Across the Universe

Therum

Once we neared Therum I returned the controls to Joker. He’d occasionally awoken during his nap to check up on me, and I was thankful that he was kind enough to mostly leave me alone and let me fly.

And I flew without incident.

Joker hadn’t even been surprised by that. Even though he liked to tease me about my incompetence, he still knew I was a great pilot. Not that he’d ever admit to it. If Anderson had been here, he would have been so proud of my progress! I was proud of my progress. Extremely proud, if I was being honest. I never thought that I’d be able to get along with Joker this well. Before, if the two of us were stuck in the cockpit together there wasn’t much else but sullen silence. I liked to think that we had a better understanding of each other now, and that had really brightened up the cockpit.

Or maybe I was still feeling as high as a kite thanks to him actually letting me fly.

“Hey CP, you okay? Your face has been stuck in a smile since I let you fly,” Joker commented. I promptly slapped the smile right off my face.

Joker laughed at that. “Weirdo.”

“Thank you,” I responded, checking my screens and preparing the Mako Release button. “Dropping Mako in 3… 2… 1…” I opened up one of the cameras to make sure they were off the ship and nodded to myself. “Closing cargo bay doors. Hey Sabs, can you tell me who’s driving?”

“Garrus,” the commander replied.

“The universe is safe,” I teased. Sabrina scoffed.

“I’m not that bad of a driver.”

I held back a laugh at the amount of bitterness dripping off her words. “There’s a reason why you didn’t go to flight school Sabs. You’re better off with guns.”

“Normandy, we’ve hit the ground,” Sabrina told us, choosing to ignore my comment. “I’ll radio you guys once we’re ready to get picked up.”

I yawned, stretching my arms into the air before returning my hands to the aero-gel. Bringing up the planet readings, my eyes widened slightly. “Hey Joker, check this out,” I forwarded the readings to his screen. He adjusted his newly returned hat, green eyes scanning the readings and soon checking a few other tabs on his screen. “Crazy right?” I asked him.

He nodded and turned on his mic. “Hey Commander? CP picked up some strange readings. Really strange. Like, off the damn charts,” the pilot explained. He opened up a map and lined it up with the readings. “It looks like it’s coming from an underground complex a few klicks from away from the drop zone.”

“Thanks for telling us guys,” Sabrina responded.

“Minor spike in the primary core,” Joker told me and I quickly got to work, flipping open tabs and pressing buttons at a decent speed.

“Compensating! Compensating!” I lowered the sub core’s power by just a bit. The scruffy pilot nodded in approval.

“That fixed it.” He noted, turning to give me a smirk. “Not bad CP. A little slow though.”

I childishly stuck my tongue out. “It was only a minor spike Flight Lieutenant.”

Joker rolled his eyes. “So, what’s the plan next time we go to the Citadel CP?” he asked me. I felt a bit taken aback, I hadn’t been entirely sure that we were actually going to do that. Or that he’d want to, even.

“Well, what kind of food do you like?” I asked him. “Oh, and choose your answer carefully, because I will judge you if it’s gross,” I told him with a wink.

He smiled at my little joke. “You know what I haven’t had in forever? A cheeseburger.” I nodded in understanding.

“Hard to get actual cow meat away from Earth. But what I’m really missing is pizza. That’s what I call culinary magic,” I sighed. Lack of delicious food was one of the things I disliked about military life. It was also one of the things I missed about living on earth. Sure, some alien food was okay. But I was born and raised on human foods so in my opinion, meat from an earth cow beat space cow meat any day and every day.

“Man I’d almost forgotten pizza. Let’s get that,” Joker decided. I readily agreed. Who could say no to pizza?

“I’ll find a place that has good ingredients. Maybe one that doesn’t have Asari anchovies,” I shrugged.

Joker turned to glance at me. “Those exist?”

My shoulders shrugged once more. “I don’t know… but I wouldn’t be surprised. Hey, if an Asari ate calamari… would that be cannibalism?”

Joker froze for a moment. “I don’t think that an Asari is a squid….”

