shoulder. “I know you’ll do a great job in here.” The doctor glanced over at John and smacked him on the shoulder as she left out the room. “And stop being an idiot,” she hissed.

“I’ll try,” John replied, staring directly at Sol. His stare was so intense that Sol looked down, hoping he’d go away and let her stew for a moment, but she knew her mate better than that. Sure enough, John made his way over to her desk and sat down. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I honestly didn’t know I was upsetting you so badly in there.”

“Ash is missing,” Sol replied, still not looking at him. “And you’re too busy trying to be mad over something that happened years ago to do what needs to be done to find her!” 

“Sol,” he said, causing her to snap her eyes to his- John never called her by her name, “I don’t know what he’s told you, but Xander is not a good guy, ok?” He placed a hand on hers and Sol sighed, closing her eyes as he continued to speak. “Look, it was hard enough to go through it the first time, and I definitely don’t want to see you get hurt. You mean the world to me,” John said, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. “I love you too much to let him use you like he did Janey.”

“I know you love me,” Sol said quietly, finally looking up at him. “But you can’t always lash out, Johnny- there’s a time and a place, and that wasn’t it.” Lacing her fingers in his, she felt him relax as she gripped his hand. “What you did back there wasn’t protecting me or Janey- it felt like jealousy.” She locked her blue eyes to his grey ones, daring him to look away. “What I don’t understand is why- I’m your mate, Johnny… you never have anything to worry about with me.”

“I’m not jealous,” he said after thinking about it for a moment. “Well, not anymore, at least. I used to be when it came to him and Jane… now I’m just pissed off.” John sighed and moved closer, resting his head on her shoulder. “But I don’t want to leave with us mad at each other,” he murmured as she wrapped her arms around him. “And I don’t ever want you to doubt how I feel about you, Tiny.” 

“I love you too,” Sol replied, blowing out a deep breath and threading her hands through his soft curls. “Now... stop bickering with Xander and bring Ash home, ok?” 

John smiled as he placed a light kiss on Sol’s forehead, lightly fingering the wedding ring she wore around her neck. “Yes ma’am.” 

  


Jane stopped in the lab, clearing her throat to catch the attention of the salarian debating furiously with Miranda. “Hey,” she said, smiling sheepishly as the two of them snapped their heads in her direction, “tell me you have something?”

Mordin didn’t respond right away, just walked over to the incubator where the tiny insect was furiously shoving itself against the glass. After a few moments, the salarian nodded. “Yes,” he said seriously, walking over and punching in a few keys. 

“He has the start of something,” Miranda said firmly, scowling at the two of them. “This is progress, but it isn’t finished and you know it!”

The salarian just blinked at the scientist, looking unphased. “Best we have,” he replied, handing Jane the schematics for the upgrades. “Rushed development. Uncertain without testing.” 

Jane swallowed, then sighed as she looked at Miranda. The last thing she wanted to do was acknowledge that the woman had a point- she’d never live it down. “Will it protect us against the seeker swarms down there, at least?”

“Certainty impossible, but in limited numbers should confuse detection, make you invisible to swarms,” Mordin said excitedly. “In theory.”

Inwardly, Jane groaned- she could only imagine just how enthused Garrus would be if he’d heard this and was instantly glad her husband had set off for the armory. “In theory doesn’t exactly fill me with the warm and fuzzies, Mordin.”

“Experimental technology,” Mordin replied apologetically. “Only test is contact with seeker swarms.” 

“Which is not the situation we want to test them in!” Miranda huffed. “Shepard could be taken out there!”

Despite knowing that she should keep her mouth shut, Jane smirked. “Worried about your project, Miranda?”

The woman shot her a dirty look. “Contrary to what you believe, I do not wish you or your team to come to harm, Shepard- we brought you back for a reason...which you can’t do if you’re dead or incapacitated.” 

Jane rolled her eyes. “You always say the nicest things,” she said drolly. “What would I ever do without you?”

“Be even more of a pain in the ass than you already are,” Miranda snapped back. “The technology is untested, Shepard- I know you’re reckless, but could you please try and be careful out there?”

“I’ll try not to let my death affect your performance report,” Jane shot back, wondering how anyone could work with Miranda- no matter how helpful she was, the woman seemed to be determined to be an absolute shrew at every turn. Taking a deep breath, she turned and smiled at Mordin- it wasn’t his fault that the design wasn’t perfect. “Thanks, Mordin,” Jane said warmly, ignoring the eye roll coming from Miranda. “I know this was a lot on short notice, so I appreciate anything you have.”

“Look forward to seeing if you survive,” the salarian said cheerfully, turning back to his terminal. “Data will be invaluable.” 

I swear... neither of those two is winning an award for bedside manner, Jane thought as she left the lab, shaking her head in disbelief the entire time.

  


Never a dull moment, Garrus thought as he got into his armor. Nihlus had come and gone and Jane was still talking with Mordin- the scientist wasn’t sure that the defenses he had would be effective, but it was the best shot they had. Jane had insisted on bringing Jack with them and leaving Sol to look out for Grunt, so Garrus was bracing himself for fireworks on top of the mission itself. Everything’s worse when you know you’re headed into a trap, he grumbled, loading his gun. It feels like willingly marching to your doom. 

Before Garrus could leave the armory, he heard a sound from the doorway- he snapped his head toward it and let out a soft groan when he saw Sloane standing there. “May I have a moment, Vakarian?” 

The turian paused, trying to keep his voice calm- he knew first hand that Sloane’s modus operandi was picking a fight at any given turn to see how people responded. “Is now really the time for this, Sloane?” 

“It is,” he replied, leaning against the wall. “And seeing as this matter is urgent and you’re the only one that can assist me, I’d prefer to speak sooner rather than later.” 

The turian couldn’t fight the annoyed-sounding rumble in his subvocals. “Of course it's urgent,” he mumbled. “Anyway... does Jane know about this?” 

Sloane sighed. “Not yet- I figured it was best to talk to you first.” The analyst entered the room and hopped up onto a bench, his eyes following Garrus until he took a seat across from him. “I’d like to request access to your visor’s visual feed when you’re down there.”

Garrus blinked and cocked his head, not quite believing what he was hearing. “Come again?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Sloane snapped, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “My apologies,” he said, his tone stilted as he folded his hands behind his back. “It wasn’t my intent to antagonize you.”

It took every bit of discipline Garrus had not to offer a smart-ass reply- he chose another tactic instead. “Why should I give you access?” 

“Because,” Sloane replied, his vitals completely even- Garrus knew the human was a master manipulator, but he could find no physical indicators of his deception. “EDI can scan any systems in the area, but there’s not a good way to get ground visuals- you’re the only one with a visual system capable of transmitting data, so I’d like to use it.” The man smiled, leaning away from him in an effort to appear non-threatening. “You’re more than capable of locking me out after the mission, Vakarian- all I’m asking for is a way to offer my assistance down there.” 

“Why do you care?” Garrus asked, curiosity getting the better of him. “What is in this for you?”

“Do you think I enjoy the idea of humans being snatched off for who knows what reason?” Sloane asked bitterly. “I’m pragmatic, not evil, Vakarian- did you enjoy the things you did on Omega?”

Garrus stiffened, the mention of his former life enough to make his blood run cold. “No,” he replied, his tone sharp. “I did what I had to do out there.” 

“As did I,” Sloane replied, shifting his gaze. “Our pasts don’t make us evil, Vakarian… as much as everyone would like to believe it does. Your family has forgiven you for yours, but maybe that’s because they don’t know your transgressions as well as they think they know mine,” Sloane said bitterly. “Ah, the irony.” 

Garrus stared at Sloane, feeling a lump start to settle in the middle of his stomach and a growl building in his throat. “Are you trying to blackmail me?”

Sloane quickly shook his head. “Not at all- your story is your own and it doesn’t benefit me in the slightest to reveal it, so I won’t,” he said firmly. “I’m just pointing out that you of all people should know that what you did once isn’t who you are… and I’m hoping you’ll give me the chance to prove it, even if Jane won’t.”

Against his better judgment, Garrus sighed. “Do you really think you can help out there?” 

Sloane nodded, his vitals still completely normal. “I do,” he insisted. “What the Illusive Man is doing is wrong… all I want to do is help make this right.” When Garrus just stared at him, Sloane let out a sigh. “Look, if I betray you in any way, you are well within your rights to seek whatever retribution you see fit, Vakarian- as I said, I have no motive except saving those colonists down there... and taking down Alenko.”

“Why do you want him?” Garrus asked, punching a code into his omni-tool. “He didn’t do anything to you, as far as I know.” 

“He went after Jane’s family,” Sloane replied, his tone suggesting it was the most natural answer. “Not to mention he’s Udina’s sniveling lap dog… put those two together, and it means that I owe that bastard one hell of a reckoning that I fully intend to deliver on.” 

For the first time since they met, Garrus gave Sloane a look of approval. “Codes sent to your omni-tool,” he said, rising to his feet. “Don’t make me regret it.” 

  


Joker was eyeing the analyst sitting next to him with interest. After Jane and the team had left, he’d quickly made his way to the cockpit, sealing the door and planting himself into the seat next to Joker without saying a word. When it became clear that the man wasn’t going to leave, Joker sighed and took off his hat, raking his fingers through his hair. “Can I help you? Did you get lost on your way back to your supervillain hideout? If so, I’m sure the ship cancer you installed can help you find your way out of my cockpit.”

He’d expected a scathing retort, but to his surprise, Sloane ignored him. “Pull up this feed,” he said sharply. “And patch me into the audio channel, quickly.” 

Joker just looked at him, confused at the sudden interest in their mission. “Since when do you give a shit what’s going on down there? Thought your job was to observe and report?”

Now Sloane turned in his seat, giving Joker a look so angry he almost moved back. “And how, pray tell, do you suggest I do that when you can’t even be bothered to do the two simple fucking tasks I asked you to?”

“What crawled up your ass and died?” Joker shot back, watching Sloane with a marked sense of unease- the man was usually cold, but he was giving off anxious vibes by the dozen, which was highly unusual. “You never get this worked up about a mission.”

“What I usually do or do not do is irrelevant,” Sloane snapped, angrily punching the keys on his omni-tool. “What is relevant is you doing as I asked you to… now .” 

“Sheesh, calm down, I’m doing it,” Joker mumbled, wondering just how he warranted hanging around with prince pleasant today. “We have audio… and your feed is coming through.” But when the image of a war zone came roaring onto his display, Joker let out a yelp. “What the fuck is this?” 

“Vakarian’s video feed,” he replied, his attention focused on the screen. “And before you ask, he gave me access, so you don’t have to go blabbing to anyone who you think might listen to you, Moreau.” 

Joker rolled his eyes, forcing himself to not look at the screen unless he had to- seeing everything through the turian’s visor was likely to give him a headache. “You’re a bucket of sunshine today, aren’t you?” 

“I’m irritated,” came the curt reply. “And growing even more so by the minute.”

Joker started to say something, but Sloane cut him off. “What’s the situation down there? Have you found your friend?” 

“You’re the one who's been playing i-spy, you tell me,” John shot back. “Not our job to fill you in, remember?”

Sloane pinched the bridge of his nose and Joker could hear him count to ten before responding. “Out of respect for your wife,” he snapped, “please don’t talk to me unless it’s absolutely necessary, Shepard- I’d prefer to converse with a sentient life form, thanks.” 

When Jack snickered, Jane let out a deep sigh. “They’ve already loaded some of the colonists into the ship,” Jane replied, making Joker exhale with relief and groan with trepidation at the same time. “We took down the ones we could- the bastards seem to be everywhere.” 

“Let's not take chances,” Sloane replied. “Janey, play it smart and snipe them from a distance… Vakarian-”

“Who the fuck died and made him king?” Jack asked with a scowl. “Thought this was the girl scout’s mission?” She turned her head to Garrus, then flipped a middle finger toward his visor. “Hey, asshole-”

“Sloane,” Garrus interrupted, thankfully not giving the biotic the chance to finish. “Anything you can tell us so far?” 

The analyst frowned. “Negative. Comms are still down, so there’s no chatter. The good news is, EDI is telling me the people you’re encountering are still alive- that being said, the fact that they aren’t killing them makes me extremely unnerved.” 

“That makes two of us,” Jane replied, her face looking worried. “Fuck,” she hissed, crouching down on the ground next to a strange-looking creature, “check these out, Nih.”

“This is different from what we encountered on Eden Prime,” the Spectre replied, crouching down. Thankfully, Garrus stayed where he was- Joker didn’t need an up-close and personal shot of the body snatcher. “My guess is they brought these with them.” 

“Great, they come with foresight now,” John grumbled, a worried scowl crossing his face. “Aren’t we just the lucky ones?”

“No time to worry about that now,” Sloane interrupted. “You’ve got company up ahead- do you see it, Vakarian?” 

“I do,” Garrus replied, hoisting his gun. “In that building up ahead… there’s movement.” 

“Careful,” John replied, prepping a barrier and following the turian. “We don’t know what new goodies these fuckers are playing with.”

The analyst looked at the console for a moment, then frowned. “Per EDI’s scans, it’s human- that being said, approach carefully. I’m pretty sure that anyone alive is fairly trigger happy at this point.”

“Noted,” Jane replied, and Joker could see her inching closer to Vakarian as they made their way inside the building. “This is Commander Shepard,” she said, careful to not make too much noise. “We’re here to help.” 

“Yeah, because that’s gonna help,” Jack mumbled. “Cause no one else could pull that same shit and murder the stupid bastards- good thinking, girl scout.”

Joker looked over at Sloane, trying to see how he was handling the situation. Sure enough, the analyst looked tense- his shoulders were hunched over the console and his eyes were darting back and forth between the screen and the omni-tool. “EDI is detecting a halt in movement- it looks like they heard you,” he said quietly. “Be careful.”

Garrus moved closer and Joker gripped the edge of his seat, not sure what was going to happen. Suddenly, the turian stopped, his gaze fixed on the figure crouching in front of them, holding a pistol tightly in his hand. Through Garrus’s display, Joker could see the man’s heartbeat spiking rapidly, his vitals jumping all over the place. I do not ever want to be this close to a mission again, Joker thought grimly, trying to keep his breathing in check. They can have it. 

“Holy shit,” Jane said, moving closer and crouching down on the ground next to the soldier. “Jenkins… is that you?” 

Before he could answer, Nihlus let out a strangled noise- immediately, Garrus whipped his head around to see what the cause of it was. “Oh no,” the turian murmured, shifting his gaze back to Nihlus before turning to a stunned John and Jane. “Sloane, get Mordin and patch him through- we’ve got an emergency here.”

For once, Sloane decided not to be a complete and utter dick about being given an order. “On it,” he replied, no hesitation whatsoever. “But…" Sloane said cautiously, his face tight as he stared at the screen, "I think you might want to get Kryik under control- it looks like he’s about two seconds from giving away your position.”  

Why can't anything ever go right for us, Joker thought angrily, swallowing as he watching the scene unfold in front of him with horror. On the screen, he could see Nihlus practically vibrating in the corner. Try as he might to look away, Joker couldn't help but stare at Ash's still form in Nih's arms, her eyes open wide and her frozen mouth twisted into a silent scream.

Chapter Text

  


“Jenkins,” Jane said carefully, looking over at Nihlus and trying to gauge just how long they had before Nihlus lost his complete shit, “what the hell happened?”

The young man just blinked, staring at Jane as if he’d seen a ghost. “But… you’re dead,” he murmured, backing away from her. “You’re…you aren’t real… you can’t be!” 

“How fucking stupid are you?” Jack asked, frowning at the man before shoving Jane- she stumbled but didn’t fall, shooting a scathing glare at the biotic. “See? She’s real and she’s pissed- what else do you want?”

“We’ve got bigger problems,” John said, crouching down next to the terrified soldier and frowning as he glanced over at Jane. “Starting with what the fuck happened to Ash?”

“Collectors,” Jane replied darkly, looking over to Jenkins for confirmation. When he nodded, she blew out a breath. “Fuck… we’ll get her back to the ship… Mordin will help, I’m sure of it.”

The entire time she was talking, she noticed Jenkins moving further and further away from her. “Williams and I were here to fix the lasers when they attacked the colony- if they were online, we could’ve defended ourselves with them, but we couldn’t use them- the calibrations were off.” He took a deep breath and looked over at Ash, then to Nihlus. “She was chasing Alenko here… turns out he was on the team that installed the GARDIAN.”

“Fuck,” Xander snarled, making Jane jump- she’d forgotten he was there. “He must’ve sabotaged the lasers…” Suddenly he paused, and when he spoke again his voice was cold. “Of course… that bastard wanted the colony defenseless.”

“Surprise, surprise,” Jack shot back, crossing her arms. “Sounds like some Cerberus shit.”

Jane rolled her eyes, but Nihlus still hadn’t said a word- he just sat in the corner and cradled Ash, his body rigid. Finally, the turian lowered his head, and when he spoke his voice was clipped. “This still doesn’t tell me about my mate,” he said roughly. “Why are you two in here?” 

“I got lucky,” Jenkins said quietly. “I was inside when they attacked. It was a nightmare,” he said, shivering. Jane tried to reach for him, but he jerked away. “As soon as I saw an opening, I made my way out there and brought Williams back in here- they were loading the colonists into that ship, and I didn’t want to risk them taking her.”

“Good thinking,” Nihlus said quietly, running his hand over Ash’s hair. “Anything else you can tell us?”

“I haven’t seen Alenko,” Jenkins warned, conspicuously avoiding Jane. “I don’t know if he’s here or not, but I can tell you this… be careful of those things out there.”

“Why?” Garrus asked, staring at Jenkins with concern. “What’s going on?”

“They… change,” he said slowly. “I was watching as the creatures started swarming around- it was like all of a sudden, it just grew… almost like something else took it over. Started speaking… said something like ‘we are the harbinger of their perfection’, I think.” 

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound ominous at all,” Joker muttered over the comms. “Always a good sign when someone talks about perfection- just ask Miranda.”

“What did it do?” Jane asked, ignoring the pilot on her earpiece and frowning as Jenkins flinched at the sound of her voice- Garrus grabbed her hand and squeezed it lightly. “What else can you tell us?”

Jenkins stiffened, almost as if it was painful to talk to her- he focused his attention on Garrus instead. “It was… weird- they targeted the women… anyone who looked like Shepard, they took first,” he said, letting his eyes dart over to Jane. “I think they were looking for her.” 

“They were,” Xander said quietly. “Fuck me sideways, I knew he’d set a trap, but I had no idea…” his voice trailed off, and he exhaled sharply. “Be careful, Brainy- I’m flying blind here.”

Swallowing, Jane nodded. “We gotta take that ship down,” she said firmly, working to keep her voice steady. “Jenkins, how do we get the lasers back online?” 

“You have to unblock the comms,” he said tightly. “Once you do that, we can re-align the lasers and bring them back online.” 

“I can help with that,” Xander replied. “Once we can stop that jammer, EDI can run the calibrations for the lasers- it should be faster.”

“What about Ash,” John said, looking over at the Spectre and his mate. “We can’t take her with us, but we can’t-”

“Go take care of the comms,” Nihlus barked, turning his full attention to the soldier. “Jenkins, you know the terrain- take them and make sure they stay safe.”

Jenkins looked at Jane for a minute, and the look on his face was filled with absolute disgust. “Sir, I don’t think-” 

“That’s an order,” Nihlus barked, his tone menacing as he turned back to Ash. “I’ll wait here for you to get everything online.”

“That’s foolhardy,” Xander replied. “It’s clear for now, but who says it’s going to stay that way?” 

“I’m staying with her,” Nihlus shot back, and Jane could see that he meant it. “Go- I’ll be fine.”

“Oh give me a fucking break,” Jack said, leaning against the wall. “I’ll stay with the lovey-dovey bastard- someone’s gotta do it since he’s not thinking worth a damn.” She looked over at the turian cradling his wife and scoffed. “Least he won’t be talking to me the whole fucking time.” 

John started to say something else, but he looked at Ash and Nihlus and stopped. “Whatever. Sloane, can you patch Jenkins into our systems?” 

At the mention of Xander’s name, Jenkins’ face went pale. “Sloane? You mean Alexander Sloane?”

After looking back and forth between Jane and Jenkins with a look that was pure ‘what the fuck did he do now?’, John nodded. “Yeah…” he said slowly, “that’s him… he’s our annoying eye in the sky for the trip- you don’t have to patch in if you don’t want to, but Joker might take offense at not being able to say hi.”

Ignoring John’s joke, the marine’s face went tight as he turned to Jane, the expression on his face murderous. “Sloane is the Butcher of Torfan,” he spat, his voice wavering as his eyes darted across the room- no one said a word. “What the hell are you doing working with a traitor like him?” 

From her earpiece, Jane could almost hear the set of Xander’s jaw, and for a moment she almost felt bad for the man- he’d worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get them here, but everyone knew that no matter what he did today, the world would only remember him as a traitor. “It’s something we can discuss later,” she said firmly, giving the soldier her best ‘fuck with me and die’ look. “Right now, we have more important things to do.”

Jane watched as Jenkins stared her down, and for a moment she wondered if he was going to flat out refuse to help them. But, after what felt like forever the soldier swallowed and nodded, his jaw clenched as he turned to look at John. “Follow me,” Jenkins said curtly, giving Ash and Nihlus one last glance as he straightened his shoulders. “Let’s go get those lasers online.”  

  


Nihlus laid Ash on the bed, watching her and unable to stop his sub vocals from rumbling with worry. I should’ve been here with you, he thought, rubbing his hand lightly over her head and trying not to panic over how cold she was. This never should’ve happened to you. 

“Spectre Kryik,” EDI interjected, “All scans show that Chief Williams is stable- Dr. Solus will confirm, but all signs suggest that the toxin will work itself out of the system in a matter of hours.”

“Thank you, but forgive me if I’m not in a rush to trust the health of my mate to a system scan,” Nihlus growled. “She needs medical treatment.”

“Well, she’s shit outta luck,” the tiny woman snarled from the doorway. “Only one shuttle on this rock and I’m pretty sure Sir Dickhead would try and kill us if we stranded the girl scout.”

“Inelegantly put, but yes- touch that shuttle without the others and I guarantee the reward will be a bullet to the brain,” Sloane growled. “The mission is more important- the Spectre can still his bleeding heart for a bit.” 

“Fucking assholes,” Jack muttered, glaring at the floor. “Figured you wouldn’t give a shit about anything other than the girl scout.”

“I didn’t say anything about Jane,” the analyst snapped. “I said the mission… you know, all those other unfortunate frozen people on the planet that happen to not have the fortune of being married to Spectre Kryik.”

Jack scoffed and twirled her finger. “Try that shit with someone else,” she said, letting a menacing smile spread across her face. “Heard you’re supposed to be the poster boy for murder, Sloane- since when do you give a shit about the breathers?”

“You know nothing about me,” Sloane barked, causing Nihlus to lift his head. “Jane may tolerate your attitude, but I’m not her,” he said warningly. “I also don’t have her sense of attachment, so you may want to consider your next set of words a bit more carefully.” 

Jack started to reply, but Nihlus let out a growl. “Enough,” he snarled, glaring at Jack. “This serves no one- stop this incessant bickering… both of you .” 

The biotic rolled her eyes, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall. “Whatever,” she mumbled, lapsing into a sullen silence. 

Sure that this wasn’t the end, Nihlus closed his eyes and waited for the two to trade the next volley of insults. But, after a few moments of no one saying anything else, he returned his attention to his mate. Watching her closely, Nihlus tried not to focus on the fact that despite EDI’s reassurances, Ash’s condition hadn’t changed. They need to do this quickly, he thought as he pressed a kiss to her hand. Ash needs help… and soon.

After a long stretch of silence, the biotic shifted in the corner. “How’d all you damn turians end up with these guys, anyway?” Jack asked mulishly, shooting him a look. “Thought you guys were all on the ‘fuck humans’ train?”

“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” Nihlus replied, smiling as he ran his hand through Ash’s hair and ignoring Jack’s confused expression. “It just happened.” 

“The Tempest,” Sloane mused, causing the turian to chuckle. “Didn’t take you for a fan of Shakespeare, Kryik.”

“I’m not, but she is,” Nihlus replied, looking down at his mate. “She likes to read anything she can get her hands on… and I like listening to her.” 

“Seems to be a well-read woman,” Sloane said quietly, his tone surprising the Spectre. “She’d never admit it, but Jane is well-versed in the arts… preferred musicals to books, though. Surprisingly, she has a wonderful singing voice- strange to hear something so soft from someone so hard.” 

Nihlus looked up when he heard the pilot let out a soft laugh. “He’s not lying,” Joker said with amusement. “Getting her to do it is like pulling teeth, but it’s kinda awesome to hear. Just don’t let either of those morons try to dance- that’s a fucking abomination.”

The turian smiled, and the analyst chuckled. “That… is an understatement. Letting Jane and John loose on the dance floor should count as an act punishable by law.” 

Jack let out a snort, but Nihlus could see the interest in her face. “How the hell do you know?” 

“Because we had a party for them one night,” Sloane replied, an undercurrent of wistfulness seeping into his tone. “When you have a slew of drinks and a bunch of underaged idiots watching movies all night, dancing became a thing… but it really shouldn’t have.” He let out a scoff, then chuckled. “Those two couldn’t dance if their lives depended on it.”

“And lemme guess- you’re a fucking master at it,” Jack retorted, her expression mocking even if Sloane couldn’t see it. “Must be if you’re talking this much shit.” 

“As a matter of fact, I am,” Sloane said huffily. “You’d be surprised about the things you can learn by dancing with someone.”

“Or you could, I don’t know, just ask them?” Joker retorted, earning an exasperated sigh from Sloane. “Seriously, I’m sure there are better ways to get answers from Janey than taking your life into your hands like that.” 

Grateful for the distraction, Nihlus let out a soft hum, nuzzling his head to Ash’s cheek. “I’d agree with Joker- that mission sounds dangerous.” When Joker laughed, Nihlus allowed a small smile to creep across his face. “At any rate, what, pray tell, did dancing teach you about Jane?”

“To invest in steel-toed boots,” Sloane said seriously, causing Joker to laugh even louder as the corners of Jack’s mouth turned up into a smile.

  


After taking down the last of the collectors and watching the corpse crumble into dust, John pulled Jane to the side. He was pretty sure Jenkins had no idea, but John was almost positive that the turian could tell that Jane was about to lose it. “Brainy,” John said quietly as he muted his comms, “are you all right?” The look on her face told him everything he needed to know as they made their way toward the garage. “Talk to me.”

“It was waiting,” she whispered, her hands shaking as they reloaded her gun. “It… it killed me, Johnny.”

John wanted to deny it, but he couldn’t- the way the creature taunted them as they fought left little doubt in his mind that this was connected to the Collector ship that had attacked the Normandy, and he couldn’t begin to imagine how she was feeling. “We’re going to stop it,” he said firmly, taking her hand. “That’s a promise, Janey.” 

“Hard to make that kind of promise,” Jane murmured, sighing as Jenkins stormed past her. “Especially when you have a murderous group of aliens that’s willing to snatch a colony just to kill you.” 

She sighed, and immediately John could tell she wasn’t seeing him. This is dangerous, John thought worriedly, taking note of the pinched lines in her face. She needs to be completely on her game out here… and she isn’t. When Jenkins shot a scowl at his sister, John’s frown deepened. And the boy wonder over there glaring at her like she’s trash isn’t helping. “Meh, that’s just cause you’re cute,” John said breezily, making Jane laugh with surprise. “Anyway, I can make that kind of promise… I’m your older brother, remember?”

Jane scowled, the first real expression she’d had since the battle. “You’re only a few minutes older than me, Johnny.” 

He grinned wildly, feeling grateful for her visible annoyance with him. “Nope, I’m two years older than you now- I’m now one-hundred percent your older brother, Janey- time to respect your elders, for once.” 

“Fuck off,” Jane retorted, but she was grinning. However, as soon as she looked over and saw Jenkins staring at her with visible irritation, she sighed. “Let’s just get this over with, ok?”

Enough is enough, John thought, watching as Jane made her way over to Garrus. We need to find out what’s crawled up that boy’s ass and died… and soon. Decision made, John looked over at Garrus, then cleared his throat as he opened his comms channel again. “Hey, Jenkins,” he said loudly, looking over at the soldier, “what’s that building up ahead?”

“The garage,” he replied, pointedly looking away from Jane. “Couldn’t get it open, though.”

“Welp, we got a slew of people here that like breaking into things they’ve got no business getting into, so no time like the present, right?” John smiled at Garrus and Jane, then gestured toward the door. “Can you two get in there? Might be something useful inside.”

Garrus stared at him for a moment, then nodded. “Sounds easy enough. Sloane, think you can offer an assist if we run into trouble?”

“Of course,” the analyst replied smoothly, his interruption making John flinch. “Though scans show you shouldn’t have too much trouble- it’s just jammed. Janey’s broken into worse in her sleep.”

“So you do know how to give a compliment,” Jane retorted, sounding a bit more like herself. “Thought you were just an asshole all the time.” 

Joker laughed and Sloane sighed, and John could picture the analyst rolling his eyes at the exchange. “Just go handle the door- your commentary isn’t necessary.”

