Across the Universe

Brittle Bones

Joker was tired. I could tell, heck, I didn’t think he’d slept at all since we’d flown to Eden Prime, and that was at least a day ago (Earth days). We were on our way to the Artemis Tau Cluster, specifically the planet Therum, and that’d take a few more hours. I’d at least taken a few naps here and there, so I wasn’t rubbing sleep out of my eyes like he was doing.

“Want me to take over?” I asked him.

He shot me a glare. “I’m fine. Just let me do my job, Flight Officer.”

“Well, let me know if you need a break,” I offered. “Want me to go grab you some coffee?”

His green eyes relaxed for a moment and he nodded. “Yeah, sure. Thanks CP.”

Standing up (and now proudly wearing his hat) I headed out of the cockpit and towards the stairs that led to the Mess Hall. When I arrived there, I was happy to see Sabrina’s teammates all there eating and such. Tali was sitting with Garrus, the Krogan was leaning against a nearby pillar, and Kaiden and Ashley sitting across from the aliens. “Hey guys!” I greeted. Ash’s eyes honed in on my/Joker’s hat that was sitting oh so elegantly on my head.

“Nice hat,” the soldier commented with a smirk dancing on her lips. “Is it Jokers?”

“Thank you, and yes it is,” I bowed theatrically. “I won the rights to wear it for the day thanks to my epic ability to handle gross tasting jelly beans.”

Tali giggled. “You’re so weird, Kim.”

I beamed at that. ”Thanks Tali, I know.” I glanced around, noting that Sabrina wasn’t here with her new team. “Where’s Sabrina?”

“Shepard’s on her way,” Kaiden answered. “Taking a break?”

“Nah, just grabbing some coffee for Joker,” I replied. “But if it’s cool with him I’ll come back here and hang for a bit.”

“Yeah, we’re all just getting to know each other better,” Ash told me. “I’d love to hear about what Shepard was like back on Earth.”

I smirked mischievously. “I’ll be sure to tell you about all the embarrassing things she did-“

“Don’t even think about it,” Sabrina warned me, walking over. “If you do, I’ll tell them about all of your embarrassing mishaps.”

“Sorry guys, you’ll get nothing out of me,” I shrugged. There was too much risk involved if I did tell them. “So… how do I get coffee here?” I questioned the group. Kaiden stood up to help me, the gentleman, and led me to the kitchen. It was small, and spotless. There was a fridge, and a counter with a stove and other appliances. “Wow, this kitchen looks like it’s barely been used,” I noted.

Kaiden shrugged. “The food dispensers give decent enough food, and most people don’t really buy fresh ingredients in case someone else takes them. The coffee dispenser’s over there though. Disposable cups are in the drawer.”

“This poor, underused kitchen,” I sighed, taking out a disposable cup and a lid and pressing the button on the dispenser. “It’s basically just a coffee room.”

“At least there’s coffee. If we didn’t have that, then half the crew would riot,” Kaiden joked. I snickered at his comment, clicking on the add cream and sugar button before placing the lid on the cup.

“Guess I’m heading back up to the cockpit again,” I sighed. “Thanks again Kaiden.”

“Not a problem Kogan,” the lieutenant kindly replied, and the two of us headed back to the table that everyone else was still sitting at.

“I’ll see you guys later,” I told the group. Tali gave me a wave of her hand, the others voicing their farewells as I walked away, coffee in hand. Heading back to the cockpit was uneventful, and I was kind of glad that none of the crew had decided to stop me for a chat. I quieted my footsteps on the metal flooring, but opted against sneaking up on my Lieutenant this time. He was grouchy enough. “I’m back,” I called, handing Joker his coffee. “Sabrina’s gathered all of her ground crew in the mess hall. They’re quite a sight.”

“Why do you always call the Commander by her first name?” Joker asked me bluntly. I tilted my head to the side, a tad bit confused.

“You don’t know why? I figured everyone on the ship knew why.”

The scruffy pilot gazed at me expectantly. “Well I don’t, so tell me.”

I moved to my seat and sat myself down. “Well, the two of us grew up together.”