“But, their head thingies…” I argued, pouting a bit. “You have to admit, it would be a bit weird.” We both contemplated it, equal expressions of discomfort on our faces. Finally, Joker broke the silence.

“Yeah, it’s kind of weird CP. Why’d you start thinking about that anyways?” He asked, an accusing look in his eyes.

“I was thinking about seafood and Asari okay?!” I snapped, cheeks reddening in embarrassment. Joker seemed a bit surprised by my reaction and looked away awkwardly.

“Sorry CP, didn’t mean anything by it.”

We both worked in silence after that, Joker flying the ship while I constantly checked the systems. It wasn’t as tense as I expected it to be, but it was a little bit uncomfortable. I opted to pay closer attention to the ships readings. Therum was a hot planet, and we really didn’t want anything to overheat. Or melt. We were a good distance away from the planet’s surface so I wasn’t really worried about it at all, but you could never be too careful. Especially with people on the planet, perhaps needing a pick up any minute. And knowing Sabrina’s luck, it was likely that she’d put the Normandy in at least a little danger. She was lucky she had such competent pilots. I glanced over at Joker, who now seemed pretty relaxed. “Sorry for snapping at you Moreau,” I apologized, feeling a bit awkward.

He glanced over at me. “Nah, it’s no big deal.”

“Okay.”

“Except the title’s Flight Lieutenant Moreau,” the older man joked, a smirk on his face. I scoffed in response, the two of us falling into a comfortable silence after that.

Yeah, Anderson would have been very proud of our progress.

Joker let out a loud yawn and turned his chair to face me. “So, what’s so bad about Shepard driving a Mako?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you really, truly want me to answer that?”

“What, do I need to redeem my half-day of you doing whatever I say for you to answer that question?”

I shook my head. “No, but Sabrina said that if I ever told anyone stories about when we were younger, then she’d tell everyone all the embarrassing things I did.”

Joker rolled his eyes. “It can’t be that bad. I listen in to the crew’s gossip every now and then.” My jaw dropped.

“Joker! That’s horrible! That’s an abuse of power!”

“Would it help if I told you a tidbit of gossip related to you?” the pilot innocently asked. I looked up in thought. I’d like to hear some gossip about me, I mean, kind of. If it was nice. But the thought of Joker creepily listening in to the camera footage was just wrong. “Well?”

Okay, I needed to know.

“Tell me.”

“Word on the street is that both you and Shepard are trying to pursue a relationship with our resident Staff Lieutenant.” My jaw hung open in surprise. I totally did not expect that. Joker laughed at my reaction. “Yeah, by the look on your face I’m guessing that it’s not true.”

“I mean, he’s cute and nice but he’s not really my type. And he’s in his thirties!” I gaped. “I mean, I guess he’s still younger than some of the other guys on the crew and age doesn’t matter if there’s love, but I’m almost 100 percent sure that there’s only like between us.”

“Too big of an age gap for you CP?”

If I had long hair I would have flipped it over my shoulder as dramatically as possible. Instead I flipped my short, soft dark brown locks and gave the flight officer my most serious expression. “I’m twenty-five, Flight Lieutenant. Until I hit thirty myself, age matters to me.”

“So you want a twenty-something year old guy with abs and nice hair I’m guessing?”

I nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yeah, that sounds great. Preferably blonde, no beard. Abs are always nice.”

“Blue eyes?” Joker added, amused. This was fun.

“Meh, I’m a sucker for green eyes,” I replied nonchalantly. “Blondes with green eyes? Win! But then I’m also cool with the opposite side of the spectrum. Tanned, dark hair and dark eyes. Ooh, and an accent!”

“You’re surprisingly picky,” Joker noted.

I shook my head, a grin on my face. “Nah, I’m just kidding around. Anyone’s fine, as long as we mesh well. Oh, but the guy definitely gets more points if he calls me ‘lass’,” I decided.

Joker raised an eyebrow. “Points?”

“There’s a points system Joker! Relationship points!” He opened his mouth to respond but was cut off my Sabrina’s voice, sounding a bit frazzled over the comm.