“Neither is yours,” Jenkins muttered, causing Garrus and John to exchange glances over Jane’s head.  “Let’s get a move on- we don’t have all damn day.”

Before the soldier could storm off, John placed a hand on his shoulder, making Jenkins pause while Jane and Garrus moved ahead. “Ritchie,” he said quietly, “what’s going on with you?”

Jenkins shot John an irritated look. “You’re working with Alexander Sloane and Cerberus,” he said disgustedly. “The Commander Shepard I knew would never do something like this!”

John just stared at the man, trying to figure out just how he should respond. When he realized Jenkins was serious, he sighed. “That’s my sister,” he said, no hesitation in his voice whatsoever. “And she’s always going to do whatever it takes to save people.” Jenkins started to look away, but John wasn’t done. “Janey died saving you guys,” he snapped, forcing the words out his throat, “and while I hate the guy’s guts, Xander did convince them to bring her back, so I’m willing to deal with it… for her .”

“That’s the problem!” Jenkins shot back. “You feel like you owe them something, and it’s blinding you to the bullshit that they’re cooking up. I know where I stand- I’m Alliance,” the soldier said as he walked toward the garage, his tone laced with a venom John had never heard before. “I thought you were smarter than this, John.”

“I’m smart enough to know that the reapers aren’t going to give a shit about which logo I have on my uniform,” John snapped. “Believe that holier than thou bullshit if you want to, Jenkins, but some things are bigger than that… this is one of them.”

“Then I hope you’re right,” Jenkins said darkly. “Because I don’t appreciate working with criminals and traitors… and you know Williams won’t either.”

Chapter Text

  


Joker looked over at Sloane, trying to see just when the analyst had decided that it was ok to actually have a personality trait other than ‘pompous asshole’. Even if no one was willing to voice it, Joker knew deflection like the back of his hand- you don’t get to go through life with a disability without knowing how to smile while you’re screaming inside, he thought, watching as the man gave Nihlus updates and asked the turian questions Joker knew damn well Sloane knew the answer to. 

Jack, however, was still an enigma to the pilot. The biotic didn’t say too much, but when she did, it was cutting and sharp, always just on the edge of acerbic. I know for a fact that woman would break me, Joker thought as he watched Jane’s progress through the garage, letting Sloane focus on Nihlus and the biotic. Might as well watch the gang try to get through the chaos- I’m definitely not the one they want to cheering anyone up.

Switching to a private comms channel, Joker made sure to keep his voice low. “Hey Johnny,” he asked, watching as Jane and Garrus talked to a man huddled in a garage, leaving Jenkins glaring at them from behind Jane, “mind telling me what’s the deal? Why does Ritchie look like he wants to give Grunt a run for his credits?”

“Because he hates Cerberus and the team working with everyone’s favorite little traitor isn’t doing us any favors,” John mumbled, standing somewhere out of Garrus’s line of sight. “To be honest, he’s got me worried- Ash is a lot better, but…” 

“You think BB is gonna lose her shit?” Joker asked quietly. 

“I know she is,” John replied. “And I don’t know if Nih is going to be able to stop her from saying some off the wall fuckshit- she knows what Xander did and the trouble they got into… not into rehashing old times right now.” 

Joker groaned, running his hand over his face- he’d forgotten Ash was with him when Jane got kicked down to infantry. Must’ve blocked it out, he mused, wincing at the memory of Ash lording Jane’s mistake over her head and Janey almost shooting her for it. “Fuck,” Joker muttered, glancing over at Sloane. “BB might try and kill this bastard- think we can keep them away from each other?”

“Good luck with that,” John replied, a hint of amusement in his voice as he started walking. It was disorienting seeing his friend walk into the turian’s line of sight while he talked, but Joker put the thought to the side for now. “Ugh, scratch that- everyone knows we’re not that fucking lucky.” 

“Well, it's a good thing they aren’t biotics,” Joker said with a laugh. “At least I don’t have to worry about them blowing a hole in my ship.” 

“Um,” John hedged, making Joker snap his head to the screen and stare at the man with disbelief. “Xander is a biotic, so…” 

Glancing over to the analyst, Joker groaned. “Seriously?” 

“Yeah, the asshole’s a biotic too,” John replied irritably. “He’s not completely harmless, but he’s nowhere near the level of me or Sol. Prefers programs and pistols to abilities, so thank goodness for small favors.”

“Fuck me sideways,” Joker muttered, watching them leave and praying that the next explosion didn’t come from inside the house, “you were right, Johnny.”

“Of course,” John replied smugly, then paused. “Wait… what was I right about again?”

Joker shook his head, trying to keep a smile off his face. “That we’re really not that fucking lucky around here.” 

  


“Why does it not surprise me that it’s Alenko’s fault that this whole damn thing has gone sideways,” Jane growled as she worked on the tower, trying not to punch something. “I swear, everything that man touches goes to shit!”

“We‘ll find him,” Garrus replied, glancing over at Jenkins. “Someone has to have seen him… he made a point of telling anyone who would listen who he was, so we might be able to get a bead on him.”

“Doubtful,” Jenkins grumbled. When Jane looked over, the specialist looked even more irritated than he had before. “You heard the old man- Horizon colonists stay outside of Council space for a reason. Alenko probably made just enough noise to get people to remember him and thank their fucking stars when he left- I’m pretty sure no one was itching to keep him on their radar.” 

“Ash would’ve dug something up,” Jane said firmly, knowing how tenacious the woman could be. “Maybe she’s got something for us.” 

“You’re with Cerberus,” Jenkins spat, his expression cold. “Why would Williams tell you shit?”

“Ritchie,” John said warningly, “I don’t care how pissed you are, but I do know you’re disrespecting a goddamn hero right now, so suck it the fuck up!”

“No!” Jenkins barked, whirling around to John. “I will not! Her associations are what got these colonists in this mess in the first place! Just because she’s your sister doesn’t mean that I’m going to overlook her working with the enemy, John- you should be ashamed of yourself!”

The soldier’s sharp tone surprised Jane as she backed away from the system- considering it wasn’t software-based, her absence wasn’t a great loss. “Jenkins,” she said quietly, “I’m here to help- I want to stop the collectors… that’s all.” 

“Then why aren’t you with the Alliance?” Jenkins asked, his expression pained. “I looked up to you, Shepard- we all did… and now you’ve gone and thrown in your lot with Cerberus, of all people- can’t you see they’re brainwashing you, trying to make you loyal to their cause?” The soldier looked at her with a mixture of anger and pity. “The Commander I followed would never do something like this,” he muttered, looking away. “Guess a lot’s changed over these two years.” 

“Do I look like I’d put up with Cerberus without a good reason?” Garrus asked irritably. “You know Shepard,” he said pointedly. “She’s never given you a reason to doubt her before- why are you doing it now?”

“Because I’ve seen what they do and I know what Sloane did,” Jenkins shot back. “And I refuse to take part in it- once this whole mess is sorted out, I’m making my report and sending it to Admiral Hackett,” he said stiffly, no longer looking at her. “Maybe he’ll corroborate this story of yours.”

Jane frowned and Garrus let out a sigh, turning his attention back to the system. Frustrated, she glared at the soldier. “Anderson knows I’m here- he even sent Nih to be a lookout.”

“Look, I want to believe you,” the soldier said quietly as he stared at the ground, “but I know what they’re capable of- I can’t just look past this, Shepard. I feel like… like you aren’t even real anymore, and I can’t trust you right now… I’m sorry.” 

Unable to speak, Jane just turned away, working to stay quiet and keep her hurt locked away. “Whatever,” she growled, not looking at anyone. “Let’s just do what we need to so we can get these guns online.” 

  


Nihlus sat with Ash, feeling his nerves grow with every moment of silence that passed. Initially, he’d shut off the main communication channel, but he found himself more unnerved by the lack of attention and information than the influx of chatter from Jane and her team. I should be out there with them, he thought as he stroked her hair, angry at himself for not doing his duty but unable to bring himself to leave his mate. I should be with them, but she needs me more.

“Sheesh, she’s not gonna wake up just because you’re drooling over her,” Jack said suddenly, causing his eyes to snap to the young biotic. When he glared at her, she rolled her eyes. “You’re starting to make me wonder if you’re really even hitched to her- the way you’re acting is just fucking creepy.”

Normally, Nihlus would have just let the insult go- any idiot could see that the woman, for all her bravado, was nervous. He also knew that no matter how much she protested and complained, she was waiting there with him, and had done so of her own volition. Take it easy, he told himself, asking the spirits for the patience he certainly did not have at the moment. This will pass.

“I have been her mate for over two years,” Nihlus replied, holding Ash’s hand and glaring at Jack. Wordlessly, he reached beneath the collar of his undersuit, pulling out the ring dangling from the chain. “I hope, for your sake, that one day you have someone that you care too much for to lose and find yourself acting ‘creepy’ as well.”

“Fat fucking chance,” Jack huffed. “If that’s what happens then I’m staying right where I am.” She looked him up and down before letting out a snort. “I don’t know what the fuck they see in you bastards anyway.”

At that, Nihlus laughed, turning his attention back to Ash. “You’d have to ask her that question,” he replied, shifting to check on his mate again. “She… was not too kind to aliens when we first met.”

“Alien, human… doesn’t matter,” Jack mumbled angrily. “All bastards, no matter what species. Some just have an easier time fucking with you than others.” 

The bitterness in her tone made Nihlus raise his brow plate, but he didn’t push her to elaborate- he knew that prying would only give her the chance to engage in the argument she craved, so he chose another route. “Now that you have your data, will you stay with the crew?” 

The shock on her face cemented what he already knew- he was now certain her initial goal was to start a fight. “Where the hell did that come from?” 

“It’s a valid concern,” Nihlus replied, noting that if the analyst was listening, he was choosing to stay silent for the moment. “You agreed to join us in exchange for your file- Jane gave that to you already. I was merely wondering if you would remain with us- considering it is a Cerberus vessel, one could hardly blame you for deciding to leave.” 

Jack just stared at him for a moment, then turned away. “I said I’d help, didn’t I? Besides, those things out there ain’t trying to snatch your bony ass- they’re looking for humans. Might as well take ‘em down while the girl scout is on the case.” She stayed silent for a moment, then crossed her arms. “And while you’re worried about what I’m doing, you need to worry about Sleeping Beauty over there- if she’s as Alliance gung-ho as the uptight asshat that left with them, I’m sure she’s just gonna love being around all those wonderful bitches on that ship.” At that, she turned around, daring Nihlus to contradict her with a defiant look. “Unless you plan on leaving her here or ditching the girl scout to play house?” 

Before Nihlus could respond, Sloane’s voice came over the comms, causing them both to flinch. “Jane and the team are drawing heavy fire by the tower. If you’re trying to go to the shuttle, I’d go now.” 

“Understood,” Nihlus replied, quickly scooping Ash into his arms. He glanced over at Jack and inwardly sighed with relief when she gave a curt nod.  “Keep us updated,” he said as he peered outside the door and tried to ignore the other frozen people littering the path, “we’re on our way.” 

  


“The laser needs time to charge and Kryik needs time to move,” Xander said in John's ear, making him grit his teeth in frustration. “John, can you buy us some time?”

John glanced at the approaching onslaught of Collectors, shielding Janey from a blast as she dove behind a barrier. “While you’re sitting on your comfy ass, I’m kinda busy here, Xander!”

“I can see that!” Xander snapped, his normally calm tone bordering on panic. “I’m trying to fix what that bastard Alenko sabotaged, so pardon fucking me if I’m not moving as fast as you want!”

“Not helping!” Garrus shot back, taking aim at a Collector that had appeared in front of John. “Sloane, either get off the comms or help- the only sniping should come from me!” 

John wondered if Xander would let anyone give him an order without trying to belittle it, but to his surprise, the man went silent. “My apologies,” he said, sounding as if he were choking on the words. “You have incoming,” he said quietly. “Something else is approaching your position.” 

“More than the last batch of assholes?” John wondered aloud, craning his neck to the sky and trying to see what the analyst had found. “Seriously?” The creature sent down a particle beam at Jane and John immediately tossed up a shield. “We didn’t have enough to deal with down here?”

“It seems we really are just that unlucky,” Xander replied, thankfully staying silent for a moment while John found cover. “EDI and I can get the laser going, but they aren’t going to make it easy- can you take them out before they destroy the tower?”

“It doesn’t look like I have a choice,” John muttered, looking over at the turian- Garrus was with Jane, shielding the woman and taking shots at the creature whenever he could. “I’m running on empty here,” John warned, sending out a blast that allowed Jane and Garrus to find cover. “I’m not going to be able to give much more…”

“You can handle one last push,” Xander said quietly. “Jack and Spectre Kryik are on their way back to the shuttle and the Collectors haven’t taken all the colonists, John... we can still save them. We just need you to buy us some time- help your sister take that thing down.”

For a moment, John forgot who was talking to him- Xander sounded so calm and reassuring that he almost made John believe that he cared about what was going on out here. “When we get back to the ship,” John said, taking a deep breath and nervously watching as Garrus took shots at the creature, “you and I need to have a long chat- no more fucking games, Xander.” 

“No more games,” the analyst agreed, then his voice rose in urgency as Jane darted away from Garrus and drew the fire away from them. “She’s giving you an opening! John, take it down, now!” 

“Roger that,” John replied as he sent out an explosive wave of energy, too wrapped up in the battle to process the fact that he’d just taken an order from the man he hated most. 

  


Nihlus sat in the shuttle, cradling Ash in his lap and waiting for the others to return while Jack stared out the window, her entire body tense. If those things realize we’re here, we could be in serious trouble, he thought, allowing a low rumble to escape his throat. His eyes darted to the controls, thinking just how easy it would be to grab the controls and make his way back to the ship…

“Not dying for you,” Jack snarled, startling him out of his thoughts. The biotic was now staring at him, her glare pointed. “You wanna be stupid on your own time, feel free. But right now, my ass is tied to yours, so if you touch those controls I’m gonna fry your ass, understand?”

“Understood,” he muttered, glancing over to Ash and pondering how he could incapacitate the biotic without killing her. I’ll give it a few minutes, he thought as he looked her over. But if those things come back, I’m not letting them take Ash… I’ll deal with the consequences later. 

Before he could lose himself in his thoughts, Nihlus felt his omni-tool started to buzz frantically- the comms had been restored. Thank the spirits, he thought to himself, looking down at the multiple messages from his wife. Ash’s omni-tool must be active again- she was trying to reach me.

Breathing a small sigh of relief, the Spectre began to review his messages. 

AKWilliams: Hey hon, we’re on Horizon. FYI: Anderson told me not to tell anyone about Jane showing back up- said he didn’t want rumors spreading till you sent in your report. Jenks knows something is up, but I figured he could hear it from you- not my monkey, not my show.

When he chuckled, Jack looked over at him. “Fuck is so funny?”

“My mate,” he replied honestly. “Comms have been restored- messages are coming through.”

“‘Bout time,” Jack muttered. “Must mean that those idiots are doing something right...might even get off this rock sometime soon.”

“One can only hope,” Nihlus replied, returning his attention to his messages. 

AKWilliams: Looks like my last message didn’t go through- hope this one does. Lasers are completely fucked. You know I don’t know anything about electronics, but even I can see that this was sabotage. Told Jenks to keep that quiet from the colonists- they’re already anti-alliance enough without adding even more fuel to the fire. 

Asked around about Alenko- turns out he was here with the crew that installed the GARDIAN. Can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure he did a job on those guns- million credit question is why.

Heard a rumor that there’s a woman here who’s all starry-eyed over one of the soldiers and hosting him at her place- gonna check it out in the morning. Will keep you posted on what I find.

Love you- stay safe and don’t let Jane get you killed, ok?

When he laughed again, Jack snorted. “Least you’re in a better mood- thought I was gonna have to knock your ass out for a minute.” 

Nihlus raised a brow plate and started to chuckle, but his omni-tool pinged again before he could reply. Not from Ash and it’s not Jane, he thought, staring at the screen. Who else is contacting me?

RReeve: Spectre Kryik... did you miss me?

Instantly, Nihlus let out a growl- whoever this person was seemed to know him… and this didn’t sound good at all. 

I guess you must’ve missed our little chats because I see you sent your two little minions after me… too bad they’re both absolutely useless. I’d tell you to tell Williams hi for me… but that might be a little hard, considering I hear these bastards don’t leave anyone alive. If only there was some way these poor colonists could’ve defended themselves… it’s such a shame, really.

I thought about waiting around and stopping her pretty little heart, but I had so much fun watching your bitch writhe in absolute agony as these bugs stung the shit out of her. I hear they’re taking all the females first- wish that I could stick around to see what they did to her, but I got other shit to do. I’ll just have to make do with dreaming about it… it’s amazing either way.

Tit for tat, you skullface bastard… you and Jane stole my life, now I get to steal yours. 

Oh- be sure to let Jane know I haven’t forgotten about her, and tell her not to worry... I promise I’ll see her soon. 

He was shaking and growling so hard that he barely heard the woman across from them, her voice growing more and more insistent by the minute. “Nihlus,” Jack said slowly as she threw up a biotic barrier, “I need you to stop, ‘kay?” 

Alenko, he snarled, digging his talons into the seat and working to keep himself in the vehicle. He might still be out here… maybe I can track him, find a trace of where he was…  

“Where the fuck are those assholes, pencil dick?” Jack yelled over the comms as she got as far away from the turian as possible- Nihlus could barely hear her. “This bastard is going apeshit in this shuttle and I’m not trying to be his fucking dinner!” 

“Nihlus,” Sloane said in his ear, the tone even and calm, “you have to calm down and talk to me- what’s going on?” 

“Alenko is here,” Nihlus said through gritted teeth. “I need to go find him… now .”

“No, you don’t,” Sloane replied, ignoring the growls rumbling through the cabin. “Look at your wife, Kryik… can you do that for me?”

Slowly, he forced his head to move, breathing heavily as he turned to his mate. “She’s still frozen,” he snapped, his rage building with every word. “He did this to her… he did it on purpose, Sloane!”

“I understand that,” the analyst replied. “But it’s done, Kryik- what’s important is that we get her back to the ship.” Sloane paused for a moment, then returned to the comms, his voice firm. “When you get back, I will help you… but you have to calm down so we can save your wife, ok?”

“I want him dead,” Nihlus snarled, closing his eyes and struggling to breathe. “I will hunt him to the edges of the galaxy and destroy him- I will not let him get away with this.” 

“And he won’t- rest assured, we will get him,” Sloane said coldly. “That’s a promise, and trust me... I don’t break promises, Kryik.” 

Chapter Text

  


Sloane stared at the man on the screen, trying to keep his expression neutral. “We were able to confirm that Alenko sabotaged the lasers on Horizon,” he said stiffly. “Shepard was able to defeat the ship, but the Collectors made off with a third of the colonists.” 

TIM just nodded, his expression almost looking bored with Sloane’s report. “A shame,” he said with no emotion whatsoever. “But now we know what we’re dealing with. Efforts need to be doubled if we want to win.” TIM folded his hands, staring directly at Sloane. “Shepard needs more crew members- do you still have the additional dossiers you presented me?” 

“I do,” Sloane replied quickly. “However, given the fact that we have the Spectre and Williams on board-”

“Williams is Alliance,” TIM interrupted, his tone sharp. “I’m under no illusions about our status in their eyes- that holier than thou team will come to claim their pawn as soon as she awakens. Get any information from her quickly- I don’t want her leaving before you or Lawson get the chance to interrogate her.”

“Understood,” Sloane answered cooly, knowing full well Kryik would try to decapitate either of them if they used the full range of their interrogation tactics, which he was certain TIM was expecting. Then he thought back to the initial files and a frown crossed his face. “Sir, one of these recruits has a previous tie to Shepard, but upon initial contact displayed no interest in pursuing an affiliation with Cerberus- do you want me to locate an additional candidate instead?”

“At the moment, no,” TIM said, looking away from the terminal. The instinct to yell at the man to pay attention was strong, but Sloane fought it. “I want that girl’s expertise- do whatever you have to in order to get her on the ship.”

Sloane felt the beginnings of a headache creeping behind his eyes, but he nodded curtly. “I’ll see to it that Shepard receives these files- is there any particular order or urgency that you know of?” 

TIM offered Sloane an unnerving smile. “I believe disseminating information and keeping Shepard on a leash is your job, Sloane- are you looking to offload some of your responsibilities?”

Sloane just smiled and ignored the dig that TIM lobbed at him. “Not at all,” he replied, trying his best to look chastised. “I merely ask because you did your own research and coordination for Horizon- I was unsure as to how involved you wanted to be.”

“Only because you were unable to keep your temper in check when you spoke with Udina,” TIM replied mildly, making Sloane have to fight the urge to grind his teeth. If the man saw his irritation, he made no mention of it, simply giving the analyst an icy look. “Now that we’ve gotten our intel, can we put that bit of nastiness behind us now? Having colleagues in various areas serves us well- you wouldn’t want to jeopardize our mission for petty grudges, now would you?”

For the umpteenth time, Sloane was glad TIM was nowhere in the vicinity- he couldn’t be certain that he wouldn’t shoot the man. Instead, he decided to keep that polite smile on his face, never letting the veneer of calm slip away. “Of course not,” Sloane lied smoothly, standing up and offering a slight inclination of his head to the man. “Is there anything else before I get started?” 

“Make sure Shepard comes to see me,” TIM replied. “I’d like to speak with her as soon as they get back.”

  


Sol felt a strange sense of deja vu as she waited for the shuttle to arrive. However, instead of it being John needing medical treatment, she was waiting on Ash and trying her best to stay calm. She nervously tapped her foot, letting out a frustrated hum. What happened down there, she wondered, looking over at the salarian standing next to her. Xander had insisted that Mordin be there to meet the shuttle and the scientist was happy to oblige, racing down with her and happily muttering to himself about rare opportunities for data analysis. Spirits, this must be bad.

“Why are you so restless?” Grunt asked, staring at Sol intensely as he stroked JC’s head. “What, are you as mad as I am that Shepard made us miss a glorious battle?”

She’d initially been worried about him with the cat, but as soon as JC hissed and swiped at the krogan, Grunt had let out a roaring laugh and declared the cat a worthy opponent. When the krogan looked away, JC promptly climbed into his lap and started kneading it, digging his tiny claws into Grunt’s exposed hands- Grunt refused to let him go after that. “I’m more worried about our friend,” she said, not knowing just how much of this was going to register with the krogan. “She’s hurt and we don’t know how to help her.”

“Is she as good as Shepard?” Grunt asked, looking at Sol with interest. “Can she lift me in the air like other Shepard?” 

“Um,” Sol said thoughtfully, trying to figure out just how to describe Ash without giving the baby krogan any ideas about eating the woman, “no… but-” 

“So she’s not going to be fun,” Grunt grumbled, earning a meow from JC. “What’s the use of all these humans if I can’t fight them, Aunt Sol?” 

At the use of the name, Sol stared at him- he’d never addressed her as anything besides ‘female turian’ before. “Um, not that I’m upset about it,” she said cautiously, “but do you mind telling me who taught you that?”

“The pilot,” Grunt replied. “He tried to remove the furry warrior from me and I threatened to break his legs. In a plea for his life, he told me that my Aunt Sol would be angry if I killed him- it turns out he meant you, Aunt Sol, so I spared him… this time.” 

Blinking, she looked over at Mordin, who appeared completely oblivious to the whole conversation. “It’s good you didn’t hurt him,” Sol replied, now more curious than ever. “Just… for the sake of argument, was there anything else Joker taught you?”

“He said if I called the scarred turian ‘Pops’ it would start a battle,” Grunt said proudly. “I will do so as soon as I can.” 

“Maybe you should wait on that,” Sol said quickly, wondering how mad Jane and Johnny might be if she decided to throttle the pilot. “You know he’s been out on a mission all day- it wouldn’t be a fair fight if you did it now.”

Grunt stared at her for a moment, then huffed. “Your point is valid, Aunt Sol- I will wait until Pops is rested before I start our battle.”

Deciding that there was only so much she had the brainpower to deal with right now, Sol just smiled. “You do that,” she said warmly, then let out a soft hum- without knowing what state Ash was in, she thought it best if the krogan wasn’t around for the arrival. “But for now, can you take JC back to my room and feed him like I showed you?”

The krogan appeared to think about it, then looked at the cat- JC just stared back at him, unblinking. After a few more seconds of this, the krogan let out a huff and walked toward the elevator with the cat, his booming voice echoing through the corridor. “Even though you fight nothing, I have to serve you? I don’t understand your ways, furry warrior… but I will.” 

Sol let out a whoosh of air, then closed her eyes. “EDI,” she said pleadingly, “will you keep an eye on them, please?”

“I will monitor their progress and alert you of any problems,” the AI replied. “If it is of any consolation, the krogan did previously verify that the food given to the feline was of adequate nutritional value.”

“Hmmm,” Mordin said, his sudden return to the conversation startling Sol. “Krogan enamored with feline. Most unexpected…must look into. At any rate, distraction removed- can now focus on incoming patient.” 

Sol raised her brow-plate, looking over at the scientist with interest. “I didn’t think you were paying attention to us, Mordin.” 

“Visual focus not necessary for listening,” the salarian replied. “But… turian conversation with krogan was quite entertaining… Aunt Sol.” 

Sol groaned and started to protest, but Mordin just smiled, turning his attention toward the incoming shuttle and humming a jaunty little tune.

  


Garrus watched as Nihlus raced off toward the medbay with Mordin and Sol, then turned to look at the others. Jane was still quiet- she hadn’t said a word since they left Horizon.

“Look, fuck that guy,” Jack said sharply as she leaned against the shuttle. “If he wants to go running back to the Alliance like a little bitch, then let him- we got enough problems on this ship. If I can deal with these bastards, he damn sure can, so as far as I’m concerned, he can stay right where he fucking is.”

Though he wouldn’t have phrased it the same way, Garrus shrugged. “Kid’s got a point,” he said as he wrapped an arm around Jane. “Jenkins is entitled to make his own decisions- we don’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to around here.”

“Yeah, because we aren’t Cerberus,” John quipped- Garrus noticed the corners of Jack’s mouth turn up into a smile. “It’s amazing what laying all your cards out on the table and giving people an actual choice does for morale.”

“Yeah, like the choice we’re giving Ash,” Jane said darkly. “You know that woman bleeds Alliance- if Jenkins was that pissed, then what the hell is she gonna think when she wakes up on a Cerberus fucking ship, John?”

“That she’s with her friends and husband,” John replied firmly, looking his sister square in the eye. “And if, for some reason, she has a problem with it, we can drop her right off- the most important thing was getting her treatment, right?”

“Right,” Jane said quickly, blowing out a deep breath and ruffling the stray blue strands that had crept out of her ponytail. “Yeah… you’re right.” 

“Course I am,” John replied, then let out a yawn. “Fuck, I’m tired and starving- I can’t decide if I want to eat a horse or sleep right now.” 

“Well, I’m going to eat,” Jack snapped, rolling her eyes at John. “Some of us didn’t get to do anything today… waste of my fucking time.” 

“But you wasting your time was appreciated,” John said pleasantly, earning a snort from the tiny biotic. Smiling, he jerked his thumb at Garrus. “Better that than having Kryik take a page out of this guy’s book and going off the deep end.” 

At that, Jack perked up. “What? You mean this bastard is crazy, too?” She leaned over and peered at Garrus, that same maniacal grin on her face. “Your sister is all sunshine and rainbows- nice to know you’re on my level.”

Garrus swallowed at the insinuation but kept his expression calm. “Sol was always the better turian,” he replied, ignoring the rest of her statement. “But I’m better looking, so it evens out.” 

When Jane let out a deep throaty laugh, Garrus felt a sense of relief. “Smug bastard,” she said, taking his hand in hers. “I’ll be sure to tell Sol you said that.” 

“Tell her whatever you want,” Garrus replied, leaning his head against hers. “We both know the truth around here.” 

“Fuck this… those two are about to start pawing at each other,” Jack muttered, then turned to John. “Yo, tall, dark, and asshole… ready to eat?” 

“Definitely,” John replied, heading toward the elevator. “If we hurry, I might be able to convince Gardner to make me something to eat instead of inhaling four or five ration bars.”

“You might be better off with the bars,” Jack said with a scowl as the elevator doors closed. “That shit he makes is terrible.” 

When the doors had closed, Garrus felt her body relax against him- he quickly let out a soothing hum. “Feeling better?”

Jane sighed. “Somewhat.” She collapsed against him, throwing her arms around his waist. “They got away,” she mumbled. “Those bastards took a third of the colony… and I didn’t stop it.”

“If you hadn’t been there they would’ve taken everyone,” Garrus said quietly. “You did what you could, Jane.” 

“But it wasn’t enough,” she whispered. “They needed me… and I didn’t save them.”

Knowing that there was nothing he could say to her right now that would make her feel any better, Garrus just sighed and rubbed her back, humming softly. Jane couldn’t understand his words, but she often said she could feel him and it never failed to make her feel better. She needs to know it’s not her fault, he thought as he guided Jane toward the elevator. She did everything she could. 

“Commander,” EDI’s robotic voice called out, “the Illusive Man wishes to speak with you.”