“What? Really?” Joker gaped. “Where? How? I read that Shepard used to be in a gang, was that how you guys met?”

“Yeah, we were originally in a gang together,” I told Joker. “Honestly, the earliest thing I could remember was being in that gang. Sabrina was in charge of training me, taking care of me and stuff. Eventually she got out and took me with her, and by some stroke of luck we were both taken in by a higher up in the Alliance.”

“Admiral Spryce, right? I remember him at our graduation,” the pilot noted. “I’m surprised he took you two in, he never struck me as the kind of man to take care of a couple of kids. Especially ones on the street.”

“You’d be surprised!” I laughed. “I think he always wanted to have kids of his own, he always treated me well. Made sure I ate healthy, Sabrina too. We stayed with him together for about two years, then Sabrina enlisted and he pulled strings to get me into flight school early,” I looked up, feeling a bit nostalgic. Damian was incredibly good to the two of us, we’d really lucked out. “He was a great man. But yeah, I’ve just known Sabrina for so long that it feels weird to call her ‘Commander’ or ‘Shepard’. I mean, she’s practically my sister.”

“That’s actually kind of cool,” Joker commented. “Guess you have one epic background huh?”

“It’s not as awesome as Sabrina’s, but I’m pretty happy with how my life has turned out so far,” I drawled, checking the time of arrival on my aero-gel screen. “So, can I ask why you never really leave the cockpit?”

“Really? You don’t know why I don’t?” he raised an eyebrow.

I shrugged. “Well I noticed you on crutches and stuff back in flight school but didn’t really ask around you know? I just thought you gave someone attitude and they broke your legs or something.”

“Yeah, that’s not even close to the truth CP,” he grumbled. I stared him down and Joker threw his hands in the air in defeat. “Okay, fine. I’ve got Vrolic’s Syndrome, brittle bone disease,” he admitted. “Basically the bones in my legs never developed properly, they’re basically hollow. Too much force and they’ll shatter.” “Oh my god,” I breathed, wide eyed. Joker looked away, expression cold and unreadable. “Even with crutches and leg braces it’s hard to get around. One wrong step and CRACK! It’s very dramatic, but I’ve learned to manage my condition Flight Officer,” the pilot began tapping a few buttons on his control panel. “And that’s why I never really leave the cockpit. Unless I need to use the washroom or get some food, I stay here. Safer on the legs.”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he scowled. “Well, now I know.”

“Yeah. Now you know.” We were both silent for a few moments, until I spoke up.

“You cool if I make jokes about it?” I asked him sheepishly.

He turned to look at me, puzzled. “What?”

I grinned and scratched the back of my head. “You know, like ‘no wonder you’re a good pilot. Your bones are just like a birds… hollow. Ba dum ch.’”

The smallest of smiles appeared on Joker’s face at that. “Really CP?”

“Well, it’s not like me knowing this has changed my opinion of you,” I explained bluntly. “You’re still a good pilot-“

“Good?” he scoffed.

“That’s the best you’ll get from me,” I continued. “Anyways, yeah. You’re a good pilot, you still really grate on my nerves sometimes-“

“I feel the same way-“

“Yeah well at least I’m trying to get along with you!” I snapped. “Jesus man! Let me finish!”

Joker shook his head, smile far bigger now. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you!” I took a deep breath. “I don’t know how you expected me to act around you after your ‘epic confession’, but I’ll tell you this! One of these days I’m going to prove to you that I’m just as good as you are and then you’re going to have to let me do more around here!” I boasted.

The older pilot seemed amused, and he tapped a few buttons on control panel. “Fine, you win. I’m going to rest for a bit, so you can take the controls until we get to Therum. But I’m going to stay right here in this chair,” he told me. “You know, so you don’t crash the ship.”

If it weren’t for the fact that he was actually letting me fly the ship, I probably would have made a snide remark. Instead I nearly clapped with delight, unable to keep the glee from my face like a child at Christmas.

“Thank you, thank you!” I tapped my control panel, watched them flicker beautiful shades of blue and green, and then began flying.

There really was no better feeling than flying the Normandy.


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