“Joker? Joker come in! Get the Normandy airborne and lock in on my signal! On the double mister!”

And like that, we went from playful banter to focused work.

“There’s two of us here Sabrina!” I growled loudly, my hands gliding over the aerogel controls effortlessly to speed up the tracking process. “And we’re already airborne! Just hold your horses.”

“CP, is it locked in?” Joker questioned me, eyes now glued to his screen as his fingers danced across his controls.

I nodded in his direction. “Got it, let’s go.”

“ETA’s 8 minutes Shepard,” Joker told her.

My eyes scanned over her location and I resisted to urge to face palm. “Okay, going to need steady hands when we get there Moreau. Shepard’s basically coming out of a volcano. The heat readings are critical.”

“Gotta trust Shepard to put everyone in a life threatening situation,” the pilot commented. “Okay, we’re going to stay as far away from the heat for as long as possible. Surface isn’t exactly stable either”

I nodded. “Yeah, agreed.”

We flew in determined silence, me checking all the systems to make sure they were as good as they could be before we had to save Sabrina.

From a volcano.

“Hope you guys are out there!” Sabrina shouted over the comm.

“Lowering the ship,” Joker told me.

I let out a heavy sigh. “Cue ship warnings in three, two…”

“Warning, Heat Hazard. Warning, Heat Hazard.”

Joker was flabbergasted. “How’d you even do that?”

“I’m fucking magical, that’s how.”

“Warning. Possible volcanic eruption. Warning.”

“If we go any lower we’re going to melt off the bottom of the ship!” Joker barked. I continued to press my controls, trying my best to silence the warnings. “CP! Talk to me!”

I turned on my comm. “Sabrina, how close are you?”

“Almost there!”

“Lower it now!” I ordered Joker. He listened, lowering the ship with speed and precision that I was honestly not sure that I could match.

“We’re in!” Sabrina shouted over the comm. “Move! Move!”

Joker pulled the ship up as fast as possible, just as molten sulfur began to spill out of the surface of the ground. Once we were a safe distance away from the ruins which were now covered in lava, I breathed out a sigh of relief. “That was way too close for comfort.”

Joker tilted his head in my direction. “Tell me about it.” He reached up and fixed his hat, which had become a bit lopsided because of the chaos. “That was either dumb luck or perfect timing.”

“Both,” I replied. Joker nodded. “You listened, when I asked you to lower the ship,” I realized, turning my seat to face him. I was surprised, and just a little bit amazed.

“You knew what you were doing,” he shrugged it off. Like it was nothing. I actually felt a bit bashful now, I mean… he listened to me. And I was the co-pilot. I was the co-pilot that he didn’t even want, and he listened to me in a life threatening, dangerous situation.

Then it all clicked.

I grinned goofily. “You’re starting to like me, aren’t you Moreau?”

Immediately he got defensive, straightening up in his chair and frowning. “What? No way.”

“That’s why you’re actually listening to me, and talking to me, and doing stupid shit like eating gross jelly beans! You like me!” I exclaimed, clapping my hands together.

The pilot glared at me, displeased. “You’re crazy.”

“It doesn’t even matter that you’re making that face, I know the truth now! Jeff Moreau no longer hates me” I stood up and bowed. “Thank you, thank you! Oh, I’ve got to send Riley and Aedan an Omni-message about this. They’re going to be so amused,” I stated, opening up my omni-tool and stepping behind Moreau’s chair, scrolling through my contacts.

Joker turned his chair to face me, eying me carefully. “Quit it CP,” Joker warned, but I could see just the teeniest bit of amusement underneath his cold exterior.

“My flight school friends need to know. Come on Moreau! Do you know how many times you pushed away my olive branch of friendship back then?”

“I’m pushing it away right now.” I stuck out my tongue. “You want to be friends with me Joker, you’re just in denial.”

“Whatever you say CP.” Sabrina’s voice came over the comm. “Hey you guys, getting the team together in the comm room.”

I glanced over at Joker mischievously. “So, how much shit are we going to give Sabrina for cutting it so close?”

Joker smirked. “Do you even have to ask?”


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