Garrus wanted to tell her to ignore it, to come to bed and let him take care of her for a while, but he knew that no matter what, Jane was always going to do what she felt she had to do. So, instead of holding his mate and protecting her like he wanted, he squeezed her hand softly as they entered the elevator. “Need me to come with you?”

Jane started to say something, but she bit her lip and shook her head. “No… this one’s on me- don’t need you to be subjected to TIM’s special brand of shit.”

“If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll subject myself to anything… except John’s cooking,” Garrus teased, earning another smile from his mate. “Spirits, that man is a menace in the kitchen- how you managed to not be as horrible as your brother is both beyond me and a blessing.” 

“I read,” Jane said with a soft smile, her fingers still laced in his. “Turns out it helps.”

“I knew I mated with you for a reason,” Garrus replied, pressing his mouth to her cheek. “If you change your mind or finish the call and need to hit something, I’ll be in the main battery.”

“I can go to the gym if I want to hit things,” Jane said coyly, staring up at the ceiling. “And besides, I can do that with anyone- just hitting something seems like a waste of a good stress relief session, if you ask me.”

Garrus let out a throaty rumble, lightly nipping at the exposed side of her neck. “Just as I thought,” he murmured, pulling her close and resting his head against hers, “my mate is a brilliant woman.” 

  


Since he knew that Sol would be busy with Ash for a while, John made his way to the mess hall, eager to get something to eat. To his surprise, Jack followed him inside, watching him closely the entire time. “Wanna sit with me?”John asked, gesturing toward the empty table in the corner. “Looks like Tiny isn’t going to be free for a bit, and I’m not looking to talk to Xander on an empty stomach, so…” 

Jack didn’t reply- instead, she just followed behind him and grabbed a tray, scowling at the food Gardner ladled onto her plate.  What a sparkling conversationalist, John thought as he made his way to the table, wondering just how awkward this meal was going to be. I wonder if it’s too late to go and find Grunt… might be more entertaining than this, anyway. 

The biotic sat across from him, glaring the entire time. John just looked at her while he ate, trying to figure out when he might have done something to piss her off. After about five minutes of this, John let out a sigh. “Um, since you’re staring at me like you want to stab me in the throat, do you mind telling me what it is I did to you to piss you off so much?”

Jack just narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re not a hideous-looking guy.” 

“Um... thanks?” John looked around nervously, trying to figure out what it was she was getting at. “Is… that a problem?” 

She snorted and stabbed at her food angrily. “So why are you playing around with miss sunshine and rainbows? Just go take your white knight act somewhere else and fuck off, would you?” 

John blinked, unsure what left turn he’d taken to end up here. “I’m married to Tiny,” he said carefully, hearing Jack’s words and finding himself unable to process them. “Why would I leave my wife?”

“I’ve seen your type before,” she snarled, brandishing her fork at him. “You pretend to give a fuck and then leave as soon as it’s inconvenient for you- that girl is way too soft for that, so if you’re gonna do it, you should just save us all the trouble of her losing her shit and piss off right now. Getting trapped with one pissed-off raptor chicken is more than enough for me, thanks.”

Stifling a laugh, John smiled at Jack and settled back into his chair, holding up his hand. “You don’t have to worry about that,” he said easily. “I know what I’ve got and I’m not looking to lose it… ever.”

She stared at him, her expression a mixture of satisfaction and disbelief. “Why?”

“Because I love my wife,” he said simply. “And if she’s willing to put up with my stupid ass, then you’re goddamn right I’m gonna do whatever I can to keep her happy.”

“You sound like him,” Jack muttered, looking back at her plate. “I need to get the fuck off this ship before I catch this shit.” 

“I don’t think feelings are catching,” John said good-naturedly. “I’m also pretty sure it wouldn’t kill you to catch some, either.”

“I don’t have time for that shit,” Jack replied, shoving the last bits of food into her mouth.

“They don’t have to be romantic feelings,” John teased, working to keep his expression serious. “You and Tiny seem to get along- I think that counts for something.” 

“I just don’t want her bitching if something happens,” Jack grumbled. “Can’t train her if she’s too busy moping about your ass.” 

“My ass does many things to her, but I don’t think making her mopey is one of them,” John said teasingly, earning a snort from the biotic. “At least, I certainly hope not- it might make things kinda awkward.” 

Jack let out a real laugh, then shook her head. “You’re a dipshit, you know that?” 

John shrugged, then went back to his food. “Meh… I’ve been called worse.” 

  


After talking with the Illusive Man, Jane hovered around the medbay, debating on whether or not she wanted to go inside. I can’t take her hating me again, she thought morosely, leaning against the wall. I don’t want to go back to the way things were before.

While she was staring at the patterns on the floor, she heard someone clear their throat. “Something wrong, Shepard?”

She snapped her head up, only to see Jacob looking at her with concern. “No,” she said stiffly, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice. “Just waiting on word about Chief Williams, that’s all.” 

“I’m sure no one would kick you out if you wanted to check on her,” Jacob said kindly. “Always nice to know that someone cares if you’re ok.”

“Yeah, well I don’t want to get in the way… or keep you.” Jane tried to step back, then plastered what she hoped was a reassuring smile on her face. “Nice speaking with you, though.”

To her dismay, Jacob wasn’t buying her dismissal. “I know you think I’m the enemy,” he said quietly, “but I get being worried about a friend… and I’ve been told I was a good listener.” 

Finally, Jane cracked a real smile, feeling some of the tension dissipate. “And who told you that?” 

“Well, no one,” the soldier admitted with a grin, sticking his hands in his pockets. “But I’m pretty sure they would.” 

“Sounds reassuring,” Jane laughed, leaning against the wall again. “Thank you for the offer,” she said seriously. She thought about dismissing him, but then she remembered John and how he’d bond with his crew. Give to get, she thought, exhaling and closing her eyes. “Just... wondering how Ash is going to handle being on a Cerberus ship… not sure exactly what Nih told her… especially considering how pissed Jenkins was about the whole thing.” Suddenly, she remembered something and stared at Jacob. “Read your file...you were on Eden Prime during the geth attack?” 

Jacob nodded. “There for that and the attack on the Citadel,” he replied. “I’ve got that kind of luck, I guess.” 

“Seeing as how Ash was there for both of those, I’d say her luck was a little worse,” Jane replied, laughing softly. “She’s a hell of a soldier though… for all our fights, the one thing she never bitched at me for was getting her into trouble.” 

“That just means you were a good leader,” Jacob said, leaning on the wall next to her. “And a good friend.”

Jane shook her head. “Nah, Nih was a good leader- I was…” she let her voice trail off, feeling the sense of shame roll over her. “I was an idiot,” she said quietly. “Too hotheaded to see reason, charging into everything without thinking… I could’ve gotten someone killed out there.” 

“You were in command,” Jacob replied, making a point not to look at her. “We don’t get the luxury of planning in battle, Shepard. When it’s time, you just have to act. You were a good leader,” he said firmly. “Cerberus wouldn’t have brought you back otherwise.” 

“You know, that sounds like the right thing to say,” Jane said softly, twirling a strand of hair around her finger, “but somehow…” She turned to look at the medbay, letting out a deep sigh. “Somehow, it doesn’t feel true.”

“It is,” Jacob replied, shoving himself away from the wall. “Cause I wouldn’t have signed on to bring you back if I didn’t believe it.”

Chapter Text

  


Nih rested his head against his mate’s arm, hoping that there would be at least some change in Ash’s condition. I need her to wake up, he thought, nuzzling her soft skin with his head. She needs to come back to me… and soon.

“Hi,” Jane said quietly, causing him to lift his head. The commander was standing in the back of the room, looking down at the floor with her hands in her pockets. “How’s Ash?”

“Sleeping, according to Chakwas and Mordin,” he replied wearily, running a talon along her arm. “While I’m happy that she’s alive and relatively unharmed...”

“You just need to talk to her,” Jane finished, tentatively moving closer. “You need to be sure she’s ok.” 

Nihlus nodded, then took note of the nervous look on Jane’s face. “What’s wrong, Jane?” He gestured to the seat Sol had been sitting in earlier and patted the cushion. “Come... have a seat with me.” 

Jane paused, looking as if she’d just been caught committing a crime. “I don’t know if I should… I don’t want to agitate Ash if she wakes up…”                  

“She knows you're alive,” Nihlus said quietly, looking at the seat again before shifting his focus to Jane. “Did you really think I wouldn’t let my mate know my best friend had returned from the dead?” 

“Jenkins didn’t know,” Jane mumbled, sitting down and staring at her hands. “He found out I was with Cerberus and it was like nothing I’d ever done… that we’d ever done… mattered.” 

“The boy is being an idiot,” Nihlus snapped, wrapping an arm around Jane. “You were one of his heroes- he’ll come around.”

She leaned her head on his shoulder, laughing softly. “If he doesn’t, will you kick his ass for me?” 

Nihlus rubbed his hand up and down her arm and smiled. “You’re more than capable of kicking his ass yourself, Jane.”

“True.” Jane sighed, then tentatively reached out for Ash. “I hope she wakes up soon,” she whispered, letting her thumb run over the IV port in her hand. “Ash didn’t deserve this shit… they wanted me, not her.” 

“They wanted everyone on that colony,” Nihlus corrected, unwilling to let the girl carry a burden she didn’t have to. “It was TIM who laid that trap, not you- don’t take on guilt that isn’t yours, Jane.”

“I just don’t want her to hate me,” Jane said, then let out a soft huff. “If someone told me five years ago that I’d be sitting here wishing that Ashley Williams would still be my friend, I’d have asked them what drugs they were on… then punched them in the face.”

“It’s called growth,” Nihlus replied, lightly touching his head to hers. “And I couldn’t be prouder of you.” Jane smiled and he laughed, grateful for her company- he didn’t know if he wanted to do this alone. “Ash doesn’t hate you, Jane. Granted, she wants you to stay out of trouble,” he said pointedly, “but she cares about you. As you said, we’re family- we will get through this… together.” 

“Yeah,” Jane said, staring at the sleeping woman and twirling one of her blue strands around her finger nervously. “You’re with me on this, right?”

“Always,” Nihlus replied, softly nudging Jane’s arm and making her smile. “After all, what kind of mentor would I be if I let you go it alone?”

“A shitty one,” Jane retorted softly, resting her head on Nihlus’s arm. “But we both know you’re better than that, Nih. Always have been, always will be.”

  


John knew that he needed to find Xander- the man had promised him a sit-down and he fully intended to collect, but his nerves were still so shot from the events of the day that he didn’t know if he could handle it. Something’s gotta give, he thought as he entered his room, cause I’m not messing up my relationship with my wife for that bastard. 

However, when he didn’t get attacked by JC upon opening the door, John frowned. “EDI, he asked carefully, looking around the room and awaiting the impending attack on his ankles, “is JC with Sol?”

“The feline is not with Mrs. Shepard,” the AI replied. “He is currently in the cargo bay with Grunt.”

John went pale, trying to figure out just what the hell had brought that on and if his wife knew her cat was on the loose with the young krogan. “Is JC ok? Can you get Grunt out of there so I can go get him?”

“Your assistance will not be necessary,” EDI replied smoothly. “The krogan has fed the feline and is currently assessing his motor skills- no intervention is needed at this time.” 

John blinked and opened his mouth, then thought better of it and closed it again. After a few moments, the curiosity overtook him and he re-addressed the AI. “Does Tiny know about this?”

“Yes- she is aware of the feline’s associations with the krogan,” EDI replied. “She has tasked me to monitor their interactions for the time being while she tends to Chief Williams.” 

“Ok… krogan cat-sitting. Didn’t know that was a thing,” John mused, shaking his head as he sat back on the bed. “But, it’s Tiny- can’t say I’m all that surprised.” 

“It’s your wife,” Xander replied from the doorway, making John look up. “It doesn’t surprise me all that much, either.” 

“Xander,” John said cooly, watching as the analyst made his way into the room and took a seat at the desk, folding his hands in his lap. “I didn’t know you were coming up here.” 

“I figured you’d avoid me as long as possible, so I decided to make myself available before Sol returned to your quarters.” Xander looked at him with a slightly smug expression, then cleared his throat. “It seems my guess was correct.” 

John frowned, trying and failing to keep his temper in check. “See? Why do you always do shit like that?”

Xander just stared at him, his face a blank slate. “Do what?” 

“Try to act like you’re better than me,” John growled. “I got a newsflash for you, Xander- we all grew up in the same shitty town. You talk posh and you dress like you have a million credits in the bank, but I know who you really are- you’re the same dipshit that swept up shit and begged for scraps… just like me.” 

Xander stiffened. “I’m nothing like you,” he hissed, opening and closing his fists. “You can tell your Alliance war stories until you’re blue in the face, but I know who you really are.” The analyst leaned forward, and for the first time John saw the mask of emotionlessness completely drop- there was nothing left but unbridled rage. “You’re nothing but an arrogant, jealous prick, John. You act all high and mighty now, but remember… I grew up with you, so try saving the superhero act for everyone else- I know the real Johnny Shepard... and I'm not impressed.” 

When John paused, a menacing smile spread across Xander’s face as the analyst stared at him, reveling in the silence settling over the room. “Dress it up all you want- you’ll always be the Red Sand dealer, the thief, the con artist…You act like you’re all wholesome, but you can cut the shit,” Xander snarled, his fists clenched into tight balls. “You got lucky, Johnny… that’s it.” 

John had to force himself not to blast the man through the hull of the ship. “Lucky? I’m sorry,” he said sarcastically, shaking with rage, “I wasn’t aware that damn near dying and getting separated from the person I loved most counted as lucky… I guess I just didn’t know how good I had it!” 

“When have you ever worked for anything?” the analyst spat, his voice vibrating with rage. “I did everything right and I got shit on… while John Shepard got every fucking thing handed to him! You level a block and you get rewarded with a shiny new life… meanwhile I had to start over,” Xander hissed, his face turning redder and redder by the minute. “You never liked me,” he growled, his biotics starting to flare around him. “Ever since day one, you’ve always hated me… why?

“Because you kept trying to come between me and Jane!” John yelled, jumping up from the bed. “Don’t think I didn’t notice that shit, Xander- ever since day one, you always wanted me out of the picture!”

“Because I wanted more for her, you selfish moron!” Xander snapped, getting up and leaning in John’s face. “You were a fucking cancer, John- Jane was capable of so much more than tagging along behind your worthless ass!” 

“And how’d that turn out?” John snarled, moving so close their noses were touching and he could feel the electricity vibrating off Xander’s skin. “Last I checked, you were the one who almost ruined Janey… not me! ” 

As the words left John’s mouth, Xander reeled back as if he’d been slapped- the analyst blinked for a moment and stepped back, looking as if he were trying to remember how to speak. “I don’t know why I even bothered to try to talk to you,” he muttered, smoothing his shirt. “We’re done here.” 

John smirked, crossing his arms. “Oh, it’s ok to shit all over me, but when I start picking at your wounds you want to take your ball and go home?” He looked him up and down, then let out a soft snort. “Figures… even after all these years you’re still exactly the fucking same, Xander!” 

“How would you know how I am?” Xander snapped. “You’ve never tried to see past your own goddamn ego, John- you don’t know the first thing about me!” 

“Really?” John rolled his eyes. “I know you’re an opportunistic bastard that uses anyone and everyone to get what he wants, no matter the cost. I know you killed all those people on Torfan and I know that when it counted and Jane needed you, you cut bait and left her to twist in the goddamn wind for something you did- sound about right?” When Xander flinched, John sneered. “Thought so.” 

“It’s so easy for you,” Xander said suddenly, his voice low and flat. “Sitting on your lofty pedestal, passing judgment on me…” He turned away and stared up at the ceiling, his voice emotionless. “Do you know how many times I thought about putting a bullet in your brain, John?” 

“Probably as many times as I wanted to put one in yours,” John replied, wondering if he’d finally pushed the man too far. “Always wondered why you didn’t try… not like you didn’t have a million chances to.” 

“I could ask you the same, but I don’t need to,” Xander replied, still not looking at him. “You’re an asshole… but you aren’t a murderer, John.” 

“But you are,” John replied, taking a step back and crossing his arms. “Is there a point to this?”

Xander sighed. “I never did because I care too much about Jane,” he said simply. “Taking you away would break her.”

“Cut the noble shit- you always wanted what we had,” John spat without thinking, gritting his teeth. “I hated that shit then and I hate it even more now. Get the fuck over it- she’s not your sister, Xander!” 

“Just because I didn’t share her bloodline doesn’t mean she wasn’t my sister,” Xander snarled. “I hate to break it to you, but you don’t own Jane,” he said coldly, turning to stare at John with an intensity that might have made him uncomfortable if he didn’t know the man as well as he did. “Jane is her own person…she knows who she is without you… but who are you without her? ” 

“Fuck you,” John spat, working to not let Xander know how much his words were affecting him. “You keep doing this- how about you try to stop running your mouth about shit you don’t know!” 

“Sound advice,” Xander sneered, narrowing his eyes as he returned to his seat. “Maybe you should take it.”

John just stared at him for a moment, trying to debate where he wanted the conversation to go. His first instinct was to lash out at the analyst, but John couldn’t bring himself to do it. He’s baiting you, he thought, sitting on the bed and glaring at the man sitting across from him. Don’t give him the satisfaction. 

“Are you finally willing to talk to me like a man instead of acting like a spoiled child?” Xander asked, his tone laced with boredom. “After all this time, aren’t you tired of fighting with me, John?”

Ignoring the barb, John closed his eyes and tried to focus on thoughts of Sol. She wants me to be better, he thought, taking a deep breath. I can do this for her. Finally, John shook his head and let out a deep sigh. “What is it you want, Xander?”

“I'm afraid you'll need to tell me the purpose of this meeting- you asked me to come,” Xander replied matter-of-factly. “Practically demanded it, if I recall correctly.”

Goddamn it, John thought miserably, holding his head in his hands. “Why are you doing this?” he asked, rubbing his fingers against his temples. “It doesn't make sense- you almost got Janey court-martialed...why do you care about what happens to her now? Why the sudden change of heart?”

“I never wanted to hurt her, John,” the analyst said quietly. “I never should have let her help me- I should have told her no, pushed her away, anything ...but I didn’t, and I will never forgive myself for it,” Xander said sadly. “She wanted me to be a hero like you, John… she didn’t want to believe that I could be capable of something like that… and I didn’t stop her. I thought…” The man let his voice trail off, then shook his head. “Regardless of what you think, I do want what’s best for Jane… if I can help her in any way, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

“But I don’t get it,” John said, shaking his head. “You killed everyone on that moon without a second thought- were you so gung-ho about saving those colonists? It’s not like there was anything in it for you.” 

“Contrary to what you may think, I’m not a monster,” Xander snapped. “Yes, I’m opportunistic, but I don’t enjoy hurting people, John.” He sighed, then ran his hand over his hair. “Those colonists were innocent- they were nothing more than pawns in a game they never signed up to play.”

“That’s… true,” John said slowly, taking in what he said. “Wouldn’t expect to hear that kind of logic from you, though.”

“Because you hate me,” Xander said simply, folding his hands. “I could save you from a burning building and you still wouldn’t piss on me if I were on fire.”

“Probably not,” John admitted, feeling a sense of shame rolling in his gut. “Old habits die hard, I guess.”

After that, the two men sat in the room, neither of them speaking or looking at the other. Finally, Xander let out an exhausted sigh and stood up, smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle from his shirt. “I’m not stupid enough to think we could be friends,” he said quietly. “But, for the sake of the galaxy, can we agree to a truce? TIM is playing a game that only he seems to know the rules for while the galaxy crumbles around us, Alenko is out there gunning for your sister-”

John instantly snapped his head up, the color drained from his face. “Excuse me?”

Xander looked away. “Kryik… had a moment in the shuttle when the comms came back online. It turns out Alenko sent him a message,” he said bitterly. “It wasn’t pleasant.” 

“I need to see it,” John said, his tone firm yet insistent. “I thought we were done with that bastard… he's like a fucking cockroach- we need to take him down... and soon.” 

“For once, I agree with you,” Xander replied, looking down and letting his fingers fly over the keys of his omni-tool. “Your sister has enough on her plate for the moment- I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell her about this just yet.” 

“It’s about her,” John said, his eyes widening as he looked over the message. “She deserves to know.” 

“Without a doubt… but does she need to know at this exact instant?” Xander smiled sadly, then shoved his hands in his pockets. “You and I both know she’s reeling from Horizon, John… just let her be for the moment, ok?”

John started to say something, but one look at the man’s face told him everything he wanted to know. He actually does care about Janey, John thought with amazement. Even after all this time, he still fucking worships her. “You know she’s in love with Vakarian,” he said simply, watching Xander’s face and checking for confirmation. “That’s not going to change, Xander.” 

Tell me something I don’t know,” the analyst scoffed. “Jane loved me… but I always knew she was never in love with me,” Xander replied, looking away. “I made my peace with that a long time ago.” This time when the man looked back at him, his face was softer, reminding John of the quiet young boy he used to be. “When it comes to Jane, I learned to take what I could get because it was better than nothing- that hasn’t changed.” 

John frowned but Xander just smiled sadly, grabbing his left wrist and letting his fingers start to tap against his leg. “Like it or not, she’s the only family I have, John- even if she hates me, I’m never going to stop caring about her... I owe her that much, at least. And if making sure she’s happy and safe is all I get to do, then I’m going to do it- that’s all there is to it, really. ” 

“Why?” John asked curiously. “You still haven’t told me why you care so much?”

“As I said before,” Xander murmured, rubbing his hand so hard his skin started to turn red, “you got lucky- no matter what, you and Jane will always have each other. Me, on the other hand, I’ve always been alone,” Xander said quietly, resting his hand against the chair. “And even if I lived for a thousand years, I don’t think I could ever repay Jane for what she did for me.” 

Even though he suspected the man wouldn’t answer, John decided to ask his question anyway. “What did she do?” 

To John’s surprise, Xander let out a strange-sounding chuckle as he turned his head, his posture stiff as he headed for the door. “The fact that you don’t know means that even after all this time, Jane is still the only person in this galaxy I think I’ll ever completely trust,” Xander said softly, his voice barely audible as he left the room.

Chapter Text

  


Sol headed down to the cargo bay, exhausted after her shift but knowing that she needed to get JC from Grunt. To John’s chagrin, the krogan had carted her cat off the moment he’d woken up, and no one had seen hide nor hair of them since. Granted, EDI had assured her multiple times that JC was ok, but there was still something a bit unsettling about the fact that Grunt had decided to usurp her cat. At least I know I can throw him if I have to, Sol thought as the doors opened. But it’d be my luck that Grunt would think it’s a game and ask me to do it again.

Before she’d taken a full step, she heard Jack’s voice and paused, wondering what the biotic was doing over here at this time of night. “If you’re looking for your hairball,” Jack said, looking Sol over. “I gotta tell you...you probably ain’t getting it back.” 

Sol felt like spiders were crawling over her plates. “What… what do you mean?” 

Jack shrugged, then gestured for Sol to follow her down the hall. “Came down here to practice after getting the fuck away from the cheerleader kissing ass with the fuckwad supreme,” she said, her tone matter of fact but low. “Found this… your goddamn krogan fucked up my entire plans.”

Bracing herself, Sol peered inside the room and immediately had to bring her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh. Curled up in a ball on the floor was Grunt, with JC sleeping beneath his chin. That… was not what I was expecting, Sol thought, turning to stare at Jack, who was smirking. The antics on this ship never cease to amaze me.

Jack tugged at her arm, guiding her away from the sleeping duo. “Let ‘em sleep,” she said quietly. “They aren’t fucking shit up, so we may as well enjoy it- gonna end up dealing with their bullshit in the morning anyway.”

Sol followed the biotic out the room and nodded, still trying to wrap her brain around everything. “This whole thing has been a mess,” she blurted out, unable to stop herself. Then she clapped her hands to her mouth, staring at the biotic in horror. “Goodness, I can’t believe I forgot- how are you, Jack?”

Jack blinked, leaning against the wall. “Fuck are you asking me that for? All I did was find your stupid cat.” She glared at Sol, then crossed her arms. “It’s not like it’s a big fucking deal or something.”

Refusing to rise to the bait, Sol just smiled. “I usually check in with people during the evenings- I just forgot to see about you, that’s all.” Then she thought about Ash sleeping in the medbay and frowned. “There’s been a lot on my mind lately.”

Jack snorted as they made their way toward engineering. “Yeah, well dealing with the human vegetable and the rage monster will do that,” she grumbled. “Is there an off button with you fuckers? I’ve been trapped with one growly bastard already and I’m not looking for a repeat performance.” 

Sol cocked her head, sitting on a nearby bench. “Who? Garrus?” 

Jack shook her head furiously. “Hell no- that fucker was the walking holocrew for the mission. The other one damn near bit my head off when he got a message- he’s lucky I didn’t kill him.”

“Wow,” Sol mused, staring at Jack with shock. “Something must’ve really gotten to him- Nihlus is the most composed person I know,” she said firmly. “He never loses control… ever.” 

“Well, he did out there,” Jack snapped, leaning back and folding her hands behind her head. “Got a message from someone named Alenko and lost his everloving shit- Sir Douchecanoe had to calm him down.”

At the mention of the man’s name, Sol froze. “Did you say Alenko?”

“Yeah,” Jack replied. “Why, you know the bastard?” 

“I do,” Sol said coldly. “He tried to kill me,” she admitted, the words burning like acid at the back of her throat. “So I tried to kill him… too bad I didn’t succeed.” 

“Well, now it looks like there’s a line,” Jack replied, looking over at the turian and nodding with approval as Sol clenched her fists. “They said they’re going after him, and going by how those two were talking, that fucker has no idea what he’s in for.”

“Good,” Sol spat, feeling the angry energy building and working to dissipate it. “I hope they kill him.”

“Calm down,” Jack said, placing a hand on Sol’s arm and causing the energy to recede. “Not the time to blow a fuse- hey, if you want to fight, just let me know.” 

Realizing that the stress of the past few days was threatening to overwhelm her, Sol made a decision. “Can we go now?” Sol asked, standing up and looking at Jack expectantly. “Not for long, mind you- I just need a moment to clear my head.”

“With me kicking your bony ass?” Jack retorted, her face alight with a grin that was a mixture of menace and joy. “Hot damn, you just became a little less of a bitch- let's go!” 

“Lead the way,” Sol grumbled, feeling her energy start to spike and not bothering to tamp it down. “I’ve been wanting to spar with you for a while, Jack.” 

“Game on,” Jack replied happily. “Time to show me what you got, Sunshine.” 

  


Nihlus glanced over at Jane and smirked, seeing that she was nodding off every few seconds.  She constantly protested that she wasn't tired, but he could hear that telltale snort of her waking herself up and knew exactly what was happening. “Get some sleep,” he murmured, poking her lightly in the arm. “You can come back down here in the morning.”

“But what if Ash wakes up?” Jane asked, stretching and letting out a yawn. “I don’t want to leave you alone, plus I need to let her know how sorry I am-”

“As I said before, you did nothing wrong,” Nihlus said firmly, taking in the exhausted woman on his right. There were bags under her eyes and her clothes were rumpled, not to mention the fact that her stomach had been rumbling the entire time. “Secondly, when have you last eaten, Jane?”

Jane glared at him, a sure sign that his supposition was right. “It wasn’t important,” she said mulishly. “Between you, Ash, and the Illusive asshole, I’ve been kind of busy.” 

“You have a ship to run,” Nihlus replied, ignoring her protests. “As the senior Spectre on board, I hereby order you to have dinner, get cleaned up, and get some rest… in that order.”

Just as he knew she would, Jane narrowed her eyes at him. “Since when do you give me orders, Nih? And besides, hypocrite much? I haven’t seen you taking any breaks.”

“That’s because I’m older and better than you,” he teased. “And besides...I still have the slew of ration bars you and Sol brought up here- you, on the other hand, seem to steadfastly refuse to eat any of the protein bars they left you…”

“That's because they’re disgusting,” Jane said with a shudder, letting out a loud yawn. “Trust me, I’m fine, Nih- why arent’ you worried about this woman here eating?”

He just smiled and tapped Ash’s IV. “Oh, I spent enough time worrying about that already- so much so that I am well aware of all the contents that get introduced every hour."

Jane smirked. "How well did that go over?"

Nihlus shrugged. "Suffice it to say that I am well-versed in all my mate's medical treatments and Sol wants to punt me from this room."

"Surprised it took her that long," Jane snarked, earning a chuckle and a pinch from Nihlus- she laughed and moved away. "You know, you could go shower, Nih- you've been sitting here so long I think you're growing mold."

"I'll have you know I did that while they were changing bandages, so I now have plenty of time to be disappointed with you not taking care of yourself,” Nihlus retorted, a playful lilt to his tone. “We can’t have a mission without a commander, now can we?” When she snorted, he smiled. “Rest assured that I’ll keep you posted on her condition and I’m not leaving her side… that’s a promise.” 

“Good,” Jane mumbled, looking at her hands. “No one should be alone at a time like this.”

The turian started to say something but stopped short, finally realizing what his friend meant. Jane was alone when she died, Nihlus realized, feeling a keen well in his throat as he thought about how Ash must have felt in those moments. His mate had no way of knowing if this was the end- she was frozen, unsure if anyone would be with her or if her final words would reach him. Jane understands her condition in a way I never could, Nihlus thought with a sigh, letting his gaze drift over to his sleeping mate. “Ash will not be alone… I promise.”

“I know,” Jane said quietly, twisting her fingers together. “I’m just scared, Nih… it’s-”

“It’s been two years since she’s seen her friend,” Nihlus interrupted, unwilling to let Jane finish. “Now go get some food before you head to bed- I’m not used to giving orders twice, Jane.”

She glared at him again before standing up, then got that mischievous look in her eye that always spelled trouble. “That’s funny,” she said casually, straightening up and stretching as she stared at the turian from the corner of her eye, “you were Ash’s squad leader- you should be used to women bitching at you and not following orders by now.” 

“Get out of here before I shoot you,” Nihlus replied, laughing softly to himself as Jane finally left the medbay. 

  


Joker made his way to the mess hall, hoping to grab something to eat before turning in for the night. Though he didn’t approve, having EDI take the helm for a few hours so he could get some sleep wasn’t the worst thing-  these last few days had sent his nerves more than a bit on edge. 

However, when he got into the kitchen and saw Sol standing over the stove and Jack leaning back in a chair with her boots on the table, he frowned. “Um,” he said, sniffing the air and realizing that the turian was cooking pancakes, he looked back and forth between the two women. “It’s damn near midnight… am I missing something?”

Jack shrugged, folding her arms behind her head. “We just got through sparring,” Jack said with glee. “Now I’m hungry and the weirdo offered to make me pancakes- who the fuck am I to turn her down? Has to be better than the shit Gardner makes, right?”

Joker found himself hard-pressed to disagree with the angry woman. “When you’re right, you’re right,” he said, trying not to laugh. “Hey Sol, got enough over there for me?”

Sol glared at him for a moment, then broke out into a wide grin. “I suppose I can make it work, she said teasingly. “Thought you hated my cooking, Joker?”

“That was before I tried it,” he replied, hobbling over to the cabinet and pulling down plates before grabbing a bottle of water. “Now I’m just pissed I missed out on so much- I thought you might cook like Johnny.”

“He’s still alive,” Sol retorted, focusing on the food. “I take care of my mate, Joker.” 

“Remember, we’re talking about your husband, not that hairball,” Joker shot back, then looked around the room. “Speaking of, where’s that furry asshole, anyway?”

“Krogan stole her cat,” Jack said, getting up and snatching one of the cakes Sol had put on the plate and Joker just smiled, knowing exactly what was coming. Sure enough, in the blink of an eye, Sol had smacked the woman’s hand and earned herself a death glare from Jack. “Fuck did you do that for?” Jack asked, rubbing her hand.

“Because when I cook, you need to wait for everything to be done,” Sol replied, clearly not caring about the fact that the woman looked ready to spit. “Johnny doesn’t get to snatch food and neither do you- it’s a rule. Now sit down- I’ll bring you your plate when it’s ready.” 

“Bossy bitch,” Jack grumbled, walking back to her seat- Joker didn’t even try to hide his laughter. “Oh grow the fuck up,” she retorted, rolling her eyes. “It’s not that damn funny.” 

“It sure is,” Joker replied happily, taking a sip and watching Sol bring the food over to them. “She is a stickler for serving things a certain way- must be a turian thing.” 

“Because there’s a certain way to eat things for maximum flavor,” Sol replied, setting down the plates in front of them with the packets of syrup. “If you mess it up, the flavors are off.” 

“I’m pretty sure that’s your turian OCD talking,” Joker said as he ripped open the paper and started drizzling syrup over the stack of pancakes. “Food is food, Sol.” 

“Heathen,” Sol shot back, lifting his hat and ruffling his hair. “You’re just lucky I like you.”

“Take what I can get,” he replied, shoving a forkful of food in his mouth and moaning with delight. “Holy fuck,” he exclaimed, talking with his mouth full, “why aren’t you cooking for us?”

Jack paused, then took a tentative bite of her food- her eyes went wide. “Shit, not bad,” she murmured, looking at the food on the fork before popping the rest in her mouth. “Thought you’d be fucking terrible at cooking… you know, since you can’t eat this shit.” 

Sol shrugged, but Joker could see the turian’s neck starting to turn a dark shade of blue. “It’s nothing,” she said quietly, grabbing a ration bar and sitting in the seat across from them. “When Jane… left, I tried a lot of the recipes she taught me,” she mumbled, taking a bite of her food and ignoring the two humans staring at her. “These tended to go over well, so I kept doing it.”

“I can see why,” Joker replied, not knowing what else to say. He knew that John hadn’t taken Jane’s death well at all, but he hadn’t really considered how Sol had been handling the whole situation- instantly, he felt like an asshole. “Hey,” he said, reaching out and tapping her on the arm, “you know you’re like my weird, spiky little sister, right? If you need anything, just let me know, ok?” 

“Please,” Jack said with a huff as she stuck more food in her mouth. “What are you gonna do, talk the girl’s problems to death?” She turned to Sol, then let out a soft grunt. “You might be too fucking happy for me, but I guess you aren’t that bad,” Jack grumbled. “You need something, I might actually decide to help you out… no promises, though.”

“Much appreciated,” Sol replied, turning an even brighter shade of blue. “Now finish up, both of you- we need to clean this kitchen before we leave.” 

“Fuck,” Joker replied, looking over at the dishes, “is it too late to rescind my offer?” 

“Man, you’re a pussy,” Jack replied, laughing as she continued to eat her pancakes.

  


As Jane walked down the hall lost in thought, the smell of food wafted to her nose. Curious, she made her way to the mess hall, only to see Jack, Joker, and Sol sitting at the table. “Looks like I missed the buffet,” she said, looking at the nearly clean plates in front of Joker and Jack. “I know Joker can’t cook worth a damn, so…”

“Don’t look at me,” Jack said between bites of food. Swallowing, she jerked her thumb at Sol. “This one decided to play late-night chef- who the fuck knew she could cook?”

“I did,” Jane replied, smiling as she walked over and pressed her head lightly to her sister’s brow. “We used to recipe swap- I’d show her human, she’d show me turian.”

“I didn’t do that much,” Sol said shyly. “Mom showed you more than I did, Janey.” 

“You keep selling yourself short and I’m going to start wondering if you’re really a Vakarian,” Jane said teasingly, laughing at the blush creeping up Sol’s neck. “Humble really doesn’t seem to be a family trait, Sol.”

Jack let out a snort, and for what felt like the first time in forever, Jane felt like herself again. Right now, she wasn’t Commander Jane Shepard, the savior of the Citadel turned Cerberus villain- she was just Janey, Sol’s sister and Joker’s annoying friend, and the thought of it was so freeing that she felt like she could float on air. It’s been too long, she mused, winking at Joker and getting a loud, boisterous laugh in return. I’ve missed this.

Just then, a yawn came from the doorway and everyone turned around, seeing John leaning against the doorframe, his hair a wild curly mess and one hand in the pocket of his pajama pants. “What, was there a party I missed an invitation to?”

“Nope,” Joker replied, grinning at his friend. “Sol just made Jack and I some pancakes.” 

Sol looked over at her husband, her face shining with happiness. “Jack and I were training,” she said shyly. “I decided to make her something to eat as a thank you.” 

John let out a whistle as he made his way to the table, sitting next to Jane and resting his head on her shoulder. “I thought I was the only one who ranked pancakes around here?”

“Get over it, she likes me better,” Jack shot back, but Jane could tell that the angry little biotic was teasing John. “What, you jealous that she’s not spending every waking moment running behind your ass?” 

“Not at all,” John replied quickly. “Just sad I missed the food, that’s all.”

“If it makes you feel better, I did too,” Jane murmured, leaning back in the chair and rubbing John’s arm. “I’ll find the strength to get up… one day.” 

“Nope,” Sol said with a happy-sounding hum, getting up from her seat and headed back to the stove. “Just have a seat- I’ll make you some, Janey.” 

John’s eyes went wide with fake indignation. “And what about me, Tiny?”

“What about you?” Sol asked innocently, making everyone laugh as she started to prepare more batter. “Fine- we’ll make it a party,” she said firmly, then turned to the ceiling. “EDI,” she chirped, “do you know if anyone else is still awake?”

There was a pause, then EDI’s voice filled the room. “Analyst Sloane and Officer Vakarian are still awake,” she replied. “Would you like me to connect you to them?”

“No, just ask them to meet us in here please,” Sol replied as she started pouring the mix onto the griddle. “Thank you, EDI.”

“My pleasure, Mrs. Shepard,” the AI replied. “I’ll relay the messages now.”

John started to protest, but Sol shot him a dirty look and he went silent. “Mom taught you better than that,” she snapped, stirring the rest of the batter fiercely. “Make an effort, Johnny.”

“For you, I’ll do anything,” he replied, yawning as he got up from the chair and wrapped an arm around her waist, placing a kiss on the side of her neck. “You’re lucky you’re cute, Tiny.”

“Oh, get a fucking room!” Jack yelled, tossing a syrupy piece of pancake at John and hitting him on the side of the face. 

The projectile stuck to his cheek, and Jane groaned- without missing a beat, John plucked it off and popped it in his mouth. “Still delicious,” he replied, winking at Jack. “Better when some angry young lady doesn’t throw it at me.” 

“And what have I just walked in on?” Xander asked, looking back and forth between Sol and the others at the table. “EDI didn’t tell me that you were having… a gathering,” he said stiffly. “I can come back at another time…” 

Her sister’s words ringing in her ears, Jane offered Xander a real smile. “It’s not a gathering, it’s breakfast for dinner,” she replied, gesturing to a nearby seat. “Come on- it’s not often Sol decides to grace us with pancakes.”

“This doesn’t help me any,” Garrus said from the doorway, standing behind Xander- the analyst nodded and made his way to the seat she’d gestured to, and her husband walked over and sat next to Jane. “Remind me why I’m here again?” 

“Eye candy,” Jane said teasingly, taking his hand and pulling his face to hers. “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, right?” 

Just then, Jane felt something hot land on the top of her head and she let out a yelp. “What the-” She reached up and grabbed the offending object, scowling as she turned to her brother, who was turning bright red with laughter. “I’m gonna kill you, Johnny!” 

Before she could do anything else, her stomach growled loudly, making her blush. Garrus just grinned, taking the hot pancake from her hand and holding it in front of her mouth. “I guess your brother isn’t a complete idiot,” he said, grinning at John as Jane leaned over, taking a huge bite of the food. “She always is a lot nicer with food in her system.” 

“I’d agree,” Xander replied, leaning back in his chair. “I remember a time when Jane was so hungry that she decided it’d be a good idea to steal from the vending machine-”

“Don’t you dare continue that story,” Jane warned, breaking off a piece of the pancake and tossing it at Xander. “You promised!”

“But I didn’t promise to stay quiet,” John teased, smirking as he leaned against the counter. “As far as I'm concerned, that tale is fair game, Janey.” 

“Now I want to hear this,” Garrus replied, earning a chuckle from Joker. “What happened?”

John looked at Sol for a moment before turning back to the analyst. “You were there… you should probably tell it, Xander.”

Xander raised an eyebrow at Jane- in response, she just huffed and rolled her eyes. “Oh, fuck it- just tell the damn story,” she growled, leaning against Garrus’s chest and closing her eyes as her husband wrapped his arms around her. “Go ahead and yuck it up, you evil bastards… at least I’m getting pancakes out of this deal.” 

Chapter Text

  


Sloane was in his office, skimming over notes on his datapad when he heard an insistent knock at the door. Knowing immediately who it was, he rolled his eyes and put down his notes, running his fingers through his hair with irritation. “Come in, Miri.” 

Sure enough, the woman strode into the room, her gait full of purpose. “Sloane,” Miranda said curtly, sitting down in the seat in front of him. “I didn’t announce myself- how did you know it was me?” She looked around the room for a moment, then let a slow smile creep across her face. “Is EDI still catering to your every whim?” 

“No,” he said simply. “Though you might not think it possible, I am capable of using reason, Miri. Jane would never knock- she just barges right in whenever she pleases. No one else makes it a habit of coming by except Sol and Kryik, and they are both much more polite about their entrances- you, my dear, were the last possible choice.”

Miranda let out a huff and rolled her eyes. “Smug bastard.” 

“Always,” Sloane replied, settling back in his chair and folding his hands. “At any rate, what is so important that you decided to visit me?” 

Miranda shifted and crossed her legs, turning away from him. “Williams is still on board.”

“It’d be quite hard for her not to be, considering she’s been sedated for the last few days,” Sloane said simply. “Is there a point to this?”

“You know damn well there is,” Miranda snapped. “Shepard has been moping around here long enough- she needs to get back out there. The Illusive Man-”

Can eat a dick, Sloane thought, letting Jane’s words put a smile on his face. Immediately, he stopped himself, frowning and focusing on the woman in front of him instead. “The Illusive Man has requested that she be given the dossiers for multiple new recruits,” he said firmly, interrupting her potential tirade. “It has already been done.”

“She needs to make a decision,” Miranda insisted. “I was just about to go and ask her-”

“Miri, stop,” Sloane interrupted, reaching out and putting a hand on her arm- she instantly shut up and her eyes went wide. “I’ve already told you that brashness and orders do nothing to reach Jane- why do you insist on trying?”

Miranda narrowed her eyes, and Sloane removed his hand. “And why are you insistent on calling her Jane, Sloane?” 

“Because she lets me,” he replied honestly, moving back to his original position. “That’s how she works, Miri- Jane doesn’t see herself as the military hero, she just wants to do what’s right. The sooner you stop trying to treat her as Commander Shepard, the tool you can point and shoot at the Collectors, the better off you’ll be- I've warned you of this before.” 

“We don’t have time to coddle her ego,” Miranda warned. “We need to get allies and soon- just because the Collectors haven’t attacked another colony in the meantime doesn’t mean they’re just going to wait for Shepard and I to become best friends and have fireside chats together.” 

“Heavens no, the universe would implode first,” Sloane said drolly, making Miranda chuckle. “But you do have time to show her that you aren’t just some Cerberus meat puppet, Miri.” 

“I take offense at that statement, Sloane,” the woman said curtly. “Since when has performing your job well become such a horrible thing? I am nothing if not efficient and brilliant,” Miranda growled, clenching her fists. “I am an asset to this entire ship, but no one seems to take even the slightest bit of notice or even let an inkling of the knowledge that I possess seep into their dense brains!”  

“And that right there would be why,” Sloane replied quietly, giving Miranda a reproachful look. “Look, I know you’re brilliant, Miri. I am well aware that you’re the top science officer in the organization- if I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have trusted the Lazarus project to you.”

She scoffed and crossed her arms. “Your beliefs had nothing to do with it- my resume and knowledge spoke for itself.”

“And who do you think highlighted that knowledge, Miri?” Her eyes widened a fraction and he nodded, shifting his attention back to the datapad in front of him. “Make no mistake, I don’t like you- you’re pig-headed and arrogant, not to mention the fact that you’re too obedient for your own good. But, all that aside, I do respect you, Miranda- your attention to detail and desire for perfection made you the perfect candidate for this endeavor, and I said as much.” 

Miranda just stared at him, then swallowed. “Thank you for your endorsement,” she said stiffly, then cleared her throat. “However, it doesn’t change the fact that we need to get back out there- this holding pattern isn’t doing us any favors.” 

At that moment, Sloane looked at the woman a bit more carefully. He could see the lines at the corner of her eyes, the tight pressing of her lips… “You’re unnerved,” he stated simply, watching for her reaction. Sure enough, he watched as her body tensed up and her eyes narrowed, telling him everything he needed to know. “I’ll talk with Jane,” Sloane said quickly, cutting Miranda off before she could launch into a tirade of how wrong he was. “There are some options that are more enticing than others- I’ll see if I can guide her to an agreeable decision.”  

Not choosing to acknowledge anything else he’d said, Miranda stood up and nodded. “Please do,” she said curtly as she made her way out of the room. “This indecision of hers serves no one.”

  


Jane was in the observation deck with her datapad, her legs drawn up to her chest as she flicked through the files. The thief, the assassin, the mercenary, the Justicar… and Tali. Absolutely none of these sounds promising right now. 

She leaned her head against the back of the bench and closed her eyes, only to jump when she heard a throat clearing behind her. “Didn’t mean to startle you,” Xander said quietly, moving carefully into the room. “Some people were concerned about our lack of progress-” Jane gave him a scathing look, but he just held up his hands in apology. “However, I figured you had quite a bit on your mind,” he said as he sat down next to her. “I’m here to offer my assistance, Jane- nothing more.” 

“Why?” Jane grumbled, flopping back into her seat. “Getting tidbits for your asshole boss?” 

“No…” Xander replied slowly, gesturing for the datapad- she begrudgingly gave it to him. “It’s my job to sift through information… I’m here to give the captain of the ship I’m serving on the benefits of that knowledge.” 

He started flipping through the files for a bit and Jane closed her eyes, too tired of making decisions and too wound up to even look at Xander- his presence twisted her up inside. On the one hand, she wanted to grab her pistol and shoot him between the eyes, but on the other hand, she wanted to lean against him and talk things out, bounce ideas off him and groan whenever he made bad jokes, to let him poke and prod the corners of her mind and help her make the decisions they both knew she always would. I’d forgotten how much I missed you, she thought, noticing that his sandy-brown hair was much shorter now, which made sense- he didn’t have to hide behind it anymore. But, as Jane watched him stare intently at the datapad, she saw a few of the longer strands fall into his face and she let out a deep sigh, biting her lip as she tried to shove the memories away.

However, though the years had passed, his mental acuity and ability to key into how she felt had apparently not faded. “Missed you, Brainy,” Xander said softly, never looking at her. “Remember when I’d help you write programs and you’d get so frustrated that you’d start throwing shit around the room?” 

Forgetting herself for a moment, Jane laughed, sweeping a strand of blue hair away from her face. “Excuse me? If I remember correctly, you barely ever wrote anything- you just waited on me to figure everything out.” 

“Why would I?” Xander said coyly, finally lifting his head and giving her a shy smile. “It was evident that you had the answer all along, Brainy- all I had to do was help you see what you already knew.”

“You sounded like a cheesy vid then and you sound like one now,” Jane retorted, instinctively punching him in the arm. “Get some new material.” 

“I will when the old stuff stops working,” Xander teased, reaching out for her. Just before he reached her arm he stopped, no doubt remembering that they weren’t the same people they were back then- he sighed and brought his hand to his head, smoothing away the hairs that made their way to his face instead. “Sorry about that,” he said stiffly, moving a little further away from her. “I’ll leave you to it, Jane.” 

Sighing, Jane leaned her head against the bench. “I could use some help,” she said quietly, staring at the ceiling. She felt like she was trying to fight the sensation of wanting to cry, though for the life of her she couldn’t figure out why. “I’m not sure where I should go next, so if you have any insight…” 

“I always have insight,” Xander replied, making her snort. “You just never want to hear it, that’s all.”

“Well I do now...asshole,” Jane said, turning her head and giving him a slight smile. “Tell me, oh great analyst, where, oh where, should the Normandy go next? Who’s the next to join our motley crew of misfits from this list?”  

Smiling back, Xander tapped his finger on the datapad. “Kasumi Goto,” he said after a moment. “One of the few thieves I respect- as much as I hate to admit it, she was the one that found me. And, since she was last seen on the Citadel... taking a moment to see your mother wouldn’t be the worst thing, right?”

Something about the way he spoke of the thief made Jane pause, but Xander immediately moved past it, looking back down at the datapad and flipping idly through the pages. “If this sounds agreeable to you, I can have Joker set a course for the Citadel while you get ready- I’m sure your family wouldn’t mind spending a few hours ashore, either.” 

“Fine by me- plus, it gives Ash a chance to bail if she decides she hates me,” Jane replied miserably. “Win-win, right?”

“I'm fairly certain she won’t hate you,” Xander said firmly, getting up from his seat. “Williams might be angry, but judging by the things I've heard, I’m sure she’ll understand. There are bigger things at play than petty grievances right now- focus on those instead, ok?” 

“What are you getting out of this?” Jane asked curiously, trying to read his expression. “What does helping me get you, Xander?” 

“Honestly?” The analyst sighed and lowered his head, avoiding her gaze. “If it makes you not hate yourself every time you see me, then I’d call this whole thing a success- anything else is a bonus, Brainy.”

She started to say something else, but it was too late- Xander had already left the room.

  


Garrus was tinkering with the cannon in the main battery, waiting on Jane to return after her errands. He knew that his mate was still in knots after the events on Horizon, but he also wanted to give her space- she’s a boomerang, he reminded himself. No matter what, she’ll always come back to me. 

Lost in the soothing repetition of his calculations and calibrations, he didn’t hear when someone came up behind him. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve logged out of your systems,” Sloane said suddenly, causing Garrus to startle. “I just wanted to personally let you know… and say thank you.” 

Getting himself together, Garrus straightened up and turned around to see the analyst standing in the doorway. “Sloane,” he said, watching the man carefully, “this is a surprise.” 

“It shouldn’t be,” he said, walking into the room and leaning against the wall. “You did me a favor… and I intend to repay that.” 

Garrus eyed Sloane warily. “I don’t think that’s necessary.” 

“I believe it is,” Sloane replied quietly, looking at the floor. “None of your other teammates would’ve been willing to trust me as you did, and I don’t take that sort of thing lightly. Plus,” he said carefully, “I think I might be able to assist you, for once.” 

“With what?” Garrus asked, curiosity getting the better of him. “I never said I needed anything from you.” 

“You didn’t have to,” Sloane replied. “It’s only natural that you’d want to know the whereabouts of the man that burned you and your team.”

For a moment, Garrus forgot how to breathe. He clutched the panel and closed his eyes as he tried to will the room into submission, but it was of no use- the world continued to spin and spin, sending him into a dizzying spiral. “Sidonis,” he croaked, feeling his talons scraping against the metal. “You know where he is?”

“Not yet,” Sloane replied. “But… if you want me to look for him, I will. I owe you that much, Vakarian.” 

“I… I do,” he stammered, trying to grasp any bit of his composure. “If you find him-” 

“Then I’ll tell you,” Sloane replied, pausing and waiting for Garrus to catch his breath. “You’re owed that information, Vakarian. But, do you mind if I offer you a bit of advice?” 

Garrus laughed, shaking his head. “And why do I want to take advice from you?” 

“Because I’ve been where you are,” Sloane said darkly, causing Garrus to raise his eyes and take in the man’s face. Sloane’s eyes were hard and sad, staring down at the floor as if it were fascinating. “Scratch that- I am where you are,” he corrected himself, adjusting his sleeves. “Do you really want to be like me, Vakarian? Trust me,” Sloane said, moving his gaze to the ceiling and folding his hands behind his back, “revenge is… not always worth it.” 

“And who are you to tell me that?” Garrus asked coldly, staring at the man. “Did you lose your team? Are their deaths on your hands?”

“You know damn well I did,” Sloane said, his tone regretful and faraway. “I’ve already lost everything, but you still have a choice… and I’d prefer it if you made the right one.” 

“Why do you care?” Garrus asked, cocking his head and relaxing his grip on the console. “Sidonis deserves to die for what he did… everyone knows that.”

“I never said he didn’t,” Sloane replied, focusing his blue-gray eyes on him. “I’m only asking you to think if your revenge is worth your life. Maybe… maybe if someone had asked me the same questions, I wouldn’t be here right now,” he said quietly. “I know what I am- I’ve had long enough to come to terms with it. But you…” Sloane chuckled mirthlessly, then shook his head. “You aren’t me, Vakarian… there’s still hope for you.” 

“If you don’t want me to go after him, then why did you offer to find him?” Garrus stared at the man, but Sloane’s expression didn’t change. “No one asked you to do that- you volunteered.” 

“I’ve seen your data caches,” Sloane said, crossing his arms and raising an eyebrow. “And tell me the truth- if I didn’t offer, would that really have stopped you from trying to find him?” When Garrus didn’t reply, the analyst nodded, letting out a soft laugh. “I thought as much.”

“What’s your point?” Garrus said irritably, not liking the direction this conversation was taking. “Why do you care at all?” 

“If you saw a child playing at the edge of a well, would you ignore it or try to save them?” Sloane asked, his eyes darting across Garrus’s face. “And before you answer, think about this for a moment- which is easier, getting them out or preventing them from falling in the first place?” 

Garrus didn’t answer- instead, he just turned back to the console, hoping that the man would get the point and leave. “Thanks,” he said gruffly. “If you find anything about Sidonis, please let me know.” 

Sloane sighed, then shook his head. “Before you decide to jump down that well, I suggest you bring a rope,” he said quietly as he headed for the door. “It’s not going to be easy getting out of there… and you might never get out at all.”

  


Nihlus felt his eyes closing-  it was becoming harder and harder to stay awake, but he tried his best anyway. I need to see her… hear her voice… just something, anything that lets me know she’s here. Sighing, he leaned his head on her chest, content to hear the steady thump of her heartbeat in his ears. If this is all I get I'll take it, he thought sadly. No matter what happens, I'm here. 

Lulled into a hazy state by the constant rhythm, Nihlus closed his eyes and hummed softly, only to be startled awake by the sensation of a hand touching his fringe. “Always gotta be a hero,” Ash said, her voice simultaneously gravely and yet the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard. “But I’m not complaining.” 

Nihlus felt like every cell in his body was on fire, his entire being overwhelmed with relief. “Ash,” he murmured, pressing his head to hers and rumbling with a sense of contentment he’d never known possible, “how are you feeling?”

“Like absolute shit,” Ash replied, making Nihlus chuckle as he nuzzled against her, desperate to have her smell like him again, not the strange medicines or antiseptics that had been burning his nose for what felt like forever. “It was horrible,” she whispered, taking his hand and squeezing it tightly. “I was trapped... I could see everything, hear everything…” 

Ash swallowed, and Nihlus reached over to get her some water, rolling her eyes as she took the glass and slowly moved herself to a sitting position. Nihlus wanted to protest and tell her to take it easy, but the death glare that she leveled at him immediately made him keep his thoughts to himself. That’s my mate, he thought with pride, not even trying to hide the amused rumble from her- just as he thought, she hit him in the arm. “I’m just glad you’re here now,” he said, kissing her cheek and relieved to see her in good spirits. “What can I do for you?” 

“Give me a status report, for starters- I never got any messages from you,” Ash said, running her hand over her hair and crinkling her nose. “And get me a bath… I smell awful.”

“I don’t care how you smell,” Nihlus replied, moving to sit next to her on the bed and looking her over. Just as Mordin had predicted, she looked healthy and whole, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it would change in an instant. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to showering with you.” 

“Perv,” Ash teased, resting her head against his shoulder and chuckling as he held her close. "Can't let it rest for a minute, can you?"

"With a mate like you?" Nihlus smiled, then let out a pleased hum, lacing his fingers between hers. "Never."

Anyway,” she said pointedly, letting her eyes dart across the room, a slow frown pulling at the corners of her mouth, “you gonna tell me where I am, or do I have to ask?” 

Nihlus grinned and rested his head to her neck, savoring her warmth and inhaling the unique scent of her. “Can I interest you in a shower first?” 

Ash sighed, then shook her head. “That bad, huh?”

Nihlus shrugged, and Ash let out a groan. “Depends on how you wish to look at it,” he said carefully. “Jane, John, Garrus, and Sol are here with us… that’s all that matters, right?”

When she narrowed her eyes, Nihlus let out a nervous chirp- Spectre or not, the turian knew that a look like that never boded well for him. “Nih,” Ash said warningly, “you’ve got ten seconds to start talking before I start pulling fringe.”

“It’s really not that bad,” Nihlus replied, avoiding her gaze and realizing that he had been counting on her reading those messages- this development put a whole new spin on the conversation. “Jane has been sent on a mission to stop those things that attacked you on Horizon-”

“Five seconds left,” Ash said firmly, crossing her arms. “I’m not in the mood, Nih.” 

“As you know, I’ve been in contact with Anderson,” he said, hoping that he could placate her a bit- judging by the look on her face, Nihlus could tell that this wasn’t going to go over well at all. “Given the situation-”

“One second,” his mate growled, her eyes barely visible at this point. “Spit it out, Kryik.” 

Closing his eyes and bracing himself for the fallout, Nihlus let out a deep sigh. “We’re on the Normandy,” he said quietly, lowering his head. “Cerberus rebuilt Jane’s ship.” 

“And why would they do that?” Ash asked, her tone stiff. He knew full well that she knew the answer, but she was going to make him say it anyway. “Seems like one hell of an expensive welcome back from the dead present… care to explain?”

“Because they’re the ones who brought her back,” he said, turning to look at his mate and praying to every spirit he could think of that she’d decide to listen to anything else he had to say. “Jane is working with them to stop the Collectors… and I’ve been helping her.” 

Chapter Text

  


As Jane headed to the observatory, she heard the clack of heels on the floor and groaned. “Shepard,” Miranda said, her voice making Jane wince as she gritted her teeth, “May I have a word with you?”

Jane wanted to tell the woman to fuck off, but she knew that starting a fight right now wouldn’t do anyone any favors- Ash was still in the medbay and she didn’t feel like causing a scene. “Is it important?” Jane asked, glancing longingly at the doorway, “I was on my way to review some files before we-”

“Perfect,” Miranda interrupted, making Jane snap her jaw shut with an audible ‘click’. “I was hoping to outline your itinerary on the Citadel- we don’t want a repeat of what happened last time, and-”

The last of Jane’s patience was starting to unravel and she closed her eyes, trying to think of things to do that didn’t involve punching Miranda in the face. “I think,” she said slowly, working to keep the edge out of her voice, “that I have this handled. I’m going to speak with Miss Goto, have dinner with my family, and if Chief Williams chooses to serve with me, give her time to gather her belongings-”

Miranda's face pinched up in a way that reminded Jane of someone biting into a lemon. “Are you sure that’s wise?”

Knowing damn well what she meant, Jane plastered an innocent look on her face. “I mean, we did take her from Horizon,” she mused, watching as Miranda turned redder and redder. “It seems to me that she’d want to stop by her apartment, get some gear-”

“Saving the woman was admirable,” Miranda said coldly. “However she is still Alliance- you need to be prepared for the possibility that she will want nothing to do with our mission. The time you’re allocating for her comfort might be better spent looking into more willing allies.”

At that, Jane let out a deep sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Do you have any family, Miranda?”

“None that I’m particularly close to,” Miranda said cagily. “Why do you ask?”

“Then it makes sense,” Jane said wearily, suddenly too tired to argue. “Ash is like my family- we might not agree on everything, but we have each other’s back when it counts. I’m hoping my death didn’t change that- in fact, I’m counting on it. So,” Jane said firmly, narrowing her eyes at the woman, “until Ash tells me otherwise, I’m treating her as a member of this crew- her needs are just as important as anyone else.”

“That’s a lot of sentiment for a woman your files state you barely got along with,” Miranda replied, crossing her arms. “Don’t let your previous associations with this woman bend you out of sorts- we need you at your best, Shepard.”

Wishing like hell she could get a drink, Jane took a deep breath instead. “And I’m at my best when I'm not around you,” she growled, turning on her heel and storming into the observation bay. 

  


“Shepard,” Mordin called out, rushing out of his lab as John walked down the hall. “Need a word. Won’t take long.”

Curious and mildly terrified about what the scientist might want with him, John paused. “Um… is everything okay, Mordin?”

“Of course,” the salarian replied, gesturing to the room he’d just emerged from. “Just need data. In lab, if you please.”

“You know,” John said warily as he followed the chittering scientist, “this sort of thing sounds kinda ominous, Mordin- I’m finding myself a little scared here.” 

“Being scared unnecessary,” Mordin answered. “Should calm down. Hear it increases lifespan.” 

John chuckled as he sat in the seat, then frowned when the scientist grabbed a needle and a specimen tube. “Um,” he said nervously, “I hate needles, and I didn’t exactly sign up for-”

“Mate asked for assistance. Need access to your DNA,” Mordin said simply, prepping the needle. “Too busy to ask. Making time now- hold still. Won’t hurt much.”

John was so stunned by the salarian’s statement that he barely felt the needle prick his skin. Tiny asked him about this? Does that mean… 

“All done,” Mordin proclaimed. “Data highly valuable. Will run tests. Have suspicions… must confirm.” 

“She wants a kid,” John said, his tone almost reverent as he rubbed his arm. “But that’s… impossible! We just aren’t compatible… right?”

“Highly improbable,” Mordin agreed. “Scientific problem. Will look into solution…” Then the salarian shifted the full focus of his attention to John. “Unless Shepard is uninterested in procreation. Suggest discussion with mate.” 

“I’m interested!” John spluttered, feeling like his head was reeling. “It’s… I just... I always thought it was impossible, so I never…”

“Improbable, not impossible,” Mordin corrected, turning away from him. “First turian female encountered willing to procreate with human.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound as reassuring as you think it does,” John muttered, rolling down his sleeve. “So… do you really think this could work?”

“Must explore all angles,” Mordin replied, his attention fully shifted to his equipment. “May require consult for human genome mapping.” 

“I really hope you mean Chakwas,” John grumbled. “I don’t know how I feel about Princess Perfect having access to my DNA.”

“Already has most of it,” Mordin said absentmindedly. “Twins share DNA strands- had access when rebuilding the Commander. Looking forward to cataloging differences.”

“Once again, not helping,” John muttered. 

The salarian didn’t say a word and John left the lab, his mind whirling in a million different directions. His first thought was to find Sol and ask her about it, but he knew she was working- he didn’t want to disturb her. Plus, he thought, wandering the hall, what would I say? Hey, heard you asked the mad scientist to whip us up some offspring, how’s that working out? 

Dazed, he made his way to the main battery, almost forgetting why he’d bothered to set out in the first place. His head was so full of ideas that he didn’t notice Garrus until he crashed into him, knocking the wind out of the turian. “Sorry,” John said, trying to bring himself back to reality, “I wasn’t paying attention.” 

“I can see that,” Garrus said dryly, looking John up and down. “What brings you down here to my neck of the woods, Shepard?” 

“Checking in,” he said after a moment, sitting down on a nearby crate. “We’re going to be on the Citadel soon… wanted to know if you’d talked to the family yet.” 

Garrus shook his head. “Nope, been too busy,” he said sheepishly. “Plus… I tend to leave that to Sol- she’s the chatterbox, not me.”

John rolled his eyes. “Mom is gonna have your fringe, you know that? Haven’t you gotten enough of being all tall, dark, and broody?” 

“I send messages,” Garrus said with a huff. “Pardon me if I don’t sit down and gossip with my mother every chance I get… like some people.” 

“I do not gossip!” John said indignantly. “I fill her in on important events going on around the ship, and we converse about culture… that’s all.”

“You repeat everything that Joker tells you and talk about trashy romance novels,” Garrus retorted with a smug-sounding rumble. “Sounds like gossip to me.” 

“But it’s fun,” John whined, rolling his eyes and ignoring the laughter from the other side of the room. “She’s good to talk to… I wish I had a parent like that growing up.”

“Well, you have one now,” Garrus said with a smile, turning away from John and heading back to the console. “Funny, she seems to like you… can’t imagine why, though.” 

“I hope I can be half as good a parent as she is,” John said absentmindedly. “Thought I’d have a few more years before I had to think about this kind of thing, but what can you do, right?”

When Garrus stopped short, John realized what he’d said and groaned. “Um,” he said, wondering if he was going to need to run, “are you ok?”

“I might need you to repeat that statement,” Garrus rumbled, his tone low. “Care to explain, Shepard?”

“Tiny talked to Mordin,” he said quickly. “She asked if there was any way that me and her… could, you know,” John said with a shrug, rubbing his arm. “He rushed me in the hall on the way over here and drew blood for tests.” 

Relaxing a little, Garrus turned around and leaned against the console. “Do you even want kids, Shepard?” 

“Yes? No? I don’t know,” he admitted, feeling a flush creep up into his cheeks. “It’s one thing when you know you can’t have them- Tiny was worth it to me, so I accepted that,” he said firmly. “It’s a whole different kettle of fish when that card is tossed back on the table.”

“Why?” Garrus asked, cocking his head. “I don’t see what’s so hard, Shepard- you either want them or you don’t. Either way… I think this is a conversation you and my sister should have straightened out before Mordin made you his lab pig.” 

Guinea pig,” John corrected, then started to yank at one of his curls. “I mean, we talked about it before, but…” He shook his head, blowing out a deep breath. “She’s going to be an amazing mom, but me…”

“You’ll be fine,” Garrus said firmly. “Admittedly you don’t have a cowl so you aren’t well equipped, and you’re too soft and squishy to properly spar or discipline a turian…” John narrowed his eyes, but Garrus just laughed. “But… you do have a good heart,” he said gruffly. “And you’re one of the most devoted humans I’ve ever met, so if there’s anyone that’s able to take on whatever science creation Mordin cooks up, it’s you and Sol, John.” 

“I… think that was a compliment, but somehow I’m not sure,” John said slowly, staring at his friend. “I’m not sure this is going to work,” he warned. “But just in case it does… hearing that from you means a lot, Garrus.” 

Garrus snorted. “I mean, it’s not like you won’t have help, Shepard- do you really think my mother is going to let you two raise a chick on your own? I’m glad you two get along so well because you know you’re going to have to drag her out of your house when that kid comes.” 

Despite his nerves, John felt himself start to smile. “Sounds like you might want some kids of your own, Vakarian… need me to put in a good word for you?”

“Hold that thought,” Garrus said, laughing as he clapped John on the shoulder. “I think I’ll let you and my sister take all the glory this time around.”

“Dino chicken,” John shot back, feeling a bit more at ease now that his nerves had settled down. “You’re just scared.” 

“Terrified,” Garrus admitted, heading back for the console. “That’s why I’m letting you go first.”

  


Jane was about to make her way out of the observatory when she suddenly found herself nose to nose with Nihlus and Ashley. “Urp,” she croaked, unable to make words come out of her mouth as she looked at the woman standing next to her husband, glaring at her so hard it made her want to shrink into nothing. Finally, Jane remembered how to make her brain work and she swallowed, giving Ash a hesitant smile. “You look good, Ash.” 

“So do you,” Ash replied, looking her over. “For a dead woman, that is.” Jane started to say something but Ash pushed past her, heading further into the room. “Is that a bar?”

“Yeah,” Jane said slowly, “but I don’t know if you should-”

“Fuck you,” Ash spat back, heading for the bar and grabbing a bottle of whiskey. “I’ve been left for dead and carted off to a Cerberus ship to meet with Commander Shepard,” she said grimly, pouring herself a glass of whiskey. “Who, I might add, is very much alive, thank you very much. Kinda doesn’t track with the fact that I went to your funeral, Jane.”

Jane looked helplessly at Nihlus, who just shrugged and walked toward the bar, sitting down next to his wife. “I…” She started to say something, but the words just died on her tongue. “I don’t know what to say, Ash,” Jane said quietly. “It’s been a rough few weeks.”

Ash snorted, taking another sip of her whiskey. “I’d say have a drink with me, but you’re on duty,” Ash mumbled, refilling her glass. “Then again, it’s Cerberus, so who the fuck knows how a shitstorm like this runs.” She nodded to the seat across from her, then took another sip. “Sit.” 

Wondering when this was about to go to hell and not looking forward to it in the slightest, Jane made her way over to the bar and sat down. “Ash, I-”

Ash raised a hand and cut her off. “No,” she said curtly. “I have questions, and right now, all I want is answers- if you’re going to try and work me over with bullshit, I’m getting the fuck out at the next stop. But, if you’re offering to level with me, I’m listening- right now, that’s all I can promise you.” 

Realizing that it was more than Jenkins gave her, Jane nodded. “Never bullshitted you, Ash- even when I didn’t like you, I always told you everything straight up, and I damn sure don’t plan to start doing it now.”

“Good,” she said, staring at her glass. “Easy one- you really working with these assholes? After what they did to you on Akuze?” 

“It’s not by choice,” Jane admitted, folding her hands. “You saw what the Collectors do, Ash- they brought me back to fight them. Not sure why I deserved the honor, but there you go and here we are.” 

“Ain’t that the truth,” Ash grumbled. “And you let Sol and Johnny get roped into this bullshit with you?” 

“Joker told them where I was,” Jane replied, watching as Ash’s eyes widened and she turned to Nihlus- the turian nodded. “I know you saw Chakwas down there- Cerberus recruited them. Guess they thought I’d be less likely to fuck up the place if some of my own were around.” 

“Sounds like they know how you think,” Ash said softly, folding her hands. “And Xander is here.” 

Swallowing, Jane nodded- it was taking every ounce of strength she had not to reach for that glass. She knew her cybernetics would burn it off, but there was still that sense of not drinking while on duty pinging at her the entire time. “Yeah.”

“I saw him at your funeral,” Ash said softly, staring at her glass- Nihlus let out a confused-sounding rumble. “Yeah, he was the guy chatting up Sol- I thought he looked familiar but I didn’t connect the dots...had a lot on my mind, you know.” 

“Are you gonna lose your shit, too?” Jane asked, grimacing at the memory of Jenkins treating her like trash. “Seems like the thing to do nowadays.” 

“You shouldn’t trust him,” Ash said darkly. “You know what he did, and you know how he is, Jane- that being said, if I had to choose, being on his side is a lot safer than having him behind me.”

“Common interests,” Jane replied, unable to bring herself to defend Xander but not willing to defame him any further. “But sadly enough, we have bigger problems.”

“Yeah, like giant bugs that body-snatch you,” the soldier grumbled.“Jesus, that’s some horrifying shit,” Ash said, shuddering. Nihlus wrapped his arm around her, and she leaned against him and closed her eyes. “They gotta be stopped.”

Jane stared at Ash for a moment, surprised she let the topic go with such ease. She thought about questioning her a bit more, but decided to let it go and just focus on the fact that her friend was still here and not screaming for her blood. Pick your battles, Jane thought, reaching tentatively for Ash’s hand. “That’s what I’m trying to do,” Jane replied softly, hoping against hope the woman wouldn’t shun her. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I never wanted you caught up in this shit, Ash.” 

“You know what’s even more fucked up about this?” Ash said bitterly, staying completely still, “I wasn’t on Horizon to deal with the Collectors- how insane is that?”

Jane frowned, trying to stay focused on Ash’s words and not her actions. “But the GARDIAN-”

“Was meant to help them in case of Cerberus,” Ash spat. “That’s just it- the Alliance thought it was Cerberus snatching the colonies. My official reason for going was to check into that- Alenko’s sorry ass was just a bonus.” 

“But I told them it was the Collectors,” Jane protested, looking at Nihlus- her mentor nodded. “I’ve known about this since Freedom’s Progress- I haven’t hidden anything!”

“And even after coming back from the dead, they won’t listen to you,” Ash replied, finishing her drink. “They wanted me there… it was specifically mentioned that Alenko had been sighted out there.”

As the thoughts raced through her head, Jane went pale. “You don’t think Anderson-”

“No,” Ash said quickly, shaking her head. “I think Udina was working with someone that knew what the hell was going on, and he used Anderson… help his crony and take out the woman chasing his psycho nephew- win-win.” 

“He was working with the Illusive Man,” Jane replied honestly. “He set us up, Ash.” 

“Figured,” Ash grumbled, setting down her glass. “So now that we know we’re both being fucked from both sides, what do we do about it?” 

Jane raised an eyebrow. “We?” 

“Damn right,” Ash replied, looking Jane in the eye and squeezing her hand- Jane let out a sigh of relief. “I’ve seen what those things do- up close and personal. Granted, I don’t like the company you’re keeping, but the Alliance isn’t doing shit- I’m not about to sit by and watch humanity go to shit… I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did,” she said quietly. “So if I gotta work with you on this fuckshow to take those bastards down, then that’s what I’m doing. Besides,” Ash said, smirking and looking up at Nihlus, “someone has to lead the B-squad again- are you really gonna trust it to this bastard over here?” 

Feeling all her nerves leave her in a flood, Jane leaned over and wrapped Ash in a tight hug. “Welcome to the Normandy,” Jane whispered, holding the woman tight and almost sobbing when her friend hugged her back. “Missed you, Ash.” 

“Missed you too,” she replied, the smile evident in her voice. “Now let’s get started so we can stop these fuckers… I don’t know about you, but I’m done being their pawn.”

“Same,” Jane said firmly, letting go and wiping her eyes. “Time to show those assholes who they’re fucking with.”

Chapter Text

  


Longingly, Jane watched Ash and Nih make their way off the Normandy, wishing she could take a break. Why is the galaxy always on fire, she thought sadly, staring after her friends. I’d like a moment to just be for a while, too.

As she let out a sigh, she felt strong arms wrap around her waist and the most comforting purr rumbling against her. “Hey,” Garrus said softly, pulling her close.”Doing ok?”

“I guess,” she said quietly. “It’s just… everyone is going off on their own. Ash and Nih definitely need a minute, Sol and Jack are watching Grunt, and John’s going to talk with Mom- I feel…” She shrugged, then let out a soft sigh. “I don’t know… I’m just jealous, I guess.”

“You mean you’d rather babysit a krogan than track down a master thief?” Garrus rested his head on hers and she laughed. “Who are you and what have you done with my mate?”

“There’s nothing wrong with meeting her,” she said quickly, taking his hand in hers.  “It’s just… everyone else gets to be normal for a bit.”

“I think you may have a skewed perspective on what constitutes normal,” her husband said teasingly. “Did you not hear the words that just came out of your mouth a minute ago?”

“Yuck it up, you big armor cat,” Jane retorted, poking him in the side. “You’re lucky I like you.”

“That’s it?” Garrus asked mockingly, pretending to look hurt. “Funny, I thought I was the love of your life, the fruit of your eye…” 

“It’s apple of my eye, and you already know you are, so stop fishing for compliments,” she said, whacking him in the arm. “You’re terrible, big guy.”

“But you love me,” he replied, pressing his mouth to her head. “Care to show me how much later?”

“Sounds like a challenge,” Jane murmured, a smile creeping across her lips. “I could use the stress relief.” 

“And since you refuse to take Miranda or Jacob, I’d like you to stop pawing at your husband and get on with it,” Xander growled. “We have things to do, Jane.” 

Turning around, Jane raised her eyebrow when she took in the analyst, crossing her arms. “And what the hell is this getup you got going on here?” 

Looking extremely uncomfortable in a baseball cap, sweatpants, and a hoodie, Xander shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I’m wanted by the Alliance,” Xander said tersely. “Best to stay under the radar.”

“And looking like a frat boy reject is your idea of a disguise?” Jane snorted, then rolled her eyes. “ Anyway… why are you even out here, Xander?” 

He had the decency to shrug, and she had to admit that his whole demeanor had changed- he looked like a surly young man, not the arrogant analyst she’d come to expect over the last few weeks. “Everyone else is gone,” he muttered, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Thought you could use the assistance.”

Jane glanced at Garrus, who just looked away. Feeling like she was going to regret this decision, Jane sighed. “You know,” she said wearily, begrudgingly accepting the fact that he’d gone through all this trouble so she wouldn’t be saddled with Jacob or Miranda. “you don’t have to get all dressed like this- I could’ve just changed your ID profile… it’s not that hard.” A hopeful look spread across Xander’s face and Jane pinched her nose. “Just… change into something normal,” she said, turning away from him. “You look like a fucking moron right now.”

“Oh thank goodness,” Xander exclaimed, making Garrus chuckle. “I absolutely abhor dressing like this… it’s uncivilized.”

“So why do you even have those clothes,” Jane asked, trying not to laugh. “Gotta admit, they’re not your style at all.”

“That’s because they’re John’s,” Xander said curtly, frantically yanking the hoodie off his head as he raced back inside. “Rest assured that I feel positively wretched right now.”

“So,” Garrus said after a moment, “do you want to tell John about this, or can I? Keep in mind, if you leave it up to me, I cannot be held responsible for when and where I decide to disclose such pertinent information.”

Jane just laughed, launching the program on her omni-tool. “And do you really think I’m going to be any better?” 

“Nope,” Garrus replied happily. “And that right there is exactly why you’re the apricot of my eye, love.”

“Once again, it’s apple,” Jane corrected, then kissed him on the cheek. “But I love you too, big guy.”

  


As Nihlus unlocked the door and let them inside the apartment, Ash looked around and let out a deep sigh, leaning against his shoulder. “Feels good to be back,” she said quietly, her eyes darting around the room. “Didn’t change anything, I see.”

“I didn’t see a reason to do so,” Nihlus replied warmly, ushering her inside. “But I must admit, it wasn’t the same without you.”

“That’s because family makes it a home,” Ash said as she let her fingertips trail along the wall. “I missed being here, Nih.” 

“I just missed you,” Nihlus replied, nuzzling his face in her hair and inhaling the scent of her. “Welcome back, Ash.” 

She laughed and pulled away, swatting him lightly on the arm. “Down, boy… I need to take a shower- you can wait five minutes.” 

He sighed, then leaned against the wall, watching as she made her way toward the bedroom. “Are you sure you want to do this, Ash?”

“Am I sure about what?” Ash called out, the sound of the shower momentarily making all thoughts fly out of his head. “You know what? I don’t feel like screaming- come in here.”

Without a second thought, Nihlus made his way into the bathroom just in time to see a flash of smooth white skin dart into a cloud of steam, causing him to let out a low growl. “You’re teasing me, Ash.”

For a moment, there was no response- just as he got up from the seat, Ash peeked her wet head out from behind the shower curtain. “I’m not teasing you,” she purred, coaxing him closer and letting her wet wedding ring glimmer in the light. “No one told you to keep your clothes on, you know.” 

“Terrible woman,” Nihlus rumbled, quickly shedding his shirt and making short work of his pants. “You know I wanted to have a conversation with you.” 

“And you know I didn’t want to have one right now,” she replied smoothly. “I’ve had a shit time and I want to relieve some stress with my husband… is that so wrong?”

“Why do I always let you use sex as a diversionary tactic?” Nihlus growled, stepping under the warm spray of water and feeling his plates shift at the sight of her body in front of him. He watched the water cascade down her shoulders, then frowned at the sight of the bruises scattered across her body- instinctively, he reached out to touch them. “What happened to you?” 

She smiled, stepping closer to him and wrapping her wet arms around his waist. “I’m pretty sure it’s nothing important.” 

He frowned, resting his head on hers. The hair was wet, but Nihlus didn’t care- his mate was pressed against him and she was whole...nothing else mattered. “That doesn’t make me feel better, Ash.” He leaned over to run his tongue over her bond-mark, the sensation causing her to let out a soft gasp. “I see these marks and I feel like I didn’t protect you.” 

“My mission, my problems,” she said firmly. “Seriously, I don’t even remember- they probably happened when I was out.”

Nihlus frowned. “You-”

He didn’t get a chance to finish his protests- quick as a wink, Ash had slid her body downward, letting her tongue trace along his slowly opening seam. Shocked at the unexpected contact, Nihlus gasped and braced his hand against the wall, doing his best to not dig his talons into her shoulder. “I think I like it better when you’re quiet,” Ash hummed against his seam, smiling as he spread open completely. As his length fell into her waiting hands, he heard his mate chuckle. “Eager much?”

“For you, always,” he breathed, closing his eyes and trying to focus on breathing as she took him into her mouth, making him forget about everything else except her. 

  


“What a nice surprise,” Yeloris said as she hugged John, making him feel more grounded than he had in a long time. “Where are the rest of my wayward chicks, son?”

“Working,” he replied with a grin. “Well, Jane and Gar are working, and Tiny is… babysitting, I guess. Don’t worry, they’ll all be around for dinner later” 

Yeloris adjusted her skirt and sat in the seat across from him, raising her brow-plate with interest. “I wasn’t aware that there were children on board, John.”

John laughed, taking a sip of his water. “Grunt was… a surprise addition,” he replied, trying to stifle a laugh. “Leave it to my sister to adopt a fully grown baby krogan.”

 The turian across from him went slightly pale. “Did you just say-”

“A krogan, yeah. But don’t worry, he worships Jane and Garrus. Joker has the kid calling Tiny his Aunt Sol and Garrus ‘Pops’- Gar hates it, but no one has the heart to tell Grunt to stop.”

“The little one has adopted a krogan,” Yeloris said with amusement, shaking her head. “Well, I guess I’ll be meeting this Grunt at dinner, yes?” Then she paused, cocking her head with concern. “He eats levo food, correct?”

“Enough to make this a necessary pit stop,” John agreed, then gave the waiter his order. “But you don’t have to do that, Mom- I know you weren’t-”

Yeloris gave John a look that instantly made him drink the last of his water. “Are you telling me I can’t meet my grandchild, John?”

John had quickly learned that if his mom couldn’t find a mandible to tug, she’d go for whatever was available. But considering that his ears weren’t as durable, he’d tended to go for quiet respect instead of mouthing off these days. “Not at all,” he stammered, trying to figure out how he was going to get out of this one without Grunt trying to fight his adopted grandparents. “Just… Grunt is a lot,” he admitted, trying to be as diplomatic as possible. “He… respects strength. I had to toss him into a group of soldiers just to get him to listen to me.” 

Yeloris smiled, accepting her drink from the waiter. “All children respond to strong presences, John- that’s nothing new. Sol and Garrus were the same way.” 

Caught off guard, John laughed, fighting the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “I thought Gar was punting authority since he had feathers.”

“Spirits no,” Yeloris replied with a chuckle. “He was actually more obedient than Sol was… at least with me. Your mate was… a handful, to put it mildly. Keened at the drop of a hat, particularly when you told her she couldn’t do something that her older brother could do.” His mother shook her head, laughing at the memory. “Eventually, she stopped giving us the chance to tell her no and just did what she felt was best, consequences be damned- thankfully, she grew out of that… I don’t think her father could take much more of it.”

John just stared at Yeloris, raising an eyebrow as the waiter refilled his water. “This is Tiny we’re talking about, right? Because I’m pretty sure the cat that attacks my feet on the regular might say differently.” 

“Hmmm… you may have a point.” When he laughed, she placed a hand on his. “That being said, it’s good to see you and Jeff talking again, John- I didn’t like it when you two were fighting.

John shrugged, feeling embarrassed about how he and Joker had left things back then. “I was an asshole,” he admitted, looking down at the table. “Been acting that way a lot, if I’m being honest.” 

“I’ll admit, you weren’t always the best version of yourself,” Yeloris said, her gaze unblinking as she squeezed his hand. “But the fact that you want to be better makes me proud, son.”

John smiled, staring down at his hands- even though lunch was in front of him, he had no desire to eat it anymore. “How can you be so wonderful, Mom? I don’t… I don’t think I deserve this,” he said quietly. “I don’t think I’m a good person.” 

“That’s because you aren’t,” Yeloris said, causing John’s eyes to snap to hers. “Son, you are simply a person- someone may do good things for nefarious reasons, and bad things with the purest of intentions,” she said kindly, taking her large hand and cupping it around his face. “Just promise me that you will always examine your motivations, John- as long as you are doing things for reasons that are just, then you will always have my support.” 

John just shook his head, staring at Yeloris with amazement. “I hope I can be half the parent you are one day,” he whispered, shaking his head as he voiced his worst fear aloud. “I do so much wrong… I can’t… I can’t mess that up, Mom.” 

“The fact that you’re worried for the well-being of a child that doesn’t exist tells me volumes about your abilities as a parent,” Yeloris replied with a sly smile, reaching for her water. “Is this something you need to be concerned with right now, son?” 

“Honestly? I don’t know,” John looked over at the turian, then frowned as he saw her eyes start to brighten. “Mom… don’t,” John said warningly, stabbing at his pasta ferociously. “It’s not a given… it might not even be a possibility yet!” 

“What?” Yeloris asked innocently, picking at her food as if she hadn’t been about to start squealing with joy- John knew full well she was two seconds from picking out nursery items. “I was merely about to say that it has to be something of a possibility for you to even consider it.”

John narrowed his eyes. “Look, Mordin- by the way, that’s the crazy smart salarian we have on board- said that he’d run some tests… that’s all .”  He brandished a finger at her, and his mother tried to look appropriately chastised. “Mom, please don’t mention this to Tiny- if this doesn’t work… I don’t want her feeling bad about it, ok? It’s not her fault and you know she’d feel like she let me down or something.” 

“Of course,” Yeloris said seriously, then let out a happy-sounding sigh. “But… can you imagine? You and Sol with beautiful chicks of your own! It would be wonderful, son!” 

John groaned, then put his head on the table. “Ugh, Gar was right.”

“You never give your brother credit voluntarily,” Yeloris teased, ruffling his hair. “What has my son done now?”

“He said I don’t know when to shut my mouth,” John grumbled. “And that you and I gossip like two old women.”

“I happen to like our conversations, thank you very much,” the turian replied, making John laugh. “None of my other children tell me what’s going on anymore- I always have to talk with you if I want to know anything.”

“That’s called gossiping, Mom,” John retorted, noticing the glimmer of amusement in Yeloris’s eyes. “And you just proved his point.” 

  


Nihlus sat on the bed, watching as Ash took an inordinately long time getting dressed, too busy shoving clothes in her duffel bag to put on more than the undergarments he hated. “You know,” he said, sitting back and folding his hands behind his head, “you are remarkably skilled at dodging questions, love.” 

“I learned from you,” Ash replied, bending over and giving him a perfect view of her ass. “There are other more important things to deal with right now.” 

Spirits, she does this to me on purpose, Nihlus thought, thinking back to being sheathed inside her in the shower. If she keeps this up, I’m never going to let her leave this house. “Ash,” he said, closing his eyes and trying to ignore the delicious sway of her hips, “are you sure you want to do this? I know you were focused on your mission-” 

“Yeah, that kind of got back-seated when the bugs turned me into a popsicle,” she retorted. “Those things need to be stopped, and if the Alliance isn’t doing anything about it, then I will.” Ash paused and he opened his eyes, seeing his mate staring at him with her arms crossed. “Your mission is to monitor Jane, right?”

Nihlus just stared at her. “Well, yes, but-”

“Good,” she said firmly. “Then draft me. You’re a spectre, and you need resources.” He stared at her with shock, but she just waved her hand at him. “Go on, get to messaging- we don’t have all day, Nih.” 

“Of course,” he said, feeling like there was something that he was missing about this whole thing. “But… I know you wanted your own mission, Ash- I don’t want to take that away from you.”

Ash just stared at him. “Oh, so you aren’t going to try and skin Alenko?” When Nihlus didn’t answer, Ash smirked. “Thought so. See? Mission hasn’t changed- I just got a little less red tape to cut through, that’s all.”

“You’re remarkably sexy when you talk like this,” Nihlus replied as he shot off a message to Anderson. His mate was absolutely right- after the fiasco on Horizon, they’d be more than willing to let her work with him. “Sure you don’t want me to talk to someone about getting you into Spectre training?”

“If they ask on their own, then sure. If it comes around because of you, then I’m gonna pluck out your fringe, Nih- whatever I get, I’m earning- do I make myself clear?” 

“As crystal,” he replied, finally giving in and heading over to his mate, savoring the scent of peaches and lilacs rolling over her deliciously smooth skin. “I was merely noting that you have the skills to do so.” 

Ash just smiled, running her hand over the markings on his face. “I know I do, but I’m good where I am. Besides,” she said with a dangerous lilt to her tone, “I’m going to end up with something much better by the end of this.”

“Oh really?” Nihlus asked, curious about where this was going. “What’s so good that it’s got you willing to deal with Cerberus, Ash- I must admit, I thought you were going to put up a little more of a fight.”

“It’ll be worth it if I get to be an Alliance hero,” she said firmly, a faraway look in her eyes. “After we take down the collectors, I’m going to do what no one else seems to be able to do and cement my fucking legacy.” 

Nihlus laughed, pressing his head against hers. “And what’s that, love?” 

When she spoke again, it made Nihlus’s blood run cold and he stood stock-still, trying to figure out what to do. As much as he didn’t want to hear it, her words reverberated in his ears, playing over and over as she kissed his cheek and continued her packing, oblivious to both his reaction and the target she was willingly painting on her back. 

“I’m bringing down the Butcher of Torfan.” 

Chapter Text

  


Garrus noticed that something was odd between the thief and the analyst from the moment the two got in front of each other. Sloane was never verbose, but as soon as Kasumi revealed herself, he was completely silent. Garrus wasn’t that familiar with the man, but his days at C-Sec had taught him a thing or two about people- if you watch close enough, everyone will show you what you need to know, his father used to say. And right now, whether Sloane said it or not, every fiber of his being told him that the analyst and the thief were not meeting for the first time. The man set this meeting up for a reason, the turian thought, watching the analyst nod at the woman striding away before seeming to disappear into thin air. There’s something else going on here. 

“So,” Garrus said quietly, placing a hand on Jane’s arm, “what made you choose to come here first?”

“At first, I wasn’t going to,” Jane admitted, frowning as Sloane walked in front of them. “But Xander pointed out that I could see Mom while I was here… and you know I’m never turning down a dinner with her.” 

Ah… so he engineered this, Garrus thought, smiling at Jane and wondering what the motivation was. Obviously, he’s got a reason to have the thief on our ship… question is, why? “While I won’t complain about seeing the family,” he said lightly, taking her hand and pressing his head to hers, “did you notice anything about those two?” 

“Still a detective, I see,” Jane teased, slipping her hand around his waist and causing him to let out a soft purr. “You think something’s going on?”

“I know there is,” Garrus replied firmly, letting his eyes trail over to Sloane. “He brought you to Miss Goto for a reason, Jane.”

“He was the one who picked the dossiers,” she murmured thoughtfully. “But, they both said that Kasumi contacted Cerberus...so whatever he’s got going on, she’s clearly in on it too.” 

“Working with a terrorist and a thief… what could go wrong?” Garrus asked dryly, ignoring the chuckles from his wife as they made their way to a nearby skycar. “There wasn’t anyone better on that list of yours, Jane?”

Jane sighed, looking down at the ground. “Tali was on there, too.” 

Oh. When he’d asked about Tali during her first few days back, Jane had rolled over in bed, sniffling as she told him the story about meeting Tali on Freedom’s Progress. After such a warm welcome from Jenkins, I can see where she might think being Sloane’s puppet would be a better option. “You need to talk to him,” Garrus urged. “If you need me with you, that’s fine, but I’m not going to let you walk into any more traps, Jane.” 

Jane sighed as they got into the car, resting her head on his shoulder. “I just… I was hoping he’d learned,” she said quietly. “I… don’t want him to be like that, but…what if he is? What if, after all this time, he’s still the bastard everyone says he is?”

It’s too convenient, Garrus thought, humming thoughtfully and rubbing his mate’s arm. There’s something more to this at play. “I can’t answer that,” he replied honestly. “I’d say that you need to figure out what’s going on, and the only one that can tell you that is Sloane- seems like you’d be the only one he’d talk to, anyway.”

“Maybe,” Jane mumbled, closing her eyes. “Not sure if he’ll tell me the truth, though.” 

  


Sol looked over at her companions, trying to figure out exactly how she was supposed to explain this crew to her parents. John had messaged her while they were out, saying that her mom insisted on them bringing Jack and Grunt to dinner tonight. However, when she tried, tactfully, to decline (she had no interest in bringing the baby krogan to meet her father), John simply said that her mother had made it perfectly clear that it wasn’t a request and he loved her dearly but he had no interest in getting his ears twisted- if she wanted to refuse, she had to do that one herself. Knowing that it was just going to be easier to give in, Sol just hung her head and accepted her fate- this was going to be an interesting evening. 

Grunt bounded ahead of them, holding the cage with the hamster he’d insisted on getting. Since the krogan had insisted on knowing the birthplace of his furry nemesis, she’d taken him to the pet store. Though they didn’t have any kittens at the moment, they did have what Jack told her was a hamster. Grunt promptly asked who he had to kill in order to liberate one of the small warriors- between Jack’s chortles and Sol’s groans, the turian patiently explained that you didn’t liberate them, you bought the companion you wanted. To her chagrin, Grunt promptly said that he wanted to give the rodent the chance to fight JC to the death for its freedom- after receiving multiple horrified looks from the shopkeeper, Sol bought the hamster for the krogan, warning him under pain of death that he was NOT to let it fight with the cat. JC is a good boy but there are limits, she thought, eyeing the fuzzy creature squeaking in the cage. Jane might actually yell at me for this one… especially if the cat tries to eat it.

“Thanks for coming,” Sol whispered to Jack, watching as Grunt stuck his massive finger in the cage. “You didn’t have to, you know.” 

“What, and miss that big motherfucker eat dinner with a family full of turians? No fucking way,” she chortled, grinning wildly. “Besides, whatever you guys have to eat there has to be a hell of a lot better than the slop on the ship… and since I know they won’t let the wonder twins starve, I’m good.” 

“I just thought…” Sol let her voice trail off as they made their way toward the apartment, keeping a careful eye on the krogan- he was looking a bit too eager to cause mayhem and Sol was itching to give him back to Jane. “I didn’t think you’d want to spend that much time with us, that’s all.”

“What the fuck else was I doing?” Jack asked, looking Sol up and down. “Besides, if your dad is as stuck up as you say, I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks when a turian shits a brick- me and that bastard over there aren’t exactly classy company.” 

“You two are perfectly fine,” Sol snapped, making Jack grin- she smiled back sheepishly. “My father might be… difficult,” she said carefully, “but my mother is wonderful- she insisted that you both come tonight.”

“Sure she’s got it all up there?” Jack asked, then held up her hands in apology when Sol shot her a murderous look. “Whatever… just point me at the food- long as no one asks me any stupid fucking questions, we’re good.” 

Nervously, Sol cleared her throat. “Well,” she said slowly, looking over the woman with the barely-there clothes, shaved head, and a myriad of tattoos, “I can’t promise they won’t ask you questions, Jack- but, I know better than to ask you to behave… you’d act like an ass on purpose if I did.”

Grinning wildly, Jack leaped on the turian’s back, making Sol let out a grunt of surprise. “How the hell do you know me so well, Sunshine?”

Shaking her head, Sol just rolled her eyes. “Lucky guess, Jack.” 

  


Ordinarily, John took pride in being the one causing chaos, but this time he decided to stay silent, letting the events unfold around him without a word. He’d deliberately let Castis get the door when Sol arrived, working to hide his amusement when the turian let out an undignified squawk at the sight of Grunt. Taking advantage of the moment, Jack pushed past the krogan and slapped Castis on the arm as she entered the room. “‘Sup, Pops- that’s Grunt. Keep your shit together and he won’t bite.” 

Grunt scowled at Jack, following behind the tiny woman and leaving a blue-faced Sol in the doorway. “That is not Pops,” he said hotly. “He has not earned that title- the fragile pilot said it was reserved for the scarred one.”

“Well excuse the fuck outta me,” Jack replied, peering over at the pictures on the table. “Didn’t know you’d get all sentimental about it, you big ass turtle.”

Castis went from dark blue to pale in a matter of moments, his already light plates turning damn near translucent. Knowing quiet was the best option, John simply walked over with the bottle of horosk and a glass, chuckling to himself when the elder turian took the bottle and walked over to the couch- Sol took the glass from him and downed it in one gulp. 

“Everyone is in the living room,” John said quietly, rubbing her back. “It’s just one dinner… we’ll get through it.” 

“It’s not us I’m worried about,” Sol muttered, fingering her glass nervously. “I’m scared my father is going to have a stroke- between Grunt, Jack, and Nih, he might just combust, Johnny.”

“Be a pretty neat party trick,” John said lightly, earning a soft growl from Sol. “It’s fine,” he whispered, pressing his head against hers. “Your mom wouldn’t have asked us all here if she couldn’t handle it, Tiny.”

“I suppose,” she murmured, letting him pull her close to him. “I just don’t want-”

“I’m not worried,” he said confidently, interrupting her worries. “Mom’s got this… don’t worry.” 

Sol started to protest, but then her mom came into the room, a bright smile on her face. “My Sol,” she said warmly, holding out her arms and gesturing for her daughter. “I finally have all my chicks here.”

From behind him, John heard Jack let out a soft snort. “What, is there a brood of them back there?” The small woman scoffed, then ground her heel into the floor. “Thought there were only two of you, Sunshine?”

Sol started to groan, but Yeloris just laughed. “That used to be true,” she replied good-naturedly, moving over to stand near the scowling biotic, “but my children have mated beautifully- John and Jane are my chicks as well.” She gave Jack a tiny bow and smiled. “Welcome to my home, dear- I’m Yeloris, their mother.” 

For a moment, John was unsure how Jack would respond- he’d warned Yeloris about how the biotic was beforehand, and he knew she wouldn’t take offense to any response she gave. However, while he believed his mom, he refused to be a fool- though she insisted that she could handle the two of them, he wasn’t taking any chances. 

After what felt like an eternity, the woman stared down at the floor. “Jack,” she grunted, shifting her gaze. “Nice digs, lady.” 

Smiling, Yeloris let out a pleased-sounding hum. “Thank you,” she said warmly, moving over to straighten a photo Jack had been staring at. “I see you admiring the pictures... if you like, I can show more of Sol and Gar after dinner- after all, you can only put the polite photos on display.”

Sol let out a strangled gasp, but John just grinned. “Trust me, they’re worth it,” he said, wincing as his wife hit him in the arm. “There’s this one where Tiny was just starting to molt-”

“Johnathan Shepard, you stop that this instant!” Sol screeched, reaching for him and growling as he danced out of the way. “Mom, do not bring out those pictures!” 

“And why not?” Yeloris asked, turning and winking at Jack, who let the ghost of a smile cross her face. “You weren’t complaining when I sent Gar’s to Janey, were you?”

“Oooh, looks like Sunshine and Rainbows just got busted,” Jack hooted, making Sol stick her tongue out at her as she huffed and flounced into the other room- the biotic grinned for a moment, then frowned. “Um, look lady, you seem ok, but are you sure you want us here in this place?” She cocked her thumb at Grunt, and John could hear the slight warble in her voice. “That big bastard over there might not leave you with much.” 

Yeloris turned to Grunt, who was happily oblivious to everything except the hamster running in the wheel, then smiled. “And why wouldn’t I want my daughter’s friend and my grandson at dinner?” She moved over to the krogan, then stood behind the hamster. “I’m afraid I haven’t been introduced to you two, young krogan.” 

“I am Grunt,” he said proudly, not looking at her. “This is Hamster, mightiest of his group- he shed blood on his way to glory.” 

“The turtle means the fuzzy rat bit his buddy in the ass- the guy said he’d give us the bastard for cheap if we left the store,” Jack replied, crossing her arms. “Whatever- shut him up for the rest of the afternoon, so I wasn’t bi- complaining.” 

“Ah,” Yeloris said calmly, then turned back to Grunt. “I’m your grandmother, Grunt- would you like to join us for dinner?”

“Food sounds good,” Grunt said with a shrug, then looked Yeloris over with mild interest. “Are you a mighty warrior like Pops and Shepard?”

“I’m older, so I might be better,” Yeloris said with a laugh, making the krogan’s eyes go wide. “But I can’t tell you any stories until we eat- it’s a rule in this house.” 

“Hamster must be fed,” Grunt said seriously, shifting his attention to the hamster in the cage. “The grey fuzzy warrior eats before Aunt Sol- I want to make sure I honor Hamster’s valor appropriately.” 

“By all means,” Yeloris said seriously. “We can wait for you to give the warrior his meal and you can join us in the other room- we don’t want to disturb him, you know.” 

“You respect his stature,” Grunt replied, sounding pleased. “I will not fight you today, female turian.” 

“Call me that again and I just might stab you,” Yeloris said with a polite smile that caused John to choke on his breath. “I lead this house- you will show me respect and call me grandmother, Grunt.” 

To John’s surprise, Grunt just laughed and turned to him and Jack, pointing happily at Yeloris. “She is mighty- she threatened to kill me just like Shepard did!” He nodded at the turian, then moved to feed the rodent in the cage. “I will dine with you if you share stories of your battles, Grandmother.” 

“I swear, this is one weird-ass family,” Jack muttered under her breath, still grinning as she headed into the dining room. 

  


Garrus was about to clear the table when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Sol and John are handling it,” his mother said quietly. “Join me on the balcony for a moment?”


Wondering what this was about, Garrus nodded and followed his mother, giving Jane a quick glance. His mate nodded before turning back to Grunt, sharing stories about her and Ash’s many fights when they were younger. “Sure,” he said, shivering as he stepped out into the cool night air. “Is there something you need, Mom?”

“Mainly I’m wondering why I had to find out about my grandson from John,” his mother said teasingly. “I feel like you don’t want to talk to me anymore, son.” 

Crap, he thought, looking into his mother’s piercing blue eyes as they stood outside, overlooking the darkened streets below. She’s going to level the mom guilt at me...and I deserve it. “It’s not that,” he said weakly, trying to avoid her kind gaze. “There’s just been a lot going on, and-”

“And yet I’ve spoken to John and Sol,” Yeloris said pointedly, making him wince. “While I appreciate them letting me know you’re safe, it isn’t a substitute for hearing your voice, son. I lost you for so long,” she said quietly, reaching for his hand. “No matter how old you are, you’re always going to be my little boy, Garrus- there’s nothing you can do that will change that.” 

Garrus sighed, thinking about some of the horrible things he’d done on Omega, claiming it was in the name of justice. But it wasn’t justice, it was vengeance, he thought morosely, closing his eyes. I hurt and I wanted the world to hurt… how can I look at her and pretend that I’m still the same Garrus she knew and loved after what I’ve done? 

Before he could spiral, he felt a hand cup his cheek and pull his head to hers. “I won’t pretend to know what you went through, son… but I know what it’s like to survive after a loss.” His mother let him go, letting out a hum that was full of regret and sorrow. “Your aunt died saving me,” she said after a moment, turning to rest her hands over the balcony. “She was a great warrior and left the world to make sure that I stayed in it… and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss my sister with all my heart and soul.” 

“I…” Garrus paused, then swallowed, letting out an unsure rumble as he glanced over at Jane, who was gesturing wildly as she beamed at Ash. “You never talk about her.”

“It’s an old wound,” his mother said, rubbing her hands together. “Not as deep as losing a mate, but it’s deep just the same. I chose to fill that loss in, Garrus. If I didn’t… it was going to consume me, turn all my joy into venom and shift me into something I didn’t want to be.” 

“What if that already happened?” Garrus asked glumly, unable to look at her. “What if you had the chance to choose differently, but you chose to make the world feel as broken as you did?” 

To her credit, his mother just sighed, letting the two of them stand out there in silence. “You didn’t- if you had, you wouldn’t be here, son… you may have scars,” she said softly, tracing her finger lightly over the bandage on his cheek, “but I can still see you in there. You found her,” his mom said, glancing back at Jane for a moment before turning to him with a sad smile, “but I need you to remember that you’re not alone, son- we’re here for you… forever and always.”

“I’ll try,” Garrus said, unwilling to lie and say anything else. “I’ll try to be better, mom.” 

“All I ask,” his mother replied, gently pressing her head to his. “Don’t go this long without calling me again, ok?” 

“Understood,” he said, then chuckled when he saw the krogan getting chastised by Jane. “We might want to get back inside- Grunt is still fired up and I’m sure dad is almost at the bottom of that bottle by now.”

“You may have a point,” Yeloris replied, moving back and giving him a bright smile as she reached for the door. “It was nice having you all home for the evening, son.” 

“It was nice being back,” Garrus answered honestly, feeling a sense of warmth as his mom rumbled with contentment. What a day, he thought as she left him on the balcony, sifting through the remnants of their conversation, unsure as to where the pieces his mother had stirred up should go. Not what I thought I’d be doing tonight, but I’ll take this moment… with them. 

Just as he was about to go back inside, his omni-tool pinged, making him frown as he checked his messages. 

ProfX: Head back to the ship and meet me at the bar, Vakarian...I’ve got some news for you.

Chapter Text

  


Sloane headed to the bar, watching as the thief helped herself to a drink. He knew that Kasumi had heard him- stealth and infiltration were her specialties, and the fact that she was still uncloaked meant that she wanted to speak to him as well. “Been a long time,” he mused as he slid into the seat across from her. “Surprised you contacted me again.” 

“Surprised you answered,” she chirped, her voice still musical and teasing. “Looks like you found what you were looking for, Alex.” 

Sloane grinned, remembering how the woman insisted on calling him that. Neither of us is military, she’d said one day as he scowled into his drink, reaching behind him to ruffle his hair despite his insistence for her to leave him alone. Lighten up, Alex.

“Still not my name,” he said with mild irritation, tapping his fingers against the counter. The wounds were still too raw, too fresh even after all this time- anything other than the name Sloane felt too personal now, too much like the closeness he’d once shared with Jane. Hearing his old name being used all the time was hard- hearing the name the thief had used all those years ago was harder, making him sink back into a past that he wasn’t interested in exploring. “Thought you were smarter than that, Kasumi.” 

“I am… Xander,” Kasumi drawled, drawing out the name with such glee it made him roll his eyes. “Seems like someone found what he was looking for.” 

“In a sense,” he said, blushing furiously before looking away. “Thank you for your help, Miss Goto- your efforts were appreciated, as usual.”

“Stop that!” Kasumi said, shoving him so hard that it made him spill his drink- Sloane glared at her, but she just stared right back. “Kasumi or nothing- you know better!” When he just sighed, the thief let out a soft huff. “I did not go through all that for you to treat me like a mere business associate, Alex.”

“Please,” he scoffed, making the woman giggle. “You and I both know that was nothing for you… Kasumi.

She mimed a handgun with her fingers, a smirk playing across her lips. “It’s why I’m the best,” Kasumi purred, folding her hands. “You two should’ve known better than to try something that without taking the proper precautions- some things can’t be solved from behind a keyboard, you know. The old ways are the best for a reason.” 

“We were in a hurry,” Sloane admitted, feeling ashamed at the memory. “I assure you, we’ve both learned much since then.” 

“I’d hope so,” she replied, grabbing another drink and refilling his glass. “From what I’ve seen, she’s good... but brash. Patience would do her good.” A smirk crossed her face as she tapped her fingers against the bar, feigning innocence. “Sure I can’t convince you to let me borrow her for a while? I have a few systems that need a bit of love, and I’m sure that her skills would be quite useful.”

“You get her for one job,” Sloane warned, holding up a finger and blinking as the thief poked him in the nose. “And in exchange, you help me here- is the deal still agreeable?”

“I already said it was,” Kasumi said quietly- even her mundane movements were fluid and graceful. “Since you let her contact me, I assume you have what I need?” 

Sloane nodded, watching her closely and feeling more and more scrutinized the longer he sat there. “We’ve got some time, but yes… all the feelers were sent out, and I got what you asked for… you know I never break a promise, Kasumi.” 

“Such a good learner,” she said with a smile, pinching his cheeks- he swatted her hand away with a growl, ignoring her light laughter. “I’m so glad I didn’t kill you, Alex- it would’ve been a waste of talent.” 

“I’m rather pleased you didn’t, either,” Sloane said with a smile, remembering their first encounter on Illium. Though it had been a disaster at the time, stumbling into the path of the thief was for the best- desperate for work, he’d accidentally stumbled into the path of one of her heists. She could’ve killed me, Sloane thought as he sipped his drink. Could have easily slit my throat and no one would’ve been the wiser. 

“Give me a reason,” she purred from behind him, causing the skinny young man to startle. “I don’t particularly enjoy sharing… particularly not when the payout is this large.”

Unable to think and desperate with hunger and exhaustion, Sloane swallowed, holding up his hands. “Because I don’t have anything worth a damn and leaving a heavy body you can’t drag off behind would only fuck up a potentially clean mission?”

“You’re cute,” she said, circling around and trailing her fingers along his collarbone. “And witty. I like that.”

The movement was light, but he knew better than to move- 'I’m not out of the woods yet,' he thought as he watched the timer on the screen ticking down slowly. “I’m glad,” Sloane replied, trying to stay focused. “Look, I’m not vested in this job,” he said with an air of what he'd hope came across as boredom, “So, how about this? Instead of this foolishness, we just split the take and call it even- you’ll never have to see me again. How does that sound to you?” 

“Boring,” the thief pouted, perching in front of him- he finally had room to maneuver if he wanted to. “New plan- you finish this job and come work for me.”

Sloane raised an eyebrow, looking her up and down. “And why in the world would I do such a thing?”

“Because you’re broke,” she said simply. “Your clothes don’t fit properly and you’re not on the guest list, but none of the staff know who you are… and yet you made it past security, which tells me you have some measure of talent. But it’s raw- you’re still too sloppy.”

The attack on his pride made him want to lash out, but Sloane kept his cool. “I’ve been called worse,” he said with a level of indifference. “Doesn’t mean you’re correct.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m not,” she sang, smiling as the safe popped open. “Last chance… what do you say?” Her eyes darted around the room, never leaving his face long enough to let him react. Let’s have a little fun, huh?”

“You know, I could just kill you and take everything,” Sloane replied, mentally calculating the value of the contents- there was more than enough to get him to Omega. “There’s really nothing stopping me from doing so.”

“But you won’t,” the thief teased him as she hopped down from the ledge. “You’re going to take my offer, and we’re going to grab ourselves a nice dinner while you tell me all about why I should waste my time on you.” 

“Thought you already decided to employ me,” Sloane replied, following her before she could grab everything he’d worked so hard to get. “Changing your mind already?”

“You started to bore me,” she said simply, shrugging her shoulders as she plucked out a book and tossed him a credit chit. “Now it looks like you’ll just have to impress me all over again.” She shrugged, flashing him a bright grin. “Sorry- I have a short attention span.”

“You’re absolutely knackered,” Sloane replied, scanning the chit and transferring the funds into his untraceable account before wiping it. “Who says I want to assist you anyway?”

“The look in your eyes,” she said as she disappeared right in front of him, nothing more than a disembodied voice. “If you can find your way out of here without getting caught, I suggest you meet me at the club down the street. Tell them you’d like to visit the Renaissance room.”  

“The what?” Sloane spun around in a circle, but it was of no use- if she wasn’t speaking, there was no way he was going to find her before someone noticed that there was fuckery afoot. Granted, the cameras were still off, but there was only so much time before the loop became noticeable. “Fuck!” 

'She’s seen your face,' he thought as he made his way toward the ventilation shaft. 'You need to at least meet with her again to determine how much of a problem she’s going to be.'  

Taking a deep breath, he hopped back into the vent and headed back in the bathroom, spending a few moments to fix his hair and replace his glasses. Making sure to plaster a harried look on his face as he headed back toward the convention, Sloane threw open the bathroom door and chuckled nervously at the guard, being sure to adjust his zipper and give the man an embarrassed smile as he tried to straighten his tie. “Did… did the sessions start again yet? I can’t miss these notes! Dr. Eamon will have my head if I’m late!”

The guard just smiled and waved him on. “You still have five minutes,” he said in a conspiratorial whisper. “If you hurry, no one will see you come in.” 

“You are the best!” Sloane said breathlessly, patting the man on the shoulder and planting the wiped credit chip in the guard’s pocket before racing down the hall. “Thank you so much!”  

Sloane chuckled at the memory, recalling Kasumi’s face on the day he’d made a rather large anonymous deposit to a former security guard's account. Always trying to make things even, she’d huffed, mad about his insistence on splitting the score. It’s going to bite you in the ass one day, Alex.  “You know,” he said blithely, “even if you are a terrible listener, I still find that I rather enjoy your company- how is that possible.” 

“Because you and I both know that I’m a wonderful listener,” Kasumi purred, leaning forward and tapping him lightly on the forehead. “You just like ignoring the truth- seems to be a thing with you.” 

“Not ignoring,” he said, picking up his glass and staring at the contents. “Just… mulling over consequences and unwilling to share anything just yet.” Sloane gave the thief a pointed look, making sure to keep her gaze. “And I hope our accord still stands.” 

“I put too much time and effort into training you- what sense would it make to destroy your confidence?” Kasumi replied firmly, her expression settling into a smile when she saw him relax. “Congratulations…  it seems you got that convoluted plan of yours in motion after all.”

Taking a sip of his drink, Sloane nodded, unwilling to dwell too much on what she was implying. “Sometimes it’s necessary to take the long way around to get where you need to go.”

“That’s true,” Kasumi remarked, then sat quietly for a moment before smiling- she’d never been one to let an interesting thread die. “But does she know?” 

Pausing, Sloane tensed up- you’d think she’d let this go by now, he growled, glaring at her with irritation. But when the woman just continued to stare, Sloane tried to force himself to relax, setting his glass on the counter and letting a bored-sounding note creep into his tone. “About what?” 

To her credit, Kasumi wasn’t fooled in the slightest- two of her defining qualities were observance and patience, and he’d learned much from the thief. Unfortunately, those same skills Sloane revered were now being put to use on him. “Any of it, Alex- what have you told her?” 

“Jane isn’t the type of person you tell things you want left in the dark,” Sloane said with a sigh, working to make himself relax a bit more. “I’m just waiting for the right time, that’s all.”

“She deserves to know,” Kasumi warned, taking a sip of her drink. “Her life changed just as much as yours did, Alex- don’t you think she’d like to know what she did all that for?” 

“You… don’t know Jane,” he replied wearily. “She’s...complicated and yet maddeningly simple at the same time.” Sloane shook his head, then downed the last of his drink. “Rest assured, I will tell her… just not now. There’s too much going on.” 

“Of course,” she said with a smirk. “And I’m sure it has nothing to do with what you’ll be talking with the young turian about, does it?” 

“Out of my business,” Sloane warned, ignoring her lighthearted giggle. “You don’t need to be here for this conversation.” 

“Oh, but I do,” the thief teased, crossing her legs and leaning against the bar. “Especially when it involves Alexander Sloane asking little ol’ me for favors… that just means it’s sure to be extra interesting.”

Sloane sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Are you going to be a pain in my ass, Kasumi?” 

Ma-a-y-be,” she wheedled, leaning over and ruffling his hair. “But I guess you’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you?” 

  


Jane watched as her husband walked- no, raced toward the bar, not even waiting for her to catch up with him. She’d tried to talk to him but he was stoic, simply stating that they had to get back to the ship right now. Unwilling to argue with Garrus about something that was clearly important in front of his parents, Jane chose to go with silence, choosing to say nothing as his rumbles grew louder and louder as they approached the Normandy. For the first time in forever, Garrus ignored her efforts to hold him on the way back, choosing to clench his fists and dig his talons into his hands. Whatever this is, it really has him worked up, she noted as he burst into the room. I don’t know what to do right now. 

Xander was sitting alone with a glass in his hand, looking as if a fuming turian striding toward him was an everyday occurrence. “Ah… it seems you got my message.”

“Enough,” Garrus growled, stopping an inch away from Xander’s face, his body taut as he loomed over the man in front of him. “Where is he?” 

“Who?” Xander asked, shooting a look at Jane before returning his attention to Garrus. “I’ve been dealing with a lot today- you’ll need to be a bit more specific.” 

“Don’t play games with me- I’m not in the mood.” Garrus was rumbling so loud at this point that Jane was sure everyone on board the ship could hear it. “Tell me where Sidonis is… now .”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Xander asked, no longer playing around. “I understand what he did, and I know you’re angry, but someone else can take care of this, Vakarian- you don’t have to get involved-”

Without warning, Garrus shot out his hand and grabbed Xander by the throat. “Tell me where he is or I will kill you right now,” he hissed, lowering his head- Jane could feel the tension in the room as Xander stared back at him, looking completely composed despite turning a fierce shade of red. “You’re trying my patience, Sloane,” Garrus growled, his face perfectly still yet full of a rage that was almost tangible- for the first time in their history together, Jane was slightly afraid. “I suggest you talk fast... you’re running out of time.”

Before Jane could do anything, Garrus’s omni-tool let out a soft chime- he immediately dropped the man to open it, making the analyst gasp as he fell to his seat. “He’s expecting Jane,” Xander croaked, rubbing his throat and tossing a quick glance in her direction. “Let your wife help you, Vakarian- you can’t do this alone.” 

Garrus didn’t answer- he was too busy focusing on the message. When he looked back at Xander, his eyes were furious. “This place is crowded,” he spat, glaring at the man with a stare so cold it made Jane want to take a step back. “I’m going to have to send her in alone if I want to get a clean shot.” 

At this point, Jane immediately turned to look at Xander- what the fuck was going on? “Um,” she said carefully, turning to her rigid husband and watching him blow out deep, angry breaths, “hon, can you stop trying to kill him for a moment and talk to me?” When Garrus ignored her, she reached over and put a tentative hand on his arm. “Please?”

Her touch made Garrus focus for a minute, allowing his rage to shift into an almost icy calm. “Sloane found Sidonis," he said flatly. "But he seems to have made his own meeting arrangements.” Garrus glared at Xander, an angry hum building in his throat. “I need you to draw him out, Jane.” 

This isn’t like him, Jane thought worriedly, letting her eyes roam over his face. Gone was the loving husband she knew- in his place was someone she didn’t recognize, and Jane wasn’t exactly sure how to handle it. “Draw him out how, big guy?”

“Get him to a place where I can take a clear shot,” he replied without hesitation as he turned to leave the room, not giving her the opportunity to protest at all. “We leave in fifteen minutes- be ready.” 

She started to say something as he stormed out, but Xander reached out for her. “I wouldn’t do that,” he said quietly. “He’s not thinking straight, Brainy.” 

“That’s my husband!” Jane snapped back. “What the fuck, Xander? You just gave him the info to assassinate a man in the middle of the Citadel- have you lost your goddamn mind? He could’ve killed you!” 

“But he didn’t,” Xander replied, coughing as he straightened his clothes. “I also wasn’t kidding when I said you needed to help him, Jane.” 

“Look, I’m not going to help him destroy himself!” Jane yelled, staring at Xander with disbelief. “You know damn well I can’t let him do something like this!”

“And I’m counting on that,” Xander replied quietly, squeezing her fingers. “Don’t let him turn into me, Brainy… he deserves more than that. He deserves you,” he said softly, staring at the floor. “You both have been through enough… you two have earned some peace- keep him safe, ok?” 

“I don’t want him to turn into a monster,” Jane murmured, wincing when she saw Xander flinch. “That shit we just saw? That wasn’t Garrus,” Jane said firmly. “But I know that if he goes through with something like this, it’s gonna kill him.” 

“You might be right,” Xander replied, reaching over and pouring himself another drink, the slight tremor in his hand was the only indication the incident had taken any toll on him at all. “But, I have to warn you… he won’t appreciate your efforts- he might even hate you for them. So, I suppose the real question is...are you willing to lose him to save him, Janey?” 

Swallowing, Jane thought about it for a moment, then closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. “Yeah,” she whispered, nervously running her hand over the shoulder with her bond-mark. “I love him- I'm willing to do whatever it takes.” 

Chapter Text

  


“So,” Kasumi remarked, dropping her cloak and plopping in the seat next to Sloane, “was almost getting killed part of your plan too?” 

The analyst shook his head. “I’d expected Vakarian to overreact, but he did take it a bit further than I expected,” Sloane replied as he sipped his drink. “But that’s what you were there for, isn’t it?” 

“Placing a lot of faith in the woman you barely talk to,” Kasumi said with a laugh, plucking the drink from his hands and downing it in one gulp. “I held up my end of the bargain, Alex- now how do you intend to honor yours?” 

“This is going to play out in one of two ways,” Sloane replied, frowning as he looked at the door. “Either way, Jane is going to be available to help get you what you need... I just hope things shake out to the better outcome.”

“Always the optimist,” the thief chirped, spinning around in her chair. “For someone so dour, you certainly like to plan for the positive- why is that?”

“So says the romantic,” Sloane replied, rubbing his left wrist absentmindedly. “There’s nothing wrong with believing in happy endings, as long as you accept the fact that they don’t always happen. Belief is a powerful tool,” he murmured. “Sometimes, it’s all we have.” 

“Pretty words,” Kasumi said blithely, then looked him up and down as he rose from his chair. “Not too late to change your mind, Alex- are you going to be alright?”

Sloane stretched, rolling his neck and smoothing his shirt before flashing the thief a dazzling smile. “When am I not alright?” Kasumi pretended to think about it for a moment, and Sloane let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine… I’ll rephrase… when do I ever knowingly take a mission where I don’t have multiple backup plans?” 

As soon as the words left his mouth, Sloane wanted to take them back. But you are impetuous where Jane is concerned, a voice nagged at the back of his mind. You might want to take heed to Miss Goto’s question… she’s asking you for a reason- you can stand to wait a moment more and hear her out. 

Sighing, he leaned against the bar, staring at the woman as she gave him a knowing look. “What now?”

Kasumi didn’t respond right away- instead, she got up from her seat and settled down on the couch, flipping through the datapad he’d left on the counter. “Do you still have your birthday present?”

“Of course,” Sloane replied, cocking his head at her. “But I won’t need it.”

“You always were cocky,” she said with a dismissive wave, not even looking up at him. “Take it anyway.” When he started to protest, she glanced up at him. “I’ll feel better if you do.” 

“It’s an extra variable to account for,” Sloane said irritably, going over more calculations in his head. “Besides, that’s emotional blackmail.”

“But that would require you to have emotions,” Kasumi replied teasingly, going back to her datapad. “Take it anyway, Alex. Besides, you need to hurry- if you’re about to do what I think you are, then I’d say you’re running out of time.” 

  


The silence in the cab was deafening as they made their way toward the Orbital Lounge. Jane tried talking to Garrus multiple times, but his answers were all short and terse, making her nerves tighten with every sparse statement. Finally, she let out a deep sigh, closing her eyes and staring at the ceiling. “What’s the plan?”

She could hear Garrus shift in his seat to look at her, but she didn’t look back- he hadn’t given her a choice in this, didn’t listen to her at all. He just assumed I’d go along with this, she thought bitterly. Like I wouldn’t care that he’s about to destroy himself

“I’m going to get set up,” he said, his voice cold and flat. “All you have to do is get Sidonis into position- I’ll do the rest.” 

Jane swallowed and clenched her fist, deciding to try one more time. “Garrus,” she said quietly, “this isn’t the way- you don’t need to do this… you’re not a murderer.”

“It’s not murder, it’s justice,” he growled. “He took their lives, Jane! If he’d succeeded, if he’d managed to kill me, would you be listening to someone else trying to talk you out of killing him?”

She winced, knowing full well he was right. “You’re better than me,” she replied, reaching for his hand. “You’re better than this, Garrus- this isn’t you.” 

He started to say something else, but immediately snapped his mouth shut, letting the wall of indifference settle back around him. “As I said… all you have to do is get him into position- I’ll take care of everything else and let you know when I have the shot.” When she tried to say something else, Garrus cut her off with a growl, his body shaking as he angrily tapped his foot. “ No,” he spat, his angry eyes boring holes into her. “I have never questioned your decisions, but the one time I need you with me, why are you questioning mine?” 

Nothing he’d said so far was a lie, but deep in her soul, Jane knew that this was the wrong thing to do. “Garrus-”

“I’m heading out,” he said coldly, the car barely coming to a stop before he threw open the door. “Be ready.” 

Dejected, Jane watched him leave, knowing full well he was making a mistake. This isn’t something you can just walk back, she thought, thinking about how Xander looked when he came to her all those years ago. There was no way to change what he did, but I can stop you from making the same mistake, she thought, squaring her shoulders and getting out of the car. I can still save you...even if you hate me for it. 

Decision made, Jane bit her lip and fought the tears pricking behind her eyes as she spotted the turian sitting on the bench. Garrus is worth it, she told herself, wishing she’d been around to save him from this pain in the first place. It’s my fault he went through this at all. 

Swallowing, she straightened her face and walked forward, squaring her shoulders. “Lantar Sidonis?” 

Slowly, the turian glanced at her, his eyes haunted and sad. “Who wants to know?

Jane moved closer and held up her hands, blocking the shot she knew Garrus was preparing to take. “I’m Commander Shepard, and I need you to stay exactly where you are,” Jane said quickly, taking a deep breath as she heard her husband start growling in her ear. “Because if you move, Archangel is going to kill you.” 

  


“Jane,” Garrus growled, his finger itching on the trigger of his gun, “you’re blocking my shot. You need to move… now .”

His mate continued as if he hadn’t spoken, not moving an inch. “Why did you do it?” Jane asked, close enough to the turian for Garrus to hear him through her comms. “Why did you try to kill my husband?” 

“They were going to kill me,” Sidonis said, his dual-toned voice sounding flat and listless. 

His tone sent ripples of rage down Garrus’s spine, making his sub-vocals rumble with outrage. With every word he spoke, Garrus saw the faces of his teammates, bloody, bruised, broken. Why does he live when they died, he thought angrily, his finger tensing around the trigger. You don’t deserve to live.

“Is he living though?” a voice whispered in his ear, making him stiffen up and clench the gun even tighter. “Doesn’t look like it from where I’m standing.”

Desperately trying to drown out the noise from his former teammate, Garrus closed his eyes and muted his comms. “You’re not real,” he whispered. “Jane is down there… you can’t be here.” 

“I’m where you need me to be,” the hallucination said plainly, settling down next to him. “Particularly since you just thought about shooting the woman you love to get to him.”

Instantly, Garrus’s eyes went wide. “I didn’t say that,” he murmured, feeling his throat go dry. “I want her to move, but I wouldn’t…” 

“Lie to anyone else, but you can’t lie to me,” the hallucination replied, her voice sad as she shifted to stare at him. He wasn’t looking, but he could feel those cold, grey eyes upon him, judging him for every thought that was running through his mind. “You thought about it, Garrus.”

“I’d never do it,” Garrus whispered, feeling like the world was shrinking around him. “She’s my mate… I wouldn’t hurt her.”

“Is he worth it?” The version of Jane he used to see on Omega, the one that was with him when he thought he was going to die, frowned at him. “You heard him- he’s not eating, not sleeping...he died that day, Garrus. That’s not Sidonis- it’s a shell of the turian he used to be.” 

“I don’t care,” he shot back, settling back into his position and unmuting his comms. “Jane, I need you to move… you’re in my shot.”

The two Jane’s answered in unison, their voices echoing in his ears and making him wince. “Look at him,” they said, his mate not moving and the hallucination still at his side, “he’s a shell of himself- he’s already dead, Garrus.” 

“Then he deserves to die for real,” Garrus ground out, trying to settle himself and will his unwanted companion away. “Let me take the shot, Jane.” 

“Don’t do this,” Jane said quietly, she and Sidonis standing perfectly still. “I can’t lose you over this… please. I can’t do this without you, Garrus- I need you.” 

“This man took your team and almost took your life,” the hallucination whispered, placing a hand on his arm and making his hand start to wobble. “Are you really willing to let him take your soul, too?” 

Taking a deep breath, Garrus lowered his gun. “Let him go,” he said flatly. “And tell him I never want to see him again.”

  


Jane looked around frantically, but it was of no use- by the time she made it back outside, Garrus was gone. She tried to raise him on the comms, but every request was met with silence and every message she sent was left unread. He hates me, she thought, not even trying to hide the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. I did what was right, but I’m going to lose everything for it… again. 

Slumping down behind a nearby stack of crates, Jane started to sob, not caring one bit about who saw her or how she looked. For the first time since she got back, she felt well and truly broken- every breath she took felt like knives in her skin, reminding her that she was still here and he wasn’t with her. He trusted me to have his back and I didn’t… I betrayed him. “I wish I’d never come back,” she sobbed, clutching her head against her knees. “I shouldn’t even be here anymore!”

“Then he wouldn’t be here,” Xander said quietly, crouching down and wrapping his arm around her. “Garrus might be mad, but isn’t it enough to know that you saved him?” He smoothed a wet hair out of her face, and tilted up her face, his blue-grey eyes sad as he wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I know it’s hard, but you did what was right, Brainy… and I’m proud of you.” 

Trying to catch her breath, Jane gulped and tried to fight a fresh wave of sobs- the tears continued anyway. “What are you doing here, Xander?” 

“Followed you,” he said patiently, pulling out a handkerchief and wiping her face. “I knew this exchange was always going to end one of three ways… but you getting hurt was never part of the plan.”

“You didn’t have to come,” Jane muttered, taking the cloth from him and loudly blowing her nose. “I wasn’t in danger.” 

When Xander didn’t say anything, she felt her blood run cold- Jane stopped fidgeting and stared at the man next to her. “I wasn’t in danger,” she said firmly, realizing just what the analyst’s silence meant. “You didn’t need to come.” 

“Just making sure,” he replied, rising to his feet and offering her a hand. “Come on… we need to get out of here.” 

“Not going anywhere,” she mumbled, looking down at the ground. “There isn’t a point.” 

“There’s a galaxy out there that would beg to differ,” Xander replied, extending his hand to her again. “We still need Commander Shepard.”

“Then go get Johnny and let him do it,” Jane snapped, not looking up. “I’m fucking done, Xan- everything I touch turns to shit anyway.”

Letting out a deep sigh, Xander crouched down next to her, resting his hands on her shoulders. “You’re just angry,” he said, his tone low and even. “And you know that I understand that better than anyone, Janey. People like us…” Xander’s voice trailed off for a minute, then he sighed again. “We do the things no one else wants to do… and eventually… hopefully… everyone else will come around.”

Jane let out a snort, but Xander just cupped her chin in his hand, lifting her face and forcing her to meet his gaze. “Even if they hate us, we still have to keep going… can’t give up just ‘cause it’s easy, right?” 

Hearing her own words tossed back at her made her pause, the protests fading before they left her mouth. “After all this time, you still remember that?” 

“Never forgot,” Xander replied, rising to his feet again and smiling when Jane let him help her to her feet. “That’s better,” he said, looking her over. “Not going to run away on me, are you?” 

“Nowhere to go,” Jane said glumly. “Dead and working with you guys, remember? I fucked up all the way around, Xan… I got nothing left.”

“I think you’re exaggerating,” Xander chided, smoothing her hair back and adjusting her ponytail before stepping back to admire his work. “There… now you look less like a wounded street urchin.” She rolled her eyes, but he just laughed. “Still in love with ice cream, Brainy?” 

“Yeah,” Jane replied, unable to look at him. Now that her tears had subsided, all that was left was a burning sense of embarrassment and the desire to run away. “I should try and talk to Garrus,” she mumbled, wishing she could just curl up in a hole and sleep. “I… I don’t want him to hate me.” 

“It’s just raw right now,” Xander said evenly, guiding her out of the alley and into the hustle of people. “Have an ice cream sundae with me and send him a message,” he said, draping his arm over her shoulder and ushering her along the street. “Let him have a chance to cool down first.”

“I guess.” Then Jane looked down at the wet and balled-up cloth between her fingers and bit her lip. “Sorry about that,” she said, trying to hand him the soiled piece of linen. “Didn’t mean to ruin it.”

“Um, no,” Xander said quickly, his face filled with disgust as he immediately moved his hand away from the handkerchief. “I’m pretty sure that’s yours now.”

  


Even though his omni-tool kept pinging, Garrus refused to answer it. I can’t talk to her right now, he thought, staring straight ahead as he made his way back to the Normandy. For a moment he considered running away, but every time the thought crossed his mind, the image of Nihlus clutching Ash, frozen solid thanks to the Collectors flashed into his head. That could be Jane, his mind kept saying. If you were going to let them do that to her, you should’ve just taken the shot… it’d be kinder. 

Conflicted, he just stormed onto the ship, ignoring everyone as he made his way toward the main battery. I need to do something with my hands before I hit something, he grumbled to himself, knowing that his sub-vocals were loud and angry but unwilling to try and tamper them down. I can’t deal with this right now. 

As he shut the door and tried to lose himself in his work, he swore as the electronic voice of the AI interrupted the quiet. “Officer Vakarian,” EDI intoned, “your shipmates are inquiring as to your well-being and would like to enter the premises.” 

“They can come back later,” Garrus snapped, not even looking up from the console. “I’m in the middle of some calibrations.” 

“I’m afraid they can’t, seeing as you have been designated as the next person in charge,” EDI replied. “Commander Shepard isn’t available.”

“Have them talk to Sloane,” he growled, his fists tightening. “I’m quite sure he can deal with it.” 

“I would be happy to do so if he were available,” the electronic voice answered, a hint of what Garrus would swear was irritation in its tone. “Officer Lawson has made her displeasure with their disappearances quite known throughout the ship- Officer Shepard and Spectre Kryik have both been making use of my systems in an attempt to track them down, but the efforts have yielded no results- no one has been able to locate them.”

A sinking feeling began to settle in Garrus’s stomach, making him pause for a moment. “How long have I been in here, EDI?” 

“Approximately four hours,” EDI answered. “And I count thirty-five unread messages that have been routed to your omni-tool during this time- would you like me to read them to you?” 

Garrus gripped the console so hard he was pretty sure he’d left talon marks in it. You left her out there, he thought, feeling the skin beneath his plates start to crawl. It’s been from hours since anyone has seen your mate… and you haven’t even bothered to check your messages.

He quickly brought up his omni-tool and started scrolling through his messages- the last messages from Jane were from hours before. She tried to talk to me but I wouldn’t listen, he thought, feeling the keen start to well up in his throat. I wanted to blame her for everything

MyFairJaney: I’m sorry… even if you hate me for it, I love you too much to let you do something we both know you’d regret, Garrus. I just hope one day you decide to forgive me.

MyFairJaney: I don’t know if you’re even going to the ship, to the apartment, or anywhere, but I hope I get to see you… I just need to talk to you. Please… just let me tell you my side in person before you leave?

MyFairJaney: I get it. I’m sorry. I won’t bother you again. 

His eyes going wide, Garrus looked up at the ceiling. “EDI,” he said slowly, “where is John?” 

“He is in the comms room with Spectre Kryik,” the AI replied. “Shall I call them for you?” 

Garrus didn’t even bother answering- instead, he raced out of the battery, his thoughts whipping around so hard he felt like his brain was rattling. She would have talked to John, Garrus thought as he hurried toward the comms room. Jane wouldn’t do anything without talking to him first. 

After what felt like an eternity, Garrus made his way inside, feeling like someone punched him in the chest as he saw the faces of Sol, John, Ash, and Nihlus staring at him. “Have you heard from her?” Garrus asked, making his way to John. “Did she call you?”

No one answered.

Nervously, John looked at Sol, who just looked down while Ash rubbed her hand, her lips pressed together so tight that they looked like they were about to disappear. Nihlus didn’t say a word, but his sub-vocals were rumbling with a mixture of nerves and anger. 

“Tell him,” the Spectre said angrily. “It’s his mate… he needs to know what’s going on.” 

“You need to tell me what?” Garrus asked, feeling like he’d been transported back in time two years. When no one spoke, he slammed his fist on the table. “What do you need to tell me?” 

Sighing, John ran a hand through his hair, pulling up something on his omni-tool. “Last message was two hours ago. Tried to come get you, but…” 

“Read the message,” Garrus said firmly, working to keep himself together. “What does it say, John?” 

The man glanced over at Kryik, who simply nodded- John let out a deep sigh. “That if you didn’t come back to the Normandy… she’s leaving me in charge of the mission.” 

Chapter Text

  


Four hours earlier…

Jane sat at the table in the ice cream shop while Xander tried to make her feel better, barely eating the bowl in front of her. Garrus hasn’t responded, she thought morosely, letting her spoon dip and swirl inside the dessert. He’s never gone this long without responding to me before

“You’re going to end up with soup,” Xander chided, looking over at her from his bowl. “I never thought I’d see the day when Janey Shepard let ice cream go to waste.” 

In response, Jane tipped her bowl to her lips and drank the sweet liquid in one gulp, glaring at him the entire time. When he raised an eyebrow at her, Jane just smirked. “Wasting ice cream is a crime… you know that.”

“I was starting to get worried,” Xander replied dryly, popping his spoon into his mouth. “When you got a simple cup of vanilla instead of all of the garbage someone could fit into a bowl…” 

“Sometimes simple is best,” she said wistfully, reaching over and plucking one of the carefully moved cherries from the top of his dish, ignoring the death glare the man was giving her. “Needed a reminder of that.”

“I can understand,” Xander replied, pausing for a moment and dipping his finger thoughtfully in the whipped topping covering his rocky road sundae. “Sometimes you just need something that feels familiar.” 

Jane smiled, sticking her spoon in his bowl and feeling a sense of warmth when Xander slid his bowl over to her. “You know there are other flavors of ice cream, Xan- you don’t have to get the same thing every time.”

“It’s like you just said,” he replied, his voice low as he grabbed one of the cherries, swirling it around in the melted chocolate. “I need the reminder now and then, too.” 

“A lot better than the shit I stole from the freezer, isn’t it?” Jane replied, looking down at her hands. “Finally got it right?” 

He smiled, absentmindedly rubbing his left wrist. “It was right a long time ago,” he agreed. “Haven’t changed it in years, Janey.”

Jane just frowned at him, biting her lip for a moment before getting up from the table. “Be right back,” she said, heading for the counter. “Shouldn’t be gone long, but do NOT finish that before I get back, understand?”

Clearly confused but no doubt just happy to have her not moping at the table, Xander gave her a slight nod, opening his omni-tool as she walked away.

She hadn’t seen him in days, which was unlike Xander. Usually, the janitor was punctual to the point of annoyance, but Jane noted that without his nagging at her to leave or clean up the myriad of movies she’d strewn around, the time seemed to pass slower. But, after the fourth day in a row of him not showing up, Jane made a decision. Heading into the local grocery store and swiping a pint of ice cream, she headed across town to where she knew he lived. ‘John always gets me this when I’m not feeling well,’ she thought, looking down at the container in her hand. ‘Maybe he’ll like it too.’ 

Xander had never told her where he lived, but Jane was never one to let a thing like permission stand in the way of her getting information. He’d been to their apartment multiple times, but he’d never invited her over to his. At first, Jane was offended, thinking it was because he saw her as street trash- Xander was always so posh and well put-together, whereas she and John were almost always dressed questionably at best. But as time went on, she realized that wasn’t it- he never complained about visiting their hovel of a home, and he always appeared happy and comfortable whenever he came by. So, after John voiced his concerns about hanging out with the janitor for the umpteenth time, she’d made it a point to access the library’s employee files, snatching Xander’s address details to send to her irritating brother. Who knew John’s paranoia would actually come in handy?

As she drew closer to the address on her omni-tool, Jane began to feel more self-conscious by the second. ‘Glad I wore something decent today’, Jane thought, staring at the large house with awe. ‘But seriously? All this time and it turns out this bastard is loaded? It’s like something out of one of my vids… I swear, I’m going to give him so much shit when I see him.’

Taking a deep breath, Jane made her way onto the porch, rapping lightly on the door. After a few moments, a tall older woman in a neat suit came out, staring at Jane with the same amount of interest someone might give a talking varren. “May I help you?” 

Refusing to be intimidated, Jane straightened her shoulders and looked the woman square in the eye. “Hello,” she said politely. “I’m here to see Alexander, ma’am.” 

Immediately, the woman’s expression softened and the door opened, allowing her entrance into the elegant home. “He’s in their room,” she said kindly, ushering Jane down the hall. “I’ll take you to him.”

Confused about what she meant, Jane just followed, looking around at the paintings hanging on the walls with awe. ‘It’s gorgeous,’ she thought, working to hold onto the frozen ice cream and keep her hands to herself. ‘It’s like someone took Henry Higgins’s house and made it real.’

Suddenly, the woman’s voice broke through the silence, startling Jane back to the present. “It’s good you came by,” she said, patting her on the shoulder. “He could use a friend right now.” 

Something about the way the woman was talking was odd, but Jane pushed it out of her head as she knocked on the door, trying to focus on what she would say and how she’d justify her appearance. “Hey Xander,” she called out softly, “it’s me, Jane- can I come in?” 

When there was no answer, she tried again, knocking even harder this time. “You’ve been gone for four days,” she said, listening at the door for a response, “but no one has heard from you- John and I cleaned the library so you wouldn’t get in trouble… but I don’t think we did a very good job- you’re going to have a lot of shit to fix when you get back.”

After a few moments, there was still no response- Jane started to get worried. “Xan, I’m coming in,” she said, slowly twisting the knob. “Please don’t be naked, ok?”

She walked into the room and frowned- instead of being inside Xander’s bedroom like she was expecting, Jane was in what looked like a tiny apartment. Save for a few boxes, the place was almost completely empty except for a small bed piled with rumpled sheets pushed into the corner. “Xan? You here?” 

“What are you doing here?” Xander’s voice was muffled and Jane realized he was curled up in the bed, facing the wall- tentatively, she walked over to him. “I didn’t tell you where I lived, Jane.” 

“When has that ever stopped me?” Jane replied brightly, sitting down next to him. “Missed you, professor- what happened?” 

“It’s nothing,” Xander mumbled, still not looking at her. “You should go, Jane.” 

“No,” she replied, leaning over and resting her arms on his shoulder. “Not until I figure out what’s going on with you. Besides,” she said, reaching over and dangling the bag in front of his face, “I brought you some ice cream.” 

“You don’t have any money,” Xander replied, his voice muffled by the blankets and the wall. “Did you steal that, Jane?” 

Feeling somewhat chastised, Jane started to blush. “Well, yeah, but… I missed you,” she said sheepishly, ruffling her hands in his long, greasy hair. “Thought you might be sick or something.”

Xander sighed and rolled onto his back, looking her over with puffy, red eyes. “You can’t steal things just because you want them, Jane- you have to pay for this.” 

“Got no money, remember?” She extended the bag to him, shaking it from side to side. “But in the meantime, we should eat it before it melts, right? Got some spoons?”

He started to say something but changed his mind, shaking his head instead. “Just one at the moment.” 

“That’s cool, we’ll share,” Jane said, giving her friend a bright smile. He was clearly hurting, but he wasn’t sharing and she wasn’t going to push him. ‘He’ll tell me when he’s ready,’ she thought, placing an exaggerated kiss on his cheek and laughing as he wiped it off. ‘And when he is, I’ll be here to listen.’

  


Earlier that day…

Under the guise of his tactical cloak, Sloane crouched in his hiding space, watching as Vakarian stormed past him. Too close and he’ll notice me, he thought, making sure to stay out of range while the turian headed to his perch. Just need to stay close enough… just in case. 

He had hoped that the turian would let this go, but he knew it was pointless. Vakarian was just as stubborn and loyal as Jane was- if there was a chance in hell of getting what he considered justice for his team, Xander knew Vakarian would take it.  

But, as Sloane crept quietly through the streets, he also knew that Vakarian loved his wife with all his heart- rationally, Sloane knew that there was no way he’d risk Jane for something this petty. But, he also knew that sometimes you don’t think rationally- you just operate on blind instinct, only thinking about the consequences after the action is done. Better to be safe than sorry, he told himself as he found a spot that allowed him to keep an eye on Jane and get a bead on the turian if needed. I know she loves you, but if I have to make a choice between you and Jane… I choose her.

Even when you don’t want me here, Brainy, I’m always going to be there for you, Xander thought as he peered down the scope of his rifle. Just like you were for me. 

--

“Let’s take a walk,” Jane said, hopping off the bed and guiding Xander to his feet. “It’s nice outside- let’s not stay cooped up in this room, ok?”

Xander hated the nickname she’d given him, wasting many an hour pleading with the girl to change it, to no avail- ‘it’s too creepy- Alexander is John’s middle name,’ Jane said firmly. ‘You need to be unique, Xan.’ He’d pushed back for a minute, but eventually, he got over it and embraced the endearment, secretly letting a warmth spread through his soul every time she said it. ‘She cares about me,’ he’d think every time she said his name, ‘I’m important to her.’

“I suppose,” Xander replied, staring at the floor and letting Jane pull him off the bed. He hadn’t showered, his hair was oily, and his clothes were a mess, but Jane didn’t seem to mind. “Where do you want to go?” 

An impish grin grew across her face, completely unbothered by the crust of chocolate still around the corners of her mouth. “There’s a pond outside- I saw it from the street. Can we go check it out?” 

The color drained from his face for a moment, but Xander just cleared his throat and stared at the floor. “I guess… I… gotta get back here soon, though. Still have stuff to do.”

He saw her glance around the room and frown slightly, but she thankfully didn’t comment on it. “We won’t be long- maybe I can help you with your stuff? You always help me clean up around the house…least I can do is lend you a hand.”

He nodded, unwilling to commit one way or the other, but he walked out of the room with her, trying not to think too hard about where he was. Eventually, he guided her outside, taking in the large pond at the edge of the property, remembering the mornings where he and his mom would sit on the bench and read together. ‘Never enough time,’ he thought wistfully, trailing his fingers over the railing. ‘We always think we have more than we do.’

“It’s so pretty out here,” Jane whispered, sitting on the bench and drawing her knees up to her chest. “I’d stay out here all day if I lived next to something like this.”

“Seeing as you practically live in the library, I can see that,” Xander replied, sitting down next to her. Jane leaned her head on his side and he wrapped his arm around her, closing his eyes and trying to shut out his surroundings. “I’m glad you’re enjoying it, however.” 

“Always so posh,” Jane said teasingly, poking him in the side. “What do I have to do in order to get you to loosen the hell up, Xan?” 

He smiled but didn’t respond, and as usual, Jane didn’t press him about it. Instead, the two sat in silence for a moment, letting the only sounds be the water lapping lightly against the shore. “You didn’t have to come,” he said quietly, still not opening his eyes. “But thank you.”

“You were going to lose your job,” she replied, shifting positions. “I was worried about you, Xan- this is some shit I would do, not you.” When he still didn’t say anything, Jane sat up. “You know you can talk to me,” she said, pausing for a response they both knew he wouldn’t give. “No matter what it is, I’m always going to be here for you.”

“Thanks,” Xander replied, tilting his head toward the sky and opening his eyes. The sun was starting to set, bathing the landscape with a soft red hue. He knew his time was running out, but there was something so nice about having her with him right then that he decided to shift his plans a little. ‘It can wait,’ he thought, lowering his head to look at the concerned girl sitting next to him. ‘I can sit with her a little longer.’

Jane let the silence last for another minute, and then she took his hand. “Talk to me, please” she repeated, her voice much firmer this time. “Tell me what’s going on, Xan.” 

Xander thought about snapping, but he realized that as much as he wanted to run away, he also wanted to talk to her. No matter how he was feeling, just being around Jane was the one thing that always made him feel better. Every time he’d get trapped in his head, she’d find a way to coax him out and make him feel alive again. 

At first, Xander thought Jane was like that with everyone, but after watching how she interacted with other people, he knew that wasn’t the case. He figured it out one day as he watched the twins bicker over something completely inane and inconsequential. When they hugged immediately afterward and John ruffled her hair, he finally understood. ‘Jane treats me the way she treats John,’ he realized as she punched her brother in the arm. ‘She actually cares about me.’ 

Xander sighed, looking out over the practically still water in front of them. “Before you came by, I was going to go for a swim,” he said softly, the words almost inaudible. “Seemed like the right thing to do. Still might… haven’t decided yet.”

Jane instantly went still, turning to stare at him with horror. “But you can’t swim.”

It wasn’t a question, just a statement that both knew was true. “I know,” he said quietly, unable to look her in the eyes. “Like I said… just seemed like the right thing to do.”

“Why?” Jane asked, taking his hand in hers. “Talk to me.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied, wishing he could take the words back- he hadn’t wanted her to worry. In fact, he’d been hoping that she’d just forget about him after a while. “Just… let’s just enjoy the evening, ok?” 

“No,” Jane said staunchly, her eyes roaming over his face. “You’re one of my best friends, Xan- I need you to talk to me.”

Sighing, Xander ran a hand over his head, unwilling to look at her. “I don’t have anything left,” he admitted. “Mom was the only person I had… now she’s gone. Without her, I don’t have anything- no home, no family… nothing.” Thankfully, Jane didn’t make him explain- she just squeezed his hand. “There’s just not a point anymore.”

For a moment, Jane just stared out at the water, biting her lip. Xander wondered what was going through her head, but she stayed silent, lightly twisting her dark brown hair around her finger. Then, she turned to him with a sad yet determined smile on her face. “You got me, Xan… I’m your family too.” 

Xander chuckled mirthlessly. “Thanks, Jane- that’s nice of you to say.”

Without warning, the girl punched him in the arm, hard. “I’m serious,” she retorted, her grey eyes glinting like steel. “From this moment on, you’re a Shepard, Xan.” 

He raised his eyebrow, taking in her determined-looking appearance. “I think your brother might have some concerns about that.”

“He’ll get over it,” Jane said firmly. “Besides, you cook better than he does- if he wants to stay fed, he’ll shut his mouth.”

Dumbfounded, Xander just stared at her, trying to process his whirling thoughts. “Jane,” he said warningly, “what are you saying?”

“That we gotta go inside and get your stuff,” Jane replied, getting up from the bench. “Might take us a few trips, though- should probably get started if we want to finish tonight.”

A tear slipped down his face and he laughed, the sound intermixing with the sob in his throat. “You don’t have to do this,” he whispered, not trusting his voice. “I can’t repay you for this, Jane.”

Jane just smiled, threading her arm in his. “That’s the thing,” she said brightly as they headed back toward the house. “You don’t owe me anything- you’re family.” He scoffed, but she just poked him in the side. “That’s what family does, Xan- no matter what, we take care of each other.” 

  


Jane came back to the table, proudly holding the small dish in her hands. “Here you go,” she said, setting it on the table in front of Xander and smiling as his eyes lit up. “You were always supposed to make it better,” she said softly. “Every year, remember?”

“Didn’t have you anymore, so I didn’t see the point,” he said quietly, picking one of the chocolate-covered cherries out of the bowl and placing it gently atop his dwindling pile of ice cream. “Wanted to remember things how they were.”

“Well, I’m just saying... you broke a Shepard tradition, Xan,” Jane replied, plucking a cherry out of the bowl and trying not to think about the fact that her husband still hadn’t replied to her. “There are consequences for that, you know.” 

“I hardly think getting placed on laundry duty holds the same amount of weight these days,” Xander said with a smile. “And considering we have a chef on board, dinner duty is a thing of the past.” The analyst looked at her for a moment, then let out a sigh as he ate the last of his dessert. “No response, I take it?”

She shook her head as she sat across from him. “Nothing. It’s not like him- he’s never been like this before....” 

Her voice trailed off, allowing her mind to wander away with all kinds of scenarios- before she could get too far, Xander placed a hand on hers. “Let’s give him some time to cool off,” he said with a smile. “We still have a favor to do for Miss Goto, remember?” Jane started to protest, but he held up a hand. “Before you object, I just want to point out that you did just say that John could handle things in your absence.”

Jane rolled her eyes. “What are you trying to get me to do, Xan?”

“Nothing that you wouldn’t absolutely love doing,” he replied with a grin. “I’m offering you the chance to help your crewmate and do something that’s straight out of one of your old vids.” He leaned forward, a sparkle in his eyes that she hadn’t seen in quite some time. “Come on,” he wheedled, his voice full of excitement. “You and me, taking on the galaxy just like we talked about when we were younger- what do you say?”

His offer was intriguing, but it was just too pat, too perfect to be real- Jane crossed her arms. “Tell me the truth,” she said coldly, feeling like a bucket of ice water had been poured over her head. “Did you plan this when you offered Garrus that information?” 

“The honest answer? I gave him the information in the hopes he’d leave the situation alone,” Xander replied, his face completely serious. “This heist was always part of the plan, but I never wanted you two at odds.”

Despite the situation, Jane found herself intrigued by the word ‘heist’- she forced herself to ignore it for now. “Why not?” Jane asked, glaring at him. “Thought you’d be itching to get him out the picture?”

“I’m not stupid, Jane,” Xander said firmly. “You always do better with family around- keeping you and Vakarian together is the best possible scenario.  And like it or not, I know you,” he said, dropping his voice and leaning closer. “No matter what you say- we both know you wouldn’t want the man you love to end up like me.”

Swallowing, Jane looked away, unwilling to dwell on his words. “Anyway,” she growled, staring at the table, “what’s this mission for Kasumi about?” 

“Getting back something that an asshole stole from her,” Xander snarled, clenching his fists. “I promised her I would help get it back and now, after all this time, I’ve found a way to do it... I just need your help pulling it off.” 

His reaction made Jane pause- Xander rarely got this emotional about anything, so this must be important. “And if I do this,” she said slowly, “she’ll help us take down the collectors?” 

“Miss Goto takes promises as seriously as I do,” Xander replied. “Honor amongst thieves means something to her… it’s why she has my loyalty.”

Feeling like she was going to regret this, Jane let out a deep sigh. “Call her,” she said wearily. “I need to hear a little more about this plan before I agree to it.” 

A bright smile crept across Xander’s face as he brought up his omni-tool. “Trust me... this is right up your alley,” he purred, then paused. “I just have one question before I contact Kasumi.”

Jane knew this was the worst idea ever, but she was also feeling those strange stirrings of adventure she used to get when they’d hang out together- you wanted to get away, she told herself, trying and failing to convince herself that this was a terrible idea. You wanted someone else to save the universe for a while...why not let them? Letting out a groan, Jane sighed and pinched her nose.“What is it?”

Xander flashed her a cocksure grin, counting exaggeratedly on his fingers. “How do you feel about mingling with criminals, thievery, fake identities, and fancy cocktail dresses, Jane?” 

Despite her efforts to contain it, a slow smile crept across her lips. “I hate you so much,” she replied, tapping her foot beneath the table. “You really weren’t bullshitting about this being a heist, were you?”

“Of course not,” Xander said with a smirk, letting his fingers fly over the keyboard. “I knew better than to waste your time with anything less, Brainy.” 

Chapter Text

  


Frantic and desperate for answers, Garrus turned to John, his sub-vocals rumbling wildly. We have to find Jane, he thought, working to control the fear he knew Sol and Nihlus could hear. I can’t be the reason I lose my mate again. “Have you tried searching for her?”

In response, John just scowled. “Why of course not,” he said sarcastically. “My sister is missing and I’ve just decided to sit back and crack open a cold one- it seemed like the perfect way to cap off the day. Feel like joining me?”

Sol placed a hand on John’s arm, a warning rumble in her sub-vocals. “John, enough,” she said quietly. “We’re all worried about Jane… you don’t have to take it out on Gar.” 

“I don’t ?” John asked, his tone incredulous as he stared at his mate, frustration etched across his features. “I get that’s your brother, Tiny, but let’s look at the facts.” He whirled around to Garrus, his face taut. “What happened out there, Vakarian? You both leave Mom’s like your ass is on fire, then you come back here in an absolute shit mood… without my sister. Care to share what the hell is going on?” 

Wincing, Garrus let out a sigh- John might be angry, but he was right. “Sloane located Sidonis...he got my team on Omega killed,” he mumbled, regretting every word the moment he said it. “I… sent Jane to meet with him… so I could kill him.” A gasp went up from his sister, and Garrus looked away- he didn’t want to see her face right then. “She talked to him… made me listen to what Sidonis had to say.”

“And?” John asked, his tone a little less harsh but no less angry. “This still doesn’t explain why Jane isn’t here. Did…” The man’s voice trailed off for a moment, then his eyes went wide. “Did you kill him?”

Dejected, Garrus shook his head. “No,” he said, the words burning his throat like acid. “But I was angry… at Jane, at myself… at everyone, really. I felt like I let my team down by not taking that shot… but I didn’t want to let her down, either- it’s… difficult to explain.” 

“Understandable,” Nihlus replied, then glanced over at John. “But that still doesn’t tell us what happened to Jane.”

“I don’t know what happened to her,” Garrus admitted, unable to look at anyone. “I left her there- even though she sent me messages, I just couldn’t talk to her after that…” He rumbled softly, unable to control the guilt in his tone. “I thought she would’ve come back by now.” 

“Why would she?” Ash spat, causing everyone to look at her. “What, do you think you’re the only one who lost a team, Vakarian?” The soldier glared at him, her features hard and angry. “Come on, let’s just be honest here- Jane has massive trust issues on a normal day.” She looked Garrus up and down and scoffed, crossing her arms. “You seriously mean to tell me that you thought that ghosting your recently dead wife that’s been asked to save the galaxy was the best course of action?”

“I wasn’t thinking!” Garrus yelled back, slamming his fist on the table- Sol jumped, but Ash just continued to glare. “I just needed to get away!”

“Well, you’re away from her now,” Ash retorted, snarling back at him. “How’s it feel? Is it everything you wanted, Vakarian?”

“Where’s Sloane?” Garrus asked, ignoring Ash’s statement- he needed something else to focus on. “He’s almost as good as she is- he can find her, right?” 

“Gone,” Sol replied glumly. “I tried to find Xander to give him the leftovers mom packed up, but he wasn’t here- no one’s seen him.” 

“Then ask the thief where he is- she knows him,” Garrus said quickly, ignoring the looks on their faces. “Maybe she can point us in the right direction.”

The room went silent at that, then Nihlus cleared his throat. “That might be a problem,” he said carefully, tapping his talons on the tabletop. “No one has seen Miss Goto either.” 

“Then we need help,” John said firmly, looking over at Garrus. “Looks like we need to talk to mom.” 

  


Earlier

“I feel stupid,” Jane complained, looking at herself in the mirror and frowning as she turned to the side. The black dress was skin-tight, hugging every possible curve she had while barely containing her chest- Jane was pretty sure she was one tear away from a complete wardrobe malfunction. “What kind of spy wears a dress this fucking tight?”

“A successful one,” Kasumi replied, adjusting Jane’s wig so the red curls cascaded over her shoulder. “Put the contacts in so I can make sure I’m receiving the transmission.”

Jane sighed and slipped the contacts on, turning her normally grey eyes a startling shade of green. “Seriously, there’s not a shot in hell that anyone is going to believe this is how I normally look, guys.”

“That’s the point- you’re an elusive hacker, never before seen and daring to show up to this party. Of course you’d be in disguise- that’s why it’s so perfect.” The thief looked down at her wrist, then smiled at Jane. “Anyway, we’re up and running- your overlay is working perfectly. No incoming signals on the line except for us- we’re all set.” 

“I’d forgotten how disorienting this was,” Xander said as he walked out of the hotel bathroom, playing with the cuffs on his suit. “After all this time, you still couldn’t find a better method than this?”

Jane could do nothing but gape as she took in Xander’s appearance- even as composed as he’d always been, Jane had never seen him in anything fancier than his dress blues. Now he was wearing a form-fitting black suit and his hair was neat and short, giving him a definite air of power and privilege. “Wow,” she said, looking him up and down. “Kasumi, you don’t like to hold back, do you?”

Kasumi just shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a fan of the classics.” Smirking, she got up from the chair and walked around Xander, whistling with approval. “You still clean up nicely, Alex.” 

“And you appear to be a miracle worker,” Xander replied, looking Jane over. “I never thought I’d see the day Jane Shepard would be caught dead in such a gorgeous outfit.” Then he looked down at her heels and frowned. “Can you even walk in those, Brainy?” 

“Technically, Jane Shepard isn’t wearing such a scandalous outfit,” Jane replied, scowing at Xander, twirling a long red curl around her finger and batting her long fake eyelashes at him. “Eliza Higgins is- get it right, Xander. And yes, I can walk in heels- you took me to that party once, remember?”

Alexander,” he corrected, taking her hand and twirling her around in a small circle. “And you tumbling down the stairs because you insisted on John buying you those god-awful shoes does not inspire confidence, Brainy.”

“I’ve learned a lot since then,” Jane grumbled, ignoring Kasumi’s laughter. “Besides, these are shorter- just enough to show a little leg, and sharp enough to stab someone in the eye. Win-win, right?”

Xander rolled his eyes. “The goal, dear sister, is to entice the man into wanting your services, not jamming heels into eye sockets- can I trust you to be on your best behavior for once, Jane?” 

“Planning to go back to a life of crime?” Jane asked, feeling somewhat disappointed as she straightened his collar. “I gotta admit, I was just starting to like having you on the right side of the law again.” 

“Don’t put words into my mouth- I have plenty of my own, thank you very much,” Xander replied, then lightly rubbed her shoulder when she started to scowl. “And these are all topics for another evening,” he said, leaning over to whisper in her ear.  “For now, let’s just focus on pulling this off, ok?”

She smiled, then glanced down at her omni-tool- still no messages. “You’ve got a point,” she said sadly. “We’re just Alexander and Eliza tonight, right?” 

As usual, Xander knew exactly what was on her mind. “He’ll come around,” the analyst said confidently, then paused. “Did you send the message to John yet- we are going to need a ride back, after all, and we already know Miranda will not be inclined to listen to anyone- at least with documentation, EDI will follow John’s orders.” 

“Not yet,” she admitted, adjusting the hem of her dress. “I was just-”

“Waiting for word from Vakarian,” Xander finished, then let out a deep sigh. “Well, you won't get it now- your comms are off, remember?” Jane frowned, but Xander squeezed her hand. “Look, I know it’s hard being cut off from everyone, but I promise it’s worth it.” 

When Jane just stared at him, he sighed again. “Look, when we get back, I promise to personally look into this for you, ok? You have my word that we’ll straighten this out.”

“It’s my marriage,” Jane said glumly. “You don’t need to get involved, Xan.”

“Just trying to help,” Xander replied, looking at her with concern as they left the hotel. “That’s what family does, right?

Realizing that he was doing his best to cheer her up, Jane let out a sigh of her own. “Yeah, Xan,” she said softly, taking his hand in hers. “That’s exactly right.” 

  


John knew it was late, but he was out of options. Jane and Xander were gone, Garrus was out of sorts, and EDI had already run the message through her systems six ways from Sunday- they needed a fresh set of eyes. He used to think that Garrus was the only technically-minded Vakarian, but he soon found out that he’d gotten his skills from his mom- the woman was adept with technology. Here’s hoping that mom can help, he thought, squeezing his wife’s hand. We could really use an assist right now.

When their mother answered the phone, her expressions ran the gamut of emotions. Starting from confused and ending with alarm, Yeloris took in the sea of serious-looking faces staring back at her and frowned. “It’s the middle of the night cycle,” she said cautiously. “Spirits above, what’s wrong?”

John sighed and Sol took his hand, lightly nuzzling her head against his. “We need your help,” he said, looking over at Garrus- he was still furious at him for leaving his sister, but he refused to throw him under the bus. “Jane is missing, and we have to find her.” 

Now wide awake, Yeloris’s eyes narrowed. “What happened? Tell me everything, children.” 

Careful to keep Garrus out of trouble as much as he could, John told his mother the story, watching as her face became devoid of any emotion. Finally, when he’d shared as much as he could, her expression was cold and flat, but her sub-vocals were rumbling louder than ever. Judging by the way Sol, Garrus, and Nih were wincing, he was pretty sure she was giving them an earful. “Time to get started- we’ve wasted enough of it as it is.” The turian looked around the room, her gaze settling on each of them in turn. “Who has the last message?” 

Nervously, John raised his hand. “I do, Mom.”

“Give it to me.” 

He did as he was told, then cleared his throat. “Jane’s line is encrypted,” he said, hoping she wouldn’t snap at him for telling her something she already knew. “I couldn’t get a bead on it.”

“But yours isn’t,” Yeloris replied, her attention glued to her omni-tool. “And since she didn’t send it to your encrypted line, she wasn’t too worried about being found- let me run a few scans.” After a few moments, she looked up at them with concern. “There’s a reason why you couldn’t get anything,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s nothing to find.” 

“That’s what we thought,” Garrus replied, looking over at John- John nodded. “I traced the address and got nothing.”

Yeloris shook her head. “No,” she insisted. “You got what looked like nothing...because she sent the message from the ship, John.” 

John frowned, wondering if their mom had finally lost her mind. “That’s impossible- Jane hasn’t been back here all evening- EDI would’ve told us.” 

“Data doesn’t lie,” Yeloris replied firmly. “Where are you right now?” 

“At the docks,” Garrus said, then his eyes went wide. “You think-”

“I do,” Yeloris replied, then looked at John. “Does your sister still have that bio program, John?”

John nodded. “Yeah… but if Jane’s using it, we wouldn’t be able to find her- she could be coded as anyone.”

“Try Eliza Higgins,” Garrus said, staring off into the distance. “It’s what she was using the first time she hid on the Citadel.” 

“It’s worth a shot,” John said, frowning as he watched Sol walk out of the room.

  


“We should probably tell Johnny where we are- the ship should be out of range by now,” Jane murmured as she looked out the window of their private cabin- Kasumi had taken off to prowl the ship, no doubt to liberate a few people of some prize possessions. “They’re probably losing their mind at this point.” 

Personally, I could care less, Sloane thought as he folded his hands, staring straight ahead. Though Jane had been cut off from the crew, Sloane had long ago modified Kasumi’s program. As a result, he’d gotten a flurry of messages from John, a flood from Miranda, and multiple from Vakarian- Sloane ignored each of them without a second thought. Funny how everyone wants nothing to do with me on a normal basis, but when shit goes sideways I’m now the emergency contact? No thanks. But, instead of voicing these thoughts, he just smiled. “They’ll be fine- If I recall correctly, weren’t you the one who said she didn’t want to be the captain for a moment?” 

“Can’t turn it off, I guess,” Jane said with a laugh, resting against his shoulder. “Never thought I’d be hanging out with you again, so what do I know, right?” 

Sloane frowned, then rubbed her arm. “You know I’d do anything in the world to take that back, don’t you?” When she sighed, he shifted in his seat. “I mean it,” he said firmly. “If I could give up everything I have and stop us from being idiots that day, I would… what I wanted-” Sloane cut himself off, not wanting to have this conversation. “Never mind- past is past, after all.” 

“We can’t go back,” Jane said quietly, causing him to stiffen. “But maybe we can go forward?”

Sloane turned to look at her, staring at her smiling face. Sure, she was covered in makeup and she looked nothing like the woman he knew and loved, but that smile… that smile was everything to him. “I want to trust you,” Jane said slowly, taking his hand. “But you just make it hard.”

Ever since they’d been back, her smiles had been hesitant and uneasy, but the one she wore now was the same one she gave him the day she saved his life, the one he’d sat alone many a night and hoped to see again someday. Instantly, Sloane felt like all the things he wanted most were right in his grasp- her friendship, her trust, her understanding… he just had to take the leap. 

“What if I promise to tell you as much as I can?” Sloane said nervously. “There are things, big things, that I can’t tell you yet... but if you stick with this mission, I promise I will tell you everything. Can you do that for me, Jane? Just know that even if I don’t tell you everything upfront, I am never going to consciously do anything that would hurt you, ok?” 

“I want to believe that,” Jane said softly, running her fingers over the shiny material of her skirt as she stared out the window. “You have no idea how much I want that to be true, Xan.”

“It is,” he said firmly, then frowned as he got a message on his omni-tool. What now, he thought irritably. Haven’t they figured out that they’re on their own for a while?

Then he looked down at his screen and raised an eyebrow. Well, this is new, he mused, opening his omni-tool and reading the message on his screen. A message in my unencrypted mailbox… and it's not from Miranda.

SVShepard: Xander, it’s Sol. What happened to you? I went looking for you this evening and EDI said you had left the ship- are you ok? Do you need help?

Look, things are bad around here- Jane is missing and everyone is in a panic. I know you don’t know me that well, and I’m sorry if I’m bugging you, but I also know that you care about my sister as much as I do. You deserve to know what’s going on, but you’re also one of the smartest people on this ship- if you aren’t in trouble, can you please come back and help us find Jane?

I know I don’t have the right to ask you for anything, and I’m sorry if this is rude, but I just need to know if my sister is ok- I didn’t know who else to ask.

Sloane leaned his head against the seat and closed his eyes. If it had been anyone else, he would have continued to ignore the messages, but it was from Sol- if she’d reached out to him, then the turian was genuinely concerned. Also, Sol is the only one who asked if I was ok, Sloane mused, tapping his fingers against the armrest. Out of all of these messages, she’s the first to ask what she could do for me.

“I’m going to go check on Kasumi,” Sloane told Jane, patting her lightly on the leg. “Are you going to be all right in here for a minute?”

“Sure,” Jane replied, still staring out the window. “Make sure she doesn’t get us all thrown in jail, ok?” 

“I‘ll do my best,” Sloane replied with a smile.

  


Jack shoveled Xander's leftovers into her mouth while she lay on the floor of the cargo bay, watching as Grunt lectured JC on Hamster’s exploits that day. When Sol let out a sigh, Jack glanced up. “Any word on the girl scout?” 

“No,” Sol replied, trying to stop the sad little hum from escaping her sub-vocals- unfortunately, she wasn’t successful and JC walked over to her, nuzzling her leg with his head until she picked him up. “They called mom- she was able to analyze the message… turns out Janey routed it through the ship.”

“Pretty fucking smart,” Jack said with admiration. “And none of those idiots could figure that out?” 

Sol shook her head. “Janey is the tech- she usually handles things like this. Gar is pretty good, but...” Her voice trailed off and she gave a sad little chirp, absentmindedly stroking JC. “He’s not exactly in the right headspace to think about things clearly. And since Xander is gone and tech isn’t Johnny’s strong suit… mom was the best choice.” 

“Makes sense,” Jack replied, her mouth full of food. “Seriously, how’d you end up being such a wimp with a badass like that for a mom?” When Sol glared at her, Jack rolled her eyes. “Whatever- you hear anything from Sir Dickhead yet?”

Sol continued to stare at the biotic for a moment, then decided it wasn’t worth her time to correct her. “Nothing,” she admitted, letting out a yawn. “He may not reply- Johnny and Gar have been trying to reach him all evening.”

“Eh,” Jack said simply, sprawling out on the floor and folding her arms behind her head. “Just wait… he’ll contact you.”

“How can you be so sure?” Sol asked, cocking her head at the tiny woman stretched out next to her. “I’m sure if he was available, he’d have reached out by now.” 

“Yeah, but those yahoos aren’t you,” Jack replied, closing her eyes- next to Hamster’s cage, Grunt was doing the same. “It’s like, physically impossible to ignore you when you ask for something- it makes you feel like you’re kicking a fucking puppy or something.” She opened her eyes and shifted to look at Sol. “You guys don’t do some weird pheromone shit to make people like you, right?” 

Despite her nerves, Sol laughed- JC glared at her for moving, then meowed and jumped down to lay next to Jack. “Not to my knowledge,” Sol replied, smiling as she watched the biotic lazily scratch the cat behind the ears. “Would be a neat trick to have, however.”

“I’ll say,” Jack huffed, her eyes narrowing as Sol’s omni-tool signaled she had an incoming call- unfortunately, there was no caller information. “Think that’s him?”

“Only one way to find out,” Sol replied, then answered the call. “Hello?”

Sol let out a chirp of surprise and Jack let out a low whistle as Xander’s face filled the screen. “Looks like Sir Dickhead cleans up nice,“ Jack mumbled as she took in the well-dressed man. “Think he’s trying to get laid before the world goes to shit?”

“Shut up, Jack!” Sol hissed, then slowly turned to the screen, “I didn’t know you were at a party,” she stammered. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but-”

Xander just gave her a genuine smile. “You’re fine, Sol- I don’t mind.”

“Told you,” Jack whispered loudly, sitting up straight. “It’s like kicking a puppy.” 

“Anyway,” Sol shot back, trying to ignore the chuckling woman, “I’m glad you’re ok,” she said with a smile. “It’s just that… no one has seen Jane, Xander.” 

Xander closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. “Has your brother told you what happened?” 

“Bits and pieces,” Sol replied, letting out a nervous hum. “Gar said he left Jane on the Citadel… but she never came back to the ship… she left this note and we’re worried- Mom is helping them look, but we can’t find her.” She took a deep breath and paused when Jack rested a hand on her shoulder- surprised, she gave the woman a smile before turning back to the screen. “What if she disappears like Gar did, Xander? I can’t-

“She’s with me,” Xander said quickly. “Jane needed to give your brother some space and we needed to handle a bit of business for Miss Goto but your sister is fine, I promise.” 

Blinking, Sol stared at her screen. “You’re kidding.” 

“I never kid when someone is obviously upset,” Xander replied, his tone low and serious. “And while I am decidedly not concerned with the feelings of your brother or husband, I am extremely sorry that we made you worry, Sol- for that, I apologize. Had I realized how concerned you might be, I would’ve made arrangements to clue you in.” 

“Where are you?” Sol blurted out, causing Grunt to stir from his ball next to the cage. “We need to come bring you guys home!” 

Xander looked amused as he ran his hand over his slicked-back hair. “We’re currently en route to get something very important back for Miss Goto- I promised her a long time ago that I would help her find it, and Jane and I have the chance to do just that right now.”

“But why wouldn’t she just tell us?” Sol cried, feeling helpless. “We could’ve helped!”

“Dear Sol,” Xander said patiently, “this mission entails entering a party with some of the biggest criminals in the galaxy. Do you honestly believe your brother or husband would knowingly let your sister enter such a place... with me ?” When Sol didn’t answer right away, he smiled. “You’re a smart woman… you know better than that.”

“I’m just worried,” Sol said quietly. “I don’t want anything to happen to you guys.” 

“And your concern is appreciated,” Xander replied, then glanced over his shoulder. “Look, we’ll be docking shortly- you can inform the crew that you found us. Have Joker set a course for Bekenstein, all right? We’ll call for a pickup when we finish.”

Sol hummed worriedly, but she nodded. “Be safe out there… both of you.” 

“We shall… and don’t worry, I’ll make sure to stay in touch… with you,” Xander said pointedly as he disconnected the call.   

Chapter Text

  


Sol looked over at Jack, her nerves rising with each step a